5.19.2007

The Immigration Bill Sellout, Part I

by Jeff Siegel

If the United States had the immigration policy it does today at the beginning of the 20th century, I would not be here to type this. Most likely, I would not have been born, my grandparents murdered in a pogrom in the Russian Empire or my parents gassed in a Nazi death camp.

Which is why it is difficult for me to understand the grim determination of so many to keep illegal immigrants out of this country. I understand their reasons, as wrong-headed as they may be. But I don’t understand their obsession with the subject, their fixation to throw out every single Mexican who is here illegally. Rarely have so many good people, to paraphrase U.S. Grant, spent so much energy on such a terrible thing.

In this respect, immigration opponents today are no different than their brethren 160 years ago, when the Know Nothings roiled the national landscape in the years before the Civil War. Their platform was simple: Severe limits on immigration, especially from Catholic countries and aimed at halting the influx of Irish fleeing the potato famine; restricting political office to native-born Americans; and mandating daily Bible readings in public schools. Immigration again became an issue in the decades after the Civil War, when the Naturalization Act of 1870 limited entry into the U.S. to “white persons and persons of African descent,” in an attempt to halt Chinese immigration.

The beginning of the modern immigration system was the Immigration Act of 1924, the culmination of a variety of restrictions in place since the end of World War I. It limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to two percent of the number of people from that country who were already living in the U.S in 1890. Its goal? Stop the massive influx of southern and eastern Europeans – Italians, Poles, and Jews among them – who had entered the country beginning in the 1890s. One estimate says that 2.6 million Poles came to the U.S. between 1870 and 1914 – an astounding number, given that the population of Warsaw was just one-half million in 1900.

So today’s quota system and fascination with Mexican immigration is nothing new. Some of it, as with the Know Nothings, is racism. The Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, which is trying to prevent landlords from renting to illegal immigrants, is a white-flight suburb that has lost its reason for being. Forty years ago, when Dallas’ schools integrated, whites moved to Farmers Branch to avoid integration. Today, it suffers the fate of similar suburbs across the country, with older housing, an aging population that is also increasingly black and brown, empty storefronts, and Anglo residents who aren’t quite sure what happened. Hence the need for a scapegoat, a role made to order for illegal Mexicans -- just as it was for the Irish in the 1850s, when someone had to be blamed for the social unrest and economic crises that preceded the Civil War.

(For the second part of this review, please scroll down or click here.)

(The graphic is from radicalgraphics.org, which offers its material for free.)






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1 comments:

Congressional Black Caucus said...

Immigration reform goals for the CBC


The members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) recognize the need for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that includes increased security, protection against illegal immigration, immigration policies that have articulated objectives and fair administration of our immigration system. Consistent with this, the CBC adopts the following Statement of Principles.

DIVERSITY AND EQUAL TREATMENT
The CBC supports immigration criteria that will increase the diversity of immigration from countries that have historically been underrepresented, such as countries in the Caribbean and Africa, or treated unequally, such as Haiti.

EARNED ACCESS TO CITIZENSHIP
The CBC supports earned access to lawful permanent resident status for persons currently in the United States that takes the following factors into account:

Unification of immigrant families, which would include uniting immigrants with spouses, children or other close family members who are citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States;
Proven employment records through temporary and guest worker programs or other temporary residence programs; and
Such reform of earned access to citizenship should also include a path to permanency for the undocumented already here.
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AND FAIR WAGES FOR LEGAL WORKERS
The CBC believes that all citizens and legal workers in the United States should be assured education and job training, non-discriminatory employment opportunity and livable wage. The CBC, therefore, supports increased funding for education and job training utilizing fees generated from new immigration provisions and other resources and supports increased funding for enforcement of laws against employment discrimination, wage and hour violations, unfair labor practices and illegal hiring. The CBC also supports holding employers accountable for the legal status of their employees.

BORDER SECURITY
The CBC believes that the federal government has the responsibility to protect, through border security and other means, against immigrants illegally entering the country and/or overstaying their authorized periods of admission. The CBC, therefore, supports funding for border security equipment, border patrol agents, enforcement and other resources as reasonably necessary to accomplish those objectives.

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