Tonight is President Obama’s State of the Union Address. I haven’t decided if I am going to live blog/tweet it from VivirLatino’s twitter account, but what I have decided on is that I will likely be disappointed in the messaging and it’s failure to connect the dots for communities of color, especially immigrant communities.
You will have to excuse me for losing faith in the administration to do anything on immigration remotely looking like reform, this is including the alleged new push to pressure employers instead of the employed (more on that later). Instead of how continued raids and increased enforcement have broken more families apart than ever before, we have a President who waves the enforcement first flag along with the best among the GOP. Additionally, we have Latinos in the media saying that advocates and activists have a messaging problem, not a humanity problem, not a compassion problem, but a marketing issue, since we as Latinos, as immigrants, are commodities, bargaining chips.
We do live in a capitalist society, so the vision of humans, especially brown humans, as objects is not surprising nor is it new. It is what has allowed for the dehumanization of immigrants and all perceived as such. It has allowed for unrestrained bullets on the border and in the barrios. And so the focus tonight will be jobs for “American” workers, which could be you and me, but probably not.
It’s not that the Republicans in power are not problems. They clearly are. A report released yesterday by America’s Voice Education Fund, The Anti-Worker Truth about the Republican House Judiciary Committee, points how House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have a long record of voting against the interests of American workers, and an equally long record voting for policies advocated by the anti-immigrant lobby.
Specifically, House Judiciary Committee Republicans opposed landmark legislation that would raise wages and improve the working conditions of U.S. workers multiple times. For example:
71% Voted Against Increasing the Minimum Wage[iv]
100% Voted Against Equal Pay for Women[v]
100% Voted Against Wall Street Reform[vi]
100% Voted Against the Employee Free Choice Act[vii]
100% Voted Against Foreclosure Relief[viii]
94% Voted Against Providing Parental Leave for Federal Employees[ix]
The issue of immigration and employment has been used as a means of dividing and conquering various communities of color, specifically African-Americans and Latinos. In a report released last week by the Center for American Progress, The State of Communities of Color in the U.S. Economy, shows that the the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2010 was 15.8 percent for African-Americans and 12.9 percent for Latinos, while it dropped to 8.7 percent for whites. And while it’s easy in the U.S. to paint race as black and white and immigration as brown, on a press call for the release of the CAP report, it was pointed out that in California, for example, one of the highest groups struggling with unemployment are Cambodian immigrants.
CAP, like AV, points out that immigration reform and economic reform go hand in hand. From the CAP report :
Immigration reform would build real economic security for workers, both U.S.- and foreign-born, as it would protect all workers’ rights to fair working conditions, protection from discrimination, and the right to organize for fair pay and benefits. Equitable immigration reform ensures that unscrupulous employer practices are not encouraged by lowered standards industrywide or unethical occupational demands made of immigrant employees. Operational practices that undermine all workers’ rights would be prohibited by comprehensive reform.
Comprehensive immigration reform would also lead to increasing economic stability at the national level. According to a recent CAP study, legalization would generate an estimated $1.5 trillion in cumulative gross domestic product over 10 years after its implementation—such that the number and quality of good jobs for all workers would increase.
In addition, immigration reform provides better jobs for all workers by improving industry standards in wages, safety, and benefits. Absent a body of exploitable workers subject to the most dangerous, low-paid, and physically demanding of jobs, all employees can experience a raised economic floor that ensures competitive wages and benefits for job seekers.
So if progressives, liberals, and hell, even the GOP, want to focus on the economy and the role of immigrants as pieces of a larger puzzle that actually fit into capitalist solutions to assist in renewing “American” prosperity, there is plenty of information, language, messaging to support that. But I would bet that if I were to invent a drinking game where I am to take a shot every time Obama mentions immigration tonight, I would barely get tipsy, and given the increase in deportations, raids, and violence against immigrant communities, especially Latino communities, I sure need to be a little “happy”.