[Marxism] Immigration Q&A: Villaraigosa Tells Where He Stands

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Apr 15 09:43:06 MDT 2006

The mayor of Los Angeles, the city in which I live, takes his stand on the 
side of the immigrant workers clearly and forcefully in today's L.A. Times.

There are other aspects of the matter which he might have addressed, 
but then, it's always possible to find one or another issue which anyone 
could raise in an interview. Support for the McCain-Kennedy bill is an 
understandable position for this mayor to take, and places him within 
the mainstream of public discussion on the issue today. This country 
has struggled for most of its history with immigration issues, frequently 
with great difficulty. There is much to be faulted in the McCain-Kennedy 
legislation  which should be clearly explained. It's but one stage in a long
and difficult process. Xenophobia is a deeply-entrenched way of thinking
here in God's very own country (as the U.S. likes to present itself as it
tramples on peoples everywhere, yet to which millions everywhere today
struggle to gain entry, with or without the appropriate documents.

Today's immigrants are demanding justice. They're demanding a method
to formally enter the U.S. legal system, with all of the protections which
it offers. Those of us who have these protections know full well that they
are rather limited, and becoming even more limited each and every day,
but they still remain the hope and goal for most of the millions who are
living and working in the United States today, and hoping to themselves
be able to formally, legally participate in the U.S. system. They are not
fighting for a revolution, but for the right to live and work in this country
as it is today. Of course, they'd like improvements in what exists here at
this time, but they want in to this, as it is, now.

It's true that some employers in some places may fire some workers who
participate in these actions. Some will win their jobs back, some won't.
Some employers will be shamed into giving their jobs back. Others will
pay their workers for taking the time off, knowing as such employers do,
that these immigrant workers won't be easily replaced in any event.

Some individuals and groupings are calling today for an open border. It is 
worth noting that such calls do NOT come from the ranks or leaders of the 
immigrants rights movements themselves, but from among the left-wing 
and self-declared revolutionary organizations who don't think the oppressed 
are organizing themselves as these revolutionary groupings would think best. 

Last evening's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on National Public Radio provided
a terrific documentary on immigrant workers and their struggles for justice
in Spain. Last year the Spanish government decided to grant an amnesty to
its immigrant workers. The story is one everyone interested in today's U.S.
immigrant workers struggles should listen to with care. According to this
very hopeful report, many, perhaps most immigrants in Spain received the
possibility of resolving their immigration status. All which was required in
Spain was a job offer and proof that they were in the country for six months.

Payments from the new immigrants, according to the NPR report, provided a
much-needed boost to the nation's social security system, which provides
universal health care, unemployment benefits and retirement coverage.
>From this report it seems that the Spanish solution is a far more positive
one than the McCain-Kennedy bill. No mention was made in the report on
NPR of any system of fines, for example. Let's hope readers in Spain who
know more about this will share what they know about this. 

As the son of a German-Jewish immigrant father finally obtain his own legal 
permission to enter to the United States after being kept out by restrictive 
immigration quotas under the Roosevent administration, I'm taking a great 
interest in the struggles immigrant workers in this country today are waging 
for the right to live and work in this country.

After he won the lottery to enter the United States, my father signed
up for the army right away. I remember him expressing satisfication
at his work interrogating Nazi officers in Germany. Otherwise he did
not talk much about those days and what he did. Today's immigrants
to the United States have a road to obtaining citizenship if they sign
up for the military. I don't know what percentage of the soldiers in 
the U.S. military in Iraq are undocumented immigrants, but I imagine
it's not small. They're not counted among U.S. killed figures since they
aren't U.S. citizens, but can obtain citizenship posthumously. That may
enable their spouses and children to get some financial assistance, but
it's a hell of a price which has to be paid: to die to qualify for citizenship.

The most important thing we can do to support this movement to which
most of us who aren't immigrants don't belong and so cannot viscerally 
understand as our own, is to try to understand it, to try to explain the
justice of its demands and struggles to those who don't understand it,
and to encourage as much broad public discussion and debate on these
immigration issues as possible. Keeping debate going is truly decisive 
at this point. There's really no way to stop the debate because the U.S.
is of mixed mind on the issue. Fear of foreigners competes with the cost
of products and services made and performed by immigrants. Therefore,
the more discussion, debate and division exists within the dominant
political establishment in this country, the better it is for everyone.

Walter Lippmann

Spain Judges Effects of Blanket Amnesty for Immigrants

All Things Considered, April 14, 2006 · The status of illegal
immigrants may be stirring fierce debate in the United States, but in
Spain hundreds of thousands of immigrants are getting used to life on
the "right" side of the law, after last year's blanket amnesty. While
critics say the amnesty has produced a "magnet effect" -- stressing
that Spain now struggles to deal with a surge of African boat people
-- the government points out that the new legal workers have
contributed hundreds of millions of euros to the state treasury and
pension system. Jerome Socolovsky reports.


Another National Public Radio report from North Carolina on the impact
of immigrant workers in the United States in which a range of immigrant
workers speak out strongly against the prejudice against immigrants and
it's also a very inspiring report on this people who are rising up today:

Immigration Debate: Views from North Carolina

Weekend Edition Sunday, April 9, 2006 · Congressional debate over
immigration policy has sparked a movement across the United States.
With their protests in recent weeks, immigrants to America are
demonstrating their numbers and the urgency of their concerns. The
debate has touched immigrants living in North Carolina.

Listen to this story... by Linda Wertheimer

On Immigration, Americans Show Range of Views 
[note from Walter: Another excellent report emphasizing positive
views of immigrants among white people in North Carolina, but also
shows fear of the unfamiar foreigners, which is both understandable
and real among these people, both Black and non-Black. Very real.]

All Things Considered, April 14, 2006 · How are U.S. citizens
reacting to the sudden rise in immigrants' numbers and aspirations?
Some are enraged about broken borders and the rule of law. But many
simply accept the phenomenon -- and quite a few are positive about it.


Walter Lippmann

>From the Los Angeles Times
Villaraigosa Tells Where He Stands
By Jim Newton
Times Staff Writer

April 15, 2006

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did not pick immigration to
top his public agenda. He rarely discussed the issue during last
year's mayoral campaign and had hoped to spend the spring talking
about his first budget — a controversial package that includes a
significant fee hike to pay for more police.

But on March 25, a crowd estimated by police at half a million people
massed outside Villaraigosa's office at City Hall to register their
opposition to a bill in Congress that would have imposed new criminal
penalties on immigrants who entered the country illegally. Since
then, smaller protests and a series of student walkouts have kept the
issue near the top of Los Angeles' agenda and have spread across the
nation as well.

As one of the country's most recognizable Latino politicians,
Villaraigosa has naturally been drawn to the emotional debate. He
addressed the marchers to express his support for their cause, called
on students to return to school and discussed immigration in general
terms. Still, Villaraigosa has not weighed in on many of the issue's
specific implications for city services or commented on some of the
bills before Congress. On Thursday, he agreed to discuss those
details with The Times:


Question: Overall, is immigration a positive or negative issue for

Answer: Over the years, as both a legislator and now as mayor, I've
focused on education, healthcare, jobs, because those are the issues
that touch the lives of most of my constituents.

But when 500,000 people march in peace on an issue that's so
important to their lives, their livelihood and their families, I feel
compelled to get involved, regardless of whether it's a good issue 
or a bad issue for me.


Q: Since you got involved in a very visible and active way a few
weeks ago, what has the reaction been?

A: The letters and e-mails have been overwhelmingly negative, maybe
500 to 1, maybe a little more…. But I think we're elected to do
what's right, not necessarily what's popular.


Q: Illegal immigrants place some burden on city services, whether
it's fire or police or sewer or whatever. Is there any way to measure
the cost that the city of Los Angeles pays to care for people who are
here illegally, and is that a cost worth paying?

A: I don't know what the cost of providing services to the
undocumented would be, but I do know this: The responsibility for
those costs is the federal government's, and for more than a decade 
I have maintained that the federal government, which receives the
Social Security and income taxes generated by these immigrants,
should reimburse cities and counties for any expense incurred.


Q: Would the Los Angeles Unified School District do a better job of
educating if it excluded children who are undocumented?

A: Our schools are compelled by the Constitution to provide all
residents with a public school education, so that's a hypothetical
that the law doesn't provide for.


Q: Are there any proposals before Congress that you support?

A: For many years now, I have said that every country in the world
has immigration laws, we have every right to have immigration laws,
and, as a nation founded on the principle of the rule of law, it is
our responsibility to enforce those laws and to have consequences
when our laws are broken.

Finally, I've said that while we have every right to enforce our
immigration laws, that in a great and good America founded on the
backs of immigrants, we must enforce those laws in a humane and
constitutional way.


Q: Which, if any, proposals in Congress would do that?

A: I believe that the McCain-Kennedy framework is the best vehicle to
do that.


Q: What makes it superior to other bills?

A: It rejects the idea that we would take 12 million immigrants and
turn them into felons. It includes tougher enforcement, employer
sanctions for businesses that hire the undocumented. Smart border
security. Collaboration with our neighbors. And it gives the 12
million undocumented immigrants a pathway to legal status, provided
they pay a fine, pass a background check and learn to speak English.
This is important.

Finally, it doesn't pull these people ahead of the line.


Q: Would legislation that legalizes some immigrants, based on how
long they have been in this country, and leaves some others illegal
help or hurt this situation?

A: I think it's impractical, and it would be a bureaucratic


Q: How has this issue affected the national political equation? Are
Republicans in danger of heading down a Pete Wilson path? Are
Democrats at risk of seeming to coddle lawlessness?

A: I haven't spent a lot of time speculating on the political
ramifications of this issue. I approach it as an issue about values,
not politics.


Q: What do you see happening next on the national front? And what do
you imagine your role will be in this?

A: My hope is that upon return from recess that the Congress will
realize that the McCain-Kennedy framework is the most sensible,
bipartisan immigration proposal that secures our borders, enforces
our laws but provides a pathway for citizenship….

My role, you know, my focus, is on the city that I was elected to
serve, but I will continue to advocate for a sensible, bipartisan
immigration reform.

I'm a third-generation American who believes in the American Dream
and has an unbreakable faith in the generosity of the American


Q: We've had a lot of protests here in recent weeks, from the
500,000-person march that you mentioned to the smaller demonstration
last week and the school protests. Obviously, this has been at some
disruption — police services, loss of attendance-based money to the
schools. Would you like to see these protests continue, or do you
think the time has come to move the action back to Congress?

A: America was founded on protest, freedom of speech …


Q: … And of the press.

A: Right. Freedom of speech is a long-held principle, a guiding
principle of our democracy. So I respect the right of people to make
their voices heard.

But I do believe that it is imperative that these demonstrations
continue to be peaceful and have as a tone and tenor a hopeful and
optimistic character. I do strongly believe that we should
distinguish between adults and school-age children who, while also
having a right to demonstrate, should do it before or after school
and not during.

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