Republicans, angry about the undocumented "streaming" across our borders, could turn the flow of immigrants off tomorrow by passing real reform. No, not our immigration laws, but our employment law.
Simplify and streamline our broken visa system, and throw a few employers in jail for a couple of years who hire the undocumented. No illegal jobs, no illegal immigration.
Here is why we'll never do that.
Immigration is one of the great straw man arguments of the far Right. It fires up the hodgepodge of xenophobes, ultranationalists, white supremacists and your garden variety closet racists who populate the Republican Party's dwindling demographics.
Those paying their minions to bang the drum loudest for deportation know, though, that Sarah Palin's "boat across the ocean to Mexico" option is pure rhetoric.
Just like the slave laborers and indentured servants before them, white power and privilege of the upper one percent depends upon keeping millions of immigrants out of citizenship and working hard in the shadows without power or privilege.
OutFoxed: Immigrants Are Already Here
Beyond the bubble of Fox News and the Right-wing noise machine, there currently is no mass invasion of our Southern border. Eighty-six percent of undocumented workers have been here for 10 years or more, and most arrived before 2005.
When the jobs dry up, undocumented migration goes away. Job opportunities are the primary driving factor. In 2012 the Pew Center reported that net migration from Mexico had hit zero, and had shifted to a slight trend returning people Southward across the border into Mexico.
Sensible Policies Stem Illegal Crossings
In 2009, the Obama administration stemmed the flow of undocumented crossings largely into the Southwest. George W. Bush-era immigration tactics had severely limited visas for seasonal migrants who pick crops. The Bush administration automatically assumed that the number of Mexican undocumented migrants was higher, and set legal visas, therefore, to a bare minimum. The Obama State Department issued more temporary work visas to farm laborers. Illegal traffic dropped.
People crossing the border legally for seasonal work earn better wages, are less exploited by their employers, pay taxes for which they collect no benefits, and reduce the strain on the U.S. Border Patrol.
America's Undocumented Labor Addiction
American business is addicted to undocumented labor. The undocumented keep costs down in industries in which they are heavily invested. The U.S. Department Agriculture noted that more than half of farm workers are undocumented. The National Milk Producers Federation in 2009 estimated that we could see a 61 percent jump in the current price if the undocumented workforce was eliminated. U.S. dairies employed 138,000 full-time equivalent workers, of which 57,000, or 41 percent, were foreigners.
When fear of migrant hordes overrunning our borders isn't enough, fear of immigrants carrying disease and scare mongering of our health care system is another successful use of "otherism" by the Far Right: The immigrant-filled emergency room. Ebola in Africa.
The epidemic got huge play before the 2014 midterms. After it? Crickets. Immigrant disease scares are an age-old winner with middle-class and poor whites.
"Asians were portrayed as feeble and infested with hookworm, Mexicans as lousy, and eastern European Jews as vulnerable to trachoma..." wrote scholars Howard Markel and Alexandra Minna Stern in the Milbank Quarterly.
Political Refugees Be Damned
The recent news lemming feeding frenzy over the spike in unaccompanied Central American children migrating to the U.S. was carried incorrectly as an immigration story by most news networks. It was framed as a trigger for that fear of our borders being overrun by "others" who will burden our social welfare systems, instead of as a political refugee story. Parents were sending their children North to get them away from the political violence in parts of Latin America, not to look for work.
So, if most of the people affected by a comprehensive reform of immigration and labor law have been here for a long time, working, paying bills, contributing to the sales and use taxes, and to our Gross Domestic Product, why, then, is the Republican Party so adamantly opposed to a pathway to citizenship for them?
Votes, voter suppression, and Social Darwinism.
Votes and Fear
The same 50 percent of Americans that polls show think President Obama is an untrustworthy Kenyan other Marxist Socialist are a key Republican strategy for the all-important midterm elections.
High turnout by the GOP base during gubernatorial elections is critical to the Libertarian Tea Party wing's strategy to break down the federal government and return the United States to a states-rights dominant governmental paradigm. A weaker federal authority in turn makes it much easier to control growing minority populations. Voting rights nullification, union busting, and other restrictions on the empowerment of minority citizens slow down demands by the minority majority for economic and social equality.
GOP propaganda has caused middle class whites to fear sinking in social status to the rising status of black, hispanic and asian peoples. That fear drives white power at the polls.
GOP stonewalling on immigration, and the generally negative narratives about minorities being pumped into the media caused the Obama administration to shelve their plan to take executive action to prevent the forced deportation of millions of undocumented people with children who are American citizens. Disillusioned Hispanics reacted by staying home, undercutting Democrats.
The GOP wants to make sure that there aren't millions of new voters to oppose the white power structure's candidates and policies. Most American voters polled support some method of allowing the long-term undocumented to achieve citizenship, but the one percent who pull the strings of the Libertarian Tea Party caucus remain adamantly opposed. Several million people entering the electoral process who are now disenfranchised would be very bad news for a GOP whose policies are pro prison and extremely anti-minority.
What Would St. Ronnie Do?
GOP immigration heel draggers are bad students of their own party's political history. Ronald Reagan would have taken Obama's side of the argument for more visas and stiffer penalties against those who hire the undocumented in the 1980s.
His proposed "Bracero" Programs included streamlining visas and increased enforcement against employers. It lead to the Immigration Control and Reform Act which Reagan signed into law in 1986, and introduced the I-9 form to American employment paperwork.
Citizenship is Good for Business, Economy
Many Republican neoconservatives are somewhat more socially moderate than the Tea Party cohort. Their constituents in the Silicon Valley, agriculture, restaurants and retail, see a huge uplift to the economy from a pathway to legal citizenship. The Center for American Progress reported, had immigration reform passed in 2013:
U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, would grow by an additional $1.4 trillion cumulatively over the 10 years between 2013 and 2022. What's more, Americans would earn an additional $791 billion in personal income over the same time period -- and the economy would create, on average, an additional 203,000 jobs per year. Within five years of the reform, unauthorized immigrants would be earning 25.1 percent more than they currently do and $659 billion more from 2013 to 2022. This means that they would also be contributing significantly more in federal, state, and local taxes. Over 10 years, that additional tax revenue would sum to $184 billion -- $116 billion to the federal government and $68 billion to state and local governments.
If the numbers are that good, then why is immigration such an issue?
The Kochs, Coors, Olins, Mellon-Scaifes, et al. are adherents of Social Darwinism, the belief that they, as the ultra-wealthy are "the chosen" because of the superiority of their gene pools. It is a concept that has driven American race and class politics since their grandparents and great-grandparents were called "Robber Barons" at the dawn of the Industrial Age in America. They have sold middle-class and poor whites, particularly in the South, on the notion that keeping minorities "in their place," elevates the white race. It goes hand-in-hand with their use of charity as a means of social control, and manipulating the economic angst of the vast white middle of America.
Gridlock is the name of the game, and 38 congressmen can hold the rest of the federal government hostage on immigration and other issues because the one percent's Social Darwinist agenda, which relies on their oppression, trumps the millions of people seeking social justice: To be mainstreamed into the place they call home and have contributed trillions of dollars for decades.
Immigration should be an employment issue. A very few, powerful white people and a few billion of their little green friends, though, don't see it that way. No polls or protests will speak loud enough for social justice to drown out their corrosive influence.
My shiny two.