THE BLOG
06/26/2013 03:07 pm ET Updated Aug 26, 2013

Immigration Reform Watered Down by Corporate Congress

Going into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Chicago Blackhawks were already one game ahead of the Boston Bruins and one win shy of becoming the next NHL champions. Even if Boston won that game, the Blackhawks were prepared to play the final game of the series with the home ice advantage. Now imagine being a Blackhawks fan, watching your team voluntarily give up a goal to the Bruins in the final 20 seconds after the Blackhawks ' final goal, and allowing them to stay alive in the series for no apparent reason. Wouldn't you be pissed at the players and coaches for giving the opposing team an unnecessary advantage in the 11th hour, especially if the Bruins went on to win the series in Chicago? And if such a thing happened, how much would you still support them?

Senate Democrats just did the same thing this week in their unnecessary concession allowing the Corker-Hoeven amendment to move forward on the immigration reform package they've been working on. That amendment in question completely undermined the basic need for immigration reform in the first place by allowing the number of largely unaccountable border security agents to double, and to build an additional 700 miles of double-layered border fence at a cost of $50 billion, if you include the cost of increased drone surveillance and fence construction. Corker-Hoeven would also put a ten-year window in place for workers to obtain green cards, which is hardly a viable path to citizenship.

By further militarizing the border, we enable continued deaths of refugees in border states. From 1990 to 2012, over 2,200 bodies of people who died as a result of crossing the border have been found in South-Central Arizona. While it's unclear how many of these were the result of the elements and how many were killed by border security patrols, border agents' unchallenged authority is being unnecessarily expanded in this latest caving by Democrats. One such case involves Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, who was videotaped lying on the ground in handcuffs yelling for help in Spanish while a crowd of Border Security agents repeatedly tased him until he died. His death was ruled a homicide.

The passage of the Corker-Hoeven amendment, in addition to being politically unnecessary, reinforces the myth that the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. sneaked across the border, when the reality is really that nearly half of them entered the country legally and simply overstayed their visas. The more likely scenario is that instead of deterring people from crossing the border, more immigrants will risk their chances at acquiring a work visa and living off the grid once their visa has expired. While the Senate recently cut programs that help hungry people have access to food by $20 billion, it seems awfully wasteful of tax dollars to splurge on border militarization when that only addresses half of the problem.

In reality, immigration reform isn't complete until we address the root causes of immigration from Central and South American countries to the U.S. Free trade programs like NAFTA, which involved reckless subsidies to corn growers like Monsanto and gifts to corporate-run factory farms. This naturally put Latin-American farmers who don't get those subsidies out of business. The influx of immigrants from the passage of NAFTA to the present day aren't criminals; they're just desperate people driven to desperate measures to make sure their families are fed.

Moreover, the current immigration system puts American corporations are at a natural advantage. Companies like Smithfield and Tyson knowingly smuggled in undocumented workers, paid them slave wages, ignored their human rights, and threatened them with reporting them to ICE for deportation if they ever organized or spoke out. We need immigration reform that not only provides a real path to citizenship, but reform that also punishes those who violate the law by exploiting workers. This is likely a main reason why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing for immigration reform -- so they can make sure their multinational corporate members are free from any accountability in the final legislation.

The fact that Senate Democrats still caved to the degree of allowing Corker-Hoeven to pass, despite their clear multiple political advantages like decisively winning the Latino vote in 2012, show where their true allegiance lies. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made the excuse that he wanted an immigration bill passed out of the Senate with 70 votes to pressure the House to pass it as well. But most politically-aware Americans know that Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) has little control over his caucus, and that the GOP majority aligns behind the extremism of those like Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). The Senate immigration bill could have 80 votes in support, and the House would still likely vote it down, throwing around words like "amnesty." The reason Schumer didn't double down and force out the border militarization is simply because that amendment would allow Schumer's campaign benefactors in the immigrant prison industry to rake in ever-increasing profits. Marco Rubio and John McCain, from the so-called "Gang of Eight" group working on immigration reform, have also taken money from the private prison lobby.

The corporate-owned Democrats are the team that gave away a goal late in a game they had no reason to lose. If Democrats wish to vent their frustration with Schumer and a two-party system controlled by corporate interests like factory farms and prison companies, they're more than welcome to defect to the Green Party. It's clear the Democratic Party stopped being a viable left-wing alternative to the plutocratic GOP long ago.

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