Saturday, 22 December 2007

‘Don’t leave immigration debate to politicians’

“Gone are the hopeful days of two years ago when millions were in the streets demanding immigration reform and amnesty for the undocumented”, Global Labor Strategies (GLS) observes. Today, a majority of Hispanics in the US is worried that they, a family member or a close friend might be deported.
As the election approaches and the Republicans grow desperate, they may well embrace anti-immigrant rhetoric in an attempt to attract voters. The issue is too important to leave to the politicians, GLS says. The labour movement and civil society organisations should develop their own vision.
Many unions have staked their future on organising sectors with large numbers of immigrant workers. At the same time, some of the native union members have a hostile attitude towards immigrants and some organisers try to avoid the topic altogether in discussions with members. “Now labour risks a situation in which part of its membership is demanding the deportation of another part of its membership”.
GLS suggests the following five principles should inform a debate about the issue:
  • Protect the most vulnerable. Workplace raids targeting undocumented workers will push these workers further underground, “where they can be even more exploited to the detriment of all workers”.
  • Broaden the movement: launch a public education programme to reach out to the non-immigrant population.
  • Develop non-punitive regulations: sealing the borders would require a massive attack on civil liberties and result in even more deaths at the border.
  • Create a hemispheric discussion: “Jobs and social programmes need to be created in the sending countries so that people do not have to leave their communities”.
  • Look for mutually beneficial compromises.
GLS. See also the report ‘Ten Ways to Protect Undocumented Migrant Workers’ by PICUM (click publications, then Ten Ways..). Photo: Indymedia.

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