The nation’s 10% unemployment rate is feeding anti-immigrant sentiment, as Marcelo Ballvé reports for New America Media. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) critiqued President Barack Obama’s recent jobs summit as "fatally flawed" because President Obama did not discuss wresting millions of jobs away from undocumented families. Smith’s argument is flawed.
A "known Capitol Hill immigration hardliner," Smith asks us to assume that for every job the U.S. could theoretically "take back" from an undocumented worker, an eager U.S. citizen would flock to fill it. But, as Ballvé reports, "several studies suggest that among Americans and legal residents, it’s mainly those lacking a high school diploma who are competing directly with undocumented immigrants for jobs (and by most estimates, that’s less than one out of every 10 U.S. workers)."
Smith’s reasoning is a leap that only a hardliner could make, and is simply not borne out by any reliable data or experience.
In fact, a soon-to-be released book called Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do by journalist and SEIU researcher Gabriel Thompson tells the opposite story, as In These Times reports. Thompson went undercover to work alongside migrant workers for one year. The work was so strenuous that Thompson used painkillers to make it through. But he gained a crucial perspective: Despite the detached and abstract imaginings of Republican politicians, these are jobs that "even most unemployed and destitute ‘Americans’ are not necessarily willing or able to take … even if the pay is decent."
Immigrants are pushed into these shadow realms by laws such as HB 2008, which is currently sending waves of "panic" through the undocumented community in Arizona, as IPS North America reports. Passed on November 24, HB 2008 "requires state, city and any government employee in Arizona to report to immigration authorities any undocumented immigrants who request a public benefit." Government workers who fail to make such a report are subject to four months in jail.
Laws aimed at immigrants are ultimately divisive. We see this time and time again, from the 287(g) agreement, which deputizes police with federal immigration enforcement duties and powers, to a matter as simple as picking up a free toy for a disadvantaged child on Christmas. The result? Scenarios in which parents don’t take their children to the doctor because they fear deportation. Who can morally defend such laws?
Perhaps speaking of morality in our legal and political process is idealistic or naïve. In a time and place when the term "Sanctuary City" is used as a slur, it’s hard to tell which way is up. Melissa del Bosque reports on Houston Mayor Bill White’s gubernatorial run for the Texas Observer. White, a Democrat, barely announced his candidacy before the "volley" of metaphorical "napalm" began.
The Texas Republican Party is accusing White of turning Houston into a "Sanctuary City." According to del Bosque, this particular political battle will morph into a flurry of competition between the Left and Right to "throw immigrants under the bus" in the climb for political power.
Finally, Wiretap Mag reports on an old tradition that is still vibrant: Art and activism joining hands to wake up, shake up, empower and teach people about a current struggle for justice. Geoffrey Dobbins reports on the unique voices that came together to record My America, a benefit CD for a film about the struggles of undocumented immigrant youth in the U.S.
Dobbins writes that the ultimate goal of the CD and film is to "get Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM). The DREAM Act would provide a path for these young people to gain legal status."
A soundtrack for change sounds nice. Turn it up.
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