Why Immigration Reform Now?

Immigration Reform and African AmericansPresident Obama called last week for the Congress to deal with Immigration reform as a high priority for this year’s legislative agenda. He said, “The time is now for immigration reform.” The time’s been now for immigration reform. Nobody had the courage to take it on.

What makes “now” the time? Political reality for the Republicans and political insurance for the Democrats.

Immigration reform is going to be an ugly fight, particularly during the discussion as to what should come first, the chicken or the egg. The chicken is twelve million immigrants that are already here and who will have to get in line, pay fines and demonstrate civility in order to stay here. The egg will be the roping off of the border to stop the rush of immigrants looking to get here before the immigration deal gets on.

Twelve million could be 20 million before the legislation is passed. Republicans want to build the wall first. Democrats want to tweak the rules first (reform immigration policy). There is a clear political and policy divide, as the recognition becomes even clearer that this is no longer a nation just for “old white men.” It doesn’t stop there.

The politics turn this Latino empowerment agenda negative, less sophisticated, and more territorial, as poor immigrants seek to carve out social spaces for themselves. This is where it gets damn near hypocritical as migrants, many who ain’t supposed to be here anyway – according to the law – try to tell other people they can’t live someplace. And suddenly Compton, a recently black enclave (Compton was white 50 years ago in the 1960s), has now become Howard Beach or Bensonhurst, where ethnic shifts are producing conflict.

Those once “straight outta’ Compton,” are now threatened with being run outta’ Compton. It ain’t gonna happen, but the conflicts of migration shifts just got real for this black community, and other black communities nationwide.

African Americans have long grumbled, underneath their proverbial breaths, about the negative effects Latino (and Asian) migration shifts have had on their communities.

Competition for jobs, houses, schools and business have made living in low and moderate income geographies somewhat complicated. The economic realities of shared demography in the last two decades have worn on the black community.

Immigrating without the proper documentation wasn’t really an issue for white people as long as immigrants could be exploited for their labor, providing a cultural contrast to African Americans. The identity politics of each group notwithstanding, neither posed any real threat to the political and economic status quo of this country – at least, not until the last two elections.

In 2008, it was difficult to separate identity politics in the excitement and emotionalism of the moment. History was being made, and the election of Barack Obama was being painted as a fluke of history… a combination of anti-intellectualism fatigue, mastery of technology social media and mistakes of the frontrunners that opened the door to a once-in-a-lifetime political phenomenon.

However, when it happened again in 2012, the “powers that be” (and have been for over 200 years) realized that it wasn’t a fluke. Just as when Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston the second time, the second time was easier than the first and the knockout came a lot quicker. People couldn’t believe it. Mitt Romney still can’t believe, but reality has set in.

The world has changed and two decades of unconstrained immigration has taken its toll on the political system. Immigrating populations now represent the “tipping point” and America’s political future couldn’t be clearer.

The legitimization of resident alien illegitimacy, the impetus for much of the election and voter reform that had taken place in the years since the election of Obama, cemented the fate of racial ideologues in this country.

So now immigration reform is a high priority, but only as a political stopgap to the potential hazards of the mid-term elections of 2014 and, of course, the Presidential election of 2016.

What is real is that the pawns in the game can’t be engaged in the mass distractions of racial conflict while the political board is reset. Black racists have never been any better than white racists, and now we see Latino racists are not any better than the racists that preceded them.

Racism has always complicated political reality in America. It complicated public policy as well (see the Brown v Board decision). Immigration reform will not be just for the benefit of a new demography.

It is the start of a new political agenda that will compete for Latinos and Asians, concede African Americans (as long as they are willing to be conceded to one party) and reconstruct political reality in America, hopefully in the favor of those who have always held it. And it will be that way, if we’re distracted, and play blind and foolish. Latinos could learn from the lessons of African Americans as being a target (or targeted) population in America.

zz_Anthony-SamadThe negative politics of migrant shifts can’t be the grand distraction that distorts what the grand play is here. The Black-Brown racial conflict can’t be the manipulator that makes us all pawns in the game.

Immigration reform presents a great opportunity to talk about race relations reform in America. The politics of immigration reform doesn’t all have to be a negative conversation about who lives where and who gets what, when and how. However, it will be, if we’re not smart about it.

Anthony Samad

Saturday, 2 February 2013

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Comments

  1. harry wood says

    Assume for the sake of discussion that 73% of the people
    sneaking into America

    were white males with college STEM
    degrees. Presume our country needed such
    persons educated in math and science to fill current jobs. So we turned a blind eye to such people
    illegally entering America
    and made it easy for them to gain US
    citizenship. We are sure these people would make great citizens and they are
    well trained to take jobs being offered by US companies.

    This sounds like a win-win situation for all. Well maybe not for all, as if a non US
    person takes these jobs, maybe there will not be a job for a current US
    citizen. But I own a large company that needs
    such people and I have discovered the foreign workers will work for a dollar a
    hour less than the US
    workers. Sounds like a win-win for my
    company, we get educated employees at a
    cheaper price, which means my company will make more profits than if I had hired
    US citizens as employees. As these
    workers are now in the country legally, they will be able to vote soon. I suppose that due to my providing this group
    of people employment, some may even vote in a way I suggest. I must confess I would not do this but others
    may.

    I advocate any new immigration law must contain a phrase
    that any person who comes to America
    by illegal means after 1Jan 2013
    will be ineligible for US
    citizenship in the future. If this is
    not done, then people will continue to come here anyway they can and hope to
    work things out in the future. Such a law
    will give thoughts of entering illegally a bad taste as people will need to prove
    when they arrived here or be denied citizenship.

    This fictional idea is like what the left suggests but it
    targets a different group of workers and those workers will be more difficult
    to unionize and control, however they would
    pay a lot more in taxes than the group the left pursues. So what do we want, tax takers or tax
    payers? I will take any tax payer over a
    tax taker, the country needs the payers.

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