I encourage everyone the read this article carefully, in its entirety. There has
been far too much xenophobic scape-goating of immigrants surrounding the recent
and on-going immigrants rights protests and demonstrations. I am constantly disappointed
by the levels of ignorance and bigotry, coming from those who should know better.
Hopefully this article will expose some of the themes and issues that are rarely
being discussed, and stimulate genuine discourse and dialogue.
[Posted By ShiftShapers]
By Dennis Rahkonen
Republished from Dissident
We can’t permit any misidentification of our
Who rips off the Third World through resource theft and sweatshop employment,
plus usurious lending, leaving native populaces incapable of proper development,
and bereft of the ability to rise above chronic, devastating poverty?
Who, therefore, selfishly creates the underlying conditions that drive vast
numbers of migrants to come to the United States to try to simply survive?
Who then takes cruel advantage of them once they’re here, seizing upon
their desperate status to pay them next to nothing?
Who manipulates the immigrant issue to make many Americans think their declining
quality of life—resulting chiefly from aggressive union busting and rightwing
stonewalling on direly needed federal minimum wage hikes, or an actual living
wage—is caused by “those Mexicans?”
Who’s scared to death that all their divisive demagoguery will be revealed,
allowing a multi-racial working class with an all-for-one, one-for-all outlook
to gain the necessary clout that only standing united can achieve, forcing thieves
in corporate/financial power to accede to economic justice or be kicked into
the trash bin of history?
Sorry for being repetitive. But we can’t permit any misidentification
of our mutual enemy.
Granny and Gramps were maligned immigrants, too
Every slander currently being directed against Mexican and Central American
undocumented immigrants was used, in turn, during the successive waves of European
migration that brought our forebears to this land.
Arriving Poles, Finns, Italians, Slovaks, the Irish, etc., were all accused
of being uneducated, uncouth, dishonest “job stealers” by those
Furthermore, your grandparents and mine would likely have been “illegal”
if the Atlantic were as easy to wade as the Rio Grande. (They were seen as exactly
that, in any case, by this land’s native inhabitants.)
Despite constant Robber Baron efforts to pit one nationality against another,
workers from our grandparents’ day ultimately saw through Machiavellian
Beginning before the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 and extending past the great
industrial organizing drives in the Depression years, immigrants overcame diversionary
ploys contrived by their plundering bosses… to unite across ethnic and
racial lines and jointly fight for the common good.
Their tenacious struggle — always rooted in militant trade unionism —
finally achieved the broad working class prosperity that came to prevail in
America, until reactionary Reaganism began to dismantle those hard-won gains.
What immigrant-led progressivism attained back then — namely the high-water
mark of ordinary people’s good life — can be repeated in the present
era, provided we aren’t duped by discriminatory, decidedly racist appeals
designed to separate us and thereby weaken our combined might.
Fight poverty, not immigrants
Undocumented immigrants, being impoverished, experience the same negatives
and dysfunction that afflict all poor populaces everywhere. Yes, there are immigrant
street gangs and drug trafficking. The same problems exist, however, in predominantly
Black inner city cores, desolate Indian reservations, and wrong-side-of-the-tracks
white neighborhoods where teenagers face dead-end, low-wage futures.
But it’s wrong to make sweeping generalizations. No demographic in our
country is exclusively, or even mostly, criminal. Furthermore, it’s entrenched
poverty, not skin color or ethnicity, that generates socially harmful trends.
If you cut a man, expect him to bleed. Stop cutting. Commit to social and economic
justice — fair and equal chances for meaningful gain for everyone —
and the problems go away.
But instigators of the anti-immigrant frenzy aren’t interested in being
fair. The viciousness of their willfully evil scapegoating is identical to Nazi
propaganda blaming all of Germany’s failings on Jews.
For example, the fact that impoverished souls from south of the border have
significant health problems, including some communicable diseases that have
been eliminated in affluent regions, is being used to foster almost a Bird Flu
level of hysteria.
Completely absent is any compassionate concern about curing the immigrant sick,
or the larger question of exploitation-caused poverty causing pervasive medical
issues, plus many others, which can be solved — for all working people
— only through rectifying justice built on a bedrock of unionized labor
and all the benefits it alone provides.
Immigrant equality is quickly growing into the Civil Rights Movement of our
era. Let’s be careful not to become modern equivalents of Jim Crow, espousing
cruel absurdities that’ll make us look like mean-spirited fools in the
future, if not right now.
We can be absolutely certain that Martin Luther King, Jr., were he alive today,
would count undocumented immigrants for inclusion in his “Dream.”
Which is compelling reason why we shouldn’t make their lives an unrelenting
Immigrants give much more than they take
12,000 years ago, ancestors of present Mexican workers resided right where
their progeny are currently being accused of “feloniously” trying
to toil and live.
Also, when Mayan society flourished in advanced grandeur, Europeans fearfully
peered out from primitive hovels at the ominous scourges of their dark age.
Any counting of comparative illegalities between the two cultures would have
to include continental theft and genocide perpetrated by the white invaders,
plus slavery, and the seizure of California and the entire South West, native
home of what the conqueror state would ultimately come to call “Hispanics.”
While the nation that birthed Jefferson and Lincoln has prostituted its ideals
for mammon worship, aggressive war, appalling cultural decay, and a completely
unfounded supremacism relative to the rest of the world, Central Americans retain
an incredibly rich heritage with abiding, peaceful devotion to ordinary people’s
well being, and that of the sacred family.
Among those reactionaries who spuriously contend that undocumented immigrants
don’t pay taxes are wealthy beneficiaries of pro-oligarchy tax loopholes
large enough to accommodate a convoy of 18-wheelers. They’re often either
owners or shareholders of corporations that set up false fronts in places like
the Bahamas, specifically to dodge proper tax payment. Who’s really “cheating”
on this score?
And what’s the truth about undocumented immigrant tax payment, anyway?
They pay identical real estate taxes—whether they’re homeowners
or have taxes passed along to rents—and the same sales/consumption taxes
as anyone else. Most state and local costs of education and other services rely
on such money. Also, the U.S. Social Security Administration notes three quarters
of undocumented immigrants contribute payroll taxes. They pay $6-7 billion in
Social Security funds they’ll never be able to claim.
Are they a “drain” on the economy, as hysteria mongers say?
According to the National Conference of State Legislators in 2005, immigrants
paid on average $1,800 in taxes in excess of their “cost” in government
There’s simply no factual reason for believing that brown-skinned immigrants
are responsible for America’s decline, and every reason to celebrate the
huge contribution they’ve made to our nation’s enduring strengths.
Also, Latino advocacy groups are among the most progressive in the country.
They recognize the importance of the universality of unionization, including
within immigrants’ homelands. If no one is forced to work for peanut-pay,
anywhere, then we’ll all be able to realize living wages, everywhere.
Bosses who rip us off and laugh all the way to the bank, hoping we’ll
never catch on to their divide-and-conquer strategy, can be made honest through
the unity of working people whose resulting power will make their just demands
To fight for immigrants’ rights and advancement today—and the acceptance
of Latino leadership in that battle at this time—will lay the foundation
for our own betterment tomorrow.
The massive immigrant rallies in Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere have been
“Si, se pueda!” was a prominent cry at those magnificent demonstrations.
“Yes, we can!”
Yes, we’ll all enjoy brighter tomorrows if we struggle jointly for our
shared gain, and not mistake immigrants for enemies
Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, Wisconsin, has written
progressive commentary for various outlets since the ‘60s. He can be reached