A Chicano Historical Analysis: Immigration or Labor?
By Herman Baca, President, Committee on Chicano Rights
Here is Part One.
Sanctions against employers historically have always been a farce for the simple reason that, U.S. employers unlike Mexican undocumented workers have massive amounts of money and political power!
Proof of the above is documented with the 1951 President’s Commission on Migratory Labor that first recommended reducing the number of “wetbacks” with employer sanctions, and fines on employers who knowingly hired illegal workers.
However, in 1952 when the Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted making the harboring of illegal aliens a felony, punishable by a $2,000 fine and a prison term of five years; the law also included the Texas proviso, which asserted that employing an illegal alien, was not harboring!
Thus, there were no penalties on US employers.
The farce continued after the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) that legalized Employer Sanctions provisions that made the knowing hiring or employment of unauthorized immigrants, illegal. Two studies (Performance Analysis System (PAS) and (LYNX data) proved with documentation; that Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) audits (millions of US businesses) dropped 77 percent from a peak of almost 10,000 in 1990 to less than 2,200 in 2003.
INS warnings to businesses declined 62 percent from a peak of nearly 1,300 warnings in 1990 to less than 500 in 2003. INS fines against businesses dropped 82 percent from a peak of 1000 in 1991, to a total of 124 cases in 2003. The studies noted that even at the peak, when fines amounted to $3.1 million in 1996, the total was relatively small, an average of about three cents for every paid employee in the United States.
Ironically, the NAACP and the AFL-CIO that pressed Congress for Employer Sanctions in 1986 changed their previous positions. The NAACP after the Government Accounting Office found that the IRCA’s employer sanctions provisions in 1990 had caused widespread employment discrimination joined with Latino civil rights groups in calling for sanctions’ repeal.
The AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling for sanctions’ repeal in 2000 arguing that some employers had used sanctions as a justification for calling in the immigration authorities on their own workforce in retaliation for organizing drives, or efforts to assert workplace rights. The studies concluded that large-scale employment of the undocumented, discrimination and retaliation fostered under the IRCA’s employer sanctions provisions would continue.
Securing the Border
President Obama stated, “We need to stay focused on enforcement. That means continuing to strengthen the security on our borders.”
Fact: The Obama’s administration spent $18 billion dollars last year ($187 billion since 1986) on border enforcement and has authorized the use of 18 drones ($180 million dollars) to patrol the militarized U.S./Mexico border. To date the border remains “unsecured.”
Question, if the Canadian border is twice (3987 miles) the size of the Mexican border (1933 miles) and according to a 2011 Government Accountability Office report less than 1% secure, why are there no drones patrolling the US/Canadian border? Especially after President Bush’s Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff stated he was more afraid of terrorists coming into the U.S. from Canada than Mexico and his department had arrested more people connected to al Qaeda and Hezbollah trying to come in from the Canadian than the Mexican border?
Historically speaking; again the main reason (in our opinion) is the US economy’s addiction and manipulation to allow in cheap, exploitable Mexican labor. However by tying the issues of illegality; terrorism, drugs, smuggling and cartels, which are distinct and separate issues from undocumented workers, it provides the political rationale for increasing the U.S. Border Patrol.
La Migra-US Border Patrol
The Texas Rangers’ primary enforcement job was to insure that no person of Mexican ancestry (citizens, documented, or undocumented) got to “uppity” and started to demand the same rights, wages or working conditions as their Anglo counterparts. Since 1924 that law enforcement job has been carried out nationally by the BP.
Bert Corona, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez, Cesar Chavez and numerous others have rightfully labeled the US Border Patrol the, “Gestapo of the Mexican People.” Aside from a history of the BP terrorizing families, incarcerating children, breaking into churches, beatings, shootings (even handcuffed immigrants), killings, rapes, etc. why hasn’t the BP (since 1924) and after billions of dollars spent, been able to control the US/Mexico border?
Note recent history, in 1986 “official” government sources estimated 3 million undocumented persons were in the US; in 2013 the number is 11 million? Right wing nuts talk show D.J’s such as Michael Savage, Glen Beck, Bill O’Riley, Shawn Hannity and wannabe U-T Roger Hedgecrook, etc., with their minions (Fair, Minuteman, Tea Party, etc.) place the number as high as 20 million!
Whatever the number of undocumented persons in the US is, the fact remains that; since 1924 the Border Patrol has never stopped one Mexican from ever crossing the US/Mexico border that wanted to work in the US unless the Border Patrol maimed, shot or killed that individual!
Amnesty – Path to Citizenship?
The first question is what is amnesty??
The dictionary defines amnesty as, “A pardon extended by the government to a group or class of persons, usually for a political offense; the act of a sovereign power officially forgiving certain classes of persons who are subject to trial but have not yet been convicted.”
The 2nd question is what crimes did the undocumented workers commit? Work, pick fruit, clean houses, hotels, gardening, pay taxes, etc.?
President Obama’s amnesty (as all past amnesty proposals) is predicated on the lies that all undocumented workers are criminals, law breakers, culprit, offenders, and illegals. And for those reasons, President Obama has stated that undocumented workers must; “establish a responsible pathway to earned citizenship — that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English and going to the back of the line (up to 24 years) behind the folks trying to come here legally.”
Conveniently excluded from the President’s statements and the ongoing (Congress) immigration debate is; the criminal hiring by whole sectors of the US economy of undocumented workers. No mention of the exploitation, workers living in canyons, fields, groves, rape of live in maids, violations of safety and labor laws etc.
Also the massive profits businesses made from products produced by undocumented workers, consumed by Americans or that are exported abroad. The massive taxes paid (especially into social security), or the consumption by the undocumented.
The Chicanos/Mexicanos’ position on amnesty passed at the 1st International Conference for the Full Rights of the Undocumented Workers in 1978 is that; “Every immigrant worker shall have the right to establish legal residency by demonstrating a status as wage earner and taxpayer.”
In our opinion the proposed amnesty solutions will fail (as past proposals have) until the immigration is addressed as a labor issue, and undocumented Mexican workers are guaranteed the same rights as US workers. Until that time there will never be a permanent solution to the so-called immigration issue in the US.
What then about the 53 million (and growing population) of Chicanos and Mexicanos whose rights and interests have been adversely affected by the so-called immigration issue?
Our position is that our people have to understand politically that the Obama “immigration proposals” are not a solution to resolve the issue, but have been proposed to;
A) Insure that the undocumented workers remain right less, to satisfy the US economy’s addiction for cheap, exploitable Mexican labor
B) Control the changing demographics that will make Chicanos/Latinos the majority population in the US by 2113,
C) Insure that the political disenfranchised status quo for Chicanos remains.
So the question for our people in closing is; what are the solutions for resolving the so-called immigration issue? In our opinion, educate, politicize and organize to create the necessary social, economic and political power to protect our peoples’ rights and interests!
bob dorn says
It does seem it would be a whole lot easier to outlaw undocumented labor by going to the places where they’ve gathered themselves — the workplace — and arresting them there. Instead we have the BP terrorizing paisans out in the boonies. Aside from a few months in which several sweatshops in LA were raided, years ago, I can’t remember when a business defying the law was recently featured in the news, much less its owner and manager arrested. The South has risen again, and again, and it’s particularly ugly now.
My belief is that it has been such from the very beginning; few whites and few browns/black; whites = owner/master and brown/blacks = workers/slaves;
the problem arose when whites (generally speaking) out of their dependency on
others for real work, became bit lazy and careless; that made their population go down; since the other races kept on working and proving themselves and growing in population, this is now giving a scary picture; if you have one master and 100 servants, one day the servants may get up and want their rights and you may feel helpless.
Sorry, I should have said “with due respect”.
Please correct me on my comment above.
There are but a few cases of focused employer enforcement – the most recent I recall is the meat packing in Iowa. An inclination to agree with Herman’s overall point I can’t help but question the strength of his receiting history. The left has been long on historical analysis for years, hell decades. It has not helped advance ideas in a population that forgets what it had for dinner. One lesson I learned from the Iraq war – the period of time after Saddam when the US Army were functioning as police. Trained by US Law Enforcement, they used a practice of breaking down doors at 4 in the morning. The Iraqi’s were horrified. Not even Saddam would violate the sanctity of the home. It’s done here all the time – and not just by the BP and not just to Mexicans – to all of us.
A little off topic and this article is over four years old, but it’s interesting to think that at one point over half the BP agents were Hispanic themselves. With all the political polarization going on these days I’m not sure if this is still the case.
To Goatskull: It is common practice of the powerful, i.e. government, to utilize and promote race on race brutality. Just look at Vietnam where we trained a local force to dominate their fellows. We did the same in Iraq with the ISF (Iraqi Security Force).It doesn’t appear on the surface to be race driven, but bet your bottom it is no accident. One added bonus is not having to learn another language.
Perhaps, but it still comes down to a personal choice for those who choose this line of work. I suppose the best way to find out what prompted a BP agent of Hispanic/Mexican dent to go that route would be to ask him or her should I ever get the chance to meet one who’s off duty. I am kind of curious about that.
Thanks for this very good article about immigration. It’s a shame that the current political talk by our president on down to Congress is that it is making the process to time-consuming (i.e. so many yrs. before they can become citizens) before they can actually come out of the shadow.
Mr. Baca’s statement that The Chicanos/Mexicanos’ position on amnesty passed at the 1st International Conference for the Full Rights of the Undocumented Workers in 1978 is that; “Every immigrant worker shall have the right to establish legal residency by demonstrating a status as wage earner and taxpayer.” is one I fully agree with and wish our prez and politicians would adopt.