John Amato and I have had a lot of conversations about illegal immigration lately. Unlike Rahm Emanuel, who--most frighteningly--thinks Dems must move to the right of Republicans on this issue, I really think it's a third rail for progressives, because they get sucked into playing defense on what boils down to a lot of reactionary Republican Fear of Brown People. The cold hard truth is that it's an issue now because the Republicans need a wedge issue. David Sirota:
As our paychecks stagnate, our personal debt climbs and our health care premiums skyrocket, We the People are ticked off. Unfortunately for those in Congress, polls show that America is specifically angry at the big business interests that write big campaign checks.
So now comes the con - the dishonest argument over illegal immigration trying to divert our ire away from the corporate profiteers, outsourcers, wage cutters and foreclosers that buy influence - and protection - in Washington.
Republicans like Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) are demanding the government cut off public services for undocumented workers, build a barrier at the Mexican border and force employers to verify employees' immigration status. Democrats like Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) are urging their allies to either embrace a punitive message aimed at illegal immigrants, or avoid the immigration issue altogether. And nobody asks the taboo question: What is illegal immigration actually about?
The answer is exploitation. Employers looking to maximize profits want an economically desperate, politically disenfranchised population that will accept ever worse pay and working conditions. Illegal immigrants perfectly fit the bill.
Politicians know exploitation fuels illegal immigration. But they refuse to confront it because doing so would mean challenging their financiers.
Instead we get lawmakers chest-thumping about immigration enforcement while avoiding a discussion about strengthening wage and workplace safety enforcement — proposals that address the real problem.
Case in point: Watch Rachel Maddow try to inject any semblance of sense of how to handle immigration into a discussion on Hardball from last week. At the word "comprehensive", Tweety shuts her down, because obviously, she's not serious...because apparently only Very. Serious. People. discuss immigration in what you have to assume is a cherry-picking manner. Pat Buchanan (and why would you pick Mr. Xenophobe Isolationist to try to debate the issue?) just yells over anything Rachel says.
UPDATE: John Amato... David Sirota articulates perfectly what is going on....We've received a lot of local press coverage for our Blue America pushback against the Rahm/Tancredo bigot bill...Donate if you can...We're going forward with some new ads and could use your help...Bob Cesca:
The other tragic thing about the exchange is that it exposed the fact that Pat Buchanan gets paid lecture fees from businesses that hire and exploit illegal workers. In other words, it doesn't matter whether these corporations hire illegal immigrants -- as long as the check clears, it's fine by him. Way to stand by your principals, Buchanan.