The runaway invasion of illegal aliens into the US is finally coming under serious scrutiny in 2006. As a supporter and contributor to the Democratic Party, I wonder how it could have gotten its stance on immigration so wrong for so long.
Let`s review the facts. In the past 30 years, some 35 million new immigrants have come into the US labor market, most of them with low skills and education, most of them finding the jobs of our poorest Americans, those in the most menial jobs. Often the lesser language and other skills of the newcomers were more than offset by the fact that they will accept much lower pay.
By allowing an old saw to go unchallenged ("Immigrants do jobs Americans won`t do"), we Democrats consistently ignored the effects and sided with ethnic lobbies making arguments about open borders. This has allowed business interests to get away with kneecapping the organized American labor movement. Sad story.
This point was graphically illustrated by Lynn Duke`s article in the January 3rd Washington Post, "Love, Labor, Loss" on how Andrew Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) led SEIU and 6 other unions to break away from the AFL-CIO. They represented 40% of the total pre-split membership.
As Duke notes,
"Only 12 percent of the American labor force is unionized these days, down from 35 percent three decades ago. Surveys show that Americans want unions but are afraid of how bosses will react, because organizers often are fired illegally for their activities."
So SEIU`s Stern sees these new, low wage workers as a huge new market for recruiting new members.
"Stern says…he is trying to change the way Americans view labor and the economy as a whole. In the world according to Stern, low-wage workers too often succumb to a form of economic Darwinism. Stern travels the country delivering that message in speeches and rallies. He talks about how the global economy has made things worse, with multinationals competing to find the cheapest labor, minus unions—the Wal-Mart effect."
Stern describes organized labor as a "lap dog" for the Democratic Party.
"Labor, he says, should follow a political agenda that`s good for workers, regardless of party."
The Post article never mentions the citizenship status of SEIU`s 1.8 million members, but the economic level of its employees is not high. One wonders with what care SEIU determines worker legality when SEIU is recruiting. Stern`s big goal of course is to unionize Wal-Mart and efforts to capture that major employer by SEIU are vigorous.
So let`s now review the bidding. The Democrats are losing the fealty of a large sector of organized labor. Reason: I think by being late on reforming immigration. If there was any prospect of immigration reform in the U.S., the SEIU would not have to "go global." It could "go American."
But many Democrats including Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), seem far more anxious to court non-citizens than to enforce our borders. This ambivalence is shared by many Republicans, including George Bush, who is happily flogging a major amnesty proposal in the Senate whose version of a reform bill may be used to supplant the Clear Act just passed by the House.
As a Democrat, I am confused.
I thought we wanted to win back at least the House in 2006 and have a shot at the White House in 2008.
I think it is likely that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will be the Republican Presidential candidate in 2008. He is terrible on immigration reform, as his coupling with open border maven, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), on another huge amnesty for illegal aliens discloses.
Democrats could really make hay against McCain if they pick up the slogan, "Let`s not give away American jobs to non citizen illegal aliens."
How can my party be so blind as to not say,
"American union workers we stand behind you. We will help you and one of the ways to help you most is not allowing this continuous flow of cheap illegal labor to undercut your wages and jobs. It is particularly true for the low wages earners among us, many of you legal American citizens of Hispanic origin."
Democrats have fallen into the trap of killing organized labor by allowing massive new immigration. Why don`t we wake up? We will never win the hearts and minds of working class America by toadying to the Hispanic lobbies such as La Raza and LULAC. These organizations are not our true friends and our sad recent history at the polls proves it.
One final point. How about the will to remove illegal aliens from the US when they are discovered, as they will be if those provisions of the Clear Act are enacted? I am guessing that many Republicans will be on the side of deporting those who jumped the line of legality, under the time honored rubric of our Rule of Law.
Where will my party be?
Standing out in the cold with our noses pressed against the glass watching another Republican inauguration party? despite Bush`s abysmal eight years of mishandling virtually every aspect of governance?
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.