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Commentary :: Labor
Why politicians hate immigrants
28 Apr 2006
Throughout the history of the United States immigrant workers have been the victims of racism, exploitation, and in times of war, internment and violent attacks. While Spanish-speaking immigrants have had especially turbulent periods in the past, only recently have politicians made attempts at further marginalizing this already oppressed layer of society. Why these attacks are suddenly reemerging is something left unexplained in the mainstream media, and is thus an important issue to examine.
Historically, the political ‘issue’ of immigration, or rather, anti-immigration demagogy, has surfaced when the social conditions of a nation become unstable; in response, the political clique in power (or the one attempting to gain power) resorts to the useful political strategy known as ‘nationalism’— for practical purposes, it can also be referred to as ‘scapegoating’. The tactic is a sign of desperation, and crisis. The origin of this political phenomenon lies in our economic system, which inevitably creates poor and disenfranchised sections of the population who, if not directed into alternative paths, would focus their frustration on those who control society’s wealth. Nationalism in this regard becomes extremely important: in order for the elite to hide the outrageous inequities of society, scapegoats are created that are supposedly to blame for the troubles of the ‘nation’, enabling conflicting classes of society to band together in condemnation of a vulnerable minority group. Nationalism allows the rich to share certain concerns with the poor, the usual suspects being fear, racism, regionalism, heterosexuality, religion, war, or a combination. In this way the upper classes can portray themselves as being part of a ‘national’ community that shares the same chauvinistic values with the poor, where as before the lower classes would traditionally unite around the inherently common interests they had against the rich.

Nationalistic governments are often able to cleverly disguise themselves behind a racist usage of the word ‘culture’. This tactic often results in the now widely used maxim ‘clash of cultures’— something that the USA supposedly has with the Muslim world. Characteristic of this approach is the media’s focus on cultural differences between the USA and various regions of the Middle East; language, dress, religion (the idea of ‘Jihad’ in particular), economic-backwardness, and other differences are focused upon to explain the inevitability of confrontation, or to push reactionary legislation. The ways that these cultural differences are exploited by politicians are innumerable, with the current administration reaching new heights of charlatanism. The media depicts the United States as on a peaceful mission of spreading democracy to an inherently backward region of dictators and religious fanaticism. We are never told the truth on why the Middle East has suffered a century of chaos— explaining the ways in which imperialist countries created irrational boarders to control these oil-rich regions would of course be counterproductive.

The inevitable result of these tactics of nationalism is the dehumanization of minority groups. After we are taught that these groups have irreconcilable beliefs with our (white) culture, it is hard to relate to them as equals; we are told that they do even share our most fundamental beliefs in the world (equality, freedom, liberty, etc), and the natural conclusion is that their ‘culture’ is somehow inferior, since they appear incapable of coming to the more basic conclusions of what it means to be human. These unfortunate conclusions have successfully enabled the American ruling classes to pacify large portions of its population, preventing hardly an eyebrow from being raised at the atrocities committed in Central and South America, and now in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although the blatant racism directed towards Muslims has enabled the US military to adopt an aggressive foreign policy, the desired domestic policy has required further trickery. Politicians are now attempting to use the irrational fear of Muslims to conjure an intensified discrimination towards Spanish-speaking immigrants, using the so-called ‘war on terror’ as a pretext for shifting attention and discontent to the southern border, where the race-card is being applied once again to distract and guide the public away from the deepening economic crisis.

At the inner-core of the immigration debate lies a deepening global corporate profit-crises; in an attempt to combat this phenomenon, a finance-driven globalization is being intensified, creating havoc for the working classes of all countries. A crucial component in keeping profit-rates from plummeting further is the unrelenting attack on workers wages and benefits. At this stage of capitalism, the attack on workers is needed to keep the system afloat, as the old ways of doing business have met their limit; the nation-state was too small for a system that needs unending growth, and has resulted in the profit-based globalization that economists are finding new and creative ways to rationalize. During the period of extended economic expansion, corporations begrudgingly raised the living standards of their workers. Unfortunately, this era is over, and the opposite is now true. This prolonged downturn in profit-rates has made investors desperate, and to attract capital now a corporation must show its commitment to the bottom line, always at the expense of the workers. This process, which is destroying America’s industrial base, and outsourcing jobs to where slave-labor is best insured, has been touted by politicians as an unstoppable and socially necessary force. The result for workers has been nothing less of devastation; wages, pensions, and health-care are being quickly eradicated. Our politicians are not blind to the effects, and feel the breath of social outrage on their necks. Their only answer in addressing the issue by creating smokescreens: immigrants and Muslims are to blame! As the social crisis deepens so too will the repression and racism directed towards these vulnerable groups.

However necessary scapegoating is for the sake of distraction, a contradiction remains in the congressional immigration ‘debates’: corporations desperately need immigrant labor to work slave-wages to fuel the economy, without which, things would certainly go from bad to worse; at the same time, the ailing economy needs to be explained in a way that shifts attention away from the oligarchy and its annual trickle of new billionaires. This is why a ‘guess worker’ program is being considered; it is an interesting combination of legislation that tries to balance the interests of business with the racist motives of politicians. The ‘compromise’ legislation puts immigrants into the position of being the unquestioned tools of big-business, where they will be carted into the country with a specific agenda, most likely directed to a particular company to which they will be bound. And when their usefulness ends, so will their ‘privilege’, ending with deportation. As for corporations, they become residents in any country they choose simply by stating their intention to migrate, with all benefits of citizenry immediately granted— for a human to immigrate, a slavish contract must first be fulfilled, after which there is no guarantee of even basic civil rights. Regardless of how the specifics of the ‘guest worker’ program will be worked out, it will mean that immigrants will be institutionalized second-class citizens, conveniently at the disposal of politicians for further blame and scapegoating as future social crises’ appear. It can be assured that these workers will be unable to protest harsh conditions, slave-wages, or register a minor complaint— the result surely resulting in unemployment, and consequent deportation.

Because the labor movement in the United States has been heavily corrupted by an unholy alliance with big-business, a nationalist perspective has been force-fed to workers to hide their conflict of interests with corporations. The union bureaucracy claims that workers and corporations have the same goals, and that cooperation is needed to insure that the companies of the United States are able to stand up against foreign rivals. ‘America First’ campaigns were launched that pit US workers against those from other countries, and a race to the bottom commenced. This ‘cooperation’ has resulted in decades of sacrifices for workers, as CEO’s and stock-holders continue to outdo one another with outlandish compensation packages and colossal dividends. The futility of the nationalist labor approach met its epitome when worker’s unions became accomplices in foreign military aggressions, so that corporations could secure new markets that supposedly benefited the average worker with ‘job security’; this too has been proven a fraud. The America First campaign was in fact a ‘Corporation First’ policy that placed the workers interest at a distant second. The attack on immigrants now is a sad conclusion to decades of a labor approach that has lowered worker consciousness and provided no political solutions to their problems.

Because they are often unaware of the above information, ‘liberals’ are often guilty of unintentionally arguing the immigration debate from a right-wing perspective; a typical example of this can be found in the following argument: “we should take care of the poor people from this country first, before we spend resources on immigrants”. This common line of thought also looks at society from a ‘nationalist’ perspective rather than a class perspective. The poor of all countries serve a vital function, and will never be cared for under the current social contract— they are a necessary component in a system of exploitation that only a minority benefit from. Ignoring the fact that there is a small-class of billionaires in a country where there are 40+ million people live in poverty is symptomatic of a perspective that accepts the most grotesque horrors of our economic system, while unconsciously shifting the blame on an already abused minority.

So what would a ‘proper’ immigration policy require? The first prerequisite is recognizing the actual cause of the problem, so energy can be properly channeled. Immigration only emerges as a problem when the profit-system is experiencing a crisis, and the middle and lower classes find their situation going from bad to intolerable, creating a desperateness that is exploited by politicians with quick-fixes.

Immigrants are the victims of the same economic system that destroys the lives of the poor in the US, as well as the rest of the world. Further proof of the international character of the phenomenon lies in the fact that virtually every first-world nation is implementing similar racist immigrant laws while attacking the living standards of their own citizens, likewise due to the international crisis of the world economy— the same, underlying process that has intensified racism and created vast unemployment. To solve an international problem requires a global perspective. The oppressed of every race, gender, and nation need to recognize their common plight, and unite in order to have their interests met. The only way that the majority of the earth’s population will benefit from the immense wealth of society is by eliminating the profit system, and producing instead for human needs. This requires breaking the chauvinistic bonds of nationalism and adopting an international socialist perspective.

The current scenario is reminiscent of a scene from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath: the orchard owners took advantage of the desperateness of the Depression, making the hordes of unemployed compete for intolerably low-paying work, all the while diverting attention away from the fact that a tiny group of men were in possession of all the land.

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Re: Why politicians hate immigrants
29 Apr 2006
Since when do politicians hate immigrants. Democrats love immigrants.
Re: Why politicians hate immigrants
29 Apr 2006
Immigration Flood Unleashed by NAFTA
By Roger Bybee and Carolyn Winter
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 27 April 2006

The recent ferment on immigration policy has been so narrow that it has
excluded the real issue: family-sustaining wages for workers both north and
south of the border. The role of the North American Free Trade Agreement and
misnamed "free trade" has been scarcely mentioned in the increasingly bitter
debate over the fate of America's 11 to 12 million illegal aliens.

NAFTA was sold to the American public as the magic formula that would
improve
the American economy at the same time as it would raise up the impoverished
Mexican economy. The time has come to look at the failures of this type of
trade agreement before we engage in more, and further lower the economic
prospects of all workers affected.

While there has been some media coverage of NAFTA's ruinous impact on US
industrial communities, there has been even less media attention paid to its
catastrophic effects in Mexico:

-NAFTA, by permitting heavily-subsidized US corn and other agri-business
products to compete with small Mexican farmers, has driven Mexican farmers
off
the land due to low-priced imports of US corn and other agricultural
products.
Some 2 million Mexicans have been forced out of agriculture, and many of
those
that remain are living in desperate poverty. These people are among those
that
cross the border to feed their families. (Meanwhile, corn-based tortilla
prices
climbed by 50%. No wonder so many Mexican peasants have called NAFTA their
"death warrant.")

-NAFTA's service-sector rules allowed big firms like Wal-Mart to enter the
Mexican market and, selling low-priced goods made by ultra-cheap labor in
China, to displace locally-based shoe, toy, and candy firms. An estimated
28,000 small and medium-sized Mexican businesses have been eliminated.

-Wages along the Mexican border have actually been driven down by about 25%
since NAFTA, reported a Carnegie Endowment study. An over-supply of workers,
combined with the government-sponsored crushing of union organization, has
resulted in sweatshop pay along the border where wages now typically run 60
cents to $1 an hour.

So rather than improving living standards, Mexican wages have actually
fallen since NAFTA. The initial growth in the number of jobs has leveled
off,
with China's even more repressive labor system luring US firms to locate
there
instead.

But Mexicans must still contend with the results of the American-owned
"maquiladora" sweatshops: subsistence-level wages, pollution, congestion,
horrible living conditions (cardboard shacks and open sewers), and a lack of
resources (for streetlights and police) to deal with a wave of violence
against
vulnerable young women working in the factories. The survival (or
less)-level
wages coupled with harsh working conditions have not been the great answer
to
Mexican poverty, while they have temporarily been the answer to Corporate
America's demand for low wages.

With US firms unwilling to pay even minimal taxes, NAFTA has hardly
produced
the promised uplift in the lives of Mexicans. Ciudad Juarez Mayor Gustavo
Elizondo, whose city is crammed with US-owned low-wage plants, expressed it
plainly: "We have no way to provide water, sewage, and sanitation workers.
Every year, we get poorer and poorer even though we create more and more
wealth."

Falling industrial wages, peasants forced off the land, small businesses
liquidated, growing poverty: these are direct consequences of NAFTA. This
harsh
suffering explains why so many desperate Mexicans lured to the border area
in
the false hope that they could find dignity in the US-owned maquiladoras -
are
willing to risk their lives to cross the border to provide for their
families.
There were 2.5 million Mexican illegals in 1995; 8 million have crossed the
border since then. In 2005, some 400 desperate Mexicans died trying to enter
the US.

NAFTA failed to curb illegal immigration precisely because it was never
designed as a genuine development program crafted to promote rising living
standards, health care, environmental cleanup, and worker rights in Mexico.
The
wholesale surge of Mexicans across the border dramatically illustrates that
NAFTA was no attempt at a broad uplift of living conditions and democracy in
Mexico, but a formula for
government-sanctioned corporate plunder benefiting elites on both sides of
the
border.

NAFTA essentially annexed Mexico as a low-wage industrial suburb of the
US
and opened Mexican markets to heavily-subsidized US agribusiness products,
blowing away local producers. Capital could flow freely across the border
freely to low-wage factories and Wal-mart-type retailers, but the same
standard
of free access would be denied to Mexican workers.

Meanwhile, with the planned Central American Free Trade Agreement with
five
Central American nations coming up, we can anticipate even greater pressure
on
our borders as agricultural workers are pushed off the land without
positive,
alternative employment opportunities. People from Guatemala and Honduras
will
soon learn that they can't compete for industrial jobs with the most
oppressed
people in say, China, by agreeing to lowering their wages even more.
Further,
impoverished Central American countries don't have the resources to deal
with
the pollution and crime that results from moving people from rural areas to
the
city, often without their families.

Thus far, we have been presented with a narrow range of options to cope
with
the tide of illegal immigrants living fearfully in the shadows of American
life. Should they simply be walled off and criminalized, as Sensenbrenner
and
House Republicans suggest? The Sensenbrenner option seeks to exploit the
sentiment that illegal immigrants entering the US rather than US corporation
exiting the US for Mexico and China are the primary cause of falling wages
for
most Americans.

The Bush version is only slightly different, envisioning the illegal
immigrants as part of a vast disposable pool of cheap labor with no
meaningful
rights on the job or even the right to vote, to be returned to Mexico upon
the
whim of their employers.

Yet there is another well-known path of economic and social integration
that
has been ignored in the debates over immigration in the US: the one followed
by
the European Union and their social charter calling for decent wages, health
care, and extensive retraining in all nations. Before then-impoverished
nations
like Spain, Greece and Portugal were admitted, they received massive EU
investments in roads, health care, clean water, and education. The
implementation of democracy, including worker rights, was an equally vital
pre-condition for entry into the EU.

Theunderlying concept: the entire reason for trade is to provide
improved
lives across borders, not to exploit the cheapest labor and weakest
environmental rules. We need to question the widely-held assumption that
what
benefits American corporations benefits Mexican workers and American
workers.
An authentic plan for growth and development isn't about further enriching
Wall
Street, major corporations, and a handful of Mexican billionaires; it is
about
the creation of family-supporting jobs. It is also about a healthy
environment,
healthy workers, good education, and ordinary people being able to achieve
their dreams.

The massive tide of illegal immigration from Mexico is merely one
symptom of
an economic arrangement where human needs, not maximum profits - are not the
ultimate goal but a subject of neglect. Neither a massive, shameful barrier
at
the border nor a disposable guest-worker program will address the problems
ignited by NAFTA.

Programs providing stable, decent employment, modern transportation,
clean
water, and environmental cleanup are needed to take the place of the immense
NAFTA failure and allow Mexicans to live decent, hopeful lives in their
native
land. But such an effort is imaginable only if the aim is truly mutual
uplift
for all citizens in both nations, instead of the NAFTA-fueled race to the
bottom.

--------

Roger Bybee and Carolyn Winter are Milwaukee-based writers and
activists.
They can be reached at winterbybee (at) earthlink.net.
Re: Why politicians hate immigrants
29 Apr 2006
Democratic politicians do not hate immgigrants. They love immigrants. Especially if they are illiterate in English. Especially if they never have any intention of joining the US military or becoming US Citizens. Democrats like em dumb.