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April 28, 2006

Got plans for May Day?

Chris Kromm wonders why so few lefty bloggers are talking about the No Work, No School, No Sales, and No Buying-day to support immigrant rights on May 1:

What's going on? Why is the progressive blogosphere so completely out of touch? Is it because most of them closely identify with partisan politics, and the Democratic Party doesn't have a very clear position on the immigration issue? Is it due to a racial blindspot in the blogosphere, connected to its demographic make-up (and yes, I know Markos at DKos hails from El Salvador; I'm talking about the larger reality)? Do they not understand the historic nature of this movement?

Good question. Personally, I haven't said much about immigration issues because I don't know very much about progressive immigration policy alternatives.

I think that Chris's hypotheses are all plausible. I'm sure that racial, geographical, linguistic, and institutional factors contribute to the relatively low profile of immigration issues in the lefty blogosphere. However, I doubt that big liberal bloggers are deliberately shying away from this subject because of divisions in the Democratic Party.

I think the biggest stumbling block is that liberal bloggers get most of their raw material from the mainstream media, supplemented by direct PR outreach from interest groups. I've found my way onto at least 50 different mailing lists through blogging, none of them having to do with immigration.

In lieu of a conclusion, I'd like to solicit readers' opinions about the best resources for progressive immigration policy.


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Gordo, I was responding to this statement from Alon: "Well, if they're unjust, then you also have to grant amnesty." I don't think that logic works. That doesn't at all mean that I think amnesty is a bad idea, just that it has to be justified pragmatically and situationally, like you're trying to do. And I think my earlier post calling mass deportation plans "laughably expensive" and "xenophobia-tinged" pretty much sums up my feelings on that proposed solution, so you don't need to try to dissuade me from it...

And let me take this opportunity, for consistency's sake, to say that I don't think "justness" is a very useful concept.


I didn't mean to bite off your head.

My great-grandfather was deported, and my grandfather grew up in an orphanage because his mother was declared an unfit parent (married an illegal alien, which was enough cause back then for the state to snatch your baby).

So I get a little touchy when people talk about mass deportations.

What's this "their breaking the law" crap? At one point slavery was the law of the land. Don't give me that shit. The term "illegal alien" is akin to the n-word. These people fought to come here and they're fighting to stay here, which is more than most of us, who have the good fortune of an accident of birth, have ever done for this country.

Thanks for the data. All very interesting. Insufficient by itself to change my position here, but still important.

Alon Levy:
Quite right. Can't punish people for breaking an unjust law. Eli's right that that's controversial, but I don't recognize any independent non-moral authority attaching to the law...won't try to argue for that here, though.

But my comment was really intended as a way of pointing out that our immigration laws are NOT unjust. We let in a reasonable number of people from Mexico, there's nothing wrong with regulating immigration, etc., etc.

I'm not sure we can really get a lot of traction on this issue without addressing big questions about the nature and authority of the nation state... Maybe the (big, vague) idea motivating the pro-illegal-immigrant side here is something like "hey, the state and its laws aren't really that important. People should be able to go where they want, and states don't really have any right to regulate this." I have some sympathy with such ideas, but I'm not sure statist liberals can advocate an idea like that without inconsistency.

So, if this relaxed view about immigration laws comes as a package deal with more relaxed views about, say, drug laws, then it seems more philosophically respectable to me. But too libertarian for many of the people who are pushing the view in question.

On the other hand, I'm not sure why many of the claims at issue here don't entail that we are obligated to eliminate all immigration laws and just have fully open borders. But that seems absurd.

Actually, I'm not sure open borders are that absurd. Europe's coping with internal open borders, and so is the US. It's the height of xenophobia to declare that just because a country has a Slavic or brown majority, it's okay to restrict freedom of movement from it. On a global scale it's like the South African apartheid system, in which white erected tall fences to keep the black and brown people out and the money in.

So, if this relaxed view about immigration laws comes as a package deal with more relaxed views about, say, drug laws, then it seems more philosophically respectable to me. But too libertarian for many of the people who are pushing the view in question.

Well, I definitely think the War on Drugs is stupid and so is criminalizing possession of hash and pot. I'm more torn about hardcore drugs like heroin, but even on them I'm more in agreement with the radical liberals than with the radical conservatives (I'm positive that in the US, liberals outnumber libertarians at least 5 to 1 among people who support decriminalization of drug possession).

But my comment was really intended as a way of pointing out that our immigration laws are NOT unjust. We let in a reasonable number of people from Mexico, there's nothing wrong with regulating immigration, etc., etc.

Even without invoking the open borders argument, I think it's possible to argue that the USA's current immigration laws are very unjust. Basically, in a democratic country, the burden of proof is always on the party that proposes government action. Environmental regulations require proof that otherwise there will be serious damage to the ecosystem; public health care requires evidence that private insurance doesn't work; abortion restrictions require clear evidence for fetal personhood; and immigration restrictions require proof that they're needed to help the economy and reduce crime.

However, as of now there is no such proof, unless corporate practices from a time when there were no government regulations of the market count as evidence. Even if some immigration restrictions are just, the highest tolerable level of restriction is far lower than is currently used in the US. In particular, it's unjust to threaten legal immigrants with deportation if they strike, and to make unpersons of 11 million people who are necessary to maintain the integrity of the American economy.

Why are we talking about (scapegoating) undocumented workers, and not the people who hire them? They wouldn't come here if there wasn't pleanty of work for them.

"Give us your hungry, your tired, your poor..." what ever happened to that? I'm not talking about Bush here, this is beyond Bush. There are reasonable people I know who think that Mexicans are taking something away from them although they can't figure out what that something is (services, they mumble, as if they resent having to pay the fire dpt. for putting out a tenement fire.)


Not just services, but our entire culture! The Culture That Made This Country Great! The culture that has remained unchanged since 1776!

back to my "leave us alone" theme. by leaving us alone, we will find a way, among ourselves, to live together in mutual benefit. it is people down here on the border that seeing the mounting death toll began to set up stations of water in the desert. at first, some of the crossers were afraid to utilize them, fearing a border patrol trap. but, as time and extreme thirst took over, they began to be used. we'll never know how many lives are saved by little things like this because, lives saved, they move on. there's an old bob dylan line, "to live outside the law, you must be honest." that's the life of the illegal. don't make waves, don't attract attention, don't cause a fuss, deportation is the first consequence of anything. i oppose "guest worker" ideas because i see in them the same themes as spartan helotry. you're good enough to pick our lettuce, broccoli, and asparagus, but your children are not good enough to be in class with mine. . .not a very american position. the problem is thorny, and complex. it threads through many, many beads. that's why i want you to leave us alone. we'll fix what's in front of us. just quit trying to fix us, let us fix ourselves.

I'm not following S. Benson.

Why are we talking about (scapegoating) undocumented workers, and not the people who hire them?

I presume you mean, "People who exploit them." People who hire illegal immigrants but give them the same pay and benefits they'd give Americans and legal immigrants deserve nothing but praise.

Well, if you want to split hairs, go right ahead, as you presume correctly.

This is a progressive take on immigration policy:
Stark Choices On Immigration - by Nathan Newman

Probably the least talked about part of "immigration" policy is the push-factor that's driving people out of their home countries. Since 2000, most South American countries have elected left/center-left governments. This has been a reaction to 'neo-liberal' trade policies that have screwed over all of Latin America. Unless there are major reforms to WTO, NAFTA and the policies of the IMF & World-Bank, no wall will ever be tall enough to keep out the people displaced by 'neo-liberal free-trade policies' that make 'investors' the only people with rights.

Same as it ever was...

Cit-Steve, you are incorrect to lable the policies "neo-liberal." The policies are neither liberal or conservative, they are libertarian, "lazy-fare" radical right wing policies.


Thanks for the link. Newman can always be trusted to inject a measure of sense into a debate about labor.

I agree that we should be changing our laws to hold employers accountable when they violate labor laws, even when it's undocumented workers who are injured. That would give employers less incentive to hire them over legal workers.

Unfortunately, without reform of immigration policy, that's only a temporary fix that would eventually force the illegal labor market further underground, leading to even more egregious exploitation.

Stephen Bensen--

The water stations are a great idea. Unfortunately, the Minutemen have begun staking them out. The Minutemen claim that they're not racists, and that they're not giving up their vacations just to get a chance to shoot a Mexican. So why the sadistic practice of driving border crossers away from water stations?

I've been writing a bit on the subject at Grits, see here, here and here.

See also these sources for immigration news and info:


gordo - here in the imperial valley the minutemen came and went in a matter of weeks. our summers are brutal, they're pussies. also, they tried to headquarter in calexico which is well over 90% mexican heritage. one fine day they woke up, realized that it was going to be 118 in the shade again, decided "hmmmmmm, i can count better than custer" and went home. the staking out of water stations and the like is reprehensible. these are exactly the type of jerks i had in mind when composing my plea to be left alone. today, may day, the port of entry at calexico has been shut down by demonstrations. fine by me. but, as the poet said, "cuando usted vive a lo largo de la frontera, usted está limitado para cruzar algunas líneas." but at the risk of being tedious i repeat my refrain, por favor, justo déjenos solos.

Interesting. Today on NPR I heard an answer to my first comment. The interviewee said that in (at least Latino) immigrant communities, the leagal and illegal are fully "enmeshed". He found it problematic that "we" are "fixated" on the immigrant's legal status.

Personally, I think the legal status is an issue, if for no other reason than that lots of other people do, too, and aren't likely to be convinced otherwise.

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