ringing with G.W.'s call for more American troops to head south to the border. An army of humanitarian groups and human rights activists rushes south to provide aid, and private militias follow with camoflage gear and guns to fill the gaps left by the government. Meanwhile, coming north, an estimated half-million people annually from Mexico to Brazil successfully evade this politico-military frontline. One journalist described the absurdity of the situation:
The desert suddenly seemed like an M.C. Escher drawing, with successive layers of groups watching each other - the Border Patrol, the ACLU, the Samaritans, the Minutemen, the journalists, and, at the center, the immigrants.Sending thousands of members of the National Guard south to play backup to the Border Patrol is but one part - albeit a central one - of the U.S. government's attempt to stem the tide of immigration (conservatives, by the way, aren't hiding their disappointment with the President's plans). Other parts of the proposal include various versions of a temporary work visa program, some of which allow workers to later apply for residency and others that require that they return home for a year. Some lawmakers loathe the idea. Others support imposing fines on those already in the country when they apply for these visas, increasing penalties for illegal immigrants and their employers, introducing manditory jail time for those caught, streamlining (aka reducing) judicial review, and upping the use of military surveillance equipment along the border. some are looking elsewhere.
The current flows of immigration into the United States are a result of the actions of the US government and US-based corporations...These flows are...due to US military intervention, direct foreign investment by US corporations, and the presence of people from those countries already residing in the United States.Unfortunately, these much stated claims from the Left ring hollow when not followed by alternative proposals to those now being debated in Congress. The strength of the Left's critique, however, lies in its recognition that immigration doesn't need to be reformed, trade policies do. Sadly, the major political parties, for all intents and purposes, agree over U.S. trade policies and thus leave this important part of the debate untouched. Conservatives alone appear to fill this gap. For the Left, is this a missed opportunity or simply a pragmatic necessity? Why has the Global Justice Movement, for one, been so quiet on this front? Stephen Steinberg, a Berkeley sociologist is insistant:
Progressives have to ask themselves how they can rail against neoliberal trade policy, and fall into silence when it comes to a neoliberal immigration policy that is designed to crowd labor markets, depress wages, and undercut unions, and that exacerbates the problems of African Americans and other marginal groups, including immigrants themselves.Guest worker programs won't solve the problem of illegal immigration, nor will they prevent the exploitation of foreign workers or the declining wages of American citizens. What this country needs, if I may sound a progressive tone, is a more equitable distribution of wealth and power on both sides of the border. The immigration debate as it now stands is too narrow, too politically cautious, and is illustrative of the perversities of institutionalized politics. Call out the troops, but not those troops. Mobilize the masses. Organize, organize, organize!