James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Friday, January 09, 2004

Class War 2

It’s obvious, but I have to say it:

The Bush initiative to give legal residency to now undocumented workers/illegal aliens for up to three years, with the possibility of stretching that another three years, is like almost all Bush programs. Beneath the mask it is just another way of paying off business at the expense of those who work for a living -- another in the rapidly growing list of Backward Robin Hood moves.

This one is even nastier than most.

No doubt many good but poor people, eager to scratch out any kind of a living, will jump at the chance to come to or stay in this country to work dirty jobs for the minimum wage (if they can get that much). Many of them probably won’t immediately recognize the hook, and many of those who do are so desperate to make a living they’ll take the bait anyway.

The program outlined by G.W. Bush includes the proviso that the temporary immigrants must be employed to remain in this country. If one of them loses a job, he or she is immediately subject to deportation.

Being here under the Bush program means that the government will know who and where the workers are and who employs them. The natures of the jobs they get and the employers who want them mean that very few will have union protection. If one of the workers annoys an employer – say by requesting correction of dangerous working conditions – boom! The worker will be fired, the government will be notified and that individual will deported, very probably with a statement on his or her record to prevent re-entry to this country.

If you don’t think American employers would treat people that way, you’ve ignored the countless newspaper and magazine stories over many years telling of ill treatment of legal and illegal foreign-born workers in this country – up to and including slavery. Some cases have been so egregious that even television covered them.

Come to think of it, many U.S.-born workers aren’t treated a whole lot better, and as the Bushies
continue their rapid gutting of regulatory agencies, conditions are going down hill.

However, the really nasty piece of the Bush proposal is that it makes the U.S. government an active party to abuse of temporary residents. Now when Wal-Mart and other such employers get caught using and abusing illegal immigrants they at least get some bad publicity and maybe even a tiny fine. Under the new program, government power will help businesses keep the temporary immigrants silent, regardless of how they are treated. And the press won’t say much, if anything, because it’s all legal.

Far down the line, one or two smallish dailies may do a piece or two, or even a series of articles, on the ill treatment of temporary residents, but with the possible exception of the New York Times, I’ll be surprised if the big newspapers touch it. That’s “modern journalism.”