This past Tuesday, President Obama gave a speech in El Paso, Texas that was an attempt to resurrect the immigration reform issue. Once more, catchy phrases rather than addressing the solutions standing right in front of one’s face is the name of the game. The issues that need to be addressed is to removing the onus on employers to “prove” they have difficulty in finding workers for certain job descriptions, and then simplifying the excessively onerous hoops that Latin Americans have to jump through to be granted work visas, put in place for purely prejudicial and discriminatory reasons; this incomprehensible policy is the reason why we have an immigration problem. This country will fly in people all over the globe at government expense to do work when there are people willing and able to do that work right here, and even pay their own way—just because you don’t like “Mexicans.”
Obama did throw a bone to Latino voters, recognizing that the vast majority of illegal immigrants (frankly, all immigrants to this country prior to the 1924 immigration law—which did not include restrictions on Latin Americans—would be classified as illegal under today’s statutes) are here looking for a better life. He mentioned (sort of) what most economists recognize: that the U.S. economy has grown largely on the backs of immigrant labor. He could have mentioned that the U.S. and Mexico have a history and a relationship that has rarely been beneficial to Mexico, and in fact Mexicans have been exploited by the U.S. for both their labor and their “use” as a national scapegoat for the country’s problems.
Obama also criticized Republicans for refusing to negotiate in good faith on the immigration issue; every time a benchmark for border security demanded by Republicans was met, they moved the “goal posts” again in order to maintain immigration as a partisan political weapon. He even joked that the Republicans may even demand the construction of a moat patrolled by alligators. Nevertheless, in an effort to assuage the “fears” of the “middle,” he himself continued that conversation by using phrases like “rule of law,” which to most bigots means to portray illegal immigrants as common criminals simply for being here—even children.
It was also politics as usual with lines like requiring immigrants to “pay the taxes they owe.” This piece of propaganda is one that I have particular trouble with, since it assumes that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes, which is a false assumption based on no actual study on the matter. Instead, we are given as way of an explanation another assumption—that most illegal immigrants work in the “underground economy” who also “depressing wages.” Forget studies that have shown that illegal immigrants have little or no actual impact on wages; there is also little evidence to suggest that there is a significant “underground” economy in this country manned by illegal immigrants (although this is true for Mexico, where the Euro-elites control who has jobs), unless you are talking about the street corner landscaper and shoveler trade. Most illegal immigrants work “above” ground, even in the farm industry; that is why the ICE has such an easy time hauling them in. Wages are low in this country not because of illegal immigrants, but because most of our non-produce products on the shelves are made in low-wage countries in Asia (and not from NAFTA trade). American businesses have to compete with them, because Americans with tight budgets buy what is cheap, not what is American. Blaming illegal immigrants for this is simply scapegoat politics.
And once more, American policy makers refuse to address the biggest mendacity of all on the immigration issue: Illegal immigrants are here because there is a “market” for their labor, and that is the fault of an unreliable “native” workforce, and the fact that much of the labor holes illegals fill require some amount of flexibility and a willingness to go to where the work is; unless it is high-wage opportunity that makes travelling affordable, most Americans prefer to stay put on their sofas. I give Obama credit for at least trying to put a human face on the immigration issue, but he undercut his own message by declining to take the high road and point out that the context within which the immigration issue exists contains elements that go far beyond one’s personal prejudices; the real “criminal” activity is a U.S. immigration and work visa policy that refuses to accept reality, because it takes into too strong consideration the bigotry of many Americans.