Monday, April 27, 2009

The Immigration System: Maybe Not So Broken

Instead of accepting the mainstream media's superficial framing of the immigration debate, people who are serious about these issues should read Illegal People -- and then go join some "illegal people" on a picket line or at a march for immigrant rights this May Day.

by David L. Wilson, MRzine
April 27, 2009

David Bacon, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Beacon Press, 2008. Hardcover, 261 pages, $26.95.

With the Obama administration reportedly set to push for immigration reform this year, the debate on immigration seems likely to start up again. If it's anything like the debate we got from the mainstream media in previous years, we can expect something remarkably shallow and repetitious. We'll hear the two sides agree that "the system is broken" and that the United States must "stem the tide" of undocumented immigrants. Then the hard right will insist on a vast expansion of existing enforcement measures, while the "left" will propose a compromise based on a modest increase in enforcement coupled with a limited amnesty for the current undocumented population and a guest worker program for future immigrants.

If we want a more productive discussion this time around, we should start off differently, with some basic questions: If we don't want undocumented workers in the United States, shouldn't we ask why they come here? If we're planning to expand enforcement, wouldn't it make sense to ask what results we've gotten from the billions of dollars we've already spent on enforcement over the last two decades? And why do we so rarely hear the views of the people most directly affected -- the 12 million undocumented immigrants themselves? [...]

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