03 January 2006

American Prospect on Immigration

Today, I somehow ran into an American Prospect series on immigration crisis, which ran back in November. It deals with the immigration amnesty of 1986, how it failed, and what the McCain-Kennedy guest worker program proposes to do, as well as what a true immigration reform must and must not include.

Immigration is a volatile issue that has divided both of the major political parties, as well as their constituencies. Business and labor have found themselves together in the pro-immigration camp, as business needs more cheap labor, and unions need to grow their ranks. Nativists and the working class voters are joined in the anti-immigration camp, seeing immigrants bring down the wages and threaten traditional American culture. The anti-immigration camp has even seen white supremacists and African-Americans work together.

I am fed up with using immigrants as political pawns, particularly by Republicans as they offer amnesties and special visa quotas for nationalities that are likely to vote Republican. The most blatant example is automatic refugee status for Cuban arrivals, though the recent Congressional designation of January 13th as the "Korean-American Day," the first for any ethnicity in America, doesn't fall far behind (in fact, my father's presence in the US itself owes to backroom deals between Reagan and South Korea's fascist dictatorships). Using immigrants as pawns have netted Republicans with handsome gains, particularly as they try to push an anti-choice, anti-women, and anti-gay agenda with the help of social conservatives in these immigrant communities. And American Prospect rightfully points out that despite the nativist tone of one wing of the Republican Party, the party's pro-immigrant wing has been very effective, while the progressives have taken the immigrants for granted and made no progress with them.

This has to stop. Immigration must be reformed to primarily help the economic needs of the country. Both high-skilled and low-skilled workers need to be brought into the country according to the labor market demand, and all of them need to be subject to the same rights and responsibilities of American workers, including the right to organize, and the duty to pay income and payroll taxes. It is common practice for building contractors here in Southern California to hire illegals at slave-wage prices to work around union-wage American workers; this must stop, and either the immigrants must be paid prevailing wage, or the American labor must be used. And most importantly, all nationalities must be treated equally; no preferences shall ever be given to politically expedient nationalities.

And as I repeat, and the American Prospect points out, the Democrats and the progressives need to play the immigration game as well as the Republicans. At both the pro- and anti-immigrant ends, the Republicans are doing very well; they are pushing a nativist, white supremacist, Christian agenda AND bringing in nonwhite immigrants who will suck up to it. This is called having your cake and eating it too. I will not tolerate this.

American Prospect