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A Thirty-Something Flying Blind

Destination: ¯l_(ツ)_l¯

Month

August 2015

Immigration Issues around the World

Illegal Immigration is a hot-button issue in the current U.S. prudential campaign. Actually, immigration has been an issue for a large part of U.S. history (e.g., Chinese immigrants in the mid-19th century, Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine, and the eugenics movement in the early 20th century), but its current form is geared toward illegal immigrants, typically Mexicans who are “crossing the border.” Donald Trump’s insane campaign has targeted the anger (and often flat-out racism) that surrounds this issue. But are Trump and his supporters alone in this plight?

Nope. Illegal Immigration is an issue politicians take up worldwide. Vox actually had an article about the international immigration issue a few days ago, but I had already started this post at this point. Here are a few examples, slightly geared toward places I’ve been/lived:

  1. Australia. Australia has faced an influx of asylum seekers who arrive by boats from Indonesia, and this is a huge hot-button issue. In 2013, Tony Abbott, current Prime Minster of Australia campaigned on the issue: “Stop the boats.” He also was quick to implement it when he came into office, implementing a program to intercept and force the boats to turn back. Still, there is a human side worth noting–specifically a 2013 article from New York Time Magazine of two journalists who took a boat from Indonesia before being intercepted on the way to Christmas Island.
  2. The Netherlands. There are several right-wing anti-immigration parties in Europe right now, but one I knew from my time in the Netherlands was the PVV party (in English, the Party for Freedom). Geert Wilders started this party back in 2005, and he is quite the personality himself. He repeatedly uses anti-Islam rhetoric (famously comparing the Quran to Mein Kampf, and campaigned to have the Quran banned in the Netherlands), but his Party for Freedom also advocates a halt to immigration of non-Western immigrants. While his influence might seem minor, his party placed third in the 2010 Dutch elections, and the PVV was in a coalition with the primary parties in the Netherlands. Their influence declined after the 2012 elections, but they are still an active element in Dutch politics.
  3. United Kingdom. David Cameron, the current Prime Minister, has campaigned to reduce the influx of immigrants into the U.K., but has been criticized for his efforts. Part of this issue has led to the increased influence of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), which is far more anti-EU and anti-immigration than the Tories are. Nigel Farage is also another personality and leader of the party.
  4. Malaysia. In 2009, Malaysia banned hiring of foreign workers (unless needed, but mainly in blue collar jobs) to curb illegal immigration.
  5. Mexico! Mexico has its share of illegal immigrants, too, not only from Central America but also from Asia. In fact, Mexico had it’s own version of Arizona’s papers-please law before having a more liberal policy on immigration (punish them with a hefty fine) to give illegal immigrants rights and due process.
  6. Bulgaria. A few weeks ago, Bulgaria finished a razor wire fence to prevent immigrants coming through Turkey.
  7. Hungary. Currently, Hungary is completing a fence on the Serbian border to prevent illegal immigration.

And the list goes on. Not to mention, just this week alone, we had dozens of dead migrants in Austria, more capsized boats off Libyamigrant protests in Germany, and the on-going issues in Calais of migrants trying to get into the U.K.

Considering the world-wide issue of immigration, where exactly does Trump think all these illegal immigrants in the U.S. will go if we kick them out? Everyone is dealing with the same problem.

Sure, I sympathize with the economic and “fairness” issues surrounding illegal immigration. I have immigrated to two different countries myself, through legal channels, and my employers have put up the cost for my visas (and some personal expense when getting my Dutch visa…long story). I also sympathize with the idea that immigrants can overwhelm our resources in certain regions–jobs, hospitals, schools, etc.

But they are still people. And they are leaving their homes for a reason. As long as there is a huge disparity between the “first-world” and “third-world,” we are going to have people fleeing in the hopes for a better life. Our first-world economy is built on the third-world labor markets to produce cheap goods for us to buy. Many of these migrants are refugees from places that we as Americans have meddled and destabilized (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). Also, we must acknowledge that our legal immigration process should be easier (example: John Oliver discusses the insane process for translators that helped us during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars trying to get visas). Can the process be improved? Definitely. But just booting people out of the country is unrealistic and callous.

I am sure many of my friends out there will think my views on this matter are simply the words of a beading-heart liberal. Maybe that is true. Illegal immigration is a complex problem that requires a solution on many different levels, and I do not claim to have the perfect solution. But my main point is this: we must remember that illegal immigrants are still people. The fact that anti-immigration rhetoric and xenophobia are highly correlated is a huge issue in itself. Many people fleeing their countries are fleeing for a reason—and instead of compassion, they are met with prejudice and violence. Illegal immigration is a problem, but it is a problem that should be met with more “Christian” attitude than a basic “us vs. them” mentality.

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New Passport Time!

After I got back from New Zealand, I decided to go through the process of renewing my passport. I got my first passport when I was 20, right before I went on a university-sponsored trip to France for spring break (best way to get college credit ever). Since then, I have managed tot fill my 24-page passport book, with the exception of one page*. Typically, you need more than one blank page to travel; therefore, as my passport was due to expire in February, I went ahead and took care of it early.

The paperwork and process isn’t too bad, but I had a few minor things that were stressful (but they are total first-world-problems, I know):

  1. I am currently living abroad, so my passport is my only form of ID. Oh, and my passport number is tied to my Australian visa. There is no separate residence permit as I had in the Netherlands–they just check your passport at immigration.
  2. Apparently U.S. passport photos are a different size from Australian passport photos, so I had to find one of the few places where I live that could do the photos. Fortunately, the State Department website is nice enough to give you a full list.
  3. As I live in Queensland, the office that runs passport services is in Sydney. Therefore, I had to mail off my passport. Again, totally normal procedure in the U.S. and elsewhere, but return to point #1.
  4. I had to pay via money order from the Australian Post, which was mildly annoying. On the plus side, the State Department’s exchange rate hasn’t kept up with the tanking Australian dollar, so it was slightly cheaper for me to renew it when I did (which probably paid for the money order).

Fortunately, everything was fine (or as the Aussies say, “no dramas”). It took about 3 weeks, and I luckily don’t live in a “papers-please” environment. The only time I needed my ID was…wait for it…to pick up my passport at the post office today. Actual conversation:

I come up tot he counter, hand over card notifying me that I had a package to pick up.

Australian Post guy: Just here to pick up a package? Do you have any ID?

Me: Um, actually, that is what is IN the package.

Luckily, they took other forms of ID, and I went on my merry way. Now I have the re-designed passport from the Bush years, which I do find a little too over-the-top-America-is-awesome for my taste. I mean, I love the U.S. like any American, but we don’t need to shove a bald eagle in the face of every border agent whenever we go to somewhere that isn’t the U.S. Regardless, I am glad to have my ID again, and I am free to move about the country (and beyond).

*Technically there were 3 other blank pages behind this final “visas” page. Not sure if it was meant for actual visas or something else, but it wasn’t a normal stamp page as pictured here.

Adieu Jon

I know there are a lot of Daily Show with Jon Stewart retrospectives out there that are from more important or insightful people. But as a fan of the show for a long time, I feel like writing a little post about it.

I started watching the Daily Show early on, starting in 1999–it was the months leading up to the 2000 primaries. I was 14 at the time, and I watched my fair share of the news and Comedy Central. My family, who enjoys trivia and humor, often watched Win Ben Stein’s Money at 7:30pm. Right after Ben Stein’s show, re-runs of the Daily Show would aired at 8pm. I believe we left it on the channel as a whim, and we soon fell in love with the show. We liked Jon, but the correspondents at the time were amazing, too–Stephen Colbert, Moe Rocca, Steve Carell, and so on. It was during Indecision 2000, a time where politicians and the media totally ignored the show. In fact, John McCain gained some cool points by talking to the correspondents a few times (2000 John McCain vs. 2008 John McCain = night & day).

As a fan of the show, it has been enjoyable to watch it transform into the amazing show it is now. It seemed to get better and more refined each year. There is no doubt in my mind that Jon ‘s (and the writers’) targeted political satire got me through the worst of the Bush years. Somehow watching and laughing at satire made me feel a little bit better, as if someone else totally understood how I felt. I did not watch the show religiously over the last 16 years–it would wax and wane with different times in my life. Still, whenever something big was going on, I would turn to Jon. It seemed that Jon’s checks of hypocrisy served as a necessary counterweight in our social discourse, and I do think our society is better for it. Eventually the media and politicians who did scoff at the antics of the Daily Show realized it was a force to be taken seriously.

Although I am sad that Jon is leaving (I was a puddle of goo watching his last show), I totally understand his reasons for leaving. Yes, it is a 30-min. show that runs 4 times a week, but churning out satire on daily events for 16 years takes its toll. Jon has done a lot over the years, and other comedians will work hard to carry on the work he started. I look forward to see what Trevor Noah can do with the show, and I look forward to see whatever Jon does next.

Meanwhile in Scotland…

Some places serve you tea or coffee while you get a haircut. Scotland takes it up a notch.

Photo taken in Glasgow in March 2015.

Earthquakes

Over the past week, there have been a few earthquakes off the coast of Queensland. I felt two earthquakes on Saturday in the Gold Coast from my 7th floor apartment, which was a little scary for me. Even though my hometown is on a fault line, I never experienced an earthquake before. Totally minor in grand scheme of things (see below), but it does get your attention.

The small irony for me was that I just got back from a trip in New Zealand a few weeks ago. Many people told me about the frequency of earthquakes on the South Island. Moreover, I visited Christchurch, a city still recovering from major earthquakes that occurred a few years ago.

A quick recap: Christchurch went through a couple of earthquakes around 5 years ago. The first earthquake in September 2010 was a 7.1 and 10 km deep. It was further away from Christchurch city center, but it still caused some structural damage. The second one in February 2011 was far more devastating. Although weaker on the Richter scale (6.3), it was shallower (5 km deep) and closer to the city (where some buildings still had damage from the previous earthquake). 185 people died, 1500-2000 people were injured, and a third of the buildings in the city center had to be demolished.

I was not in Christchurch for very long—I flew in and flew out for my South Island tour. Still, I had some time to wander through the city for a few hours before my flight. There are signs it is a city still in recovery—construction and scaffolding were everywhere. Places where buildings used to be are now parking lots. Statue-less monuments ignored because there are obviously more important things to do. A cathedral sits in limbo. And a few deserted buildings waiting to be torn down.

But there are many signs of renewal—there is a Re-Start mall made of shipping containers that is a new hub for commerce. The botanical gardens, even on a freezing winter day, were lovely and full of people. And I had an excellent flat white from a cafe named Therapy (I’m biased, but that is an awesome name for a cafe).

It has been a rough five years, but given the monumental task, Christchurch is bouncing back.

Christchurch photos

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