YDS Statement on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill
The current “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” bill is a step back for social justice. We commend immigrant rights advocates who have fought long and hard for fair immigration reform to address the serious problems with our current policies. However, as democratic socialists we believe that the bill’s proposals do nothing to deal with the prime cause for much undocumented immigration: lack of a democratic alternative to corporate globalization. Instead, the bill pushes an ethnocentric and ruling-class agenda. Rather than embracing diversity and rational economic solutions, this proposal returns to the tired melting-pot rhetoric of assimilation and the blatant fostering of social divisions among American workers.
The proposed “temporary-worker” program is fundamentally flawed and threatens basic worker rights for both citizens and immigrants. On the surface, it seems like a valid alternative for immigrants who have no desire to reside permanently in the United States; those who have come to find work in order to save for life in their home country. However, workers will be limited to three two-year terms, and must spend at least a year outside the U.S. between each term. In addition, guest workers will lack basic rights, including union protection, and therefore face exploitation. Because they must remain continually employed while residing in the U.S., employers will be able to blacklist any guest worker who stands up for their human rights. This essentially forces migrant workers to return to the poverty of their home country.
The vulnerability of guest workers will lower labor standards for documented American workers, as well. It will be easier for employers to use fear to break up union organizing campaigns at unsafe or unfair workplaces shared by citizens and undocumented workers. It will also create an incentive for employers to hire only undocumented workers, since they are more easily exploited. Finally, it will allow others on the Right to blame immigrants for economic hard times, thus distracting American workers from the true culprit and benefactor; the capitalist class and the system of capitalism. As democratic socialists, we firmly stand opposed to any program that divides and harms workers, and believe that all workers, regardless of their citizenship status, must have equal workplace rights.
Despite cries from the far right, this bill is not an amnesty. Undocumented immigrants already in the United States will be forced to pay $5000 in fines – a prohibitively expensive amount for the majority of low-wage workers – and wait several years before applying for green cards. This forces immigrants to restart their application process, no matter how long they have worked and been a contributing member of society. This process also requires that they return to their native country in order to apply.
Most importantly, immigrants are only allowed to return to the U.S. if they demonstrate sufficient “merit” under the new system. The merit system is designed to exclude the working class (and in particular unskilled labor), as well as those without the advantage of a privileged education. Points are awarded based on education level, the ability to speak English, skills, and “other attributes that further our national interest.” As democratic socialists, we are against creating a class-based immigration system that excludes the very communities that have been most devastated by our government’s capitalist economic policies, such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and other free trade agreements.
This bill will also divide families. In order to speed up the process of assimilation it is important that communities and families be fragmented, because divisions leave immigrants without a support network. Under the new legislation, “chain migration” will end, meaning no preference will be given to immigrants with family in the U.S. – even for siblings or adult children! Parents of U.S. citizens will be granted temporary visitation visas in order to visit their children, but no effort will be made to permanently reunite them. In addition, the “temporary worker program” only allows immigrants to bring immediate family members if they can prove that they can support them, and if they are covered by health insurance – something millions of citizen workers can’t even get. This bar is set unreasonable high to prevent family reunification.
The Young Democratic Socialists can not support the current “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” bill as it stands because not only is it incredibly unfair to immigrants, it is a clear attack on all workers. The new policies would create massive structural changes to the U.S. economy (and indeed the economies of many immigrants’ home countries), changes that benefit the corporate capitalist class, not everyday people. We want an immigration system that allows people who shall work and be productive to be welcome in the United States. Political and economic realities, however, make this nearly impossible.
Since capitalism is allowed to undermine international working standards, millions of people are forced to migrate in search of work. When those migrant workers have no rights, the class which owns the means of production reaps all the benefits of those workers’ labor. In the short term, YDS calls upon our members and allies to work against the “guest-worker program” and for a true amnesty that grants the majority of hard-working undocumented immigrants legal status. To prevent future abuse of undocumented immigrants requires more than a just amnesty. We fight for a truly just immigration system: one that gives all current and future immigrants full workplace rights and a fair path to citizenship. In the long term, we must work to build a movement that offers economic and social solidarity around the world and in our own communities. This struggle is for a world where no one leaves their country out of desperation to find exploitation waiting for them.