Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Immigration Reform is about Worker's Rights

marjorie says...

I’ve been struggling with how to say all the things that come up for me when I consider the reactionary attitude toward immigrants so prevalent in this country. As immigration has increased over the past decade, it’s obvious that much of this reaction is under girded by a strong racist impulse. Working people of a different culture and ethnicity are easy targets for the frustration and anger that ought to more accurately be directed at the top of the corporate/government pyramid. It’s at the top that decisions have been made resulting in the decimation of our manufacturing base, the decline of our labor unions, and the consequent shrinking of our middle class. Combine the historic racism so prevalent in this country with rampant job insecurity and you have a tailor made recipe for reactionary impulses toward a predominantly Latino immigrant working class.

When I get asked what my “solution” to the “immigration problem” is, I find myself struggling with how to answer without upending entirely the notion that there is a problem. Because I do believe there’s a problem, but it’s primarily a problem of how to take care of the needs of our lowest-paid workers, both immigrant and non-immigrant. It isn’t a problem of how to protect ourselves as a culture or an economy from a threatening horde of foreigners.

It disturbs me greatly to see the pitting of normal, everyday working people from this country against those who should be their allies in a struggle to maintain some semblance of economic equality in this country. The reality is that we are all enmeshed in a restructured global economy together, an economy in which a global capitalist class literally sucks the resources out of the global south to their benefit, leading to mass migrations of workers the world over to the richer, first world countries. At the same time, our own high wage manufacturing jobs have been taken away.

On our trip north to Colorado this week, I stopped with my co-workers at the Ludlow Massacre Memorial just northwest of Trinidad. To be in the space in which 24 distinct languages were spoken among a striking workforce that lived in a tent colony together for almost a year was just what I needed this week. The kind of unity that existed in that space in 1913 and 1914 is what we need now.

Right now there is great debate in the Senate about proposed immigration reform legislation. If a package gets passed, it will have enormous life consequences for millions of people who work here, and it will also greatly impact all of us in other ways.

For instance, one measure would build a fence along the U.S. Mexico border and greatly ramp up the military and police presence there. This isn’t to keep terrorists out…it’s to keep workers out. Frankly, I find the advocacy of, not to mention the building of, such a wall…immoral. It isn’t good for immigrants, nor is it good for my own peace of mind.

Concurrent with the border “security” provisions are proposals to create a worker program in which a person could hold their job for only two years. A New York Times editorial called this a system of modern peonage” and I wholeheartedly concur. I encourage all of you to read that editorial, in fact, for a better understanding of what is being considered by congress. You can see the editorial in its entirety on Swopblogger here, along with a breakdown this week of points to highlight in calls to Domenici and Bingaman, provided by Santa Fe immigrant’s rights organization Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

The immigration package being debated is going to change dramatically over the coming weeks. I believe that the package as originally proposed is a bad deal. But it’s possible that it could be fixed…please join me in communicating with our senators about what should be the core principles: the valuing of human rights and family unification for everyone who works in this country.

Some of the essential points, in my mind:

· All workers in this country regardless of status should be afforded safety, dignity, and a living wage.

· Building a wall and militarizing our border endangers the lives of working people and must be stopped.

· Immigration policy should recognize reality and provide a safe route to work in this country, and legal status to the millions who come here seeking work.

· The right to organize is fundamental to having a just and equal society, for all of us regardless of whether or not we are part of a union. This right needs to be protected and enhanced through our legal system. And we need to direct resources to organizing across the board.

Senator Bingaman: 505-346-6601.

Senator Domenici: 505-346-6791.

Or the DC switchboard: 800-417-7666.

En La Lucha!