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Immigration Reform under President Obama

Immigration Reform is back in the headlines.  Kevin Gosztola wrote a thoughtful piece that considered various aspects of the situation and attracted several comments.

President Obama himself put this issue in the news.

If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don’t care what it looks like,” Obama said. “What we don’t want to do is simply carve out one piece of it…but leave behind some of the tougher stuff that still needs to get done. [emphasis mine]

The items in the news focus on the fairness of law enforcement, incarceration, and deportation.  There is hardly any coverage of the fairness of legal immigration.  In short, our national discussion presents the Immigration Reform Bill from the US Senate as a good bill or at least a responsible compromise.  Yet, the main goals for this bill are not about fairness to anyone, but only about satisfying corporate greed, just as with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The latest news items accept that immigration is merely a law enforcement issue just like our discussions used to be for the war on drugs and the war on crime.  It was refreshing to hear today that US Attorney General Eric Holder (for all his faults) said in Columbia that “we will never prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.”  The popular discussion about immigration pretends that stopping incarceration and deportation of immigrants is the ultimate solution to the issue.

We could discuss the effects of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA), but no one wants to discuss the issues of legal immigration, and whether legal immigration is fair.  The Immigration Reform Bill from the US Senate greatly increases legal quotas on guestworkers to compete with US citizens during already high unemployment while providing thoroughly ineffective protections for US workers.  Universities and corporate leaders are happy to promote stories about “deserving young scientists” pretending that each one will be a major job creator, the next Steve Jobs.

Sunday, ABC News interviewed Mark Zuckerberg who is no longer quite so public about the “skills gap,” but instead talks about civil rights.  NPR interviews his sister Randi Zuckerberg on her book about high tech careers for women.  It’s all the same.  The Senate Bill packages some unpleasant, miserly efforts for DREAMers and undocumented workers to provide adequate cover for the main pieces which create a tsunami of guestworkers entirely dependent on corporate employers (farm workers and H-1B high-tech workers).

Recently, religious groups were more public in the discussion.  A Jewish group publicized their support for immigrants.  Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine, writes at Huffingtonpost that Sojourners is buying television time to advertize against US Rep Steve King in Iowa.  A religiously-affiliated poll “indicates 63% of adults nationwide favor allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they meet certain requirements.”  Yet support from these groups is used to justify all parts of the Immigration Reform Bill from the US Senate, including the H-1B visas to fly in workers to compete with US citizens.

There is more coverage in India of illegal activity by corporations that use these H-1B visas than in US news sources.  For example, Brenda Koehler is suing Infosys (a sponsor of NPR) that they unfairly passed over her application for promotion in favor of less qualified applicants from South Asia.  Infosys recently agreed to pay $34 million to settle an immigration fraud case involving another type of high tech guestworker.

We passed quickly away from the news item about the well-respected adjunct professor at Duquesne who died from poverty and lack of access to healthcare.  (President Obama has distracted us from discussing healthcare so that we focus only on health insurance.)  I see locally that adjunct instructors (not graduate students) have positions designed to deny health insurance while paying only 10-20% of the money from tuition.  The other 80-90% of what students pay in tuition costs gets sucked away into a general departmental fund.  This situation is now affecting research staff, too.  Jobs are scarce so highly paid medical professors hire at historically low pay and insist that new employees are only half-time to avoid paying health benefits.

Some commenters want to waive the magic wand of “full employment policy” to eliminate the consequences of importing lots of guestworkers on H-1B visas.  Emily’s List sponsors lots of Democratic Women in the US Congress who promote the budget sequester and H-1B visas, such as US Senators Tammy Baldwin, Amy Klobuchar, and Patty Murray.   Maybe we need another Sputnik.

P.S.  Dean Baker had an article yesterday in The GuardianTechnology didn’t kill middle class jobs, public policy did.”  “The story is that innovation rapidly reduced the need for factory workers and other skilled labor.  The data just doesn’t support it.”

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