Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2011-04-06 "Novato anti-illegal immigration advocate and Canal Alliance chief lock horns" by Rob Rogers from "Marin Independent Journal" newspaper
Tempers flared Wednesday as speakers on both sides of the immigration debate made their cases before members of the Marin Coalition.
Anti-illegal immigrant activist Jerome Ghigliotti of Novato and Tom Wilson, president of San Rafael's Canal Alliance, found little to agree on during an often heated discussion of illegal immigration — including the question of whether undocumented immigrants should be considered "illegal" at all.
"To bear the name 'illegal alien' for the rest of your life because you committed a misdemeanor seems pretty harsh," said Wilson, whose Canal Alliance provides support for Marin County's low-income immigrant population.
"'Illegal' is said in the same way that dehumanizing terms are used to describe people during war," Wilson said. "It makes it easier to turn a blind eye to human suffering when you don't call someone a human being."
Ghigliotti disagreed.
"When I drive while leaving my driver's license at home, I'm undocumented. 'Illegal' means I've broken the law," said Ghigliotti, who has spearheaded an effort to require all outside contractors hired by the city of Novato to verify the immigration status of their employees through the use of a federal database.
The two speakers also disagreed on the role immigrants play in Marin County's economy. To Ghigliotti, Novato's undocumented aliens are at best a drain on the city's resources. At worst, he said, many of them are dangerous criminals.
"People keep saying to me, 'Why are you doing this? These immigrants are nice people who have just come here to make a living,'" Ghigliotti told the crowd of about 27 people at San Rafael's Chalet Basque restaurant. "Then I started looking up the sheriff's log, which lists everybody arrested, incarcerated or awaiting trial. I've done this every month for the past 10 months, and there were consistently 67 illegal aliens awaiting trial for felonies or multiple misdemeanors."
Wilson, by contrast, argued that it has been the hard work of immigrants — legal and otherwise — that has built this nation, and that many of Marin's aging residents might soon find themselves supported by the labor of immigrant workers.
"If we don't have an active working force to support those of us who are aging, we won't be able to fund Social Security. And that young workforce is our immigrant community," Wilson said.
He added that many undocumented immigrants are economic refugees fleeing the effects of globalization in their home countries — the same economic forces that have cost many American workers their jobs.
"It's not immigrants, but multinational corporations who are taking our jobs," Wilson said. "U.S. companies sent 406,000 American jobs overseas this year alone. "The worldwide system of globalization allows them to take those jobs to countries where they can exploit the workers by paying them the cheapest wage they can possibly pay."
Ghigliotti countered that economic hardship was no excuse for anyone to break the law.
"People who advocate for illegal immigrants say they're just here to better themselves. Well, why can't they better themselves in the country where they were born?" Ghigliotti asked.
Both speakers found themselves heckled by opponents during the course of their presentations, which sparked a lively debate among members of the Marin Coalition, a group dedicated to reviewing all sides of controversial issues during its monthly forums. Previous topics have included affordable housing, school district consolidation and the installation of SmartMeters by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
Angelica Randolph, who emigrated legally from Germany, said she was incensed by the undocumented workers she sees as flouting the system — and forcing herself and her fellow taxpayers to pay for their abuses.
"I have friends who wanted to start a gardening business, but were constantly underbid by businesses that employ illegal aliens," Randolph said. "And our Marin General Hospital is all but going under because it is servicing so many illegal aliens who don't have insurance."
Yet member Esther Blau, a nurse at Marin General Hospital for more than 25 years, disputed Randolph's assertion.
"As a nurse, and as a (former) director of the healthcare district board, I am not aware of the situation Angelica describes in our emergency room," Blau said.
Wilson summed up his remarks to the coalition by calling for a reform of U.S. immigration policy — and a reminder to American citizens of the nation's historic ideals.
"The American Dream is an immigrant dream, and has been for generations," Wilson said. "Working families come to this country every day because they are oppressed by poverty. The promise engraved on the Statue of Liberty welcomes those 'huddled masses yearning to breathe free.'"
That argument failed to impress Ghigliotti.
"The Statue of Liberty and its promises were put there by the French, not by Americans," said Ghigliotti, who used Wednesday's meeting to fire yet another salvo at the Novato City Council.
That body has refused to submit Ghigliotti's immigration status verification plan to a popular vote, even after Ghigliotti gathered more than 3,500 signatures in a petition drive to place the item on the ballot. Ghigliotti recently filed suit against the city, with his case expected to appear in Marin Superior Court on May 15.
"The basis for the council's actions was that they thought our measure might be illegal," Ghigliotti said. "However, in the past election, there were two initiatives — Proposition 8, which sought to ban same-sex marriage, and Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana — which both had the significant possibility of being found unconstitutional or unlawful. And yet nobody in California believed they had the authority not to put those measures on the ballot."

Jimmy Fishbob Geraghty · Friends with BayArea Indymedia -
Jerome Ghigliotti was disingenuous throughout his presentation. He claimed that both San Rafael and Novato were sanctuary cities, not true. That was his first misstep down a path of misinformation that supposedly supported his extreme nativist position. Then he went on to wrongly label an entire ethnic group based on 0.00264% of the population, hardly a scientific study, at best, a racist rant dripping with xenophobic comments that proved nothing, except for his narrow mindedness.
When asked about US policy and subsidized corn exported to Mexico as a root cause of migration of displaced farmers and workers, Ghigliotti quicky switched the subject and went on to talk about a murder in San Francisco, in a weak attempt to slander an entire ethnic group, again showing his disingenuous attitude toward truth and honest debate. The audience was not fooled by his antics.
The tide has turned, nativists and xenophobes are a dying breed and as the tide comes in and the water rises their anchor chains are getting shorter, they will soon be gone or at the very least their lies and racist rants will be silenced.

Michael Smith -
Speaking of the immigration groups heavily represented in Marin, I don't think we can say they are "not interested in creating liberty in their own countries." But what happens to popular movements south of our border when they try to create liberty? They are CRUSHED by the U.S. time and again. The Zapatistas in Mexico were even kind enough to forewarn us of the devastating consequences that NAFTA would bring. They told us that Mexico's small farmers would not be able to compete against heavily subsidized agribusiness in the U.S., and millions of farmers would be displaced north as a result. That's exactly what happened. Liberty? The U.S. government is against it.
Ghigliotti's question deserves an answer. Immigrants can't usually better themselves in their home countries because Washington promotes a highly-repressive "favorable investment climate" that makes this nearly impossible. In Mexico the U.S. has supported a long series of kleptocrat governments, while in Central America it has backed counterinsurgency forces that have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. It overthrew Guatemalan democracy in 1954, Brazilian democracy in 1964, Chilean democracy in 1973, crushed popular revolution in El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s, backed a coup in Venezuela in 2002, kidnapped and exiled the president of Haiti in 2004, and helped train the forces that carried out the Honduran coup in 2009. This is a very partial list. Those who shout loudest about "illegality" have a remarkable capacity to not notice this absolutely massive illegal behavior, for which they bear responsibility if they pay U.S. taxes.

Tom Wilson, right, of the Canal Alliance squares off against Jerome Ghigliotti, who has pushed an initiative in Novato cracking down on illegal immigrants, in a debate sponsored by the Marin Coalition on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 in San Rafael, Calif. (IJ photo/Robert Tong) Robert Tong
Jerome Ghigliotti, right, who has pushed an initiative in Novato cracking down on illegal immigrants, squares off against Tom Wilson, not show, of the Canal Alliance in a debate sponsored by the Marin Coalition on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 in San Rafael, Calif. (IJ photo/Robert Tong) Robert Tong

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