We Need A Better Alternative

by David Bacon, March 31, 2010

Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham announced Thursday their plan for immigration reform. Unfortunately, it is a retread, recycling the same bad ideas that led to the defeat of reform efforts over the last five years. In some ways, their proposal is even worse.

Schumer and Graham dramatize the lack of new ideas among Washington powerbrokers. Real immi­gration reform requires a real alternative. We need a different framework that embodies the goals of immi­grants and working people, not the political calcula­tions of a reluctant Congress.

What's wrong with the Schumer/Graham pro­posal?

1. It ignores trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, which produce profits for U.S. corporations, but increase poverty in Mexico and Central America. Since NAFTA went into effect, income in Mexico dropped, while millions of workers lost jobs and farm­ers their land. As a result, six million Mexicans had to leave home and migrate north, looking for work.

If we do not change U.S. trade policy, millions of displaced people will continue to come, no matter how many walls we build.

2. People working without papers will be fired and even imprisoned under their proposal, and raids will increase. Vulnerability makes it harder for people to defend their rights, organize unions and raise wages. That keeps the price of immigrant labor low. Every worker will have to show a national ID card, (an idea too extreme even for the Bush administration). A problematic ID would mean getting fired, and maybe jailed.

This will not stop people from coming to the U.S. But it will produce more immigration raids, firings, and a much larger detention system. Last year over 350,000 people went through privately-run prisons for undocumented immigrants. That number will go up.

3. Schumer and Graham treat the flow of people coming north as a labor supply for employers. They propose new guest worker programs, where workers would have few rights, and no leverage to organize for better conditions. Current programs are already called “Close to Slavery” by the Southern Poverty Law Cen­ter.

4. Schumer and Graham's legalization scheme imposes barriers making ineligible many of the 12 mil­lion people who need legal status. Their idea for “going to the back of the line” would have people wait many years for it.

Getting in the back of the line is like having to sit in the back of the bus. In 1986, even President Reagan, hardly a liberal, signed a plan in which people gained legal status quickly and easily. Many are now citizens and vote, run for office, lead our unions, teach in our schools, and have made great contributions to our country.

Schumer and Graham treat legalization as a carrot, to force acceptance of a program in which the main beneficiaries are large corporations, not immigrants, nor other workers.

Instead, we need reform that unites people and pro­tects everyone's rights and jobs, immigrant and non-immigrant alike. We need to use our ideals of rights and equality to guide us.

For several years, immigrant rights groups, commu­nity organizations and unions have called for reform based on those ideals. It's time to put those ideas into a bill that can bring our country together, not divide it.

A human rights immigration bill would:

1. Stop trade agreements that create poverty and forced migration.

2. Give people a quick and easy path to legal status and citizenship.

3. End the visa backlogs, so there's no “get in the back” line.

4. Protect the right of all workers in their jobs — against discrimination, or getting fired for demanding rights or for not having papers.

5. Bring civil rights and peace to border communi­ties.

6. Dismantle the immigration prisons, end deten­tion, and stop the raids.

7. Allow people to come to the U.S. with green cards — visas that afford people rights, that are not tied to employment and recruitment by labor brokers.

8. Use reasonable legalization fees to finance job programs in communities with high unemployment.

9. End guest worker programs.

Those who say no alternative is possible might remember the “go slow” advice given to young stu­dents going to jail in the South in the early 60s. If they'd heeded it, we'd still be waiting for a Voting Rights Act.

Dr. King, Rosa Parks, the students in SNCC, and Chicano civil rights leaders like Cesar Chavez, Bert Corona, Dolores Huerta and Ernesto Galarza, asked the country a simple question: Do we believe in equality or not?

That's still the choice.

3 Responses to We Need A Better Alternative

  1. Pat Kittle Reply

    January 15, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Open-borders enthusiasts obviously have never given any consideration to the ecological impact of what they wish for.

    If they have they certainly don’t give a damn about it.

  2. Don Honda Reply

    January 16, 2017 at 11:45 am

    The U.S. currently has eleven non immigrant guest worker visa programs.
    http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/employment/temporary.html

    There is no cap on the number of workers allowed into the U.S. under the H-2A temporary agricultural guest worker visa program.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/263529-funding-deal-hits-backlash-over-increase-in-worker-visas
    “The provision could more than triple the number of H-2B visas for foreign workers seeking jobs at hotels, theme parks, ski resorts, golf courses, landscaping businesses, restaurants and bars. The move is intended to boost the supply of non-agricultural seasonal workers.”

    http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Resources%20for%20Congress/Congressional%20Reports/2011%20National%20Immigration%20%26%20Consular%20Conference%20Presentations/H-2A_and_H-2B_Visas.pdf

    Alabama had to bite the bullet and hire LEGAL Immigrants for its AG Industry:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-09-24/africans-relocate-to-alabama-to-fill-jobs-after-immigration-law
    Africans Relocate to Alabama to Fill Jobs After Immigration Law

    “East Coast began calling Atlanta refugee agencies several months ago looking for legal immigrants to come to Alabama for a year, said Mbanfu, refugee employment director for Lutheran Services in Atlanta. He said the company would have taken as many refugees as he could refer. The agency connected East Coast with refugees who had been in the country three to five years, he said.”

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2009-09-13-plants_N.htm
    Immigration raids yield jobs for legal workers

    ‘When federal agents descended on six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co. in December 2006, they rounded up nearly 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants that made up about 10% of the labor force at the plants.

    But the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents did not cripple the company or the plants. In fact, they were back up and running at full staff within months by replacing those removed with a significant number of native-born Americans, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

    “Whenever there’s an immigration raid, you find white, black and legal immigrant labor lining up to do those jobs that Americans will supposedly not do,” said Swain, who teaches law and political science.”

  3. Don Honda Reply

    January 16, 2017 at 11:46 am

    It’s interesting that Illegal Aliens are encouraged to use Chavez as a hero for their rights and his motto, “Si Se Puede” because he was adamantly opposed to Illegal Immigration as they hurt his efforts to help Legal Farm Workers for better working conditions and better wages.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ9jIXHhFJI

    http://www.latintimes.com/cesar-chavez-legacy-wet-lines-illegals-campaign-dark-side-latino-icons-opposition-162528

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Chavez

    Revisionist History of Chavez

    “The UFW during Chavez’s tenure was committed to restricting immigration. Chavez and Dolores Huerta, cofounder and president of the UFW, fought the Bracero Program that existed from 1942 to 1964. Their opposition stemmed from their belief that the program undermined U.S. workers and exploited the migrant workers. Since the Bracero Program ensured a constant supply of cheap immigrant labor for growers, immigrants could not protest any infringement of their rights, lest they be fired and replaced. Their efforts contributed to Congress ending the Bracero Program in 1964. In 1973, the UFW was one of the first labor unions to oppose proposed employer sanctions that would have prohibited hiring undocumented immigrants. Later during the 1980s, while Chavez was still working alongside Huerta, he was key in getting the amnesty provisions into the 1986 federal immigration act.

    On a few occasions, concerns that undocumented migrant labor would undermine UFW strike campaigns led to a number of controversial events, which the UFW describes as anti-strikebreaking events, but which have also been interpreted as being anti-immigrant. In 1969, Chavez and members of the UFW marched through the Imperial and Coachella Valleys to the border of Mexico to protest growers’ use of undocumented immigrants as strikebreakers. Joining him on the march were Reverend Ralph Abernathy and U.S. Senator Walter Mondale. In its early years, the UFW and Chavez went so far as to report undocumented immigrants who served as strikebreaking replacement workers (as well as those who refused to unionize) to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1973, the United Farm Workers set up a “wet line” along the United States-Mexico border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the United States illegally and potentially undermining the UFW’s unionization efforts. During one such event, in which Chavez was not involved, some UFW members, under the guidance of Chavez’s cousin Manuel, physically attacked the strikebreakers after peaceful attempts to persuade them not to cross the border failed.”

    In 1974, the union inaugurated its “Illegals Campaign,” in which it urged members to report undocumented workers to federal authorities for deportation.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=uDcsAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA86&lpg=PA86&dq=%22campaign+against+Illegals%22+UFW+Chavez&source=bl&ots=ubarGu_FLn&sig=FEAVzVWokGPOYMYdYI_OugxFQB8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSs6mNwIzMAhULNj4KHQjPDpgQ6AEITjAI#v=onepage&q=%22campaign%20against%20Illegals%22%20UFW%20Chavez&f=false

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