rips off the Third World through resource theft and sweatshop
employment, plus usurious lending, leaving native populaces incapable of
proper development, and bereft of the ability to rise above chronic,
Who, therefore, selfishly creates the underlying conditions that drive
vast numbers of migrants to come to the United States to try to simply
Who then takes cruel advantage of them once they’re here, seizing upon
their desperate status to pay them next to nothing?
Who manipulates the immigrant issue to make many Americans think their
declining quality of life -- resulting chiefly from aggressive union
busting and rightwing stonewalling on direly needed federal minimum wage
hikes, or an actual living wage -- is caused by “those Mexicans?”
Who’s scared to death that all their divisive demagoguery will be
revealed, allowing a multi-racial working class with an all-for-one,
one-for-all outlook to gain the necessary clout that only standing
united can achieve, forcing thieves in corporate/financial power to
accede to economic justice or be kicked into the trash bin of history?
Sorry for being repetitive. But we can’t permit any misidentification of
our mutual enemy.
Granny and Gramps were maligned immigrants, too
Every slander currently being directed against Mexican and Central
American undocumented immigrants was used, in turn, during the
successive waves of European migration that brought our forebears to
Arriving Poles, Finns, Italians, Slovaks, the Irish, etc., were all
accused of being uneducated, uncouth, dishonest “job stealers” by those
Furthermore, your grandparents and mine would likely have been “illegal”
if the Atlantic were as easy to wade as the Rio Grande. (They were seen
as exactly that, in any case, by this land's native inhabitants.)
Despite constant Robber Baron efforts to pit one nationality against
another, workers from our grandparents’ day ultimately saw through
Machiavellian profiteers’ smokescreens.
Beginning before the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 and extending past the
great industrial organizing drives in the Depression years, immigrants
overcame diversionary ploys contrived by their plundering bosses... to
unite across ethnic and racial lines and jointly fight for the common
Their tenacious struggle -- always rooted in militant trade unionism --
finally achieved the broad working class prosperity that came to prevail
in America, until reactionary Reaganism began to dismantle those
What immigrant-led progressivism attained back then -- namely the
high-water mark of ordinary people’s good life -- can be repeated in the
present era, provided we aren’t duped by discriminatory, decidedly
racist appeals designed to separate us and thereby weaken our combined
Fight poverty, not immigrants
Undocumented immigrants, being impoverished, experience the same
negatives and dysfunction that afflict all poor populaces everywhere.
Yes, there are immigrant street gangs and drug trafficking. The same
problems exist, however, in predominantly Black inner city cores,
desolate Indian reservations, and wrong-side-of-the-tracks white
neighborhoods where teenagers face dead-end, low-wage futures.
But it’s wrong to make sweeping generalizations. No demographic in our
country is exclusively, or even mostly, criminal. Furthermore, it’s
entrenched poverty, not skin color or ethnicity, that generates socially
harmful trends. If you cut a man, expect him to bleed. Stop cutting.
Commit to social and economic justice -- fair and equal chances for
meaningful gain for everyone -- and the problems go away.
But instigators of the anti-immigrant frenzy aren’t interested in being
fair. The viciousness of their willfully evil scapegoating is identical
to Nazi propaganda blaming all of Germany’s failings on Jews.
For example, the fact that impoverished souls from south of the border
have significant health problems, including some communicable diseases
that have been eliminated in affluent regions, is being used to foster
almost a Bird Flu level of hysteria.
Completely absent is any compassionate concern about curing the
immigrant sick, or the larger question of exploitation-caused poverty
causing pervasive medical issues, plus many others, which can be solved
-- for all working people -- only through rectifying justice built on a
bedrock of unionized labor and all the benefits it alone provides.
Immigrant equality is quickly growing into the Civil Rights Movement of
our era. Let’s be careful not to become modern equivalents of Jim Crow,
espousing cruel absurdities that’ll make us look like mean-spirited
fools in the future, if not right now.
We can be absolutely certain that Martin Luther King, Jr., were he alive
today, would count undocumented immigrants for inclusion in his
Which is compelling reason why we shouldn’t make their lives an
Immigrants give much more than they take
12,000 years ago, ancestors of present Mexican workers resided right
where their progeny are currently being accused of “feloniously” trying
to toil and live.
Also, when Mayan society flourished in advanced grandeur, Europeans
fearfully peered out from primitive hovels at the ominous scourges of
their dark age.
Any counting of comparative illegalities between the two cultures would
have to include continental theft and genocide perpetrated by the white
invaders, plus slavery, and the seizure of California and the entire
South West, native home of what the conqueror state would ultimately
come to call “Hispanics.”
While the nation that birthed Jefferson and Lincoln has prostituted its
ideals for mammon worship, aggressive war, appalling cultural decay, and
a completely unfounded supremacism relative to the rest of the world,
Central Americans retain an incredibly rich heritage with abiding,
peaceful devotion to ordinary people’s well being, and that of the
Among those reactionaries who spuriously contend that undocumented
immigrants don’t pay taxes are wealthy beneficiaries of pro-oligarchy
tax loopholes large enough to accommodate a convoy of 18-wheelers.
They’re often either owners or shareholders of corporations that set up
false fronts in places like the Bahamas, specifically to dodge proper
tax payment. Who’s really “cheating” on this score?
And what’s the truth about undocumented immigrant tax payment, anyway?
They pay identical real estate taxes -- whether they’re homeowners or
have taxes passed along to rents -- and the same sales/consumption taxes
as anyone else. Most state and local costs of education and other
services rely on such money. Also, the U.S. Social Security
Administration notes three quarters of undocumented immigrants
contribute payroll taxes. They pay $6-7 billion in Social Security funds
they’ll never be able to claim.
Are they a “drain” on the economy, as hysteria mongers say?
According to the National Conference of State Legislators in 2005,
immigrants paid on average $1,800 in taxes in excess of their “cost” in
There’s simply no factual reason for believing that brown-skinned
immigrants are responsible for America’s decline, and every reason to
celebrate the huge contribution they’ve made to our nation’s enduring
Also, Latino advocacy groups are among the most progressive in the
country. They recognize the importance of the universality of
unionization, including within immigrants’ homelands. If no one is
forced to work for peanut-pay, anywhere, then we’ll all be able to
realize living wages, everywhere.
Bosses who rip us off and laugh all the way to the bank, hoping we’ll
never catch on to their divide-and-conquer strategy, can be made honest
through the unity of working people whose resulting power will make
their just demands irresistible.
To fight for immigrants’ rights and advancement today -- and the
acceptance of Latino leadership in that battle at this time -- will lay
the foundation for our own betterment tomorrow.
The massive immigrant rallies in Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere have
“Si, se pueda!” was a prominent cry at those magnificent demonstrations.
“Yes, we can!”
Yes, we’ll all enjoy brighter tomorrows if we struggle jointly for our
shared gain, and not mistake immigrants for enemies.
from Superior, Wisconsin, has written progressive commentary for various
outlets since the '60s. He can be reached at: