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Immigration Reform Must Consider Why People Migrate in the First Place

"Unless there's an alternative to the neoliberal economic order, in 20 years we'll have a similar debate about what to do with undocumented people that will be here because of the same neoliberal policies."

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--largest mass expulsions that we've seen in the history of humankind. We've seen 4 million people being deported--.

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The United States, at least since the 1990s, has deported 4 million people. The deportation of 4 million people, the physical removal of 4 million people, is a monumental feat in state violence. I can't think of a--very few countries have got rid of 4 million people, and at least in the 21st century, and the United States is one of them. We've deported millions of people to Latin America, to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, to the Philippines, to Cambodia. In these mass deportations we're deporting--.

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To countries where they don't--where they're strangers to these countries. Yet somehow we are still considered the most democratic country on the planet. And that's really interesting. If any other country in the world deported 4 million people, expelled 4 million people from its country, I think we would begin to question the democratic credentials of the country.

NOOR: Professor Gonzales, what would a just immigration reform bill look like in your opinion?

GONZALES: Well, at the very least we should see a bill that gives people a quick, swift, and clear path to citizenship. The current path to citizenship is riddled with tripwires, it's riddled with conditions, which I'm scared that we'll never actually see people get citizenship with this bill as it stands. And it's only going to get worse as amendments come up from the Republicans and as a bill emerges from the House. So I would say that a just immigration reform bill would give people a quick path toward citizenship. In fact, IRCA, 1986, people had to wait 19 months to get a green card, and once they had a green card, they could apply for citizenship. I think 19 months should be the minimum that people should have to wait to get a green card and a path to citizenship.

A just immigration reform bill would actually result in a changing U.S. foreign-policy, because that's really the real issue here, folks. We've got to see the mass migration of people from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States as a direct product of the neoliberal economic policies that these countries adopted at the suggestion of the World Bank and the IMF under the so-called Washington consensus, which promoted the adoption of these policies throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and the rest of the developing world. It's those policies that have led to the mass displacement of people from the developing world, from the Global South to the United States.

And these current immigration reform bills, they don't get to the heart of the matter. In fact, they assume that all we need to do is give people temporary status, turn them into guest workers, and build a border fence, that that's going to resolve the contradictions of globalization and migration. It's not, folks. What we have in front of us here with S 744 is a state-managed migration, where the state can bring people in as temporary workers and kick them out as soon as they're no longer needed. And that is an undemocratic process.

Historically this country has always wanted to have cheap flexible labor, a racialized labor force that they can treat different than the rest of the labor force but not give them the same rights of the majority of Americans. That is the ghost that haunts American political history, and this is something that we need to get over. And it's not going to be done simply through an immigration reform bill. That's going to take a mass movement of immigrants, of working-class people, especially people of color, to begin to question these historical policies, this historic tendency in this country to reduce people to simply workers and not giving them their rights as human beings.

 
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