Despite the tremendous effort by thousands of activists to develop and help usher into law real immigration reform, the sad truth is that the Senate bill recently passed and sent on to the “House of Representatives,” for the most part, is a step backward for working people, in particular those without papers.
This is the “immigration bill” as it stands now, in the Senate form, before the Republican and Mad Tea Party in the U.S. Congress get a shot at it:
1) A totally militarized border with tens of billions of dollars allocated to create the most formidable and forbidding land border since the Great Wall of China, one that could rightly be called a monument to American racism and paranoia;
2) A 13-year minimum security sentence for undocumented workers who, during the “waiting period” it establishes (euphemistically termed the “pathway to citizenship”) will not be eligible for Social Security, disability, or Medicare, though they must continue to pay into all those systems. (In states such as Arizona, Texas, and Alabama, those on this road to nowhere will also be ineligible for any state benefits such as unemployment);
3) Undocumented workers will have to register with the government, and if they step out of line, or if a local official accuses them of breaking the law—even a local ordinance that is totally unjust or trivial—these workers, and possibly their families, will be subject to deportation;
4) Undocumented workers that “qualify” for the “pathway to citizenship” will be required to learn English — though they may not be allowed to attend state-funded schools in some states (Arizona, Alabama, etc.); this requirement will either pave the way for expensive private language schools and testing services, or put additional burdens on our already-overtaxed educational system.
5) They will be forced to pay a penalty for having lived, worked and contributed taxes in the U.S.;
6) Latin American workers who get roped into the “guest worker” program should be told: “Welcome to the U.S. You are now a willing participant in Apartheid.” But what exactly is “The Guest Worker Program” and how does it work? Think of a company town in the 1800s, only one where workers are not allowed to leave and have very few of the rights guaranteed to any other “class” or workers in this country. And that’s the beauty of the program, from the capitalists’ point of view, because those in the “guest worker program” will not really be guests: they will have few of the democratic rights enjoyed even by green card holders, susceptible to the whims of their employers, prevented from protesting violation of labor laws or other mistreatment by the always-existing threat of immediate deportation.
“Why that can’t be,” you might say. “Why would ‘Democrats’ agree to such a program?” Because big corporations and banks — who support both the Republican and the “Democratic” Party, love it, and in so many different ways! What could be better than having a group of workers unable to organize and pitted against U.S. workers, hundreds of thousands of innocent people who come because they need to support their families, not knowing that they will be pawns used to drive wages down for other Americans. A splendid idea indeed — for corporations, banks, and agribusiness! And there’s more still! The “guest workers” will be available for all those jobs that “Americans don’t want,” not just in agriculture, but in the hotel industry, corporate restaurants, and construction. And imagine their value in the right-wing’s propaganda war when it deploys this army of surplus labor. You can hear it already: “Immigrant workers are taking your jobs! And it’s all THEIR FAULT!”
7) Under the Senate’s “immigration bill,” U.S. citizens from many countries will lose the right to petition to bring family members to the U.S. Instead the children of rich foreigners, who attended the finest schools in their own countries, and here, due to their class privilege, will be given special entry to the U.S., able to claim professional jobs from working people in THIS country, many of whom had to borrow huge amounts of money, work full-time while attending school, and study hard just to get to a position where THEY could qualify for those jobs! But thanks to billionaire computer wonks like Mark Zuckerberg, who donated tons of money to members of Congress who did his bidding, those jobs, which the Senate has described as positions for “skilled workers,” will be rewarded the privileged children of foreigners. Why? From Zuckerberg’s point of view, he can pay them less than American workers while they are in the federal job-giveaway program. And from a politician’s point of view, there are huge benefits as well, since this pampered class of “workers” will have rich parents more than willing to open their pocketbooks for needy Congresspeople.
THIS, then, is the bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate, certain to be passed on to the House of Representatives, where there are so many right wingers that even a tepid Republican-like bill such as Obamacare has been voted down dozens of time just to rub Obama’s nose in it.
Are there ANY provisions of the bill that should be enacted into law? Yes one very important one: The Dream Act. Let’s put all our time and muscle into THAT ONE PROVISION, tell the few remaining honest and progressive “Democrats” that we want them to pass the DREAM ACT and abandon all the other nonsense until they can come up with a real immigration bill that is good for immigrants, especially undocumented workers.