Friday, July 21, 2006

It's always easiest to attack the defenseless

Immigration reform has become quite the hot topic of political debate in the past few months, as the country's many social and economic woes get laid at the feet of those immigrants who have risked everything for a chance at the American dream. These men, women and children, mostly Latin Americans coming across the southern US border, have been villified and accused by pundits of stealing American jobs, using social services to which they aren't entitled, threatening the security of the "homeland," and undermining American culture and language.

For a nation that likes to take the moral high ground, how do we justify these sorts of attacks on the poor, desperate and defenseless. Most immigrant workers are forced to endure tremedously dangerous conditions just to enter the US, and when they get here they work extremely long hours for sub-standard wages. Employers exploit their labor and inflict innumerable indignities on them because they know that as undocumented workers at risk of deportation they won't seek government assistance. They endure all of this to try to do the very same things as the rest of us: earn a better life for themselves and a brighter future for their children.

My question is, aren't there other parties who are more deserving of criticism and righteous anger? Here's a the list that I came up with:

1. The smugglers who transport the immigrants across the border, taking all of their money and treating them like cattle.

2. The US employers who take advantage of the immigrants and skirt US law repeatedly and unabashedly.

3. The goverments of the countries from which these people emigrate, who do nothing to address the persistent poverty and unemployment that plague a huge segment of the population. The economic programs that created the wide chasm between rich and poor in these countries were often put in place based on the "recommendations" of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in a Faustian bargain for loans and foreign investment.

4. The US government that enters into "free trade" agreements with the Latin American governments while keeping in place agricultural subsidies that give American grain exports an unfair advantage, destroying the farming industry in these Latin American countries.

5. US Corporations that have hijacked our government and control its economic agenda. Our social policies do nothing to address the economic shift away from manufacturing and white collar jobs with benefits toward service sector and lower wage jobs with no benefits. Increasingly domestic workers find themselves in competition with immigrant workers, both documented and undocumented, for jobs and social services. Despite the fact that executive salaries continue to soar, the rest of us are forced to fight over an increasingly smaller piece of the pie.

Here's an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. It's a story of a group of mostly Guatemalan immigrants who were abandoned in the desert by their smugglers; one of the litany of these kinds of stories.

Migrants Survive Arizona Desert
Investigators are interviewing dozens of illegal immigrants who were abandoned by smugglers in triple-digit heat without water.

By Nicholas Riccardi, Times Staff Writer
July 20, 2006

TONOPAH, Ariz. — Authorities searched this isolated desert region Wednesday after they discovered nearly 100 undocumented migrants who apparently had been left by smugglers — without drinking water — hiding in the brush.

The illegal immigrants were found Tuesday afternoon by a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. They emerged from the brush and pleaded for water, saying they had spent three days in triple-digit heat without any supplies. ...
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