Aug 20, 2007
The Bush administration announced a crackdown on “illegal” immigration. Since Congress failed to pass the anti-immigrant legislation before it earlier this year, Bush says his plan is meant to enforce existing laws. The plan includes 26 measures such as increasing border fencing, vehicle barriers and Border Patrol agents, and strengthening a system for employers to check workers’ legal status.
It increases fines on employers for “knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.” At the same time, it offers a “safe harbor” to employers who receive “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration if they tell the workers to correct the mistakes.
These measures are a further attack on immigrant workers. Just like the various local laws that have been passed targeting illegal immigrants. Waukegan, Illinois, for example, passed a law allowing the local police to initiate deportation proceedings against convicted felons.
The best response against these attacks is to demonstrate, as some people have. And it is not only immigrants who have an interest in protesting.
At the same time it is important to understand what these laws are intended to do. These changes are not aimed at expelling 13 million undocumented immigrants.
That’s not to say that this government would not do so under different circumstances. It already expelled a large majority of the Mexican population twice in the past, in the 1930s and the 1950s.
But today, too many companies want low-wage immigrant labor.
These measures are meant to allow the bosses to use that labor, and at the same time, to give them the means to keep undocumented immigrants frightened and cornered. These laws are meant to make it clear to immigrant workers that at any moment, if they speak out against their wages or working conditions, their bosses can turn them in and have them deported.
Full legal rights for all immigrant workers and their families – that should be the position of every worker. It is the best way to ensure that immigrants do not have to be afraid to fight for higher wages and improved working conditions. And it solidifies our ties as one class, allowing us more easily to fight our common enemy.