Inhumane House bill prompts protests for illegal immigrants
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 04/14/06
BY KASTURI DASGUPTA
All across the nation, the demand for immigrant rights is galvanizing communities in ways unprecedented in recent times. Much of the credit for this civic awakening has to be given to HR-4437, which was passed by the House in December and reached the Senate and the public conscience in March.
The inhumanity of this bill, which would make undocumented immigrants and their supporters felons, has jolted the entire nation into full wakefulness. It has brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators out into the streets of Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, New York and in cities big and small all across this immigrant nation.
The protesters are demanding full legal rights for the undocumented. Many have been in the United States for years. Their labor has become indispensable for so many businesses and for so many communities.
Their undocumented status makes them vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous employers. In comparison to legal workers, both native born and immigrant, it is their vulnerability that makes them more attractive to the prospective employers.
It is not the immigrant who drives down wages, it is the employer driven by nothing other than profit, who seeks out the undocumented to abuse and exploit. In the process, it is the native-born worker, often poor and unemployed, who loses out in this run to the bottom. But it isn't the undocumented immigrant who has shaped this system. In their quest for survival, they are victims, as much as their native-born brethren, of a system that values the bottom line over everything else.
As long as capitalism and corporate globalization dictate the dynamics of communities, nations and borders, the immigrant debate will rage without coming to a resolution. Congress will play with one provision or the other, teasing the nation with one measure or the other, without coming to a sincere resolution.
As long as the system thrives on the cheapest sources of labor, immigration reform will be nothing more than a mirage. Systemic changes have to happen both here and there, in the United States and in the nations from which immigrants escape, in order for borders to hold. As long as countries continue to fall off the development scale, the borders of United States and Western Europe will be besieged by people desperate just to survive.
For now though, it is vital to join hands with the protesters to demand that legal and civil rights be extended to all undocumented immigrants. This will even out the playing field so that, in a system based on competition, the native-born can compete on a par with the immigrant and vice versa, demanding better wages, better benefits, better working conditions. Immigrant rights are workers' rights; they reinforce the rights of all workers, immigrant and native.
A coalition of immigrant rights organizations in New Jersey are uniting efforts to participate in a statewide strike May 1, calling it "A Day Without an Immigrant." On this day of international workers solidarity, if people, young and old, immigrant and native born, students and teachers, come out in support of immigrant rights and workers' rights, a united front will be created to finally move this country forward in a humane, fair, just and democratic direction. It is ultimately up to the people to pick up the mantle.
Kasturi DasGupta is a professor of sociology at Georgian Court University, Lakewood.
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