Sunday, September 28, 2014

Immigration Reform, Activism, and Moral Certainty

by Duane Campbell
An argument is being made in many places in the Latino community  condemning Obama for his not taking executive action  and condemning  Civil Rights veterans such as Dolores Huerta and Eliseo Medina for their positions of not condemning the Obama lack of action. Here is an example.
A problem with this effort is that attacking our allies does not move immigration policy forward.  And, an argument from a position of  moral correctness does not necessarily change policy.  We need to be on the morally correct side,  as Huerta and Medina are, but that is not enough.  See prior posts on this blog about Medina and Huerta.
I learned this in the anti war movement against the war in Viet Nam.  We had hundreds of thousands in the streets opposed to the war, but the war went on.  58,000 U.S. soldiers died, 100,000s were injured.  Over 1.2 million Vietnamese died.  Although we were morally correct, the war went on.

In El Salvador between 1982 and 1992 the U.S. backed government carried out a civil war against the population.  At least 75,000 were killed.  In Nicaragua  between  19 79-1990  at leas 40,000 were killed.  In Guatemala the civil war cost at least  200,000 lives.  Our  solidarity efforts in the U.S. were morally correct, but our efforts  did not change U. S. policy.
Moral correctness does not change policy because  political and economic power largely controls this country.  We have a political oligarchy- the control of our government by the super rich.  Our government is dominated by corporations.  We need to study and to understand neoliberal capitalism. Then, we will need to go to work to change it.

In the  current immigration debate.
Tony Castro in VOXXI explains the dilemma  this way.
Democrats’ growing concern about losing control of the Senate this fall and the fear of a potential debacle in 2016 is now increasing doubts about whether any immigration reform bill can be passed during President Obama’s final two years in office.
Not only are Democrats pressing Obama to hold off indefinitely on unilaterally making immigration changes — not just until after the election — they are also saying he shouldn’t use executive authority to ease deportations at any time.

Perhaps, more importantly, Republicans appear to be turning away from comprehensive immigration reform, and even Democrats and independents appear less enthusiastic than at any time during the Obama presidency.

So then, we come down to the argument about the Democrats keeping control of the Senate.  There are handful of states where the control of the Senate will be decided in this election.   They include:  Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas.  These are the states  where the Senate majority  will be decided.  In each of these states Latinos make up less than 3 % of the total  vote.  Arturo Camona of Presente argued that Latinos should vote against the Democrats in 4 of these states- the effect  is that they should vote for control of the Senate by Republicans.
If the Republicans gain control of the Senate, rather than bills like we faced last year we will face bills like the 2006 Sensenbrenner bill, or the 1984 Simpson-Mazzolli bill, or the highly regressive bills passed in the Republican House this summer.

Advocates of punish the leaders approach under estimate the effects of the Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate.  Santos, cited above, says that the President will still have a veto. Yes, he will.  But the House has already passed legislation to further militarize the border and to end DACA.  They could well package legislation such as ending DACA as a part a bill for the U.S. budget.  Then the critics expect Barack Obama – who they denounce daily- to veto the entire U.S. budget and shut down the government in order to protect DACA. Recall that DACA is temporary, it must be renewed.  Lets be a little more realistic.
Rather than spending our time denouncing long time civil rights leaders, we should spend our time organizing for political power.   Between now and  Nov. 4, we need to do all we can to prevent the Republicans  from gaining  control of the Senate.  Voting for Republicans delivers the Senate to Republican control.
Being morally correct is not enough- you also have to have allies and a strategy that can  move your effort toward winning.
Progressives  need to continue our work with labor and the immigrants’ rights movement toward a fair and comprehensive immigration reform for the U.S. – a better bill than the one passed last year in the Senate, which among other things called for doubling the current border patrol by hiring an additional 20,000-plus border agents.  The border patrol has grown from some 4,000 agents in 1992 to over 20,000 agents today – and the border crossing is more dangerous than ever.
U.S. immigration policy should help families reunite, treat immigrants with respect, and change the economic and trade policies that the U.S. and U.S.-based corporations have implemented in Central America and Mexico that have led to massive migration.
To get fair, comprehensive reform we will need to organize, vote and defeat right-wing mostly  Republican legislators who primarily want to militarize the border and those in both parties who promote so-called “free trade” zones.  If the Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate in the fall elections, all hope for a humane immigration reform will end for at least a decade.
The task of defeating anti-immigrant Congress members and senators, including most of the members of the Republican party, is work for us here in the U.S.
Individually, we can provide support, donations and volunteers to assist the refugees.  The migrants particularly need legal volunteers.
We should actively oppose the further militarization of the border (Texas) and the growth of the for-profit prison system based upon incarceration of the maximum number of people.  We can support good jobs, not prison jobs.
Finally, we can join with  immigrants’ rights groups, religious and community groups in “know your rights” workshops and in providing support and shelter.  Literature is available from the ACLU and other sources.  These efforts help migrants to protect their own constitutional rights.

Despierta Pueblo.  ¡Vota! Todos Votamos.

Duane Campbell is a professor emeritus of bilingual multicultural education at California State University Sacramento, a union activist, and  former chair of Sacramento Democratic Socialists of America.

Duane Campbell.

Democracy and Education Institute.

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