[Marxism] Immigrant's rights and economic determinism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Mar 26 09:18:37 MST 2006

(In light of my comments about the need to avoid a kind of economic 
determinism formula in terms of understanding the Israel lobby, it might 
make sense to see the fight over immigration rights in a similar vein. It 
would appear that the xenophobic campaign is being driven by factors that 
transcend simple economic calculation. The article below discusses the role 
of a shitbag Congressman from Colorado in pushing for Draconian measures, 
despite any compelling economic factors peculiar to a state like Colorado 
which ostensibly does have a large number of undocumented workers. John 
McCain, whose Arizona shares Colorado's demographics, has lined up with Ted 
Kennedy to sponsor legislation that many trade unions and immigrants rights 
group supports, which is not to say that the radical movement should 
automatically endorse it. Colorado has the distinction of being a kind of 
hotbed for ultraright movements and trends. It is where high school and 
college teachers get witch-hunted, where Protestant fundamentalism has big 
foothold and is also the home of the Air Force academy, which is becoming a 
kind of haven for cryptofascist tendencies. If capitalism were a rational 
system, then the politicians would simply act on the bottom line 
imperatives of the Fortune 100 corporations. But as this system continues 
to decline, there will be more and more of a need for scapegoats as there 
was in Nazi Germany. It occurred to me, btw, that the "Vietnam syndrome" 
has played an important role in shaping politics today, despite the 
tendency for leftists to flagellate themselves for not having done a good 
enough job. The Bush administration simply cannot put together the fighting 
force it needs to stabilize Iraq because it would take a draft. However, a 
draft would blow the country sky-high. Could you imagine a powerful antiwar 
movement that involved students acting on their own material 
interests--staying alive--hooking up with a burgeoning immigrant's rights 

A Border War
Tom Tancredo is pulling the immigration debate to the right—and away from Bush.
By Holly Bailey

April 3, 2006 issue - The lights were on, the cameras were rolling, but the 
special guest star was nowhere to be found. Last Friday afternoon, 55 men 
and women from 30 countries sat in a Denver conference room, clutching 
small American flags as they waited to be sworn in as U.S. citizens. The 
12:15 starting time had come and gone, and some people were getting 
impatient. "For heaven's sake," one woman said, sighing. "What is the 
holdup?" A few minutes later, they had the answer. Tom Tancredo, the 
Republican congressman, was coming to welcome the new citizens. He was hard 
to miss when he breezed in, 25 minutes late, dressed in a dark suit and an 
American-flag necktie. Even so, few in the room recognized him until one 
man whispered, "He's the guy who sits on the border chasing illegals."

Tancredo may not be a household name yet, but he's doing everything he can 
to change that. As the House and Senate debate the nation's immigration and 
border-security laws, the four-term Coloradan has positioned himself as the 
loudest, angriest voice against the estimated 11 million illegal aliens now 
living in the United States. They are "a scourge that threatens the very 
future of our nation," he says. He laments "the cult of multiculturalism," 
and worries about America's becoming a "Tower of Babel." If Republican 
presidential candidates don't put the problem atop the agenda in 2008, he 
says he'll run himself, just to force the front runners to talk about it. 
Not that he thinks he'd win the White House. He declares himself "too fat, 
too short and too bald" to be president. If the Republicans lose the 
election because he's too tough on the issue, he says, "So be it."

Not so long ago, Tancredo was regarded as little more than a noisy pest on 
Capitol Hill. His colleagues shook their heads at his tireless demands for 
crackdowns on American employers who hire illegals and his idea for a 
700-mile-long fence along the Mexican border. But in recent months, some of 
those same Republicans have come to realize that, while Tancredo may be a 
crank, he is a crank with a large and passionate following. 
Anti-immigration sentiment has always simmered, and it flares up about once 
a decade—the last time it hit this level was 1996, when California Gov. 
Pete Wilson made it the centerpiece of his failed presidential campaign. 
Tancredo was one of the first politicians to tap into the latest surge of 
anger. In states with large numbers of undocumented workers, voters 
complain that poor illegals are overwhelming public schools, clogging 
hospital emergency rooms and bankrupting welfare budgets. And they worry 
that inadequate border security makes it easy for would-be terrorists to 
sneak into the country. Tancredo's colleagues are listening. When he 
arrived in Washington, he started the Immigration Reform Caucus. The group 
attracted just 16 members. Today, there are 91.

Watchful Eye: Mexican citizens peer through holes in the wall that 
separates their country from the United StatesTancredo's anti-immigration 
campaign is also brazenly, almost gleefully, taking aim at George W. Bush 
and Karl Rove. The president had once hoped the immigration debate would 
center on his proposed guest-worker program, which would allow illegals—who 
fill millions of unskilled, low-wage jobs—to stay in the country for a set 
period of time. This was Bush the pragmatist, the former border-state 
governor who wanted to acknowledge the importance of immigrant labor to 
construction, fruit farming and other chunks of the U.S. economy. "He 
doesn't think it's morally right that a group that has been critical to the 
strength of the economy is operating in the shadows," says a senior Bush 
aide who, following policy, spoke anonymously. Meanwhile, Rove pushed the 
pure political benefits of the plan: immigrant-friendly policies would help 
the party reach out to the fast-growing Latino vote.

Instead, the immigration debate has split the GOP, with many Republicans in 
the House and Senate, worried about alienating voters, openly opposing the 
president. In December, the House tossed aside the worker program and 
passed a bill that features tougher security at the Mexican 
border—including Tancredo's cherished fence—and crackdowns on illegals who 
are already here. "You can't ignore him," says a GOP leadership aide who 
wouldn't be named because he wanted to keep his job. "The administration 
doesn't want to hear this, but a lot of Americans think he's right."

In the Senate, Republicans, led by John McCain and Arlen Specter, have been 
working to come up with a compromise that would include border security, a 
guest-worker program and a way for illegal immigrants to "earn" 
citizenship. But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a presidential 
contender with one eye on the anti-immigration vote—and the other one on 
outflanking McCain—has threatened to put forward his own get-tough plan 
this week if the senators fail to come through.

It's not just Republicans elbowing for attention. Last week Sen. Hillary 
Clinton whacked the GOP with the Bible, implying anti-immigration proposals 
were not only hardhearted, but un-Christian. The bill, she said, "would 
literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself."

Bush, forced to step up his own security rhetoric in response to the feud, 
is still hoping for a compromise. At an immigration meeting at the White 
House last week, the president said that "the debate must be done in a way 
that doesn't pit one group of people against another." But Florida Sen. Mel 
Martinez, a former Bush cabinet member who sides with the president on the 
issue, fears that's exactly what is happening. "Republicans have made 
significant gains [among Latinos]," he says, "and we're risking all of that 
by allowing ourselves to be positioned as anti-immigrant ... We are at 
great peril."

Oct. 8, 2005: A Minuteman Project volunteer looks for illegal border 
crossers in Southern CaliforniaTancredo believes there's greater danger in 
doing nothing. All he wants, he says, is to see the law enforced. "I don't 
like it when people call me a racist or xenophobe," he says. "In my heart, 
I know that I'm not." A 60-year-old grandson of an Italian immigrant, he 
grew up in a working-class family. He ran for Congress on a whim in 1998, 
and won by pushing immigration reform. He says he became passionate about 
the issue back in the 1970s, when he was a Denver junior-high-school 
teacher. At the time, Colorado had just passed a bilingual-education bill. 
He says students with Latino-sounding names were put into Spanish-language 
classes, even if they spoke English only. "It was ridiculous, and a total 
waste of time and money."

He's remained unapologetic about his views. In 2002, The Denver Post ran a 
human-interest story about a high-school honors student who couldn't get 
college financial aid because he was in the United States illegally. 
Tancredo tried to have the boy and his family deported. (He was unsuccessful.)

Back at the immigration ceremony, Tancredo thanked the new citizens for 
coming to the United States "the right way," and urged them to "cast aside 
loyalties to your old countries and walk with us." One lucky person walked 
away with more than a citizenship certificate. When he heard that a young 
woman from Mexico had waited more than a year for her paperwork to clear, 
Tancredo approached her. He apologized that he was out of the lapel pins he 
usually hands out. Instead, he gave her a more personal gift: his 
American-flag necktie. "Gracias," she said.

With Daren Briscoe and Richard Wolffe

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