Tag Archives: Adam Hyla

Where we’re going wrong in the immigration debate

By Adam Hyla, Real Change

Even as corporations embark on what has been called “a carefully managed facility migration process” (i.e., going wherever workers come cheap), migration by human beings is a subject still ruled by parochialism.

Most of the public discourse on the subject has focused on the situation of migrants once they’ve arrived at their destinations. On the left, humanitarians highlight the untenable position of those in the shadows. On the right, people talk of the moral consequences of entering through a side door.

Both sides, says journalist Jeffrey Kaye, fail to look at the cause of their argument.

Legalized or not, he writes in his new book “Moving Millions: How Coyote Capitalism Fuels Global Immigration,” (Wiley, 2010), migration is one fundamental aspect of human mobility. It’s a force at work in the Philippines, whose citizens fill one-third of the world’s nursing jobs — even as their home country’s hospitals crumble. It’s present in Morocco, where people from all over the African continent live in overcrowded conditions, waiting for a boatride toward the Canary Islands, and where an average of two bodies wash up daily along a shoreline patrolled by the European Union. It’s there along the United States-Mexico border, where stepped-up enforcement by federal agents and National Guard troops diverts, but doesn’t dampen, the economic pressure pushing Latin America’s jobless across la frontera.

“Despite the wishes of migration restrictionists, ancient impulses to escape hardships or to go in search of greener pastures are not going to come to a halt just because political lines have been drawn and laws passed,” writes Kaye, a freelance journalist and longtime reporter for the PBS NewsHour. “Build walls, and people will go over, around, or under them,” he continues. “Hire border guards, and smugglers will bribe them. Step up patrols, and migrants will find alternate routes. Provide better-paying jobs, and workers will get to them. Migration will not be stopped. But in the best of all possible worlds, nations should strive to ensure that migrants cross borders because they want to, not because they have to.”

A cultural re-examination of most American natives’ own family histories, says Kaye, might help them see illegal immigrants’ motives in a more sympathetic light. And national governments, in his view, need to get together and frankly discuss their policies, whether they are sending workers abroad or taking them in.

Adam Hyla: What do you mean by “coyote capitalism”?

Jeffrey Kaye: You know what a coyote is, right? A human smuggler. Someone who gets paid to take people across the border. They don’t really care about the circumstances, about what’s pushing people out or pulling people in, they get someone to where they’re supposed to be going and they get paid. It’s a term that refers to a global system of immigration, often and usually without too much regard for the consequences of migration or the effects on the migrants themselves. Continue reading


TRReid_bigFrom the Sept. 4 edition of Street Roots

Anger and taunting in the public forum. Accusations of fascism. Rumors of proposed government death panels — rumors that opponents of reform did virtually nothing to quell. Gun-toting men waiting for their congressional representatives in the parking lot. The discussion, if it can be dignified with that word, over the state of the nation’s health care system is scuttling along the slimy sea floor of American politics.

Which is why it’s an ideal time for some actual information. What is it costing us to look after our nation’s sick? Who pays — literally and figuratively — for the threadbare patchwork of American health insurance coverage, a system that drop-kicks 700,000 people each year into bankruptcy because they can’t pay their medical bills? That, because they couldn’t see a doctor, puts 20,000 more in the grave? Are we really faced with a choice between things as they are and that conservative bogey, “socialized medicine”?

For such apt questions, T.R. Reid’s book couldn’t hit the shelves at a better time. “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care” (Penguin Press) is a look at how wealthy democracies like ours — like France, Japan, Germany and the U.K. — provide health care, and the choices they faced as they constructed systems that are each unique but that all do a better job of keeping their citizens healthy, and they do it for less.

What do those countries have that we don’t? Each has decided that it has a basic duty to look after the health of its citizens.

Reid’s book would be just an exercise in comparative policy studies but for having busted his shoulder while in the U.S. Navy. A military surgeon had bolted the joint back together, but that was way back in 1972. “By the first decade of the 21st century,” writes Reid, “I could no longer swing a golf club. I could barely reach up to replace a lightbulb overhead or get the wine glasses from the top shelf.”

And so, “hoping for surcease from sorrow,” Reid takes his shoulder on the road. The result is a readable, informative, clearheaded look at health care elsewhere in the industrialized world, accompanied by the persistent questioning: Why not us?

Adam Hyla: When did you begin this book?

T.R. Reid: I’d like to say that in the spring of 2006 I knew that in the fall of 2009 our country would be obsessed with health care, but I really can’t say we planned it that way — we really lucked out. The timing worked out fine. I actually delivered the book a year late, and my editor was mad at me for being so late, but now I tell her I planned it like this. (laughter)

A.H.: Eighty-five percent of Americans tell pollsters that health care is a basic human right, yet so far in this national debate, that doesn’t seem to be very well-reflected.

T.R.R.: Yeah, every time we take on this issue the basic moral question gets lost in a discussion of winners and losers, hospital company profits and insurance company earnings. That’s always happened in our country. Every single country I visited made the basic moral commitment that every single person in our rich country who needs access to health care should have access to it. The richest country in the world has not made that guarantee.

I came off my ’round-the-world tour pretty optimistic; I think if we do make that commitment we can provide it for all, because all these other countries have.

A.H.: Why haven’t we made that commitment? Why are we so down in the weeds?

T.R.R.: I don’t know. I really struggle with that. With my book, I had three main tasks: to explain how other countries cover everybody at reasonable costs, and I think I got that; the other was to explain why other countries cover everybody, and I think I got that. That raises the question, why hasn’t the world’s richest country made this commitment? Continue reading

Elsewhere Man: Sociologist Dalton Conley takes a wide-angle view of the newly hatched middle class

By Adam Hyla, Street News Service

conley-1Once, it seems like years ago, the American work force’s rising productivity was supposed to buy us some free time. No less an eminence than Jon Kenneth Galbraith worried about what Americans would do as technological advances brought leisure to the masses. Today, we understand that the digital age means the collapse of old boundaries between work and play as we enter a life in which we’re intimately reachable ‘round the clock. We used to brag about being plugged in; these days, we can’t get unplugged.

Sociologist Dalton Conley describes the social and psychological consequences of this and other aspects of the “weightless” economy in his new book “Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety” (Pantheon) as high technology, changing gender roles, and hardening class lines have altered life in the workplace and at home.

The dollar value of one’s labor, Dalton argues, has abstracted as the middle class moves from the industrial into the symbolic sector, spurring anxiety about one’s earning power and social standing. There’s an old word for this, Conley writes: alienation. Our sense of detachment from the real economy has us working scared and putting in more hours, while the rise of the two-income family has created a whole new demand for more personal services at low cost — in other words, low-wage work that only worsens inequality.

Conley is chair of New York University’s sociology department, Adjunct Professor of Community Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and research fellow with the National Bureau of Economic Research. With his books; “Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth, and Social Policy in America” and “The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why” and he has explored the interaction of social class with racial and other physical characteristics. These are subjects that Conley, in his youth, explored empirically: his memoir describes growing up in the mostly black and Latino housing projects of New York’s Upper East Side.

Adam Hyla: You left your cell phone at home today. How appropriate. How does it feel?

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