Jan 19, 2004
On January 7, President Bush offered a proposal that supposedly would give legal status to immigrants in this country illegally. He proclaimed, "We see millions of hard working men and women condemned to fear and insecurity in a massive undocumented economy." And he asserted that his proposal would change that.
Bush says that undocumented workers in the United States could get a permit letting them work here legally – but only if their boss will vouch for them. They can stay in the country – but only if they can keep their job. In other words, if they speak up, if they dare try to organize and demand even a nickel more, the boss will fire them and they'll be put out of the country. In other words, they will continue to be "condemned to fear and insecurity."
This proposal was aimed at attracting a bigger Hispanic vote for Bush since many Hispanic citizens have relatives and friends here without papers. In 2000, Bush got only 35% of the Hispanic vote. Bush's advisers think that if he can bring this up to 40%, he can win.
He's obviously hoping that Hispanics won't look at the proposal itself – only his words. But many can already see this offer for what it is – not real legalization. It's only an offer to be used, abused and discarded.
There are some people really satisfied with Bush's proposal however – all the employers of illegal workers. They have gotten used to employing undocumented workers, who are forced to work at the minimum wage or even lower. But they don't like the inconveniences of occasional INS raids. So they want their workers to be "legal" – while continuing to be in a precarious situation. All the more so, since the lack of rights for part of the working class makes it much easier to force the rest of the working class to accept lower wages.
Illegal immigrants need full legal rights, so that they can't be tossed out, so they're free to organize and to fight back for decent wages and conditions – and so the working class isn't divided against itself. This obviously is not Bush's aim.