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Immigration In Your Back Yard

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

July 5, 2011

By Perry Redd

What are you all going to do when you find that the thing you hate is in your back yard? What I’ve come to learn is that with conservative ideology, many of the social and economic positions taken, like immigration, affect the very people who rail against them. When that happens, they squirm in the underwear and act like they’ve been “for it” all along. Conservatives are against immigration reform—unless it benefits their interests.

The reason why there is not an ice cube’s chance in hell I’d support any conservative running for anything—or any conservative agenda item for that matter, is because 1) they never admit they are wrong when they are wrong, 2) they are wrong far too often, and 3) they contradict their foundational stand on every issue imaginable.

Let’s take, conservatives firm stand against comprehensive immigration reform. Though they complain ferociously against allowing a well-defined “path to citizenship” to move forward in any legislative forum, the past 10 years has seen the problem (if there really is one) increase. There are more illegal immigrants in the U.S. now than in 2002. That’s not so abnormal, because human population increases over time anyway, but this has conservatives scared because Hispanics are the larger percentage of the increase. Had conservatives not been so stubborn, this problem could’ve reversed. But reverse isn’t necessarily what conservatives are sincerely interested in. Confused? You should be. They’ve done nothing and stood in the way of those who wanted to do something, and they got nothing to show for it—and in 2012, they want you to vote for them…that’s how they roll…but that’s a different commentary.

More to the point, last week, I heard the Hannitys and Limbaughs saying that former Washington Post reporter Jose Vargas was an American hero for taking initiative in his fight to become an American citizen. Vargas took his brother’s identity, joined the military or something, eventually rising to the status of award-winning journalist. Vargas’ status as an employee of the Washington Post makes for titillating fare, but his tale presented significant legal hurdles for the newspaper (and now, for all the fake conservatives)–after all, the fact that Vargas is a journalist and does not fit the stereotype of a blue-collar illegal worker that crosses the Rio Grande skews the conservative position. This also doesn’t change the fact that he and his employer broke federal laws. As the story develops and Vargas begins giving more and more interviews, one imagines it will take little time for the underlying story to surface, while Vargas’ legal status in this country hangs in the balance.

But Vargas’ line is this: “In many ways, I represent … just how broken the immigration system is,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” of his decision to publish an account of his illegal status. “In many ways the goal was to expose just how incredibly dysfunctional and irrational the whole system is and has been for quite some time.”

We, on the Left, knew this long ago! The problem lies in how conservative voices like George Will who opposed any kind of comprehensive reform, now argues that the shortage of highly-skilled laborers demands a more inclusive immigration approach. What? But that leaves that conservative stand in shambles! He sounds like a…like a…like a liberal!

Then, on the same show was DC’s nightmare, Michelle Rhee. Rhee, who has devoted much of her time to founding the group Students First since leaving her controversial tenure in the Washington school system. She described a gap between the skills American schools are preparing students for and the skills needed to sustain a strong American economy. She posited that “In the next twenty years in this country…we are going to have 125 million high-skilled, high-paid jobs. And at the rate that the current public education system is going, we’re only going to be able to produce 50 million American kids who have the skills…[and] potentially outsourcing the rest of those jobs, the majority of those jobs, overseas.” She was advocating expanding immigration.

Vargas was joined on the panel by former Florida Senator Mel Martinez also. “There are some things that we need to do just for the good of the country, for the good of our economy,” said Martinez. “We have a tremendous shortage of people in the high-tech fields…where we really need people from other countries who are learning these skills to be able to come here and create jobs.” That’s spin if I ever heard it. Immigrants don’t come here “creating” jobs. He knows it, but he has to convince you because those immigrants that conservatives are fighting against, are him…and potential voters. Same for Rhee; her people would’ve been deported too, had she not come up.

George Will went on to say, “Let me give you another reason why we need immigrants…when we started Social Security there were about 42 workers for every retiree. Today we’re down to three point some. … The Social Security Trustees Report assumes the continuing high level of immigration to replenish the workforce, to make the entitlement system work.” In other words, “we—conservatives—have been wrong all the time! We need those immigrants to pay for our retirements!”

The problem I have with this newfound position, which you should have too, is that this position is about exploitation. If not for the good of capital interests and open markets, they wouldn’t change policy. One can tell from the negative language and targets articulated, they aren’t talking about the Mexicans coming across the border; those people are likely to vote Democrat. My point is illegal is illegal. Whether skilled or unskilled, either you are going to enforce the law or you’re not. This class creation for “who’s more illegal” just perpetuates a persistent American black eye that has not served us well.

Will we do something different? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called the lack of comprehensive immigration reform national suicide, but few legislators will come out of their box, which keeps the country stuck on stupid and each year we get deeper in debt—and Obama ends up owning a decade old problem.

Martinez, who once served as chairman of the Republican National Committee, said “We need to talk about the fact that this is a country that people still yearn to come to. People love this country and when they come here, they get invested in America, they want to become Americans.” I say, quit the classism on immigration. High-skilled or low-skilled, make the policy comprehensive, fair and train the people already here. Create the path to citizenship, ‘cause it’s going to be in your backyard.

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