Obama’s Immigration Reform Sets Punitive Obstacles to Citizenship

Obama’s Immigration Reform Sets Punitive Obstacles to Citizenship

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network.
I’m Paul Jay. On Wednesday, the White House released details
of President Obama’s proposal on immigration reform. Here are the four main headlines.
Number one, continue to strengthen border security. Cracking down on employers hiring
undocumented workers. Earn citizenship. And streamlining legal immigration. Now joining us to discuss President Obama’s
proposal is Isabelle Garcia. She’s the cochair of the human rights organization Derechos
Humanos in Tucson, Arizona. She’s a criminal defense and immigration lawyer, and she’s
on the board of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. And she joins us from
Tucson. Thanks for joining us again, Isabel. ISABEL GARCIA: You’re welcome. Thank you so
much. JAY: So let’s work our way through these notes
that came from the White House, President Obama’s proposal. But just before we do, just
give me an overall impression of what you think of what he’s suggesting. GARCIA: Well, I think it’s pretty unfortunate
that President Obama has not chosen to take a stronger, more honest approach to immigration
reform, that he has given in still to, you know, quote, security hawks. And so that’s
initially my impression, that this is going to be very limited, with huge costs. JAY: Okay. Well, let’s go through the proposal.
And we’ll start with the first thing, “Continuing to Strengthen Border Security”. And here’s
a bit of what they say: “by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s
proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute
national security threats.” So I guess most people hearing that will say, well, what’s
wrong with that. GARCIA: People would say that only because
there’s been a lot of fear, especially since 9/11. People need to understand in this country
that migration from Mexico has been ongoing ever since we took half of Mexico, but in
very specific intentional terms since the beginning of the century. In the early 1900s,
they decided they needed to bring in Mexicans to build. And we have kept up that practice
for a long time. We don’t have 11 million people just out of accident or because we’re
humane. We have 11 million people here undocumented because our economy depends on
them. And so to characterize this as national security threats on the border is absolutely
wrong. Migration worldwide, and not just here, is
a socioeconomic-political phenomenon that we have contributed to. We have made the call
for Mexicans to come to work in the United States for over 100 years. That really
has not changed. JAY: I’ve told this story before on The Real
News, but in ’91, I was researching a film. I was on the Tijuana border–I was on the
Mexican side of the Tijuana border, and the sun was going down, and people were ready
to go into California when it got dark. And there must have been 400–300, 400 people
lined up on either side of me ready to cross, completely out in the open. In fact, there
was like a fest, that people were selling popcorn and other kinds of food there. And
on the other side waiting to stop people from coming in was nobody, because it was harvest
season in California and they wanted all this labor to come in. And they were treating it
like a valve, to let labor in when they wanted it, and then they could threaten people once
they got there. GARCIA: That’s absolutely correct. But migration
has gone down to the lowest it’s been in 40 years, so we’ve got to keep that in mind as well. JAY: Well, these days, enforcement, I think,
has gotten–is much stiffer than when I was there. But I guess the point I’m making is
many of the people that are undocumented that are here are here ’cause there were jobs for
them and employers wanted them, and there was no real security at the border to stop
it, precisely for those reasons. GARCIA: Absolutely. We’ve used border, you
know, security when our economy demands it. We’re restrictive at those times. Otherwise,
we’ve been–the secret that nobody wants to say is that we’ve had an open border with
Mexico in a lot of ways. In other words, it’s not militarized. If we militarize this border, I mean, people
have to understand what the economic cost is: 18 billion just last year, more than
all the combined budgets of the rest of the federal law enforcement agencies combined.
And now we’re asking for even more, while we don’t have, you know, jobs and schools
and health care and bad roads. We’re building this other arm that really doesn’t relate
or respond to the issue at hand. JAY: What do you make of people who argue
that if you do create this path to citizenship, which is later in the proposal, and you do
regularize anyone who’s here who’s undocumented, and if the border isn’t “secure”, quote-unquote,
then why wouldn’t tens of thousands or more people from not just Mexico but from all over
Latin America make their way up and come to the United States? GARCIA: A couple of things. First of all,
that’s a failure of this alleged comprehensive immigration reform. If we were comprehensive
about it, we would look immediately to why people are coming. And no one–not the Democrats,
not the Republicans–want to look at that. So, yes, I agree with people that if we’re
wondering, wait a minute, is this a one-time thing, what is it that we need to do to fix
it, I think we have to look at what our policies are. I mean, NAFTA has propelled 6 million
workers out of agriculture in Mexico, and they crossed unlawfully into the United States.
We had a boom, right? Right now we’re at a low, but we had a massive crossing. You described
it in what you saw in Tijuana. So why don’t we deal with policies that the United States
has that is causing mass migration from the sending countries? I think–let me tell you, I’ve been involved
in this issue since ’76. People don’t necessarily want to come. People have asked me, please,
not only fight for humans’ right to migrate, but why don’t you fight for the right for
us to remain home, that you don’t enact policies that impact our livelihood? And that’s what we’ve done. We’ve allowed
Monsanto to do away with, you know, corn producing in Mexico. And so I agree with what they’re
saying. But on the other hand, people need to understand
that we’ve never had immigration laws that reflect the reality. The reality is what?
That we’ve invited almost 11 million people to come here. We also have to acknowledge
that families must be unified, that a border cannot keep families separated and that we
should not do that. And thirdly, we should look at other policies, such as our alleged
war on drugs, that is causing more and more migration into the United States. I think if we’re going to talk about comprehensive,
that’s what we need to deal with, not enforcement at the border. Even Napolitano herself said,
if we build a 50-foot wall, people will build a 51-foot ladder. I mean, that is not what
we’re talking about. This is not a law enforcement or a national security issue. I beg to differ. JAY: I mean, I guess the argument would be,
if you’re going to have a free-trade agreement with Mexico, then, one, even some people on
the right have argued in favor of this, that there should be also free coming and going
of people in free trade zone countries. And number two, the free trade agreement actually
has to be good for the economies of all the countries involved, and it clearly hasn’t
been good for Mexico. Alright. Let’s move on to the next part of
President Obama’s proposal, “Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers”.
The notes say, “Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in
the United States. Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers are exploiting
the system to gain an advantage over businesses that play by the rules.” So they’re going
to crack down on employers, which they never have. They’ve always allowed employers to
more or less hire undocumented workers at will. What do you make of this proposal? Because–I’m
going to get to a point, ’cause something I don’t get about all of this is, if they
really crack down on employers, then what’s supposed to happen to all these people that
are going to get fired now? GARCIA: Well, I’d like to begin with the observation
that the premise is absolutely faulty. If we want immigration reform and they’re responding
to the issue that, you know, elected people here, it’s not employer sanctions, it is not
more immigration enforcement that we want. What we want is a full legalization. Cracking down on employers just sounds great,
right? We all say, oh, yeah, those employers, those terrible employers that crack down.
However, do we question what we pay for fruit and vegetables here, the clothes that I wear,
the housing I have? To a large part, immigrants have impoverished their lives to enrich our
lives. And so, to say that they’re going to crack down on employers is ridiculous. We already have employer sanctions right on
the books, which we fought in 1986. But we know that there’s not enough enforcement.
And I don’t believe that our tax money should go for enforcement at the work site. JAY: Well, that’s what the proposal–the proposal
is about a new big electronic system with social security cards that are more verified,
and then a onus on employers to use this electronic verification program. And if they–. GARCIA: Do we want that? Do we want those
violations of privacy? I knew a United States of America where people who–said, hey, you
know, I’m a tramp and I go across the country and I don’t have to have an ID and nobody’s
going to have my information. We have a very strong privacy sentiment in this country.
And because of 9/11, everybody’s giving in. And as the world globalizes, that we have
no borders, they say, for capital and intellectual property and such, and yet now we’re going
to police ourselves to the point of each of us having this verifiable national ID. I think it’s absolutely wrongheaded. It’s
absolutely wrongheaded, goes for surveillance of all of our community, between the employment
of surveillance and along the community, because here in Tucson, everybody’s afraid of the
police department. With SB 1070 the law on the books here, we’re all under a police
state. So I think it’s wrong. JAY: But don’t you think a country has a right
to tell employers that people have to be in the country legally documented before you
can hire them? If you take this issue aside, that–so many people are here undocumented
because they were more or less invited here, really. But if you separate that question
as a principle, don’t you think a country can say to its employers, you can only hire
people that are legally here? GARCIA: I don’t think–it depends on the problem
you’re trying to address. And in this particular situation, no, I think it’s wrong. I think
when you say the government, well, yes, the government can–you know, we have a government.
Is it wrong? I think it’s absolutely wrong. Why aren’t we having a government say to the
corporate interests that are going into Mexico and, you know, doing away and displacing Mexican
workers that in the end cross over to the United States–why aren’t we doing that? Why
aren’t we cracking down on Wall Street? People say, oh, well, the people crossed unlawfully.
We’ve invited them. For generations, Mexico has entire towns that–where their young men
of working age are all in the United States or Canada, but mainly in the United States,
and behind are the women, the grandparents, and the children. We’ve established this pattern
with Mexico for a long time, and I think it’s time that we acknowledge that and legalize
everybody and not go back to what we’ve done. We’ve had a thriving workforce without having
employer sanctions, without having employer verification system. Do you know what that does as well? It institutionalizes
racism or racial profiling, because as we discuss this issue, even at a societal level,
we’re having an impact on our children and everybody else and employers saying, boy,
I wonder if this employee has papers? You know, she speaks Spanish and doesn’t speak–. JAY: Well, let’s look at that next part of
the proposal, then, “Earned Citizenship”. It says, “It is just not practical to deport
11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders.” It’s interesting it says
“not practical.” It doesn’t say it’d be morally wrong; it just says it’s impractical. “The
President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship
that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play
by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible
for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes
and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn
their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens
if they meet these eligibility criteria.” What do you make of that? GARCIA: I see it as almost a very rough obstacle
course for people. In other words, these limitations are meant to diminish the number of people
who can successfully get on this famous path for citizenship. Remember, it’s not–we don’t
go after citizenship. The first thing you have to do is become a permanent lawful resident.
In the Senate, of course, they want to condition it to border security, but the president is
still creating such a tough road. Who’s going to determine back taxes? And I’m telling you, I object from the very
tone of what he’s saying, because it’s basically saying that they’ve done wrong, that if it
were practical to deport 11 million people, we should. It’s not only not practical; it’s
immoral, it’s the unfair thing to do when we have millions of people, again, that have
been enriching our lives while impoverishing their own. Just ask the auditor of the Social Security
suspense fund. He will tell you that the over $220 billion that will pay for my Social
Security comes from the earnings and the taxes paid by undocumented workers. Why should they
pay a fine? They’ve been paying taxes, they’ve been subsidizing us in so many ways. And all
the credible studies will verify. And so that’s why I’m upset. JAY: The politics of all this is that Latinos,
Hispanic-speaking people voted in large numbers for President Obama. It was one of the things
that helped him swing the last elections. And everyone’s talking about the future of
American elections to a large extent are going to be decided by Hispanics and Latinos. Is
this going to please people or not, these proposals? GARCIA: Well, I’ll tell you, the sound of
it is already pleasing some people, just because they’re so hungry for reform. But once they
learn the details of this immigration reform, I think the Latino voter is not going to be
that superficial. I think the Latino voter is going to actually see what this reform
really results in. Remember, when we had amnesty, we only legalized
half of the undocumented worker force at that time in ’86; we didn’t have all of these tough
requirements, and yet legalized only half. The good thing back then is that we didn’t
have this huge enforcement apparatus that we now have. JAY: In the next part of our interview, I’m
going to ask Isabel Garcia what her immigration reform would look like. So please join us
for part two of the interview on The Real News Network.


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    mike cool

    Don't kid yourself buddy, their mexican government has lots of resources but they want someone else to feed and clothe them, give them money and let them run amuck. bunch of dirty animals.

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    mike cool

    Erick Portillo, do not feel sorry for them. they knew and, know what will happen when they come illegaly and break our laws. they use their children as a cop out. what the hell do we care they got deported, They are well aware of the outcome and still do it.

  5. Post
    mike cool

    You are right pal, come to my hood and you'll see there is a lot of shit in our country not just mexicans. And they all come for the same thing, FREEEEE.

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    mike cool

    I say, stop the freebees and they will go back. No question about that. i hear they want to cut the food stamp program by quit a bit. You see them heading south, then they passed it.

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    mike cool

    If this country stops paying for these kids, they will stop spitting them out. Why should they not have them, more kids, more stamps. This country is all fked up.

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    marco antonio godoy

    All the mothers of USA are a dirty stupids whores and they are a  dangerous neonazis animals
    All the world hate the stupid people animal and criminal of  the shit USA

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    Listening to the ignorant chick would make you think flippin mexico is the 51st state of america.  Kick all of those illegal criminals out.  Those who came here legally are welcome, but Illegals and the kids they had while they were here need to be kicked out!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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