Listening to Yo Yo Ma


World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland [Creative Commons license)

“I’ve lived my life at the borders. Between cultures. Between disciplines. Between musics. Between generations,” world-renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma told CNN. “In culture, we build bridges, not walls. A country is not a hotel and it’s not full.”

This weekend he went to Laredo, Texas to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six cello suites at the foot of the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge and to talk about immigration. Yo Yo Ma knows immigration. He was born in France to Chinese parents, moved to the United States as a child, and made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of nine. He has performed for six U.S. presidents and has a list of awards as long as your arm, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Kennedy Center Honors.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to insist that the country is full and immigration must stop. No more cellists, no more doctors, no more strawberry pickers, no more home health aides, no more roofers, no more engineers, no more chemists and physicists. No more refugees, no more freedom-seekers, no more family members. No to everyone. Except, maybe, for people from Norway. But maybe not even them.

Trump’s administration now makes immigration more difficult even for Canadians, even for Canadians who are already legally living and working here.

“Some U.S. border agents have quietly begun refusing to process work visas for Canadians already working in the country, a change that is confounding immigration lawyers and could pose problems for big Silicon Valley employers that frequently move tech workers between Canada and the U.S. …

“Welcome to our nightmare. All of a sudden, they don’t like Canadians,” said Lisa Spiegel, an attorney at Duane Morris in San Francisco and head of the firm’s immigration practice group.”

Other immigrants trying to rejoin family members are being turned away on the grounds that they might become public charges—even when they present overwhelming evidence that they will not.

“Balbino, a 33-year-old Mexican national who had entered the United States illegally 14 years ago, thought he had a strong case for a spousal visa: a wife and children who are U.S. citizens, a father-in-law who had pledged in an affidavit to financially support him if necessary, and a letter from his employer guaranteeing him an $18-per-hour job upon his return….

“More and more aspiring immigrants – especially Mexicans – are being denied visas based on determinations by the U.S. State Department that they might become “public charges,” dependent on the government for support, according to official data and interviews with attorneys, immigrants and their family members.  …

“In the 2018 fiscal year, which ended in September, nearly 13,500 immigrant visa applications were refused on public-charge grounds – quadruple the number in the previous fiscal year and the highest total since 2004. “

In one sweeping new proposal from Attorney General Barr, immigration courts would come under even closer control by the Attorney General’s office:

“Last week, the Justice Department revived a proposed regulation originally initiated during the George W. Bush administration to allow the 21-judge appeals court system that hears immigration cases more latitude to issue cursory opinions without explanation. It would also allow the court to set precedents with only a small minority of appeals judges participating, which could sharply accelerate the administration’s ability to make changes to immigration law that wouldn’t require congressional action….

“All of these pieces add up to taking away due process and speeding people through to their deportation in some sort of assembly line substitute for justice,” said Jeffrey Chase, a former immigration judge and former senior legal adviser to the immigration appeals court.”

It’s all part of the dictator’s playbook, writes Robert Reich, former US secretary of labor and now professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

“The first rule in the dictator’s playbook is to fuel public anger against the “other” – people said to be dangerous outsiders….

“The second rule in the playbook is to conjure up a so-called “crisis” of containing the outsiders.”


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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