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La Liga de Las Americas

Response by FLOC to Bush’s plans for immigration reform—the difference is in the color of the skin


By Beatriz Maya, FLOC’s Co-Director of Organizing, Dec. 2, 2005, (419) 243-3456 X 3


Last week President George W. Bush announced his plan to “Enhance America’s Homeland Security Through Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”


The plan not only blatantly discriminates against current newcomers—who are largely Latino—but also falls short addressing the reality and the supposed goal of “enhancing homeland security.”


First of all, we need a clearer distinction on the issue of immigration from the issue of protecting the homeland from terrorist attacks. It is clear that addressing the later has nothing to do with the treatment that we should give to newcomers, and linking the two indicates that President Bush has still not found the right way to provide security to the people he represents—as it was tragically shown in 9-11. 


The reality of immigration and the importance of immigrants to this nation is a totally different one. America is, probably like no other country in the world, a nation built by immigrants. Most people in this country are proud of their heritage. Germans, Irish, and Italians celebrate their culture and contributions to this country.


Throughout US history, new immigrants were brought to do all the back-breaking, poorly paid, risky jobs that residents did not want.  I remember touring the Grand Rapids, Ohio canal, being amazed by the explanation that it was built by Irish immigrants with their bare hands.  Others built the railroads, the mines, the factories.


Many factors today are affecting migration worldwide. The globalization of the economy, the liberalization of the labor markets, the growing gap between poor and rich nations. One important factor is the aging of the population in America. This phenomena is shared by other “developed” countries—such as the European or Japan. Fertility rates drop when women enter the labor market and begin to have children later in life.


The U.S. lacks a good solid base of young workers who can provide for the increasing number of retiring workers. This problem is more acute with the retirement of the “baby boomers.”  The labor shortage is severe in low-skilled, low-wage occupations that the native born are not willing to take, from agriculture to janitorial services, meatpacking, poultry, and restaurants.  Immigrants from México and other Latin American countries are being recruited to do these jobs. 


There is nothing different about the immigrants who came to the U.S. before and immigrants now. They all come to provide for their families and to make a contribution to the country.  Many came speaking different languages and with different cultural backgrounds, but all of them adjusted to and enriched the new land.  The difference today is in the color of the skin.


During the last decades, most immigrants have come from Latin America, mostly from México, but with important contingents from other L.A. countries. Like Africans before, we are being recruited to do jobs nobody else wants to do, but we are not allowed to be here as free residents of this society.


Africans were brought as slaves, and we all know the cruel history of slavery. Today it would not be “politically correct” to bring people as slaves. Restrictive immigration laws are used to keep the newcomers from becoming free legal residents, although their contributions to the nation are not a bit less than the contributions of other immigrants in the past.


The Bush proposal follows that model. His “guestworker” model will allow employers to bring workers to do the dirty jobs nobody else wants to do, without giving them any rights, and will send them back home after they have left their sweat and blood here.


A “guestworker” comes tied to a particular employer who can prove there are no domestic workers interested in that job. His/her visa is tied to that employer and the validity of that visa is dependent upon the whim of the employer with no labor rights. Unless these workers are protected by a union agreement, such as the case of the H2A farm workers in North Carolina under the protections of the new agreement won by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), these workers are subject to a high degree of vulnerability and exploitation. 


At an upcoming meeting of the World Trade Organization in Hong-Kong this December, powerful nations will discuss the creation of a worldwide “guest-worker” program, that would allow corporations to move workers across borders to supply their labor where needed without guaranteeing them any rights.


A “politically correct” new slave trade system. And Bush is just trying to initiate this in the U.S.


Let’s unite our voices to strongly protest this or any similar plan that proposes to treat any community as quasi-slaves. We should not allow for the new comers today a different treatment than immigrants had in the past. There are already in Congress good solid proposals that President Bush should support.


FLOC members voted to support two of these bills: 1) Ag Jobs, which will grant permanent residency to farm workers after working a certain number of years in the fields, and 2) the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005, a comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced by Sen. McCain and Sen. Kennedy. Both bills would secure the workers needed by the economy while recognizing their rights as human beings, particularly their right to legal residency and family unity.







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