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Mar 27 Detroit
May 1 Detroit

Immigrant Rights are Welfare Rights

"The World Is Changing…Don’t Blink!"

by Michigan Welfare Rights Organization

On March 27, 2006, thousands of metro-Detroiters took to the streets to demand fair and humane immigration policies.  Lots of opinions have been issued since that march, most people appreciative and many very surprised by the large numbers of people who gravitated to this issue. There are only two sides to this fight, which is not much different in substance to the fight(s) we are already engaged in.  There are class distinctions that dictate where we fit.  If we draw alliances based on the color of skin, we arrive at a certain set of conclusions.  If we draw alliances based on gender, we arrive at another set of conclusions.  Both are narrow, so we ask that you review and consider drawing alliances based on class concerns, and that we begin to build working relationships with workers with whom we have many things in common.  This is a new point of view.  This is a new challenge.  This is a new way of looking at the world and what possibilities exist for the change agents we want to be.

Immigration Laws are critical to Black people because the premise on which our government pushes these draconian measures is meant to drive a wedge between any unity that can and does exist between black and brown people.  We are supposed to fight Latino’s because only Blacks should have the lowest paying, dirtiest, no-chance-for-upper movement jobs that these new-Negroes might be trying to take from us! How ridiculous! Every worker, no matter what color or where they come from, should be able to realize the American dream.  We should be out front demanding that our Hispanic, our Haitian, our South American, and any other of our hard working sisters and brothers not be classified as ”terrorists.”

The definition of terrorism is cutting the water off at 45,000 different addresses, disconnecting lights and/or gas at 16,000 addresses, foreclosing on the homes of unsuspecting seniors, charging almost $3.00/gallon for gasoline, forbidding healthcare, and for this office, not declaring a day of mourning and flying flags at half-staff because Little Quincy—just 4 years old—died in a fire because DTE turned off the heat where he lived.  Let’s pick new friends based on new interests!

For more information and analyses about the current Congressional debate on immigration, see the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and National Immigration Forum. For national information on actions, news, and education on the immigrant rights campaign, check out the Immigrant Solidarity Network.


Column of the Americas: "They're Taking Our Jobs"

by Roberto Rodriguez

May 31, 2005
Reposted from Free New Mexican

Washington D.C.-- After presenting on the new language of exclusion during a recent Black Issues in Higher Education conference, the first question posed is: "Many Blacks feel that illegal aliens are taking jobs from African Americans. Can you comment?"

The question is tension-laden and comes on the heels of Mexican President Vicente Fox's fumbling statement about "Mexicans taking jobs that even Blacks won't do."

"In anti-immigrant rhetoric, "illegal aliens" translates into Mexicans and Central Americans. Yet, this is not an anti-immigrant group. Quite the opposite as many here in the packed ballroom are civil rights veterans.

As such, the question needs to be answered, not danced around. And so here, the same question is posed -- stripped of its niceties: Are Mexicans taking jobs from Blacks?

The truth is, it's employers who have the power to give or take jobs, not other workers. Yet, the idea of Mexicans taking jobs from Americans (and of draining social services) began during the early 20th century, resulting in periodic mass deportations. In the 1980s, someone within the anti-immigrant movement decided that these jobs - "the ones no one else would do" -- belonged to Blacks. While this became an unquestioned political mantra, no one questioned why Blacks had been remanded to these worst jobs. In the 1990s, these jobs also came to belong to "native born Hispanics." And thus, we can see the evolution of this divisive discourse. Fox's answer was but a bumbling variation on this theme.

During good times, anti-immigrant rhetoric doesn't work. That's why this movement historically has turned to scapegoat politics to get people to accept their "the Mexicans are invading and want their land back" scenarios. This actually is why Mexican migration is unique; most are indigenous or indigenous-based mestizos, coming across but a few miles … to lands that were formerly Mexico's. Previously, it was (and is) indigenous land (despite Spain's colonial claims to it). European immigration of course involves the crossing of an entire ocean.

Unable to successfully argue against Mexican indigeneity (some bigots claim that Mexicans are actually Spaniards), anti-immigrants found it easier to resort to divide and conquer tactics: Get Blacks to blame Mexicans and you prevent a powerful coalition and divert attention from the fact that U.S. corporate culture -- in cahoots with government -- is engaging in the super-exploitation of all human beings worldwide, particularly these two peoples at home.

African Americans thoroughly understand dehumanization and the politics of blame. Yet, it's another story during hard times. For some, it's easy to be diverted and easier to lash out and blame those different from us. It's easier to blame Mexicans than it is to recognize that it is America's rapacious corporate culture that is causing instability throughout the world -- creating high unemployment at home (due to outsourcing) and super-exploitation abroad. This is what causes peoples to migrate. Meanwhile, Mexicans are also taught by U.S. culture to view African Americans, Asians and American Indians in a dehumanized manner (and vice versa). These attitudes are easily assimilated.

Couple this with a demonstrably illegal war - which diverts hundreds of billions from critical domestic needs - and it becomes fodder for such politics. In this context, Mexicans are easy to blame, this while others blame Arabs (which justifies these insane permanent wars). American Indians are accused of not paying taxes and being casino-rich. And the subtext to all this is America's unresolved racial problems. People of color, and African Americans in particular, continue to be imprisoned, warehoused and criminalized at unprecedented rates, this while unemployment and murder rates remain sky high.

In this climate, scapegoat politics (among people of all colors) becomes seductive. That's why "foreigners" always come in handy. Jews too, and nowadays, abortion and gay marriage also make for good distractions.

The presence of millions of Mexicans/Central Americans - living a dehumanized existence as "illegal human beings" -- is a testament that there's something wrong with nation-states (United States and sending nations) that facilitate their exploitation. These migrants are not the problem, but the symptom of a problem.

In this climate, war, drastic cuts in social services, high unemployment and super-exploitation -- becomes justifiable and probable -- as long as we're all busily distracted and entertained by the politics of blame.

… After my response, a woman comments: "In South Carolina, when these workers come to work in the fields, we simply say, 'The Indians are coming home.' "

Perhaps the days of divide and conquer are numbered. It begins by rejecting the notion of legal and illegal human beings.

© Column of the Americas 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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