Deer in my headlights: How a day of reckoning on immigration shut down the federal government

Deer graze along the road leading into Rocky Mountain National Park as national parks remain as “accessible as possible” during a government shutdown Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Estes Park, Colo. Almost half of the 2 million civilian federal workers will be barred from doing their jobs if the shutdown extends into Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Good morning Austin:

I’m back. I was gone East on family matters since Thanksgiving. But I’m back. I’ve been back in Austin a week, but it’s taken me a few days to sufficiently screw my courage to the sticking post, or some such, to return to First Reading.

The drive back to Austin from Western Massachusetts went relatively smoothly, with one exception. About 2 in the morning the first night on the road I was cruising along I-81 in Virginia toward Roanoke, Virginia. The 70 mph highway was empty, I was in the right-hand lane when I felt these eyes upon me. I looked to my left out the driver’s side window and there, mere inches away, was a deer, standing stock-still, lighting up the night with its bright eyes, a bracing near miss.

I have had two previous run-ins with deer that ended less well. Back around 2000, I was with my wife and kids, driving back to D.C. from buying a Christmas tree from a farm in rural Maryland when a young deer leapt in front of our car. The deer was killed, the car was damaged, we were shaken up, but we were OK.

The second time was the very end of 2015. I was driving back to Austin from Cisco, a tiny town in the Big Country region between Abilene and Fort Worth, where the Wilks brothers, the billionaire frackers who with their wives had donated $15 million to one of several pro-Cruz super PACs, had put on a prayer meeting and pep rally sendoff barely a month before the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa, where Cruz was looking like a frontrunner.

No sooner had I seen a deer alongside the road to my right when another deer came crashing across my car from the left. Again, the car was damaged and I was shaken up but OK.

But, after my near-miss on I-81 in Virginia, hugging he West Virginia line, I wondered, what were the odds.

It turns out, in Texas, a motorist has a 1 in 269 chance of hitting a deer in a year; in Virginia, it was 1 in 94, and in West Virginia 1 in 43.

Driving the rest of the way to Roanoke, I felt exposed and vulnerable.

I mean, what can you do?

From ABC 27 News:Troopers urge deer caution after fatal I-81 crash, November 9, 2015.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – State police say there’s a lesson to be learned from a fatal crash early Monday on Interstate 81.

Three people were killed after their car was hit from behind near Chambersburg. Police said the Nissan became disabled on the roadway when it struck a deer.

“The Nissan Sentra burst into flames, caught on fire, and was pushed into the median, and all occupants of the vehicle were killed,” Trooper Rob Hicks said.

Travis Lau, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said you’ll see more deer on the roads over the next couple weeks because it’s mating season.

Lau said you should drive with extra caution, especially during certain hours.

“Deer can be on roads at any time,” Lau said. “Typical times for deer movement are dusk and dawn and overnight between those periods.”

Deer often travel in groups.

“They often travel in single file lines,” Lau said. “So, just because one deer has crossed the road in front of you, that doesn’t mean that the hazard to the driver is over. There could be another one behind, so be mindful of that, as well.”

Hicks said if a deer darts in front of your car, don’t swerve.

“Generally, if you try to steer away and try to miss the deer, then you might go off the roadway, strike a telephone pole, might go across the roadway and strike another vehicle head on, which increases the likelihood of having some serious injuries or death,” he said.

Hicks said if you hit a deer, get off the road.

“You have to try to get your vehicles off the roadways as quickly as possible because people are not going to expect a vehicle to be stopped,” he said. “Put flashers on, do whatever you can to get people’s attention.”

So let us review.

Drive with caution, especially at dusk or dawn, or the hours between dusk and dawn, and if you see a deer, drive directly into it.

No. This is not acceptable.

There must be an answer. A way to keep the hooved menaces off our highways. Yes. We should build a wall. Many walls, on either side of all our major thoroughfares. Big beautiful walls.

And make somebody pay for them.

I should have told you that on my drive back to Texas, I was listening to Michael Wolff’s book on Audible

It’s a great read, or in this case, listen.

I don’t know if it’s all true but its written in an omniscient voice and sounds right.

As Fred Armisen, as Michael Wolff, put it on SNL:

Look, you read it, right? And you liked it? You had fun? Well, what’s the problem? So shut up.

You know, even the stuff that’s not true … it’s true.

Trump wants to build his wall to protect Americans from being raped and killed by “illegal immigrants.”

From a February 2017 Washington Post fact check:

THE FACT CHECKER | Trump likes to use anecdotes as evidence for associating violent crimes with illegal immigration, telling stories of victims of homicide by undocumented immigrants. He brought family members of those killed by illegal immigrants as his guest to tonight’s speech. He often talks about the death of Jamiel Shaw Jr., a 17-year-old football star who was killed in 2008 by a gang member who was in the country illegally.

Clearly, stories like this exist. But the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants do not fit Trump’s description of aggravated felons, whose crimes include murder. U.S. Sentencing Commission data shows homicides are a small percentage of the crimes committed by noncitizens, whether they are in the United States illegally or not.

The Congressional Research Service found that the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants do not fit in the category of aggravated felons, whose crimes include murder, drug trafficking or illegal trafficking of firearms.

This is the unfathomable chart that went with the Post fact check.

Which brings us to this weekend’s government shutdown, and an ad the president’s re-election campaign has started running.

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Now, from what I can tell, the average American is more likely to be killed by deer than …

But I think that misses the point.

What has shut down the government is not the wall, or even the fate of the DACA Dreamers. It is, ultimately, immigration and the consequences of a half century of mass immigration since the Immigration Act of 1965, which has been the engine of America’s growing diversity ever since, and which, ultimately – a day of reckoning long in the making – led to the backlash that elected Donald Trump president.

I have written a lot about this over the years.

In August 1993, then writing for Newhouse News Service, and relying on an analysis of 1990 Census data by University of Michigan demographer William Frey, now with the Brookings Institution, I wrote that:

Unprecedented white flight from the breaking waves of immigration is transforming the American landscape in sweeping ways.

A first-of-its-kind analysis of the 1990 census by the Newhouse News Service reveals that most immigrants have been flooding into just a handful of states, and that non-Hispanic whites in those states are fleeing to places largely untouched by immigration.

It is a new pattern that is dividing America into two very different nations one changing, churning, intensely diverse; the other, staider, simpler, whiter, each dangerously out of synch, politically, economically and culturally, with the other.

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“A broad swath of America is largely untouched by the new infusion of immigrants and minorities,” says Frey, noting that for some whites, “that lack of diversity is a plus.”

Especially among older whites, Frey says, there appears to be a “yearning for stability” and a desire to escape the upheaval of rapid racial and social change.

The data, in fact, confirm that whites are moving to states on the southern Atlantic Coast and in the West that have fewer immigrants.

In the meantime, much of America’s white heartland remains largely undisturbed by new arrivals either from other states or abroad.

“What is really developing here is two very separate societies, two separate Americas,” Frey warns.

The peril is that these two Americas will have increasingly little in common and little understanding or identity with one another. One America will be immersed in the tumult and scramble of a cultural whirlpool while the other remains high and multiculturally dry. One will be the changing America you are always reading about in the news magazines. The other will be more akin to the Wonder Bread America you remember from 1950s TV.

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“In the whole history of the world, no society has ever experienced such dramatic ethnic change over such a short period of time,” says Alan Heslop, director of the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, which charts Southern California’s hurtling population changes.

This is high-impact demography and it has its casualties in cultural whiplash and economic dislocation.

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To John Higham, one of the nation’s leading historians of immigration, America’s past foretold the present. The feverish political reaction, like that swelling today against immigration. The riots, like those experienced in Miami in the ’80s and in Los Angeles last year. These are predictable outcomes of massive, concentrated immigration.

“The brute fact of tension, of conflict, of susceptibility to riots and so on, has to be regarded as a really serious problem,” says Higham, the author of the classic, “Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925.”

Higham believes that today’s immigrant concentrations are more dangerous and less likely to disperse than in the past. Never before, he says, have so many immigrants arrived at a time when values of Americanization, citizenship, and assimilation, “a readily available pride in being an American, a kind of national consciousness” were at such low ebb.

(Claremont McKenna sociologist Frederick) Lynch, who writes on diversity and white reaction, says it is the combination of surging demographic change, and the politics of multiculturalism, which apportions rewards by race and ethnicity, that is leading more and more whites to ask themselves, “Do we want to be strangers in a strange land?”

In 2007, I contributed a chapter – Strange Bedfellow, Unintended Consequences and the Curious Contours of the Immigration Debate – to an edited volume, Debating Immigration. 

From that piece:

In the summer of 1995, armed with new metro area figures, Frey and I contributed a short piece to The New York Times Magazine. This time the headline screamed, “Immigrants In, Native Whites Out.”

We wrote, “Look collectively at the New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Boston metropolitan areas – 5 of the top 11 immigration destinations. In the last half of the 80s, for every 10 immigrants who arrived, 9 residents left for points elsewhere. And most of those leaving were non-Hispanic whites. Of the top immigrant destinations, only metropolitan San Diego was attracting more whites from the rest of the nation than it was losing.”

The story also discussed another largely unreported impact of immigration. Again quoting our piece: “Because of immigration, in the 30-odd years since the dawn of affirmative action, blacks have gone from more than two-thirds to les than half of America’s minority population. Nationally, black workers, and especially the black middle class, are disproportionately concentrated in government jobs. But with substantial numbers of new immigrants arriving, blacks in these port-of-entry cities find themselves increasingly overrepresented vis-à-vis their shrinking percentage of the minority population. The result: The new minorities’ affirmative action claims for fairness can’t help but come at the expense of blacks.”

This time the reaction came from Frank Sharry. Sharry was and still is director of the National Immigration Forum, the dormitory for the strange bedfellows that make the pro-immigration coalition so formidable. Its board of directors include leaders of the National Restaurant Association and the National Council of La Raza, the National Association of Manufacturers and UNITE-HERE, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (an organization of Hispanic farmworkers in Oregon), and the International Franchise Association. National Immigration Forum dinners are events where those who exploit immigrant labor bread with those who labor against that exploitation.

In Sharry’s letter to The Times Magazine, Frey and I stood accused of  “sociological shenanigans,” of  “substandard research,” and of “scapegoating immigrants” for suggesting that there was any cause and effect between the arrival of immigrants in places like California and the departure of native-born whites.

Well, we had begun our piece by describing Marilyn Yarosko, who had moved to the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada, after she began to feel out of place in her native Southern California. We wrote, “The Asian population of her hometown of Torrance, just south of L.A., had doubled to 22 percent in the 1980s. The pastor and most of the parishioners at her Roman Catholic Church were now Vietnamese. Most of her fellow nurses at Charter Suburban Hospital, she says, were Filipino, super-hardworking and, she thinks, a bit cliquish. Yarosko, whose parents were Canadian and paternal grandparents were from the Ukraine, is not a xenophobe. She is not bitter or looking for someone to blame, “We took it from the Indians: who are we to complain?” she says. But, she acknowledges, “I began to feel like an outsider.”

Hardly a frothing nativist. But Yarosko had moved at least in part because of some very swift demographic changes, changes precipitated by immigrants moving in and accelerated by native moving out. (Some academics would refer to this process as “invasion and succession,” but that kind of language is way too provocative for daily journalism.)

One could argue that the dislocation of folks like Yarosko was the way of the world, part of a natural cycle of change and renewal. But instead, the impulse by Sharry and others was to deny that people like Yarosko existed or mattered and to suggest instead that reporting or scholarship that took them into account was out of bounds. I was learning – white flight from immigrants demanded a higher order of proof than white flight from blacks.

Classic white flight was a given.  It was perfectly obvious that for decades whites were moving to deep white spaces in the suburbs and leaving many cities, an especially what came to be known as the “inner city,” increasingly black. No one doubted that race played a role in this white flight, even if many, probably most, whites made their choice of where to move without ever explicitly thinking about race. The proof of white flight was the changing demography of cities and their suburbs. Period.

To bring the numbers up to the recent past, now consider that Miami has become only 12 percent Anglo, to use the local terminology. Whites are less than 30 percent of the population of Los Angeles – until 1960 the whitest big city in the United States. In 1970, the New York City borough of Queens, the home of Archie Bunker, was 86 percent white, whiter than Utah is today, whiter than Kansas. Queens is now a third white and nearly half foreign-born.

But – and I think this helps explain the political whirlwind we are now reaping – the American public, writ large, never really gave its assent to immigration policies that led us to where we are today.

In June 1998, I wrote a couple of stories posing what seemed to me to be the big question America was going to face in the coming half century: Are Whites Ready to be a Minority

Quick. Imagine an American. Is your American white? Come the middle of the next century, according to the best estimates, most Americans won’t be.

To those who welcome the prospect, and those who dread it, it represents a demographic transformation without peer or precedent in history: a nation freely surrendering its historic racial and ethnic majority.If it happens: “if” because the projections are based on immigration from Latin America and Asia continuing at current high levels, it is a transformation that cannot help but challenge existing notions of what it means to be white, redefine the content and character of race relations, and metamorphose the look and feel of American identity.

It is a prospect that would have appalled the Founding Fathers, who by modern standards were stone racists. But today it is heralded by President Clinton and his race advisory board as a given and a good; good because diversity is good and because America is an idea and a promise not bound by blood or color.

Despite its sweeping implications, rarely is a public rejoinder heard. For a white person to acknowledge fear or suggest limiting immigration to keep the nation mostly white sounds to the modern ear racist and unAmerican.

But lurking beneath this patina of acceptance, and looming between demographic projection and lived reality, is a primordial question – at once stunningly obvious and surprisingly unasked: Are white people really ready and willing to become a minority?

For now, the answer comes in the myriad, conflicting ways people live their lives every day. It is answered in the growing embrace of friendship and love across color lines, but also in the swelling exodus of white citizens to whiter states, gated communities and private schools.

White people, meaning non-Hispanic white citizens, are like everyone else – a diverse group. Even single individuals may blend exhilaration and apprehension at the remaking of their America. Each subsequent generation displays more comfort across racial and ethnic lines than the past. And the ultimate answer rests with those yet to be born.

To Clinton, an America without a white majority is a worthy destiny.

As he put it a year ago to a small gathering of black columnists, “Along with our founding, which was an act of genius, and the freeing of slaves in the Civil War and the long civil rights movement, this will arguably be the third great revolution of America, if we can prove that we literally can live without having a dominant European culture.”

It is a prospect, in the estimation of Raymond Winbush, director of the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, provoking white political reaction even as it tantalizes today’s minorities with the promise of power. Unlike white people, Winbush says, “People of color tend to dread the past and romanticize the future.”

But University of Florida law Professor Juan Perea, who sees a mounting white backlash against Latinos and Asians, cautions that “more people of color doesn’t mean we get more power.”

Polls, on balance, indicate a wary tolerance among white citizens toward the nation’s changing complexion, though most would prefer less immigration, slower change.

In a commencement address in June at Portland (Ore.) State University, Clinton captured the concern that “unless we handle this well, immigration of this sweep and scope could threaten the bonds of our union.”

Some Americans, Clinton said, “feel unsettled. . . . They’re afraid the America they know and love is becoming a foreign land.”

Nearly a decade later, in June 2007, I traveled I-81 to Hazleton, Pennsylvania, as it prepared to celebrate the Fourth of July.

HAZLETON, Pa. – Salvadore DeFazio, the poet laureate of Hazleton, is on deadline. In the days leading to the Fourth of July, his hometown is celebrating its 150th birthday. The centerpiece of the commemoration is a history pageant DeFazio is furiously working to finish. He is searching for an ending, though he has settled on a musical theme in Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

It’s a perfect fit, DeFazio says: “Hazleton is a fanfare for the common man.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the choice of music.

“Fanfare for the Common Man burns me up,” says Joseph Palaggi, 80, who has played clarinet with the Hazleton Philharmonic Symphonic Orchestra since its founding in 1954. Palaggi is the son of a shoemaker who came here from Italy at the age of 16. Having worked most of his days in shipping and receiving, his common man credentials are impeccable. But the Fanfare, he complains, was written for brass and percussion. At the sesquicentennial performance, he and the other woodwinds will be mostly idle with “all those measures rest.”

For better or worse, these are the brass and percussion days in Hazleton.

A year ago this little city nestled high in the depleted coal country of northeastern Pennsylvania put itself on the map by enacting a law to fine landlords and employers who provide shelter or employment to people who are in the country illegally. It was July 14, Bastille Day, and Hazleton itself felt under siege by an influx of newcomers, some of them illegal immigrants. Mayor Lou Barletta complained of violent crime, drugs, gangs and graffiti, and a burden on the school system and hospital that the community could not bear.

Overnight, Hazleton literally and figuratively became a Lou Dobbs special, wildly cheered and just as passionately condemned, the ordinance emulated by small communities across the country even as its constitutionality is being weighed by the courts in a case that may eventually find its way to the Supreme Court.

But beneath the fanfare, Hazleton is also a small American town celebrating the Fourth of July. And more than most, it remains a timeless American place, a throwback to an America before mobility and globalization exalted the new, the ersatz and the interchangeable over the settled, the staid and the distinct.

Parochial, perhaps, but, small as it is, Hazleton has its own poet laureate, symphony, and Liberty Band. The band, like the philharmonic a volunteer assemblage, traces its history to the Civil War, when it reputedly provided the soundtrack of Lee’s surrender to Grant outside Appomattox Courthouse, playing “Auld Lang Syne” (a number they will be reprising for the pageant).

As remarkable, Hazleton still has a drive-in with nightly first-run double features.

Hazletonians ought to know better than most that America has always been a melange. The town’s multitude of church spires are monuments to its thick wickerwork of contending ethnic communities.

In the pageant script, DeFazio quotes a magazine from the 1890s, describing in lurid terms the fate that befell communities like Hazleton amid an onslaught of undesirable new immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe: “One of the richest regions of the earth overrun with a horde of Hungarians, Slavs, Polanders, Italians, Sicilians, Russians and Tyrolese of the lowest class; a section almost denationalized by the scum of the Continent.”

Or, as Mayor Barletta puts it, “Hazleton was built on diversity.”

Like today’s diversity, it was driven in part by demand for people willing to do work under conditions “Americans” would not, in this case excavating the hard anthracite coal so prized because, though slow to ignite, it would burn longer and hotter.

The coal is gone. Hazleton rests on a hollowed core. By 2000 the Census described an aging city of only 23,000, about 93 percent white and about 5 percent Hispanic. Nearly nine out of 10 Hazletonians were native Pennsylvanians.

Then Hazleton was unexpectedly reborn in the ashes of Sept. 11. The only Hazeltonian to die in the attacks was a Puerto Rican man by the name of Efrain Franco Romero, who worked as a painter at the World Trade Center. Romero lived during the week in Jersey City, N.J., and on weekends joined his family in Hazleton, where they had moved to find a better life.

After Sept. 11, many Hispanics, including many immigrants and especially Dominicans, moved their families from New York and New Jersey to Hazleton. They were drawn by jobs, lower housing costs and Hazleton’s quiet, small-town atmosphere, by word of mouth and family ties with the Latino community already budding there. They opened more businesses.

Hazleton’s population swelled to more than 30,000, about a third Hispanic, according to the mayor, who estimates that among the immigrant population (which is not exclusively Hispanic), about 3,400 were not in the country legally (some of them left after the ordinance was enacted).

The immigrants were an answered prayer, says Amilcar Arroyo, a Peruvian immigrant who married a Hazleton woman he met working in a factory here, and who now runs the city’s only Spanish-language newspaper, El Mensajero. “Downtown Hazleton five or six years ago was a ghost town,” Arroyo said; now, property values have soared.

But it also meant that little Hazleton was contending in microcosm with the kind of demographic change the nation is encountering over a period of generations, all in less time than the series run of “The Sopranos.”

“It happened too fast,” says John T. Medashefski, 51, a native-born artist and proprietor of a cafe and gallery, who lives in the house where he grew up.

“That’s my covenant. That’s my blankie,” he says of the family homestead, from which he flies an assortment of American flags (which also serve as a recurring theme in his art). “It’s my heritage.”

He explains, in the plain-speak of Hazleton: “I’m not a Polack, I’m an American.”

With the election of Barak Obama as president in 2008, it seemed the question about America’s future was settled. The demograhic die had been cast and Americans, on the whole, seemed OK with it.

Luzerne County, where Hazleton is locate, went for Obama by nine points in 2008. But, in 2012 that shrunk slightly to a five-point edge. In 2016, Trump crushed Clinton there by a 20-point margin.

Pennsylvania places third among states on the State Farm deer collision rankings.

West Virginia, the state where you are most likely to run into a deer, was Trump’s best state, and Trump won all the top ten deer collision states with the exception of Minnesota, where Obama had easily beat Mitt Romney and Clinton’s victory, as Dan Rather might put it, was deer-tick tight.

But, ultimately, I don’t think fear of deer accounts for Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton. Nor do I think it is really about the even less likely danger posed by criminal aliens. I think, as much as it was about anything, it was about the way immigration has remade America, and the hope that America could be made great again by somehow reversing, or at any rate, slowing that remaking.

Postcript:

Last Wednesday, I went out to Oatmeal, in Burnet County, and then to Leander, to talk to two women about last year’s Women’s March in Austin, and Saturday’s rally at the Capitol on the anniversary.

Driving home on 183 that night I was confronted with a big mattress in the middle of the highway. I attempted to brake and veer around it, but made contact, and as I drove on, something – I assumed part of my undercarriage – was dragging. I slowed down but wanted to make it to the next exit, but saw a pickup slowing down behind me and pulled over to the slender shoulder, with the man in the truck pulling in behind me.

The Hispanic man in the pickup approached to see if I was OK. When I tried to open the door, I realized I couldn’t, that the mattress had lodged to my undercarriage, some metal wrapped around my wheel, and I had been dragging it. I got out the passenger side, got on my stomach and, with the man’s help, dislodged the mattress and left it on the side of the road. I was fine – except for a small cut on my forehead where the piece of metal slapped me when I freed it. And the car was fine. The good Samaritan, after making sure I was OK, headed off and I drove home, thinking, if it’s not a deer it’s a mattress.

At least with the deer you could build a big, beautiful wall.

Then again, mattresses are a softer target.

 

From April 3, 2017 by Brian Koerber at Mashable,  Mattress flies off a truck, causes accident and also saves the day:

Motorcyclist Aaron Wood was riding his bike through the Clem 7 tunnel in Brisbane, Australia last week when a mattress flew off the back of a truck directly into his lane. Unable to avoid the mattress, Wood hit it with his bike, but fortunately, it was a mattress. 

The squishy landing pad became lodged in his front tire, causing the bike to slow down rapidly. Fortunately, he was not rear ended, and was able to walk away from the wreck without serious injury. 

“I was just very lucky to come out unscathed — apart from some cuts to my hands,” Wood told the Queensland Times.

This isn’t the first time a mattress both caused an accident and simultaneously saved the day. In 2014, a video surfaced of a bicycle being taken out by a mattress, and in 2016, the same thing happened to a motorcycle rider in Thailand.  

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