A Progressive Immigration Policy

Progressives have been reactive in the face of the immigration debate for too long. One of my favorite blogger/journalists, Dave Neiwert of Orcinus, is planning to attempt to articulate a clear and powerful statement of a progressive position on immigration. I think that’s a fine idea and I plan to keep an ear to ground to see what he comes up with. He’s a powerful writer and a deeply perceptive journalist. I had a few things to say on the subject so I left an extended comment on his site that I reproduce (with more than a little copy editing) here:

"I agree with your premise that Progressives are failing to frame the
immigration issue in a way that highlights our values and outlines an optimal
policy. Instead, we seem to be trying to just take positions that are
friendly enough to immigrants not seem racist, but responsive enough to the fear on
the right not to draw too much fire. That is a flaccid excuse for a
position on such an important issue.

My view is that immigration is our future and the demographic savior of
American power. As other advanced economies suffer from negative
population growth and aging populations, America, due mainly to
immigration (including undocumented), is aging far more gracefully. As
we square off for economic competition from the burgeoning young
populations of China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and others, we will
become ever more thankful for a refreshing stream of young, ambitious,
reproductively assiduous immigrants. I think Progressives should
fundamentally view immigration as a blessing and an opportunity, not a
burden or threat. Our heritage as a nation of immigrants is a living fact, not a nostalgic relic, because we have always needed immigrants to
remain vital, and will continue to need them for the foreseeable future.

We must also recognize the economic context in which immigration
arises: a good portion of immigrants to the U.S. from Mexico and Latin
America can fairly be termed economic refugees. They are coming
because they are desperate to survive and to make a better future and
have no other way available to them. This refugee crisis is largely in response to the
disruptive effects of trade and finance deals happening way over their
heads – and over our own, frankly. NAFTA, CAFTA, IMF, WTO: understanding the role of these alphabet soups, and the brute facts of globalization is fundamental to controlling the forces that are sending refugees across our border and
stirring up a new wave of populist politics across Latin America. We
also should take a long, hard look at our national policies in agriculture,
trade, and taxation that contribute to the problem. A good example is
our agricultural subsidy policy that harms our farmers and dumps
under-market price commodity crops on world markets, running local
farmers off the land and into cities, and ultimately onto our own

We also must address the conditions and terms under which undocumented
immigrants live in our society. We have an overriding legitimate
security interest in controlling our borders and knowing who is coming into and
living in this country. Identifying those here illegally and providing
a licit means to enter the country should be our primary goals from a
national security standpoint; that fundamental goal cannot be held
hostage to some pipe-dream of repatriation. Those who are holding up our vital security needs should be made to pay a political price for their subordination of our national security to their xenophobia and desire to act punitively toward ‘illegal’ immigrants. The idea of deportation, or
‘touch-backs’, or heavy fines, or any such nonsense, simply discourages people
from compliance with our fundamental security interest. We want people to identify
themselves so we know who is in our country, and travel here openly
and legally so we can concentrate our border efforts at the real bad
guys; anything that prevents us from reaching our primary security goal should be rejected. We have to break the power of the "amnesty" and "immigrants as criminals" framing, and do away
with these as talismans of political combat. This sort of approach to immigration policy creates the sort of hypocritical and "hot button" policy making that has characterized the GOP-led Arizona legislature and in many other state legislatures for the past several years.

I think progressives should also fundamentally reject the idea of a
‘guest worker’ program. We have the historical evidence of how a Bracero-type
program is likely to fail. We can predict that it will do two things,
undermine American workers’ rights, and exploit guest workers by placing
them at the mercy of employers to whom our immigration policy would be
outsourced. Fundamentally, progressives should support the idea of
simply giving all workers, regardless of legal status or nationality,
the same rights and standing for all laws related to workers rights and
benefits, as has been done for minimum wage laws in California and New York. Such an approach is politically difficult, but it will
discourage economic refugees by reducing demand for their labor and
make their rights before the law more self-enforcing. Read more about the role of strengthening workplace rights in immigration reform at the Drum Major Institute. I think there also may
be some merit to the idea of using a degree of economic coercion to gain
compliance, however, like the idea to set up a savings fund using a portion of a
foreign worker’s pay and only releasing it to them when they return
home. There may also be a role for temporary worker visas, but that should
really be addressed in a bilateral or multilateral renegotiation of
trade terms. Labor mobility and residence should be fully a two way
street. In general, however, we should improve the lot of immigrant workers the same way we address the needs of American workers, by empowerment in the law, not by giving corporate employers more power over the lives of workers.

Lastly, I think Progressives should very firmly oppose any move to
change immigration and naturalization law to try to create new
categories of resident aliens that have any less rights than legal
residents (such as "guest workers") and should also denounce any move
away from principle of family unification and citizenship by virtue of
birth in the US. The whole "anchor baby" cant is extremely offensive
and disturbing. We must not create a multi-generational underclass here
as they have done in some parts of Europe with guest worker programs;
we mustn’t emulate abject failure.

I look forward to the results of this project. We sorely need something
to stand for in this debate that is not just hunkering down pusillanimously between armed
camps (the strategy our elected Democrats are adopting wholesale), or hitching our cart to immigrants’ rights protest marches."

I’m very interested to hear the ideas of (most of) my readers on the subject of what a progressive position on immigration should look like and how best to engage in the battle of ideas that is raging around us.

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18 thoughts on “A Progressive Immigration Policy”



    “School janitor convicted in sex assault gets 80 years
    Jennifer Kitson
    The Arizona Republic
    Jul. 5, 2007 11:38 AM

    A janitor convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old Saguaro High School freshman in August was sentenced to 80 years in prison Thursday by Judge David Udall.

    Roberto Lemus-Retana, 27, was found guilty of six felony counts in May, including four counts of sexual conduct with a minor, one of public sexual indecency and one of sexual abuse, after a 10-day trial in the Maricopa County Superior Court.

    When released, Lemus-Retana, an undocumented immigrant, will be required to register as a sex offender.”


  2. That’s right, Old Man!

    That’s why I say we must put up the fence, and then assist the revolutionary forces of Mexico to throw off the white oppesssors who have held them in bondage, and exploited their labor, ever since Cortez.

    Of course this common sense, historically effective approach puts me in direct opposition to the publisher of this blog, who desires an endless stream of Mexico’s poor to cross our border so that we may be grateful as their “assisidous reproduction refreshes our aging population.”

    What a load of crap. To see a photo of one of these “assisious reproducers” go to wardenburnsmexicanflags.com and view “Este Pendejo Sells Drugs to Our Children”, and ask yourself: is this the kind of garbage we want polluting our gene pool?


  3. I believe we must help the South American and Mexican economies but the question is how to do it. As it is, we funnel in $40 billion to their economies simply by the amount of money sent from this country by those who live here. That does not include the billions sent there by the government.

    As long as the corrupt governments of these countries don’t have to do anything for their people, create jobs and stable government, with the exception of telling them to go north, then we are only enabling them to continue as they do.

    Regardless of what the world says about the United States, we fuel the economies of the world. If we were to stop buying oil then we would disrupt the Middle East even more then what it is today. If we were to stop buying from China, her economy would suffer a crippling blow, though it would not be a death blow.

    We need to maintain a national identity and not have free and open borders least we become like countries of the EU who are struggling. Sometimes tough love is the best to get action done.

    I would propose that we stop allowing money sent outside of this country as one step. That would force the governments of Mexico, Central and South America to face the reasons that their people are coming north. There would be serious changes in those countries and perhaps, the people would actually take control of their own destinies.

  4. As for The Progressive movements in History in Europe that spilled over into The United States during World War II; they were called The Brown Shirts of Nazi Germany. During World War II they held huge gatherings at Madison Square Garden in New York City rallying for Hitler, with the support of The Kennedy Family who were good friends of Hitler. There were alot of Americans who were rooting for Hitler also working to sabatoge aircraft engine plants by pouring acid into new Jacobs Aircraft Engines built for B-24 Bombers.

    So when you use the name Progressive in a conversation involving people who are in there 70’s and older it resonates!

    Moving on to the Viet Nam War and anti war groups then were not in a progressive movement as they fought the Democratic Party and it lead to the election of Richard Nixon!

    So call it what you want but as we struggle with the words Republican- Conservative-Neocon-Eletes-Democratic-Liberal-Progressive-Left Wing- Right Wing- it seems to me more and more people are being turned off and re-registering as no-affiliation or Independent!

    Thus the rise of the third party movement that has the potential of a 2008 upset in Washington Political Party structures due to mis-trust of all Parties; and there disconnect between the Eletes and The People.

    The sucking sound of the 1992 Election are voters leaving both parties in droves in the 2008 election cycle!

    The breaking point for everyone concerned is the governments failure from Democrats to Republicans of Securing The Border in the 1986 Amnesty Bill which required it by law, and people like Ted Kennedy in Office over 45 years who lead the first Illegal Immigration Bill in 1965 to the Kennedy Bill in 1986 now another Amnesty Bill in 2006 and 2007 failure after failure looks like he wants it that way!

    It is time that we that are paying the taxes for all these failed laws that continue to support Illegal Immigrants over that of The United States Citizen are finally enforced by the people who we elected or its time we get rid of them and find people to run for office who will enforce the laws currently on the books!

    When I hear the word “Comprehensive” it does not refer to “US”; its all about “THEM”!

  5. This kerfuffle is really not about immigration – it is about “us” and “them”. Us is pretty clear, since we know who we are. “Them” is equally clear – it is anyone who is not us. This kind of thinking is at the root of much of the pain we are suffering from today. When we get to thinking more “we”, we’ll be better able to craft some solutions.

    Just my 2 cents!

  6. I don’t understand how Mike and people like Mike create and exploit the poor and how they fill the pockets of Karl Rove.
    Roy, you need to explain !!!

  7. Been talking to some folks who live in California near the Tijuana border about their views on immigration. They express many of the same sane views as you do, Michael. Specifically: nothing presented so far addresses the bottom line – economic relief. Guest worker programs don’t work; take a good hard look at how well it worked in France. It does indeed create a frustrated group of second class non-citizens, and in the long run that’s no good for us, them, or anyone. We can debate specific measures ’till the proverbial cows come home but Michael is absolutely right: if we don’t look at the root of the problem, we will never solve the problem. And the root of the problem is the continued enormous disparity between rich and poor in Mexico and Central America, and the corruption that shuts down all protest and allows it to continue. The smartest solution to the immigration problem? Step one, get the hell out of Iraq. Step two,use the money we’re wasting there to assist Mexico and Latin American economies, with the input and guidance of the best experts in the world. Yes of course we need comprehensive immigration reform too. But it won’t do a bit of good until and unless we show our willingness to address the enormity of the economic problems that exist in the countries these people are fleeing.

  8. Far as I know, Mike’s always been truthful about what he does for a living and for whom he works – Roy, I think you are just new to the party here at B4AZ.

  9. See? Michael Bryan is more interested in appearances than substance. That’s why he has a flower in his lapel. He cannot respond to the basic point that present day “Progressives” are the same as the original “Progressives” who were merely Communists in the 1920’s.

    Did you know Michael Bryan works for Isabel Garcia in the Legal Defender’s office? Didn’t know that, did you?

    Come clean, Michael. You interviewed me for two hours, but you don’t have the intellectual honesty to publish the substance of that interview.

    Nice guts, Leftie! What’s it like having to hide from the truth and suck up to a skank like Isabel Garcia?

    Warden, the Notorious Mexican Flag Burner

  10. Folks, the cost of free speech is sometimes suffering fools gladly. Though some apparently think calling people “commies” whose philosophy is responsible for the “murder of hundreds of millions of political dissidents” constitutes a “rational argument”, I think we can agree that it is best not to feed to the trolls.

    Still waiting for that progressive feedback. Don’t let the trolls scare you; that’s their plan. Got some feedback in the form of a letter by Pam Powers that appeared in the Weekly, which she brought to my attention: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/Opinion/Content?oid=oid:97258

  11. There you go again, “Mr Stylish”, name-calling when you are intellectually unable to respond to a rational argument.

    I’m not a racist, bigot or nativist. I do believe in national soverignty and legally enforced boundries between countries, just as I believe in private property rights and fences between neighbors.

    Zapata was a real man who fought for Mexico. He didn’t try to steal the land of the Gringo. No channeling required; that is an occupation for you lefties. Just read history. You can read, can’t you?

    And Chavez fought for a farm worker labor union; he was an American who detested Mexican illegals and the contractors who exploited them. Just like me.

    See…? Zapata, Chavez, Martin Luther King and I share the same ideals. We share the same circle, and all hate The Oppressor, whether it be dirty commie rats like Castro and Che or Big Business, Mexican, American or otherwise.

    People like you create and exploit the poor. You have filled the pockets of Karl Rove.

    Warden, the Notorious Mexican Flag Burner

  12. As I said, (most of)…

    Anyhow, I now feel quite sure that I’m on the right track, having obviously quite thoroughly stirred up the nativists. Now, how about some folks chime in who don’t claim to be channeling Zapata?

  13. An absolutely astonishing policy statement from an intellectually deficient lightweight who refers to himself as, “The Whale”.

    My, my how you Commies love to revel in nostalgic revisionism and twist the meaning of words!

    To disassociate themselves from the more unsavory aspects of “The People’s Revolution” members of the Communist Party began referring to themselves as “Progressives” in the early 20th century. I’m glad to see the term come full circle.

    There is nothing “progressive” about repackaging a demented and failed political philosophy responsible for the murder of hundreds of millions of political dissidents.

    Here’s progress for you: How about helping me kick the living shit out of the Mexican and American political and business classes that have created Mexico’s poor, stolen their land and exploited their labor for centuries?

    How about helping me fufill the dream of Zapata amd Caesar Chavez? We can start by confronting and destroying the corrupt Pima County power base that caused this problem in the first place.

    Then and only then, can we reinvigorate the American ecomomy and bring Mexico into the 21st century.

    Or would that be too bold, “revolutionary” or “progressive” for you?

    Warden, the Notorious Mexican Flag Burner

  14. Mexico has an identity crisis. The Conquistadors were from Spain and settled the Western American Continent as did France in the Middle West not Mexican decent. Are the French to also demand we speak French other than just in the Southern Quarter of New Orleans?? Later only a small part of Southern Arizona was bought from deal makers claiming ownership from Mexico. There are two classes of Mexicans the Spanish which are white skinned and the Mexican’s that are dark skinned. So if we in the United States are to become bi-lingual which language shall we adopt Mexican or Spanish??? Even the Southern Border of The United States is in question as so called Mexican’s got the surveyors drunk in Nogales thus the jog north then West to the Pacific Ocean instead of The Gulf of Mexico being the coastline.

    Hispanic verses Mexican in California is already causing problems as hispanics demand Californian’s speak there language at as the Governator tells them to turn off there hispanic T.V. and Radio Stations and learn to speak English as he did as an immigrant!

    California is being told “To Get Over It” we Hispanics now “Own” California??!! Is that what we are to expect as English speaking American Citizens from Europe that left our messed up governments and societies behind to come to a new land of Freedom and Liberty only now to be told by a new brand of Mexican Conquistador that we are now your rulers in search of the seven cities of gold and have found that we ( The Hispanics) like what we see you have, from Social Security to Medicare to Medicade and lots of cheap jobs with no rules on paying taxes,just work under the table and bribery as we do in Mexico; so we are going to take it from you wheather you like it or not!

    These people that are neither fluent in English nor in Mexican being that they have no education from there own Country and are illiterate in there own language and lands now come to The United States being illiterate in our language and customs and can not even read our Constitution of which our ancestors died to defend and enact so that we could live in pursuit of life liberty and the pursuit of happyness for the sake of Mexicans?

  15. A Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill should address legal immigration NOT illegal immigration from one country that has forced its language on legal U.S. Citizens to the point of being bi-lingual?

    I do not recal immgrants in the 1900’s forcing American Citizens to speak German or Swedish!

    A guest worker program that requires a visa and employer verification will verify those who want to come to the U.S. to work. Anyone elese needs to file papers and get in line with the rest of the world!

    In future generations as China becomes more and more infuential in South America I do not want to see this mad hatter game of border jumping by illegal Chinese Nationals forcing us in America to speak Chinese or elese we be labeled Racits!

    Sometimes I think if the Illegal Imigrants would all be Lawyers taking the jobs American Lawyers would not do things would be quite different and we Americans would not be faced with Illegal Immigrant Blackmailing our Government!

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