Exploitation is the missing word because exploitation is not what our two party system is talking about.
We had a client named Andrews. His business was contracting. His complaint about today’s immigrant standing outside the hardware store hoping to pick up day labor was that they want to much and that the do not come “hat in hand” like they used to. I did not hit him because I do not do things like that, so we quietly got rid of him and his business.
He could not be more wrong. The undocumented live day to day and in a state of insecurity and are very “hat-in-hand” all the time. That is the whole deal. A major segment of American employers want to have labor that is below legal costs, without benefits and unable to demand legal treatment under our employment laws or join a union. Yes this kind of immigration is illegal, and so is the employment offered. It is not just the fact that they have hired someone illegally, but these employers continue to act illegally in how they treat these workers. The illegality is part of how this group of people are exploited all across our economy, but especially as farmworkers.
All US workers are exploited by this mistreatment of the undocumented. Employers are not held to account for breaking these laws or any other labor laws in any significant way. Thirteen million people have dissolved into the US society as the bottom rung of our labor force. We all suffer the dangerous conditions, the unpaid extra work hours, the insecurity and lack of recourses when wages and benefits are never paid. The same lobbyists who have made sure that the immigration side of employment law has become unenforceable in the fine print have done the same job to the rest of employment law. Many US workers live under the threat of being replaced by an undocumented worker and thus accept basically the same conditions. Unemployment and the treat of even deeper poverty is another wall of the prison that so many workers are trapped into.
Politically many working people are exploited by those responsible for our national problems but blaming our issues on the Spanish speaking undocumented. Somehow the biggest banks in the world can lose more money than ever existed in history on speculative investments and the biggest military in the world can have a fleet of floating airports with atomic power plants in the hold, but the costs involved are never mentioned as a reason our nation lacks funds for the needs of the common people. Instead our lobbyist shills that pass themselves off for elected officials blame our nation’s problems on milk credits for the nanny’s kids. Blaming your problems on an ethnic minority is an ugly old game.
The whole discourse of who deserves to be here and if “illegals” should have a “path to citizenship” is ugly. It speaks to a lot of racism of course, and it is a symptom of the insecurity of the situation of working class whites. Are they really willing or even able to do the work offered these 13 million? And why do they feel so threatened? Are Americans so reduced by the post Regan economy that one of the few things they have to boost their self-image is their citizenship?
As long as a serious number of working class Americans are so seriously exploited by this anti-Latino rhetoric we are all going to continue to be exploited in bigger ways than who picks the strawberries.
Exploitation extends to the nations of the world who educate their youth only to lose them to the 21st century brain drain. These high tech immigrants find themselves hat-in-hand working in Silicon Valley. At the same time our schools are hat-in-hand and not providing the kind of education needed for that Silicon Valley job. One should notice that at the same time Silicon Valley has voiced the “need” for more H1 immigration visas for tech work and have that provision in the Senate Immigration Reform bill, Apple Corp has been caught laundering their profits in Ireland. Would it be too much of a stretch to say that on the one hand these US companies avoid taxes to the point of impoverishing our schools while at the other hand get free access to education paid for by other nations and at the same time have those H1 Visa workers in a beholden “hat-in-hand” position where they are dependent on their employer just to be here?
We have a system drawn up by the lobbyists. The farm lobby, the building lobby, the high tech lobby all have more influence in Washington than any of people doing this farm work, building work or programing work no matter what the worker’s citizenship or status. We have the system that the economic interests have turfed out between each other and the politicians they own.
And our democracy is being exploited by the narrowness of the issue as described inside the beltway and in our media. For all the talk of the “partisan divide” on this issue and how many Latinos will vote for a Democrat after Obama, our two party system is silent on the word “exploitation”.
All the focus is on the boarder and the people crossing it is combined with silence on the exploitation at work here in our country. Another boondoggle is offered the crony capitalists who will build this multi-billion dollar electronic fence and another with an on-line verification system. Obviously thirteen million people did not cross the Arizona desert, especially the millions of them who are not from Mexico and Central America. What about all the others?
Our relations with Mexico have a lot more on the table. There is some serious question to how independent Mexico really is from the US corporations and government. It seems that US capitalism is addicted to Mexican drugs, Mexican petroleum and Mexican cheap labor on both side of the border. The two party silence on the nature of the relationship between the US and Mexico is stunning. How is it that we are having this “Great Debate” on immigration and the Mexican border and never discuss the two nation’s bilateral relations?
What the on-line employment eligibility check does for employers who are INTENTIONALLY hiring undocumented workers is not discussed by our press either. The fact that most employers who hire the undocumented do it knowingly and intentionally because they are seeking out that lower price and exploitive conditions, is glossed over if even mentioned.
Working people are not treated as people, we are treated as a labor market in this surreal public debate. Totally unacceptable things are being done to our workers, yet there is not a single word about labor protection in the proposed Senate bill.
How could there be when the discussion is missing the word exploitation?