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New Bedford migrant workers are not the enemy



AN ARMY of 300 federal immigration agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has conducted yet another military-style raid on migrant workers in the country. This time it was the turn for an East Coast location, New Bedford, Massachusetts, where scores of workers were taken away. ICE, a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security explains that their objective is "to more effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws and to protect the U.S. against terrorist attacks. ICE does this by targeting illegal immigrants: the people, the money and materials that support terrorism and other criminal activities." (From their website "About us" section).

The terms "terrorism" and "illegal immigrants" are deliberately used in the same breath by ICE officials to sow confusion in the minds of the public. We need to ask them exactly what those 'terrorist acts' are that these hard working New Bedford leather workers were accused of in that horrific military operation this morning, March 7.

Most of the workers in the Michael Bianco Textile plant are women. Many in desperation ran into the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. A Coast Guard helicopter however hovered overhead to give information to ground troops about the location of the "enemy." While the federal and state governments fail so miserably in providing resources for the overall health, education, transportation, and other vital needs for millions of tax paying residents, our tax dollars are used to terrorize decent hard working people who only wish to provide for their families.

This raid should outrage all people of good will. The Boston May Day Coalition stands firmly in solidarity with the victims of this overwhelming, military-style attack on migrant workers.

We call on all who support justice to demand the immediate release of all victims of this raid and an end to the raids, arrests, and deportations being carried out throughout the country. Release all who are being held without criminal charge NOW! These people are not criminals.

We call on all who support justice to participate in all actions being called this Spring demanding an end to the raids and for full, immediate, unconditional, and non-revocable legal residence for all undocumented migrant workers. We must prepare now for the large mobilizations being organized for May Day 2007 in defense of the rights of migrant workers and working people in general.

Politicians and enforcement officials must be made aware that the whole world is watching. The world will mobilize on May Day to demand that no human being anywhere in the world is illegal.

For more information see: www.bostonmayday.org or call 617-290-5614.




Danbury, Connecticut

Mobilize to Stop the Raids! Free the Danbury 11!



ON September 19, 2006, eleven day laborers were approached by an unmarked van with hardhats on the front seat. The workers jumped into the van expecting to go to work, but were instead taken straight to jail.

The government refused to release their names, leaving their families unsure of the fate of their loved ones. They were taken 150 miles away to impede their defense. Soon six were shipped to two prisons in Texas.

The Danbury 11 joined the nearly 16,000 Latino workers currently being unjustly held in a system of local and national prisons.

This raid, like all the other raids being carried out by ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement arm of Homeland Security) is designed to induce terror and keep workers from fighting for decent wages and conditions.

Expert legal help and demonstrations have freed 9 of the Danbury 11 on bail.

On March 6, more than 300 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided a leather factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts, taking 361 workers into custody. These workers, mostly female, left behind more than 200 children. The workers were taken to an old military facility in Ayer, Massachusetts, after being refused assistance from social workers by ICE, they have been shipped to private prisons in Texas, California, and Pennsylvania.

Homeland Security has disappeared more than 26,000 workers since the large spring mobilizations of May 1, 2006. Its agents are forcibly breaking up families, trampling civil liberties, and violating due process rights.

They have attacked union worksites, and day laborer centers and tried to bust union organizing drives. Raids, arrests, and deportations have become a regular feature of life in towns which not one year ago witnessed historic mobilizations for immigrant rights.

The attack on New Bedford community is the latest example of ICE terrorizing immigrants everywhere.

For more information go to www.stoptheraids.org or call 860-538-3920.




Defend the rights of all who live and work in New Jersey



IMMIGRANTS in New Jersey, as in the rest of the United States, are facing increasing attacks. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are being stepped up, tearing families apart, detaining and deporting those who have lived here for years. Demagogic town governments are taking anti-immigrant measures. Morristown, for example, is planning to deputize its police as ICE agents. Massive workplace raids like the recent one in New Bedford, Massachusetts can happen at any time.

A New Jersey radio station, 101.5, has called for people to turn in their neighbors as suspected undocumented immigrants, encouraging vigilantism.

The attacks on migrants are attacks on all of us. They are aimed at maintaining an underclass of workers who are too terrified to assert their rights to decent pay, working conditions and living conditions. No one, not even the government, wants to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants who are vital to the economy. The attacks and anti-immigrant laws aim to drive down the cost of all labor, benefiting employers, pitting worker against worker, and hurting us all.

We are fighting back, immigrants and native-born united! We are speaking out against the attacks and the demagogic proposal in towns like Morristown and Freehold. We are starting to organize a Rapid Response Network which will give aid to those confronting ICE raids or employer abuses of immigrants. We are joining with organizations across the country to organize a Second Great Boycott on May 1.

Speak out for the rights of all!




For your information

Brutalization of migrant workers

ACCORDING to the International Labour Office's (ILO) report entitled International Labour Migration and Development: An ILO Perspective, presented at the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly in September 2006, the number of migrant workers in the world jumped from 81 million in 2000 to 191 million in 2005, of whom some 10 per cent are refugees and asylum seekers. The report states "global economic, social, political and demographic trends indicate clearly that international labour migration is likely to increase in the future, not decrease." The study also points out that a "significant number of [migrant workers] face undue hardships and abuse in the form of low wages, poor working conditions, virtual absence of social protection, denial of freedom of association and workers' rights, discrimination, xenophobia and social exclusion."

A report in the New York Times of April 22, 2007 notes that some 200 million migrant workers who hail mostly from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin American and the Caribbean currently send back to their home countries approximately U.S. $300 billion in "remittances." This is three times the amount of the total world's "foreign aid" to developing counties. These remittances bring into the economy of India $25 billion, China $24 billion and Mexico ($24 billion) and so on. In 22 countries, remittances from migrant workers exceed a tenth of the GDP these include Moldova (32 per cent), Haiti (23 per cent) and Lebanon (22 per cent).

In the case of the Philippines, the mass exodus of Filipino workers began with the Marcos regime in the 1970s. The numbers have increased each year as the wrecking and plunder of the Philippine national economy by U.S., Japanese, Canadian and other monopolies and finance capital have forced more and more Filipino workers to seek work in some 170 countries worldwide. Many have migrated to the Middle East, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada and the United States. It is reported that almost 10 per cent of the country's population of 89 million people, are living abroad. Collectively, they remit more than U.S. $15 billion a year -- the fourth highest in the world after India, China and Mexico. This amount represents one-seventh of the county's gross domestic product, and helps to keep the Philippine economy afloat. It is no wonder then that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, calls these brutally exploited workers "heroes" and is looking for ways to send even more Filipino migrant workers abroad. Over a million overseas Filipino Workers left the Philippines last year.

Once overseas, it is not uncommon for Filipino migrant workers to be injured or killed on the job. Large numbers of Filipino domestic workers have been sexually abused, denied their wages and denied other basic rights all over the world. In Canada, under the infamous Live-In Caregiver Program tens of thousands of Filipino women, many of who are highly educated, are forced to work in servitude for up to three years with minimum protection against violation of their human and civil rights. If they maintain continuous employment they may apply for landed-status after completing two years of a three-year contract with one employer. Otherwise, they face deportation.

Zionist Israel's exploitation of migrant workers

In the Zionist state of Israel, migrant workers from Turkey, China, Russia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe are being used to displace Palestinian workers within Israel and the Occupied Territories. In their report Migrant Workers In Israel - A Contemporary Form of Slavery, authors Michael Ellman and Smain Laacher point out that this policy of the Israeli government is part of the genocidal policy of the Zionist state against the Palestinian people and their just struggle, especially since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000. Various Israeli companies, working through foreign recruitment agencies bring in about 300,000 migrant workers a year, two-thirds of whom are brought in through illegal channels. These workers have to pay various fees and commissions to the recruiters which typically run in the tens of thousands of U.S. dollars. These workers are brought in mostly to work in the construction, agriculture and home-care industries and are permitted to stay for only two years. In this way, Palestinian workers are being displaced. Many are forced to leave as migrant workers to other lands, including Canada. In their place, Israeli monopolies realize massive profits through the brutal exploitation of migrant workers. The report gives the example that a Palestinian construction worker is typically paid U.S. $30 a day for a 10 hour day while a Chinese migrant worker is paid $10 per day.

Furthermore, these workers are not permitted to settle in Israel so as to preserve the "Jewish nature of the state." They are exploited to the bone, are often not paid their wages and threatened with arrest and deportation if they complain. According to the report, these workers have few human and civil rights and the Israeli state does not comply with any of the international conventions regarding migrant workers. Children of migrant workers born in Israel are denied citizenship and must live in a constant state of terror.

The displacement of hundreds of millions of workers and their subsequent migration to find a livelihood for themselves and their families is not seen as a problem by the institutions of U.S. imperialism such as the World Bank, various corporate think-tanks and the like. At the September 2006 UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, the International Organization for Migration -- an intergovernmental body established in 1951 of private sector interests and some governments including the U.S. and the World Bank -- put forward a proposal called the International Migration and Development Initiative (IMDI).

The stated purpose of the IMDI is to facilitate labour migration because, for countries of origin: "Labour migration can ease unemployment, help absorb increases in the local labour force, and provide development support, especially through remittances" among other things. For the destination countries labour migration can "help alleviate labour shortages, facilitate labour mobility and increase the human capital stock" among other things. In other words, the purpose of the IMDI is to facilitate the movement of migrant workers within the context of the neo-liberal agenda of the biggest monopolies of the world, including Canadian monopolies to plunder the resources and labour of the peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and to realize maximum profits by facilitating the exploitation of "migrant workers" to attack the rights of all workers around the world.

The Harper government's announcement in February 23 this year to expand the temporary foreign worker program has to be looked at in this context. In making this announcement Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Monte Solberg said, "These improvements address challenges that Canadian employers face in filling labour shortages and so help Canada stay competitive and contribute to a strong economy." This is a proposal to bring in more migrant workers to Canada not as immigrants with rights and claims, but as modern day slaves to be exploited to the bone with no rights, and to deport them if they stand up for their rights. It is meant to be the wedge to split Canadian workers and prevent them from uniting as one working class in defense of the rights of all. It must not pass!

The condition of migrant workers underscores the necessity for the working class and people of all lands to step up the fight against the neo-liberal anti-social offensive and affirm their right be. By fighting for their basic rights including their right to governance and having a say-so in all matters that concern their well-being and that of their societies, humanity's cause for peace and justice will prevail.




Features of the U.S. offensive

Organizing meeting responds to immigration raids in New York City


April 20, 2007

Organizers in New York City denounced recent and on-going government raids and collective punishment against workers. On February 22, Immigraton and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted their second public raid in New York City in two weeks. ICE agents went into the ESPN Zone in Times Square. The raid was part of a nationwide sweep across 17 states directed at restaurant workers. Los Angeles was one of the major targets. On February 7, 200 ICE agents swept through Queens, imposing collective punishment on whole communities in a clear attempt to intimidate and criminalize everyone.

Since June 2006, following massive actions of millions in April and May of 2006, the number of government raids nationwide is 7 times greater and the number of detentions has grown 3 times. It is clear that ICE and government officials are on a broad and violent campaign to attack immigrants and try to push the immigrant rights movement back into the shadows. On-going organizing for May Day actions in 2007 in New York City and nationwide show the government intimidation and terrorizing is failing.

Congress is again starting debate on immigration legislation, while the daily attacks continue and grow worse in working class neighborhoods and cities with large immigrant communities. organizers of the meeting emphasized, "Now more than ever we need to join forces and make our voices heard and keep standing up to these injustices." Participants determined to step up organizing for planned May Day actions and work to defend all those under attack.

Reject STRIVE Act

Legislation on immigration known as the STRIVE Act was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the coming weeks. The legislation is being presented as a reform of immigration law that is "all about security -- homeland security, family security and economic security," as one of the representatives put it. In fact, it is about broad insecurity as government increases its impunity. It serves the government's drive to more completely militarize all of society and broadly criminalize all workers and peoples.

Militarization and criminalization

The bill calls for creating 20 mass concentration camps to hold at least 20,000 people, detained by the government for any reason
The bill calls for creating 20 mass concentration camps to hold at least 20,000 people, detained by the government for any reason. The two camps already in existence show that whole families will be detained, having committed no crime. It includes arrangements for using the National Guard from any state in the border states, under the command of the Secretary of Homeland Security, which is not currently done. It mandates programs to use state and local police for enforcement of federal immigration laws, which is currently illegal. Such enforcement will necessarily mean detaining people without cause on the basis of racist profiling, thus codifying profiling in law.

While the legislation expressly prohibits a "national identification card," it specifically requires a biometric identification card for all workers. The bill claims this is for the purpose of identifying workers "not authorized to work by the government." The fact that the ID card is being directed to all workers can be seen in the requirement that all workers in "critical infrastructure" will be the first to have the ID. The biometric cards are to be part of an "Electronic Employment Verification System," for use by employers to screen all workers.

This entire ID system creates the concept that only those "authorized" by the government will be permitted to work and only those with required documentation, as decided by the government, will be "authorized." The rest, no doubt, will be detained in the planned concentration camps or exiled to a civil death as nonpersons altogether. This is further indicated by the fact that the law makes it a crime to work if you are not "authorized" and a crime to "falsely attest to being authorized" when you are not.

If the government requirements to meet demands for documentation as a citizen for Medicare are any indication, literally millions of citizens will find themselves "unauthorized" to work and considered non-persons right alongside non-citizens, because they do not have the required documents. This is the fate of millions of women and children kicked off Medicare because they cannot produce both an original birth certificate and drivers license.

This reality indicates that the law is not serving to provide for immigrants or workers or security, but to impose civil death on any the government decides while also making it a crime to work.

It will also be a crime to evade border inspection, meaning any illegal entries are now felony crimes. At present it is a civil offense to cross the border without going through a port of entry. As well, more crimes have been created as a means to further criminalize not only immigrants and workers but those who defend them. It will be a crime to provide housing or rides to undocumented workers, for example.

Millions of undocumented workers and the tens of millions of people who are related to undocumented immigrants, their friends, their defenders and supporters are made into felons simply with passage of this law. In this way, the law is a modern-day Fugitive Slave Act that must be rejected.

"Earned" citizenship

The bill includes what its sponsors call "earned" citizenship. This is part of the "new worker program." Everyone has to register with the government and secure the biometric ID card.

The program is designed to provide monopolies in all sectors of the economy with a ready pool of workers. While it claims the workers will receive the same wages and conditions as existing workers, it has little to actually enforce such requirements. The U.S. is notorious for its programs claiming to provide decent wages and working conditions while in fact the conditions faced by most undocumented workers are slave-like conditions. This includes many examples today of workers brought in from Mexico and Central America. Their passports are confiscated, workers are often kept under guard and forced to live in tents or shacks for months without pay -- and then deported. The law does not make it a crime not to meet the wages and working conditions it mandates.

On citizenship, it puts in law a whole series of special requirements for undocumented workers to "earn" citizenship, including fees and fines. Rather than putting in place a common standard for the rights and duties of citizenship and a single process for all applying for citizenship, the law sanctions a double standard. And given that the conception of "earned" citizenship is being codified in law, there can be little doubt that such requirements will eventually be extended to everyone. Only those "authorized" by the government, using whatever requirements it decides, will be citizens.

Annexation efforts mandated

The bill also "requires the U.S., Mexican and Canadian governments to work together to establish a program relating to the needs of the countries of Central America" including on issues of "law enforcement assistance." It mandates the three countries to work on developing a single "North American perimeter," and exchange of information on North American security. It includes a 20 per cent increase, every year from 2008-2012, in border patrols for the Canadian border, as well as use of unmanned aerial vehicles to "patrol the international borders of the U.S. and Canada." It also further militarizes the Mexican border and includes 11,600 more border patrols and 3700 more customs inspectors and investigators.

Like the laws requiring the U.S. to determine Iraq's affairs, this law is mandating U.S. efforts to annex Canada and Mexico, and interfere in the affairs of the countries of Central America, using immigration and law enforcement as justifications. The U.S. has no business doing "law enforcement" in Mexico and Canada! U.S. laws, by law, cannot require other governments to do anything. Yet this bill attempts to do exactly that.

The bill itself is 697 pages long and will require further review and analysis. But what is already clear is that it will further criminalize the workers and peoples. It is being introduced right as May Day actions with their call No One is Illegal are being prepared. While the ruling circles no doubt think this will provide a diversion, in fact many organizations are already denouncing the bill and utilizing it as a basis for stepping up resistance. Like the anti-war movement's demand that the war against Iraq end now, workers together are demanding an end to the government's war on immigrants, proclaiming We Are All Human Beings with Rights! An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

Using documentation to impose civil death

Oppose REAL ID Act

Voice of Revolution, April 20, 2007

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is holding a single national Town Hall meeting from 10-2pm, Tuesday, May 1, 2007 on the federal REAL ID Act, on the campus of the University of California, Davis. The meeting is being facilitated by the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at DHS' request. It is scheduled to be the nation's only open meeting on REAL ID. The government's refusal to broadly hold public meetings is its way of keeping the full impact of the law from the public.

The REAL ID Act was signed by President Bush in 2005 and sets national standards for driver's licenses and identification cards, including biometric identifiers and some form of bar code for computer scanning. It essentially establishes a national ID card.

Once established the government will no doubt move to require everyone to always carry such ID, to have it to enter federal buildings, banks, perhaps even schools. The law also requires very strict certification for issuing drivers' licenses and requires everyone already with a license to be re-certified.

The certification requires, for example, that the person come to the DMV and bring a certified birth certificate, or a current U.S. passport, and proof of social security numbers and proof of address documents.

No other forms of ID will be accepted.

The meeting is supposed to seek input from public and private officials on REAL ID regulations. According to DHS, public comments will be taken in five specific areas: Consumer/Personal Impact; Privacy/Security; Electronic Verification Systems; Funding/Implementation/Time Frames and Cost; and Law Enforcement.

Many states are objecting to the requirements, saying they will force many citizens to give up their drivers' license as they lack the documentation needed. The reality of this concern can be seen in the millions of people now being kicked off Medicare because they cannot provide the same documentation. REAL ID also serves to block state efforts to provide licenses to undocumented immigrants as well as anyone who may not have the required ID.

The Department of Homeland Security officially released the proposed REAL ID regulations on March 9, 2007, which began a 60-day public comment period that concludes on May 8. Final regulations could be released at any time after August , 2007. REAL ID is scheduled to take effect May 11, 2008.

Activists in California are angry that DHS has chosen May 1 as the day for the only public hearing. Broad demonstrations in defense of rights, including those of undocumented workers are taking place that day. Even so, people are organizing to be at the hearing and denounce REAL ID. As a spokesperson for the National Immigrant Solidarity Network put it, "It is clear that DHS is not interested in public opinion, since they are holding the meeting on campus, during the day to avoid community and public participation, as most people can not attend at that time. And just like other past government-sponsored meetings, they just want to see a small group of pre-selected anti-immigrant groups speak and testify, so it can appear that the majority of public opinion "supports" the government's racist anti-immigrant legislation. We encourage community activists from Davis and surrounding areas to mobilize to attend the meeting at UC Davis, and raise our loud and strong voice to say No to The Racist REAL ID, at the meeting and at the May Day immigrants' mobilization!"

Defend rights of immigrants

No to raids, deportation and military service!

Voice of Revolution, March 21, 2007

The government, using its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, has launched repeated raids against workers and immigrant communities across the country. Thousands of people have been deported without due process, whole families imprisoned though guilty of no crime, and entire factories raided and workers lined up, profiled and shackled. The raids are being done military style, with ICE agents in all black uniforms, heavily armed and helicopters overhead. In the recent New Bedford raid against mostly women workers, 300 agents were used against 350 workers. It is this government impunity and collective punishment against whole communities that are the crimes. Mass detention and deportation solve no problem. Rather, they serve to terrorize workers and are a clear effort to derail organizing efforts of all kinds, including those for united May Day actions this year. We join people nationwide in demanding No Raids and Deportations! Government Impunity is the Crime, Resistance the Solution!

Promise of citizenship for military service

Voice of Revolution, March 21, 2007

The government has already used the blackmail of offering citizenship to any undocumented person 18 or older if they enlist in the military. While this is the promise made, in an estimated 20 percent of cases, it is not kept. Many of the families involved have angrily protested this blackmail, as it has often meant death and severe mental and physical injury to those who enlist and serve in Iraq.

In addition, the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) is being reintroduced in Congress. As its title implies, it is being presented as an opportunity for "relief and education" for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth in the country. Many of the youth have been here for years, are graduating from high school and are fluent in English and Spanish. Others are newly arrived. Some have a parent or sibling who is a citizen. But they are all being profiled and targeted for the military. Just as the No Child Left Behind law requires schools to turn over the lists of their students to the military or lose federal funds, the DREAM Act also has a military component that goes even further. Using the promise of education, it will in fact mean required military service for large numbers of youth.

The Act, as currently written, allows the youth deemed eligible, to obtain conditional permanent residency status for a period of six years -- at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security. At the end of the period, citizenship may be granted if the person has maintained "good moral character," and has "acquired a degree from an institution of higher learning in the U.S. or completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor's degree in the U.S." or "has served in the Armed Forces of the U.S. for at least two years" and received an honorable discharge. Participation requires registering with the government. It also requires either going to school or joining the army, or the youth will be deported, even if they have lived most of their lives in the U.S.

It is well known that many youth cannot afford college or may not complete it, as required. The DREAM Act is thus a criminal means to force young people who otherwise meet the usual criteria for citizenship to be denied it, while forcing them to join the military in a time of war. It provides the Pentagon with the means to secure a huge pool of recruits at a time when they are facing increasing resistance, among the troops and from youth refusing to be canon fodder in aggressive imperialist wars.

It also puts in law a double standard for citizenship. Those whose parents happen to be documented immigrants face one standard, while those who are undocumented face another. These youth are singled out and must meet a whole series of requirements, including required military service if they cannot attend college. As well, the youth are subject to deportation while having committed no crime at all.

Today, the government is targeting these youth, but they could easily extend the same criteria to all youth in the country, using such requirements as a back-door draft. In addition, there is discussion among Congressmen to deny citizenship to people born in the country, as required by the Constitution. As well, those who are natural citizens can lose citizenship, which until now has not been the case. Thus the same government that is profiling, terrorizing, labeling dissent a crime and using double standards is threatening to be the arbitrary "decider" of who is and is not a citizen. Clearly, with President George W. Bush demanding that "you are either with us or against us," citizenship will become another tool to terrorize everyone, as it is already being used as a tool to terrorize immigrants.

Now is the time to reject government impunity and terrorism. Say no to raids, deportation and forced military service!




Immigration policy should protect human rights


March 30, 2007

For the last several months, agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have carried out well-publicized immigration raids in factories, meatpacking plants, janitorial services and other workplaces employing immigrants. ICE calls the workers "criminals," because immigration law forbids employers to hire them.

But while workers get deported and often must leave their children with relatives, or even strangers, don't expect to see their employers to go to jail. Further, ICE can't, and won't, deport all 12 million undocumented workers in the country. This would quickly halt many industries. Instead, these raids have a political purpose.

Last fall, after agents raided Swift & Company meatpacking plants, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the media the deportations would show Congress the need for "stronger border security, effective interior enforcement and a temporary-worker program." Bush wants, he said, "a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers, because they can't otherwise satisfy their labor needs, to be able to get those workers in a regulated program." In his recent visit to Mexico, President Bush again proposed new guest worker programs. He would allow corporations and contractors to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers a year outside of the U.S., and put them to work here on temporary, employment-based visas.

Last week, Congressmen Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced a bill into Congress that would set up the kind of guest worker program the president calls for. Corporations could bring in 400,000 guest workers annually, while the kind of sanctions that have led to the wave of workplace raids would be put on steroids.

Labor schemes like this have a long history. From 1942 to 1964, the bracero program recruited temporary immigrants, who were exploited, cheated, and deported if they tried to go on strike. Growers pitted them against workers already in the country to drive down wages. Cesar Chavez and other Latino leaders campaigned to get the program repealed.

Advocates of today's programs avoid the bitter "bracero" label, and call them "guest worker," or "essential worker," or just "new worker" schemes. You can't clean up an unpleasant reality, however, by renaming it.

Guest worker programs are low-wage schemes, intended to supply plentiful labor to corporate employers at a price they want to pay. Companies don't recruit guest workers so they can pay them more, but to pay them less. According to Rob Rosado, director of legislative affairs for the American Meat Institute, meatpackers want a guest worker program, but not a basic wage guarantee for those workers. "We don't want the government setting wages," he says. "The market determines wages." The Southern Poverty Law Center's recent report, Close to Slavery, shows that current guest worker programs allow labor contractors to maintain blacklists of workers who work slowly or demand their rights.

Public interest lawyers spend years in court, trying just to get back wages for cheated immigrants. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor almost never decertifies contractors who abuse workers.

The AFL-CIO opposes guest worker programs, and says immigrants should be given permanent residence visas, so they have labor rights and can become normal members of the communities they live in. Since 1999, the AFL-CIO has called for legalization of the 12 million people living in the U.S. without documents. Most unions oppose employer sanctions and the recent immigration raids, because they're often used to threaten and punish workers when they speak out for better wages and conditions.

Today over 180 million people in the world already live outside the countries where they were born. In the countries that are the main sources of migration to the U.S., trade agreements like NAFTA and market-based economic reforms have uprooted hundreds of thousands of farmers and workers, leaving them little option other than coming north.

A rational immigration policy should end trade and investment policies abroad that produce poverty and displace people.

In the U.S., immigration policy should emphasize rights and equality, and protect all families and communities -- of immigrants and native-born alike.





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