This is a warning about the immigration reform bill.
We are now finding out how our government plans to reform immigration law. Of course it isn't a done deal, yet, but the new American rule of thumb is that once an idea, however bad, is agreed upon by a selected group that can CLAIM bipartisanship, it is quickly enacted BEFORE the ink dries. This is why we must look quickly and deeply at the possible hidden agendas and probable negative outcomes of any such major change. The solution being offered is FULL of both, and with even the most cursory inspection, it is clear that it will do more harm to those it claims to help, while also harming society in general, and generating massive (unearned) profits for the 1%. Just as important, this plan sets a precedent for making permanent the loss of our constitutional rights-- a mandate forced on citizens after 9/11-- and purportedly a 'temporary' inconvenience tied to war-times, but which, with this plan, will no longer be dependent on war or national security. This means even if we achieved world peace we would not regain the newly stolen rights, 'legitimized' in this rushed plan.
A discussion on PBS Newshour yesterday provides the meat of the proposed bill:
Jumping right in, here are the areas that I feel are problematic...
For starters, the bill is based on solutions that include "beefing up" border security (barriers, weapons, troops, etc.), and continued, but more enhanced, tracking of current immigrants (legal and illegal). Let's see what that means...
1. BORDERS. The expansion and enhancement at the borders (includes Canadian) will be very costly, and create a war atmosphere as a permanent fixture, the first in our nation's history. It will be dependent upon crime in order to sustain itself--this is important. It makes crime 'necessary', which always leads to government allowing, and even committing, crimes. But don't forget, crimes hurt people, by definition. And sometimes, those wishing to avoid punishment blame their own criminal activities on innocent, but convenient, others. When false accusers are in a position of power or authority, they often are believed. Many innocent people are incarcerated. So this bill would likely increase crime, create a permanent hostile war-state, and be a potential means for innocent people to be sent to prison, likely for extremely harsh sentences. Also, borders are not semi-permeable. What keeps would-be trespassers out, keeps residents in. Think of natural disasters (floods, fires, earthquakes, sinkholes, etc) where escape means survival. Do we want both north and south borders blocking us in? What if we were invaded? Do we want to be caged in? What if rogue groups took control of this huge barrier system, and thereby, could control us? Also, what if an undocumented worker wanted to return home? There is no room for a change of heart, no chance to avoid arrest or being shot.
2. TRACKING. Much is written about our unhappiness with the violations government is permitting and committing against our right to privacy. Our only consolation has been that this is temporary, although it becomes clearer each day, by the lack of any discussion by politicians on any level, that there is no plan to disengage all of our troops from military actions, ever. But at least it is possible, with new leaders. This bill takes this privacy rights away permanently from all immigrants, of every status, including those with green cards in full compliance, and including those with fame, wealth, and successful careers. There is no dependence on the country being in any danger to use as a rationale. It makes it, in effect, impossible for any immigrant to ever attain, by any means, full citizenship and enjoyment of constitutional rights. The presenters do not mention, or even indicate, that they have even considered this. (It does not mean it isn't deliberate, though.)
Part of the bill describes how those undocumented who are already here, can comply with the law, by working, in order to gain legal status (stay out of trouble). The rules for compliance include coming forth, enduring a full background check, paying a fine, paying taxes, and providing a work history record. It doesn't sound so bad, until you think about it...
3. COMING FORWARD. Until the bill passes, coming forth means arrest. Afterward, it would mean trusting law enforcement to follow the rules set forth. This is, for all intents and purposes, a crap shoot. Undoubtedly, there will be variations on compliance between states, counties, cities, and police departments. It will mean varying interpretations even between individuals, like officers and agents, in every capacity in every department connected to the issue, even remotely. If one person in a chain of, say 50, who is involved in a single person's case decides to have them arrested, that is what will happen. This leaves any immigrant in a position of vulnerability to coercion or every sort. Coming forth means trusting countless strangers, all of whom hold your (and your family's) very fate in their hands (and they know it). Those are very bad odds.
4. BACKGROUND CHECK. This is intended to be super-thorough, and to bring to light any infraction ever recorded, or rumored to be true. Background checks also expand surveillance to those being asked about a person, and may produce private info about many who are not being checked out and are not even immigrants. This includes providing business records. Also, if you have a common name, it will likely take a very long time to prove you are not the one on record for crimes by others who share your name. It may be impossible to clear yourself, especially if those crimes are the ones law enforcement wants 'closed' for some reason.
5. FINES. The assumption is that most undocumented people, if able to find employment, are being paid very low wages for long hours and hard work. They are not considered to be extra healthy, as access to food and medical care is never reliable. Why would anyone think it possible for them to pay a fine? How do they expect this to happen? Crime? A second job? Take out a loan? It is a cruel insult to make paying a fine a criteria for compliance on this issue. It shows a serious (and disqualifying, I think) disconnect between designers and those they attempt to legislate on.
6. TAXES. If they are able to work legal jobs, taxes are already figured in. This seems to mean the bill expects them to pay BACK TAXES, for under the table work done previously. Although their employers benefitted by not paying taxes due from employers (like unemployment taxes), and used the tax-free earnings as an excuse to the worker for such low wages, making the worker pay now is fining the victim. Also, as above, how are they supposed to come up with the money? And how will the gov base it's figures? This leads us to part of the answer...
7. WORK HISTORY. The bill states that those wanting to become legal must compile themselves, and provide, a detailed work history, including illegal work in the U.S., despite the full knowledge that the records don't exist. Neither employers nor workers left paper trails. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois (one of the 8 man team presenting the bill), admits that this will be difficult, but not impossible. He says, of immigrants, they will have to "construct" them. The word 'construct' means 'to build or make'. It does not necessitate a truth element at all, and the word construct is often used to mean 'create', or 'fabricate'. Even if the worker blew the whistle on every employer, it is still possible that, if asked about whether the work history was constructed in order to meet immigration requirements, and he answered yes (even on lie detector), he could be accused of admitting to falsifying these records. In such a hostile climate, using terms such as construct, where varying definitions can mean the difference between citizenship or prison, seems deliberately confusing and is not believable as an innocent mistake. Also, trying to attain these work histories will undoubtedly put that worker in great danger. Why is this even being considered?
Many folks who do not like illegal immigrants use the fear that they are taking jobs away from U.S. citizens. They do not want any immigration reform to pass that involves letting them stay in this country and work. The bill is meant to calm their concerns, as Durbin explained, by making clear that the law would force employers to always hire American citizens first. If no American wants the job, then it can be given to an immigrant job-seeker. This creates a whole new set of problems, not the least of which is that, if we are ever able to achieve a near-perfect unemployment rate for citizens, virtually no immigrants would be employed in any jobs! They would have nearly 100% joblessness. And the language, which seems very vague, would indicate that if an immigrant had a great opportunity, any American could beat him out of it. This is outrageously discriminatory and oppressive. And the bill has a requirement for all immigrants to be employed, but does not consider those who never intended to work, like those who bring their own wealth to this country, or those who fulfill a requirement of the family to take care of members at home. Would volunteer or charity work fulfill the criteria?
There are many more questions that must be answered before this bill can even begin to be understood. It doesn't escape very many that the common denominators within come down to three things: firstly, immigrants NOT getting better jobs or wages, but instead having many more routes (and a direct express ticket) to prison; secondly, cruel punishments are given to immigrants, both financially, and in the higher risks of intimidation and danger to these vulnerable individuals; and lastly, the bill promotes racism and other forms of discrimination, and includes a preferential scale, based on nationality and race, for the consideration of being given what were, not long ago, basic human and constitutional rights (completely ignoring any reality that these are all individuals with diverse and original histories).
This bill may be the slippery slope that delivers us right into the middle of the police state we've all been hearing about. It does, however, give us a clear view of the goals of those who present it, and those on the sidelines encouraging them. According to them, they are confident that undocumented immigrants will be very happy to accept the demands required in this bill, due to the level of fear the government and police have been instilling into their lives for years. (In other words, it justifies this cruelty, as nobody wants to live like that any longer than necessary.) They are confident both parties will support it because it is very tough on these people (satisfying racism) and because they are sick of the issue entirely (satisfying laziness). We need to make sure this is something WE get a vote on. A real vote.
I am an american born woman, in my late 50's, with B.A. (Psychology) and 99% completion of grad school (sociology, psychology, womens studies). My studies were pre 9/11, so I am old school, believing in the values of keeping families together, expressing healthy and real emotions, problem solving through communication, full client privacy, and I am convinced in the inherent goodness of people. I value individuality, creativity, and protecting nature and all of her children. I am, and always will be, against war and violence. Peace!