[Marxism] RE: Now in Prime Time: Preying on Immigrants

Jake Skyy skyy957 at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 27 01:43:19 MDT 2004

Now in Prime Time: Preying on Immigrants

by Justin Akers

     Reality Television has sunk to new lows, but profits have never been
higher. It shouldn’t be too surprising in a society where basic human needs
are measured on a grid of profitability that television producers inevitably
find ways to profit off of the desperation of ordinary people. Some reality
shows, such as Joe Millionaire, rely on promoting the sexist imagery of
money-hungry women being duped to generate ratings. Others, such as Fear
Factor are based on the notion that "everyone has their price,” and that
people are willing to do anything for a dollar-even sell their dignity.

    Omitted from the script of the “reality” show is that unlike the
avaricious millionaires who produce these programs, most participants are
working people competing merely for a sense of economic security and
stability in an uncertain world.

     It seems there has been no pit left un-plunged in the race to produce
the next showcase of human folly that network executives are flooding into
our living rooms. The hope is that, like the attraction of a roadside
accident, we will not be able to resist a passing glance. The latest and
most repugnant example is the new reality show turning up on
Spanish-Language channels on the west coast entitled “Gana la Verde”
(“Winning the Green”). In Gana La Verde, undocumented immigrants compete on
television to win legal counsel to improve their chances of obtaining a
Green Card. In “Fear Factor-like” fashion, contestants engage in risky
stunts or repulsive acts to test their thresh-hold for courage and
tolerance. These have included eating burritos crammed with live worms,
jumping off of high speed trucks and scaling tall buildings in order to wash
the windows. Their struggle for a basic, decent life by engaging in
dangerous and humiliating acts is provided for our entertainment.

     Unlike the participants of other reality shows, these contestants are
truly competing for their lives. For the majority of undocumented workers in
this country, daily life is a silent war. This includes working in the most
deadly occupations for the lowest wages, to living with the daily risk of
being apprehended and separated from your family. But this is a war with
great contradictions.

     Since low-wage labor is so profitable, current immigration policy is
not obtrusive, but rather intrusive. In other words, there is a general
consensus amongst policy makers that protecting the "right" of access to
cheap labor for the owning class trumps the actual stated policy of keeping
undocumented people out. Nowhere in this equation, do the rights of
immigrants gain consideration. This paradox produces the circumstances where
over 8 million people are forced to live in a political and economic limbo.

     While current border policy has led to the tragic deaths of over 3,000
people in the last decade, the bulk of current immigration policy is
structured to maintain a legal and physical apparatus within the country in
order to isolate the undocumented population from the rest of society.  The
Border Patrol’s recent “roving raids” across Southern California are less an
attempt at wholesale deportation and more a reminder of the threat of
deportation. In the age old art of bullying, it is making an example of the
few so that the others learn the lesson. As an increasing amount of
immigrants join unions and advocate for their rights, so does ‘immigration
control” rise in tandem, a subtle reminder of the extent of their “welcome”
in the United States. This method of creating “parallel societies”
determined by “legality” sustains  a sub-class of workers without rights,
quite a lucrative enterprise for those in the business of exploitation. And
business is good.

     Not only has the “victimization industry” for immigrants expanded into
prime time, but also into other niche markets. According to the Los Angeles
Times, there has been a boom in immigration scams which have bilked millions
of dollars from unsuspecting immigrants. Fake lawyers-calling themselves
notarios-promise desperate people legal aid in obtaining residency and work
permits, only to later abscond with their money as well as their hopes. Like
the Coyote that can always count on the exorbitant fees of a fresh group of
migrants, so too can the charlatan notarios find easy pickings amongst of
the growing ranks of a disempowered populace.

     Like the women of Joe Millionaire and the nameless contestants of other
miserable reality shows, the undocumented immigrants on shows like “Gana La
Verde” are victims of a degenerating system. They like the “Green Card
Soldiers” in Iraq(largely Mexican immigrants who enlisted to fast-track
their citizenship)  are given very few options in their quest for basic
human rights and dignity. As long as we ignore these “parallel societies”
created in the interest of the few, so too do we remain victims.

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