Why we need comprehensive immigration reform

A student in a journalism class asked me these four questions:

1) Why do you think the U.S should allow Mexican and other ethnic groups to come to the U.S?
2) Why do you think people that people who say “Mexicans are stealing American jobs” is not a legitimate argument?
3) Why do you think a discriminating law like SB1070 was ever implemented, and what caused it to be implemented?

4) What do you think is the greater cause or this problem? Is the problem economic, globalization, or anything else?
The following is my response:

I’m really flattered that you asked for my opinion for your article.  And I appreciate it.  I’m an intuitive sort of person, so many of my appeals for justice are based upon emotional intuition before considering objectively, based upon unemotional, situational facts, exactly how people are denied justice within US and international judicial systems.

I have gone to a few rallies calling for immigration reform, but I have never explicated how I believe that individuals who have immigrated to the USA are denied justice.  So this is an intellectual exercise for you and I both.

I gained some clarity and insight into the issue of immigrants’ rights a couple of weeks ago when I spoke with a group in West Philadelphia called ‘Circle of Peace.’  We were discussing my time in Palestine, and I had spoken about how, because of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians have no legal recourse and protection when Israelis and IDF soldiers deny Palestinians their basic human rights; and because Palestinians can’t get a fair trial, this allows the IDF and settlers to get away with theft, abuse, and violence.

I’m going to answer your questions in my roundabout sort of way.

Just as the Oslo Accords allowed for settlers and the IDF to come into the West Bank and act with legal impunity, the United States’ current national immigration policy affords no legal protection to “illegal” immigrants; and thus the policy allows individuals and systems (f. ex. corporations) to exploit, abuse, and otherwise treat inhumanely and deny basic human rights to immigrants.

How are “illegal” immigrants denied access to courts?  Simply put: immigrants’ status as “illegal” presupposes any other legal protection.  So if an immigrant can only find work at $2 an hour picking oranges in Florida, they have no legal protection.  If they want to take their employer to court for violations of inhumane working conditions, they cannot because they have already lost the lawsuit by being “illegal.”  If they want to exercise their freedom of assembly to collectively (by union) object to inhumane working conditions, they cannot because they have already lost that lawsuit.

Thus, the very existence of immigrants who come to the USA illegally is declared illegal.  By declaring an individual illegal, the United States no longer recognizes these immigrants’ right to exist.  Any individual who wishes to can notify the police at any time, and these immigrants will be thrown in prison and deported.

There are some opportunistic capitalists who see the advantages of being acquainted with “illegal” immigrants.  Why pay workers the minimum wage when immigrants can be forced to work for $2 an hour?  If an employer can pay an immigrant one-third of the minimum wage, that means that the employer can have three times the labor force.  The exploitation of immigrants can increase production in agricultural, construction, mining, textiles, and other labor markets.

And there are other systems which profit from exploiting and denying the rights of immigrants.  How many people are incarcerated not because of crimes, but for violating the US immigration policy (this is not a rhetorical question – look this up!)?  The US prison system, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is another example of opportunistic capitalists such as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) taking advantage of the immigrant population to create business.  Jobs are created for police departments, investigators, border security, immigration HR departments, prison guards and owners, and all of those who see building and sustaining prisons as an occupation.  (Note: as a journalist you should explore also prison labor.  I don’t know much about it, but I do know that it is still prevalent).

With this as the US national immigration policy, it is no surprise that SB1070 was proposed and passed within the Arizona state legislature.

Honestly, I wish I could say that I know more about SB1070.  I wish I could say that I fight tirelessly for the rights of millions of “illegal” immigrants in this country.  But I don’t.  So I won’t try to guess how SB1070 came to pass.  But if you want to know, I suggest investigating who the major campaign contributors were in recent Arizona state congressional campaigns.  That is usually a good indicator of whose interests are being represented in US politics.

And as far as your first question: “Why do you think the US should allow Mexicans and other ethnic groups into the US?”  Because I’m here.  Why should I be allowed to stand here whereas another isn’t?  But this is only my intuitive response.  I haven’t given extensive thought to what my ideal immigration policy would be.  I know that it would be very different from what it currently is in Arizona and nationwide.  And I know that I – and our country – will only come to a better idea through dialogue and debate.  But I’m skeptical that that conversation will begin or be fruitful.

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