Monday, May 29, 2006

"Immigration" Reform

Conservatives are calling for "Immigration Reform."

Beware when the leaders in this administration use that word "reform."

Just like "Social Security Reform" their ideas about "Immigration Reform" need closer scrutiny because the real problem with the current situation runs broader and deeper than just the limited issues upon which they are harping.

From George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson of The Rockridge Institute:

'Consider if we framed the issue not as "Immigration Reform" but as "Foreign Policy Reform," which focuses on two sub-issues:

How has US foreign policy placed, or kept, in power oppressive governments which people are forced to flee?'

What role have international trade agreements had in creating or exacerbating people's urge to flee their homelands?

If capital is going to freely cross borders, should people and labor be able to do so as well, going where globalization takes the jobs?

Such a framing of the problem would lead to a solution involving the Secretary of State, conversations with Mexico and other Central American countries, and a close examination of the promises of NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank to raise standards of living around the globe.

It would inject into the globalization debate a concern for the migration and displacement of people, not simply globalization's promise for profits. Yet this is not addressed when the issue is defined as the “immigration problem.”

In fact, President Bush's “comprehensive solution” does not address any of these concerns. Yet, the "immigration" problem, in this light, is actually a globalization problem.

Perhaps the problem might be better understood as a humanitarian crisis.

After all, can the mass migration and displacement of people from their homelands at a rate of 800,000 people a year be understood as anything else?

Unknown numbers of people have died trekking through the extreme conditions of the Arizona and New Mexico desert.

Towns are being depopulated and ways of life lost in rural Mexico. Fathers feel forced to leave their families in their best attempt to provide for their kids.

Everyday, boatloads of people arrive on our shores after miserable journeys at sea in deplorable conditions.

As a humanitarian crisis, the solution could involve The UN or the Organization of American States. But these bodies do not have roles in the immigration frame, so they have no place in an “immigration debate.”

So the deliberate framing this as just an “immigration problem” prevents us from penetrating deeper into the issue.

The current situation can also be seen as a civil rights problem. The millions of people living here who crossed illegally are for most intents and purposes Americans.

They work here. They pay taxes here. Their kids are in school here. They plan to raise their families here. (Arguments that most don't pay taxes are bogus.)

For the most part, they are assimilated into the American system, but are forced to live underground and in the shadows because of their legal status. They are denied ordinary civil rights.

Therefore, the “immigration problem” framing overlooks their basic human dignity.

Perhaps most pointedly, the “immigration problem” frame blocks an understanding of this issue as a cheap labor issue.

The undocumented immigrants allow employers to pay low wages, which in turn provide the cheap consumer goods we find at WalMart and McDonalds.

They are part of a move towards the cheap lifestyle, where employers and consumers find any way they can to save a dollar, regardless of the human cost.

Most of us partake in this cheap lifestyle, and as a consequence, we are all complicit in the current problematic situation. (And maybe that guilt is what is making so many Americans so angry. But rather than do something about humanizing corporations, we are punishing the underpaid victims who provide us with cheap goods and labor.)

Business, Consumers and Government have turned a blind eye to the problem for so long because our entire economy is structured around subsistence wages.

Americans won't do the work immigrants do not because they don't want to, but because they won't do it for such low pay.

Since Bush was elected, corporate profits have doubled but there has been no increase in wages. This is really a wage problem. The workers who are being more productive are not getting paid for their increased productivity."

(end of excerpt)

Instead of trying to counter all the demeaning arguments that are being hurled against migrants and undocumented workers, it's important for people of compassion to stop discussing this issue within the narrow and inherently biased framework that has been created by the non-compassionate.

In other words, if we as Christians are serious about bringing God and compassion and love into this world, we must begin re-framing this issue in more humane terms.

For instance, to use the language frame that defines anyone as "an alien" is dehumanizing. We should not use that term for Mexicans or migrants or anyone born on this planet.

We are all humans, not aliens.

Continuing to use this insulting term - even in our arguments against the dehumanization of migrant workers - only plays to those who lack compassion by validating their charged term.

Christ told us to love every man as a brother, not to label, shame, exploit or abuse him. Especially when the policies of our nation help to create the poverty in other nations that sends so many to our shores.

Christians need to stand up for an immigration policy that is rooted in justice, fairness and compassion. We cannot continue to tolerate an immigration policy that rewards us for exploiting the poor and vulnerable while shaming and criminalizing those very people on whom we depend to pick our food, clean our homes, build new construction, fight fires and do so much of our manual labor.

I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. Zechariah 3:12

Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of god. Ephesians 2:19

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you. Ephesians 4:31

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1


At 5/29/2006 10:35 PM, Blogger George Johnstgone said...

Dear Clyo:
I liked your extensive global in
scope and intricate nature of
illegal immigration.


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