Marty Rosenbluth

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Marty Rosenbluth is an immigration attorney based in Durham, N.C. at El Centro Hispano. After spending most of his professional life in humanitarian work and international human rights, he became an immigration attorney five years ago after being drawn to the growing human rights abuses he saw in the immigrant community in North Carolina. Rosenbluth provides insight on what an immigration attorney's primary roles are and the work he does to assist clients in deportation proceedings. In this interview, Rosenbluth describes his day to day work, his opinions on the current comprehensive immigration reform draft bill and where the legislation needs to go, as well as the conversations he has had with immigrants about securing legal status in the United States. He also explains some of the barriers he sees to citizenship, focusing on the misinformation and disinformation that frequently misleads immigrants. Rosenbluth includes anecdotes about specific clients and bases many of his answers on his personal experiences in the legal realm. He often refers to the "notarios" that rip off immigrants by charging them money for the process unnecessarily and how this seems to be a trend that will possibly only grow with immigration reform. Rosenbluth also discusses his experiences with immigrants regarding the choice to pursue citizenship or simply assure legal status for work purposes. He explains the barrier that the English language requirement poses for many immigrants. Additionally, Rosenbluth discusses the role that the “insular” community has particularly for Latino immigrants, who often are not pushed to learning English because of the growing prominence of bilingual services. He discusses the fact that the pathway to citizenship will most likely never be equitable, but that there are still multiple ways in which the new comprehensive immigration reform can help to make the experience more accessible and not impossible.



Elizabeth Byrum: This is Elizabeth Byrum interviewing Marty Rosenbluth. This interview is conducted on April 19, 2013 at 11:35 in the morning. We are in his office in El Centro Hispano in Durham, North Carolina. Marty, can you tell--can you start of telling me about yourself and your background?
Marty Rosenbluth: Uh, sure. Um, I'm a, I define myself as an immigrant rights defense attorney. I mean, the bulk of my work focuses on trying to help um, folks who are caught in deportation proceedings in immigration court. Law for me was a third career, I was, um, I graduated from law school just short of my 50th birthday and um, I have been practicing immigration law now for about five years.
EB: And what inspired you to kind of start working with immigrants and this area of law?
MR: Well it's interesting. I was one of those people who was 1000 percent sure of why I was going to law school. I had been doing um, grassroots, human rights work for about 25 years, mostly focused on, um, what's called international humanitarian law, the laws of war so to speak. I have worked overseas for seven and a half years, uh, in the Israeli occupied territory. I had been Amnesty International's, uh, country specialist for Israel in the occupied territories for about a dozen years. And um, you know, I felt that with a law degree and my background, um, you know, I would be kind of uniquely placed to continue to do international law, humanitarian law in the U.S. Um, middle of my second year, end of my second year, I started looking around at what was happening in immigrant communities right here in North Carolina, um, and realized it was one of the more grave human rights abuses that I was seeing. Um, I mean, as my son very articulately expressed it, he said, 'Do you mean that you know someone could go out to get a quart of milk for their kids and um, be deported to Mexico and never see their kids again?' And that was exactly the type of thing we were seeing under 287g and Secure Communities. Um, so I switched from doing international law to doing immigration law.
EB: And what is kind of your typical day to day now, working with people?
MR: Wow. Typical day. Typical days are kind of chaos. There really isn't a typical day because so much depends on who's calling, who's coming in, um, you know, what the case load we have is. We started very recently to have a walk-in clinic on Mondays. A free walk-in clinic where people could, um, um, come in to get advice on their, ah, immigration, ah situation. Some people actually do make appointments, we try to spread those out, like an hour at a time. You know, between those people who have appointments, we have folks just walking in. Um, um, since this week, um, the new immigration, comprehensive immigration draft bill, um, was announced, I mean, obviously a lot of people are asking questions about that. Um, it's still really new, I don't think people realize the difference between a bill and a law, although I think you could probably say that of most U.S. citizens. Um, and the media doesn't help. I mean some of the Spanish-language press you know, has banner headlines, 'Tenemos nuestra reforma,' 'We have our reform.' And that just really isn't true. So clearing up that, clearing up that confusion. We continue to spend a lot of time in the immigration court in Charlotte, um, representing people there. You know, a lot of times, basically trying to get people get unconfused about the status of their cases.
EB: And speaking of this new bill, um it is very new and it just came out this week, but what are your opinions on what it contains or what direction do we need to go from here?
MR: Yeah, I mean again, I haven't quite managed to read all 844 pages yet, but there is some good things in there. There is for example--I didn't really expect in this draft to have a provision where people who were deported before--who weren't deported for criminal defenses, can apply to come back. That was a huge, um, uh I think, victory, a huge, important victory. At the same time, this registered provisional immigrant status, um, the wait is just so huge before they can get either a green card or let alone citizenship. So, um, I think there are good parts and bad parts. There's a lot of problems still. I think the big confusion is going to be um, what should people be doing in the interim. Already we are seeing ads from notarios saying 'Come talk to us, we'll help you.' Even from less than honest attorneys we're seeing, um, 'Come to talk to me about comprehensive immigration reform.' I don't really see what you can talk about. I mean, the earliest possible date where applications will even be available will be sometime next summer. You know, I think that the interesting thing is going to be a) how is this thing going to be amended? Will there be so called 'poison pill' amendments? And is it the thing even going to pass? But yeah there's good things in it. The fact that people who were here, you know who've been here, who entered without inspection, who don't have any lawful status can apply, that's good. The fact that there seems to be a fast track for kids who already have Deferred Action, that's good. Um, there's even some provisions which would be amazing to provide funding for legal services for folks who can't afford it in the immigration court. That's going to be great. At the same time, I'm really concerned about folks getting ripped off by notarios and less than honest attorneys in the process of trying to apply for this.
EB: And so, I guess one of the things people talked about prior to this discussion is the line is so long, that line. And do you think that is going to change with any short period of time or is that still going to be a backlog?
MR: Well, yes. I was asking that question today because already, I mean, just with Deferred Action, just with that relatively small of applicants and for applications that are relatively similar, I mean in terms of the types of documentation that folks are providing, you have a, at this point, our applications have been backlogged six to eight months. So um, not even dealing with the current backlog, of people who have been 10 years for their green cards, how long is this process going to take? I mean, how many more you know employees will USCIS take on and deal with these? But you know, the provision and the bill that no one who is here illegally will quote on quote 'be getting their green cards' until everyone in line has gotten their's--we know there are people who have been in line fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years waiting for their green cards. To me, having looked at how poorly prepared USCIS was to deal with the influx of the DACA applicants, I'm really hoping that they are not going to make the same mistake again and that they are adequately prepared to deal with this huge influx.
EB: And speaking of DACA, you work a lot with securing DACA for youth here in North Carolina? What has that process kind of looked like, now that we have kind of covered the license situation, as far as that getting underway?
MR: For Deferred Action, for DACA, that process was pretty clear. We've now filed 225 something DACA applications, um, and we kind of have it down to a science at this point. We also do a lot of consulting for other immigration attorneys, non-immigration attorneys who are taking cases on pro bono, um. So it's pretty straight forward. But the problem we're having though is it's just taking so long to get responses. And of course, I don't blame them, I understand, my cousin--we call it the 'my cousin's neighbor's dog walker's best friend syndrome.' That you know, 'My cousin's neighbor's dog walker's best friend, you know, got their application approved last week and they only submitted it a month ago. How come mine is taking so long?' And what people don't understand is that it is totally random. You know that, applications that were we submitted relatively are getting approved and applications we submitted months ago are pending. There is no rhyme or reason or logic to it. It's not that one application is harder than the next, it's just kind of like, you know, which case officer picked up the file? That's a real cause of frustration for people. Um, even within families, we've had cases where one family member was approved weeks ago and the other family members haven't heard yet. Um, so that's a big problem at the moment, but it's national. We're hearing all over of applications being sent from one office to the next and kind of shuffled around.
EB: Has there been kind of a positive view of Deferred Action in the community from what you understand? Do people understand what it means and are embracing it and are working towards that or is there still kind of a hard time getting people to that?
MR: There's been some resistance still. I mean there are people in the immigrant community, and not just the Latino community, that are just still very hesitant to come out of the shadows, so to speak, to apply. Is it worth it to me to expose myself and my family, you know giving the fact that it's only a two-year work permit? But I think the combination now of DACA and this coming immigration reform, I think may in fact lead people to be comfortable you know, because they're, not only do they have hope now, but their um, their parents and other family members potentially have hope. So we'll see, I think the two will kind of have a symbiotic relationship.
EB: And from your experience, what are some of the main barriers that immigrants face from applying to something like DACA or even who have legal status already, but are trying to apply for citizenship?
MR: Um, lack of information. Um, lack of um, English skills. Lack of money. Fear. Misinformation. In the case of notarios, what we call disinformation. Notarios, giving them information that is just flat out wrong. Um, and, um, I think the biggest, the biggest problem, if I had to pick two would be um, lack of good information and lack of money.
EB: And have you worked with clients who've had experiences of being kind of ripped off, and you know have been struggling with?
MR: Yeah, and we don't actually do the citizenship applications partly because there are other resources available and there is you know, plenty of good, honest attorneys who do that. But we do help people who have ended up in deportation proceedings um, because, they were ripped off by notarios and applied for things they weren't eligible for and that's what got them into removal proceedings. So we deal with that all the time, I mean, I would say, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say we have multiple cases every single week.
EB: And is there a way, now that reform is kind of moving in, to combat this? Who's it going to start with, that part of the system?
MR: Well, and that's our fear actually, that not only will the comprehensive immigration reform not stop that, but it could potentially in fact make it worse, because you know every time there's an announcement of something, some hope that people can grasp onto, the notarios come out of the woodwork. The sharks start circling, you know. How can we prevent people from being ripped off by that? Um, that's a really, really good question. I think that's where groups like El Centro, groups like El Pueblo, or other grassroots immigrant community organizations can really be key. But if you don't have the money to hire an attorney and a notario says, 'Oh, I can help you. I can fill out your application for $500,' you can't fill it out yourself, you know what are you going to do? It took us several months actually here, to decide that we were gonna actually help people fill out DACA applications. We were very resistant at first because, you know, is that the best thing we could be doing? But when, staff members were getting phone calls, 'Oh, you know, are you going to be filling out DACA applications?' and we were saying 'No,' people would answer, 'I can't afford an attorney, I'm just going to go to a notario.' We took it on as a defensive posture, to basically help protect people in the community from being ripped off. Can you do the same with um, the applications that are going to be coming out under comprehensive immigration reform? It's way too early to tell. We don't how much work is going to be involved, so we really can't answer that yet.
EB: And moving more towards kind of citizenship -- and I know you mentioned earlier that you kind of focus on people in deportation proceedings -- but why do you think, from your experience, would someone maybe not choose to become a citizen? Is it because of the system and the way they have been treated? What kind of factors play into that?
MR: Interesting question. I've only really had a really small handful in five years of doing this of people who made a conscious decision to not become a citizen. Um, and in all those cases, they didn't really see the advantage of it. They had work permits, they you know, had driver's licenses. They had their lives in order, they paid taxes. It was kind of like, 'Why bother? It's too much work, it's too much money.' Um, in two or three cases, it was like, it came down to with them, 'Well the only difference is I can't vote. I don't really see that much of a difference between the candidates.' All three of those people were in deportation proceedings, for relatively minor -- well actually one was major -- for offenses, criminal offense they committed, which made them deportable. Um, so they didn't really think it was worth the bother. But mostly it's not really a conscious decision not to, it's more not having the resources or the knowledge or the ability to it. Again, I think that language skills would probably be high up there on the list. We just had a couple in this week that that was their situation. That they were eligible to apply, you know they knew what they needed to do. They even, I think, had enough money to, you know to hire an attorney to do it, because that was a problem, they were like, 'I've been here for 10 years, I don't speak English at all. I don't have the time. I'm working.'
EB: And is there a way to combat this? Should that be a consideration when looking at immigration reform, is kind of the factors that work the system?
MR: Yeah. What we're telling now to people, who asking 'Is there anything I can do now?' saying 'Yeah,' we're saying, 'Start now to get all of your documentation together. You know, if you have time, get all the documentation together of continuous presence and start learning English.' I don't think any -- I don't want this to sound sarcastic -- I don't think any efforts to get the English language provisions out of the law will be in any way, shape, or form successful. I think that's a loser. So, um, yeah, I think people will, you know, the community organizations like El Centro and other organizations will have to redouble their effort to provide English classes. Um, educating people that that's necessary. But even basic, the basic civics. I'm starting now to communicate with the Mexican consulate um, about how we can educate people about this new draft bill and one of the very first things that we're going to have to do is explain to people the difference between a bill and a law. But um, yeah, there aren't that many good resources out there for English classes and that's going to have to change.
EB: And is there going to be interest from the government in doing that? Is it going to have to come from private groups?
MR: I don't really see that coming from the government. I really don't think that, especially in places like North Carolina, where the anti-immigrant sentiment in the state government is so strong, I don't think you're going to see major outlay of cash for that so that's going to have to come from the community. But you know, historically, if you look at the history of immigration in the United States, in the past those resources were available. You had English classes in the local library. The local schools were open in the evening for English classes. You know maybe it was because the immigrant communities were more concentrated in dense urban areas and more possible, you had a lot more resources. You know, even there, I can't remember if I told this story for the last interview, um, I mean my dad translated for his parents. My grandparents, who unfortunately passed away before I was born, um but um, I mean they didn't speak English really. I mean my dad had to translate for them between English and Yiddish, um that's been the immigrant experience here, historically.
EB: I think it's interesting that there's still such a push to learn English even though there is this subtle recognition that everyone at some point learned English and some other skill that is necessary kind of to be a part of society. I don't know what it's going to take to kind of, change that?
MR: Well, you know that it's interesting, it's an interesting point, because eventually, all immigrant communities do master the language, maybe not always in the first generation, but always in the second generation. I'm sure if you went back and looked at it historically, I don't know how you would survey it, I would bet a relatively high percentage of first generation immigrants, especially folks who came here when they were adults, never mastered the language. Now, I'm quite sure that you would find that. Now part of the reason why you have that push um is xenophobia. I think part of the reason why you have that push is to put obstacles. However, having said that, there is a real advantage to it if you can. So there's no question. It's just not going to be possible. I mean we have a huge segment of our clientèle who are not literate in Spanish. I mean, they you know, maybe got to third or fourth grade in their home country, so they don't even read or write Spanish well enough. So you kind of have the double then literacy barrier to get over. That not only are they not literate in English, but they aren't even literate in their native languages.
EB: And I've talked to people who have said that is one of the biggest challenges they face, people who are teaching the classes maybe on civics, is there is a fear of education, because maybe they're not used to this formal learning, some people, and that can be a big factor that deters people from trying to apply. That they are afraid that they have to learn so much. Is that something you see, not necessarily just with citizenship, but with any application, working towards any sort of change in status?
MR: Yeah I think so. And just the fear barrier, 'Am I going to be able to do it? Is this going to be impossible?' I definitely think that's an obstacle, there's no question about it.
EB: And have you seen, have you had conversations with people who think that doing all this, they are afraid of losing their heritage or their birthright? Is that something you've talked to people about at all?
MR: I've not seen that. I've heard that kind of dotingly and I'm not sure if this is related, but I mean what I hear much more is, 'Look, I don't really care you know about citizenship as much as being able to work here,' you know. 'I planning on sending money home and going back to my home village and retiring there.' I hear that a lot more that it's not a major factor for people because what they are really concerned is the ability to work and to drive and to live legally here and not necessarily to stay her permanently.
EB: And do you think U.S. citizens have this understanding of all these aspects of immigration? Um, specifically like, we're talking about the emotional, psychological, but also just the practical reasons why people want to do it? In talking to people who aren't necessarily in the loop, they are just like, 'Oh, like someone wants to be an immigrant. The immigrant comes here and wants to be a citizen.' Like okay, I just don't know, what's your opinion on the public opinion around that?
MR: Yeah, I think most people are clueless, even about really basic stuff. I do a lot of public speaking, you know, on this issue. You know, if it's a completely lay audience, one of the first things I do is, I do this, you know, 'I know it's usual for the audience to ask speakers questions, but let me ask you all some questions first.' I'll say, 'Let me give you a hypothetical. If you had, if you were a U.S. citizen from Mexico and you wanted to bring your brother here or your sister here, what do you think would be a reasonable period of time to wait? Do you think that would be too much to ask people to wait a year? How many people think five years would be too long to wait? How many people think ten? How many people think fifteen?' And you know, when you tell people now the wait is nineteen years, you know, or if you're like a lawful permanent resident and you want to bring your adult son or daughter here, and they're single, how many people think fifteen years would be too long to wait? Of course people laugh, because by the time their number comes up, they're going to be married, probably grandkids even. I think that most Americans really have no knowledge at all of how the immigration system works. Even with attorneys, I do a lot of training for attorneys. I mean, when I tell attorneys that um, people in the immigration don't have the right to attorney if they can't afford one, they don't believe me at first, I have to convince them.
EB: So that one point there, there is no right to an attorney in immigration courts?
MR: You have the right to an attorney but you don't have the right to have one appointed if you can't afford one.
EB: Oh.
MR: So yeah, absolutely. You have the right to go to court with an attorney, but if you can't afford one, you're out of luck. Um, and that's also been a huge obstacle because since the law is so complicated, you know, it is so easy to make mistakes. It is so easy to put yourself at risk by doing stuff the wrong way. And we see that all the time, we see it all the time.
EB: And what do you think are some of the ways that the public is going to have change their perspective on this? What are some of the ways, I mean, it's a very large project, and sometimes it doesn't seem like we know where to begin.
MR: Wow. That's a really good question. And part of that, the challenge is so much, you know, disinformation out there. Not to single out Fox News but, um, you know all these right wing talk show hosts and um, you know, there's so much fear and when you have an incident like the bombing at the Boston Marathon. I think every, I can bet every immigration attorney in the country was just praying that this was going to end up from (the interior). I think getting over that fear factor is going to be the hardest part, getting over the fear of the other. How do we go about that? I don't know.
EB: It seems like it needs to be kind of the bottom up thing. But then again we are looking at a very long process with that.
MR: Yeah and part of it, what's really interesting is um if you look at the change in the evangelical churches. You know, a lot of that was when they realized that it was folks in the pew next to them um, that it wasn't just this scary other person who looks different and acts mysteriously. You know it's that very nice family in the back row who doesn't speak English very well, but they seem like nice folks. Um, so I think part of it, is getting people to understand that these aren't strange, scary people, you know their kids go to the same school as yours, they go to the same supermarket, that they're not necessarily that big, scary other. But that's hard, you always will have people that are just racist and xenophobic, unfortunately.
EB: Have individuals you've worked with expressed kind of the concerns with being labeled 'undocumented' or 'illegal'? Have they talked about how that has affected their experience here? Anything you have to share about that.
MR: Well, yeah sure. Especially for, because we focus on cases where people got into deportation proceedings through racial profiling. It's a real issue for people, they're very, very attuned and attentive to the fact they are in deportation proceedings because they were stopped while driving ( ). And people are very, very aware of that dynamic. The fact that it's so easy to end up in deportation proceedings, there is a certain mistrust. Again, it's not unique, it certainly isn't unique to the Latino experience, but the immigrant communities tend to be fairly insular. You know, a big problem we have for a lot of our clients is when we go to the court, um, you know, we try to get their cases administratively closed or we try to get their cases, ICE to dismiss their case. We like to put together a packet, where we have letters from people, from the community, you know letters of support and stuff. In a lot of our cases, they literally know nobody who has legal status. Like no one that they can ask to do that for them. Even in cases where all we need is to get someone to go to Charlotte, to go to the ICE office to pay an immigration bond, that person has to have legal status. Our folks just know nobody, they don't know anyone who can do that for them.
EB: So that remains one of the largest things, when trying, in terms of cases and trying to get them dismissed, is that everyone seems to be in the same boat.
MR: Well, yeah and it's interesting because with our non-Latino clients it seems to be a lot easier. Um, and in some ways it's ah, I don't know whether price of success would be the way to put it, but I think the fact that our Latino community is so large and that our Latino community is so, um, there's so many services available that people can go for ten to fifteen years here and never speak a word of English. Um, it's a bad thing, but it's also a good thing. I mean it's nice that the community is so vibrant and healthy. You know, there's grocery stores and clothing stores and you know all types of services and you can get away with it, not necessarily, you know, always to your advantage. But yeah, a lot of people, you know we say, 'Is there anyone who can write a letter for you, who knows you well, who has legal status?' They just don't have anyone.
EB: You mentioned how the community really does stay together, and since it is a large community, it's like you are living in a little version of your barrio in Mexico in Chapel Hill or Durham. Do you think in that sense, people, unless they get stuck, or unless they get caught by the officials, they don't really have any interest in becoming a permanent resident or a citizen? That they just have their own...
MR: Well, it's certainly less than an incentive. But then again, if you're working two or three jobs to make ends meet, how do you have the time? And because you don't speak English, how do you get beyond your community? So it's much more safe and secure, but it's not, I mean, okay, I lived in the West Bank for seven and a half years. Mostly I hung out with the English speakers, I mean I learned Arabic eventually, but no where near as fluent as I could have been after being there for seven and a half years. It's just easier. And you're busy. I mean I worked all day, I came home, I was tired and I didn't really want to spend my nights learning Arabic.
EB: And just from the work I've done with people, it's the same idea. It's very hard for them to get out, they are taking care of children sometimes, or feeding a family. So this idea of belonging, I think is such a division between, even though we are a country of immigrants, 'Those are the immigrants' like 'They are different' and there is still not this sense of cohesive belonging. Is that something you--
MR: I think so, yeah. And we even see it in some our now Latino clients. They'll talk about the illegal immigrants about being this other people and I have to remind them, 'Oh you are in deportation proceedings, you know, just keep that in mind. Let's keep our ego to ourselves.' I don't quite say it that mean worded, but I insinuate it very lightly.
EB: Is that something you have seen frequently in an immigrant group, there is kind of distinction between people who might be in deportation proceedings, people who are residents, is there kind of a division and possible some, not criticism, but prejudice toward other people's status levels?
MR: I think it's more of a class thing, than necessarily a legal status thing. That type of thing, you see the difference between folks who immigrate here who come from a more upper-class background. Um, but, no, I haven't really seen those divisions. The fear factor, certainly. I mean people who are here without legal status are definitely more fearful, but I haven't seen that. I know they exist but I haven't really seen them in my work.
EB: And this question is one that I have been asking everyone. And it's kind of from your experience, how do you think citizenship or anything related to the process of gaining legal status can affect identity? Either like intrinsically, really deeply, or just kind of as a label and how you think people perceive that?
MR: Interesting question. And again, the context in which we see it is more in the um, hope-fear paradigm. I don't know if I can get away with saying that. I mean for us, we see, I think the biggest thing I see through Deferred Action and the way to get people's cases administratively closed, you know the fact that they are no longer fearful is the big thing. Um, the, of course, most who do legal work, most people come to us with fear in their eyes. When we started to do the Deferred Action stuff was the first time really people came with hope in their eyes instead. And that was huge. Some of the discussions um, that had people had with their kids here, because we do have to warn people that even though the government is saying no, that we can't guarantee that and that you have to understand that by applying you could potentially be putting your family members at risk. It was always the kids that were saying, 'Well if that's the case, I don't want to do it' and it was always the parents saying 'You have to. I'll be okay. I mean I came here to build a better life for you. I'll be fine, you have to do this for yourself.' We heard that over and over and over again. I think if, again I can't speak for the immigrant community, it's just my impression, but I think that for most people if they knew they could live here and stay here without fear, if they knew they could travel to their home countries freely, if they knew that you know, they wouldn't be at risk, that they wouldn't be deported or arrested for driving while intoxicated, or for committing some minor offense, I don't know how big a deal a citizenship would be for people if they knew they were really safe. Um, but for some people it's huge. You know for friends of mine who have gotten their citizenship, after years and years, there is that sense of pride, there is that sense of success, there is that sense of identity. Um, but the more shabbily the U.S. government treats them, I don't how much that makes that ( ) go away.
EB: Yeah, so um, I've talked to other people who said, that even though becoming a citizen, that nothing really changed and the way they were treated didn't really change and it didn't really matter. I didn't know if it could be a really common thing.
MR: Oh yeah, you can still get racially profiled.
EB: And do you specifically work with people who that has happened to, that have been put, not citizens, but people who have legal status and there has been a mix up, or--
MR: Oh yeah, oh sure. And friends of mine, not necessarily clients, but friends of mine who are Latino or who are U.S. citizens talk about being racially profiled all the time. It isn't a, the fact that you have a U.S. passport is not a shield. You still look like them.
EB: I guess that is part of what needs to be changed to, with the public opinion, it's not just very fact of the matter legal things, but there's just an entire section that...
MR: Well that's it. We're a nation of immigrants, so why should people be treated shabbily because of the color of their skin or their accent? But it's all too common, again if you look at history, Chinese, Japanese, German, Irish, Jewish, I mean. It's a history of racism and xenophobia, it's not the glorious and wonderful kumbayah melting pot.
EB: Do you think the pathway to citizenship will ever be an equal opportunity? Will we ever get to that point in this country?
MR: Uh, equal opportunity for?
EB: For all individuals who at various different statuses when they enter the country.
MR: Um, equal opportunity. I think that is a very interesting question. If you want I can send you an article that someone emailed me that says the way that the way the immigration reform is going to be structured that Asians and Africans in particular um, may actually end up being negatively affected by it, you know based on the categories that are being eliminated and the categories that are being promoted. Um, so, I mean is there going to be an equitable way to do it? I'm very skeptical. I don't think we're every going to see. There's always going to be problems because you have competing interest groups.
EB: And I just have a few more questions. But here in North Carolina, what do you think are some of the next steps we need to take? As our population keeps increasing, either change our perspective or to continue working towards rights for the immigrants, whatever--
MR: Well, I mean I think, again it's still just a draft, but this new draft bill HB 786 I think is extremely problematic on a whole bunch of different levels. I think that you do have, you know, a bunch of states where the level of xenophobia and racism is way higher than it is in other places. Um, the fact that North Carolina is now trying to pass its own version of SB 1070, the Arizona anti-immigration bill. So we have a long way to go, um, and part of it again is education. Part of it is getting information out there. I mean, you just have some folks who are hardcore racists and it's very difficult to move them off. Um, I think that our um, equivalence of the Arizona bill, the folks that are behind it are a bit more sophisticated, so they can't be quite as lazy as they kind of ask things a bit better. But if you actually sit down, you know HB 786 is just as bad as the Arizona law. And the fact that some immigrant rights groups have actually backed it to me is very perplexing. I mean I simply don't understand. Let alone, just on the face, you know states getting involved in the enforcement of immigration law is always going to be a bad thing, um regardless of how finely the words are parsed. You know the state wants to be involved in immigration enforcement, on the face of it, it's unconstitutional. You know, I don't see how changing a few words here or there is going to make a huge difference.
EB: Right. And North Carolina has such a huge immigrant community, specifically from Latin America, so is there any factor that you think will help, or pull more weight in demonstrating the importance of working on behalf of this group. Economic factors--so far, I feel like I haven't been able to figure out what it's going to take for people to be convinced.
MR: Well again, I think there is. If you look at the driver's license issue. Making sure that everyone who is on the road is a licensed driver with insurance is a good thing, regardless of what you think about immigration policy. You know, making sure that people are paid a fair day's wage for a fair day's work benefits everybody. Um, you know regardless of what you think about immigration policy. I think part of it is explaining to people how um, um, discriminating against immigrants and not allowing people to have driver's licenses while that may make sense from an anti-immigrant, ideological perspective, makes no sense at all from a public health and public safety. So just explain to people how stupid it is.
EB: Right. And that you can have logical laws but at the same time, it needs to represent all the parties that are involved. You shouldn't just have, like you were saying with the licenses, require them to have licenses, but at the same time, you know people who are immigrants shouldn't have different ones because--
MR: Well, here's the thing. If you look at HB 786, it says right in the preamble, you know 'We recognize that immigration law is the responsibility of the federal government, they're not doing their job, so we have to do it for them.' That's paraphrasing a little tiny bit, but basically what it says. I mean so on the face of it, without even going into the details, you can just kind of stop there. You can kinda stop there in your analysis and say okay, 'Regardless of how you want to tweak this, you're still trying to take over the role of the federal government and that's a bad thing.'
EB: Mm, right. Well those are all the questions that I have.
MR: Cool.
EB: Thank you so much for the interview.
MR: Oh, my pleasure.