Jun 18, 2009

An End to Bush's Immigration Raids, and Hope for Meaningful Immigration Reform

The Bush administration’s enforcement-only policy was a disaster for workers. Administration officials became masters of misdirection, as Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted terrorizing worksite raids under the guise of meaningful immigration reform.

On December 12, 2006, the Bush administration conducted massive worksite raids at six Swift and Company meatpacking plants, rounding up, detaining and criminalizing thousands of workers at each plant for doing no more than reporting to work, no more than trying to earn a living.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the union that today represents the workers in those plants, established a National Commission on ICE Misconduct soon after. The Commission held five hearings on those and other raids, in cities across the nation. Now it has released a report telling the story of the human toll exacted by the Bush administration’s enforcement-only policy, in the hope it will trigger a dialogue on immigration reform with our new administration.

It’s the story of workers’ terrifying ordeal, when ICE agents handcuffed them, denied their right to counsel or to meet with union representation, and didn’t even have the decency to let workers use the bathroom or call their families. It’s the story of workers held against their will, native born and immigrant citizens alike—all because the Bush administration had identified, out of the 12,000 people working at those Swift plants, 133 who were suspected of identity theft. It’s the story of misplaced priorities on national security. As Senator John Kerry, who spoke at Commission hearing in Massachusetts, said of a raid there:

On March 6th of 2007, of all the dangers that were lurking in America…of all the threats being assessed by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, apparently, on that day, none were more insidious or challenging to us, or more menacing, than several hundred people, mostly women, in New Bedford who were making backpacks for the U.S. Army.

The consequences were grave; towns were devastated, families were torn apart. Children and parents suffered lasting mental effects. A high school student, Maria, described her mother’s arrest at a Swift plant and how she broke the news to her younger siblings:

At night, I had to do the hardest thing in the world, explain to a three-year-old and a five-year-old what was happening and why their mother wasn’t coming home. They looked at me with their eyes filled with tears. I felt the same way, so helpless and alone…Many kids are scared of the boogieman, but [my siblings] are afraid of ICE.

And the consequences for workers’ civil liberties were just as horrifying. In the report’s introduction, UFCW International President Joe Hansen describes the Bush administration’s flagrant disregard for the rule of law. “Racial profiling. Due process ignored… the Constitution tossed aside.”

The Commission offers this report as a record of an administration utterly abdicating its responsibility to provide a workable immigration policy. But it’s also offered as an opening for a new dialogue on immigration with the Obama administration, with a president committed to the idea that our ideals and security need not be mutually exclusive.

And central to that discussion, that dialogue, is the idea that at its core immigration is about workers. We need a productive immigration discussion about all workers, native born and immigrant, and their rights, protections, and opportunities to achieve the American Dream.

crossposted at DailyKos


Brittanicus said...

The support of illegal immigration will be astronomical to the American taxpayer, but not to the predatory employer and contractors who hire them. Say--YES--to e-verify! It will empty the workplace of illegal labor stealing jobs. Errors can be resolved at the Social Security office, where illegal workers wouldn't dare to go. Say--NO--to any AMNESTY. Last one was full of fraud and never enforced. The 1986 Simpson/Mazzoli bill is still on the books and just need a few amendments to strengthen it' s laws. The Special interest lobby wants to rescind it. Digest more of the facts and unbiased truth at NUMBERSUSA, JUDICIAL WATCH, CAPSWEB, and ALIPAC. At AMERICANPATROL, learn about the massive upsurge on illegal alien criminal activity all across our nation.

It's not about bigotry but about forced mandated taxes to underwrite illegal immigration. It's about waiting for the next hordes of foreigners, anticipating another BLANKET AMNESTY and ready to rush the border. It's about massive waves of criminals, poor, uneducated and sick family unification--CHAIN MIGRATION-- that you will be the beneficiary too. INFORM YOUR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMAN--NO--TO ANY AWARDS OR AMNESTY TO LAWBREAKERS.
A traumatic example of runaway benefits to illegal immigrants, where City Councilor Andronivich states 11 billion dollars attributed to these families, that the state has nearly bankrupted itself with a 27 billion dollar crash. The special interest lobby try to force a face of bigotry or racism on any group that defies open borders and free trade. This has nothing to do with xenophobia. But everything to do with the RULE of LAW and the federal mandates forced on ordinary Americans to support the 20 million plus illegal immigrant invasion.

wheel1440 said...

Brittanicus, you seem to have trouble connecting a couple dots.

While I also don’t like it that big companies are taking advantage of an immigrant's situation to pay those low wages, and not the competitive wages that the U.S. and all workers in the U.S. need. But we need to look at the larger picture: When companies have a ready supply of workers who have to settle for a low wage, it hurts ALL workers.

Companies have a ready supply of such workers, both Mexican and American, because of failed trade policies and irresponsible corporations that have taken away jobs from both countries. We need to create jobs for all workers, and raise the bar for all workers, or we will all suffer and have to sell our labor for less than it’s worth. The truth is, expelling immigrant workers will not bring us closer to that goal. Instead, there is positive, respectful immigration reform and big changes to international trade policy that will help all workers.

For example, you mentioned our country’s worker authorization system is broken. That is true. Companies currently can hold a worker’s status over an immigrants head to coerce them into working for low wages and in inhumane conditions (imagine picking grapes under the boiling California sun for ten hours with only one water break). However, ramping up deportation would only make it easier for companies to use a worker’s status as a weapon against them and all workers. We need to fix the worker authorization mechanism to ensure the process for determining what jobs a worker is eligible for is outside of the hands of the employer. There I agree with you.

But you suggest no amnesty, and massive rounds of deportation. I can’t see how that is fair, or even possible. There are more than 10 million workers who are undocumented in the U.S. Finding and deporting even half of them would cost billions and billions of dollars, and not fix the fundamental problem that in today’s world, if an employer doesn’t want to pay you the wage you want, they can just hire someone else, or move somewhere else (already, much of our food is grown several thousand miles away), because there are so many unemployed.

We can think about in economic terms: supply in demand. If there is a large demand for jobs from workers, but a low supply from employers, employers can use that to make sure the jobs they provide barely cost them anything (even if that hurts the workers). If we have many jobs, so many jobs that no city or country or person needs to sell itself short to get them, wages will stay high.

To do this, we need strong trade reform. We need trade reform which allows global trade, but slows down the industrial changes that leave many workers out of a job all at once. We need trade reform which takes advantage of this time to make sure companies and countries make jobs to replace ones which might be made redundant by technology or globalization. We need trade reform which makes sure all countries work together to demand every job is a good job. “Free Trade” has been a failure of a program –it’s obviously let companies run amok, and away from the needs of workers across the globe. Companies exploit immigrants as a way to drive down wages, and that is a part of this failure. Really fixing the real problem and providing good jobs requires good jobs for everyone, it requires that as a country, we put down some rules on the trade processes which should be putting food on our plate. Good jobs for undocumented workers means workers can compete in the job market place and still get a good wage. Ghettoizing a whole group of workers into being deported at the whim of the boss, or letting big businesses play us against each other as workers, is a surefire way to make sure some of us end up with bad jobs, and the rest end up with none at all.