Twelve Million Lives At Stake Today in the US Senate’s Immigration Reform Vote
The Devils, the Details, and a Prediction of What Will Happen (UPDATE: The US Senate Has Voted to Move the Bill Forward)
By Al Giordano Special to The Narco News Bulletin
June 26, 2007
Twelve million stories like the one you are about to read are at stake today as the US Senate begins voting anew on the Immigration Reform Bill…
Late last year, the Woodfin Suites hotel in Emeryville, California retaliated against twenty-one workers by firing them days before Christmas. The hotel employees had, gasp, organized themselves as workers to make the hotel abide by the city’s living wage law. The pretext for the mass firing was that those workers’ social security numbers did not match federal records. The same hotel that had hired the “illegal” immigrants suddenly fired them on that basis when they sought to organize for what was rightfully theirs: the hotel had robbed each of them of two weeks salary for work they had already done. By mid-January, the Alameda County Superior Court ordered the hotel chain to hire the workers back. Hotel owner Samuel Hardage then went nuclear on them.
A detailed investigation by Joseph Plaster of the San Francisco Bay Guardian reveals that the hotel management then contacted US Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), to whom Hardage had donated $4,200 in 2006. Hardage is also a “Bush Pioneer” (the club of those that raised $100,000 or more for George W. Bush’s political committee). The congressman got Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency on the case, which then opened an “audit” on the hotel employees’ immigration status, the first step towards a raid.
“We’ve been fighting very hard to get the money we are owed,” Luz Domínguez, one of the workers, told the San Francisco Bay View, “It’s very sad to see the way they are using immigration against us.”
In an era when millions of “legal” American workers have grievances in the workplace and yet do not stand up and organize to improve their lot, the courage of the “illegals” that do join together and fight ought to be an inspirational lesson for everyone. After all, when your workplace is audited by ICE, and you are not a “citizen,” you have a strong chance of being raided by police, detained, ripped from your children and family, and deported.
That’s exactly what happened to this mother and worker, arrested in an ICE raid on a New Bedford, Massachusetts factory on March 6. This is also the story of her six-year-old daughter, who had no idea why mom didn’t come home as she was being shipped to El Paso, Texas as the first step toward expulsion from the United States.
Each of these true stories – that of the mother, of the daughter, of the twenty-one hotel workers – is a national disgrace: multiply it by twelve million, and you’ve arrived at the core of the immigration debate.
Keeping twelve million workers and their family members enslaved in a system where they share none of the basic American rights to speak and to organize is what the opponents of today’s Immigration Reform Bill are advocating. It’s obvious that the right-wing talkers and haters that we’ve excoriated from this keypad in recent days want to keep the status quo. That is, sadly, is also true of the “progressive” or “liberal” or “Democrat” enemies of the bill, despite their protestations and ideological acrobatics.
Both sides agree: a majority of Senators are ready to pass an immigration reform bill that will allow that mother in New Bedford, her daughter, those twenty-one hotel workers, and twelve million more, to remain in the United States, continue rebuilding a nation, and to begin a rigorous path toward full American citizenship. There is no other aspect of the bill that will affect as many lives so powerfully as that one.
But there are other aspects of the bill – regarding 200,000 higher-paid “guest workers” from other countries and border security measures – that are obviously not progressive or positive. They were put in the bill as part of the negotiations to get it approved: in order to gain support from moderate and conservative senators, and from some of the business sectors that back them.
None of this is a secret to anyone: It has all occurred under full media glare and transparency. It’s a compromise – they call it “The Grand Bargain” – because without those negative measures, the one big positive step, the revolutionary leap forward, what opponents call “amnesty” for twelve million workers, would never get through a Senate that is so evenly-divided along party lines. (And the Senate, ironically, is deadlocked only because it’s taken twenty years to bring the latest generation of immigrants in from the cold, as occurred with all previous generations before them.)
The border security measures, of course, in this post-9/11 age with and the cowardice it has instilled in politicians, would sail through the Senate by themselves as fast as you can say “Patriot Act.” And one of the ironies of this story is that which some on the left can’t stomach: that President George W. Bush himself has insisted on coupling those security measures with a road to citizenship for twelve million.
The idea that someone as obviously evil as Bush, disgraced by his Iraq war and so many other wrongheaded moves over the past seven years, might not be as bigoted toward Mexican-Americans as he is toward, say, Iraqis, or black voters in Florida, is anathema to those on the left side that see politics as a power-struggle limited to the art of regicide: they want the head of one king, in order to replace him with another that is supposedly “theirs.” (“The King is Dead… Long Live the King!”) But just as Nixon went to China in an era when no Democrat could have done so, Bush has spent more time living and working among Mexican-Americans than any of the smattering of “liberals” that oppose the Immigration Reform Bill. Part of that history was told in detail by this Sunday’s New York Times:
Mr. Bush has pursued a goal of providing citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants with rare attacks on his conservative supporters, who have derided his approach as tantamount to amnesty. There are various political motivations for Mr. Bush to push for his plan, including the rapid growth in the nation’s Hispanic population, a voting group that he has long considered to be potentially Republican.
But the roots of Mr. Bush’s passion lie here in Midland, now heavily Hispanic, the city where Mr. Bush spent much of his childhood, and to which he returned as a young adult after spending his high school and college years in the more genteel settings of Andover and Yale.
As a boy, and later as a young, hard-drinking oilman, his friends say, Mr. Bush developed a particular empathy for the new Mexican immigrants who worked hard on farms, in oil fields and in people’s homes, and went on to raise children who built businesses and raised families of their own, without the advantages he had as the scion of a wealthy New England family.
The symbiosis fit with the Bush family’s Northeastern, free-trade Republicanism, which took on a Mexican flair, especially after Mr. Bush’s parents hired a live-in Mexican maid in Texas who became part of the family, and his brother, Jeb, married a young woman from Mexico who initially spoke little English.
Anyone that thinks that long-term exposure to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans can’t melt the iciest of gringo souls obviously hasn’t put in the face time that many Americans that favor the legislation – from Bush to your correspondent, and so many more across the political spectrum – have. Even ogres like us have a human side. And for Bush, there is also that nasty little Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Future haunting him at end of this lame duck presidency, in which he’s got to be wondering if all he will be remembered for is having stolen two elections and having waged a stupid and criminal war.
Whatever the motive, however sincere or insincere, the fact remains: twelve million people now hunted by ICE and other agencies, and abused by employers without the right to organize as workers, will gain greater freedom from this bill. And as they win the right to organize unions and such, the boats and incomes of all workers will rise.
To keep twelve million people “illegal” out of spite, however legitimate, toward the Court-Appointed President, is also a consequence of bigotry. Such a stance concludes that twelve million “aliens” (that’s what they called our ancestors, too, as if they had come from the moon) and their freedom do no count, do not matter, and are expendable. Excuse me: there is no other word for that than racism.
It’s easy to understand why the xenophobe wing of the Republican right opposes Bush (and McCain, and Lott, and other party leaders) on the Immigration Bill: their racism is thinly veiled or refreshingly overt in an age when bigotry also dresses up as liberal condescension. The politics of hate has always been their game. But when Senators like Barbara Boxer, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Bingaman, Claire McCaskill, Jay Rockefeller, Robert Byrd, Jim Webb and some other weasels that lined themselves up on the left flank of the anti-immigrant firing squad to cut down twelve million workers and children – as they did on June 7, voting to halt the bill from coming to a vote – they revealed an even more insidious form of race and class hatred, precisely from those that should, or claim to, know better.
The Great Immigration Debate has already brought about massive chaos in the Republican Party. (Do you think “the dry drunk president” was mean to Gore and Kerry? Wait ‘til he gets his hands on some of his own party members after this one). But that’s only half the story. The same death-and-rebirth is going to now have to happen to the Democrats. This bill has unleashed simultaneous fights for the souls of both parties, and both struggles are long overdue. The winners on both ends have demographics on their side and the wisdom not to pretend that twelve million lives are not at stake. The losers have no idea of what electoral hell awaits them.
A Prediction: The Bill Will Pass
Pundits on all sides are saying that today’s vote is “too close to call,” but I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the first “cloture” vote, to begin the debate over amendments to the bill, will surpass the requisite 60 votes by a more comfortable margin than any pundit expects (say, 63, 64, in that ballpark. UPDATE: The US Senate voted, 64 votes to 35, in the noon hour today in favor of “cloture,” which means the debate on the bill will proceed, as predicted here.) And then there will be a 30-hour angry food fight on the floor of the US Senate, and front row tickets will be free to all on C-Span II. Some good things will be added to the bill and others will be deleted. Some bad things will be added to the bill and others will disappear. Toward the end of the week: the second “cloture” vote. And if that passes, it will culminate in a straight up or down roll call.
And it’s likely that far more time will be spent debating the provision governing 200,000 “guest workers” than the big one freeing 12 million. And, frankly, however idiotic that is, that’s fine. They can debate whatever they want. But if some Senators try to hide behind 200,000 to oppose the advance of twelve million, they were clearly failed by the nation’s educational institutions on the subject of math… and that of ethics.
And for those on the Democrat, Independent or Moderate Republican side (Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine! Come on down!) that can’t bring themselves to do what is right and just, they’ll also be remembered for their sheer political stupidity. Oh well, the political herd must be culled from time to time. We’ll see, this week, which of them are the slow zebras when the lion of history awakens: C-Span as Discovery Channel.
Because, truth is, that the Mexican-Americans and other immigrants are not invisible to all. They’re only invisible to the bigots. They’re organizing and making themselves very visible, not just to Congress, but also to their employers in certain industries that now understand that having no workers at all is even worse than having legalized workers that can unionize and collectively bargain for better conditions and pay.
Bloomberg (the news agency, not the candidate) ran an interesting analysis of the 11th hour lobbying efforts – the ones in favor of the bill – that don’t get noticed on talk radio:
Technology companies such as Google Inc., the Mountain View, California-based owner of the most popular Internet search engine, and Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, are concentrating on Republican senators such as Christopher Bond of Missouri, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Bob Bennett of Utah.
The National Restaurant Association, which represents an industry that employs many undocumented workers, has asked all of its 50 state affiliates and members to contact senators personally over the past few weeks. ``Even the ones who are leaning against, we want them to hear from us,’’ said John Gay, the Washington-based association’s senior vice president.
Religious and Latino groups have also kicked into high gear. Kevin Applebee, director of migration and refugee policy for the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said his group is focusing on about eight senators, including Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, and John Warner of Virginia.
He said his group is organizing calls to the lawmakers from clergy in their states. Senators said Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, are lobbying lawmakers.
‘‘We’re going to let the senators know that it should move forward,’’ Applebee said.
A much-subdued Rush Limbaugh returned to the radio airwaves on Monday after his week-long “golfing trip,” lacking any of the previous fire-and-brimstone that marked his crusade-gone-awry against the Immigration Reform Bill. In his first minute on the air, the right-wing pragmatist confessed to his listeners:
“I gotta tell you this, just have to be honest, the early thinking is that the Senate bill is going to pass this week, they’re going to achieve cloture, they’re going to shut off debate. It’s not a guarantee it passes, but it’s very likely.”
Having pulled back from leading the insurgents into the GOP Civil War, Limbaugh brought the issue down to its real essence for him: a ratings-booster. He promised, somewhat halfheartedly, to carry the battle to the Democratic US House:
“It’s gotta go to the House, if this all happens. The fight is still new, folks, it’s still young, and there’s plenty of time to deal with this. We’ll get to all the details as the program unfolds here.”
So he and the other talkers will have an entire summer to fight a losing battle all over again. From this side of the barricades, we look at it as a wonderful educational opportunity to continue to make visible what too many – left and right – can’t see about the New, Improved America to come; namely, the newest Americans, whose legal presence will begin, step by step, to reshape the political map, replenish the possibilities of an authentic America, and break the gridlock that has, until now, stagnated a nation into a mean and crumbling empire.
Mary in Hartford’s Smackdown of Rush
Of course, Narco News helps those who help themselves, and a woman named Mary of Hartford, Connecticut called Limbaugh on Monday and absolutely whooped his ass on his own turf. Let’s spread her voice farther and wider:
CALLER: I used to worship you, I loved you, until this immigration issue came out.
RUSH: I knew that was coming.
CALLER: You lost me. You lost me.
RUSH: I didn’t lose you. You called me today.
CALLER: Well, I have to still listen, as painful as it is, you know there are other issues that this nation is facing besides the immigration that I totally agree with you about.
RUSH: Well, I’ll tell you what I want you to do out there. I’ve got a commercial break coming up where we make obscene profits here, and after that—
CALLER: I’m not against profits.
RUSH: I know that. I’m not saying that you are.
RUSH: Gee. Lighten up out there.
CALLER: No, you need to lighten up with this whole immigration. It’s gotten so ugly. It really has.
RUSH: You’re falling prey to the wrong people. I want to talk to you about what you said after the break when I have more time. So can you hang on?
CALLER: I will.
RUSH: Good. Gracias….
RUSH: We now rejoin Mary in Hartford, Connecticut. Now, you misunderstand. I’m not talking about illegal immigrants as Latinos or as Mexicans or as Hispanics or any group. I’m talking about them as a culture. I’m talking about the economic circumstances in which they arrive, and for the most part stay. I’m talking about illegals now, and they stay that way because they are desired by the proponents of this bill to remain uneducated and low skilled so that they can be paid less. The idea that they don’t vote for Democrats? You have your anecdotal stories, but they do, in much larger numbers than they vote for Republicans, precisely because they come here very quickly and learn that the social welfare system is at their disposal.
CALLER: Oh, my God, that is such a myth! That’s such a myth!
RUSH: They learn very quickly that the Democrat Party is the author of that.
CALLER: Oh, no.
RUSH: I’ve got a story here from ABC News.
CALLER: Well, can I just interrupt you for a minute?
RUSH: Well, you just did.
CALLER: Because to lend credibility to your argument that it’s inclusive of all immigrants, then we should be talking about building a fence on the Canadian border. We should be talking about building a fence on the Vermont border.
RUSH: But that’s not where they’re coming from. It’s not where they’re coming from, Mary.
CALLER: Well, they’re coming from all over—and excuse me—
CALLER:—was it a couple weeks ago that this man with TB was able to fly across the country, come back through—hello?—the Canadian border! (Unintelligible)—
RUSH: Precisely. Precisely. That’s another—
CALLER: —that’s getting just obliviated [sic] by—
RUSH: Shh! Shh! Calm down.
CALLER: I will. I’m very passionate about this.
RUSH: You’re making another one of my points here.
CALLER: I hope so!
RUSH: I’ll explain it. They tell us we’re going to get border security, and they can’t even keep a guy with TB out when they know he’s got it.
RUSH: I mean, they build a fence right under the federal agent’s guard post. Border security is what this is about. It’s not keeping Latinos out of the country. It’s not what this is about. Listen, I’ll tell you about this ABC story.
CALLER: Rush, you know what? That should be your message. This is just not about the Latino, illegal Mexicans. This is about all illegal immigrants.
RUSH: I have said that!
CALLER: That’s not what we’re hearing. That’s not what the Latino population is hearing.
RUSH: Well, they should have listened to this show because that’s not nearly the first time I’ve said it.
CALLER: Well, you’re not saying it loud enough.
RUSH: It’s not about race. This is about the preservation of the American culture and people who are coming here are not assimilating to it. They’re coming here, getting on the welfare culture of this country, which is not the culture that built the country. Here’s the story from ABC News yesterday. “Illegal immigrants seek health care for kids. Proponents say clinics offering care save tax money; foes say they encourage illegal immigration.” They’re coming here asking for health care for their kids when they’re illegal. Now, they know what’s available to them here. These people are not going to be voting Republican, and they’re not going to be living their lives as conservatives, trying to pay for these things themselves—and that’s the main point that I wanted to address with you, the idea that the group of people I’m talking about come here and become conservative. You said you’re legal, right?
CALLER: I’m a Puerto Rican-American. I believe so.
RUSH: Well, I thought I heard you say that you were a legal immigrant in the first segment.
CALLER: Well, I was just… That was just for the drama of it.
RUSH: Well, okay—
CALLER: You know—
RUSH: Well, now, don’t—
CALLER: As you know, Puerto Ricans are born United States citizens.
RUSH: Don’t start giving me grief for using talk show host license to create drama in my own program.
RUSH: But I’m not talking about people like you. Don’t you want the greatest country you can have? Don’t you want as many people to be prosperous and self-supporting and self-reliant as possible?
CALLER: I do. Absolutely.
RUSH: Well, this legislation is not attracting that kind of immigrant.
RUSH: That’s all—
CALLER: I think the rhetoric needs to get a little bit more civil. I think kindness needs to get into the conversation, and I think, if in fact it’s about all illegal immigrants, that conversation needs to be just a little bit louder, because right now the Latino population is feeling very targeted.
RUSH: Well, guess who’s making them feel that way?
CALLER: Well, Rush, I think you may have just a little bit to do with that.
And so does the rest of the best of America. Amen, Mary. Amen.
See the “Attack Video” that Strikes Back at the Anti-Immigrants…