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.