Ten Years–the Situation Hasn’t Changed

Posted on April 7, 2014

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Although U. S. President George W. Bush didn’t include Mexico’s president Vicente Fox in his suggested “opening the doors to debate” over immigration reform in January 2004, he did re-activate many old immigration clichés by proposing “earned legalization” for current workers and an extended guest worker program that would grant temporary residency to immigrants for up to three years. He made no mention of reducing Border Patrol pursuits and apprehensions nor of changing what Sean Garcia of he Latin American Working Group called an “inhumane and ineffective” border blockade.

“It has failed to reduce undocumented migration, it has redirected migrants to their peril, and it has led to an increase in civil rights violations by a dangerously inexperienced Border Patrol force. Despite these failures, the deadly policies continue, with a proposed budget of $6.2 billion for border enforcement in 2005 alone.”

The federal Government Accounting Office (GAO) characterized the Department of Homeland Security as disorganized and ineffective and criticized the lack of coordination between ICE and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. A Border Patrol report obtained by the Associated Press acknowledged that only 6 percent of the immigrant smugglers the agency apprehended actually were prosecuted during 2004. AP quoted T. J. Bonner complaining that the lack of prosecutions is “demoralizing the agents and making a joke out of our system of justice.”

Proposals for earned legalization and guest worker authorizations generally omit mention of employer responsibilities for anything besides paperwork. Many immigrants who achieved amnesty under the Simpson-Rodino Act of 1986 continued to earn less than minimum wage and to contend with shop and field conditions detrimental to their safety and health.

Current labor laws offer built-in protections but they cannot be enforced by a federal government that continually cuts back on inspections, manpower and administration. The Pew Hispanic Center reported that although 95 percent of new immigrants were working, 38 percent were unemployed for 30 days or more during the previous year. This lack of permanent employment caused the United Farm Workers’ membership to decline. Many United Farm Workers moved and took non-UFW jobs, or found work in the restaurant or construction industries, or returned to Mexico. Others lost their jobs to esquiroles that employers surreptitiously hired. One UFW organizer that I talked to described agricultural workers as “a fluid mass” without union experience and the ability “only to see one dollar at a time.”

President Bush’s proposed “opening the doors” to immigration debate never got past the threshold. Criticism from election year Republicans pushed it aside and the administration, instead of opting for worker accords, increased border security and ICE raids on undocumented workers. The prolonged conflict in Iraq took precedent as Bush, running for re-election as a “get tough” commander in chief, needed clear-cut issues for his campaign. Neo-conservative backers insisted that the “War on Terror” was the primary issue for most Americans. Heather MacDonald of the ultra-right Manhattan Institute summed up neo-con thinking by advising, “Washington should allocate the resources to detain and deport illegals and should start enforcing long-standing laws against employing alien lawbreakers. A deafening roar of ‘racism’ will result—but with the country at war, pandering to the race advocates must give way to protecting American lives.” How criminalizing indocumentados would save the life of even one American she didn’t explain but the philosophy speaks for itself: Scapegoat those who can’t fight back.

From Why Immigrants Come to America  http://www.amazon.com/Why-Immigrants-Come-America-Indocumentados/dp/0313348308

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