Senators, take my advice. Save yourselves some time, spend those hours on a nice dinner with your family, and do the nation’s immigrants and working people a huge favor: don’t try to resuscitate the immigration bill.
I’ll be honest. My conviction that the bill should be killed comes not from my own careful study of its almost 700 pages, but from scanning press accounts of what the bill contains. The simple fact is that I just can’t bring myself to read the actual text of this latest attempt to Ã¢€˜solve’ the immigration problem. I’m tired of reading immigration bills, tired of shaking my head in disbelief at the devious ways in which corporate profits, xenophobia and a law-enforcement mentality reign supreme when it comes to immigration.
But I really should plough through this latest White House-designed bill, because each one that has been produced over the last few years has been chilling reading. The most infamous, HR 4437, was so heinous it brought a million people to the streets to protest just over one year ago.
HR 4437 got what it deserved.
But REAL ID passed in 2005, and many similarly harsh but less all-encompassing immigration measures have been tacked on here and there to other pieces of legislation, or have passed as rule or regulation changes.
And these big bipartisan bills keep coming. The nation is hungry for some big change, we’re told. The president is desperate for a legacy, we’re told. And immigrants keep coming in search of work. So attempts to legislate immigration continue.
The problem with this current immigration bill, allegedly the grand compromise of the century, is that it will simply make things worse. Legalization after 13 years, $5,000 and a no-return-guaranteed trip home means most undocumented immigrants will stay in the shadows. We need legalization, but not one that looks like this.
So crack down on the employers, I hear you say! Well, that’s not the answer either. While we have seen some high profile raids over the past year, the American economy is littered with companies that use undocumented labor. It simply wouldn’t be possible to police an expansive employer-sanction system, so toughening the penalty would only be for the sake of appearances, to give the impression that the tough-love was being shared equally around. And past experience has led Latino groups to decry employer sanctions for serving as a tool to allow for racial profiling and discrimination in hiring. Why risk hiring Latinos when their social security card could turn out to be a fake?
Why it is so hard for our lawmakers to learn from failure? Every indicator since the last massive immigration law changes in 1996 shows that things have only gotten worse. More undocumented immigrants are entering the country via the southern border, more migrants are dying in the desert as they make the crossing, more prison beds are being found to detain immigrants and more refugees are being denied asylum. Simultaneously, more manufacturing jobs have been lost to trade policies like NAFTA than at any point in recent history and a good half of all Americans currently live paycheck to paycheck.
There is a crisis in
And a law-enforcement model of dealing with immigration is certainly not working. As quickly as the country finds grounds to arrest, lock up and then deport a non- citizen, there are thousands more immigrants entering, both with papers and without papers. And don’t be fooled into believing that it is only the Ã¢€˜illegals’ that are being arrested and deported. The detention arsenal of the government targets green card holders, foreign students and guest workers just as aggressively.
So I start from this question-simple and easy: Why are immigrants coming to the
Sure, some may be coming here hoping for riches, hoping to make it big, hoping for the American Dream. But the overwhelming majority is not. Some immigrants come because they are fleeing persecution; some to study; and still more come to be reunited with their family. But what connects many immigrants is that they simply cannot make enough money for their family to survive in their home country.
I have spent years researching immigration policies and talking about immigration with citizens and migrants alike. While some immigrants certainly do aspire to stay permanently in the
But trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA and free trade agreements with many Caribbean and Asian countries, coupled with IMF and World Bank policies that have gutted social welfare programs in many of these countries have forced millions into migratory patterns to eek out a living. When their village or rural town becomes unviable, most people move to the nearest big city. Cities in all these countries are far from able to provide meaningful employment for the masses and the migration continues until a decent paying job can be found. In this part of the hemisphere, that place is the
So here’s my solution. Let’s go to the root cause of the problem. Let’s deal with why people can’t stay in their home country and earn a fair wage, and lets then look at why there is a race to the bottom for wages and job conditions here in the
Left field, I know.
Almost like saying lets drop the war on drugs law- enforcement model and apply a public health strategy to deal with people caught up selling and using drugs. Imagine if we could end, or at the very least massively reform, NAFTA, CAFTA and all the free trade agreements the
But fixing trade policies alone is not enough. We also seriously need to tackle the way in which corporate
Deepa Fernandes is the host of WBAI radio’s “Wakeup Call,” and the author of “Targeted: National Security and the Business of Immigration.”