The New Iron Curtain

I remember back in the late 1950s when I was a little hillbilly child and the old folks wuz watchin’ civil rights marches on the TV, an’ they’d look at each other real scared like, an’ say that Martin Luther King is gonna show up here some day. And then they’d all turn whiter than they already were.

Somehow, the reaction on the Right Blogosphere to the immigration marches reminded me of that. Michelle Malkin must’ve changed her pants a dozen times today.

See, what’s got them really scared is that Democrats are talking to the marchers. Dems are even recruiting voters from among the marchers. Michelle is hollering about voter fraud, because, you know, the only people who join those marches are illegal aliens.

When Anna Salazar was first dating her husband, Roberto, it didn’t occur to her to ask his immigration status.

By the time the California native learned Roberto was an illegal immigrant, it didn’t make a difference: She had met the love of her life. Now — five years, a Valentine’s Day wedding and two baby boys later — they are facing Roberto’s deportation to Mexico and a possible 10-year exile from the country where he has lived since he was 8. …

… Sensenbrenner’s bill would build 700 miles of fencing along the border and have Anna Salazar, too, charged with an aggravated felony — “harboring” her undocumented husband. She could face more than a year in prison, loss of her children to foster care during that time and forfeiture of her assets. [link]

Oh, wait …

Righties can’t wrap their heads about the fact that huge numbers of native born Americans are personally connected to “illegals.” Dr. Atrios has photographs of the immigration rally in Philadelphia that brings this point home. Families are terrified they are going to be torn apart. Citizens of the United States are begging their government not to deport their parents or grandparents, or wives, or husbands, or siblings.

What does “liberty” mean if you aren’t free to be with the people you love?

From Wizbang:

The fact that the Dems are recruiting at these protests isn’t a surprise. It fits into their big picture of race and politics (which is why the flyer’s visual puts Texas and Mexico together [Note: the protest under discussion was in Texas — maha]). The Democrats classify people based upon race and then work to corner the racial voting collectives.

I’ve yet to understand how the Dems manage to corner a “voting collective” without putting microchips in people’s heads. But Republicans, as you know, never use racially targeted campaigns to win votes. They didn’t do it here, either.

I haven’t written much about immigration because I haven’t seen any proposals that I’m entirely comfortable with. “Guest worker” programs were a disaster for Europe, which makes me wonder why we’re even talking about them. Certainly we have to gain control of our borders, for our own security. And Paul Krugman wrote in his March 27 column

…many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration — especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans. The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren’t for Mexican immigration.

That’s why it’s intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants do ”jobs that Americans will not do.” The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays — and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants.

But there are undocumented workers already here, and undocumented workers are underpaid and exploited workers. I hate the fact that “The System” turns a blind eye to some portion of illegals because, you know, we need those people to pick fruit and watch the kids. I hate the fact that the burden of law falls heavier on the workers than on the employers who exploit them. And breaking up families is unspeakably cruel.

My solution would involve slowing the flow of immigration by prosecuting and severely punishing employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers to avoid complying with wage and hour laws. But for people already here, especially people who have been here for years and who have loved ones — friends and family — who are citizens, it should be possible for them to stop hiding and to fully integrate with this nation, of which they are already a part. If that’s amnesty, then I guess I’m for amnesty.

Gebe Martinez of the Houston Chronicle reports that some Republicans are uneasy with their party’s “get tough” approach.

When the U.S. House passed a bill in December making it a felony to be in the country illegally, the ”get-tough” message became the flash point that has drawn millions of protestors into the streets.

With the Senate failing last week to finish a bill that would have rejected some of the harshest language in the House version, Republicans are expressing regret that the punitive House measure stands as the most recent congressional action on immigration.

I ‘spect there are a few who will regret it even more in November.

30 thoughts on “The New Iron Curtain

  1. Damn. As an American Indian, I wish my ancestors had had much more stringent immigration laws. We could have kept out the likes of Malkin, Bush, Trancredo, DeLay, Limbaugh, etc.

  2. And especially a Mr. O’rielly, Bonnie.
    But, but, but breaking up families?!! That’s not a family value! Must be the Dumbocrats who want to do this because this kind of action has to be against the “contract with America” those noble Republicans signed onto…

  3. Your post reveals the reason why apart from illegal immigrants and their families, legal or otherwise, nobody seems to have a very good view on this. Don’t confuse Sensenbrenner with a monolithic right on this issue. A good many Republicans do not want to see anything done about illegal immigration because it would limit their ability to exploit these folks. A fair number of the Left feel that illegal immigration not only leads to the exploitation of the immigrants, but gives capital the power to exploit longtime citizen workers as well. While the right always plays the racism card because it works, the right will also accuse the left of racism if it is pointed out that perhaps employers should be put in prison for hiring these folks. Overiding all of this is your plea about families, but I think even more important is simply the idea that short of genocide, you are never going to prevent the migration of peoples to where they think they will be better off. My “solution” is to keep the illegals who are here in their same illegal status but not work real hard to deport them and allow them to make application for citizenship which with a reasonable quota will take some of them a very long time to get. In the meantime their families will have to do what they can to limit their exploitation or perhaps if they do not have family here they will head back home. I would not make them return to their country of origin and wait a long time to even apply for citizenship, but neither would I reward them by letting them jump to the front of the line because they snuck into the country. I would raise the minimum wage in a series of quick steps to something like $15.00 an hour and step up enforcement against any employer who is employing illegal immigrants and not paying them that minimum wage. The cost of fruit and produce will rise dramitically and we will likely import more and grow less. Some manufacturers will go out of business because they will no longer be able to compete with Asia and everything will cost more at Walmart, but a major reason for illegal immigration–jobs– will come to an end, because there will no longer be an incentive to hire illegals.Jobs picking produce, making beds, landscaping and in construction will not replace all of the high paying manufacturing jobs this country has lost, but at least citizens will have a chance to make their lives better with hard work–something too many of our lower skilled and not so lower skilled, have lost in recent years. If at that point employers can not fill jobs, then the illegals will get their citizenship sooner and perhaps some of their countrymen as well. To keep employers in line, the penalties for failing to pay the new minimum wage should include asset forfeiture and prison time. There would be no question of forged papers–either they pay $15 an hour or they don’t. I would even give an illegal who otherwise qualifies immediate citizenship for providing evidence that leads to the conviction of employers who fail to pay the minimum wage. Finally, I do think we should make it harder for those who would cause harm to this country to enter and if the rich are willing to pay higher taxes to pay for it, we could build the Great Wall of the Rio Grande. I could even see employing illegals as long as the government paid them, and any legals who wanted to work on it, at least $15 an hour. I would not however suggest letting Halliburton bid on the job.

  4. I stood at our office window this morning and watched a few thousand in white T-shirts march down the street to the Nebraska state capitol, chanting “USA! USA!” They carried flags from Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru. I wanted to cry, it was so amazing.

    I tried to explain to my fearful coworkers that this all started with the draconian House bill, and that attacking undocumented aliens is the sad, last gasp of Republicans facing a disaster at the polls in November.

    My supervisor made a grunt of disgust and walked away.

    Another coworker said she wouldn’t mind so much if undocumented workers paid taxes. I said they do pay taxes, for instance sales tax.

    I agree with what maha says above; the employers who hire undocumented aliens (then pay them untaxed, abysmally tiny wages for crappy backbreaking work that no one else will do) should be considered the criminals, and be the target of any reform legislation.

    That might put even more Republicans in jail. Neat.

  5. Terry, “a reasonable quota”? Two words for you: Breckinridge Long. Look him up.

    I hear very little about security when members of Congress discuss immigration. I hear a lot about jobs.

    Yeah right– when all the undocumented workers are gone, those worthless drunken Bush twins can go pick lettuce.

  6. short of genocide, you are never going to prevent the migration of peoples to where they think they will be better off.

    No, but it might slow down if it becomes more difficult for illegals to find work here.

    My “solution” is to keep the illegals who are here in their same illegal status but not work real hard to deport them and allow them to make application for citizenship which with a reasonable quota will take some of them a very long time to get.

    I disagree strongly. I’m not saying to confer citizenship rght away, but keeping people illegal is keeping them underground. I’d give them a provisional status so that they are documented and let them work toward citizenship if they wish.

    I don’t think abandoning domestic agriculture is a smart idea, either. Big chunks of this country ain’t good for much except to grow things on it.

  7. Pingback: Seeing the Forest

  8. I don’t think it is racism, but a concious effort by government to look the other way and give business a free pass while screwing everybody that earns less than 50,000.. I want workers here no matter who they are to pay taxes and insurance and yea we got a problem and it needs solving. I would like to see employers in handcuffs not all undocumented people as felons . That is absurd. I hope this is organizing the hispanic community. I would be happy if they all formed unions and voted Dem..(It would serve the corporate interests right if the people they recruited and brought here turned out to have other ideas)Today I heard speakers at the marches saying things like” We won’t submit to the ‘republican’ house of representatives that passed this evil legislation”. Now when it gets that specific I’m thinking this is great. May be there is hope in Nov. Karl was trying to buy off the black preachers and while he was doing that he lost the hispanic vote.

  9. And the righties were happy when the french had muslim rioting. Wel their immigration bill has stirred up more than that.Bush could’ve done something better than this 5 years ago when he and Vincente were still friends. But he was a coward and bowed to the people who paid his way and did not do the right thing. 5 years and 5 million immigrants later he now has it in his face, the collective republican face. Maybe we should send him a shovel since he likes to dig himself into holes over every issue.

  10. How do our rightwing hordes feel about our Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez (and former CEO of Kellogg, that all-American breakfast food company) who The Rude Pundit was an illegal immigrant for years when he arrived?

  11. The comments at that Wizbang blog are unreal. They probably skip beer on St. Patrick’s Day out of principle.
    So I wonder: would the crazies on the Right mind people waving the flag of their heritage if it were the Stars and Bars instead?

  12. I tried to explain to my fearful coworkers that this all started with the draconian House bill, and that attacking undocumented aliens is the sad, last gasp of Republicans facing a disaster at the polls in November.

    That’s exactly right. When the repugs can’t get enough mileage out of attackings homosexuals, they figure that by going after the wetbacks it will take them where they want to go. ¡Que Lastima!

  13. The interesting thing is going to be to watch how Bush gets “tough” on illegal immigrants without offending the big business and agriculture interests who depend on cheap, exploitable labor. This ought to be good.

  14. I haven’t been able to figure out why the House bill has the provision in it to make felons of all illegal aliens.And it just hit me- of course, that way they’d never get the right to vote or become citizens both. They want a subservient class that has no voice.

  15. The righties should be scared. Tonight I marched a mile with about a thousand immigrant teenagers who jumped up and down most of the way. They were chanting “¡El que no salte, es Republicano!” Roughly — anyone who isn’t jumping must be a Republican. I was surprised that their ire was so clearly directed at one of the parties as Dems and Reps often seem indistinguishable to me.

    When they get old enough to vote — and these are the children who are citizens or are on the way toward becoming citizens — they have picked a direction. They also care about unity between communities. I find this movement inspiring.

  16. I think it is very important to remember we already have a guest worker program in the US Territories. In the sweatshops of the Northern Marianas where thew sew ‘made in the USA’ the workers are paid $3.05 per hour and work 12 hour days. This has long been considered the ‘petri dish of capitalism’ by the Republican Party.

  17. The racists in our nation long for a return to those antebellum days. Days when people were bought and sold like cattle. Families? Cattle don’t have families. They don’t vote and you can abuse them anyway you feel like.

    600,000 Americans died to stop that horror. Want to really understand what’s going on here go read Bound for Canaan. You will never look at the South and what they were doing in the same way again.

    Today the Republican Party has come close very close to imposing the Corporate Slave State upon this nation. The only difference between 1861 and now is the pro-slavery forces want to enslave everyone regardless of race.

    The time has come to stand up and take action against the Tancredos, the Brownbacks, the Frists, the Lotts and all the rest of the Party of Treason, Corruption and Slavery: The Republican Party.

    The people you see in the streets know this. They know what they are fighting for and it ain’t a minimum wage job. Nope, it’s the freedom to live without fear.

    I’d say it’s past time we joined them and….

    Drive the Republican Party into the sea.

  18. bewilderness is right about the Mairianas. Molly Ivins had a column about how that bastion of family/American values, Tom Delay, went to spend time with business owners there and helped block legislation about work practices including one practice ther of not allowing pregnant women work. This rule leads to an increase in abortions. I guess not all pre-born life is precious.

  19. I guess not all pre-born life is precious.

    Not when it gets in the way of profits.

    Wait a minute — could it be that the GOP has been infiltrated by Ferengi?

  20. maha, that comment is an insult to Ferengi! On behalf of the Grand Nagus, I strongly protest!

  21. As far as “the cost of produce will go up”, the vast majority of the markup on that is NOT the laborer’s wages, but the processing, transportation and store markup and miscellaneous overhead. Requiring minimum wage laws to be followed might raise those prices a noticable amount, but it would be something closer to 10%, and not 100% or 200%.

  22. Tito — all things in balance. The minimum wage is long overdue for a raise, but on the other hand policy proposals have to be kept in this time-space continuum.

    In my life I’ve seen the minimum wage go up a few times, and every time the conservatives have a screaming fit and wail that it’s going to reduce the number of jobs and drive small businesses owners into bankruptcy, and it never happens. But a raise the size you are proposing is scary even to me.

    This is a complex issue — more so than it might seem from a distance — and coming up with the best solution will require input from many perspectives. I’m not sure what the answer is, but yours doesn’t seem to me to be feasible.

  23. That “immigrants don’t pay taxes” meme is a red herring. At their income level, they would be eligable for tax rebates (if some portion of their salaries were withheld).

    The truth is that when an employer hires an undocumented worker and pays them under the table, s/he avoids paying taxes. Such as social security, unemployment insurance, and worker’s comp.

  24. Maha,

    You are so right about the complexity of this issue. I find myself (a lifelong liberal, ACLU member, etc.) agreeing with Lou Dobbs on this issue. He has been harping about this problem for years. He sees it for what it is, Global Corporate greed. While your comments about breaking up families appeals to my liberal tendencies, the fact is they have started families in a country where they have no legal status. The cost of deporting 12 million illegals alone, will prevent it from ever happening. In fact I’m not sure the federal government is even up to the task of documenting all those people (see Katrina). I believe the solution must begin and end with cracking down on people and corporations that hire illegals, a $40,000.00 fine and a felony conviction, no need for barrier walls and border storm troopers. Many on the right who want this guest worker program just want a global cheap labor pool to exploit, I haven’t quite figured out why some on the left want the guest worker program. To me it is just another form of legalized slavery. As far as the marches I have to give them credit, If only we could have such marches to exhibit the 65% opposition to the Iraq war. Although I think the marches and demonstrations need to happen in Latin America, if the standard of living there was livable we wouldn’t have all of these people so desperate to work here. Like you said it is very complex, and I don’t see this current bunch in Washington (left or right) having the brain power or political will to fix it.

  25. The illegals coming in trample crops, kill livestock, and harass land-owners since they can’t just cross through a major hiway. That is a big part of the hatred.
    Since everyone who ain’t “bigoted” wants these “illegals” here. Why doesn’t the government allow them to get in through the border checkpoints?

  26. What would happen if more border crossing stations were built between the US and Mexico, and Mexicans were allowed to come and go the way we do between states as long as they passed through a station? Would Mexicans working here be willing to work for the low wages they earn now if their status was not illegal? If they then could demand higher wages, what affect would that have on competing American wages and job availability? It seems to me that it may be time to really get creative around this issue, to get out of the box, to take a whole new tack. There are lots and lots of points to consider, but what we’re doing now is merely rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

  27. Maha, I agree… $15 an hour minimum seems like way too much of a raise, that’s almost tripling the current national rate and doubling even the highest state rates. Regardless, for me, “what the minimum wage should be” is a seperate debate. I’m more concerned with ensuring that the current minimum wage is paid to all workers. (And associated taxes are collected, etc.)

  28. Every patch for the immigration problem is just that, a patch. It’s like leaving in the perforated appendix while you hop around the body trying to keep ahead of the infection. It isn’t going to work.

    We need to have a living wage in this country. We need to repeal NAFTA and CAFTA and every other trade agreement that benefits corporations at the expense of workers, the environment and host countries. We need to lift up America and lift up the world. We need to listen to people like Jeffrey Sachs. It would be a relatively easy thing to do if we used our enormous power for good instead of evil – easier certainly than doing what we’re doing which is leading to a degraded planet, perpetual war, famine and pestilence and the much smaller problem of illegal immigration into the United States.

    Living wage, universal health care, fair trade, voting reform (Since we are effectively disenfranchised with the use of unverfiable electronic voting machines. We won’t get anything without getting voting reform first.) and workers’ rights. These are what we should be marching for. And my god, we should be marching every day. These reforms will solve the problem of illegal immigration.

    Until we get serious about all of that, we’re going to be talking about about band-aids that do nothing but disappear into the wound.

  29. Now being from Texas I agree that something should be done. They are over running our towns and schools.American born are being denied jobs because we are not bilingual.The schools have to hire less credited teachers to adjust to the population.I’m just waiting for them to require my son to learn spanish.Then you’ll see my head spin.I am a nurse who works with tuberculosis patients. Now guess where all my active cases come from, and I don’t even live near the border.These people coming over illegally are spreading disease since there is no way of screening them.Not to mention the women who come over here to have their babies and tax our medical services.I say if they want to come, do it the right way.And don’t expect us to pay their way.We are way overtaxed paying for our own deadbeats to take on more!

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