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Immigration Reform, Activism, and Moral Certainty

Attacking allies does not move immigration reform forward. And, an argument from a position of moral correctness does not change policy. We need to be on the morally correct side but that is not enough to change policy because political and economic power largely controls this country. We have a political oligarchy- our government is dominated by corporations. We need to understand neoliberal capitalism, then, work to change it.

AP Photo

An argument is being made in many places in the Latino community condemning Obama for his not taking executive action on immigration and condemning Civil Rights veterans such as DSA Honorary Chairs Dolores Huerta and Eliseo Medina for their positions of not condemning the Obama lack of action. Here is an example.

A problem with this effort is that attacking our allies does not move immigration policy forward. And, an argument from a position of moral correctness does not necessarily change policy. We need to be on the morally correct side, as Huerta and Medina are, but that is not enough. See prior posts on this blog about Medina and Huerta.

I learned this in the anti war movement against the war in Viet Nam. We had hundreds of thousands in the streets opposed to the war, but the war went on. 58,000 U.S. soldiers died, 100,000s were injured. Over 1.2 million Vietnamese died. Although we were morally correct, the war went on.

In El Salvador between 1982 and 1992 the U.S. backed government carried out a civil war against the population. At least 75,000 were killed. In Nicaragua between 19 79-1990 at leas 40,000 were killed. In Guatemala the civil war cost at least 200,000 lives. Our solidarity efforts in the U.S. were morally correct, but our efforts did not change U. S. policy.

Moral correctness does not change policy because political and economic power largely controls this country. We have a political oligarchy- the control of our government by the super rich. Our government is dominated by corporations. We need to study and to understand neoliberal capitalism. Then, we will need to go to work to change it.

In the current immigration debate.

Tony Castro in VOXXI explains the dilemma this way.

Democrats’ growing concern about losing control of the Senate this fall and the fear of a potential debacle in 2016 is now increasing doubts about whether any immigration reform bill can be passed during President Obama’s final two years in office.

Not only are Democrats pressing Obama to hold off indefinitely on unilaterally making immigration changes — not just until after the election — they are also saying he shouldn’t use executive authority to ease deportations at any time.

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Perhaps, more importantly, Republicans appear to be turning away fromcomprehensive immigration reform, and even Democrats and independents appear less enthusiastic than at any time during the Obama presidency.

 For an update on the child migrant crisis see here.

So then, we come down to the argument about the Democrats keeping control of the Senate. There are handful of states where the control of the Senate will be decided in this election.  They include: Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas. These are the states where the Senate majority will be decided. In each of these states Latinos make up less than 3 % of the total vote. Arturo Camona of Presente argued that Latinos should vote against the Democrats in 4 of these states- the effect is that they should vote for control of the Senate by Republicans.

If the Republicans gain control of the Senate, rather than bills like we faced last year we will face bills like the 2006 Sensenbrenner bill, or the 1984 Simpson-Mazzolli bill, or the highly regressive bills passed in the Republican House this summer.

Advocates of punish the leaders approach under estimate the effects of the Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate. Santos, cited above, says that the President will still have a veto. Yes, he will. But the House has already passed legislation to further militarize the border and to end DACA. They could well package legislation such as ending DACA as a part a bill for the U.S. budget. Then the critics expect Barack Obama – who they denounce daily- to veto the entire U.S. budget and shut down the government in order to protect DACA. Recall that DACA is temporary, it must be renewed. Lets be a little more realistic.

Criticism of policy issues are of course welcome and necessary. However criticism should not impugn the integrity of veteran community leaders. We are working on the same issues – as allies. Rather than spending our time denouncing long time civil rights and labor leaders, we should spend our time organizing for political power. The AFL-CIO and several labor unions have been an important allies in the struggle for immigration reform. See the work of LCLAA here. In several states, such as the upper Midwest, where low voter turnout in 2010 delivered the states to the Republican governance (Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania), we can see the result of Republican victories.

Unions are pitching in to prevent this Republican victory in 2014. Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers has announced that her union will spend some $20 million to defeat anti education governors and to protect the Democratic majority in the Senate .

I don’t see a positive effect of opposing this effort to defeat reactionary Republican politicians.

Between now and Nov. 4, we need to do all we can to prevent the Republicans from gaining control of the U.S. Senate. Voting for Republicans delivers the Senate to Republican control.

Being morally correct is not enough- you also have to have allies and a strategy that can move your effort toward winning.

The left needs to continue our work with labor and the immigrants’ rights movement toward a fair and comprehensive immigration reform for the U.S. – a better bill than the one passed last year in the Senate, which among other things called for doubling the current border patrol by hiring an additional 20,000-plus border agents.  The border patrol has grown from some 4,000 agents in 1992 to over 20,000 agents today – and the border crossing is more dangerous than ever.

U.S. immigration policy should help families reunite, treat immigrants with respect, and change the economic and trade policies that the U.S. and U.S.-based corporations have implemented in Central America and Mexico that have led to massive migration. For an update on the Central America children “crisis” see

To get fair, comprehensive reform we will need to organize, vote and defeat right-wing mostly Republican legislators who primarily want to militarize the border and those in both parties who promote so-called “free trade” zones. If the Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate in the fall elections, all hope for a humane immigration reform will end for at least a decade.

The task of defeating anti-immigrant Congress members and senators, including most of the members of the Republican party, is work for us here in the U.S.

Individually, we can provide support, donations and volunteers to assist the refugees. The migrants particularly need legal volunteers.

We should actively oppose the further militarization of the border (Texas) and the growth of the for-profit prison system based upon incarceration of the maximum number of people. We can support good jobs, not prison jobs.

Finally, we can join with labor and immigrants’ rights groups, religious and community groups in “know your rights” workshops and in providing support and shelter. Literature is available from the ACLU and other sources. These efforts help migrants to protect their own constitutional rights.