[Marxism] undocumented workers

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Fri Apr 28 17:30:15 MDT 2006

Most immigrants nowadays are ineligible for pretty much all forms of public
assistance; undocumented immigrants even moreso. From a working class point
of view, this is not a good thing of course, because the less of a social
safety net they have to fall back on, the more the bosses can used them to
try to drive down wages. But the idea of undocumented immigrant welfare
queens is even more of a myth than that of the Black welfare queens.

The putative cost of an immigrant population to the state is mostly based on
a calculation of the cost of education. The  Supreme Court has ruled a
publicly financed primary and secondary education is a fundamental right
that cannot be denied to any minor person (or unperson).

It is, however, literally true that the cost of the education of any child
for one year is greater than the amount parents contribute in taxes for one
year, for well over half the population, but, of course, parents have a
child in public schools for 12-14 years, but pay taxes throughout an adult
lifetime of 50-60 years. 

The other side of it is that the U.S. is getting absolutely free, without
having contributed at all, fully-grown adult workers in the shape of the
parents. I know some people on this list imagine that labor power is not a
commodity in which both current and "dead" labor are embodied, and that
therefore immigration doesn't represent a net transfer of value into the
receiving country, basically, something for nothing. But the fact that this
labor power may have little or no value in the source country doesn't meant
it has no value here in the U.S., it quite evidently does, as the
functioning of the labor market demonstrates 24 X 7. 

But if it were true that immigrant labor is net negative for the economy,
the capitalists would have discovered it long ago and put a stop to it. That
they have not done it and will not do it is testimony enough for me about
the reality.

Even the massive deportations carried out in the mid-1950's under "operation
wetback" were really more about enforcing the peonage of the Bracero program
rather than being mainly aimed at reducing the number of immigrants workers
as such. And the one-year experiment with that program, which had the side
effect of reducing the undocumented labor pool, was sufficient to convince
the capitalists that it was not in their interests to do that, and the
Bracero program itself was phased out within a decade because the political
costs of keeping it going was simply not worth it, given that the
alternative of exploiting undocumented workers was readily available.


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