Monday, June 18, 2007

Big Business Behind Immigration Reform Revival

Most Americans want immigration reform. But the specifics are not always clear. The best long-term immigration reform is one that treats all working people with dignity and deals with a host of issues such as globalization, "free" trade, economic development and political turmoil in other countries.

Reform has to start with an end to trade and economic policies that enrich corporations while impoverishing workers and small farmers of other countries. It should establish equal rights for immigrant workers to end the special exploitation of these vulnerable people.

Some key reforms needed now include:

  • Legalization with a clear path to citizenship,
  • increase the number of "green cards"
  • reject the guest worker program that essentially confines immigrant workers to indentured servitude,
  • provisions to keep families united,
  • repeal employer sanctions
  • enforce workers' rights to join or organize unions,
  • repeal legislation that endangers public health by preventing access to public assistance for health care needs,
  • end the militarization of the US border and tear down the walls.

At the end of this past week, the Senate again took up the immigration debate, which seeks to create a guest worker program and doles out billions to militarize the border with Mexico and build walls between us and that country.

But the revival of the bill wasn't merely a political maneuver. One source of pressure to revisit the bill, as journalist David Bacon reports in a recent article, came from Silicon Valley.

Bacon notes that the lobbyist for software giant Oracle Corporation had already declared that Silicon Valley's proposal for more guest workers was still alive just hours after hard-right-wing Republicans celebrated its apparent demise.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer threatened to move more high tech jobs out of the country if electronics corporations didn't get more contract migrant labor, according to Bacon.

IT sector corporations want an immigration policy that will help them attract well-trained immigrant workers to their industry and allow them to keep tight control over them.

Immigrant rights activist Rosalio Munoz writes that the "Grand Bargain" – the bill sponsored by Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Kyl essentially trades legalization of undocumented workers for harsher enforcement and penalties levied against them.

The "compromise" has been pushed by Wall Street, and earlier this month the Federal Reserve made a special effort to signal its support for the bill.

It creates a guest worker program that ties immigrant workers to employers and discards their rights. If this bill passes in the Senate, a fight, writes Munoz, will have to take place by immigrant and labor rights advocates to fix in the House.

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