The truth about illegal immigrants
Today, we have a new generation of immigrants. And the names and accusations are just as ugly. I hear it all the time. I even hear it from people close to me. “Those immigrants are taking our jobs. They can’t speak English. They’re taking over the country.”
I couldn’t disagree more, but I know where they’re coming from an American economy in tatters, rampant unemployment, foreclosures, disappearance of health and retirement benefits.
We the people of the United States are anxious and angry. I’m angry, too.
There’s justifiable anger at seeing our economy, our way of life, our security trashed. And it’s being used by people who have a real stake in maintaining our economic disaster to turn working people against one another.
Many working men and women including union members were pretty confused that I would be speaking out on behalf of today’s immigrant workers, as I am in Miami, Florida. But I can honestly say to you:
An immigrant worker did not move your plant overseas. An immigrant did not take away your pension. A Mexican or Salvadoran or Guatemalan worker did not cut off your health, care. His wife didn’t foreclose your home. Her children did not crash our financial system.
Blaming immigrant workers for our economic catastrophe is like blaming shrimpers for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP was too greedy to drill that well safely. And many U.S. employers are too greedy to pay workers a living wage, or comply with health, safety and labor laws. They’ve got exactly the immigration system they want plenty of workers living and toiling in the shadows, borders that are closed enough to turn immigrants into second-class citizens and criminals but open enough to ensure an endless supply of socially and legally powerless cheap labor.
Gripped by our own economic insecurity, it’s often hard to see immigrants as mothers and fathers who are just trying to make a living and take care of their families people pursuing the same goals and dreams the rest of us have. Maybe it’s easier to identify with or side with the rich and powerful.
I’m afraid too many people are forgetting the painful of the Inquisition movements, The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution.
We’re not going to fix the U.S. jobs and economic crisis as long as we permit a two-tiered workforce and a two-tiered society, with recent immigrants who are easy to abuse, easy to underpay and too intimidated by our broken immigration system to demand better.
Border fences, military patrols and un-American laws like Arizona’s aren’t going to fix that.
We need a new national economic strategy for a global economy that focuses on creating good jobs and making trade fair, not just “free.” But part of that strategy must be comprehensive immigration reform that brings workers out of the shadow economy, provides a path to legalization for hard-working, tax-paying immigrants, determines society’s genuine need for more immigrants so corporations who just want cheap labor aren’t calling all the shots and extends legal protections including the freedom to form unions and to be paid fair wages to every person employed in this country.