Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
Bush and Democrats' Immigration “Reforms”: No Good for the People
As the reactionary offensive against immigrants intensifies—carried out by the government as well as by fascist vigilantes and media demagogues like Lou Dobbs—there is talk among ruling class politicians in Washington about major immigration “reform.” But the “solutions” being pushed by both Bush and the Democrats are no good for the people.
George Bush's Plan
Though Bush has not yet released his full immigration program, a preliminary draft was released to the media in March 2007. It heavily pushes the expansion of the “guest worker” programs, which create an underclass of workers who can readily be deported if their employers fire them, who are often cheated out of their wages, and who are forced to live in filthy conditions. Under Bush's plan, “guest worker” visas would last 3 years and could be renewed over and over again, putting these immigrant workers into a permanent caste-like status. To top it off, “guest workers,” who are often thousands of dollars in debt to labor contractors by the time they come to the U.S., and who are often paid far less than the minimum wage, would be charged $3,500 each time they renew the visa. (For more on "guest workers," see “Immigrant Workers: 'Close to Slavery'” in Revolution # 83, online at revcom.us.)
Bush also promotes increased militarization of the border. In an April speech in Yuma, Arizona, he bragged that the Border Patrol had increased from 9,000 to 13,000 agents--and called for 5,000 more agents by the end of next year. He also wants an additional 370 miles of border fences. The increased militarization of the border in recent years has led to more deaths on the border, as immigrants are forced to cross in even more remote and dangerous areas. Since the stepped-up militarization of the border began during the Clinton presidency in the mid-1990s, an estimated 10,000 immigrants have died trying to cross.
Another key element of Bush's program is the building of more and more immigrant detention facilities. In 2006, the Bush regime gave a subsidiary of the war profiteering company Halliburton a $385 million dollar contract to build jails for immigrants in the event of “emergencies.” Bush declared in his Yuma speech that he has increased detention space for immigrants, including children, by 40 percent since 2001 and plans more expansion. A recent ACLU lawsuit discussed the horrendous conditions at one detention center in Texas: "Children are detained in small cells for about 11 or 12 hours each day, and are prohibited from keeping food and toys in these cells, which lack any privacy… many children suffer from chronic ailments that worsen as they are left undiagnosed and untreated… Guards frequently discipline the children by threatening to separate them from their families." (from a March 2007 lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the Department of Homeland Security, posted at http://www.aclu.org/immigrants/detention/hutto.html)
Under Bush's “reforms” all immigrant workers would have to have a “tamper-proof ID card.” But such an ID card could only be useful to the government if all workers, immigrant or not, were required to possess one—in other words, this is a fascistic proposal for a national ID card.
Luis Gutierrez's Bill
The STRIVE Act, a bill introduced by Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez along with Arizona Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, is being promoted by some forces as a more “pro-immigrant” alternative to Bush's plan—but it is actually full of similar attacks on immigrants.
While the bill supposedly gives undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, the requirements are written in such a way to make it virtually impossible for the majority of immigrants to get citizenship. Most of those applying for citizenship would have to leave the country within 90 days of applying--and register before being allowed to return. People would also have to pay a minimum $2,000 fine and pay "back taxes," even if they have already been paying taxes for years. They would have to show proof that they have consistently been employed since June 1, 2006—which disqualifies anyone who was unemployed for too long. Any immigrant who ever used “fraudulent documents” (about 75 percent of undocumented workers, since they often have to resort to using fake IDs to get work) would not only be ineligible for citizenship--anyone caught using “fraudulent documents” could be imprisoned for up to15 years. And for the few that might manage to satisfy all of these requirements, they would still have to wait an average of 15 years before actually getting citizenship.
Like Bush's proposals, the STRIVE Act heavily promotes “guest worker” programs. Under Gutierrez's plan, workers would get a three-year visa and be able to renew it once. And they would have to pay a fee of $15,000 for the privilege of being exploited as “guest workers.” The Act also calls for a national biometric database to track all immigrants, an "Electronic Employment Verification System" to identify who is documented (and who is not), and 20 new detention centers—more than even what Bush is calling for.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.