The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Congressional attack on immigrant workers is an attack on all of us

Apr 2, 2007

Congress is preparing a new attack on immigrants without papers – all those people whose work helps keep this country running, as well as on wives, husbands and children.

On March 23, Democrat Luis Gutierrez and Republican Jeff Flake introduced an immigration “reform” bill into the House of Representatives.

On March 30, Republican senators submitted ideas for a proposed “reform” bill to Democratic Party senators, as the basis of negotiations the two parties will carry out over the next two weeks when Congress isn’t in session.

As the Los Angeles Times commented, “Though public work on an immigration overhaul appeared to have slowed, momentum simply moved behind closed doors.”

Closed doors is right – plus shutters on the windows. The two parties are trying to cobble together a bill that will meet the demands of business for more workers whose legal status leaves them fully vulnerable – forced to work long hours, in horrible conditions, at an inhuman pace of work, for low wages and few or no benefits. But, at the very same time, both parties are trying to appear as the ones who “give” immigrants a legal status.

A difficult trick? Not for politicians whose experience ranges from political skulduggery to outright criminality.

Whatever final form comes out of these pretended negotiations, one thing is clear. It will not benefit the interests of immigrants, nor of the rest of the working class.

The main proposal in the Gutierrez-Flake bill would put most undocumented immigrants into a “provisional” status for at least six years – during which time they could be expelled for any number of reasons, including not keeping a job. Those who survive that could start the process of applying for permanent resident status, then citizenship, which would take at least seven more years – during which time they can still be expelled. And this assumes all goes well. Many things will not go well. As of 2006, about ten% of those who applied after the 1986 “reform” are still waiting – twenty years later.

Add to that fees upon fees, fines upon fines, a requirement to leave the country before they could apply for permanent residency – what it all means is that the immigrants who are here today without papers are looking toward an indefinite period of “indentured” servitude. They cannot risk opposing their boss – for fear of losing their “legal” status.

And guess what? This Gutierrez-Flake bill is supposed to be the one that is “friendly” to immigrants. The other one is worse. To give some idea – not only does it include all these same features, it also requires people here during their provisional status to pay $3,000 every three years, and to pay another $10,000 total to apply for citizenship – compared to $375 currently.

Both versions include provisions for guest workers whose only legal status is to have the right to come here to work whenever some company wants to import them, misuse them, mistreat them, barely pay them, and then expel them when it is done with them.

Many so-called “friends” of immigrants are trying to push the idea that immigrants should not only push for, but be happy if they get, the Gutierrez-Flake bill.

It’s like the old hard cop-soft cop routine. And you know how that ends up. The hard cop attacks you, the soft cop puts you in prison.

The only reasonable immigration reform is full legalization for all immigrants who are here, and right away. If the bosses can make money off of people’s labor, then those people and their families should have full legal rights.

The lack of legal rights puts up a big barrier in the way of undocumented immigrant workers who want to defend themselves against the bosses. And when they can’t defend themselves, every worker is more at risk. Their low wages threaten every worker’s wages. Their horrible conditions promises worse conditions for everyone else.

The working class is one single class, and we have one class enemy – the bosses who exploit us all, regardless of our legal status or our citizenship. All of us together – immigrant or citizen, with or without papers – have one fight to make. Against those same bosses.