By Javier Rodriguez April 4, 2007
The debate in the nation on immigration reform is definitely on and the cards are once again stacked. The Gutierrez-Flake STRIVE ACT of 2007 is a corporate monster most of the way. It doesn't come close to meeting the human rights standards set forth by the international community for the more than 200 million migrants in the planet who, by designs of corporate globalization and its rising capitalist transnational class, have been forced to leave their home countries in search of a new life.
On the contrary the new STRIVE ACT, like last year’s failed Sensenbrenner-HR4437 and Hegel-Martinez S2611, will criminalize immigrants, allow enforcement of immigration law by police agencies, calls for more extreme border enforcement, calls for building 20 more detention centers for immigrants, will erode human rights for future deportees and future immigrants, it will impose an employer verification program, it will delay legalization for the 13 million immigrants already here for many years and not surprisingly it does not set realistic standards to resolve the immigration issue period. Overall, if approved, it will further set back the struggle for immigrant empowerment, make present and future immigrant workers more vulnerable to exploitation and drive them further underground.
The international criteria for immigrants set in 1987?, says migrants, within three years of living in the host country, have earned their right to legalize their status. By then, they have established roots in their adopted communities, creating family, children, culture, education, business and religion. This is a sounder humane approach to a real earned right to legalization, to be united with their families and to the stabilization of their lives.
In 1986, through the IRCA Immigration Reform Act, several million urban and farm workers, undocumented immigrants, regularized their status through a radically different set of standards. A one year wait for their permanent residency and five more for citizenship and the right to vote without having to leave the country. The farm worker clause was even more humane with a requirement of only three months of farm work in the previous two years to qualify. It set forth a fee of only $150.00 per applicant. That’s it. It was a family oriented law though far from perfect.
NOW COMPARE. By Cong. Luis Gutierrez own words, under the STRIVE ACT, the legalization part will not be implemented for two years until Congress confirms that the security border enforcement measures of the new law are in place, and then, only then will the legalization process begins. Then after, the first of two three year permits for non immigrant status will be issued with the right to a social security, a drivers license and leave and return to the country. After the sixth year the immigrant will have the right to solicit permanent residency. But instead of an automatic “Green Card” into the hands of the 13 million immigrants, all applicants will be placed in the back of the line for another 5 to 10 years wait, until the applications of 3 million plus potential immigrants now in process, which the STRIVE Bill does not address, are resolved. It does not stop there. An added five year wait to qualify for citizenship and the right to vote, which means, approximately a total 18 to 21 years to exert full earned constitutional rights which all Americans now enjoy under the constitution. Is this a corporate panacea or not?
The proposed house bill also establishes a quota for 450,000 yearly Conditional Workers, a euphemism for the old Guest Workers Program. Conditional Workers will have the right to: two three year working permits with the right to change jobs, to organize, bring their families and children with the right to school, to a drivers license, a social security and lastly, with an existing good moral conduct and no criminal background, the right to legalize. Seductive isn’t it. But like their 13 million immigrant counterparts already in the US, which hypothetically speaking, will be waiting in line for years for the “coveted Green Card” this sector will be highly vulnerable to small and large corporate business misconduct. Admittedly though, on par, the future undocumented sector will be several notches more exploitable.
According to leaks emanating from the Capital in the last two weeks, the Kennedy-McCain Senate proposal will use the same framework of S2611 which died last year. If so, for certain the conciliation process between the House and Senate will be a water down process for the Fable-Gutierrez Bill.
For the immigrant rights movement and allies the central question is “What is to be Done”? Already at the gate in tacit support of this concept is a powerful conglomerate of the most active wing of labor, big business, the Latino establishment, Democrats and Republicans, the church hierarchy, the Mexican and Central American governments and the moderate wing of the immigrant rights movement. And it is well financed with a war chest of $4 million dollars.
The accomplishments of the 2006 mass immigrant struggle are historic. Most notable was energizing the electorate and along with the antiwar sentiment changing the correlation of forces in Congress against the extreme right. Without a doubt President George W. Bush and the Republicans are in a weaker position although his shock troops have launched a near fascist campaign against the country‘s undocumented creating havoc and terror.
At this point, the correlation of forces is absolutely not favorable except that the country’s progressive forces and allies move from traditional lobbying towards mass mobilization in an attempt to gain the upper hand and influence the national debate for a more inclusive pro worker immigration reform. The activists response to the governments ICE raids and deportations campaign has been toe to toe and it appears, has set the conditions for another round of mega mass mobilizations. We shall see if the people respond accordingly again on May 1st International Workers Day in defense of their dignity and humanity. The challenge is as historic as in 2006.
Javier Rodriguez is the media and political strategist for the March 25 Coalition and a co-founder of the May 1st National Movement. Jrodhdztf@hotmail.com 323-702-6397