Immigration Wedging Politics in United Kingdom Too

BNP-ImageNew Orleans    In the contentious midterm elections in the USA there were huge issues that were simply not core issues for the candidates. After all of the sound and fury about the Affordable Care Act, blah, blah, blah, the actual candidates seem to have come to grips with the fact that 11 million enrollees just might be on to something, so let’s tone it down. Where immigration has been a wedge issue for years and presidential candidates are still beating the drums, the story line on the midterm elections was more about the disaffection of Latinos with both parties because of the limited progress on any permanent immigration reform, than any sense that any candidates for either party were moving forward on the issue. President Obama reacted a bit to the news of Latino alienation by leaking more plans to maybe do something to ease the legalization process, but it just wasn’t much of an election issue.

Meanwhile immigration seems to be pushing the economy as a wedge issue in Europe.  The story line is confusing there as well.  On one hand there are regularly tragic stories of African immigrants trying to virtually swim their way to France and Spain.

And, then there is the United Kingdom where immigration is driving parties and people crazy left and right. The explanation is easy to grasp, but the party policies are impossible to understand. The weak economy has left too many finger pointing at new immigrants as job jumpers. The United Kingdom as a member of the European Union is part of the open borders program allowing anyone within the EU the ability to work in any of the member countries, and that’s the hot button that is being pressed in Britain. Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron has been trying to play footsie with the issue in a dangerous game by vowing to put membership in the EU to a 2015 referendum, the same year his government is up again on the ballot. The United Kingdom Independence Party, known as UKIP, has played the Tea Party, hardcore anti-immigrant hater role and eaten away deeply at the Conservative’s right flank.

Cameron has some slow learning problems in understanding the position of the other EU countries, betting the long shot that they will grant Britain concessions for fear of losing them from the EU. Meanwhile Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose robust economy and deep pockets, pretty much puts her and Germany in the drivers’ seat in really calling the shots there, and has toughened her stand on the issue saying that the UK position is near a “point of no return” and holding that freedom of movement is one of the cardinal principles of the European Union.

Even Britain’s Labour Party seems to be buckling on the issue, as its leader Ed Milliband is taking fire from the right in his party worried about the defection of more of their white working class voting core to the UKIPpers as well. In recent weeks he has enraged the left by arguing that he would insist that new immigrants be subjected to tougher standards barring them social benefits and requiring more English language skills before allowing them to enter the job market.

What a mess!

With yet another National Football League game heading to London, as the NFL tries to branch out to England and all of this anti-immigrant blurting from politicians and Tea Party wannabes, it’s becoming clear where this is really going. What we can expect next it seems is that the UK will drop out of the EU, and start lobbying to become the 51st state in the United States of America, realizing that being anti-immigrant is the perfect approach to getting the nod to come in. If the EU is too liberal for them, the US is just far enough to the right to feel like home.

Ripping off Mexican & Caribbean Migrant Workers in Canada

Buenocurrency-transfer-compareds Aires One of the flash points in the USA immigration reform debate continues to be over the demand from farmers for help in their fields from migrant agricultural workers.  Recently  they left the Republican (and Obama Administration) consensus in droves as US-farmer organizations and Congresspeople bridled at the fact that employers, i.e. farmers, would have to pay steep fines for hiring undocumented workers.  The so-called bracero program has long been out of business in the US, which used to bring up seasonal workers from Mexico into the fields of California, Texas, and Arizona, and from the Caribbean to help in tobacco, cranberry, and other harvests in the Northeastern states.

ACORN International crack researchers led by Carleton University (Ottawa) volunteer, Amanda Sullivan, and ramroded by ACORN International and Edinburgh University (Scotland) super-summer intern, Melanie Craxton, stumbled onto a huge program though in Canada while researching remittance ripoffs as part of ACORN International and its federated partners on-going Remittance Justice Campaign (   The Canadian SAWP is not an armed strike team, but 20,000 migrant workers from Mexico and the Caribbean Islands who are recruited through bi-national agreements and shipped up to the fields of Canada, largely in British Columbia and southern Ontario, as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.  Needless to say conditions are regularly reported as substandard and exploitive by our long-time partners, the UFCW and its agricultural workers organizing program which has been in the fields for years with these workers.

In fact the Canadian government extracts a 25% of wages share for taxes and the like which will never benefit these workers who will return home after a maximum of eight (8) months in the field.  Neither does the Canadian government seem to care much about how much money they actually go home with even though ostensibly that is one of the goals of this cooperative labor exchange.  The workers are in fact even chosen according to the SAWP criteria because they have stable families, and that means invariably they send significant remittances (about 50% of wages while in Canada) back home to their families.

The money transfer organizations of choice according to our researchers interviews are Western Union and a smaller, somewhat cheaper company called Vigo.  Either way a huge chunk of their checks are extracted by these MTOs, way over the 5% maximum demand that ACORN International has made as part of the Remittance Justice Campaign and that Canada as part of the G-8 has claimed to adopt as a world standard.

Talking to SAWP representatives though was like visiting Mars.  Yes, Canada collected its taxes.  Yes, the migrant workers made remittances home.  No, the governmental representatives had no idea how much was extracted by the MTOs of the checks, despite these bi-national agreements with Mexico and Caribbean countries.  It is impossible to escape the core immorality, even venality, of this predatory governmental operation.  The Canadian government gets migrant help for its agricultural enterprises, profits from taxes that can’t benefit the workers, and then turns a blind eye as predatory fees are extracted from the laborers before they return home with what little is left.

ACORN International and its federated partners like ACORN Canada, ACORN Mexico, and ACORN Dominican Republic, have stumbled onto a scandal and are busily preparing demands to force immediate change in these practices along the lines we have continued to make in recent months for cost caps and desperately needed regulations.  Without a doubt this is an outrage that demands the authorities finally listen and act!


20100920_dream_act_33New Orleans The California Supreme Court yesterday became one of the few bright spots in the dark tunnel that immigrants are facing for any kind of justice or resolution given the political storm clouds hovering everywhere.  The Californians ruled that it would be discriminatory to deny California residents scholarship support from state institutions because of their immigration status.  This ruling does not affect state and federal money, but protects an important financial aid program for immigrants in California where more than 50% of the students are Latinos according to some reports.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have also stated that they are willing to have a go at passing the DREAM Act in the lame duck Congress.   As I have said earlier, this is good politics but passage would be so surprising that it might end all controversy about whether or not there is a God.

The DREAM act has had the most heat on the streets.  Students have shown the courage of civil rights organizers during much of the year, even when the outcome was likely deportation to home countries that in many cases they had never seen or visited.

Let’s get some things straight.  The DREAM Act is not a free “amnesty” ticket for teens.  The language leaves rocks in the road and mountains to climb:

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (The “DREAM Act”) is a piece of proposed federal legislation in the United States that was first introduced in the United States Senate on August 1, 2001[1] and most recently re-introduced there and the United States House of Representatives on March 26, 2009. This bill would provide certain inadmissible or deportable alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning. The alien students would obtain temporary residency for a six year period. Within the six year period, a qualified student must have “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States,” or have “served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.”[2] Military Enlistment contracts require an eight year commitment.[3] “Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated [according to the terms of the Act] shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under this Act.”   (from Wikipedia with sources in the House and Senate language of the bill)

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Brewer, Bankers, and Union Busters – Election Day!

Grizzly Mom voted!

Grizzly Mom voted!

New Orleans Yesterday was the first day of our future and from all reports it was much, much scarier than Halloween might have ever hoped to be.  Look at the cases in point.

In the federal hearing on immigration madness in Arizona, Governor Brewer took time out of her campaign schedule (ok, that’s a lie; the hearing WAS her campaign schedule after all!) to rubberneck at the federal judges parsing the hate from the law in SB 1070.  From NDLON tweets at the trial and the story, it seemed many of the questions went to the issue of exactly why the state should be doing the federal government’s job.  With the Republican Tea Party explosion, how many pieces of anti-immigrant can we now expect?  Certainly, the hope for reform needs a total retooling to mount a push back from our base in progressive cities and states to offset the madness.

Our friend, Joe McCartin, labor history professor at Georgetown, was quoted liberally in the New York Times, on the coming attacks against labor unions with Republican Tea Party ascendancy, but all that did was put a little sugar in the coffee, because it was a bitter drink to swallow.  Card check has been dead, but

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Immigration is All Politics: Arpaio Whitewash, DREAM Deferred

Dream Act RallySeoul No way! Reading the papers from Seoul (props to ROK as the most internet connected country in the world with free hookups at the airport!), I’m reading that Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa got good and passing grades from the federal Marshall’s audit of his jails in September 2009 and recently.   How can you get good grades with inmates living in tents in 120 degree weather and wearing pink pantsuits?  Something is wrong here!   Sheriff Joe of course threw the DOJ division back at the DOJ and its lawsuit on discrimination.

He says it’s “all politics.”  He’s right.  Why aren’t we doing better then?  Why are we not punishing politicians where there are immigrant voting blocks in the districts?

The ease with which the DREAM amendment suddenly materialized with Senator Reid in deep trouble for his reelection in Nevada would seem to be proof positive that when the case is clear, action can happen.  Why didn’t this happen earlier?  Of course the confusion in strategy between a half-loaf, the whole loaf, and not a single slice pretty much doomed us.  Two votes blocking debate from Arkansas from Lincoln and Pryor make no sense when the demand for increase immigration has been on the front pages for years from Tyson, Wal-Mart, and the tomato industry in the southern part of the state.  We have to be ready or not, and in this case it seems “not” was the answer.   Worth noting again as I have before that the courage of the DREAM marchers and others that have stood up in the face of certain deportation in the future fuels this fire.  We need the same courage on other issues.

Time to start playing hardball for immigration reform and admitting that without a better grassroots political strategy, nothing is going to happen good anytime in the future on this issue.

Criminal Employers

ice-raidPhoenix Immigration reform advocates have increasingly lodged the criticism that the Obama Administration, the state of Arizona, and many other jurisdictions is criminalizing immigrants.  Part of this lies in the simple Arpaio aberration of taking a civil infraction, which is how an immigration violation exists in law, and making it a criminal issue, largely in the court of public opinion.

As part of the Administration policy, criminalizing the employers has become more aggressive and effective in their weapons against immigrants.  From today’s Times:

“Under a policy that went into effect in April 2009, the Obama administration is taking a much tougher stance on employers who hire illegal immigrants than any administration in decades. Enforcement agents have subjected businesses across the country to much greater scrutiny, using tactics that were almost nonexistent until two years ago. Federal officials said they expected to announce record numbers of investigations and fines by the end of the year. As of July 31, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, had announced investigations of 2,073 businesses so far this year, outpacing the 1,461 conducted in all of 2009.”

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