I will dip into the immigration debate and do it with one of the best articles I’ve seen on this issue so far, Today’s Immigration Battle – Corporatists vs. Racists (and Labor is Left Behind). I recommend reading the whole thing. It’s written by Thom Hartmann and it, in my opinion, lays out what is going on and has a great historical perspective. This is a fight between the greedy and the racists:
The corporatist Republicans (“amnesty!”) are fighting with the racist Republicans (“fence!”), and it provides an opportunity for progressives to step forward with a clear solution to the immigration problem facing America.
Both the corporatists and the racists are fond of the mantra, “There are some jobs Americans won’t do.” It’s a lie.
Americans will do virtually any job if they’re paid a decent wage. This isn’t about immigration – it’s about economics. Industry and agriculture won’t collapse without illegal labor, but the middle class is being crushed by it.
The reason why thirty years ago United Farm Workers’ Union (UFW) founder Caesar ChÃ¡vez fought against illegal immigration, and the UFW turned in illegals during his tenure as president, was because ChÃ¡vez, like progressives since the 1870s, understood the simple reality that labor rises and falls in price as a function of availability.
It takes both sides to task:
Between the Reagan years – when there were only around 1 to 2 million illegal aliens in our workforce – and today, we’ve gone from about 25 percent of our private workforce being unionized to around seven percent. Much of this is the direct result – as Caesar ChÃ¡vez predicted – of illegal immigrants competing directly with unionized and legal labor. Although it’s most obvious in the construction trades over the past 30 years, it’s hit all sectors of our economy.
Democratic Party strategist Ann Lewis just sent out a mass email on behalf of former Wal-Mart Board of Directors member and now US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. In it, Lewis noted that Clinton suggests we should have: “An earned path to citizenship for those already here working hard, paying taxes, respecting the law, and willing to meet a high bar for becoming a citizen.” Sounds nice. The same day, on his radio program, Rush Limbaugh told a woman whose husband is an illegal immigrant that she had nothing to worry about with regard to deportation of him or their children because all he’d have to do – under the new law under consideration – is pay a small fine and learn English.
The current Directors of Wal-Mart are smiling.
I also love this part about how the Europeans, yes the Europeans, handle foreigners:
What about caring for people in need? Isn’t that the universal religious/ethical value? Of course.
A few years ago, when my family and I were visiting Europe, one of our children fell sick. A doctor came to the home of the people we were staying with, visited our child at 11 pm on a weeknight, left behind a course of antibiotics, and charged nothing. It was paid for by that nation’s universal health care system. We should offer the same to any human being in need of medical care – a universal human right – in the United States.
But if I’d applied to that nation I was visiting for a monthly unemployment or retirement check, I would have been laughed out of the local government office. And if I’d been caught working there, I would have been deported within a week. Caring for people in crisis/need is very different from giving a job or a monthly welfare check to non-citizens. No nation – even those in Central and South America – will do that. And neither should the United States.
And he finishes with what a way forward:
Without a middle class, any democracy is doomed. And without labor having – through control of labor availability – power in relative balance to capital/management, no middle class can emerge. America’s early labor leaders did not die to increase the labor pool for the Robber Barons or the Walton family – they died fighting to give control of it to the workers of their era and in the hopes that we would continue to hold it – and infect other nations with the same idea of democracy and a stable middle class.
The simple way to do this today is to require that all non-refugee immigrants go through the same process to become American citizens or legal workers in this country (no amnesties, no “guest workers,” no “legalizations”) regardless of how they got here; to confront employers who hire illegals with draconian financial and criminal penalties; and to affirm that while health care (and the right to provide humanitarian care to all humans) is an absolute right for all people within our boundaries regardless of status, a paycheck, education, or subsidy is not.
The Republican (and Democratic) corporatists who want a cheap labor force, and the Republican (and Democratic) racists who want to build a fence and punish humanitarian aid workers, are equally corrupt and anti-progressive. As long as employers are willing and able (without severe penalties) to hire illegal workers, people will risk life and limb to grab at the America Dream. When we stop hiring and paying them, most will leave of their own volition over a few years, and the remaining few who are committed to the US will obtain citizenship through normal channels.
This is, after all, the middle-class “American Dream.” And how much better this hemisphere would be if Central and South Americans were motivated to stay in their own nations (because no employer in the US would dare hire them) and fight there for a Mexican Dream and a Salvadoran Dream and a Guatemalan Dream (and so on).
This is the historic Progressive vision for all of the Americas…
This article shows this debate for what t is, a fight between a faction that is out for cheap labor and a faction that is racist. From this perspective is where I start on the great wedge issue of 2006 and there will be much more to come.