Who Owns Whom?

These General Assembly days, one can’t get past any newspaper without another idiotic attempt to somehow disenfranchise foreigners or foreign-born Virginians. Some 100 laws are now proposed to “restrict” undocumented foreign residents. If successful, no “illegal” immigrant (and perhaps some legal ones) could go to a state school, get a drivers license, work for various cities or counties or get stopped by a cop without getting patted down.

You could get fired from your job for “not speaking English” or you could lose your business license if you knowingly or unknowingly hire foreign-born individuals (most likely dark-skinned”) whose papers are not entirely in order with the State Department or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to State Sen. Richard Saslaw, some of the laws “are the most mean-spirited” proposed in recent memory.

So, it is indeed curious to read the left-hand leader in Sunday’s New York Times. Foreigners, it seems, are buying or making huge investments in U.S. firms at a massive level. Kuwaitis, for instance are taking a $9 billion share of Dow Chemical, separate groups from United Arab Emirates and Singaporeans now have a a big chunk of Citigroup and Britain’s AstraZeneca has a whopping $14.1 billion stake in Medimmune.

Last year, foreign investors poured $414 billion into U.S. firms, the Times reports. The reason? The stocks markets in the U.S. have taken deep dips in recent weeks over recession fears. There are plenty of bargains. The U.S. dollar is weaker than it has been in a long time. Although reeling from the mortgage meltdown and tight money, U.S. companies are still regarded as excellent investments.

To be sure, the foreign spending spree is likely to bring on protests by the more xenophobic “patriots” in the U.S. The same thing happened in the late 1980s when Japanese firms, just before their real estate bubble burst and their economy shrunk in a decade-long, deflationary implosion, were buying up New York landmark real estate properties with a vengeance. The outcries were huge. The same spirit forced one of China’s biggest oil companies to back away from a major U.S. investment a few years ago.

Still, the investments are good news because they bring U.S. money back into the good ole U.S.A. The growing globalization of thw world economy may have its downside with shuttered manufacturing towns aroud in the Great Lakes or textile South, but the cross-investments are likely to create jobs, some of which might replace the ones lost.

If anything the trend towards cross-investment will continue. Foreign stock markets such as Euronext are merging with ones on Wall Street. The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, mindful of the convergence of trading, has made it easier for foreign firms to list their stocks in the U.S. and is working towards reconciling different corporate accounting systems. In fact, serious trends are underway that would dump the accounting system used by U.S. firms in favor of a more international one that was started in Europe and is used already by most countries in the world.

Ratcheting our focus down to the Virginia level, you would think it is still the 1950s, when old-style, white-run corporations and governments held sway with their traditional and peculiar ways and mores. Those dark-skinned guys working the lawns and flower beds had better stop speaking Spanish or whatever the immigrant “underclasses” use. And if Virginia lawmakers have their way, they’d all better have all paperwork signed and sealed with all the “Ts” crossed, even though ICE is many months behind in procesing legitimate attempts by foreigners workers here to get themselves squared away.

Ironically, the lawmakers leading the charge tend to be from Northern Virginia, which is the most internationalized part of the Old Dominion. Once again, as I have written before, this state seems to be a kind of parallel universe where what happens elsewhere is irrelevant.

Globalization won’t be irrelevant forever. I can’t wait for the day when one of thse yea-hoo, xenophobic, would-be American patriots and lawmakers confronts his boss for not speaking English and is promptly fired.

Peter Galuszka

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  1. English?

    Why some of the very worthies who serve would be disqualiified if the quality of their mastery of the “mother tongue” were one of the criteria (whoops–there’s a word of non-English origin)to determine eligiblity…and that ignores entirely the substance of the content of their speech (mercifully so, I might add).

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    In 2001 the U.S.Stock market capitalization as a share of the world market peaked at 51.4%. It is now 32.8%.

    You can read this several ways:

    If you are buying stock, buy it someplace else.

    U.S. Stock prices are a bargain right now.

    Globalization means we have less economic influence.

    World ties now work closer in both directions.

    Any others?


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    U.S. portion of the world gross domestic prouct has also decreased by 1% in the same perid of time. Good news for mass overconsumption, maybe.

    data from



  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I can’t imagine most of those proposed laws holding up under any kind of constitutional test. Most of these issues were settled decades ago, particularly when it comes to legal immigrants and requirements of English usage. Considering we have US Territories where English isn’t the primary language and they have full work privileges, I can’t see how the laws would hold up under any discrimination test. Most of this looks to be a waste of time and tax-money for grand-standing during an election year.

    I’m not sure the point of taking away business licenses from those who hire illegals (especially unknowingly). You want to make VA an anti-business state quick, enact that. The bad image that has come to AZ and OK since enacting similar laws is not something worth copying.


  5. NoVA Scout Avatar
    NoVA Scout

    We are close to completing the arc of Virginia from being the cradle of the Rights of Man to being the laughing stock of the world. There surely remain many Virginians of decency and intelligence. Yet we seem to have created a legislature to which we send people who have no shame about the ignorance and pure mean-spiritedness of these measures.

  6. Paul Hammond Avatar
    Paul Hammond

    Let me get this clear.

    You are for or don’t care about unlimited illegal immigration.

    Anybody who disagrees is mean spirited and ignorant.

    Does that about cover it?

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I think that’s about it.

    If we are going to have a global economy, where we can trade any goods, anywhere we like, then why should labor be any different?

    Do people have fewer rights than goods?

    The problem with illegal immigration is, mainly, that it should not be illegal. Once we get that through our heads, an awful lot of home-made problems go away.

    Imagine there’s no country, it isn’t hard to do.

    John Lennon

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Paul Hammond,
    Yes, about 75 percent. I do believe that there are some illegals who shouldn’t be here, but I think the majority of the thing is a bunch of BS.

    Back in your face, Hammonds.
    Peter Galuszka

  9. James Young Avatar
    James Young

    “These General Assembly days, one can’t get past any newspaper without another idiotic attempt to somehow disenfranchise foreigners or foreign-born Virginians. Some 100 laws are now proposed to ‘restrict’ undocumented foreign residents. If successful, no ‘illegal’ immigrant (and perhaps some legal ones) could go to a state school, get a drivers license, work for various cities or counties or get stopped by a cop without getting patted down.”

    Well, Pete, let’s begin with your premise. “Disenfranchise foreigners or foreign-born Virginians”? “Disenfranchise”? Last time I checked, the “franchise” was the right to vote. As I understand these efforts, they have nothing to do with the right to vote (a right enjoyed only by citizens in any case). Furthermore, none — as I understand them — are directed at “foreign-born Virginians,” by which you must, by hypothesis, mean individuals who are legitimately Virginians by virtue of naturalization.

    Seems like illegals aren’t the only ones with a problem with the English language.

    It would be truly refreshing if apologists for illegal immigrants could trouble themselves to address the real issue, rather than miscasting the debate in their own terms for their own venal political purposes.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    They work hard, carpool their houses, and have colored skin.

    What is the real issue?

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    For myself, I feel uncomfortable parallels to a time and place where those with white skin feared that those with black skin would be taking “their” jobs, moving into “their” neighborhoods and going to ‘their” schools and some would spout religious truisms that God did not intend this kind of “mixing”.

    I’m not saying that the entire conundrum distills down JUST to this issue but certainly has a certain deja vu look and feel to it at least from my perspective.

    Then on a practical basis – how do you deport an illegal but not their American citizen offspring?

    As John McCain has said: “I’m not sending a soldier serving in Iraq’s mother back to Mexico”.

    and that is what troubles me about the “send them back where they came from” folks… I want to hear their answer because without clarification.. it sounds a lot like you do the Solomon “split the child” solution and that is not a solution in my mind.

    So for myself, the onus is on the folks who want the “illegals” deported to explain clearly how they would handle nuclear families that are half illegal and half citizens.

    You know.. the same folks who invoke the name of God when talking about “family values”.

    So, that’s a POLL that I’d like to see… for all of those who are staunchly Pro Family Values, what percentage of them are also staunchly “send the illegals back”?

    I’m NOT condemning here but I AM questioning whether or not we have a bit of cafeteria “values” going on.

    I find it .. untenable to be for Family Values but only for “legal” folks though I stand to be corrected if I’m suffering from myopia here.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    James Young,
    Disenfranchise means to diminish or remove from or prevent. It applies to more than just voting rights.
    Thanks anyway for the English lesson. Maybe you’ll get me next on my typos.
    Now, that we’ve cleared that up, please explain to me how I am avoiding the “real” issues. You’re supposed to be a lawyer, so give me an argument, if you can. Please tell me why people must speak English on the job or be fired unless, of course, the job demands an English speaker.
    Please explain to me that Virginia and other states aren’t skating down a road that seems so similar to Jim Crow, but maybe you are too young to know. If you note, Larry Gross just above here has expressed somewhat similar concerns.

    Peter Galuszka

  13. Jim Bacon Avatar

    The United States is a nation of immigrants. It’s also a nation of laws. While we should welcome legal immigrants into this country, we have to enforce the law. If we don’t like the law, fine, change it. If we don’t let enough immigrants into the country legally, fine, let’s have a debate and decide how many people should be admitted to the country and by what criteria. Every other country in the world that has control over its borders does this. So should we.

    That said, we have to strike a balance. Once people are in this country, even if illegally, we should not mistreat them. Even illegals, I think everyone would concede, should be given due process under the law.

    My sense is that we should be “firm but fair.” If someone is here illegally, he or she needs to go home. We need to set up mechanisms to facilitate that process. At the same time, we should not get hysterical and start “hunting down” illegals, sweeping up a lot of innocent people in the process, nor should we start passing laws that target any one set of illegals — i.e. Hispanics — over any other set. The debate over illegal immigration should not be about race or culture but about upholding the rule of law and maintaining sovereign control over borders.

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, you raise an interesting ethical question. What do we do with a family in which the parents entered the country illegally but have offspring who, because they were born here, are American citizens? Do we deport the whole family? Do we split the family?

    To provide some perspective, let us play with a similar scenario. Imagine that you, Larry Gross and your wife, both American citizens, entered another country — let’s say France — illegally. Let’s say your wife gave birth to a child who, by virtue of being born in France, was entitled to French citizenship. (I don’t know what the law in France is, but say for the purposes of argument this is correct.)

    Then, let’s say the gendarmes caught up with you and said, “Zut alors, Monsieur Gross, you are here illegally. You must leave.”

    Then you say, “Please don’t ship us home. Who will take care of Little Lawrence?”

    And the gendarme says, “What do you mean, who will take care of Leetle Lawrrrrence? You will, of course.”

    You say, “But he’s a French citizen. He’s entitled to stay. How can take care of him if he’s here in France and we’ve been deported to the United States?”

    And the gendarme says, “You take Leetle Lawrrrrence back to the United States with you, imbecile. When he’s old enough to travel, he’s welcome to come back any time he wants. When he’s old enough to vote, he’s welcome to vote.”

    You say, “How can you deprive Little Lawrence of the right to live his childhood in France.”

    The gendarme says: “We’re not depriving him. He can live here if you can find someone here to care for him. Or you can take him back to the U.S. with you. Your choice. If you don’t like that choice, you should have thought about it before you came to this country and has your child here!”

    Would you expect any sympathy?

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    Your view is nice and balanced but unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough.
    Can you explain why more than 100 pieces of legislation are needed to stop the supposed todal wave of undocumented foreign residents? Isn’t boirder protection the responsibility of the federal government, not the state? Are illegal immigrants really that big of a problem? Studies suggest that Virginia has about 250,000 undocumented foreign residents. That’s roughly about 3 percent of the total population (unless James Young finds a problem with my math as well as my English). Is that such a huge number that much of the General Assembly’s work has to be taken up with lawmakers out macho-ing each other to see who can come up with the most restrictive law?
    I don’t know if you’ve checked the news recently, but our economy is badly in the tank. The markets think little of Bush’s recovery plan. We’re trapped in an endless occupation of Iraq that most Americans want to terminate.
    Can you explain the anti-foreigner hysteria? The only answer I can come up with is racism.

    Peter Galuszka

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    When I complimented you and a your “nice and balanced” view, I was referring to your first comment. Your French example is preposterous. You had a good thing going and then you went and blew it! What a weenie.

    Peter Galuszka

  17. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Peter, Why are there 100 pieces of legislation related to illegal immigration? Clearly Republicans have identified an issue that they think has traction with the voters. I imagine there’s a lot of atrocious stuff that panders to peoples’ worst instincts. The idea of mandating English in the workplace, for instance, is simply insane.

    Where does the anti-foreigner hysteria come from? You say you can’t think of any other reason but racism. I’ve advanced the alternate hypothesis that there are legitimate issues (poor people increasing the burden of social services by some as-yet-unmeasured amount) combined with culture-clash issues (middle-class American values vs. Third World village values) when the different lifestyles come into close contact.

    Like you, I hope cooler heads prevail. Like you, I believe we should base public policy on facts, not hunches or stereotypes. However, I don’t think it helps the dialogue when people label the anti-immigrant activists as racists. “Racist” is a loaded word in our society, the ultimate put-down. What you’re saying when you call someone a racist is that his opinions are beyond the pale, that his views don’t have a shred of legitimacy. End of story, end of debate. Such charges don’t inform the debate, they inflame it.

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ummm.. what happens when “Leetle Lawrrrrence?” is refused admission to Mexico because he does not have Mexican citizenship papers and therfore would be “illegal”?

    You wouldn’t want Mexico to ignore the rule of law would you?

    so … back to the beginning…

    how about another solution that actually is “legal”?

  19. andrea epps Avatar
    andrea epps

    Forgive me for wandering a bit off topic, but all of this legislation is as ludicrous as the bill introduced by Ken Crucc????( I don’t know how to spell his name and don’t have time to look). That would prohibit parents of minors from divorcing without a fault ground. Is he TRYING to force people to stay in marriages UNTIL they are battered?
    What are these people thinking?????

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    yup.. this is more of the right wingers proving that they are opposed to big government dictates unless of course it’s the folks who have fallen off the God-track.. then they gotta be shown the truth.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Where does the anti-illegal hysteria come from? It’s a good question and a lot of it is more anti-poor/working class than anti-illegal. If all the illegals working here had been given work permits or the jobs they do were being done by lower class Americans, the same social complaints would exist. The jobs that illegals are doing now would still be demanded and most of those brought in to do the jobs would still be a net tax negative on a community, legal or illegal.

    As the middle class has grown in wealth and been able to segregate itself from the poor in suburban communities or secure condo buildings, an animosity that was reserved previously for the wealthy has trickled down. I’m not sure how changing the immigration laws will do much to change this attitude.

    The “everyone must speak English crowd” is a bit different and is quite ignorant of both current culture and US history. We still have a number of areas under US control that were not settled by English speakers and it would be arrogant to force conversion (e.g. Cajun areas of LA, Indian Reservations, much of Miami). For those whom are not native speakers of a language, conversational level is possible though difficult, but learning a language to be competent for business and contracts is significantly more difficult and usually requires a trained translator. I would like to see if anyone in the GA proposing these laws will tell the bosses at VW that must do everything in English and that their German corporate bosses must learn English. See how long companies like that stay in VA.


  22. Anonymous Avatar

    I disagree with Jim Bacon that the roots of the anti-immigrant movement are merely cultural.A few points:
    (1) Much of the legislation comes from delegates from predominently white and Republican areas such as Loudoun, Prince William, Virginia Beach, etc. More inner cities and suburbs don’t have the same reaction. Places such as Arlington and parts of Alexandria have already been diversified, are not necessarily GOP strongholds and tend not to support such punitive laws. Reminds me of when I was a police reporter in Tidewater. If you were black, your chances of getting stopped and rousted by a cop were not as great in Norfolk or Portsmouth as in Virginia Beach.
    (2) I’m not sure how more rural areas stand. I am very familiar with Eastern N.C. since my late father had a medical practice there for many years. Hispanic immigrants started arriving in droves about 20 years ago to work in various, low-paying, labor-intensive spots as turkey processing plants, crab-picking shacks and in farming everything from grain, to truck crops to tobacco. Their acceptance level was very high. At the local Catholic Church that my parents attended, they started adding Spanish Masses. The new pastor was a native of Colombia and he presided at my Dad’s funeral. Seeing a Tienda is no big deal. I wasn’t living there then, but I don’t recall there being a big whoop and cry in Raleigh about all of this. Joe Bageant, the Winchester writer, told me there has been no major reaction in his area among the working class Whites as many Latinos work in local plants.
    (3) The English as the official language and getting fired for speaking something other is an extremely foreign concept for me. I studied Russian for years to be able to work there as a journalist. I know how hard it is to operate in another language and respect people who can manage that. As anonymous stated in the post above, some parts of the U.S. were not, historically English-speaking and it is the epitome of arrogance to assume they everyone must be an English speaker.
    (4) A few weeks ago I was in New York at Bloomingdale’s. The place was packed with foreign shoppers taking advantage of the cheap U.S. dollar. Bloomie’s had welcome signs in 20 languages. In Virginia, I guess we’d arrest Bloomies.

    So, what’s the “cultural” difference? I see racism as the root cause, like it or not. Kinda reminds me of a reporting trip I made backin the 1990s in the south of Russia. The story involved privatizing agriculture and the place was stuck back in Communist past. The hotel where I stayed, an Intourist hell hole, reflected the innate racism that inflicts much of Russia. The sign on the clerk’s desk listed rates:

    Russians, 30,000 rubles,
    Foreigners. 40,000 rubles
    Georgians, 50,000 rubles.

    But hey, at least they’re upfront about it, unlike many of our legislators.

    Peter Galuszka

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    “a lot of it is more anti-poor/working class than anti-illegal. If all the illegals working here had been given work permits or the jobs they do were being done by lower class Americans, the same social complaints would exist.”



  24. Anonymous Avatar

    I was in a conveneince store and the proprietor, who appeared to be Pakistani, waas conversing in Spanish with his customers, and he had Spanish with a mixture of Pakistani and British accent.

    I asked him how he came to speak Spanish, since it wasn’t his native language.

    He shrugged, “It’s good for business.”

    He also speeks Vietnamese.



  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    the nerve of some people…

    where do they think they are – America?

  26. Michael Ryan Avatar
    Michael Ryan

    I can’t wait for the day when one of thse yea-hoo, xenophobic, would-be American patriots and lawmakers confronts his boss for not speaking English and is promptly fired.

    Gosh, I guess I could demonstrate it for you any time. The state office I work in is about 50% foreign born, with a foreign born boss. Am I under the misapprehension that I am allowed freedom of speech on this subject? Don’t be silly!

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Michael Ryan,

    And your point is? They’re taking over? Your rights are somehow violated? Why don’t you sue?

    Peter Galuszka

  28. Michael Ryan Avatar
    Michael Ryan

    Nope, my “rights” are fine as long as I keep my mouth shut. Not because of the office population, though, but because any political speech in a government office is taboo (Gosh, I learned that decades ago.) I’m just, let’s say surprised, that Americans couldn’t be found to work for the government. But then again, most of them are consultants too.

  29. Rtwn Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwn Extrmst


    You say “The idea of mandating English in the workplace, for instance, is simply insane.”

    Actually I think we need to clarify. First, I doubt it’s “insane” as you say. However, it would be overstepping and probably unconstitutional for the state to require all workplaces to use English in the workplace. However, it’s neither insane nor unconstitutional for employers themselves to set up those rules.

    Now the state to my knowledge has done nothing of the sort with regard to your original comment.

    However, this session the GA has had a bill promoted that would make it possible for employers to fire workers who refuse to speak in English on the job when it was a known requirement for employment and not be penalized for enforcing this rule by having to pay increased unemployment taxes. This is far from the state mandating the use of English in the workplace. It leaves it up to the employer to set the rules. This rule just removes the unemployment insurance burden on employers who need to fire disobedient employees.

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “”Racist” is a loaded word in our society, the ultimate put-down. What you’re saying when you call someone a racist is that his opinions are beyond the pale, that his views don’t have a shred of legitimacy. End of story, end of debate.” JB

    Of course you’re right, Jim; but shutting down the debate is the whole idea. The facts don’t matter. They just get in the way.

    It’s like the old lawyer story: When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When public sentiment is on your side, pound public sentiment. When neither is on your side, pound the table.

    Those shouting “racist”, “xenophobe”, etc are pounding the table.

    Deena Flinchum

  31. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Rightwing Extremist, Fair enough. My view is that employers should be able to set reasonable workplace standards. If English is deemed necessary for communication, then that’s the employer’s decision. Likewise, if the owner of convenience stores or some other establishment that catered to a Hispanic population deemed that his Anglo employees needed to speak Spanish as a condition of employment, that’s his decision to make.

  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    and why should the government be involved in this issue especially our friends on the right who are always blathering about smaller, less intrusive government?

    we don’t want or need a nanny/do-gooder government unless of course it’s a really, really good pandering opportunity…

    workplace safety and fair labor standards: KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OUT!

    English? You bet.. let’s get the government involved through and through and create a blizzard of that paperwork that business craves…

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, as you know, I’m in the middle on the illegal immigration/guest worker issue. I think that employees need to speak English if & when they serve customers, but when they are not doing so, who cares what language they speak? Ditto for a business that caters to Koreans or Hispanics.

    I do disagree with your conclusion that maintaining the status quo results in smaller government. It’s probably just the opposite. If the state government is involved in unemployment comp cases involving a language dispute, it’s bigger government.


  34. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    hey TMT… sorry if I stomped some toes here…

    My observation is the seeming irony that the biggest talkers about “small” and “efficient” government ..are often..the same ones.. advocating a BIG government approach to their own favorite causes.

    I don’t mind at all beating the “more Government is better.. tax&spend” folks but at LEAST they’re not hypocrites… they’re true to their cause…

    I have much less respect for someone that shouts about the evils of big Government then turns right around and not only advocates it but embraces it.. to .. essentially force conforming behaviors on people…

    I can see having the government stopping someone from dumping kepone in a river..or putting them in a cell for harming others, but having them fired for not speaking the “mother” language…??

    and we are sending this “message” …because???

    next thing you know.. we’ll be outlawing movies with subtitles

  35. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    “Splitting immigrant families by deporting the illegal immigrant parents but allowing their U.S.-born citizen children to stay?”

    Support 35% Dems 30 Repubs 43
    Oppose 58% Dems 65 Repubs 50

    Nova: 35% support 60% opposed
    HR/TW: 37% support 57% opposed
    Rich 38% 56%
    Roanok 33 57


    other questions asked:

    “Having Virginia’s local government’s deny any and all local government services to anyone, including children, without proper documented legal status”

    Giving local police the authority to stop any driver they suspect might be an illegal immigrant to check their legal status?

    “Denying hospital emergency room care to illegal immigrants, including children, even if they are pregnant or have serious life threatening conditions?”

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