domingo, 26 de septiembre de 2010

What Happened to Obama's Promise to Support Immigrant Workers?

Obama is being raked over the coals by the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh -- two high-profile right-wing TV journalists with deep coffers -- for his administration's decision to intervene, through the Department of Justice, in putting a stay on four of the most outrageous provisions of Arizona's racial profiling State Bill 1070.

It should be noted that Obama only intervened to halt -- not repeal -- the most egregious provisions of this bill after more than 1 million people took to the streets on May 1st, 2010, and another 150,000 people marched in Phoenix, Arizona, on June 29, to protest the law and to demand that Obama intervene to reverse this racist and unjust law.

The right-wing pundits and Tea Party movement have all taken the side of Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer, who insists that the polls prove her right and who says that Obama's Justice Department intervention has only made her more popular. Opinion polls, if they are to be believed, show that before the Obama intervention on SB 1070, 56% of the people polled supported SB 1070, whereas after the Justice Department decision, the percentage of those polls jumped to 62% in support of Jan Brewer and her law.

How to explain these polls and this situation in Arizona?

There can be no doubt that the failure by the ruling class -- under all recent administrations -- to enact a real immigration policy in the interest of undocumented immigrants and working people as a whole, combined with their failure to provide jobs and to stem the disastrous effects of the Great Recession on the working-class majority, has created a situation where undocumented immigrants have become the easy scapegoat for all the ills of capitalism. The undocumented are easily portrayed as the "ones who are taking my job" -- when, of course, this is not the case at all.

The lack of a federal immigration reform plan has permitted states to take it upon themselves to impose their own immigration policies. In fact, there are 21 other states that have similar laws to SB 1070 in their legislative dockets.

The irony is that Obama's immigration policies are no different from Bush's policies. If anything Obama's are worse. Under Obama, more undocumented immigrants have been deported per year than under Bush, though the raids are not the high-profile raids of factories. Obama has been more careful about keeping a lower profile. Instead, undocumented immigrants are being rounded up and deported one by one by the police, working hand in hand with ICE. The deportations go under the media radar, but they are no less vicious. With the new Secure Communities program enacted by the Obama administrations, the repression and deportations are only like to increase.

Reeling from all the attacks by the Republicans and the Tea Party movement, Obama put off a campaign promise that he would push hard for, and enact, a Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2010. For close to six months, Obama refused to even touch the immigration issue, not wanting to give the right wing further fodder to go after him.

But because of the deep anger within the Latino communities and within the labor movement over the systematic abuses of undocumented immigrants, Obama calculated that it was worth the Democratic Party's short term and long-term prospects to raise the need for such an immigration reform. Obama made such an announcement in a nationally televised speech on July 1st.

The content of the speech made it clear that Obama's plan is fully in sync with the Kennedy-McCain bill, which despite its strong bipartisan support, was never enacted by the Congress, so deep are the political calculations and divisions within the ruling class over this question.

Obama's Actual Proposals

Obama's plan calls for tightening border security (meaning increased militarization of the borders), criminalizing any new "illegal" immigration, increasing employers' sanctions (for hiring undocumented immigrants), and extending the guest-worker programs through an AgJobs bill -- all in exchange for a largely vague promise to create a "path to legalization" for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Also included as a carrot in this deal is the promise to implement the Dream Act, a measure that would provide citizenship to undocumented students or to youth who serve in the military.

This "path to legalization" is not an amnesty, as occurred in 1986. It is a measure that could demand that many, if not most, of the 12 million undocumented immigrants would have to "touch back" to their countries of origin and get at the "back of the line" to apply for legalization. In the worst-case scenario, this could mean the outright deportation of millions of people, many of whom would have little or no means of survival in their countries of origin given the heinous consequences of the US-imposed free trade agreements on those countries and their economies.

The Obama immigration reform plan, and his tepid policies, are not pleasing anyone -- a phenomenon that is true across the board with most, if not all, of Obama's plans. The right wing is describing Obama's reform plan as an "amnesty" plan because of its promise of a path to legalization. Never mind that this plan had the full support of the Republican Party a short while ago (before the schisms that led to the formation of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party). Never mind that this plan has already resulted in Obama sending an additional $30 million in federal funding to beef up the border patrols.

But many in the Latino wing of the Democratic Party, the Latino Caucus, are not happy with the Obama plan since they understand the pervasive anger among the main Latino and immigrant rights' organizations.

Many of these politicians and community leaders have openly criticized the Obama administration's decision to tighten border security. Many have denounced the heightened numbers of deaths (a record high) in the Arizona desert this summer of immigrants attempting to cross into the United States.

A few of these politicians and community organizers have even pointed out the hypocrisy and shortcomings of Arizona Federal Judge Bolton's decision on SB 1070, which, for example, continues to allow day laborers to gather on the city streets in search of a job but nonetheless penalizes an employer for picking up and hiring an undocumented day laborer.

At the root of all this controversy is one undeniable fact: Ever since the spring of 2006, when 7 million immigrants and their working class allies took to the streets and actually held a one-day strike, the first-ever nationwide strike in this country, the situation has not been the same. There has been a growing polarization over this question, with a growing number of voices calling for full legalization for all undocumented immigrants.

True, the raids and deportations over the past three years have put a big damper on the size of the pro-immigrant demonstrations. But the grassroots organizing, and the growing alliance between labor and immigrant activists, has continued to deepen. The 2010 May 1st actions were again enormous in many cities, including Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, and Phoenix.

A related arena in the battle over immigration concerns the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In recent months, right-wing Republicans, led by Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, have spearheaded a nationwide movement, to amend the 14th Amendment's provision to disallow children born in the United States to immigrants to automatically have U.S. citizenship. -- The Editors

El que busca la verdad corre el riesgo de encontrarla.Manuel Vicent (1936-?) Escritor español.

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