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If US Congressional plans for “reform” would hurt more than help, what do we do?

The Second Cooler. The Movie. The Movement. With Martin Sheen.

“I was in Albuquerque last weekend (February 14-15, 2014) screening The Second Cooler at an event sponsored by the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice. At the Q&A following one of the screenings, a Latina asked me, through an interpreter, what I suggest Latinos do since the Senate’s proposal S. 744, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill which passed in the US Senate last year, would do more harm than good.

1. In my opinion, one significant thing Latinos can do without personal risk is to decline to be organized by advocacy groups which support S. 744. My experience and observation tell me that far too many advocacy groups are committing malpractice when they encourage immigrants to make posters which read “Immigration Reform Now!” then gather them together in public places to have their pictures taken with those signs. Immigrants believe they are being organized by people who have their best interests at heart and who have an understanding of what the bills coming out of the US Congress actually are.

Unfortunately, many advocacy groups do not have immigrants best interests at heart. Too often there are serious conflicts of interest. For example, many have close ties to deep pocket corporations including the Builders and Contractors Association which is lobbying for major expansions of the H2 Guest Worker Visa, a system which allows employers to legally import vulnerable, low wage workers. In essence, the H2 Visa is a system of indentured servitude and human trafficking run by the Federal government.

Another problem is that many advocacy groups don’t understand the problem. They don’t understand the system. And they don’t understand S. 744. What they don’t understand is that the bill is a deal. The deal is: you give me more militarization and the increase of migrant deaths that go with militarization and you give me major extensions of the H2 Guest Worker Visa, a Federally run system of indentured servitude and human trafficking, and I give you a doubtful path to citizenship for a select few. They are making us what they think is an “offer you can’t refuse,” but in fact it is an offer we can and should refuse.

Unfortunately, many advocacy groups stand to benefit by S. 744’s promise of Federal funding to groups which guide those few people through the supposed path to citizenship. This is a clear conflict of interest.

2. In addition, many advocacy groups encourage people, Latinos and non-Latinos, to call their Senators and Representatives and say, “The time for immigration reform is now!” The problem with this strategy is that “comprehensive immigration reform” means anything anybody wants it to mean. Alabama’s harsh anti-immigrant reform bill, HB 56, which became law, was billed by Senator Scott Beason, its sponsor, as “comprehensive immigration reform.” The same is true of Arizona’s SB 1070. When a person calls and says “the time for immigration reform is now,” a secretary takes the call (or looks at the email), and jots down a mark meaning “yes” or “no.” There is no subtlety and no analysis of the intention behind the mark.

Instead, in my opinion, you should contact your government representative. But be sure you communicate what you intend to communicate. Make sure you understand what S. 744 and similar bills actually are not what we might want them to be. Tailor your language to reality. Be specific! Say, for example, “I oppose S. 744. I want the border to be de-militarized. I want the H2 Guest Worker Program to be abolished. I want deportations halted altogether until they can be detached from the Department of Homeland Security and the for-profit prison system. I want to stop Free Trade Agreements.” Understand the packages and tailor your language to them.

3. Emphasize the importance of solidarity. There is strength in numbers. There is strength in comprehending that each of us, including those with the most on the line, must take up one another’s struggles. US citizen women who want their deported husbands returned to them must take up the cause of US domestic laborers who also are hurt by the system. People who recover migrant bodies from the Sonora Desert or the Rio Grande must take up the cause of Guest Workers. Unauthorized workers in the US must work to undermine Free Trade Agreements which have hurt them with a clear understanding that FTAs also have hurt small farmers, small factory owners, and small businesses in the US. A rising tide of protest, a rising tide of articulations for justice will lift all boats.”

©Ellin Jimmerson, February 18, 2014
Read the Platform for Comprehensive Migrant Justice:/justice-deals-platform-comprehensive-migrant-justice/

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