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Aledo Times Record - Aledo, IL
A blog 'for independent minds'
Looking a gift horse in the mouth
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Tom Driscoll
Feb. 2, 2013 11:05 a.m.





Some see it as a glimmer of hope. There are reports of bipartisan spirit rising to meet the challenge of immigration reform. E.J. Dionne writing for the Washington Post, while still having a fairly clear eye for the political dynamics underfoot, enthuses that “the odds that we will finally fix a broken immigration system are very high.” The contending political players wrangle over who will get to claim credit, Obama saying the time is now or a bipartisan group of senators advancing their own proposals for compromise, and that only goes to show “how strong the bias toward action has become.”

Allow me to look this gift horse in the mouth.







Michael Lind writing at salon.com also applauds most of the features of immigration reform apparently coming into focus —a path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants, increased skilled immigration and increased law enforcement— yet, he argues, “one provision stinks to high heaven and should be rejected by Americans of left, right and center.” The provision he finds so distasteful is a new “guest-worker program” (a part of the proposed senate compromise, the President hasn’t as yet weighed in on the matter). Lind essentially equates the program with expansion of indentured servitude right here in these United States. And I’m afraid he’s just about right.

I’ve given a link to Lind’s article and I would urge all to read it. I won’t very successfully paraphrase it here. Lind goes into some detail about how our “guests” have been treated n the past and what they could expect through this proposed program.

What I find most persuasive about his argument is that he sees the problem of labor exploitation as contagious as it truly is. Last year there was much hay made (excuse the expression) of the crops that weren’t taken in at harvest in southern states that had taken an aggressive stance towards illegal workers. Come harvest time farmers complained they’d been deprived of their workforce. “Illegals” were suddenly pointed to as a necessary part of our food economy and this was a case in point for how urgently we need to fix a broken system.

There is certainly something broken on display, when we are shown that our farm economy is dependent upon laborers with something less than the guaranteed protections of full citizenship to function. But is it immigration policy or how we define citizenship that is problem? Or is it an economy that cannot seem to function without what Michael Lind characterizes as “serf labor”? Remember this the same economy where we fret about the cost of an additional fews cents to a pizza weighed against whether the guy who cooked it should have access to healthcare. What does it say of our own citizenship when we invent something less than citizenship for those we need to work the work we find beneath us?

Back when Abraham Lincoln was running for president on an anti-slavery platform, he made the occasional comment about human dignity and higher principles of freedom, compassion for the oppressed and so on, but the political power of his message came in recognizing the economic reality of common fate, not the lofty idealism. The Free Labor of autonomous citizens is what our system of government and society and economy is premised upon. Pervert that in part and you risk the whole. A house divided…

I remember I had the same misgivings about supposed immigration reform six years ago when George Bush was the president trying to advance it and Karl Rove was out and about telling us all we shouldn’t expect his kid to mow lawns or dig ditches. I compared watching the two sides in the debate to my experience as a kid watching Earl Weaver’s Orioles play Billy Martin’s Yankees in a baseball game —wishing both could loose. Maybe I’ve grown since then —and realize compromise is a good thing sometimes —and I know somewhat more than a little will be required to improve our current system of immigration and citizenship. Unlike, E.J. Dionne, I don’t expect it will ever be “finally fixed.”

I only hope in our desire to “finally fix things” we don’t trap sickness under a convenient and superficial bandage.

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