Loading...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Give me your tired, your poor, your braceros

Having passed some of the harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the nation, Arizona legislators, faced with a mass exodus of essential workers and pressure from business interests, are talking about reversing their previous stance and now want to actively recruit immigrant workers to the state. But of course with some conditions …



They want a guest worker program, limited to agricultural workers that "doesn't lead to citizenship, doesn't lead to permanent status, can't bring family with you, can't come here and have your babies, can't come here and be a burden on the taxpayer, come here, work, earn your wages, pay your taxes and go home when it's done" … Essentially, a return to a bracero style program of the past.

This, despite overwhelming evidence that current guest worker programs are a dismal failure, supplying nothing but misery for their participants while assuring profits for what become in essence government sanctioned plantations.

The failures of current guest worker programs are numerous and systemic as evidenced by this testimony by Mary Bauer, Director of the Immigration Justice Program at the Southern Poverty Law Center before the House Education and Labor Committee.


But these abuses have not been limited to just agricultural workers or those from Mexico or South/Central America. Importation of modern day indentured servants has become a global industry.



The answer to our failed immigration system is not to perpetuate and expand on failed policies, or return to exploitive and discriminatory practices of the past. Allowing workers to be treated as commodities, to be traded across borders at will to the lowest bidder, is no substitute for true reform of the system.

Anti-immigrant advocates like Russell Pearce, having had their plans blow in their face, now look for alternatives to prevent the severe economic consequences of their actions.

But allowing them to codify indentured servitude to placate angry business interests is not the answer. As they finally come to terms with the economic reality that immigrant workers are the backbone of their economy, let them now come to terms with the ramifications of that fact … the only answer is to reform the immigration system to respect and protect the human rights and dignity of all people. Anything less would be nothing more than a return to braceros.

6 comments:

RonF said...

Actually, it's not anti-immigrant. There's nothing in these laws either in intent or in effect to affect legal immigrants (both those who are resident aliens and those who are citizens). And their effect is aimed not only at illegal immigrants but at illegal aliens who are here only to work for a while and go home for a while (and who are thus not immigrants at all). This law is aimed strictly and squarely at illegal aliens.

Oh, and there's already a program for agricultural workers and other such people. It's called an H-2A visa. Unethical employers don't want to use it because it has provisions that favor the people using it, but it's there. No new laws are necessary to put this into place, just the will to enforce the existing ones.

Duke1676 said...

did you even watch the videos?

"Unethical employers don't want to use it because it has provisions that favor the people using it"

OBVIOUSLY NOT

RonF said...

Sorry - poorly phrased. What I meant was that unethical employers don't want to use the H-2A visa program because of the provisions that require that they provide certain services to the visa holders. They also claim that they take too long to get, but that can be fixed, that's an administrative issue.

RonF said...

Anti-illegal alien != anti-immigrant. In fact, what I've found is that legal immigrants are often the people who are most set against privileges for illegal aliens. We have two immigrants in our department at work. When they gained their citizenship we got together and bought each of them an American flag. One of them has it up covering a wall of her cubicle.

RonF said...

O.K. I watched the videos (the third one is "no longer available"). As far as the first one goes, it tells me that employers that have been breaking the law for years now find that their businesses are endangered because someone's decided to finally enforce the law. Good. A house built on a foundation of sand is supposed to fall down. Every time I've applied for a job I've had to prove that I had a right to work in the U.S. Why should these folks get privileges I don't?

BTW, this is not a case of Arizona tossing out illegal aliens and trying to reverse it (which is what the introduction says). It's a case of getting rid of illegal aliens and then bringing in workers legally. I have no problem with that at all.

They want a guest worker program, limited to agricultural workers that "doesn't lead to citizenship, doesn't lead to permanent status, can't bring family with you, can't come here and have your babies, can't come here and be a burden on the taxpayer, come here, work, earn your wages, pay your taxes and go home when it's done" ....

What's wrong with that? Don't forget, the folks that do this are getting a great deal more money than they would have if they were in their home countries - that's why they're coming here in the first place. The fact that they are not being granted citizenship or permanent resident status doesn't mean that they are not greatly benefiting from the arrangement.

And what's wrong with saying that they shouldn't be a burden on the taxpayer? Why should they? It's an overall objective (and a very wise one) that immigrants are supposed to ready to contribute to the American economy regardless of what country they come from or what jobs they will perform when they come here. In fact, that's a general policy of most country's immigration policies. Why should it be any different?

The idea of immigration and visa policies is that the result should benefit the U.S. There is no obligation that they benefit the people who wish to come here - certainly there's no obligation to grant them residency or citizenship. There are large numbers of skilled workers that come over on H-2B visas, such as programmers and engineers, etc. They don't get these privileges. Why should unskilled workers who snuck over here illegally get them?

Mary Bauer states that her job is to protect immigrant workers. Yet the people she is talking about are not all immigrants. So there's a problem right there. Now in listening to the rest of her testimony, if the abuses she lists are real, fine. But her conclusion is wrong. There is nothing that she related that shows that the H-2A and B programs are inherently defective any more than the H-1B program is inherently defective. It means that, just like the rest of our laws with regards to immigration and visas, it's time to enforce the laws and properly regulate them. If employers are abusing the program, then toss them in jail. And providing legal assistance to visa holders to enable them to get relief if the employers are not holding up their end of the bargain is fine by me.

Stentor said...

This, despite overwhelming evidence that current guest worker programs are a dismal failure, supplying nothing but misery for their participants while assuring profits for what become in essence government sanctioned plantations.

Despite? I'd say because. The AZ legislature works on behalf of employers, not immigrants.