Human Rights

Don't Fall for Bush's Immigration Scam

Pizzo argues that liberals are flummoxed by the issue of immigration and losing ground by being overly politically correct. He says our focus should be on common-sense regulations and enforcement.
Editor's note: This is one of two pieces in a point/ counterpoint format. Please see Joshua Holland's response here.

Traditional conservative William F. Buckley was once asked how he would describe a "liberal." He thought for moment, his snakelike tongue darting about just behind open lips, then spoke.

"A liberal is someone who overwaters their house plants."

Ouch! That hurt. Because he was right. I knew exactly what he meant. Why would a liberal overwater a house plant? Because they were mean? No. Quite the opposite. They were just trying to help. Because liberals are nice people -- sometimes too nice. Liberals have overdeveloped empathy glands. When they tell you they "feel your pain," they mean it -- even if at that particular moment you're not feeling it.

Now, before you jump all over me, I'm a liberal. (Well, a social liberal anyway, though I tend to be more conservative when it comes to things like balancing the federal checkbook.) But on social issues I'm right there -- choice for women, equality for everyone and more than a little suspicious about what the domestic Axis of Evil -- corporate/political/media nexus -- are up to.

But, just as conservatives always go too far with their proclivities, so too do liberals. And for both, that is always their downfall. We are coming to the end -- whew! -- of a conservative cycle and just beginning the next liberal cycle. Be assured, it too will inevitably end in excess. But maybe we can avoid some obvious mistakes early on.

Which is why I am risking the ire of the liberal/progressive community to speak frankly about immigration reform. I know the war in Iraq is currently consuming almost all the available attention -- and rightfully so. But there are other festering wounds on America's body-politic that require immediate attention, and one of the biggest is immigration.

But before I put the war aside for a moment, we should all remind ourselves that the Democrats were also on the wrong side of that issue -- and for way too long. And, though they seem to have now gotten it right, it's too late. The damage is done, and it's irreversible. Simply put, Democrats were snookered, bamboozled and herded like sheep to the slaughter by conservatives on the war.

And now they are now being led to the slaughter again, by the same bunch, on immigration reform.

Yes, the Neocons are at it again. On the war they played on Democrat's fear of being seen as sissies. This time Neocons are playing on liberal empathy for the very real plight of illegal immigrants from Mexico. But as laudable as that empathy is, it's a trap and Democrats have taken the bait -- again.

By falling in step with the Bush administration's so-called "comprehensive immigration reform," Democrats are driving a dagger into the hearts of working class Americans, particularly those struggling to survive at the bottom of the income scale. In other words, they are about to screw the very people they claim should vote Democrat because only Democrats will help them.

Four years ago the Neocons sold the Iraq war with a lie ... that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Now they are selling their version of "comprehensive immigration reform" with another lie ... that immigrants, legal or otherwise, are simply taking jobs Americans won't do.

Well, then, how do you explain this story:
Wall Street Journal -- Jan. 17, 2007
Immigration Raid Aids Blacks
After a wave of raids by federal immigration agents in Stillmore, Ga., on Labor Day weekend, a local chicken processing company called Crider Inc. lost 75 percent of its mostly Hispanic 900-member work force. The crackdown threatened to cripple the economic anchor of this fading rural town.
But for local African-Americans, the dramatic appearance of federal agents presented an unexpected opportunity. Crider suddenly raised pay at the plant. An advertisement in the weekly Forest-Blade newspaper blared "Increased Wages" at Crider, starting at $7 to $9 an hour -- more than a dollar above what the company had paid many immigrant workers. The company began offering free transportation from nearby towns and free rooms in a company-owned dormitory near the plant. For the first time in years, local officials say, Crider aggressively sought workers from the area's state-funded employment office -- a key avenue for low-skilled workers to find jobs. Of 400 candidates sent to Crider -- most of them black -- the plant hired about 200. (Full Story)
So, what happened there? This local Stillmore chicken processing plant had been perking right along for years paying illegals immigrants wages so low it made more sense for American workers right there in town to remain unemployed. But once those those illegals were gone, forcing the company to offer a reasonable wage, local (American) workers stampeded to get a job there. The job hadn't changed. It was the same, dirty, smelly, messy chicken gut-flinging work as before -- the kind of work the company claimed "Americans won't do."

All that changed at the Crider plant were the wages on offer.

And that's what it's all about, boys and girls. The entire GOP "comprehensive immigration reform" scam is about wages -- specifically keeping U.S. wages low and company profit margins high.

Nevertheless there they are, our Democrats, parroting GOP demands for "comprehensive immigration reform." Which, if passed, would undercut American workers and gut what little is left of union power to negotiate wage and benefits with companies. ("What ya gonna do? You gonna strike? Go ahead, make our day.")

Oh sharper than serpent's tooth are politicians capable of so casually ditching their tried and true friends of yore. Scroll back up and read that WSJ excerpt again.
Who got jobs once the illegals were herded out of Crider's factory?
Unemployed local African-Americans, mostly.
And where had all those worker been?
Cooling their heels at the Stillmore unemployment office waiting for a job that paid something approximating a livable wage.
And what happened when such jobs were offered?
They stormed the Crider plant to claim one of those jobs the company had claimed "Americans won't do."
Now, isn't that precisely what Democrats say their party has been fighting for all these decades since the civil rights movement? I thought so. But here we have those same Democrats joining Republicans pushing for this thing they keep calling "comprehensive immigration reform." Which, if enacted as currently envisioned, would not only put those 200 newly employed Stillmore, Ga., workers back on the unemployment line, but guarantee that millions more like them remain unemployed.

I do have to amend an early statement. Attributing the Democrat's support for Bush's immigration policies to just empathy is giving them a bit too much credit. While empathy may be part of their motivation, realpolitik plays a big role as well. Democrat's figure Hispanics, as "people of color," are theirs by right. Never mind that the legislation backed by President Bush would screw millions of American citizens of color. The important thing for Democratic Party strategists is to say and do whatever it takes to make sure Hispanics don't vote Republican.

The trouble is that, once again, Republicans are playing chess and Democrats are playing checkers. While Democrats are simply trying to make their party attractive to Latino voters, Republicans are going for bigger game. Sure the GOP would like to attract Latino voters to their camp and have had some luck doing so, especially in places like Florida and Texas. But they have a second bigger and more significant goal: keeping American working class wages low for companies. And the best way to do that is to guarantee the surplus of cheap Mexican labor continues unabated.

And that's where American GOP policy dovetails nicely the needs of Mexicans. No, not the poor Mexicans risking their lives sneaking across the border. The GOP's real friends in Mexico are the handful of oligarch families and monopoly enterprises that have succeeded in rounding up the lion's share of Mexico's wealth for themselves. The porous U.S.-Mexican border serves as a safety valve for those Mexican oligarchs, providing Mexico's poor an alternative to rebellion. Those oligarchs understand all to well that the day that border is sealed is the first day of the revolution that will end their sweet deal.

All the above is why I have come to believe that liberal/progressives need to get their politically correct heads out of their butts on immigration reform -- and fast. Fool them once, shame on the Neocons. Fool them again, shame on the Democrats. What a bunch of suckers! First Democrats let themselves be snookered into voting for the Iraq war, and now they are on the verge of being snookered by the same Neocon con-men into voting for "comprehensive immigration reform." Dems were afraid voting against war would make them look like a bunch of sissies. Now they are afraid that not backing the GOP's "comprehensive immigration reform" would make them look like racists.

(Sometimes I'm forced to admire how Republicans maneuver Democrats into these kind of rhetorical traps. Think about it. Here are a bunch of lily-white Republicans seemingly embracing the La Raza position on immigration. What are the Democrats to do? If they oppose "comprehensive immigration reform," they look like a bunch of flag waving, ethnocentric rednecks. While Republicans, by backing their version of immigration reform look like -- well, like Democrats. Come on. Admit it. You have to give Neocon strategists a grudging wink for pulling that off.)

While those pushing the current version of "comprehensive immigration reform," would have us believe that this is a terribly complicated matter, it really isn't. Maybe that's all Democrats need, a simple alternative. Here it is:
Could the U.S. government deploy a simple, online, browser-based, database employers could use to verify the Social Security numbers provided by their employees?
Yes.
Could Congress require the INS/ICE to hire enough workplace auditors to assure that any company with more than ten employees is audited at least once each year?
Could Congress pass legislation authorizing guest workers that requires companies to pay the same wages to guest workers as they would have to pay American workers -- you know -- the ones they say "don't want those jobs."
Yes.
Could Congress craft a program for farmers that creates an orderly agricultural guest worker program?
Yes.
Could Congress put real teeth in laws for employers caught repeatedly hiring illegal workers?
Yes.
Could illegals already living in the U.S. eventually be "normalized?"
Yes -- though a teeth-grinding, grudging yes. But only after all the above is in place and operating smoothly. And once the fate of all future illegals is immediate deportation. Then, and only then, should those living in the United States for at least five years be issued green cards. After that they can get in line behind those who followed the rules in the first place.
See. It's really not complicated. And we don't need no stinkin' fence either. All we need is some common sense thinking and common sense rules supported by common sense enforcement -- primarily workplace enforcement.

But once again we're confronted by an issue with flabbergastingly enormous implications -- and a completely flummoxed liberal/progressive Democratic Party rushing towards the houseplants with pails of water.
Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," which was nominated for a Pulitzer.
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