Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Looking for Work, Weary of Terror

William, a young migrant worker from Honduras, relates the nightmare of being held hostage in Mexico. His story is only one of many; last week, seventy-two migrant workers were killed in Mexico as they sought work.

Kidnappers will often blackmail the families of these migrant workers for ransom; some families have sold what little they own for their loved ones’ lives. “The journey can make poor farmers even poorer,” reports Jason Beaubien for NPR’s Morning Edition.

I’m reminded of an excellent feature film I saw a couple years ago called Sin Nombre, in which a young Latin woman hitches her way from Latin America to the U.S. on a dangerous, thieve-ridden freight train. What may seem like a noble pursuit–setting off in search of money to send back to your family–is riddled with violence, police and thieves, and extreme natural conditions. The plight of these workers is often an overlooked aspect in the long debate over illegal immigration.


Filed under: global justice, immigration, labor, , , , , , , , ,

Rounding Up the Illegal (European) Immigrants

Cops: Racial Profiling Edition.

The provocateurs at Joshonthestreet.com created this mockumentary to arrest illegal immigrants, in what looks like a suburban shopping mall somewhere in southern Cali. Props to these folks, and let’s hope the satire goes viral.

What do you think? Send all the Europeans, who are here illegally, back to their native land?

Filed under: history, immigration, social justice, , , , , , ,

New Terrible Things on the BP Front

Carmen Garcia was working at the Hopedale Command Center in Louisiana, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement visited in May. (Photo: Annie Correal)

Can things get any worse for the gulf coast?

We recently marked the 50th day since the British Petroleum disaster. A tragic birthday. Worse, however, are small, probably underreported things like these items:

  • BP is buying ad space on Google for its own propoganda. Go ahead, try it. Type “oil spill” or “BP disaster” into Google and witness how your favorite corporation is spending millions of dollars in advertising instead of clean-up efforts. How much exactly? ABC News has an estimate:

Scott Slatin, an analyst who runs search engine marketing company Rivington in New York, estimates the company is paying upwards of $10,000 per day to maintain the various search terms.

ICE, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, visited two command centers, one in Venice and the other in Hopedale, twice in May. ICE agents arrived at the staging areas without prior notice, rounded up workers, and asked for documentation of their legal status.

Looking for unbiased information on this disaster? Don’t click on the search engine results that read “Ways BP is Trying to Help.” God forbid, actually trying to help the clean-up effort in person? Remember to bring your ID.


Filed under: environmentalism, government, immigration, , , , , , , ,

Want to Teach in Arizona? Better Lose the Accent

Joshua Lott for The Wall Street Journal

Okay, trying not to rant about this one. Deep breaths. The craziness in Arizona is isolated, I tell myself, and will be overturned.

The Wall Street Journal reports that teachers with “heavy” or “ungrammatical” accents must learn proper English–or be fired. Arizona’s racist new law discriminates against public school teachers. Outraged yet? Don’t worry: Those with accents will not be fired immediately. They have the option of enrolling in classes to “improve” (i.e. lose their native) accents.

Makes me wonder if this only applies to bilingual Spanish-English speakers, or if the law discriminates equally against those with Southern or Brooklyn accents.

Not only do these teachers need to lose their accents to keep their jobs, they must also face the irony that they were part of a movement to hire more bilingual teachers in the 1990’s, when No Child Left Behind laws required the recruitment of these teachers to secure federal funding.

Irony, and ridiculousness. I am a U.S. citizen. Makes me want to walk the streets of Phoenix or Tucson without my driver’s license. Will I fear police detainment? Legalized harassment?

Still hard for me to believe that the state of Arizona has enacted such shameful, hateful, extremely odious legislation.


Filed under: immigration, racism, , , , , ,

Racial Profiling is Now Legal in Arizona

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This afternoon, Arizona’s discriminatory anti-immigration law was made official by Republican Governor Jan Brewer. This, even though President Obama condemned the bill, directing the Justice Department to investigate the legality of the legislation. Arizona’s odious new law, of course, allows police to stop and to question anyone if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal immigrant.

Shameful, discriminatory, odious.

It’s reported that Republican Governor Brewer has a tough election race this year, and with polls revealing 70% of the state supports the discriminatory law, her signature was expected. Let’s hope that Arizona citizens don’t find themselves indiscriminately pulled over for “driving while brown.”

Yesterday, Anderson Cooper asked Rep. Kavanaugh–one of the bill’s sponsors: “Can you tell if someone is an illegal immgrant by looking at them?”

Kavanaugh’s response: “Absolutely not.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Interesting to hear Kavanaugh skirt the question of racial profiling. Even Governor Brewer went to great lengths after signing the bill to assure her constituents that racial profiling would not happen. In both Kavanaugh’s and Brewer’s language, there seem to be preemptive arguments against the racial bias that is implicitly, if not explicitly, written into the law.

As a person of color–and one who is often mistaken as Latino instead of Filipino (and I do not think of Latinos as less than; I’m simply acknowledging the fact that Americans of Hispanic origin face extreme, unjust discrimination in border states), I’m thinking twice before visiting the great state of Arizona.

Say I’m in Phoenix. What’s to prevent a police officer from asking me for identification at a sidewalk cafe? What would be our exchange if I forgot my driver’s license (or does the law necessitate I always carry my U.S. passport)? What legal protections would I have in this situation? As a person of color, are my civil liberties–to move freely in this country without fear of harassment, or worse, imprisonment–the same as Americans of any race?


Filed under: immigration, , , , , , , ,



» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
March 2018
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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