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Wait a minute, Righty. Aren't we meant to be cowering in fear of the unwashed masses who claim to be fleeing oppressive governments, but who are really seeking asylum in our city on a hill with evil in their hearts? Burrowing like rats into the safe places hidden behind the walls of suburban America, waiting to burst forth with unspeakable violence? Or something? Something really scary to derail immigration reform?

Apparently there will always be room at the inn for the right kind of immigrant or asylum seeker. Happily for the xenophobic right, since the collapse of European communism most of the nice white Christian foreign types no longer feel much need to seek refuge in our bastion of freedomz. But if you're far enough out on the right wing political fringe, even a politically mature democratic republic and staunch US ally like, say, Germany isn't freedomy enough for comfort.

Enter Ewe and Hannelore Romeike, the Christian Right's favorite asylum seekers. The Romeikes fled Germany in 2008 ito escape [drumroll, please] public education!

So why exactly are the Romeikes fleeing? By at least one measure of academic achievement, German schoolkids do pretty well for themselves in math and science despite an oppressively unChristian curriculum. Perhaps therein lies the problem: too much science, not enough Jesus. In Uwe Romeike's words:

The curriculum goes against our Christian values... German schools use textbooks that force inappropriate subject matter onto young children and tell stories with characters that promote profanity and disrespect.
Really? What, were they reading the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or something? Anyway, whatever the exact nature of the oppression meted out by the German education thugs, the Romeikes did what any self-respecting Christian extremists would do, and took their kids out of public schools. Sadly for them, the Germans take education seriously, and don't play around with home-made school. The Romeikes faced fines under German law, and claim that they feared losing custody of their kids. So they packed up and moved to Tennessee. US homeschoolers to the rescue!
Hannelore [Romeike] tells TIME the family was contacted by the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which suggested they go to the U.S. and settle in Morristown, Tenn. The nonprofit organization... is expanding its overseas outreach. And on Jan. 26, the HSLDA helped the Romeikes become the first people granted asylum in the U.S. because they were persecuted for homeschooling.
Wait, aren't there private schools in Germany that might have offered a less extreme solution? Well, yes. But, they are still apparently supposed to meet national curriculum standards (evolution, anyone?), and they cost money (they want free lunch with their Freedomz!)

So the Romeikes settled in TN, resumed homeschooling, and applied for political asylum. In 2010 their request was granted by immigration judge Lawrence Berman in Memphis. However, ICE appealed the ruling, and it was overturned by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals. The Romeikes in turn appealed that decision, and now their case has been heard by a 3 judge panel of the Federal Appeals court.

If nothing else, they got about 5 years reprieve from secular education- - should be enough to shore up their kids' faith in the event they lose the appeal and are forced back into the den of iniquity that is German public education. And HSLDA got what it wanted, too: shiny white poster children to help them push their narrative of homeschoolers as some sort of disadvantaged minority. A measure of their success in this effort is demonstrated by a White House website petition, which garnered over 100k signatures.

Meanwhile Republican fear mongers in the US Congress continue to push the meme of immigration as a threat to national security.

Republicans, including House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, argued that the Boston bombing showed the need to fix and modernize the immigration system.
Yup. It's only OK if you're a Republican/Christian/White/Privileged disadvantaged minority.

Poor Tennessee governor Bill Haslam. As a Republican governor of a red state with Republican super-majorities in both chambers of the state General Assembly, the last thing he wants is for one of his state's most important employers to open the door to outside agitators and such. Volkswagen has been in negotiations with the UAW to offer representation for the workers at its Chatanooga plant, and apparently a deal is close. The arrangement would set up a labor board for the plant, which is a common mechanism for conducting dialog between labor and management in Germany. IG Metall, a large German union that represents German VW workers, is supportive of the plan, and VW execs are making encouraging noises. It would be a pretty big deal for Southern auto workers to organize, even if the labor board model is seen as a somewhat attenuated form of worker representation. The region is notoriously hostile to organized labor, and several Southern states have made this a selling point in their efforts to attract foreign auto makers. If VW workers successfully organize and the plant doesn't spontaneously implode, what kind of message would that send to workers in plants run by Nissan (TN and MS), Honda (AL), Toyota (MS, AL, KY, TX), Mercedes (AL)?

Not much Haslam or the Republican legislators can do about it. TN is already a "right to work" state, which is the usual method for pols to undermine organized labor. So, resort to the bully pulpit:

I've talked to a number of employees in Chattanooga, and they are very comfortable with the way things are now...I would hate for anything to happen that would hurt the productivity of the plant or to deter investment in Chattanooga.
So, the best Haslam comes up with is a thinly veiled threat and an unsupported assertion that workers are happy without representation.

Sorry, but invoking happy workers perfectly satisfied with their own exploitation (or else!) strikes an awfully sour chord, coming from a Southern plutocrat.

So shove it, Bill.


In the aftermath of the 2012 elections, Republicans in Tennessee enjoy supermajority control of the General Assembly (26R & 7D in Senate; 69R, 29D, & 1I in House) and also hold the governorship. Time for Team Red to Take Back Our Country, which in 2013 still means undermining the Affordable Care Act. So, naturally a bill has been introduced by Rep. Jeremy Duram, that would block the expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee-- one of the major mechanisms by which the ACA extends the number of those with access to heathcare. Should be a cinch to pass in the increasingly reactionary home of Al Gore.

But turns out blocking this provision is just not popular among Tennesseans. Even though neither Obama not Obamacare enjoy much popularity in the state, even Republican voters are apparently reluctant to forgo the sweet sweet milk flowing from the government medicaid teat. Not too hard to see why, considering that with over 1.2 million enrollees as of Dec 2012, Tenncare (the Tennessee medicaid program) covers about 18% of the state's 6.5 million residents already.

But no need for Republican politicians to take their constituents' opinions into account when ideology is on the line, right? 56% support for expanding Tenncare shouldn't stand in the way of partisan aspirations.

Hold on there, bucko. Turns out, it's not just people's health and well-being at stake, there's big money on the table. As Moody's recently pointed out, Tennessee is an epicenter of the corporate for-profit hospital industry. These companies stand to loose a lot if the General Assembly blocks Tenncare expansion, and they are making it known:

Craig Becker, president of the THA, noted that hospitals in the state stand to lose $5.6 billion at a time when 58, mostly rural, facilities are already losing money every year.

“I can't wrap my head around those numbers,” he said. “This is a tax on hospitals. Why should we send those tax dollars to California, New York or Vermont, or even New Jersey?”

A tax! On upstanding corpirate citizens, no less. To the benefit of --gak-- New Jersey!

Not that it would necessarily bother Republican legislators too much, but their bill could also be potentially crippling to the several not-for-profit hospitals affiliated with academic medical centers throughout the sate. These institutions are facing loss of federal funding that has traditionally supported hospitals that care disproportionately for uninsured. After all, if everyone is going to have access to health insurance, why bother reimbursing academic hospitals for taking care of the uninsured?

Too early to know how this will all play out, but there are signs that gov. Bill Haslam (a Repub of the Big Money variety) might be swayed by the economic argument to do the right thing. Not at all clear that he would veto the republican bill if it passes both houses (as seems likely), but at least he's on record against it.


Telling what pops out of Republican's mouths when they take their eyes off the talking points: 47% of Americans are free-loaders, rape can be "legitimate" and yet result in a precious gift from God, "blah people" ruin welfare for the rest of us...

It's no surprise, then, that behind the boilerplate about border security, rule of law, and terrorism lurks a not so hidden concern to protect the economic interests of agribusiness and other industries that reap profit from the sweat of undocumented workers. Even when these employers are not so unscrupulous that they steal wages or run debt peonage rackets, intimidation, abuse, and unsafe work environments remain rife. Of course, the profiteering trickles up the food chain, to the restaurant industry that rips off its own workers in addition to those responsible for producing cheap produce and meat.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte has represented Virginia's 6th district in Congress since 1993, is currently Vice Chair of the Agriculture committee, and has a history of work as an immigration lawyer. He is seen as one of the House Republican leaders in formulating a response to Obama's proposals on immigration reform. So what is the honorable gentleman's take on the risks of legalizing the status of undocumented workers?

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