Another View of Amnesty for Illegal Workers

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It is beyond dispute that undocumented immigration disproportionately
impacts low-wage, mostly African American
workers. The debate ought to be about what the solution
Certainly, black Americans should view with suspicion the
right wing’s newfound interest in their economic plight. If
Republicans cared about low-wage black workers, they
would have supported the proposed minimum wage hike,
living wage protocols across the country and health care
reform, all of which disproportionately impact poor blacks.
So, we know their motives are suspect. They are simply
exploiting the plight of black workers to advance an antiimmigrant
The fact is, what conservatives are prescribing as a solution
will exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, the job crisis in the
black community. Their insistence on punitive measures to
further isolate and marginalize immigrants will guarantee a
permanent reservoir of exploitable labor for employers.
Undocumented immigrants with no rights cannot exercise
basic workplace rights, such as joining a union. That is exactly
what employers want. It is that vulnerability that puts
downward pressure on wages and hurts native-born workers.
If we agree that it is not feasible to deport 12 million
undocumented people, then we must ask what is the best
solution? Our (the progressive) solution that calls for status
legalization will confer rights on undocumented immigrants,
and thus deny employers the cheap labor they
want. With their newfound rights, immigrant workers can
work with African American workers to build power in the
workplace, form or join unions, and fight for better wages
together. They can join other movements and organize
around a broader, far reaching political agenda that
includes national health care, global warming, school funding,
Iraq War, post-Bush civil rights restoration, and so on.
We need to force a public debate on these two alternative
visions of immigration reform. The marginalization
course sought by conservatives will ensure continued distress
for low-wage American workers, while the more
humane, morally compelling course advocated by progressives
promises to benefit both categories of workers, is consistent
with American constitutional tenets of “freedom and
equality for all” and imposes accountability on policy makers
who have supported NAFTA-style trade deals.
Indeed, policy makers should be put on the defensive
for these trade agreements. That NAFTA and CAFTA have
exacerbated undocumented immigration is no longer
debatable. Where is the accountability of politicians who
continue to push these trade deals, even as we speak? I
think we spend way too much time defending immigrants,
instead of attacking trade policy. The Democrats and
Republicans who gave us these trade agreements should be
put on trial, not their immigrant victims.
Finally, we should force Americans to reflect on what
America will look like with 12 million people existing on
the margins of politics and economy, devoid of all rights. Is
that an America people can be comfortable with? And what
about the “border wall” as a solution? Few believe it will
work and, in a post-Cold War era, it should be an insult to
those who always believed that free societies do not build
walls around themselves.

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