I am working on some ideas related to the immigration “crisis” and the election of 2008. Immigrants’ Rights groups are getting together in Houston in January to seek a common program – a program for progressives in the Latino Communities. The task here is different. Our goal may be to develop a strategy for use in the Anglo or European American electorate.
Following the lead ideas of Andrew Levison at democraticstrategist.com, one important task is to drive a wedge between the extreme, racists anti immigrant forces such as the Minutemen, and divide them from working class Lou Dobbs democrats. If we are unable to create this division, the anti immigrant position may well elect a Republican President.
At present many European American working-class families, like others in the working class, are under severe financial pressure to keep a secure job with good pay and benefits. The international economic restructuring has replaced many of the good-paying, unionized, industrial jobs with lower paying service sector work.
In the 1980s and 1990s right-wing political candidates such as Patrick Buchanan, talk show hosts, and conservative opinion-shapers in the media and on college campuses blamed minority advancements and the women’s movement for the economic stagnation of working people rather than recognizing the role of corporate greed, a view accepted as valid by some (Domhoff, 2002). Since 2001 much of the focus of hostility has shifted to blaming immigrants, particularly immigrants and their children from Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean regions of Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. A populist anti immigration movement and supporting ideology was developed by author Samuel Huntington, news anchor Lou Dobbs on CNN, and Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado as he ran for the Republican nomination for President.
Currently the debate on immigration is largely framed by the far right. Tom Tancredo, with less than 2% support even in the Republican party, is setting the terms of the debate. Once the Republican primaries are settled, this anti immigrant position will become a major issue used against the Democrats. Both the Republicans and the Democrats already agree on a border wall. As a part of a strategy to drive a wedge druing this election cycle between the outright racists and others in the anti immigrant movement, we should develop and advance some concrete proposals. These might also fit into our Economic Justice Agenda.
First. Give 100,000 immigrant visas per year to people from Mexico and Canada, our NAFTA “partners”. Under current law each country gets a visa total of 20,000 per year. Thus, Costa Rica with 4.1 million people, and Mexico with 103 million people have the same quota for admission. And, given the long history of U.S. –Mexican migration, this ignores the millions of Mexican family members already here.
Second, Give permanent resident visas, and a path to citizenship to all of the children in the U.S, who were brought to the U.S. prior to age 12 by their parents. We don’t punish children for the decisions of their parents.
Third: Develop a reasonable path to citizenship for all the people here who are parents of U.S. citizen children under the age of 18. If a child is a U.S. citizen, certainly they have the right to have their parents here to care for them and to work to earn a living. Proposals to deport parents of U.S. citizen children are mean spirited and contrary to the current law which is based upon family unification.
Fourth:Develop a real path to citizenship for all of the people presently here without documents. This might be a temporary residence visa for 3-5 years, and then a permanent residence visa if the person had good conduct for that period of time.
Develop a reasonable guest worker program for 450,000 workers per year. Essentially the same as the Ag Workers bill. There are hunderds of thousands of workers who would like to come to the U.S. for a couple of years to work – and not to stay. And, the U.S. economy needs these workers _ I think.
These workers should be protected by union membership.
To protect the worker. Guest Worker visas should be given to the worker – not to the employer. Then, if a worker is mistreated he/she can leave that job and go find other work.
Note: I have opposed guest worker programs for the last 37 years.
NAFTA and globalization may be making them the better option than the current system of exploitation.
I welcome other ideas and suggestions on this issue. I am confident that my own position will change over time.