Braceros, Traqueros and DACA Kids: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

reagan quote immigration

Ronald Reagan signed immigration reform into law in 1986 that was sponsored by former Wyoming US Senator Alan Simpson. The law gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented people.

The US government and railroads welcomed immigrant workers from Mexico. How did they end up coming to the United States in the first place?

I heard a presentation by Lu Rocha at a workshop organized by my grad school Center on Domestic Violence at CU-Denver.

She gave a history of the Latino/a/x/ labor force in the United States that dates back to the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s and propping up the war efforts between 1942 until it’s repeal in 1964.

The H2A and H2B visa programs for agricultural and non-agricultural workers are remnants of the Bracero Program.

Immigration issues have been in the news lately.

daca sign

POTUS 45 repealed DACA put in place by President Obama in 2012 as a stop-gap measure to protect kids of undocumented residents.

The Reagan administration signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 which heightened border security but also granted amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. This was a bi-partisan effort led in the US Senate by Wyoming’s Al Simpson.

Red and Blue presidents and congresses failed to act on immigration reform until Obama in his lame duck term issued the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrives (DACA) executive order which cut some slack to kids brought to the US by their undocumented parents. It was a compassionate Band Aid.

POTUS 45 is trying to move the needle. He overturned DACA effective in six months, hoping Congress will get its act together on immigration reform.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Immigration reform is a wedge issue for Republicans. They are against immigrants, generally, because of the supposed “taking of American jobs” rap. At the same time, American business is reliant on immigrant laborers who perform low-end work that regular Americans won’t do which is a throwback to the transcontinental railroad construction and World War II worker shortage.

traqueros

The Transcontinental Railroad was completed by laborers from Mexico.

Traqueros In 1881 Governor Luis Terrazas of Chihuahua drove a silver spike completing a rail line linking Mexico and United States which allowed immigrants transport to the United States and coincided with the West’s construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Mexicans were the dominant immigrant labor laying track in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite low wages compared to their native born coworkers and discrimination, immigrant Mexican laborers became permanent residents, not by law but by fact. By the time of the Great Depression, workers moved to the cities in search of other low-skill work.

Bracero Program

The US Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service collaborated on the Bracero Program at the start of World War II. Braceros were allowed in to the US to provide help on farms during wartime.

Braceros The bracero program (Spanish for manual laborer) began in 1942 and operated as a joint program of the State Department, the Department of Labor, and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), as it was known then, in the Department of Justice.

Laborers from Mexico were promised better living conditions in camps, including housing, meals and toilet facilities. They eventually were paid a minimum wage of 30 cents / hour. The pact also stated that braceros supposedly would not be subjected to discrimination and exclusion from “white-only” areas.

During World War II, the bracero program intention was to fill the labor gap, particularly in agriculture. The program lasted 22 years and offered employment contracts to 5 million braceros in 24 U.S. states—becoming the largest foreign worker program in U.S. history.

The bracero program caused problems on both sides of the border with labor shortages in the northern states in Mexico and resulted in illegal immigrants who remained in the United States. Millions of Mexican Americans attribute their roots to their fathers and grandfathers who crossed the border as braceros.

DACA MASS WALKOUTDACA Circle back to DACA kids. They are the modern day traquero/a/x and bracero/a/x. They are people who arrived in the United States under the radar as children.

Like the braceros and traqueros, while they should have returned to Mexico, those families have remained – while looking over their shoulders – without documentation and became productive members of their communities.

The DACA kids ended up with high school and college educations, contribute to society in professional jobs, have families of their own with kids in local school systems. They pay taxes and volunteer in their communities.

When the Bracero Program was ended in 1964, the positive outcomes were better working conditions for farm workers thanks to advocacy by activists including Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta. There were no immigration laws that turned traqueros back to Mexico.

DACA was a short term fix when Obama acted because Congress didn’t. The immigration issue has come full circle from 1986.

Whether Congress and POTUS 45 get their acts together on immigration reform will be a defining moment for the Republicans like it was for Republicans and Ronald Reagan.

Until then – don’t ask, don’t tell.

simpson reagan signing“We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.” Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986 upon signing the Immigration Control and Reform Act.

 

 

 

 

 

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Election day thoughts 2014

Election day 2014 is tomorrow. I voted early but not casting my ballot until tomorrow – election day.

Based on all the “too extreme” for Colorado ads still running on TV, apparently there is still too much money flowing and voters still haven’t made up their minds.

I find it amazing that there are voters out there who are so uninformed they are actually swayed by the nonsensical mudslinging messages. If you’re one who hasn’t made up your mind, I want to know who you are and get your information from TV ads, I want to know who you are!

Who has the most toys doesn’t translate into victory. House majority leader Eric Cantor spent $168,000 at three restaurants while eventual winner David Brat spent $123,000 on his entire campaign. At the end, Cantor spent 40 times more money than Brat and lost by 10 points.

Here’s how I voted on issues and candidates this year. I follow politics in Wyoming and Colorado where I have stakes. I tend to support people with whom I have some sort of connection and that bears out this election cycle.

US Senate Colorado – Back in the mid 1970s, I went to Washington DC for a student political science institute. I befriended over a couple days Morris Udall. He’s the father of Senator Mark Udall, who is in a neck and neck race with Cory Gardner. I got to know Mo Udall, however briefly during the conference. I met Mark Udall when he moved to Colorado to run for Congress. He’s a career politician and that reputation is catching up with him. i voted for Udall mostly for the good of the order of keeping the federal system split. I think Udall will prevail, much like Senator Bennett did when he defeated Ken Buck.

US Congressional District 2 – I’ve known incumbent Jared Polis for a number of years, mostly through non-profit organization circles when I worked for Assets for Colorado Youth and he was on the Colorado Board of Education. Since he was elected to the US House, I don’t run into him as much as I once did. I voted for Jared again. His opponent is a Chinese guy named George Leing – he pronounces his name in Anglicized fashion “Lang”. He’ll get votes in east and north Boulder County, Weld and Gilpin counties.

Colorado Governor – John Hickenlooper was one of the first people I met when I came to Colorado. He and I served on the Chinook Fund board of directors for a number of years. He’s had to govern to the middle and “Both Ways Beauprez” has had to grasp at straws to find issues that would make John look bad. Recently, Beauprez played the “soft on murderers” card, which I don’t think have played very well. I voted for John again.

68 – I voted for gambling expansion at the Arapahoe County horse track. Not because I want to fund education, but to encourage more gaming.

105 – I voted for the GMO labeling. The proponents came up with a little over $500,000 while the opposition raised over $12 million from multinational corporations like Monsanto, Pepsi Cola, Kraft, Coca Cola. With a cast of characters like that I pretty much had to vote for it.

In Wyoming, competitive elections went away in the mid 1990s when the Democratic main stays were all soundly trounced and never resurfaced – former Governor Mike Sullivan, former Secretary of State Kathy Karpan; former state Senator John Vinich. Since then, the laws were changed to suppress voter registration and voting. In a red state like Wyoming, there end up being various shades of red. I don’t know how long it will take for Wyoming to become competitive again – maybe never.

US Senate Wyoming – My first job out of school was with the city government of Gillette. I was in a class at the University of Wyoming called the Human Services Project. Multidisciplinary students worked together to solve problems arising from rapid population growth during the coal boom there. I worked for then Mayor Mike Enzi and City Administrator Flip McConnaughy – now Senator Enzi’s Chief of Staff. Mike’s wife Diana and I were both members of the Wyoming Private Industry Council charged with administering federal job funds. Mke is running against a former Catholic priest, Charlie Hardy, who’s been logging a lot of road miles in Wyoming and has become a bit of a media darling. Enzi will win this one big. I’ll be surprised if he runs for a 5th term after this.

US Congressional District Wyoming At Large – The incumbent is Cynthia Lummis. She and I, as well as her siblings, all grew up together. Cynthia’s husband, Al Wiederspahn passed away suddenly last week. I don’t even know who is running against her, but she’ll win in another landslide, maybe getting 90 percent of the vote.

Wyoming Governor – I’ve gotten to know Matt Mead and his family over the past four years,  He’s been in a couple videos I’ve made for his art’s awards celebration and for the 75th anniversary of the Wyoming state parks system. It’s election season, but nonetheless, he’s had to govern to the middle, which means something totally different than other places. He’s running against a guy from Pinedale, Pete Gosar. I think he’s the Wyoming State Democratic Party chairman. Matt Mead should win with no problem.

State House District 21 – A friend of mine, Albert Sommers is running for reelection. He’s a level headed and thoughtful guy who should win again. His wife, Sue, is quite the graphic artist. He funds his own campaign and refuses contributions from others.

Lander Mayor – former mayor and state legislator Del McOmie is running for Mayor again.  My second job was working for the city of Lander as Del’s assistant before I worked for the Northern Arapaho Tribe on the Wind River Indian Reservation. I don’t know who he’s against, but he should win this one.
There you have it, I’m not trying to influence you, since my opinions are clearly too extreme to help anyone change their minds and I approve of this message

My Experience with the Affordable Care Act

I’ve had health insurance since my first “real job” in Gillette, Wyoming back when Sen. Ted Kennedy was touting universal health care and had Richard Nixon not screwed up with Watergate, would have joined forces with Kennedy and we wouldn’t be having this Obamacare fight today.

Nonetheless, back in 2010, I received a letter from my insurance carrier – Kaiser Permanente – that since I had coverage before ACA went into effect, my policy was “grandfathered” and could keep it or change it with no repercussions from any “pre-existing conditions” that I had or may develop in the future.

I just heard several thousand Kaiser Permanente policy holders got their pink slips that their coverage doesn’t meet the minimum requirements of ACA? What kind of coverage is that? Like a barbecue grill warranty at Walmart? The ACA naysayers have been finding stories about us self employed people who have had their policies handled. What’s the big deal? For the past 10 years, my plan has been cancelled like clockwork on December 31st. If I want to reup, the policies are similar, but the price has always gone up. I’ve had to increase my deductible over the years to keep a reasonable price. ACA or not, my carrier will be cancelling my policy December 14, 2014 as usual and every year after. But at least they can’t kick me out for some medical reason.

When ACA was in its infancy, my premium price dropped, not a lot, but a few bucks. Meanwhile, there was no national health care exchange, but many private ones out there. Since I couldn’t be denied coverage, I did shop around on a private exchange and ended up finding a less expensive plan that had a little better coverage from my existing carrier – it’s a medium deductible co-pay plan – and the plan I’ve had for three years or so. Over the past couple years, my prescription prices dropped to grocery store levels ($5 or buy 2 get one free).

Private healthcare exchanges

On October 1, I signed up with the Colorado healthcare exchange. On day one, I had a few problems getting my account set up – I was bumped off the site a few times, timed out a few times, but eventually was able to get a good connection. After all that and to my surprise, there were no plans offered with coverage even close to what I purchased on the private market.  They all had very high deductibles and premiums that were nearly double what I was currently paying. Apparently, the income-based tax credits would lower the costs dramatically, but the coverage is still terrible, at best. The Connect for Colorado Health support has been great. I’ve been called a couple times to help me get finally through the process which has been goo.

I imagine it has something to do with the actuarial tables that show that low-income people tend to have bigger health problems than the general population, which is why all sorts of people are necessary in the risk pool. These “low-end” policies end up costing less with the tax credits applied. If you’ve been denied coverage all these years, this type of policy is probably considered “gold”. The premiums are likely based on the probability that mostly uninsured, ergo unhealthy, and low income folks will be the ones who apply. I also surmise that places like Wyoming that chose to opt out of the Medicaid expansion plopped all those “high risk” people into the general risk pool, which was a contributing factor to higher premiums.

The Mississippi experience

Rural areas lack competition

There are dental plans offered, but none from my current dentist, which is one of the publicly-traded dentists, Perfect Teeth. I may switch over to Delta Dental if after comparing my Perfect Teeth discount program, it turns out to be way better. Kaiser doesn’t offer dental coverage.

I looked around on the Kaiser Permanente site for plans and found one that had a lower deductible than I currently have and the cost was a third less and called about it and found out that I could switch over, but it would expire for me at the end of 2013 and if i kept it, the price would jump up to the Colorado Health Exchange price, which was over double what I currently spend.

The Kaiser Permanente member service representative on the phone said that they figure out ACA tax credit eligibility too. They have an entire staff designated to Medicaid and Medicare paperwork and I would imagine is very good at working through each state to figure out any ACA red tape.

The upshot?

In my case:

– ACA saves me a few bucks on premiums and lots of bucks on prescriptions

– ACA gives me peace of mind about the future because my insurance won’t get cancelled

– ACA covers a whole bunch of people who won’t be using the emergency room staff as their primary care physicians which, in the long, run will keep my premiums lower by putting their risk in their own pool and not mine.

ACA has caught on and will only improve as more people previously uninsured participate. I think that the national health care exchange is good if you don’t already have coverage and income eligible for tax credits. I heard the dead-beat states that let the federal government run their exchanges are missing the boat and the can-do states that tailored their own are having pretty good success.

State run exchanges more successful

Most people have coverage and If you do, I suggest sticking with learning information from your carrier and not mess around with the national exchange. If you’re in the market or curious as to what choices are out there, also check out the private health care exchanges. You’ll be asked for the same personal information as the Obamacare website asks. Like all other internet commerce, be careful!