- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
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- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
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- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
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We are all immigrants . . . Aren't we?
The stories of the struggles that my great grandparents went through to get to Ellis Island are legendary. Immigration to the United States for opportunity, freedom, and religious tolerance has shaped my family’s traditions, my identity, and my values. The lesson that I learned from my immigrant history is that this is country of opportunity where everyone can be welcomed regardless of where you come from—that is what makes us uniquely American.
In the recent debates on immigration policy, those simple values that most of us grew up with seem to be missing from the debate. Did my great grandmother stow away on a ship from Germany with money in her pocket so that she could pay the “legal status” fee when she arrived? I don’t think so. Did she learn to speak English before she left? I know she didn’t. In fact, her insistence on speaking German at home was legendary. Like many people who arrive everyday from Haiti, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ghana, and other countries, world conflicts and failed economic policies put her in a position to make the very frightening choice to travel to strange country on the chance that maybe she would have a future without poverty and suffering.
So why don’t we welcome new immigrants now? Well, we weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms back then, and I know that there is some fear of security breaches at the borders. However, the current debate seems to equate immigration with terrorism, which is almost as ridiculous as purporting that Sadaam Hussein was connected with al-Qaida. (Hmmm.) The right-wingers have quite a few ridiculous things to say about immigration. This quote from Fox News' John Gibson featured on Media Matters was particularly outrageous:
"I think this kind of discussion by a major Hispanic political organization like la Raza casts a lot of suspicion about what open immigration groups are up to. There has been much discussion -- much discussion about the so-called reconquista, which is the retaking of old Mexico territories, which are now part of the United States, by pure birth rate.
We hear people say we are going to take it back and eventually -- that will eventually color the immigration debate in the way that Mexican-Americans and Hispanic immigrants will not want. La Raza is a group dedicated to the betterment of the race; good, but try being American while you are at it, guys. Eleven million people say they want to be Americans, they want to stay here, they want to be legal. Fine, just be Americans, learn the language so you can deal with the rest of us while you maintain your identity and your language and assimilate into American culture. That's how you make yourself welcome."
Seriously? Poor people who leave their families behind to climb over a wall and risk being shot by vigilantes to come to place to work for ridiculously low wages where they have no legal rights are secretly part of a “reconquista” conspiracy. Yeah, that makes sense. Here’s some good video of what is really going on the border.
Beyond this conspiracy propaganda, there is a pattern of even more insidious insidious racism and xenophobia that is infiltrating the debates on this issue. The most depressing part of this dialogue is that these wackos are dominating the debate on the issue of immigration. I don’t see many progressive voices in the blogosphere reaching over the cultural “fences” that divide us to speak out for the voiceless.
Okay, here is my disclaimer: I am working for the AFSC and Immigrant’s Rights are a priority for the group. However, I was looking for some other folks who are as outraged as I am by this, and there was very little being said about it in my normal circles, in spite of millions of people taking to the streets. (Here are some great photos of the protests in LA, btw.) So, I would like to start a substantive discussion about the progressive vision for immigration beyond the talking points -- we disagree with Pat Buchanan and Bush is pandering to the Hispanic community. Pew Research shows that most Americans are ambivalent about immigrants, as long as they are not affected financially. Ironically, US trade policies supported by conservatives to protect our economy have caused the recent waves of migration from countries where trade agreements have ruined the economies.
So, it looks like we need some guiding principles, since we are not going to get much help from the ever-withering D’s (even though this could be greatest political opportunity before 2008). I think the AFSC’s 6 principles for a compassionate immigration policy are a good place to start. There are big events being planned for April 10, so watch out for what is going on in your community—the Rapid Response section of the AFSC will have details in the coming days. Also, please add more sources of strong progressive views on immigration to my list and help link up the network.