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(DV) Rahkonen: Exposing the Real Culprit in the "Illegal Immigration" Controversy







April 10 National Day of Action & Rally for Immigrant Rights: 
Exposing the Real Culprit in the “Illegal Immigrant” Controversy 
by Dennis Rahkonen
April 10, 2006

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Who 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, devastating poverty? 

Capitalist profiteers. 
Who, therefore, selfishly creates the underlying conditions that drive vast numbers of migrants to come to the United States to try to simply survive? 
Capitalist profiteers. 
Who then takes cruel advantage of them once they’re here, seizing upon their desperate status to pay them next to nothing?  
Capitalist profiteers. 
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?” 
Capitalist profiteers. 
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? 
Capitalist profiteers. 
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 this land. 
Arriving Poles, Finns, Italians, Slovaks, the Irish, etc., were all accused of being uneducated, uncouth, dishonest “job stealers” by those already here. 
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 good. 
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 hard-won gains.  
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 might. 
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 “Dream.” 
Which is compelling reason why we shouldn’t make their lives an unrelenting nightmare. 
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 sacred family. 
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 government services.  
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 strengths. 
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 been inspiring. 
“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.

Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, Wisconsin, has written progressive commentary for various outlets since the '60s. He can be reached at: dennisr@cp.duluth.mn.us.