Friday, May 26, 2006

David Bacon: No immigration bill is better than this one

IMMIGRATION MATTERS: Getting No Bill at All Is Better Than Senate Bill
New America Media, Commentary/Analysis, David Bacon, May 25, 2006

Editor's Note: Many grassroots immigrant rights groups outside Washington, D.C., say that failure to pass any immigration reform is better than any possible combination of the current House and Senate immigration bills. David Bacon is an associate editor at New America Media and author of "The Children of NAFTA" (University of California Press, 2004). He sits on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Committee of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition.

SAN FRANCISCO--When the U.S. Senate passed its version of "comprehensive immigration reform" on Thursday, senators from both sides of the aisle claimed that despite the enormous controversy the bill has generated, passing a bill with flaws was better than passing no bill at all. Outside of the beltway and its coterie of lobbyists, however, a groundswell of community groups now argue that Congress would do better to pass no bill than to enact a bill which reconciles the proposal just passed by the Senate, and that passed last December in the House of Representatives.

In a statement condemning the latest Hagel-Martinez compromise, S 2611, the proposal that just passed on Thursday, immigrant rights advocates convened by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights argued Wednesday that "the rush to reach a bipartisan accord on immigration legislation has led to a compromise that would create deep divisions within the immigrant community and leave millions of undocumented immigrants in the shadows."

"The current Senate bill," said Sheila Chung, of the San Francisco Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, "does not reflect the immigration reform called for by millions of immigrant communities marching the streets."

The United States is currently home to over 12 million people without immigration documents, which makes them and their families subject to deportation and vulnerable to exploitation at work. Nevertheless, the groups point to the following provisions of the Senate bill, which will make immigrants much worse off than they are even at present:

--Under the Senate's legalization plan, those with less than two years in the United States (about a million people) would be immediately subject to deportation. Those with two to five years must leave the country, and may apply to re-enter through some currently unknown process. The ability of border stations to handle the applications of the 3 to 4 million people involved is doubtful, given the current years-long backlog in normal visa applications.

--Like HR 4437 passed by the House in December, the Senate bill would ramp up the enforcement of current employer sanctions to make it a crime for undocumented people to hold a job. Employers often use this law to retaliate against workers who try to enforce labor standards or join unions. The Social Security Administration would become immigration police, forcing all workers to carry a new national ID card, and would require employers to fire anyone who's documents they question. The current Basic Pilot program, which moves in this direction, has shown the SSA database to be rife with errors.

--The Senate bill establishes and expands guest worker programs, allowing employers to recruit workers outside the country on temporary visas. These new contract workers would be vulnerable to employer pressure, since their visa status would be dependant on their employment. Further, as the AFL-CIO's Ana AvendaƱo points out, "this turns jobs that are now held by permanent employees with rights and benefits into jobs filled by temporary, contract employees. It basically takes the jobs of millions of people out of the protections of the New Deal won by workers decades ago." The labor federation points out that if currently undocumented workers and new immigrants were given permanent residence status instead of temporary visas, they would be able to exercise their rights as workers and community residents.

--The Senate bill "vastly increases detention and deportation practices and further militarizes the border," according to the New York-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The Halliburton Corporation has already been given a U.S. contract for construction of immigrant detention facilities near the border with Mexico, and proposals have been made for reopening closed military bases to house deportees and detainees. The bill makes document fraud an aggravated felony and grounds for deportation, resulting in the criminalization of the millions of immigrants who have had to provide false Social Security cards to employers in order to get hired.

Stan Mark, AALDEF director, warned before passage of S 2611 that "the upsurge in the mass movement will redefine this debate well into the elections if Congress passes their so-called 'compromise' of comprehensive immigration reform." He calls instead for eliminating current laws penalizing lack of legal status, especially employer sanctions. "The political climate of the debate," AALDEF says, "has converted this immigration bill into a Trojan horse into which lawmakers have crammed anti-immigrant and undemocratic policies."

The NNIRR declaration, a set of principles enumerated by AALDEF, and similar programs put forward by groups outside of Washington all emphasize the need for positive, pro-immigrant alternatives. They include immediate legal status for the undocumented, easier family reunification and elimination of the backlog in processing visa applications, no guest worker programs, ending the indefinite detention of immigrants, restoring due process to immigration proceedings and an end to the militarization of the U.S. border with Mexico.

Since the Senate has approved a bill far removed from these principles, and the House has enacted an enforcement-only bill that is even more hostile to immigrants, immigrant rights advocates believe killing all current proposals is their only option.

That might, in fact, be the outcome of efforts to reconcile the House and Senate bills, since the most conservative House Republicans oppose any legal status for the undocumented. "It is possible that a reconciliation between HR 4437 and S 2611 will not happen in the conference committee," speculates Evelyn Sanchez of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. "Should this happen, we will have time to continue pushing for real and fair comprehensive immigration reform. If HR 4437 and S 2611 are successfully reconciled, and the president signs the bill into law, then we have the task of overturning that law."

Despite the grim scenario, advocates are unwilling to give up. "It's been done before," she says.

Photo above by David Bacon. Photo on home page by Kevin Chan.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Immigration debate may get ugly: history

If History Is a Guide, The Immigration Debate Is Going to Get Ugly Very Fast

By Mark W. Naison

Dr. Naison is Professor of History and African American Studies at Fordham University. He is the author of Communists in Harlem During the Great Depression, White Boy: A Memoir, co-editor of The Tenant Movement in New York City, and over 100 articles on African American politics, social movements and American culture and sports. Dr. Naison is the Principal Investigator of the Bronx African American History Project.

As someone who has spent his adult life studying American labor history, I watch the unfolding of the current immigration debate with growing trepidation. As conservative demands for sealing of borders clash with the newly awakened immigrant community's demands for amnesty and liberalized migration rules, I can't help but think of a time after World War I when a nation panicked by the growing visibility and assertiveness of Southern and Eastern European immigrants passed the tightest immigration laws in the nation's history.

The parallels with the current situation are almost eerie. Between 1890 and 1919, Southern and Eastern European immigrants, almost none of the them English speaking, flooded into the nation's cities and factory towns by the millions, becoming the nation's major labor force in steel, mining, food processing, and garment production. It was their skill and labor that sparked the United States emergence as the world's major industrial power, yet to most Americans, they remained virtually invisible. Confined to ghettoes and "hunkietowns" where they could speak their own language, spawning a host of immigrant enterprieses, often returning to their own countries when they accumulated a nest egg, these laboring men and women,even when they became the majority in urban areas, had virtually no daily contact with English speaking Americans By the time World War I broke out, large expanses of metropolises like New York Chicago, and Pittsburgh, or cities like Patterson and Akron, were places where no English was spoken, and resembled European peasant villages more than New England country towns

World War I ended the immigrants invisibility, and with it, the atmosphere of tolerance for their presence. First came a three year debate over American entry into the war, which revealed a powerful immigrant presence in the ranks of anti-war activists, especially those motivated by Socialist ideals; then came the drive a constitutional amendment banning the sale and alchohol beverages, which found its strongest opposition in immigrant neighborhoods, and finally came the nationwide strike wave of 1919 which showed the power of immigrant workers to shut down entire industries and in a few cases, entire cities.

By the time of the 1920 Presidential Election, large portions of the electorate had become convinced that Southern and Eastern European immigration had to be stopped in its tracks. This reaction was fueled by a fear of crime as much as fear of labor unrest and political radicalism. The widespread defiance of national prohibition in immigrant working class neighborhoods and the rise of powerful crime syndicates, seemed to particularly enrage nativists and helped spark a revival of the Ku Klux Klan as a nationwide movement Like the Minutemen of today, the Klan of the 20’s took the law into to their own hands, attacking bootleggers, blacks, Catholics and Jews, with tactics that ranged from cross burnings to lynchings.

By 1924, immigration restriction had become the dominant issue of the national Republican Party and the result was a passage of immigration codes, based entirely on country of origin, that changed the face of America for two generations. Immigration from the nations of Eastern Europe, which exceeded 400,000 in 1919, was cut to under 40,000. Immigration from Italy was restricted to 4,000. The working class immigrant ghettoes of scores of American cities were deprived of new arrivals that would keep ethnic business districts alive and assure the preservation of European languges. Over time, with the aid of a public school system that used English only and a powerful and seductive popular culture that reached people through radio and movies, residents would become Anglicized and Americanized and the multilingual urban neighborhoods of the 20’s would become a distant memory.

Could this happen again? Definitely. The movement to close off our borders and expel undocumented immigrants is becoming more strident and more powerful daily, and unlike the immigrant protesters and their allies, its partisans have the votes to make themselves a potent force in national politics. Another terror attack on American soil, or a serious downturn in the American economy, will give those forces added energy, and is also likely to add tens of thousands of new followers to the Minutemen and violent white supremacist groups determined to make immigrants targets of violence and intimidation. It is also not impossible that black-immigrant conflicts could be exacerbated in these circumstances, turning a potential alliance into ugly competition over a shrinking supply of jobs.

To be honest, nothing I see leads me to be optimistic of how the immigrant issue will unfold over the next ten years. Panic about immigration is spreading into every region and demographic groups, affecting small towns and cities as well as great metropolitan areas. And since there is no easy way to curtail immigration without a vast, and expensive, expansion of the national security apparatus we can expect to see immense pressure on the government to federal and state governments to accelerate raids and deportations, deny routine privileges to undocumented immigrants, seal off and militarize the Mexican border.

I hope I am wrong about this. But every sign I see shows the anti-immigrant movement growing as powerful, violent and effective as it was 75 years ago. Advocates for immigrant communities are going to have to fight long and hard to defend the right of undocumented people to live free of harassment and intimidation, and to secure for them the protections of the law and a realistic path to citizenship.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mexico's economic woes and NAFTA

South of the border
The impact of Mexico's economic woes
- Jeff Faux
Thursday, May 18, 2006

In his speech Monday night, President Bush once again ignored the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the center of the immigration debate -- Mexico, the source of more than three-quarters of illegal immigrants in America.

Like the rest of Washington, Bush talks as if the problem of illegal immigration can be solved within the borders of this country. More border guards might make crossing the frontier more difficult, and amnesty and guest-worker programs might redefine the meaning of "legal," but they will not stop -- and may well accelerate -- the growing tide of people driven north by poverty and the lack of job opportunities at home.

Some 40 percent of the more than 100 million people still living in Mexico say they would come to the United States if they had the opportunity, which can be bought for the roughly $2,500 or so it costs for a "coyote" to smuggle them across the border. Last year, at least 400 died in the attempt.

This was not supposed to happen. Thirteen years ago, when illegal immigration from Mexico across a less-protected border was half of what it is today, we were assured that the North American Free Trade Agreement would transform Mexico into a prosperous middle-class society. "There will be less illegal immigration," promised President Bill Clinton, "because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home." Mexican President Carlos Salinas told Americans it was a choice between getting Mexican tomatoes or tomato pickers.

But NAFTA did not deliver. Mexico has grown too slowly to create enough jobs for its people, and the benefits of trade have largely gone to the wealthy, making it one of the most unequal societies in Latin America. Moreover, the agreement flooded Mexico with highly subsidized U.S. and Canadian grain, driving between 1 million and 2 million Mexican farmers off the land and adding to the supply of desperate Mexicans looking for work.

NAFTA stands in vivid contrast to the experience of the economic integration of Western Europe, which actually provided for free migration among the participating nations. Originally there was great fear that Germany, France and the other rich economies would be flooded with workers from Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece. To avoid this, the European community provided funds for economic development programs, which stimulated job growth in the poorer nations and insisted on domestic reforms that assured that the economic growth would be broadly shared. The result was that the people of the poorer nations stayed home and prospered.

It is time for the leaders on this continent to acknowledge that NAFTA has not fulfilled its promises and go back to the drawing board. We need a new deal among the United States, Canada and Mexico. It should include a transfer of funds to Mexico for infrastructure, education and other public investments aimed at creating jobs and raising wages there. In exchange, Mexican leaders would have to agree on enforceable protections for human rights, free collective bargaining, minimum wages and other policies to promote the equitable sharing of wealth.

Such a new deal with Mexico would not be easy. But it would be far better to address the source of the problem directly than continue with the illusion that it can be solved simply by new immigration laws and ever-taller fences. So long as the Mexican economy cannot provide its people with jobs, they will keep coming.

Jeff Faux was founding president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He is now a distinguished fellow for the institute.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

On Being Black at a Latino March

On Being Black at a Latino March
By Van Jones,
Posted on May 5, 2006, Printed on May 7, 2006

At Monday's "Dia Sin Inmigrantes/Day Without Immigrants" march in San Francisco, I saw a beautiful, exciting and hopeful vision of the future of this country. I also caught a glimpse of a familiar past, fading away. And I shed a few tears for both.

From the moment I boarded the BART car, I knew this May Day march and rally would differ from the Bay Area's usual protest fare. The trains headed into downtown San Francisco were filled with working-class Latinos, all wearing white; most had kids in tow. There were few protest signs or banners, but the stars and stripes were everywhere. One tyke on my train kept trying to poke his cousin with a little American flag.

Some of the teeniest kids were wearing their older sibling's white T-shirts with their shirt hems hanging down past their knees. The children were all well-scrubbed and happy ... and very proud.

So were their parents. They knew they were part of something new, and big, and promising.

The bright mood contrasted starkly with the dreary atmosphere that chokes most protests nowadays. On this march, I saw no resigned shuffling of already defeated feet. No sea of scowls. No pierced tongues, screaming. Nor could I spy a single person dragging behind her the weighty conviction that resistance -- though obligatory -- was futile.

To the contrary. Beaming, brown-skinned families walked off those trains with their heads held high. Sure, they may have been poor, facing tough challenges in the near term. But they stepped like they were marching into a future of limitless promise and potential.

Their optimism brought tears to my eyes. And not only for the obvious reasons.

Deep inside, I was grieving for my own people. I wished that my beloved African-American community had managed, somehow, to retain our own sparkling sense of faith in a magnificent future. There was once a time when we, too, marched forward together, filled with utter confidence in the new day dawning. There was a time when we, too, believed that America's tomorrow held something bright for us ... and for our children.

But those dreams have been eaten away by the AIDS virus, laid off by down-sizers, locked out by smiling bigots, shot up by gang-bangers and buried in a corporate-run prison yard. Now we cling to Black History Month for validation or inspiration. That's because Black Present Moment is so depressing -- with worse, almost certainly, on the way.

When Katrina's floodwaters washed our problems back onto the front pages, the once-mighty Black Freedom Movement could not rise even to that occasion. Our legendary "movement" has collapsed, fallen apart. It is now a hollowed-out shell -- with our "spokespersons," both young and old, trying somehow to live off our past glories.

Meanwhile, the white-shirted future was pouring itself down Market Street, chanting "Si, se puede!"

My feelings of solidarity quickly trumped my sorrows. Thousands of people were standing up, here and across the United States, for their right to live and work in dignity in this country. Deep in my bones, I felt their pain, knew their hopes and affirmed their dreams. And just as non-blacks had supported our freedom movement in the last century, I was determined, as a non-immigrant, to give my passionate support to this righteous cause.

So I joined the crowds in the street, trying to add my voice to the thunderous chants. But I quickly discovered that, good intentions notwithstanding, political solidarity is sometimes more easily felt than expressed.

My fellow marchers started roaring out: "Zapata! Vive! La lucha! Sigue!"

I was like, Huh? What?

"Zapata! Vive! La lucha! Sigue!"

Say what?

Then louder, faster: "LaLuchaSigueSigue! ZapataViveVive! LaLuchaSigueSigue! ZapataViveVive!"

Bewildered, but undeterred, I got myself a "chant sheet." I figured that I could use one of the official written guides to keep me in the know and on track. Sure enough, the handy leaflet spelled everything out very clearly: "Las Calles Son Del Pueblo! El Pueblo Donde Esta? El Pueblo Esta En Las Calles, Exigiendo Libertad!"

Unfortunately, those words looked precisely like alphabet soup to me. I found myself desperately trying to remember back to 11th grade, wondering what sound an "x" makes in Spanish.

Finally, I had to face the sad truth: I had B.S.-ed my way through all my high school and college language requirements. I had to admit that Mrs. Savage (from fourth-period Espanol) had been right, after all: I really hadn't cheated anyone but myself.

Now I had to accept the miserable results: as an utterly monolingual English speaker, I wasn't even knowledgeable enough about the Spanish language to shout out simple phrases, during most of the protest.

Okay, I told myself. Fine. I decided instead to just walk cheerfully along, clapping in time with the drummers. But even some of the Latin rhythms were unfamiliar, strangely syncopated. I couldn't always find the beat, despite my best efforts. (Suddenly, I was filled with love and sympathy for all those arhythmic white folks whom I used to make fun of at black rallies, parties and churches. I am so sorry, y'all!)

Well, needless to say, I was on the verge of giving up. Then I found a solution: I would simply listen for any chant that had the word "Viva!" in it. For some reason, there were lots of chants with that word in it. And then, whenever appropriate, I would just raise my fist and shout "Viva!" along with the crowd, as loud as I could.

And that was pretty much all I could do. I did it for a few hours, then went home. I hope it was enough. Because, despite feeling somewhat out of place, I was absolutely thrilled to see my sisters and brothers taking the future into their own hands. By simply standing up for their own kids and grandparents -- for their own dignity and futures -- activist Latinos today are pulling the nation to a higher level of fairness and inclusion.

They are posing a simple and devastating question: should U.S. society continue to profit from the labor of 11 million people -- many of whom pick our fruit, nurse our children, clean our workplaces -- without embracing them fully, without honoring their work, without extending to them the same rights and respect we would want for ourselves?

Can we countenance or tolerate a Jim Crow system -- in brown-face -- with a shunned tier of second-class workers, enriching society but lacking legal status and protections?

Or are we willing to change our laws, and change our hearts, to embrace those upon whom our economy has come to rest? This is a simple moral challenge. The right answers are not easy, but they are obvious.

I know there will be a backlash (there always is when people push for fairness), even coming from some black folks. But I also know that the Latino-led struggle for justice and inclusion offers hope to all of us. A national conversation about the true meaning of dignity, equality, opportunity and fair play in the modern economy can ultimately benefit every American community.

I am confident that it will. Because during the two prior centuries, it was the African-American community that performed this service for the country. And we paid a high and awful cost in blood and martyrs. Unfortunately, we did not achieve all of our aims. But we did tear apartheid from pages of U.S. law books. And in the course of that struggle, we improved the lot of all Americans; expanding social programs, democratic rights and social tolerance for all people. And our efforts opened the doors for today's equality struggles. Our marching feet moved the whole nation forward.

I cannot help but mourn the loss of a black community strong enough to put this nation on its back, and carry it forward, step by step, toward justice ... as we once did. But my pain only amplifies and underscores my joy that this marvelous new force has arisen, one that is capable -- in this tough, new era -- of deepening and extending the struggle to transform and redeem.

Strong brown hands have grabbed hold of the U.S. flag. They are pulling it away from those who have monopolized it, from bullies who have abused the nation's symbols for their violent and illegitimate ends.

I am glad. Because only a mass movement with broad shoulders -- and rough hands -- will have the power to win the coming tug-of-war for the heart and soul of this country. The Latino community has birthed just such a movement. If history is any guide, as Latinos and other immigrant communities raise core questions about their children's access to education, health care, jobs and safety, every American community will benefit hugely from their efforts. Including my own.

Van Jones is executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tom Hayden on Immigration marches

Tom Hayden: Who Are You Calling an Immigrant?

Posted on May. 2, 2006

By Tom Hayden

I wore the multicolored Aymaran flag of Bolivia to the May Day march in Los Angeles, the same day that Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, nationalized the oil and gas fields. It seemed right to recognize the reappearance of the indigenous in the Americas. I gazed at Marcos Aguilar, one of the UCLA hunger strikers for Chicano studies in 1993. Now he stood bare-skinned and feathered, leading a traditional dance below the edifice of the Los Angeles Times. Rather than becoming assimilated into gringotopia, he was forcing the reverse, the assimilation of the Machiavellians into the new reality of L.A. Another hunger striker from those days, Cindy Montanez, was chairing the state Assembly’s rules committee. Another UCLA student, a beneficiary of ’60s outreach programs, was mayor of the city.

Contrary to most mainstream commentary, these protests were part of a continuous social movement going back many decades, even centuries. And yet the commentators, especially on the national level, once again summoned the stereotype of the lazy Mexican, the sleeping giant awakening. For years it was convenient to blame apathy and low participation rates on the Mexican-Americans and other Latinos, ignoring the racial exclusion that prevailed east of the Los Angeles River. In 1994, the same “sleeping giant” arose against Pete Wilson’s Proposition 187. It previously awoke in the 1968 high school “blowouts,” the 1968-69 Chicano moratorium and the farmworker boycotts, which were the largest in history, and, in an earlier generation, the giant awoke in the “Zoot Suit Riots” and Ed Roybal’s winning campaign for City Council. The giant never had time to sleep at all.

In the Great Depression, in the lifetimes of the parents and grandparents of today’s students, up to 600,000 Mexicans, one-third of the entire U.S. Mexican population, many of them born in the United States, were deported with their children back to Mexico, their labor no longer needed.

Out of nowhere?

There is a frightening gap between the white perception of this 50-year trauma of deportation and the experience of Mexicans and other immigrants, like the Salvadorans who were driven here by the U.S.-backed civil wars of the 1970s. Somewhere between amnesia and a self-induced lobotomy, the gap needs to be closed in the dialogue that may come of these historic protests. The mere passage of time may erase white memories and guilt, and induce acceptance among Mexicans, but it does not legitimize the occupation itself. The wound will not disappear under American flags, searchlights and border walls.

The fundamental issue still shaping attitudes down to the present is this: Either the Mexicans (and other Latinos) are immigrants to a country called the United States or the U.S. is a Machiavellian power that denies occupying one-half of Mexico for 156 years. During the 1846-48 war against Mexico, at least 50,000 Mexicans died. The fighting took place across many cities considered pure-bred American today; in Los Angeles, a revolt temporarily drove out the U.S. Army. Guerrilla resistance by Mexican fighters left a mythic legacy of those like Joaquin Murrieta and Tiburcio Vasquez, names still alive among Mexican-American students today. Meanwhile, The New York Times was declaring in 1860: “The Mexicans, ignorant and degraded as they are, [should welcome a system] founded on free trade and the right of colonization so that, after a few years of pupilege, the Mexican state would be incorporated into the Union under the same conditions as the original colonies.”

After unilaterally annexing Texas in 1845, despite massive protests, the U.S. president sent troops 100 miles into what previously was Mexican land. When the Mexicans retaliated, the U.S. declared war on the pretext that Americans had been attacked on American soil. When it ended, the U.S. took 51% of Mexico’s land, including California, where the discovery of gold had been kept secret from Mexican negotiators. At least 100,000 Mexicans and an additional 200,000 indigenous people lived on those lands. Ever since, those people and their descendants have lived in a split-consciousness similar to that of African-Americans described in W.E.B. DuBois’ “The Souls of Black Folk.” Each new generation of immigrants fuels that consciousness all over again.

Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the imposed settlement of the 1846-48 war, the inhabitants of the occupied territories were granted legal, political, educational and cultural rights as citizens, not as immigrants. Some of the earliest official documents of California were required under the treaty to be printed in Spanish and English. This treaty, which was unenforced, became the basis for later movements stretching into the 1960s, movements that gave the Southwest an Aztec name (Aztlan) and demanded the return of former land grants. It was not unlike Radical Reconstruction, the period after the Civil War when Gen. Sherman’s official promise of “forty acres and a mule” was withdrawn.

Today’s demonstrations are not demanding implementation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Modern Mexican-Americans have made the legalization of undocumented workers as United States citizens their consensus demand. But there remains an unspoken difference between two states of mind regarding the meaning of the border. In every generation, immigrant workers and youth have claimed their American rights without abandoning the memory of their deeper historical ones.

A significant number of white Americans, especially among the elites, still hold to nativist definitions of American identity, in contrast to those multinational corporations that tend to be more interested in cheap foreign labor than in keeping American white.

Conservative journals like the American Outlook publish articles glorifying “the Anglosphere” as the standard of globalization (March-April 2001). Kevin Phillips is quoted in the article as still longing for an American culture whose “core thought is a kind of English revivalism.” Regarding this month’s demonstrations, the black neoconservative Thomas Sowell has criticized the “demanding” and “threatening” tone of “people who want their own turf on American soil…” (L.A. Daily News, April 29, 2006).

No one lends an Ivy League luster to the Minuteman Mentality more than Harvard University professor Samuel Huntington. A proud “Anglo-Protestant,” Huntington previously advocated the “forced urbanization” of the Vietnamese peasantry into a “Honda culture” as a formula for ending the nationalist uprising. In the ’70s, he complained that an “excess of democracy” threatened Western authorities. More recently, he formulated the strident doctrine of “the clash of civilizations,” decreeing that Islamic culture is incompatible with democratic civilization. Finally, he has weighed in on “The Hispanic Challenge,” arguing that Latino immigration is “a major potential threat to the cultural and possibly political integrity of the United States” (in Foreign Policy, March-April 2006). Huntington argues that Mexican-Americans are too close to their traditional culture to become assimilated as patriotic Americans. By this he means, of course, that they cannot become imitation WASPs, whose identity he sees as basic to the American nation. For Huntington, assimilation seems to mean submission and disappearance into the master culture, a viewpoint still held by many. We defeated you, and now you should become like us.

Largely forgotten in the current debate, too, are those among the elites who still consider Mexico itself a strategic long-term threat. The late Caspar Weinberger, a secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, wrote in 1998 of planning for a theoretical “next war” against Mexico, opting for the military option in case “it becomes necessary to go down in and try to catch [a] rebel leader in Mexico and restore democratic rule to Mexico” (interview with “Chuck Baldwin Live,” Feb. 17, 1998). The Harvard historian of Chiapas, John Womack, has written that in the 1990s “the US government, in particular the Defense Department … wanted ‘low-intensity’ warfare in Mexico” (“Rebellion in Chiapas,” Harvard, 1999).

But the U.S. has historically been the destabilizing force in Mexico, most recently with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has flooded the country with corn and other products and replaced indigenous manufacturing with the maquiladora economy, thus displacing at least hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, many of whom seek survival in el norte. Perpetuating the cycle is absolutely crucial to neo-liberal economics. But it also perpetually stimulates rebelliousness, in fact and memory, among those who take to U.S. streets today, and who shortly will be the urban majority in a new America.

As people of color, mainly immigrants, edge closer to majority status in key states, their relatives to the south are becoming nationalist, populist majorities in country after country, with interests that sharply conflict with the disintegrating U.S. Monroe Doctrine of 1823. If the populist mayor of Mexico City is elected president of Mexico this fall, NAFTA itself will die or be re-negotiated. This is the first time in many decades that the interests of Latinos in the U.S. are closely converging with the governments and people of the nations of the south. As seen even in the recent international baseball championships, the willingness of America’s major league Latino players to join the lineups of their homelands shows the fluid nature of borders and solidarity. A policy beyond the Monroe Doctrine will have to be crafted for the United States, with Latinos in the lead. As Evo Morales of Bolivia is suggesting, “another annexation is possible,” the annexation of the United States into peaceful coexistence with Latin America.

Some would argue that America must simply follow the path of previous immigrant generations, like my Famine Irish ancestors. It is true that the slum-dwelling Irish, Jews and Italians rose in time to the middle class, and the same future may lie ahead for the new immigrants. We can see signs of the past in the growing ranks of Latino trade unionists and mayors and other politicians. But the difference in the histories is race and class. If neo-liberalism has failed to widen the American middle class since 1973, how will it expand to provide decent jobs for the aspiring immigrants in today’s underclass? Is there another New Deal just over the horizon, or a hardening defense of the status quo?

Huntington’s Anglosphere is dying, if only through demographics. It is a matter of time--of when, not whether. The newcomers have neither the need nor the capacity to assimilate into a declining Anglosphere. They will remain multicultural of necessity, the hybrid multitude arising from the depths of empire and its resistance. The real question is how the rest of America, the rest of us, can assimilate and find belonging within all the Americas, where so many flags are fluttering in the gusts of self-determination.

A protest sign laid out on the lawn of Los Angeles City Hall during the May Day protest march.

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
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Monday, May 01, 2006

Sacramento's largest demonstration

The largest demonstration in Sacramento history.
I have been to many demonstration in Sacramento reaching back to the 60’s. I have marched with the UFW when they brought 15,000 to the state capitol.
Today’s march for immigrant rights in Sacramento was the largest demonstration I have ever seen. The crowds not only filled the capitol grounds, they extended over 8 blocks down the capitol mall. And from there, since the mall was full, marchers had to move over to N street to approach the capitol from the South Side. Early news reports say there were tens of thousands. Based upon prior demonstrations, there must have been at least 30,000 people here.
The entire world is experiencing a major restructuring of the global economy, directed by transnational corporations and the institutions which these corporations control (NAFTA, WTO, FTAA,GATT).
Economic policy; free trade and globalism produces massive immigration in many parts of the world. As a direct result of NAFTA , over 3 million small Mexican farmers were driven from their lands. Not surprisingly, some of them, and their children, came to the U.S. looking for work to feed their families.
While transnational capitalism produces migration, democracies need policies to respond. HR 4437 is a Republican proposal to militarize the border and to build a 700 mile wall. We have already increased border enforcement by over 800% since 1986. Militarizing the border will not work.
Neither employer sanctions, border walls, nor Minutemen will stop this migration.
A fair and just immigration policy would recognize and protect the dignity of all working people.
We need to address the economic policies which produce immigration and defeat HR 4437.
Duane Campbell