Monday, August 23, 2010

Immigration: Waiting For Obama To Pull Rabbit Out Of Hat

In November 2008, we elected a young, visionary president who we believed was going to fix everything, but he encountered a few problems. His predecessor did not tell him how bad things really were. He did not know that the greed-mongers on Wall Street were running wild. He could not have known that the economy was almost in ruins and the actual costs of the war were higher than we had been told.

Barack Obama is eloquent and very, very smart, but guess what? He isn’t Superman. Heck, he’s not even Spiderman. Eighteen months into his administration, he has stacked up an impressive list of accomplishments, but we still have over 9% unemployment. The GOP does everything it can to block anything he does, then they cry foul when anyone points out THEIR guy was the one who made a mess of things. Immigration was one of Obama’s stated priorities but you would not know it if you looked at what he has been doing. Then again, keeping our economy from slipping into a greater depression, the long and difficult struggle to get universal health care passed, and trying to cope with the disaster in the Gulf were not on his original list of things to do.

It is seems cold to counsel patience to the unemployed, the people who are losing their houses and businesses, or to immigrants who live in fear of being discovered and deported, but he can’t do everything at once and in the case of immigration, part of the problem is that the Republicans are so divided. You may be surprised to learn that the GOP talks out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to immigration.

Have you ever thought about why George W. Bush was so keen to pass immigration reform, or why it went nowhere even though he was able to pass huge tax cuts for the rich and start two wars?

Without question, the GOP is the party of the rich and of the business interests. Proudly, it is the incarnation of capitalism. I know I will sound like a “commie-pinko” when I say this but capitalism depends on cheap labor and on the exploitation of the poor, and that is one of the main reasons we will never have immigration reform if we wait for the GOP to act.

Think about the clothes we wear. Look at the labels: where were they made? If they were made in China, Thailand, Mexico, or most any other country outside of ours, you can be sure that the workers who made them are barely making a living wage, and they are not getting paid what United States union workers would get.

Why have so many American businesses have gone off-shore? Because they can get cheap labor and pay few or no taxes. Then we go to Walmart or K-Mart or Target and pay a few dollars for a commodity that, if made in this country, would cost at least twice as much.

One of the main sanctions in any serious immigration bill would punish employers for hiring undocumented workers. In other words, passing such a sanction would poke a finger in the eyes of GOP contributors; businessmen who depend on cheap labor to produce what they sell to Americans. But that’s only half of the problem.

There is a faction of the GOP comprised, in part, of the Tea Party Patriots who follow the nativist traditions of the most conservative parts of the Party. Because of the negative connotations of the term “nativists,” they prefer to call themselves “patriots.” They place the interests of the established population over those who are new to country. Typically, they are bitterly opposed to immigrants, especially those who are here illegally. They are determined to block any immigration reform that would allow the undocumented workers to remain here. They would rather spend millions to round up and deport 12 million undocumented workers and their children than allow them to be normalized, even though this approach makes no sense and spends even more money than they lose in allowing them to stay. They claim that undocumented workers take jobs that otherwise would go to real Americans and use public services and medical resources while paying no taxes. Meanwhile, the defenders of undocumented workers point out that they are doing the jobs that Americans will not do. The arguments are familiar and irresolvable.

If you put the two parts of the GOP together the result is inertia and it explains why John McCain, former presidential candidate and a long-time Senator from Arizona, is straddling the fence. On one hand, he is the self-proclaimed maverick who has taken pride, in the past, on working with Democratic senators on legislation. On the other hand, he is a Republican with deep ties to business interests in his state. Still, on yet another hand, he represents Arizona, now ground zero for the anti-immigration ferment. Once, he worked for immigration reform, now he is not so sure because the Tea Party Patriots are on his right flank, dogging his steps. How will he satisfy the competing interests in his party? How will he hang on to his seat as he fails to satisfy anybody?

President Obama said last week that the only way that there can be immigration reform is with bipartisan cooperation. I hope somebody tells him that so long as the Republicans are bitterly divided, and funded by business interests, there will be no bipartisanship on this issue. The Democratic Party will have to go it alone.

*Photo courtesy of the Seattle Weekly
Published on MyLatinoVoice

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you speaking out for comprehensive immigration reform!

    With extremely high unemployment, what a perfect time to legalize a vast number of new people low in skills and high in need. That’s a super idea. Throw all your struggling fellow citizens who have limited skills a curve ball!

    Also, with our huge budget deficits putting our economy on the brink of a Greece-style disaster, giving millions more people full eligibility for all our government social services is really smart (especially since almost all illegals will join the 40% of people who pay no federal income taxes at all). Let’s add $120B/yr to the deficit and that way we can say we were extra nice to people who broke our laws—what right do we have to keep poor people out anyway?

    Another plus is that the folks we amnesty will become eligible to bring in their children, uncles, nieces, parents, etc. Plenty of those folks need kidney transplants and bypass surgery and so forth––we can pay for all that stuff too!

    Finally, how clever to make sure our schools–already sinking in international comparisons–have lots more problem cases to challenge them. The Chinese are now turning out millions of smart engineering and computer science majors—but our ace in the hole will be this vast new army of unskilled immigrants who don't speak our language and often lack basic literacy and numeracy. We don't have enough high school dropouts of our own--let's import millions more.

    Yes, thanks for putting on your thinking cap and figuring out your country can make really smart policy choices. You professors really are a great resource for your countrymen.