It strikes me as odd that after four years of Republican control of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House we are still trying to pass an immigration bill that would muster the support of the Republicans. Now that Democrats control both houses of Congress, it is the Republicans who are blocking an immigration reform bill that President Bush requested.
I can only draw one conclusion from this. Republicans prefer things the way they are. Republicans don't want immigrant workers to share in the fruit of their labor. Republicans want cheap labor with no benefits.
Because that's how conservative leaders think.
Republican politicians wouldn't get elected saying these things, though, so they have devised reactionary political themes to win the support of voters. The Republican focus on securing the borders, ironically to satisfy our fears of terrorist attack as well as to stem the tide of illegal immigration is the main Republican tactic. But where is there any evidence that this works?
Here's the thing. American business would be hurt if those secure borders worked to block immigration. Fences win Republican votes. They don't stop immigrants. Republicans don't want to stop immigrants. Republicans want to get elected.
What conservatives do want is cheap labor. By cheap I mean not just low wages but no benefits and no social costs for society. Conservatives want a second-class standard for low-wage workers and illegal immigrants are the perfect source. All Republican leaders know this. What the Republicans are fighting - and I am not imagining this, this is perfectly evident in their rhetoric - what the Republican leaders are fighting is the move to grant immigrant workers the same kinds of rights that American workers have. Republicans oppose allowing immigrant workers to have their families with them here in the US. Republicans oppose allowing immigrant workers access to education, social services, low-income healthcare, drivers licenses, access to the court system, retirement benefits, and any number of other benefits and protections enjoyed by US citizens.
Republican leaders want the cheap laborers. They don't want the social costs.
Since this stance won't win elections, Republican leaders want the voters to vote from reactionary fears that merge terrorist threats with low wage landscapers and construction laborers.
That's why Republicans didn't change the laws when they had full control and that's why they oppose the change now. That's why the problem we have had over the past decade will continue. Republicans are content with the status quo.
It isn't clear what the Democrats want and it isn't clear what President Bush is asking for. The so-called "liberal media" only seems to be giving us the conservative perspective. From the media we seem to be getting the idea that the Democrats want immigrant workers to be allowed to become US citizens with full access to all rights enjoyed by US citizens.
Maybe that's the case, I don't know. Maybe Democrats want new low-class citizens because they would vote primarily for Democratic candidates.
But what seems to be missing is any logical middle ground. President Bush's proposal seemed like middle ground to me, but somehow it all got lost in the politics.
I mean, if we want the benefits of low-wage immigrant workers - affordable produce, affordable housing, affordable cleaning services, etc. - but we don't want the US flooded with a new wave of immigrant families, then isn't the solution to legalize immigrant guest workers? In what way is it a solution to maintain the status quo? Why isn't it the solution to create guest worker status for millions of immigrant laborers?
Why is that not superior to the current system of promoting our irrational fear of immigrants? Why is that not superior to linking our fear of immigrant labor to terrorism? Why is that not superior to building hundreds or even thousands of miles of unenforceable fences separating America from the rest of the world? Why all this reactionary paranoia? Why not adopt a real solution to the problem?
But if we don't want the cheap labor, if we can agree that allowing cheap immigrant labor is doing harm to US citizens, then why not make it either impossible or irrational to employ illegal immigrants? Fences won't work, but sending the people who hire illegal immigrants to jail would solve the problem. Why not recognize who is creating the problem in the first place, employers who want cheaper labor even if it means breaking the law to get it. Why not send these law-breakers to jail so the illegal immigrants have no reason to cross the border in the first place?
Because the Republicans don't want to solve the problem. The system as it now stands is the best system possible for these employers. The laws were created and are being selectively enforced for the benefit of Republican businessmen who enjoy having power over the illegal workforce that could never be supported by law.
That's why not.