By Nezua, TMC Mediawire Blogger
President Obama is citing the Health care debate as a reason for postponing immigration reform until 2010. But in the interim, the White House is laying the groundwork for an enforcement agenda by expanding programs such as 287(g), Secure Communities and e-Verify, amidst a growing matrix of detention centers. Anti-immigration factions are taking advantage of the lull in legislative action to push their own agenda.
The Progressive takes the unequivocal stand that "President Obama is wrong to postpone immigration reform." Author Ed Morales makes it clear that while healthcare and economic issues are "understandably urgent," the choice to delay reform "de-prioritizes" people who have paid their taxes but have not been given a path to citizenship.
The problem is, immigration reform and health care reform are inextricably connected. WireTap cites a central tenant of health care reform's "artificially amplified 'public' opposition" to immigration, as reported by the Los Angeles Times: It's "the notion that 'Congress would give illegal immigrants health insurance at taxpayer expense.'"
Is the racially charged core of this "chameleon colored outrage" being purposefully left out of the general dialogue? The ugly facts are that a "third of all 'Hispanics' in the U.S., almost half of the undocumented, and a fifth of African Americans" lack health insurance today. And yet, only "one in eight whites" lack health care.
After all, "Not all immigrants are alike." New America Media's David Hayes-Bautista compares the experiences of two immigrants named Jean-Claude and Juan Carlos. Hayes-Bautista effectively illustrates the Good Immigrant/Bad Immigrant paradigm and asks "Why do some immigrants move quickly and swiftly up the educational and professional ladder, while others appear to remain stymied at the bottom?" Ultimately, "both segments of immigrants deserve to be included in the future health care system that their presence will help to fund."
But some clearly don't think with such a progressive bent, as the New Mexico Independent reports. Instead of trying to bring greater truth to the entire discussion, anti-immigrant factions are "using [health care reform] to whip up fear and anger toward immigrants," unsurprisingly claiming that they are "a costly and burdensome drain on any taxpayer-supported U.S. health care system."
At a Portsmouth, New Hampshire town hall where the crowd awaited the President's arrival, one "white-bearded protestor" suggested murder as a solution for "illegals." (Video via the Young Turks).
Judging from the agitated protester's words, he, like others, views immigration through a fearful zero sum scarcity model in which one person's well-being equals another person's loss. There are better ways to approach this issue. New America Media reports on a more enlightened approach being employed in New Mexico. The Las Cruces-based Colonias Development Council (CDC), along with other community groups, recently held a series of meetings that discussed "living and working conditions in underdeveloped border-area communities," but filtered the conversation "through the lens of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations back in 1948." Such a lens introduces not just political concerns, but concerns related to the "guarantees of health care, education, employment, and housing" as human rights.
Migrants, like those of the CDC, are exploring the truly progressive ideas that proclaim all humans deserving of certain rights. And when the White House takes immigration reform off the radar with one hand and clamps down punitively with the other, it sends a signal to companies like Yum! brands, which are implementing illegal policies. In These Times' Robin Peterson tells the story of a very unhappy KFC workforce where "No Match" letters have resulted in many lost jobs. No Match letters were introduced by the Bush administration. The idea is that your employer sends your Social Security number to a database, which returns a "match" that indicates valid citizenship. "No match" equals no citizenship, and usually, no job. However, a judge ruled shortly after the legislation's introduction, that it was illegal to fire a person over an "unmatched" return.
"Time's up," writes Michelle Chen of RaceWire. While the President has made some "overtures" toward immigration reform, the White House has "generally adhered to the status quo set by the Bush administration." Not all involved are feeling so patient: "Faced with the news that immigration reform may have to wait until 2010, some organizations say their patience has run out." The Mexican American Political Association, for one, has called for direct action to make clear the urgent necessity for leadership on this issue:
We are taking the brunt of the attacks and suffering the immediate consequences of this misguided policy, therefore, our call is urgent to take to the streets on September 5th, the Labor Day weekend, and October 12th, not to ask but demand that President Obama stop the attacks on immigrants and that he fulfill his promise of immigration reform, that which we heard during the presidential campaign, but has recently been forgotten.
Increasingly, the White House appears to be backing away from its promises to important constituencies. The administration's inaction plays out with very real results on the ground, including increased tension, anxiety, and violence against immigrant communities. As we are a nation of immigrants, the effects of ignoring this pressing issue are widespread and will only grow worse in time.
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