[Marxism] Bush's Immigration Clampdown

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Sat Aug 25 13:25:21 MDT 2007

Bush and his Canadian and Mexican counterparts recently concluded their
negotiations over the implementation of the SPP, the Security and
Prosperity Partnership, which some call "NAFTA on crack," due to its
enhancements of the free trade agreement, with provisions extending the
war on terror, increasing vigilance at the borders and military
collaboration in the foregoing, and extraterritorial exploitation of
natural resources. These provisions were discussed in secret and will be
implemented (some already have been) without passage by any legislative
body. See, for example <http://www.counterpunch.org/carlsen08252007.html>
or <http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=55274>. Just days after the SSP
discussions, Bush announced his draconian 26 point program (" A Series Of
Reforms The Administration Will Pursue To Address Border Security And
Immigration Challenges",
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/08/20070810.html), which will
drastically enhance the repressive efforts and the militarization of the
border. These two sets of measures are of a piece. They are clearly not
meant to control terrorism, but -- rather blatantly -- to increase control
over the natural resources and labor force of the continent, giving NAFTA
more teeth to control populations victimized by the free trade agreement.

The following article looks at an aspect of Bush's new immigration
measures, the first of them to be announced a couple of weeks ago, the
decree that employers must fire workers whose SS numbers don't pan out.

Bush's Immigration Clampdown

[posted online on August 22, 2007]

A year ago, in the middle of the nation's most bitterly fought union
organizing drive of the past decade, management at the Smithfield Foods
pork slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, North Carolina, sent a letter to 300
workers. The company, Smithfield claimed, had been notified by the Social
Security Administration that the workers' numbers didn't match the SSA
database. Come up with new numbers, the company ordered, that could pass
the "no-match check," or they'd be fired within two weeks.

The Smithfield plant, largest of its kind in the world, employs 5,000
people, about half of whom are immigrants. No one can say for sure how
many lacked immigration papers, but as in most meatpacking plants, many
undoubtedly did. Despite their status, during the prior year those workers
walked out twice to join immigrant-rights marches. They had even shut down
production lines protesting the high accident rate. The fear created by
the no-match check was an easy way to cut that activism short.

For the past two decades employers have threatened, and often implemented,
similar terminations in workplace after workplace. At the Woodfin Suites
in Emeryville, California, the hotel threatened no-match firings after
workers began demanding compliance with the city's living-wage law. At the
Cintas laundry chain, plant managers fired hundreds of employees last year
in no-match checks during UNITE HERE's national organizing drive. The list
goes on and on.

Now the Bush Administration says that vastly increased checks will become
a fact of life in every US workplace. On August 10 Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters that the SSA will soon send
letters to all businesses with ten or more employees, listing all workers
whose numbers don't jibe. After a ninety-day grace period, the
Administration will require employers to discharge those whose numbers are
still in question.

The scope of Chertoff's order is staggering. About 12 million people
living in the United States have no legal immigration status. Most of them
work. In order to get hired, they have to present a Social Security number
to their employers. Some use invented numbers, while others borrow
existing numbers. This causes no harm to others; if anything, it
subsidizes the Social Security fund, since undocumented workers can't
claim benefits, although they're paying deductions like everyone else.

Yet if the Chertoff regulation is implemented as announced, as many as 8
or 9 million people will lose their jobs at the end of this year. The
impact will be catastrophic. Most undocumented families live close to the
margin as it is, from paycheck to paycheck. They would suddenly have no
means to buy food, pay rent, clothe their children or send them to school.
The human suffering would be immense. Working-class communities, already
stretched to provide services to currently unemployed workers, would have
no means to meet these additional needs. Undocumented immigrants are
ineligible for welfare, food stamps, unemployment insurance and almost all
other public benefits. Tens of thousands of workplaces would fall silent,
as those industries most dependent on immigrant labor would virtually
cease to function. Crop cultivation and harvesting would stop immediately.
So would meatpacking and most food processing. Hotels and restaurants
would turn away customers.

Construction would stall, as laborers and other lower-paid workers would
disappear. Shutting down construction would put skilled citizen workers on
the streets as well. In convalescent homes, the absence of undocumented
caregivers would cause a crisis for the sick, disabled and elderly of all
races and nationalities.


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