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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Sunday, January 11, 2004


Real Immigration Reform

posted by Brian Ulrich at Sunday, January 11, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Emma Goldman isn't buying the Bush immigration reform proposal:

"It's an ingenious proposal, because most of the benefit appears to go to workers. A closer look, though, and it appears mainly designed to protect employers--illegals get almost nothing new. They get to stay in America--but only so long as they stay employed. Working and living here for 6 years doesn't put them any closer to citizenship, nor give them any of the rights of citizens. They become, in effect, workers who the law regards as having no legal rights. It cleans up a messy problem with illegal immigration without actually changing anything.

"Business, on the other hand, gets huge benefits. Now they have a vast, replenishable pool of workers not subject to the usual rules of American law. No more fear of INS raids, no more transient workforce--just a clean system of cheap labor. It accomplishes everything business loves with regard to labor: drives costs down, bypasses ugly human rights, environmental, and health concerns, breaks up organization. Another trifecta!"

Yes, my friends, in the best traditions of "Healthy Forests" and "No Child Left Behind," President Bush has produced a program to benefit prospective immigrants that hurts prospective immigrants. Not only that, but it hurts current American workers, as well. What we have here is not an immigration reform proposal, but a corporate labor recruiting proposal companies can use to hire workers who will - in practical terms - have fewer rights and make less money than would workers who have American citizenship. (The law says they would get equal protection, but given the fact they are completely dependent on their employer for their legal status, that would almost certainly not materialize on the ground.) This bill may seem good, but beneath the surface it threatens to create in this country conditions similar to those faced by many guest workers in Saudi Arabia.

What we need right now is real immigration reform in this country. Some, of course, badmouth immigration in general, forgetting that we are a nation of immigrants, and to criticize them is to criticize the modern day John Winthrops who come to these shores willing to work hard for a better future at jobs most Americans hold in disdain. They claim that such immigrants will take jobs from American workers and invoke prejudice against people whose skin is a different shade from their own. These people are the heirs to those who supported such atrocities as the Chinese Exclusion Act and this odious piece of legislation.

Yet the reality is that people who come to this country looking for work become consumers as well as producers, helping grow the economy and create jobs for everyone. When we keep hearing about how there soon won't be enough taxpayers to keep up Social Security and Medicare, you'd think trying to increase the size of the labor force would be a no-brainer. Immigrants who settle permanently in the United States working low-wage jobs other people won't take will become the parents of tomorrow's middle class just as has happened with every other wave of immigrants in American history. And a stronger middle class makes for a stronger United States, enriched by people who bring new traditions to the mix of our community. What we need in this country is not corporate recruitment of guest workers, but procedures that make it possible for more people to come to the United States legally and join in this great American experiment.


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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.