The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

June 21, 2005

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 20 Jun 2005 20:46:33 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: U.S. no longer a refuge for poor, huddled masses

U.S. no longer a refuge for poor, huddled masses
by Tram Nguyen
San Francisco Chronicle
Monday, June 20, 2005

It's a terrible time to be a refugee. Nearly 30
years ago, refugee policy provided a political
weapon in the war against communism, as it does now
in the war against terrorism. The difference is
that today's government assumes that refugees are
themselves the terrorists.

Historically, Americans have viewed refugees as
victims requiring humanitarian resettlement. Yet
the government's list of who deserves such rescue
has always been driven by political considerations.
Eastern Europeans, Cubans and Southeast Asians
fleeing Communist regimes have been favored, while
refugees from U.S.-backed dictatorships in Haiti
and Central America were routinely denied.

My family belonged to the deserving class. I was
born in 1975 in Vietnam, three months before the
last helicopters loaded with South Vietnamese took
off from Saigon. Later that year, my father
reported for the "re-education" required of all
South Vietnamese soldiers and was jailed for three
years. His desperate decision to orchestrate the
escape of three little girls, his wife and her
sister began our family's role in the harrowing and
often tragic journey of thousands of "boat people."

The United States resettled more than a million
Southeast Asian refugees from Laos, Cambodia and
Vietnam between 1975 and 1998. The largest
resettlement in U.S. history led to the passage of
the Refugee Act of 1980, which granted that status
to anyone seeking to enter because of a "well-
founded fear of persecution" based on race,
religion, nationality, social group or political
opinion. The welcome we received, while conflicted,
was still a welcome -- one that has since worn out
for new arrivals.

Twenty-five years after the passage of the Refugee
Act, the acceptance rate in the United States has
declined from a high of 142,000 per year during the
1980s to a low of 27,070 in 2002. With 12 million
refugees around the world, the number accepted into
the United States has dropped by more than half
after the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States is no
longer willing to be a refuge -- it now accepts
between 30,000 and 50,000 refugees a year -- and it
uses the specter of al Qaeda to justify its

The ironically named "Operation Liberty Shield"
designates 33 countries whose nationals seeking
asylum are automatically imprisoned upon arrival.
Under former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft,
the Justice Department has also sought to restrict
gender-based asylum claims. The Real ID Act makes
it harder for refugees fleeing torture, forced
abortions, honor killings and other violence to
prove they qualify for asylum. The law allows an
immigration judge to deny asylum, for instance,
based on factors such as lack of eye contact or
showing too little emotion during an asylum

The Saeeds, a Pakistani family in Queens, N.Y.,
were waiting for the immigration bureaucracy to
work through its backlog and grant them sanctuary
from the extortion and death threats that forced
them to leave their home. But they were caught
without legal status when the "special
registration" program began in 2003. As a Pakistani
national, Muhammad Saeed was required to report to
immigration officials, along with thousands of men
from 25 Muslim countries. To avoid likely
detention, the family fled to Canada. They waited
there two years for asylum, but the Canadian
government, taking a page out of the U.S. policy
book, rejected their request several months ago.

Aleena Saeed, 16, had wanted to be a doctor but no
longer thinks it possible. Having imbibed cliches
about freedom of opportunity, she now seems
resigned to lost dreams. "I don't think I'm going
to become what I want to," she told me. "They say,
'don't wish upon a star, reach for one,' but I
don't think that's true. I've learned that you
shouldn't wish for something you can't have."

Today's refugees are suffering from the political
calculus at play in the war on terrorism. As the
United Nations marks today as World Refugee Day,
it's up to those of us who benefited from an
earlier generosity to point out the scapegoating.
The American public must demand greater
accountability from the government's
national-security programs. To start, we must call
for an end to the discriminatory detention of
asylum seekers. Just as growing outcry has led to
congressional debate over whether to close the
detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, resistance to
punitive policies toward refugees and asylum
seekers can contribute to a national security
debate that doesn't scapegoat immigrants.

Fear of terrorism and an increasingly unsympathetic
system have led America to retreat from its
humanitarian commitment. Because the U.S. program
is so unpredictable, advocates say, the United
Nations Refugee Agency may become less willing to
refer refugees here. And that may be exactly what
the Bush administration hopes for.

Tram Nguyen is the executive editor of ColorLines
magazine and the author of "We Are All Suspects
Now: Untold Stories from Immigrant Communities
After 9/11," forthcoming from Beacon Press.

Page B - 5 URL:
a/2005/06/20/EDGM7C90OC1.DTL (c)2005 San Francisco


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well, the second is a surprise,

the first is a surprise, almost constant chirping
here close to inaudible with post-processing I desired more than anything
even than the presupposition of the chirping so
listen with earphones, all of these require them, you miss everything
without them, and the second, well, this speaks for itself, or rather
the confluence of grounded signalling requiring slowdown, you may feel
you are hearing the world for the first time, this is true, you may feel,
on the other hand, you have already heard too much

one is always encumbered by war in the world
in these moments of peace, listen to the collapse of invisible particles
I render them within the spheres of enlightenment
you are hearing me, you are hearing you


Alan Sondheim

Artist Talk

Thursday June 23, 2005 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

August 18, 2005 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Alan Sondheim is the 28th Artist in Residence at the CSUF Grand Central Art
Center and this special artist talk is free to the public

He will be speaking in the Grand Central Theatre located in the heart of
CSUF Grand Central Art Center
125 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, California 92701

For additional information or directions:
  714-567-7233   714-567-7234


If we can show you how to start and develop your own dark mile,
Overcome your challenges and improve your lifestyle,
Would you be: serious or merely curious?
If you answered perhaps with furious! -
Congratulations on taking the first step towards the most
Rewarding career, the rest is easy toast,
At present do you find yourselves weeding and distributing loam?
Are you frustrated? Dissatisfied?  Concerned for your future?
Are you earning without disease or need for medical suture?
Are you fed up with working long hours for your boss?
Are you working hard and making the losing toss?
Do you just hate the commuting and traffic jams?
Do you see your life just passing you chicken, pork, and hams?

You can see why the work-from-home for the weak and sickly,
WORKING FOR YOURSELF is growing so quickly?
Working for yourself is the only way to control
Millions of people desiring a better life down the hole.
You can increase your income and work less hours.
No more commuting, breakfast, tea, or showers.
No more office bully, whore, and jerk,
You choose the hours you work.
Time frees! More time to spend with family, friends
And now automated systems give you the bends!
You start and run your own business of bandaging and brooms,
> From home. We do not need to be in rooms
To access the marketplace and make money!
We have the start to finish scalpal, rain or sunny, funny?
Weapons and snowplows for you to use!
We are the boss and we have no employees for you to abuse!
Now that's lifestyle!
Do not wait until the office whore gives you the smile!
Tomorrow is shaped by the actions you take today,
You can start part-time with her, get down on your knees and pray!


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