Of course, you can ask me, "Who the hell are you to speak for progressives?" Well, I will give you my credentials in a moment, but let's start with Thom Hartman, who is a well recognized liberal progressive author and talk show host on Air America radio. I think everyone should read the article Hartman published on CommonDreams.org
. Same article was also published on Truthout
, also a recognized progressive publication. Let's have some snipets:
Both the corporatists and the racists are fond of the mantra, "There are some jobs Americans won't do." It's a lie.
Americans will do virtually any job if they're paid a decent wage. This isn't about immigration - it's about economics. Industry and agriculture won't collapse without illegal labor, but the middle class is being crushed by it.
I don't think there is any question about that. Americans are a proud people. We pride ourselves on valuing work, no matter what kind of work it is, as long as it is honest, and needs doing. In America - at least in progressive America - we don't exclude people based on what type of work they do. We believe that those who do an honest day's work ought to be able to enter our middle class. That dream is slowly slipping away. We all know that.
Let's face it. Illegal immigratioin is part of the equation in that loss of the American dream. This is a matter of economics, of numbers. Again, I'll let Thom Hartman demonstrate:
Working Americans have always known this simple equation: More workers, lower wages. Fewer workers, higher wages...
Do a little math. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 7.6 million unemployed Americans right now. Another 1.5 million Americans are no longer counted because they've become "long term" or "discouraged" unemployed workers. And although various groups have different ways of measuring it, most agree that at least another five to ten million Americans are either working part-time when they want to work full-time, or are "underemployed," doing jobs below their level of training, education, or experience. That's between eight and twenty million un- and under-employed Americans, many unable to find above-poverty-level work.
At the same time, there are between seven and fifteen million working illegal immigrants diluting our labor pool.
Of course, the argument that comes up immediately here is that now I am just playing on the fears of Americans that they will lose their jobs to a person of color. This has absolutely nothing to do with color. This quote applies as much to Irish illegal immigrants as it does to Mexican illegal immigrants. Besides, seeing as how I'm a immigrant of color myself, it would be a bit foolish for me to raise race questions. We live in an economy that has a labor market. Like any other market, wages - i.e. the price of labor - depend roughly on demand and supply. That is, when labor supply goes up (especially if that labor is willing to accept $25 a day) compared to labor demand, the price of labor falls. In other words, illegal immigration does cause a drain on the wages of Americans. This is an unpleasant reality we have to face and come to terms with. The fear isn't of losing
one's job to an illegal immigrant, but the fear is that those jobs will never become available for legal immigrants and Americans if we let the illegal immigration problem perpetuate.
Now, let's deal with the true progressive issue of compassion. I refer you back to Hartman:
Shouldn't we be compassionate? Of course.
But 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."
There is nothing compassionate about being the national enabler of a dysfunctional oligarchy like Mexico. An illegal workforce in the US sending an estimated $17 billion to Mexico every year - second only in national income to that country's oil revenues - supports an antidemocratic, anti-worker, hyperconservative administration there that gleefully ships out of that nation the "troublesome" Mexican citizens - those lowest on the economic food-chain and thus most likely to present "labor unrest" - to the USA. Mexico (and other "sending nations") need not deal with their own social and economic problems so long as we're willing to solve them for them - at the expense of our middle class. Democracy in Central and South America be damned - there are profits to be made for Wal-Mart!
It's not compassionate to draw down wages of Americans. The Urban Institute provides 2002 numbers
on illegal immigrants in this country and working. Secondly, as us liberals are fond of saying when it comes to Iraq, it is not America's job to fix the problems of other countries. We won't be solving economic laziness of President (and former Coca-Cola Executive) Vincente Fox by continuing to accept an unsustainable numbers of illegal immigrants..
Oh, and, umm... Hillary Clinton used to sit on Wal-Mart's board. Yes, she also recently returned a highly publicized campaign donation from Wal Mart.
Now, let me offer you some of my own credentials. I am an immigrant. My family (including myself) immigrated to the US from India about 8 years ago. Legally. I marched at the San Jose immigration march Monday (4/10/06). I was impressed. But I made a decision to research this issue into more detail and really explore my own heart. I came into politics with the campaign of Howard Dean for President. I'm gay. I'm staunchly pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-universal healthcare, pro-public education, and pro-social safety nets that take care of the weakest among us. I am myself an immigrant who came to embrace this country and fall in love with it. Here's the deal. How many of us, who are immigrants, believe that our native countries - or any country for that matter, take your pick - ought to be forced to accept a wave of sustained immigration of Americans contrary to their own laws, even in the event of an economic depression in this country? Should Canada be forced to do accept mass American immigration? Should Mexico? Should Italy? Britain? France? China? India? If not, then why shouldn't it apply to us? Why is it that we are told that we have accept that wave from other countries?
Is America a nation of immigrants? Yes. Did immigrants build this country? Yes. As Howard Dean says, are we all - except those who are native Americans - immigrants? Yes. Somebody at San Jose's immigration rally said this: "If you came on the Mayflower, I am thinking undocumented." That kind of shocked me. America wasn't a full fledged country with a full population then, and there were no immigration laws. Today, it is. And we live in a differnt world with national borders. To say that there is no difference between those who are here legally and those who are not, and to blur the line of human rights with demand for legalization of all illegal aliens is to fail to understand the fundamental dynamic that a nation is. We do and should accept immigrants legally as our workforce can absorb them. I was at a point prepared to go with the current Kennedy-McCain Senate bill, but the more I think about it, the more I think that the question of fairness is a little complicated here. Yes, the argument goes that these people are paying a fine and waiting their turn at the back of the line, but in the mean time, they are given work permits while many who stayed on the legal course to obtain a work permit are denied. Why should that be?
So should they all be shipped back to where they came from? Is that practically possible? Probably not. But there is no reason why there can't be targetted deportations of those whose lives won't be threatened (by force or by hunger) if they are turned back. There is no one size fit all solution. And both the House and the Senate are working on one-size-fit-all solutions. We have to go back to the drawing board and find a solution that works and that is fair - and I mean fair to Americans and those who follow the process of the law to wait their turn. Don't tell me I'm being insenstive to Mexicans. Are there not people in extreme poverty in Mexico who don't just cross the border and come here? I think they make a decision not to enter another country without proper documentation despite their dire conditions. Are we being fair to them when we mass-legalize people in the same situation, only difference being they crossed the border?
I suggest we liberals cool our heads and start thinking about a multitude of approaches that combine tough enforcement, prosecution of companies that knowingly employ illegal immigrants, and compassion and legalization where absolutely necessary. "We can't deport 12 million people" doesn't mean we can't deport 4 million. I don't have all the answers. So let's have a civilized debate, and see if you can change my mind. I am open to that.