Globalization and NAFTA Caused Migration from Mexico

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When NAFTA was passed two decades ago, its boosters promised it would bring “First World” status for the Mexican people. Instead, it prompted a great migration north.

**This article appears in PRA’s Fall, 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine, a special edition on neoliberalism and the Right**

Rufino Domínguez, the former coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, who now heads the Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants, estimates that there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the U.S., 300,000 in California alone.1

In Oaxaca, some towns have become depopulated, or are now made up of only communities of the very old and very young, where most working-age people have left to work in the north. Economic crises provoked by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other economic reforms are now uprooting and displacing these Mexicans in the country’s most remote areas, where people still speak languages (such as Mixteco, Zapoteco and Triqui) that were old when Columbus arrived from Spain.2 “There are no jobs, and NAFTA forced the price of corn so low that it’s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore,” Dominguez says. “We come to the U.S. to work because we can’t get a price for our product at home. There’s no alternative.”

Rosalba Maritero is a Triqui indignous immigrant from Oaxaca and lives in Madera, California.  She and her husband, both farm workers, were strikers at a large berry farm in Washington State last year and helped organize a new union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia/Families United for Justice. Photo by David Bacon.

Rosario Ventura is a Triqui indignous immigrant from Oaxaca and lives in Madera, California. She and her husband, both farm workers, were strikers at a large berry farm in Washington State last year and helped organize a new union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia/Families United for Justice. Photo by David Bacon.

According to Rick Mines, author of the 2010 Indigenous Farm Worker Study, “the total population of California’s indigenous Mexican farm workers is about 120,000 … a total of 165,000 indigenous farm workers and family members in California.”3 Counting the many indigenous people living and working in urban areas, the total is considerably higher. Indigenous people made up 7% of Mexican migrants in 1991-3, the years just before the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 2006-8, they made up 29%—four times more.4

California has a farm labor force of about 700,000 workers, so the day is not far off when indigenous Oaxacan migrants may make up a majority. They are the workforce that has been produced by NAFTA and the changes in the global economy driven by free-market policies. Further, “the U.S. food system has long been dependent on the influx of an ever-changing, newly-arrived group of workers that sets the wages and working conditions at the entry level in the farm labor market,” Mines says. The rock-bottom wages paid to this most recent wave of migrants—Oaxaca’s indigenous people—set the wage floor for all the other workers in California farm labor, keeping the labor cost of California growers low, and their profits high.

Linking Trade and Immigration

U.S. trade and immigration policy are linked. They are part of a single system, not separate and independent policies. Since NAFTA’s passage in 1993, the U.S. Congress has debated and passed several new trade agreements—with Peru, Jordan, Chile, and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. At the same time, Congress has debated immigration policy as though those trade agreements bore no relationship to the waves of displaced people migrating to the U.S., looking for work. Meanwhile, heightened anti-immigrant hysteria has increasingly demonized those migrants, leading to measures to deny them jobs, rights, or any equality with people living in the communities around them.

To resolve any of these dilemmas, from adopting rational and humane immigration policies to reducing the fear and hostility towards migrants, the starting point must be an examination of the way U.S. policies have produced migration—and criminalized migrants.

Trade negotiations and immigration policy were formally joined together by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. Immigrants’ rights activists campaigned against the law because it contained employer sanctions, prohibiting employers for the first time on a federal level from hiring undocumented workers and effectively criminalizing work for the undocumented. IRCA’s liberal defenders argued its amnesty provision justified sanctions and militarizing the border,5 as well as new guest worker programs. The bill eventually did enable more than 4 million people living in the U.S. without immigration documents to gain permanent residence. Underscoring the broad bipartisan consensus supporting it, the bill was signed into law by Ronald Reagan.

We come to the U.S. to work because we can’t get a price for our product at home. There’s no alternative. — Rufino Dominguez, Director of the Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants

Few noted one other provision of the law. IRCA set up a Commission for the Study of International Migration and Cooperative Economic Development to study the causes of immigration to the United States. The commission held hearings after the U.S. and Canada signed a bilateral free trade agreement, and made a report to President George H.W. Bush and Congress in 1990. It found that the main motivation for coming to the U.S. was poverty. To slow or halt the flow of migrants, it recommended that “U.S. economic policy should promote a system of open trade … the development of a U.S.-Mexico free trade area and its incorporation with Canada.” But, it warned, “It takes many years—even generations—for sustained growth to achieve the desired effect.”

The negotiations that led to NAFTA started within months. As Congress debated the treaty, then-Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari toured the United States, telling audiences unhappy at high levels of immigration that passing NAFTA would reduce it by providing employment for Mexicans in Mexico. Back home, he made the same argument. NAFTA, he claimed, would set Mexico on a course to become a first-world nation.6   “We did become part of the first world,” says Juan Manuel Sandoval of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. “The back yard.”7

Increasing pressure

NAFTA, however, did not lead to rising incomes and employment in Mexico, and did not decrease the flow of migrants. Instead, it became a source of pressure on Mexicans to migrate. The treaty forced corn grown by Mexican farmers without subsidies to compete in Mexico’s own market with corn from huge U.S. producers, who had been subsidized by the U.S. Agricultural exports to Mexico more than doubled during the NAFTA years, from $4.6 to $9.8 billion annually. Corn imports rose from 2,014,000 to 10,330,000 tons from 1992 to 2008. Mexico imported 30,000 tons of pork in 1995, the year NAFTA took effect. By 2010, pork imports, almost all from the U.S., had grown over 25 times, to 811,000 tons. As a result, pork prices received by Mexican producers dropped 56%.8

According to Alejandro Ramírez, general director of the Confederation of Mexican Pork Producers, “We lost 4,000 pig farms. Each 100 animals produce 5 jobs, so we lost 20,000 farm jobs directly from imports. Counting the 5 indirect jobs dependent on each direct job, we lost over 120,000 jobs in total. This produces migration to the U.S. or to Mexican cities—a big problem for our country.”9 Once Mexican meat and corn producers were driven from the market by imports, the Mexican economy was left vulnerable to price changes dictated by U.S. agribusiness or U.S. policy. “When the U.S. modified its corn policy to encourage ethanol production,” he charges, “corn prices jumped 100% in one year.”10

NAFTA then prohibited price supports, without which hundreds of thousands of small farmers found it impossible to sell corn or other farm products for what it cost to produce them. Mexico couldn’t protect its own agriculture from the fluctuations of the world market. A global coffee glut in the 1990s plunged prices below the cost of production. A less entrapped government might have bought the crops of Veracruz farmers to keep them afloat, or provided subsidies for other crops.

But once free-market structures were in place prohibiting government intervention to help them, those farmers paid the price. Campesinos from Veracruz, as well as Oaxaca and other major corn-producing states, joined the stream of workers headed north.11 There, they became an important part of the workforce in U.S. slaughterhouses and other industries.

U.S. companies were allowed to own land and factories, eventually anywhere in Mexico. U.S.-based Union Pacific, in partnership with the Larrea family, one of Mexico’s wealthiest, became the owner of the country’s main north-south rail line and immediately discontinued virtually all passenger service.12 Mexican rail employment dropped from more than 90,000 to 36,000. Railroad workers mounted a wildcat strike to try to save their jobs, but they lost and their union became a shadow of its former self.

According to Garrett Brown, head of the Maquiladora Health and Safety Network, the average Mexican wage was 23% of the U.S. manufacturing wage in 1975. By 2002, it was less than an eighth. Brown says that after NAFTA, real Mexican wages dropped by 22%, while worker productivity increased 45%.13

Attracting Investors, Repelling Workers

Low wages are the magnet used to attract U.S. and other foreign investors. In mid-June, 2006, Ford Corporation, already one of Mexico’s largest employers, announced it would invest $9 billion more in building new factories.14 Meanwhile, Ford closed 14 U.S. plants, eliminating the jobs of tens of thousands of U.S. workers. Both moves were part of the company’s strategic plan to cut labor costs and move production. When General Motors was bailed out by the U.S. government in 2008, it closed a dozen U.S. plants, while its plans for building new plants in Mexico went forward without hindrance.15 These policies displaced people, who could no longer make a living as they’d done before. The rosy predictions of NAFTA’s boosters that it would raise income and slow migration proved false. The World Bank, in a 2005 study made for the Mexican government, found that the extreme rural poverty rate of around 37% in 1992-4, prior to NAFTA, jumped to about 52% in 1996-8, after NAFTA took effect. This could be explained, the report said, “mainly by the 1995 economic crisis, the sluggish performance of agriculture, stagnant rural wages, and falling real agricultural prices.”16

By 2010, 53 million Mexicans were living in poverty, according to the Monterrey Institute of Technology—half the country’s population.17 The growth of poverty, in turn, fueled migration. In 1990, 4.5 million Mexican-born people lived in the U.S. A decade later, that population more than doubled to 9.75 million, and in 2008 it peaked at 12.67 million. Approximately 9.4% of all Mexicans now live in the U.S., based on numbers from Pew Hispanic. About 5.7 million were able to get some kind of visa; but another 7 million couldn’t, and came nevertheless.18

From 1982 through the NAFTA era, successive economic reforms produced migrants. The displacement had already grown so large by 1986 that the commission established by IRCA was charged with recommending measures to halt or slow it. Its report urged that “migrant-sending countries should encourage technological modernization by strengthening and assuring intellectual property protection and by removing existing impediments to investment” and recommended that “the United States should condition bilateral aid to sending countries on their taking the necessary steps toward structural adjustment.” The IRCA commission report acknowledged the potential for harm, noting (in the mildest, most ineffectual language possible) that “efforts should be made to ease transitional costs in human suffering.”19

In 1994, however, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, U.S. speculators began selling off Mexican government bonds. According to Jeff Faux, founding director the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, DC-based progressive think tank, “NAFTA had created a speculative bubble for Mexican assets that then collapsed when the speculators cashed in.”20 In NAFTA’s first year, 1994, one million Mexicans lost their jobs when the peso was devalued. To avert a flood of capital to the north, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin engineered a $20 billion loan to Mexico, which was paid to bondholders, mostly U.S. banks. In return, U.S. and British banks gained control of the country’s financial system. Mexico had to pledge its oil revenue to pay off foreign debt, making the country’s primary source of income unavailable for the needs of its people.

As the Mexican economy, especially the border maquiladora industry, became increasingly tied to the U.S. market, tens of thousands of Mexican workers lost jobs when the market shrank during U.S. recessions in 2001 and 2008. “It is the financial crashes and the economic disasters that drive people to work for dollars in the U.S., to replace life savings, or just to earn enough to keep their family at home together,” says Harvard historian John Womack.21

Immigrants, Migrants, or Displaced People?

In the U.S. political debate, Veracruz’ uprooted coffee pickers or unemployed workers from Mexico City are called immigrants, because that debate doesn’t recognize their existence before they leave Mexico. It is more accurate to call them migrants, and the process migration, since that takes into account both people’s communities of origin and those where they travel to find work.

But displacement is an unmentionable word in the Washington discourse. Not one immigration proposal in Congress in the quarter century since IRCA was passed has tried to come to grips with the policies that uprooted miners, teachers, tree planters, and farmers. In fact, while debating bills to criminalize undocumented migrants and set up huge guest worker programs, four new trade agreements were introduced, each of which has caused more displacement and more migration.

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The Art of Activism

Spotlighting the efforts of artists and organizations who are engaged in the struggle for social justice and are helping build the movement through their work.

“En los Campos del Norte (In the Fields of the North)” is an exhibition of photographs of farm workers in the U.S., almost all migrants from Mexico, taken by David Bacon (shown here). The photgraphs are hung on the iron bars of the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., in Playas de Tijuana on the Mexican side.

“En los Campos del Norte (In the Fields of the North)” is an exhibition of photographs of farm workers in the U.S., almost all migrants from Mexico, taken by David Bacon (shown here). The photgraphs are hung on the iron bars of the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., in Playas de Tijuana on the Mexican side.

For more than 30 years, David Bacon has been writing about and photographing people who are displaced by poverty in Mexico and choose to cross into the United States in search of a better life. David writes:

“For me, photography is a cooperative project. For over a decade, I’ve worked with the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, a Mexican migrant organization, and California Rural Legal Assistance to document this contradiction. The photographs shown on the border wall, ‘En los Campos del Norte (In the Fields of the North),’ are drawn from this long-term project. They show poverty, the lack of housing for many people, and the systematic exploitation of immigrant labor in the fields. But through the photographs and accompanying oral histories, migrants also analyze their situation. They demand respect for their culture, basic rights, and greater social equality. People in Tijuana are pretty familiar with working conditions in California, and most people I met looking at the show had actually been there, many as workers. The images, therefore, underline the need to change reality, and appreciate our mutual humanity and the importance of our labor.

For three decades, I’ve used a method that combines photographs with interviews and personal histories. Part of the purpose is the “reality check”—the documentation of social reality, including poverty, homelessness, migration, and displacement. But this documentation, carried out over a long period of time, also presents some of the political and economic alternatives proposed by people who are often shut out of public debate. It examines their efforts to win the power to put some of these alternatives into practice. I believe documentary photographers stand on the side of social justice—we should be involved in the world and unafraid to try to change it.”


1. Eric Hershberg and Fred Rosen, “Turning the Tide?” in Latin America After Neoliberalism: Turning the Tide in the 21st Century, eds. Eric Hershberg and Fred Rosen (New York: New Press, 2006), 23.
2. John P. Schmal, “Oaxaca: Land of Diversity,” ¡LatinoLA!, Jan. 28, 2007, http://www.latinola.com/story.php?story=3908.
3. Richard Mines, Sandra Nichols, and David Runsten, “California’s Indigenous Farmworkers: Final Report of the Indigenous Farmworker Study (IFS) To the California Endowment,” Jan. 2010, http://www.indigenousfarmworkers.org/IFS%20Full%20Report%20_Jan2010.pdf.
4. Mines, Nichols, and Runsten, “California Indigenous Farmworkers Final Report of the Indigenous Farmworker Study (IFS) To the California Endowment.”
5. Brad Plummer, “Congress Tried to Fix Immigration Back in 1986. Why Did It Fail?” Washington Post, Jan. 30, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/30/in-1986-congress-tried-to-solve-immigration-why-didnt-it-work.
6. David Clark Scott, “Salinas Plays It Cool After Big Win on NAFTA,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 19, 1993, http://www.csmonitor.com/1993/1119/19014.html.
7. Juan Manuel Sandoval, interview with David Bacon, 2006.
8. David Bacon, The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration (Boston: Beacon Press, 2013).
9. Bacon, The Right to Stay Home.
10. Bacon, The Right to Stay Home.
11. David Bacon, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008), 63.
12. Bacon, Illegal People, 58.
13. Bacon, Illegal People, 59.
14. Elizabeth Malkin, “Detroit: Far South,” New York Times, Jul. 21, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/21/business/worldbusiness/21auto.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
15. Paul Roderick Gregory, “Outsourcer-In-Chief: Obama Of General Motors,” Forbes, Aug. 12, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2012/08/12/outsourcer-in-chief-obama-of-general-motors.
16. José María Caballero et al. for the World Bank, Mexico: Income Generation and Social Protection for the Poor, Volume IV: A Study of Rural Poverty in Mexico, Aug. 2005, (accessed via https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/8286), 9-11.
17. Richard Wells, “3 Ways To Compete Sustainably: Lessons from Mexico,” GreenBiz.com, Oct. 9, 2013, http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/10/09/3-ways-compete-sustainably-lessons-mexico.
18. Bacon, The Right to Stay Home.
19. Bacon, Illegal People, 60-61.
20. Bacon, Illegal People, 61.
21. Bacon, Illegal People, 64.

Profiles on the Right: Young America’s Foundation / Young Americans for Freedom (YAF)

YAF

YAF is a conservative youth activism organization that offers college students across the United States a variety of outlets for promoting Right-Wing ideology. YAF originated at two separate points in time, but Young Americans for Freedom specifically began in 1960, when 100 conservative students assembled to construct YAF’s guiding principles at the Great Elm Conference, hosted by William F. Buckley. As of 2011, Young America’s Foundation and Young Americans for Freedom combined into YAF, with Young America’s Foundation maintaining the name of the parent organization.

YAF focuses more on general national politics as opposed to on-campus issues. Some of their campus initiatives include: Resist Obama fliers, March Liberal Madness, 9/11: Never Forget Project, and Who is Dividing Our Campus?—the last of which claims that liberals are “often the first intimidate, attack, and silence conservatives when they speak out.”

YAF reveres former president Ronald Reagan, works to preserve and protect the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara. YAF’s website says the “Ranch is an important component of the Foundation’s broader mission to ‘ensure that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of limited government, free enterprise, a strong national defense, and traditional values.’”

Board members of YAF, past and present, have a history of supporting oppressive programs and organizations.

Former board member, the late Howard Phillips, was appointed as as the head of the Office of Economic Opportunity by president Richard Nixon where he immediately defunded anti-poverty programs, although a federal court ultimately stopped him, ruling his actions illegal because he was never confirmed to the post by the Senate.

In 2004, YAF president Ron Robinson and board member James B. Taylor donated $5000 to the Charles Martel Society, a White Nationalist group. Since then, the three-person board of the group’s PAC has raised and spent over $5 million on various Republican candidates. Robinson spoke out against concerns that the donation to White Nationalists was racist, saying that the PAC’s donations to Allan Keyes, Ken Blackwell, Allen West and other Black conservatives proved the contrary.

James B. Taylor, on the other hand, was once the vice president of the National Policy Institute (NPI), which was founded as a White Supremacist think tank, according to Marilyn Mayo, codirector of Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. While Taylor says he would no longer involve himself with NPI, tax returns prove he was serving as vice president of VP of NPI as late as 2007, when they released the book The State of White America 2007, which called Brown v. Board of Education “arguably the worst decision in the Court’s 216-year history.”

YAF’s website offers its students a recommended reading page, which consists of books from conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Ted Nugent, and David Horowitz. They’ve also hosted speakers such as Rick Santorum, Ann Coulter, and Newt Gingrich on various campuses.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) listed the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom as a hate group, making it the only student hate group in the United States. MSU-YAF hosted White Supremacist speakers for lectures on their campus and organized racist events. Activities they’ve organized range from a “Catch an Illegal Alien Day” game, to a “Koran desecration” contest. They’ve also condemned and attempted to eliminate affirmative action at the school.

Earlier this year, after the student congress of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill passed a rule to enforce stricter rules on the use of their student funds—a rule which hindered the school’s Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club from using those funds to purchase ammunition—YAF said liberal students improperly targeted the gun club, calling it an act of discrimination.

In 2012, YAF invited Fox News personality Andrea Tantoros to speak on campus at Guilford College. During Tantoros’ speech, she made flagrantly anti-Muslim statements, including a claim that all Muslims have been commanded by Muhammad to perform Jihads on non-Muslims. The speech sparked outrage, and prompted the school to formally apologize for allowing Tantoros to speak on campus. YAF spokesperson Ron Meyer responded with an article claiming it was not a racist speech, and referred to the Muslim students who protested the speech as “jihadists” who were intolerant of free-speech.

Other YAF writers have put out articles on the following topics:

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Profiles on the Right: Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

FAIR logo

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is an anti-immigrant group founded in 1979 and is currently the United State’s largest 501c(3) immigration reform organization. According to their website, FAIR has more than 250,000 members nationwide. While they work hard to maintain a front of moderation and legitimacy, claiming to be “a non-partisan group whose members run the gamut from liberal to conservative,” their nativist and xenophobic ideologies are well documented. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled FAIR a hate group because of the group’s white nationalist ideology.

Founded in 1979 by John Tanton in Washington D.C., one of FAIR’s main goals is to overturn the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) of 1965. The INA ended a decades-long racist quota system that limited immigration to mostly While Northern Europeans. Current FAIR President Dan Stein has called INA “a key mistake in national policy” and “a source of error.”

FAIR has received criticism over the years for its links to eugenicists and white supremacists. Garrett Hardin, a now deceased biologist and board member of FAIR wrote in his 1968 paper “Tragedy of the Commons” that “[the] freedom to breed is intolerable.” Current board member Donald A. Collins frequently writes for VDARE.com, an anti-immigration site. In the infamous 1988 “WITAN memos”, published in the Arizona Republic, founder John Tanton warned of the “Latin onslaught” in America and the low “educatability” of Latinos. He also expressed concern that the Catholic Church would capitalize on the faith of Latinos to exert more political influence in the U.S. FAIR has also come under fire for taking grant money from the Pioneer Fund, a controversial nonprofit organization who share FAIR’s eugenicist ideologies. FAIR frequently promotes The Social Contract Press, a press program that routinely publishes race-baiting articles written by white nationalists, founded by John Tanton in 1990.

Despite the numerous criticisms and controversies surrounding FAIR, the group remains an influential player in immigration politics. FAIR was a key advocate for the defeat of the DREAM Act, a widely supported bipartisan bill which would have provided a path to citizenship for young immigrants who were raised in America. In the debate surrounding the DREAM Act, FAIR president Dan Stein was often quoted in the mainstream media and made appearances on Fox News Latino. The FAIR website claims “FAIR spokespersons are interviewed regularly on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, in the New York Times, USA Today, hundreds of radio stations, and in hundreds of other newspapers, magazines and websites annually.”

FAIR releases studies, op-eds, and statistics on immigration that are frequently misleading or wrong, and their content is often quickly debunked. This does not stop conservative pundits and publications like The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, and Politico from using their content.

A recent report, released by FAIR in October, 2013, titled “Republicans Have an Immigration Problem,” combines extensive economic and demographic data with opinion research to prove that “Republicans are having problems expanding their voting base because the U.S. immigration system brings in individuals who are less-educated, less-skilled, and low-income.” Implicit throughout the report is the notion that Latino people are less educated and more dependent on welfare, and therefore drawn to the Democrats’ platform. The report also posits that “Hispanic voters do not vote based on immigration, they vote their pocketbooks.” Citing one of their favorite immigration reform talking points, the report asserts the U.S. should shift immigration policy “to a skills-based model. This will convert our immigration population frmo one that tends to affiliate with the Democratic party [Latinos and other minorities], to one that—over time—is more receptive to core Republican messages [White people].” This kind of thinly veiled white nationalist ideology is representative of both FAIR’s successful “moderateness,” and their obvious racism.

As of the late 2000s, FAIR and their legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), have become more active in pushing anti-immigration laws at the state and local level. IRLI attorney Kris Kobach helped draft Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, which was signed in April 2010. The bill forced police officers to detain individuals who they suspected to be in the country illegally, and made it a misdemeanor for non-citizens to fail to carry immigration papers. In 2012, three of the bill’s four provisions were invalidated, but that has not stopped Kobach and the IRLI from working to pass similar laws in Texas, Pennsylvania, and other localities. FAIR and IRLI are also working to end the birthright citizenship provision in the 14th Amendment.

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Race-Based Roundup Revealed

Immigration advocates have long asserted that ICE raids at workplaces and in neighborhoods sweep people up based on race, rather than facts about individuals violating immigration laws. ICE’s internal investigation of a Baltimore sweep now reveals that a supervisor instructed his team to arrest as many immigrants as possible, regardless of where or how, in order to meet a quota.

In the frigid morning of Jan. 23, 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers seized 24 people during a sweep of a Baltimore 7-Eleven. We have now learned that their supervisor had ordered them to go out and round up as many aliens as they could. A summary of an ICE internal investigation of the incident says that this boss “related that he didn’t really care where they had to go and whether the aliens were fugitives or not, he just wanted them to bring more bodies in.”

Racial profiling of this nature is prohibited by law. ICE cannot legally detain someone without reasonable suspicion, based on articulable facts, that an individual has broken the law. A person’s skin color or language are not sufficient facts.

These ICE officers were attached to a special unit assigned to targeting “fugitive aliens.” The officers told an immigration judge that they had reason to detain based upon voluntary admissions by individuals that they were not present in the U.S. legally. However, footage from camerasshowed that explanation held little water; few, if any, of the persons arrested spoke with officers before they were captured. Also, officers have provided a different account to the internal investigators.

The officers’ supervisor, John D. Alderman, then acting field office director of ICE’s Baltimore Office of Detention and Removal Operations, told his team that morning to “go out and get more aliens” because he was upset that a night of work had only netted a handful of arrests. The unit had been under pressure to make its annual quota of 1,000 arrests per team.

ICE’s National Fugitive Operations Program, which has cost taxpayers $625 million since 2003, is meant to hunt suspected terrorists and dangerous criminals who have evaded a deportation order. But rather than identify and target fugitives, these teams have been apprehending tens of thousands of immigrants who have not evaded a deportation order or committed a crime. AMigration Policy Institute report also reveals a dramatic leap in arrests of immigrants who were neither fugitives nor criminals in 2006 and 2007 after officers were permitted to count non-fugitives toward their quota if such detainees were encountered in the course of an operation.

The arbitrary detention of anyone by government agents not only violates the Fourth Amendment, but is completely anathema to the nation’s founding principles. This episode demonstrates how arrest quotas drive ICE to substitute arbitrary, mass arrests for detailed investigations that might lead to the apprehension of actual “fugitive aliens.” Moreover, it shows how ICE has been transformed into a blunt instrument that terrorizes whole communities.

Song of the Day:

In many a time, in many a land,
With many a gun in many a hand,
They came by the night, they came by the day,
Came with their guns to take us away . . .

With their knock on the door, knock on the door.
Here they come to take one more,
One more.

– Phil Ochs, “Knock on the Door”

Corporate Desires vs. Anti-immigrant Fervor: The Bush Administration’s Dilemma

George W. Bush accomplished a near-miracle when he united the various factions of the Republican Party behind his candidacy in the 2000 presidential election. To do so, he convinced them to put aside their differences in order to recapture the White House from the “Clintonites” and to finish the Reagan revolution. But holding that fragile coalition together, while recruiting enough new voters to actually win the 2004 presidential election, is a tough challenge. This issue illustrates the political box that Bush now must negotiate.

The neophyte Bush took office with a parochial immigration agenda based on his familiarity with the Texas-Mexico border and his political affinity with Mexico’s new neoliberal President Vicente Fox. Both are free-market enthusiasts who understand that the border tensions that extend from California to Texas are problems begging for reform. Bush speaks some Spanish and has used it in his courtship of the Latino vote in Texas. A serious program of immigration reform, especially if it appeared to favor the acceptance of Mexican workers, presumably would bring Bush Latino votes.

This bid for votes seemed to be as far as Bush’s thinking had progressed when he began floating the idea of a qualified amnesty, more appropriately known as legalization, for undocumented Mexican workers who are not registered with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). His seemed to advocate funneling them into “guest worker” programs and then sending them back to Mexico when their contracts expired. He and members of his administration also held out the possibility of citizenship at the end of guest worker service for those who have been long-time residents. This idea was popular with Vicente Fox, some Latino groups, and Bush’s agribusiness and other corporate supporters,who’d been lobbying for years for expanded agricultural and high-tech guest worker programs.

Legalization for the Undocumented

After taking office and floating his idea of temporary amnesty for undocumented Mexican workers, coupled with expanded guest worker programs, Bush soon began to back away from his initial proposals, despite President Fox’s enthusiasm for the plan. On September 5, 2001, as President Fox visited the White House, he referred to the need for the two presidents to reach “an agreement on migration” within the year. The next day, as he addressed Congress, Fox reiterated his call for “regularization” of illegal immigrants from Mexico in the United States. Bush, for his part, spoke about immigration in general terms, making no promises.1 It seems that Bush only belatedly recognized the strength of organized anti-immigrant sentiment within his party’s right wing. Since legalization of undocumented immigrants is anathema to this sector, they oppose it with political passion.

 

Americans for Better Immigration (ABI), a website that produces “immigration scorecards” on politicians and opposes immigration and “forced population growth,” complained about the vagueness of Bush’s statements on immigration and rated him as a supporter of legalization – a damning accusation. On their website, ABI said that Bush “showed a basic lack of knowledge” and “appeared embarrassed about being so obviously ignorant about an important policy issue.”2

Rightist anti-immigrant groups repeatedly raised several arguments in opposition to amnesty:

  • Because guest workers will not return to Mexico, as stipulated in current guest worker proposals, temporary amnesty linked to a guest worker program will permanently increase the number of immigrants who remain in the United States.3
  • Amnesty for undocumented immigrants rewards the “lawlessness” of their entry into the country. Instead, the INS should be strengthened so as to be able to identify and prosecute all undocumented immigrants.4
  • Amnesty will provoke a backlash among White voters because the costs of supporting immigrants’ health care and education fall largely to White taxpayers, who, on average, earn higher incomes and therefore pay more in taxes.
  • Any newly legalized Mexican workers will have primary loyalty to Mexico, not to the United States. This “dual loyalty” presents a threat to U.S. sovereignty because these new residents might place the interests of Mexico ahead of those of the United States.5
  • When the federal government encourages population growth through relaxed immigration policies such as amnesty, it works directly against the interests of a clean and safe environment. Anti-immigrant groups point to immigrants’ “larger families” and “lower living standards,” which, they claim, explain immigrants’ role in disproportionately polluting the environment and increasing the U.S. crime rate.6
  • Immigrants take jobs from native U.S. workers, adding to the number of unemployed U.S. workers.
  • Immigrants slow innovation in technology because they provide low cost manual labor. If employers were forced to hire more costly workers, they would feel increased pressure to develop new technologies to replace those more costly workers and also increase productivity.7

The Republican Courtship of Latino Voters

Could Bush have been ignorant of the opposition his amnesty proposal would arouse within his own party? Perhaps he was compelled, if ever so temporarily, by his desire to win support within the Latino community. The Bush presidential campaign understood that immigration has powerful symbolic resonance within the Latino community. As an indicator of respect and accountability, politicians must take up the issue of immigrant rights and show appreciation for the contributions made by Latinos to the U.S. economy and culture.8 During the campaign, Bush’s nephew, George Prescott Bush, worked tirelessly to reach out to and win over Latino voters. “P,” as he is called, is the son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife, Columba Garnica Bush. His flawless Spanish and good looks made him a virtual rock star within the otherwise stodgy campaign team. He embodied a message the Bush campaign was intent on communicating: there is a place in the Republican Party for Latino voters and here is an example of a young Latino who is fiercely loyal to the Bush Republicans.9 Both the presidential candidate and his nephew took pains when campaigning in California in April, 2000 to distance themselves from Governor Pete Wilson’s anti-immigrant positions.10

 

The combination of the Bush campaign’s rhetoric and George W. Bush’s interest in immigration reform early in his presidency raised hopes within immigrant rights groups. So it was especially disappointing to those immigrant rights advocates who had seen hope in Bush’s proposals when he began to back away from those proposals after the Right’s anti-immigrant forces mobilized.

Several rightist groups that oppose increased immigration argued that the amnesty proposal would not help Bush with Latino voters.11 For example, in a 2001 Center for Immigration Studies study, “Impossible Dream or Distant Reality? Republican Efforts to Attract Latino Voters,” James G. Gimpel and Karen Kaufman argue that because Latinos vote overwhelmingly Democratic, the amnesty and guest worker programs would only increase the number of Latino voters, but not the percentage of them who vote Republican. They argue that, with increased education and tenure in the United States, Latino immigrants, with the exception of Cubans, become more, not less, Democratic. Further, Gimpel and Kaufman argue that there is no indication that a political party’s position on immigration influences Latino votes. They conclude, “most Latinos join with other Americans in the belief that the current level of immigration is too high.”12

Immigrant rights groups have countered with their own statistics. The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute published a statement in 2001 that critiques the Center for Immigration Studies report. According to an Institute survey, 41 percent of Latino voters say that their party affiliation is “not strong.” The authors argue that the Bush administration could take Latino support away from Democratic candidates by acting on issues of key concern to the community, especially amnesty for immigrants.13

The Role of Senator Phil Gramm

While President Bush is often seen as the architect of the administration’s policy proposals on immigration and immigrants, especially because of his “special relationship” with President Vicente Fox, in reality the driving forces behind immigration policy are three legislators: Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), and especially Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX). At the end of the 2000 Congressional session, Berman and Smith proposed a bill that provides for guest workers to be put on a track to permanent residency and possible citizenship, if they work a certain amount of time in the fields. In exchange, growers would not be required to provide housing for guest workers and minimum wage requirements would be relaxed. The proposal was opposed by Gramm and, with the inauguration of George W. Bush, it was scrapped. Gramm, though he is often vilified by the most extreme of the anti-immigrant voices as too pro-immigrant, is actually the most influential right-wing voice among immigration policy-makers.14 Before the events of September 11 halted the debate over immigration reform, it was Gramm who worked most closely with the administration and appeared to wield strong influence over administration positions.

 

Gramm opposes legalization, saying that it would pass only “over his dead body.” Instead, he favors a guest worker program that would issue temporary visas to Mexican workers when they enroll, then would send them back to Mexico after a specified length of time. Gramm’s plan does not include an option for providing permanent legal status for workers.15 His policy would both satisfy agribusiness’s desire for cheap labor and give a nod to President Fox’s desire for Mexican workers to have legal access to U.S. jobs and continue to send billions of dollars back to their families in Mexico. It would also create a tighter system of INS surveillance of Mexican farm workers, which would presumably allow for more accurate tracking of their movements and greater control over their repatriation to Mexico. In 2001, Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho proposed a Gramm-friendly guest worker bill with no amnesty provision. It would allow permanent resident status for undocumented farm workers who work for 150 days of the year for each of five years, a difficult demand for seasonal workers. Only work in the fields would count.16

Sen. Gramm has announced that he will be leaving the Senate when he completes his term in 2002. A number of legislators will most likely vie for leadership on this issue when Gramm departs, such as: Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) (Vidalia onion fields), Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) (tree growers), Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) (sugar cane), and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), Sen Larry Craig (R-ID), Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), and others from states with strong agricultural interests.

Earlier Guest Worker Programs

The guest worker program that Gramm supports is similar to those proposed in an August 2001 meeting by the Bush administration in high-level talks between the Fox administration and Attorney General John Ashcroft and Secretary of State Colin Powell. At that time, Ashcroft, Powell, and their Mexican counterparts announced a “shared commitment” to some form of guest worker program.17 Public statements issued after this meeting and one the following month between Fox and Bush make no mention of the history of guest worker programs in the United States. Because past guest worker programs are seldom discussed by policy-makers, many people are unaware that the United States has had a very large guest worker program in the past, and it currently has a fairly modest one for farm workers and high-tech workers.

 

Since the time of Alexander Hamilton, U.S. policymakers have recognized the value of cheap and willing immigrant labor, and throughout most of the 19th century, U.S. legislation was designed to encourage immigration. Employers complained of a decline in the labor supply during the Civil War, a pattern that repeated itself during subsequent times of war.18

The Bracero Program, a system of formal and informal agreements to bring contract workers from Mexico to work in the United States, began in 1942. It was augmented in 1943 by the H-2 guest worker program. Both programs were intended to replace workers who had left farm work and railroad jobs to enter military service or take better-paying production jobs related to World War II. In 1951, Public Law 78, a formal Bracero labor-contracting scheme to replace farm workers during the Korean War, was passed and implemented. The Bracero and H-2 programs lasted until 1964, and were consistently characterized by problems of worker exploitation and employer abuse.

U.S. agribusiness grew along with the Bracero program, and between 1942 and 1960 it increasingly took over farming. Acreage was consolidated into larger and larger “farms” during the early years of the Bracero movement. Describing California during this period, researcher Ernesto Galarza writes, “The holding and management of land was increasingly dominated by large units as the small, multiple-crop family farm withered.”19 As a result, the political clout of agribusiness interests steadily increased during this period.

Growers manipulated farm workers, especially with the ever-present threat of deportation, and used them to undercut unionization efforts in the 1940s and 1950s. Although on paper no bracero could replace a U.S.-born worker, that rule was openly flouted. Braceros were used to harvest cotton, sugar cane, sugar beet, grapes, lettuce, and other fruits and vegetables. In each case, this was very hard physical labor under brutal conditions of heat and exposure to pesticides. Under U.S. law, 10 percent of their wages were to be sent by their employers to a bank in Mexico while they were under contract as braceros, to be paid back to them when they returned to Mexico. On March 1, 2001, four former braceros filed a class action suit in San Francisco, alleging that the money was never paid and that they are owed the withheld money plus interest. Even if this suit is successful, in 2002 only one million of the five million affected braceros are still alive to benefit.20

Congressional hearings on the conditions of braceros, held from 1953 until 1958, demonstrated the divide between those who supported the Bracero Program and those who wanted it shut down. Supporters of the program included many agricultural and growers’ associations and argued that Mexican agricultural workers were needed as a result of a labor shortage created by the Korean War and changes in employment patterns following WWII.21 They also argued that braceros were highly motivated, excellent workers, who by law, were provided better living conditions than other workers, and that the Bracero Program was a method of helping the Mexican people because employment put money into the hands of Mexican workers.22 Those who were opposed the program, included a number of Democratic Congressmen, the National Catholic Welfare Committee, and the American Friends Service Committee.23 They countered that no scarcity of labor existed, that international braceros were exploited through low pay, high company store prices, and arbitrary firings, and that foreign aid for Mexico would be a better method of aiding Mexicans.

As the Bracero Program grew, some unions, such as the National Farm Labor Union (NFLU), and its successor, the National Agricultural Workers Union (NAWU), opposed it, undoubtedly because the growers used braceros to lower wages of farm workers and to break strikes whenever unionized farm workers staged a strike.24 But it was Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 CBS documentary “Harvest of Shame,” a moving account of the exploitation and degradation of farm workers that brought the Bracero Program out of the shadows and heavily influenced public opinion against it. In 1964, Congress rescinded the Bracero law.

Current Guest Worker Programs

Although the Bracero Program was closed in 1964, the H-2 visa program, initiated in the early 1940s primarily to secure sugar cane workers and heavily backed by the U.S. Sugar Corporation, continued, and remains a government program to this day. The H-2 visa program, which applies to workers from all countries rather than Mexico alone, allows employers to hire “foreign” workers on temporary visas. In the 1980s, the H-2 program was split up into the H-2A program, initially for agricultural guest workers, and the H-1B and H-2B programs for non-agricultural workers. Under H-2A, not only farm workers are given temporary visas, but also workers in the fast food industry, taxi drivers, nursing home attendants, janitors, construction workers, housecleaners, restaurant and hotel workers, cannery workers, and employees of poultry and meat processing plants. H-2A workers must work for one specific employer, who must document that a U.S.-born worker is not available to fill the job, and workers must leave the country after 11 months.

 

The H-1B guest worker program gives temporary visas to various categories of workers in “skilled specialty occupations,” including professional and high-tech workers. Employers favor this program for its ability to attract very highly skilled workers from other countries to work in the United States. without conferring the right to apply for citizenship. In the 1990s, the high tech sector was booming in the United States and unemployment in it was low, but since 2001, when the United States entered an economic recession and many high-tech workers began to be laid off, anti-immigrant organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) began calling for H-1B workers to be deported.25

The H-2B guest worker program gives temporary visas to permit a worker to perform a specific job. The employer must request the worker and obtain certification from the Department of Labor that U.S. workers are not available. H-2B workers are allowed to stay no more than one year and their job must have an end date. By law, the worker must be paid a wage equal to, or exceeding, the minimum prevailing wage (set by the state where the work is done) for workers in the same position.26

In 1986, when a shortage of farm workers was predicted, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This Act contained a provision assuring growers of a continuous supply of agricultural workers and established the Commission on Agricultural Workers (CAW) to assess its outcome. The legislation was intended to slow illegal immigration, improve the lives of agricultural workers, and protect the interests of U.S. farmers. In fact, it has succeeded only in protecting the interests of farmers.

All in all, the conditions of past and current guest worker programs, especially those applying to agricultural workers, resemble forms of indentured servitude, a practice supposedly long repudiated in the United States. H-2A, H-1B, and H-2B workers must work for one specific employer and are not eligible to remain in the United States beyond their specified periods of employment. If fired or laid off, they cannot seek other work, but must go back to their country of origin. An H-2A worker must be careful not to be identified as a “problem worker,” or he or she won’t be brought back the next year. Also, H-2A workers are not entitled to disclosure of the terms of their employment during recruitment, to safe transportation, or to access to federal courts. Although the H-2A program provides some protections regarding wages and housing, exposés published in The Charlotte Observer and Mother Jones magazine paint a grim picture of desperate farm workers who must endure abuses in silence or flee to an underground life as an undocumented person.27

A 1997 Department of Labor survey found that three out of five of all farm workers live below the poverty line.28 Contemporary guest worker proposals do nothing to improve farm workers’ wages and working conditions. The GAO and the Congressional Research Service have reported that farm workers have at least twice the average national unemployment rate.29 According to the Sacramento Bee, in 2001 the California Central Valley counties, where most California farm workers live, had an “enormous oversupply of labor,” with an unemployment rate of 13.5 percent in Tulare County and 9.5 percent in Kern County.30 Farm workers have not shared in the benefits of global trade. Many federal and state laws designed to protect workers exclude them from coverage or subject them to special exceptions. Examples include overtime pay, occupational safety and health protections, unemployment compensation, collective bargaining rights, and child labor protections. Farm workers often do not even attempt to appeal to the justice system for fear of being fired. Minimum wage laws often are not enforced.31

After the passage of IRCA in 1986, the practice of growers using farm labor contractors (FLCs) to supply farm help accelerated. Because the FLCs act as middlemen between the growers and the workers, growers now do not directly hire farm workers and are rarely any longer responsible for their housing. In most cases, the FLCs, rather than the growers, have been made solely liable for immigration violations under IRCA. With intense competition among FLCs, they underbid each other, and growers are drawn to the lowest bid and thus the lowest pay and benefit cuts for workers.32

The Future of Guest Worker Programs

Because existing guest worker programs are characterized by these abuses, farm workers’ advocates have in general opposed the renewal or expansion of guest worker programs. But in 2000 they and their Congressional allies agreed to a program that would lead to permanent residence for guest workers in the United States. However, when some Republicans, led by Senator Gramm, objected, the plan died in Congress. Then, with the arrival of the Bush administration, the debate over guest workers and undocumented immigrants revived in Congress and within the administration. George W. Bush quickly experienced first hand the conflict over this issue within his right-wing political base. Corporate employers, as well as individual rightist libertarians, support the practice of laborers crossing borders into the United States, in part because it increase the quantity and/or “productivity” of workers available to U.S. business. But cultural conservatives oppose immigration, claiming it profoundly alters the “American cultural character,” which they believe to be based solely on so-called Anglo-Saxon values and practices. Two associations of business interests that favor expanded guest worker programs are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC). Opposing them are large anti-immigrant groups such as the Virginia-based American Immigration Control Foundation and the Washington, D.C.-based Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The strength of the culturally conservative groups within the Right, and therefore within Bush’s constituency, is bound to hamper the administration’s efforts to accommodate its corporate supporters.

 

As a result of these ideological splits, the ongoing political struggle over immigrant rights and guest worker programs is not likely to occur along strict party lines. Among both Democrats and Republicans, there are those who oppose and those who support guest worker programs, as well as immigrant rights.

On the workers’ rights side, immigrants’ rights groups are generally ambivalent about guest worker programs, usually favoring them only when they provide workers with protections and access to permanent legal residency. These groups advocate for increased rights for immigrants and actively oppose the mistreatment of guest workers. Occasionally groups that tend to be liberal on related political issues will align with anti-immigrant groups in opposing guest worker programs because they “take jobs from native workers” or “harm the environment” by producing increases in population.33 For example, a conservative caucus of Sierra Club members, known as Sierrans for US Population Stabilization, has tried repeatedly to force a change in Sierra Club policy in favor of greater limits on immigration into the United States. They argue, unsuccessfully to date, that to protect the U.S. environment, both birth rates and immigration must be reduced.34

Immigrants’ rights advocates believe that in order for a guest worker program to be a just program, it must meet a number of requirements. The United Farm Workers, for example, insists that, in any acceptable and fair guest worker program, workers must always be allowed to accrue time toward obtaining permanent resident status. Further, “foreign” workers should have the same workers’ rights as those guaranteed to U.S. citizens, such as the right to choose an employer, organize in unions, and voice and pursue grievances. Immigrants rights groups also oppose the separation of families through guest worker programs that do not allow spouses and children to accompany a guest worker, who may be in the United States for two or more years. Preserving family unity has always been a major goal for immigrant advocates. And finally, legalization programs and fair and just guest worker programs must apply to all nationalities.

Labor unions are usually not supportive of guest worker programs because they allow employers to hire workers at sub-union wages and use immigrant workers to break strikes. But as U.S. unions have turned their attention to organizing immigrant workers, they have become sensitized to the needs of these workers. As a result, it is now more common to see labor unions supporting legalization for immigrant workers who are here in the United States, but still rare for unions to advocate for expanded guest worker programs.35

None of the guest worker programs currently under consideration would provide guarantees of full rights for immigrant workers. As Charles Kamasaki, a senior vice president of the National Council of La Raza, has said about guest worker programs, “We think workers are inherently exploitable if they don’t have freedom to move and freedom to quit.”36 Even a conservative publication such as The National Review acknowledges that, although most proposed guest worker programs include an impressive number of protections for workers, because those protections are rarely enforced, these programs are unlikely to alter the history of constricted rights for guest workers.37

The Effect of September 11

Immigrant rights groups have been seriously harmed by the events of September 11. The association between the attacks and immigrants in the minds of voters has created a complex shift in public sentiment about immigrants. On one hand, many leaders, including many political leaders, urge tolerance for immigrants, especially Arabs or those mistaken for Arabs, who might be unjustifiably blamed for September 11 or associated with terrorism or terrorists. On the other hand, there is a new wariness of all “outsiders” and a circling of the wagons to protect U.S. safety and security. Phyllis Schlafly is just one of the many right-wing voices calling for the closure of U.S. borders on the grounds that both legal and “illegal” immigrants “endanger America” because they bring terrorism, disease, and advance Mexico’s “longtime goal to open the U.S. border.”38 The anti-terrorism legislation pushed through Congress by the Bush administration in 2001 contains new restrictions on immigrants. The very name of Bush’s counter-terrorism office, the Office of Homeland Security, expresses an inward-looking nationalism.

 

Meanwhile, George W. Bush is temporarily free of the tensions between his agribusiness and other corporate supporters and his supporters in the anti-immigrant sector of the Right. In this atmosphere, legislation that truly addresses the needs of immigrants seems unlikely to pass. Even agribusiness, with its heavy-handed lobbying for cheap labor through guest worker programs, will garner little support in a declining economy in which unemployment among U.S. workers grows weekly.39 And in the case of high-tech workers, the collapse of that sector of the economy, which deepened the 2001 recession, has led to a backlash against the H-1B program.40 So long as expanded guest worker programs and legalization programs for undocumented immigrants are unlikely to be advanced in Congress, the Bush administration won’t have to resolve its internal contradictions, leaving immigrants in their current marginalized and vulnerable position within U.S. society. As Cathi Tactaquin of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights says, “We are now having to address a re-invigoration of the ‘national security’ framework on immigration. This not only delays much-needed reforms, but puts a number of issues back on the table, including increased border enforcement, lack of due process, racial profiling, and a resurgence of harassment and hate crimes against Arabs, South Asians and others.”41

Immigrant rights groups have been here before. Not only after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but during nearly every national crisis, immigrants have faced scapegoating, harassment, and intolerance in many forms. But immigrant rights groups are strong, well networked, and increasingly sophisticated, and they have some important allies in Congress. They understand their work as a long-term project and will not be defeated by the setback to their progress that has resulted from the September 11 attacks.

Thanks to Pam Chamberlain and Mitra Rastegar for research assistance and Elly Bulkin for editorial assistance.

End Notes

1. See Eric Schmitt and Ginger Thompson, “Mexico Takes Small Steps to Improve U.S. Ties,” New York Times, September 5, 2001; Ginger Thompson, “Mexico President Urges U.S. to Act Soon on Migrants,” New York Times, September 6, 2001; and Ginger Thompson, “Fox Urges Congress to Grant Rights to Mexican Immigrants,” New York Times, September 7, 2001.

2. Americans for Better Immigration, “President George W. Bush On Immigration Numbers And Forced Population Growth,” June13, 2001. http://www.betterimmigration.com/bush.html (August 22, 2001).

3. See John O’Sullivan, “The Vex of Mex,” National Review, August 20, 2001: 20-24.

4. See Statement of Roy Beck for the Immigration and Claims Subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Tuesday, May 15, 2000. Roy Beck is the Executive Director of NumbersUSA.

5. Voice of Citizens Together (press release),”Gramm Moves to Sell Out U.S. Says Voice of Citizens Together,” Jan. 11, 2001. http://www.americanpatrol.com/BRACERO/2001/GrammSelloutVCTPR-010111.html (August 15, 2001).

6. See Roy Beck, “To Help Environment, We Must Curb Growth,” The Boston Globe, July 22, 2002: D8.

7. Mark Krikorian, “An Examination of the Premises Underlying a Guestworker Program,” Testimony prepared for the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, June 19, 2001. Mark Krikorian is Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

8. Michele Waslin, “Immigration Policy in Flux,” NACLA Report on the Americas, vol. XXXV, no. 3 (November/December, 2001): 35.

9. Massie Ritsch, “The Bush With Muy Guapo Appeal,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2000.

10. Jake Tapper, “P. is for pretty boy,” July 22, 2000. http://www.salon.com/politics/feature/2000/07/22/p/(January 9, 2002).

11. See Peter Skerry, “Why Amnesty is the Wrong Way to Go,” The Washington Post, August 12, 2001.

12. James G. Gimpel and Karen Kaufman, “Impossible Dream or Distant Reality? Republican Efforts to Attract Latino Voters.” Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder, August 2001.http://www.cis.org/articles/2001/back901.html (January 9, 2002).

13. Tomas Rivera Policy Institute,”A Critique of ‘Impossible Dream or Distant Reality?’ Latinos and Party Alignment in the 21st Century,” August 22, 2001. http://www.trpi.org/CIS_response.pdf (January 9, 2002).

14. For criticism of Gramm by an anti-immigrant group, see a press release from Voice of Citizens Together, “Gramm Moves to Sell Out U.S. Says Voice of Citizens Together,” Jan. 11, 2001.http://www.americanpatrol.com/BRACERO/2001/GrammSelloutVCTPR-010111.html (August 15, 2001).

15. “U.S.-Mexico Guest Worker Program: A Prospectus,” the office of Senator Phil Gramm, no date.http://www.senate.gov/~gramm/press/guestprogram.html (July 19, 2001).

16. David Bacon, “Braceros or Amnesty?” Dollars and Sense, no. 238 (November/December, 2001): 13.

17. Eric Schmitt, “U.S.-Mexico Talks Produce Agreement on Immigration,” The New York Times, August 10, 2001.

18. Kitty Calavita, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the I. N. S. (New York: Routledge, 1992), 4.

19. Ernesto Galarza, Merchants of Labor: The Mexican Bracero Story (Charlotte, VA: McNally & Loftin Publishers, 1964), 107-120.

20. Sharon Obsatz, “World War II’s braceros seek withheld wages,” Scripps-McClatchy Western Service, April 15, 2001.

21. See Richard B. Craig, “Interest Groups and the Foreign Policy Process: A Case Study of the Bracero Program” (Ph.D. diss., University of Missouri, Columbia, 1970) 192-193.

22. Ibid, 197-200.

23. Opponents included George McGovern (D-SD) and Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), Senators Hubert Humphrey (D-MN) and Paul Douglas (D-IL).

24. For an account of union organizing in California in the decade of the 1950s, see Ernesto Galarza, Farm Workers and Agri-business in California, 1947-1960 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977).

25. “Economic Downturn: INS Policy on H-1B Holders Shows Folly of ‘Guest worker’ Concept; Workers Won’t Leave; INS Won’t Make them,” US Newswire, June 28, 2001, p1008179n7215. Also see Jube Shriver, Jr., “High-tech Layoffs Cause Furor over Foreign Workers,” Boston Globe, Nov. 25, 2001: A2.

26. Information about temporary visas is available at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/temp_1305.html.

27. Leah Beth Ward, “Desperate Harvest,” The Charlotte Observer, October 30, 1999.http://are.berkeley.edu/APMP/pubs/agworkvisa/desperate103099.html (January 9, 2002); Barry Yeoman, “Silence in the Fields,” Mother Jones, vol. 26 (January 2001): 40.

28. Richard Mines, Susan Gabbard, and Anne Steirman, A Profile of U.S. Farm Workers: Demographics, Household Composition, Income and Use of Services (Washington, DC: Department of Labor, April, 1997).

29. General Accounting Office, H-2A Agricultural Guestworker Program: Changes Could Improve Services to Employers and Better Protect Workers (Washington DC: by the author, Dec. 31, 1997) GAO/HEHS-98-20; Linda Levine, Farm Labor Shortages and Immigration Policy (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, April 10, 2000, updated June 13, 2001) RL-30395.

30. Andy Furillo, “Pulled Up By The Roots,” Sacramento Bee, July 22, 1001.

31. Barry Yeoman, op. cit.

32. Andy Furillo, “Toiling Under Abuse,” Sacramento Bee, May 20, 2001.

33. David Stoll, “In Focus: The Immigration Debate,” Foreign Policy In Focus (an internet publication of the Interhemispheric Resource Center and the Institute for Policy Studies) vol. 2, no. 3 (March, 1997).http://www.fpif.org/briefs/vol2/v2n31imm.html (January 9, 2002).

34. The website address for Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization is http://www.susps.org. Also see Launce Rake, “Sierra Club Votes Down Proposal on Population Control,” Las Vegas Sun, May 2, 2001.

35. See David Bacon, op. cit.

36. Quoted in Jerry Kammer, “Visas urged to make migrant workers legal,” The Arizona Republic, April 20, 2001.

37. John O’Sullivan, op. cit., 22. “A guest-worker program like the H-1B visa program would give it (Big Business) a relatively tame workforce with a short time horizon, few other options of employment, and little incentive to unionize.”

38. Phyllis Schlafly, “Security Starts at Our Borders,” The Phyllis Schlafly Report, vol. 35, no. 4 (November, 2001).

39. The “need” for Mexican laborers to work in the fields and factories of the United States has for some time been contested by those on both sides of the immigration argument. The Library of Congress Congressional Research Service finds that agricultural counties exhibit comparatively high rates of unemployment. Rather than a reflection of employment patterns in a seasonal industry, this seems a year-round phenomenon. During the peak month of June, just 58% of farm workers held farm jobs. This would indicate that agribusiness demands for immigrant farm workers reflects a reluctance to raise wages and improve working conditions to attract available U.S. workers rather than a shortage of workers. See Linda Levine, op. cit. The data collected for this report covered documented and undocumented workers.

40. Jube Shriver, Jr., “Layoff Cause Furor over Foreign Workers,” Boston Globe, November 25, 2001: A2.

41. Personal correspondence, October 17, 2001, on file at Political Research Associates.