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Will Immigration Reform Reduce Race and Class Inequality? By Roger Algase

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

As immigration advocates in both parties, of diverse ethnic backgrounds, age groups, occupations, income and education levels, as well as religious and political persuasions, unite in that most American of all pursuits - namely bringing about immigration reform in the face of opposition from entrenched interests which are seeking to perpetuate bigotry and white supremacy by continuing to deport 11 million brown immigrants, it is worth taking a closer look at what reform really means and what kind of country America will be when it finally happens.

And, despite all the negative political factors which I never tire of focusing on in my comments, I am convinced that reform - though not necessarily in the form of the Senate CIR bill - will happen - especially after my having attended an event by a group of idealistic, enthusiastic and determined young reformers from many different parts of the world who are volunteering for -something which I will describe in more detail in an upcoming post.

But when reform finally does pass - as it definitely will, sooner or later. how far will it go toward solving the underlying problems of racial and class inequality and injustice in America which this country has struggled with throughout its history ? We cannot pretend that immigration reform will be a magic wand that will automatically make these problems disappear overnight.

We must also make sure that reform does not actually perpetuate these injustices. These issues are discussed in detail in an illuminating article by Ruth Gomberg-Munoz, an assistant professor of anthropology at Loyola University Chicago in Anthropology News (published by the American Anthropological Association) on November 27 and entitled: Inequality and US Immigration Reform.

Professor Gomberg-Munoz writes:

"As restrictive immigration and border policies create a global class of non-legal migrant workers, so too do policies that create lawful status reinforce racial, class-based and gendered inequalities within the United States. Legalization policies favor immigrants who typify a 'hard working and tax paying' assimilationist narrative, while the working poor, unemployed and those with criminal records are often both ineligible for legal status and deemed undeserving of it."

She continues:

"The resulting hierarchy of US immigrants both elides the complicity of US policies in creating categories of immigrant (and criminal) in the first place) and masks the degree to which contemporary policies reproduce historical inequalities. Given the recent slew of proposed and actual reforms in the US immigration system, I consider how changing criteria for legal inclusion uphold existing racial, class-based, and gendered inequities and form part of a larger body of practices that hinder poor people of color from exercising citizenship in a 'postracial' United States."
(Emphasis added.)

While not overlooking the benefits to large numbers of people from President Obama's DACA and provisional waiver programs, as well as the legalization provisions of the Senate's CIR bill (whose chances of ever becoming law she describes, I think quite accurately, as "dim and fading fast") she also points out ways in which all of these initiatives perpetuate inequality and class divisions among immigrants.

I will continue to discuss this topic in a future post.

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Updated 12-17-2013 at 06:38 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. federale86's Avatar
    Flooding America with unskilled workers, or even skilled workers, creates a surplus of labor, which is then paid less based on the law of supply and demand. That is why the Slave Power wants more legal and illegal workers. The wages that workers can demand from employers decreases as the supply of labor increases. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple don't want to pay more for labor, they want to pay less.

    A true opponent of income disparity will seek to decrease both legal and illegal immigration. Unions and labor gained wages and benefits from 1924 to 1965, during a period when immigration to the U.S. was difficult.

    The income disparity issue separates those who claim to be concerned about income disparity from those who really do.
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Thank you for taking the time to read my post and contribute your comment.

    With all due respect, however, I never cease to be amazed at how some immigration opponents manage to look at immigrants, both legal and illegal, only as wage competitors (or users of public services), and not as consumers, job creators, workers with skills who make US companies more competitive, less skilled workers who perform agricultural work or similar jobs that Americans do not want to do, and taxpayers - all of whom boost our economy and create a higher standard of living for everyone.

    Focusing only on one aspect of the economic picture is a clear indication of bias. Having said this, however, it is also a mistake (on both sides) to look at immigration only as an economic issue.

    Immigration is much more than that. It is a family issue, an opportunity issue, a diversity issue, an issue of overcoming bigotry and prejudice and, ultimately, an issue of upholding human rights.

    I am also more than just a little suspicious of people who yearn for the "good old days" of the 1924 - 1965 immigration system, which was biased in favor of white immigrants from Northern Europe, and discriminated against Asians, Jews, Italians, Poles and many other groups who were barred, not for economic reasons, but because they were considered racially inferior.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 12-19-2013 at 05:55 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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