Friday, March 31, 2006

How About A Little Economic Justice

The immigration issue in this country is coming to a head and if there was some sort of balance of power in DC, I would say, “great, it’s about time we had a real honest public conversation about this very important issue,” but since that is not the case, I’m a little worried about how this will play out. The Republicans are on the ropes and they need something that will drive their voters to the polls, and since they have effectively tied immigration to border security and there’s the added racial component, they may have found the perfect issue. Fear and bigotry rolled into one, just what Republicans like.

The problem for the country in having the Republicans control the debate on immigration reform is that they don’t give a damn about solving the problem, they only care about the political bounce they can get from demonizing illegal immigrants that are coming across our borders, well, more specifically our southern border. And just like with the Welfare mothers of the 80s, it’s not hard to sell working class Americans on the idea that they are struggling because those who are even poorer are stealing resources away from them. It was crap when Reagan shoveled it out, and it’s crap now.

There are some fundamental problems with the way we deal with illegal immigration in this country. First off, the Mexican government reads our slogan, “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free..” and they say, “Great, here you go,” because it’s of great economic benefit to them. For our part, we just wink and nod because big business in this country benefits greatly from the cheap labor they provide. Without tackling the real economic problems in Mexico, unemployment and underemployment for a start, people are going to do what they can to provide for their families, and for many on our southern border, that means coming to the United States to work. And until we address the fundamental inequities in the distribution of wealth in this country, cynical politicians will always be able to turn us against each other. There will always be a “them” to point to, but somehow it’s never the “them” at the top.

While I understand the frustration that people in border communities feel about the so-called “drain” on their public resources, by aiming that frustration at poor immigrants, we miss the real point. Taxpayers are footing the bill while big business is reaping all the benefits. Not exactly a fair policy, but those who benefit from illegal workers are not going to volunteer to give up their profits to solve the problem, and that is what must change. We should all believe in the words of welcome that we roll out to the rest of the world. We want to continue to be a refuge for those seeking a better life. That is fundamentally who we are, building a wall to keep people out is not what America has ever been about, nor should we ever allow it to be.

For those sitting on top of the U.S. Economic ladder, it seems like a no-brainer. Create an under class that will give the poor in this country someone to look down on, and no one will notice the money that the rich siphon off the top. This is the same strategy employed in the 80s and it worked like a charm. Working class Americans were pissed off at the woman down the street who kept having kids so she could stay on welfare (never the epidemic is was made out to be), while they worked their butts off in the local factory, never mind that the amount of taxpayer dollars that were spent on poor single mothers was only a fraction of what was given away in the form of corporate welfare. Creating a villain that people can understand and point to in their own lives, always provides the perfect cover for the real economic drain that is usually much more complicated to follow.

So, here we are again, if we can see the Mexican family at the public hospital, paying for services with a Medicaid card while we struggle to pay for health insurance for our family, it’s easy to misplace our frustration. If those of us who see the bigger picture refuse to speak out when we encounter bigotry and misplaced anger, we will be contributing to the vilification of illegal immigrants that will last as long as it has for poor single mothers on welfare. It’s almost thirty years later and I still hear it, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit idly by and watch it happen again, we’ve got enough problems with race and class in this country without Republicans stealing our money and blaming illegal immigrants for the fact that our country is broke. Let’s make sure we get some real workable solutions to the complicated issue of immigration reform, and let’s keep our eyes on the money this time. I’m pretty sure I know the pockets it’ll be going into, and they aren’t made of denim, that’s for damn sure.


Anonymous Dale Hippert said...


I don't disagree with your broad strokes, however I do have some concerns with particulars.

“Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free..” has always been a welcome extended to legal immigrants. In the age of sail and steamer they were welcomed onto the same island that bears that emblem of welcome.

Now we have a situation that is unfair to those who enter through legal processes.

"If you want to come to America, knock on the front door!"

Neither am I inclined to let Mexico and the U.S. off the hook for not dealing with the economic issues that have had both Nations 'winking' at each other.

Unless and until those issues are dealt with more effectively we need to 'stop the bleeding'.

The proposed 700 mile fence is not continuous and is meant to channel legal entry, decrease illegal entry and facilitate safer, more secure commerce in both directions.

Just because there is villification, demonization and general race baiting coming from some does not mean that there is not a serious problem.

Here is a link to a somewhat different view of the matter.

"Americans recoil at the volatile ethnic enclaves in France and the Netherlands--and can understand how such tribalism could quickly escalate to sectarian violence in Iraq, the Balkans, and Rwanda. Unless we curb the present influx, return to the melting pot, and salvage a legal remedy from the present illegal disaster, what we saw this week may only be the beginning of something far more dangerous from both sides of this avoidable crisis."

3:48 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Dale--I don't disagree with you either, there is a problem and it needs to be dealt with, absolutely. I just hope that in fixing the problem, we don't create more (a la Iraq). There is no way to make everyone happy, and illegal immigration is a real problem but criminalizing behavior rather than tackling the root causes (much like the war on drugs) will only make matters worse. We cannot allow an underclass to flourish in this country, which is a good reason to stop the stream of illegal immigrants over our borders, but it's also a reason to do it right and economic justice has to play a role in that fix. We cannot continue to let the rich get richer while only making the poor seem richer by bringing poverty to new lows.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Dale Hippert said...


I suspect the criminalization will be less draconian than you fear.

The Republicans actions will be tempered by the realization that they will not hold on to the gains in Hispanic support that they saw in the '93 election, IF they over emphazize the punitive relative to the prevention.

The polls are showing strong bi-partisan support for a balanced approach.

The long term solution is just that. In the meantime....?

4:33 PM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

very nice post ... it is pretty disgusting that the same powers that creating the immigration crisis in order to create cheap slave labor here and drive the unions and decent wage jobs into the shitter are now gettin' ready to beat up on the slaves again ... bring in a labor class willing to do anything for survival which gives not a shit and has little knowledge about "rights" and you've got the climate the fascistos love ... it is very fucked up that working people are portrayed as unwilling to do those jobs in this country ... that's such a fascist myth ... as neil dealt with nicely recently ... should an american worker be labeled a slacker because they won't accept getting fucked in the ass with a 5 dollar an hour job ... does that make immigrants morally superior and harder working than those already here? give me a fucking break ... people will do what they have to do ... I have nothing against anybody trying to survive... but I have plenty against people who vote against the union whether immigrant or not ... the experience with some of the meatpackers out there in the northwest has been that the illegals have been enemies of the unions in some instances ... come here fine ... come here as labor, then throw down with labor, learn the constitution, and fight the fat cats for a few more crumbs ... don't subvert the fight ... that's my beef with some of the immigrants .. it is subverting the fight ... and let's face it ... there is not a population crisis in this country ... we don't need to add another 10 million unplanned for unprepared for humans ... it really fucks with things ... that being said, individuals are individuals and need to be treated as such ... I know that some immigrants have taken to the streets in demos ... and that's good ... there's a little free speech there ... desperation will do it to ya ... the middle class ain't desperate enough here yet (and that includes the lower middle class) or you can bet there'd be plenty of shit in the streets (bring back a draft and you'll see the middle class in the streets because then there will be desperation) ... well, shit ... I think I've completely lost the thread of this ramble ... but hey, that's rory in a comment box for ya ... and by the way ... some of my best friends are immigrants ...

5:36 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Let's make it easy for people to get in and we can track and regulate them more easily. Besides, all these borders just give us more shit to kill each other over. Yeah, told ou I was a liberal. I'mthe worst kind.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Dale Hippert said...

Yellow Dog~

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"

No problem here, you're showing an admirably 'large mind'!

Which is it, more easily or legally? Seems like it's too easy as is.

"Track and regulate"? Well shit, I'm not looking forward to checking my Cheerios for embedded GPS
chips. Sure they can only follow me for a day, if I had prunes with it, but still!

6:46 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Yeah, I worried that might not sound good, but all I meant is plug them into the sme system that I'm plugged into. And, yes, I mean make legal residency easy. I must be more careful.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

How about this: let who ever wants to come to America, come to America. When you show up at work, work makes sure the government knows who you are, that you pay into SSI unemployment and the rest. That way we know who everyone is, everyone makes at least minimum wage and there’s nothing to be gained by anyone lying or hiding anything. No more border hoppers, no more sweatshops, no more human trafficking.

7:51 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Rory--I love your rants!

Yellow Dog--Glad you cleared that up.

Dale--That's some seriously vivid imagery, I'm glad I already ate.

Michael--Sounds good to me! When can I cast a vote for you?! This is exactly the kind of rational approach I think we're all hoping for. I know I am.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" And until we address the fundamental inequities in the distribution of wealth in this country..."

So if I have more money than you then I should give you mine?

6:47 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Anonymous--If you want to (I knew I should have put that pay pal button on my site). What I meant was the gap between the rich and the poor is growing and so is the percentage of income between the lowest paid worker and the highest paid worker (read CEO) in most corporations and large companies. Real wages are down for most working Americans while oil companies are reaping windfall profits. There are problems in the way our economy and tax structure is working for those at the top while simultaneously screwing those at the bottom. That's what I meant by inequities in the distribution of wealth. Upward mobility used to be possible, now they’re just words.

7:35 PM  
Blogger JmL said...

There is a little truth mixed in with all the comments here. Forget that anyone who comes here illegally is a felon, we can't assimilate everyone who wants to come here. We have to be reasonable when it comes to immigration. I'm not saying all, but a lot of those that come here are not interested in becoming Americans, and that should trouble us. I don't care where you come from, if you come here legally, then welcome. Other than that, hit the road. We all need to break out of the false left vs. right paradigm that imprisons us and use our common sense to solve these problems. Republicans and Democrats are bad for America.

1:47 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

JML--Very good point and I tend to agree about Dems and Repubs. Our two party system is more political theater than actually doing the people's business.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Skippy said...

This immigration issue just has wheels within wheels -- economic justice, human rights, nasty political fights and re-alignments within the political parties, huge public preceptions and misperceptions. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Ane issue that has me very interested is the African-American take on this -- that communitiy's leadership seems to b egetting very worried and upset because the huge wave of Hispanic immigration may threaten their power in the Democratic party and some urban politics. The general unease they feel about thier constituency is showing as they seem to feel their community is under direct attack economically by the Hispanisc immigrants in particular.

There are some very weird things now happening in Californaa as traditional African-American communities are being overrun with new Hispanic immigrants and the L.A. Democratic organization is now essentially Latino.

I have a friend in L.A. who says Watts and Inglewood will be about 80 percent Latino in 20 years. What's that all about?

Anybody else, maybe LGND, have a comment on how the African-American community is dealing with the immigration issue?

5:44 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Skippy--You bring up an interesting aspect of the illegal immigration issue, especially in Southern California. I have to confess that I don't know enough about the social situation and racial tensions that are bugeoning around the influx of illegal immigrants into what used to be predomonintly black neighborhoods, but it's worth looking into and I will. Thanks.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Litwin said...

As with many complicated problems, we just need to be careful how we seek to address these issues as a nation. You see a perfect example of the risks with the new law requiring Medicaid recipient to show proof of citizenship. (You can check it out here.)

Giving the bill's sponsors and supporters the benefit of the doubt here, we can say the bill had good intentions in trying to preserve America's resources for America's needy. Yet the result is surely the to also deprive many eligible Americans from receiving the aid they deserve because they, just like an illegal immigrant, are unable to provide a birth certificate or passport to prove that they are a citizen. I can't imagine that the same person wouldn't be allowed back in the country (after some delay) if they left without a passport or birth certificate. So why would we deny them medical care on Tuesday for not having a document they didn't need on Monday?

Fear of immigrants using our resources cannot stand in the way of our needy having access to our resources. We are a rich enough country that we can afford to waste a fair amount in order to ensure access by all those both eligible and in need.

As an aside, I always enjoy reading your blog and always wish my blog received a fraction of the discussion....

1:52 PM  

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