Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Forum paper - Challenging the criminalization of immigrants

 Top-down Comprehensive Immigration Reform Proposals and Compromises Lack Intelligence, Justice, and Democracy (April 16 2013) Manuel Barajas The Gang of 8 in the Senate proposed a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) that emphasized border security, guest worker program aligned with US economic interests, and an earned and restricted legalization path (Janurary 28, 2013). Soon after, President Obama in his State of the Union articulated a similar position, and asked congress to compromise on something he could sign (February 13, 2013). An illusion of hope was projected to the 11 million living in the shadows and their relatives/friends also living in fear of being separated from loved ones. Also exciting the public (March 29, 2013), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO/other conformists compromised on a lobbying platform that advances both of their interests. Their compromise also prioritized border security (e.g., e-verify) and permited another form of guestworkers—i.e., W visas—satisfying corporate interests and promising prevailing wages for labor. Past programs have made similar formal promises but failed in enforcing them. The Gang of 8, after listening to their powerful constituencies, now present a largely unchanged but more punitive CIR proposal that secures the border above all, permits guest workers, and lastly restricts and complicates legalization, where a great a majority will be disenfranchised and without guarantee to legalize even after 10 years of waiting.
Immigration and human rights scholars have continuously noted a gulf between the politics of immigration on the one hand and the solid research on the other (Massey et al. 2002; Portes & Rumbaut 2006; Sassen 1996; Calavita 1998). Senate, house, and executive proposals, for instance, reflect a negligent disconnect with empirical/historical facts about the roots of immigration, and an alarming connection with histsorical biases— clearly noted in the trends of who gets legalized and who gets deported. These top-down compromises generally benefit large businesses, and only few labor sectors will be protected from a historical program rooted to racist-colonial labor systems that devalue specific occupations and people (Barajas 2009; Ngai 2004; Gonzalez 2006). Disturbingly, the various CIR compromises have been widely supported by mainstream media, corporate interests, and other opportunists as the only realistic and pragmatic approaches to CIR: ‘something is better than nothing’ and ‘everyone wins and loses something.’ However, these CIR proposals and compromises suffer in at least five areas that should not be compromised in any final reform:
1)             They lack intelligence. The politics of enforcement-only is disconnected from solid research. Specifically, the enforcement-only policy neglect the factors that create migration and therefore its solutions are wasteful of resources and damaging to the financial stability of the nation.
2)             They violate justice. CIR discussions exclude the voices of those most impacted communities, and/or simply appropriate their voices to justify a reform that maintains many of their communities in a subservient and exploitable status in society. For example, dreamers in the military or college have their voices show cased, but their sisters and brothers and many others with dreams of a better future are silenced.
3)             They are void of courage to challenge the politics of intolerance and bias that devalue and exploit people on the basis of race-ethnicity, gender/sexuality, and class. For example, deportations are at historical records, and about 98% are Latin@.
4)             They hurt the health of families/communities prioritizing policies that tear them apart, deny health care/public services, and pit them against each other (migrant vs. non-migrants, ethnicities racialized as immigrant vs. native, etc.).
5)             They block societal harmony when public resources are invested in projects (border enforcement, secure communities, detention centers) that create a culture of borders that split society with notions of ‘I belong here more than you’ and ‘I have more rights to exist.’
These top-down CIR compromises suppress justice, democracy, and a future that works for everyone and not just a few powerful corporate and nativist interest groups. The problem is not with compromising but rather with compromises detached of historical, scientific, and ethical insights.
Over the past thirty years as U.S. political-economic involvement in Mexico, Central American and Asia grew, and correspondingly migration from those nations increased to this country (Fernández-Kelly 1983; Sassen 1988, 1996; Gonzalez and Fernandez 2003). In the 1990 census for the first time in US history, Latino and Asian immigrants outnumbered foreign-born Europeans coming to the United States. Migration from Mexico climbed steeper after NAFTA in 1994 and even after 9/11 and the billions of dollars directed to homeland security. The combination of border enforcement and Great Recession, however, paused migration from south of the border. In the past 5 years, the United States deported historical records of immigrants approximating 400,000 a year, totaling 1.5 million. Since NAFTA, more people have been deported than all deportations combined since the early in 19th century (Golash Boza 2012). Ninety-eight percent of them were from Latin America. About 70 percent of the total were from Mexico though they only made up about 30 percent of the immigrants (documented and undocumented). Honduras had the highest proportion of deportees per their numbers, followed by Mexico and then Guatemala. What we see is the deportation of people from nations that have been historically integrated into the U.S. economy, and whose economies have been reduced to export production for foreign investors. In Mexico, 80–90 percent of its exports are directed to the U.S., and during the
U.S. Great Recession it’s poverty jumped 2 percent points with about half of the population impoverished, violence increased claiming over 60,000 lives, and remittances declined yet remained the number one economic resource.
CIR must consider the United State’s role in dislocating people from their homeland via its political-economic policies like NAFTA/CAFTA, and/or military interventions like in Vietnam in the sixties, Central America in the eighties, and the Middle East now. To reduce migration, U.S. policy must prioritize labor, civil, and human rights across borders. Insensitive to the global realities that cause immigration and to the historical biases denying people of color full membership to nation, restrictive and burdensome CIR acts effectively violate human rights and keep a large number of immigrants and relatives in a marginalized status for generations. Equity, justice, and democratic principles must be core values in all national and multi-national acts.
En solidaridad con CIR that uplifts human dignity and justice!

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