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August 27, 2006

A Progressive and Populist Position on Illegal Immigration

By Joel Hirschhorn

Illegal immigration is a symptom of a deeper problem - illegal employers. Illegal immigrants are pawns in our growing economic class war pitting corporate interests against we the people.

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Illegal immigration is a symptom of a deeper problem that is not being addressed. That problem is illegal employers. Illegal immigrants are pawns in our growing economic class war pitting corporate interests against we the people – working- and middle-class Americans. All the talk about controlling illegal immigrants is like loosening your belt to address your obesity rather than stopping eating too much. The solution to our illegal immigration problem is so simple: STOP GIVING JOBS TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS! This is what our government needs to make happen.

What is the correct position on illegal immigration for progressives, populists and free-thinking Democrats and liberals? That question has nagged me and researching it has revealed only one person with the right argument, and one famous progressive with unproductive rhetoric.

To begin with, all the talk about the "illegal immigration" problem is so completed screwed up that there is little likelihood of anything good being done by the federal government, unless there is a unified voice for demanding the obvious solution. Only the American public can overturn the current bipartisan failure. Otherwise, whatever Congress does will cost a fortune and be a failure. Virtually all Democrats and Republicans have it all wrong. Progressives have been too silent.

First, instead of consideration of actions that cost the government – meaning taxpayers – considerable money, actions that would be effective and cost little should be everyone's priority. Second, for that to happen we would have to reframe the problem as an "illegal employer" one. Take away all the jobs that illegal immigrants find here and they would stop coming and those already here would start leaving. The average U.S. wage is five times the average Mexican wage, and many Mexicans cannot find a job. If there were politicians with integrity in the Democratic and Republican parties, they would tell the truth and acknowledge that illegal employers are the core problem.

Virtually nothing that is being considered by congress will solve the problem, simply because illegal immigrants are victims – first of their own country where economic inequality puts people in such desperate straights that they are willing to risk everything to get here. Then, once here, they become victims of unscrupulous employers that take advantage of them. The guiltiest are "illegal employers." Yet, even though Thom Hartmann proposed this, virtually no one has picked up on this simple alternative and championed it.

Let's be clear about the facts. The Bush administration in its first four years produced 318 fines against employers who hired illegal workers, an average of fewer than 80 each year. That's down from 5,587 fines against illegal employers during the eight years of the Clinton administration, according to the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, an average of 698 each year. In 2002 there were 25 criminal cases brought to court against employers of illegal aliens. So far this year there have been approximately 450, with 2,700 illegal immigrants summarily deported and denied re-entry, usually for periods of ten years at the minimum. These figures are totally unimpressive. Work site arrests have fallen even more drastically under Bush. From 1995 to 1998, there were between 10,000 and 18,000 work site arrests of illegal aliens each year. But during the Bush administration, work site arrests fell to just 159 in 2004. Our corporatist state has peaked under Bush. Business interests decided they want an army of low cost workers, even if many social costs were externalized to citizen taxpayers.

We can understand why Republicans serving corporate interests have succeeded in, first, doing nothing to stem the tide of illegal immigrants and, second, manipulating all public discussions to focus on the wrong thing – illegal immigrants rather than illegal employers. What is much more troubling is why Democrats, liberals and progressives have not been shouting about the false and inappropriate focus on immigrants rather than illegal employers, without which there would be no magnet or driving force for the massive numbers of people illegally entering OUR nation.

As usual ordinary Americans are way ahead of their elected representatives. A CNN poll asked the question: "Would you favor increasing penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants?" Two-thirds of Americans, of all party affiliations, said, "Yes." Unsurprisingly, this was largely ignored by the corporate owned mainstream media.
The USA is probably the first nation to have a government and president that knowingly ignored national sovereignty and the obligation to protect our borders from illegal entry. It is the ultimate sign of a corporatist state when elected officials dishonor their first obligation to protect the interests of the citizens they supposedly represent. Illegal immigration is all about economics and the inevitable devastation to America's working- and middle-class citizens.

How frustrating that nearly all Americans have been so manipulated that they support costly government actions that will not solve the core problem, such as building a wall on the southern border and increasing federal border enforcement. It is sickening that ordinary people who definitely are being harmed in many ways because of so many illegal immigrants are incapable of demanding forceful government action against illegal employers. Doing so would be the cheapest and most effective government action. End of story. Absolutely no other action would work as cost-effectively, even removing social benefits for illegals. That Democrats are not focused on this illegal employer problem and solution demonstrates their moral decay, political cowardice, and subservience to the corporatist state.

The other problem with Democrats, liberals and progressives is their willingness to put the welfare of illegal immigrants above the rights and needs of current and future American citizens. I am nauseated by the stupidity and lack of patriotism by these peoples' willingness to sacrifice the prosperity of working- and middle-class Americans – their fellow citizens. George Lakoff has remarkable standing and credentials as a progressive thinker. Yet his recent writings on this immigration issue reveal total disregard for his fellow American CITIZENS. He cares more about illegal immigrants as the following statements illustrate:

Casting illegal immigrants as economic refugees: "Refugees are worthy of compassion. We should accept them into our nation. All people are entitled to a stable political community where they have reasonable life prospects to lead a fulfilling life - this is the essence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." This noted intellectual apparently sees nothing wrong in uncontrolled numbers of economic refugees that inevitably produce economic losers out of current American citizens.

"Even if we could 'protect' ourselves by sealing the border and preventing businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants by imposing hefty fines or prison sentences for violations, progressives should not be satisfied. This still leaves those yearning to flee their own countries in search of a better life in deplorable situations. The problem is not dealt with by making the United States a gated community." Nice rhetoric, but national borders are absolutely necessary to maintain national sovereignty and protect citizens. Why should the welfare of American citizens be traded off to give a better life to people from other nations intentionally breaking OUR laws? Americans have every right to protect their own economic wellbeing even if it means keeping out people living in deplorable foreign conditions. Will the lefties only be happy when everyone but the wealthy elites in America become working poor? Is this thinking progressive?

"While these refugees are here, they must be treated with dignity and respect. Indeed, if they cannot return home, we have a responsibility to welcome them into ours. And we must treat them as Americans, not as second-class citizens, as they are currently. If they are here, they work hard and contribute to society, they are worthy of a path to citizenship and the basic rights we are entitled to (a minimum wage, education, healthcare, a social safety net)." Is it progressive to ignore the basic laws of economics – to ignore the inevitable lowering of wages here by massive numbers of desperate illegal immigrants? This is elitist intellectual thinking that insults the vast majority of Americans.

"Currently, the undocumented immigrants living amongst us are un-enfranchised workers. They perform all the work, pay all the duties, and receive many fewer of the benefits - especially voting rights. They must be given an opportunity to come out of the shadows and lead normal lives as Americans." Why do we have this obligation to offer normal lives as Americans to people who knowingly break our laws and soak up costly social benefits paid for by the very Americans whose economic wellbeing they are harming? This is not progressive thinking. It is the worst kind of Liberal, bleeding-heart thinking that has helped propel Republicans to political dominance. It certainly is not populist thinking that merits support by most Americans.

The thinking of Thom Hartmann is far superior, yet despite his commercial success he seems to have little impact on mainstream thinking. Here is a sampling of his insights:

"If illegal immigrants could no longer work, unions would flourish, the minimum wage would rise, and oligarchic nations to our south would have to confront and fix their corrupt ways."

"There is nothing compassionate about driving down the wages of any nation's middle class. It's the most cynical, self-serving, greedy, and sociopathic behavior you'll see from our 'conservatives.'"

"It's frankly astonishing to hear "progressives" reciting corporatist/racist/conservative talking points, recycled through "conservative Democratic" politicians trying to pander to the relatively small percentage of recently-legal (mostly through recent amnesties or birth) immigrants who are trying to get their relatives into this country by means of Bush's proposed guest worker program or the many variations thereof being proposed."

"It's equally astonishing to hear the few unions going along with this (in the sad/desperate hope of picking up new members) turn their backs on César Chávez and the traditions and history of America's Progressive and Union movements by embracing illegal immigration."

"Every nation has an obligation to limit immigration to a number that will not dilute its workforce, but will maintain a stable middle class - if it wants to have a stable democracy. This has nothing to do with race, national origin, or language ... and everything to do with economics."

"The Republican (and Democratic) corporatists who want a cheap labor force, and the Republican (and Democratic) racists who want to build a fence and punish humanitarian aid workers, are equally corrupt and anti-progressive. As long as employers are willing and able (without severe penalties) to hire illegal workers, people will risk life and limb to grab at the America Dream. When we stop hiring and paying them, most will leave of their own volition over a few years, and the remaining few who are committed to the US will obtain citizenship through normal channels."

"The reality is that we don't have an "Illegal Immigration" problem in America. We have an "Illegal Employer" problem. Yet it's almost never mentioned in the mainstream media, because to point it out could slightly reduce the profits and CEO salaries of many of America's largest multi-state and multinational corporations - who both own the media and contribute heavily to conservative politicians. Republicans would prefer that the "criminals" covered in the press are working people, and that corporate and CEO criminals not get discussed."

True AMERICAN progressives and populists must decide whether to care more about their fellow American citizens or to overload lifeboat America with illegal immigrants and sink our middle-class – all to benefit the companies that benefit from low cost labor. To be sympathetic to the plight of poor foreigners is fine, but not when it means screwing the legal American workforce. The only rational and cost-effective solution to this immigration problem is to forcefully identify and seriously penalize ILLEGAL EMPLOYERS. If true progressives and populists do not loudly demand this, then who will?

Even local governments that are beginning to crack down on illegal immigrants have mostly stayed away from hitting illegal employers. One notable exception is Hazleton, Pennsylvania where a new ordinance revokes the business license of any employer who hires an illegal immigrant. Better yet is a California lawsuit by Global Horizons against several companies that hire illegal immigrants and thereby gain unfair competitive advantage. Global Horizons President Mordechai Orian said, "Competitors hiring illegal immigrants is hurting our business badly... It's to the point that doing business legally isn't worth it."

If illegal employers were nailed and massive numbers of out-of-work illegal immigrants decided to get out of the country would there be some significant economic impacts on Americans? Of course there would be. The question that must be confronted is simple: Would it be better in the long term to suffer these impacts than to decimate our middle class? I say yes. Let consumers pay more for many products so that their fellow Americans will take higher paying jobs once held by poorly paid illegal immigrants using expensive government services costing the rest of us taxpayers real money. If illegal employers are not stopped very soon, the many employers not using low cost illegal immigrant workers will be forced to use them to remain competitive. If things are bad now – and they are – this awful situation will only keep accelerating as more employers become illegal and more American CITIZENS lose their jobs.

The insanity of letting corporate greed ruin the lives of American citizen-workers just adds another nail in the coffin of American "representative" democracy. Without a middle class American democracy will more clearly be delusional, but then it will be too late for all but the rich.

[Joel S. Hirschhorn's new book is Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government; www.delusionaldemocracy.com.]

Submitters Website: http://articlev.wix.com/statusquobuster

Submitters Bio:

Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. His current political writings have been greatly influenced by working as a senior staffer for the U.S. Congress and for the National Governors Association. He advocates a Second American Revolution, beginning with an Article V Convention to propose constitutional amendments. He was Chair of the Independent Party of Maryland.

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