By Herman Baca / Reprinted from the Herman Baca UCSD Archives
To date it never ceases to amaze me that in the U.S. after the economy & terrorism issues, that the foremost issue for the great-great-great grandchildren of immigrants is, IMMIGRATION? I can readily understand if Native Americans were stating the above, but the great-great-great grandchildren of immigrants??
Since I first became politically involved with immigration in 1970 (45 years ago) I have witnessed (politically) every administration from President Nixon (Republican) to President Obama (Democrat) proposing the same old solutions… law and military enforcement, guns, barbed wire, false amnesty, never enforced employer sanctions, slave Bracero programs and calls to increase the “Gestapo” Border Patrol to supposedly secure the U.S./Mexico border. Costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars; has it worked? I doubt that anyone in their right mind could honestly state (today) that the U.S. is anywhere near in solving the so-called immigration issue.
For the solution is deeply rooted in complex historical, international, political & economic factors, that obviously cannot be addressed in this short article.
Politically, the Chicano position is that politicians and the news media have falsely defined and presented the issue to the American public as an “immigration problem,” when in fact it is a “labor issue.”
Therefore, today’s policy makers, politicians and others seeking to address the unresolved issue are left with two central questions. First, why does this nation’s fastest growing population (the 55 million Chicanes & Latinos) adamantly oppose the proposals, and secondly why do the majority of white Americans support them?
For Chicano & Latino Americans, the reasons are that there is a deep concern that the proposals are draconian, & race based, and have being proposed to keep them in a 2nd class status, or a future apartheid system. Also due to the historical violations by law enforcement of their rights there is a deep distrust & fear that the proposals will once again be used against them.
For white America’s shrinking population (manipulated by corporate and political interests), their support is based on the false belief that immigration is an issue of illegality, and that the draconian proposals will somehow stop the demographic changes that will in the near future regulate them to “minority” population status in the U.S.
The Chicano historical political perspective on the other hand is that the issue is a rights/labor issue, and that it specifically targets Mexican undocumented workers: a work force that historically has been exploited for their “cheap labor” for the last 150 years. In the U.S., Mexican workers grow and pick America’s food, clean hotels/motels, cook and wait in restaurants, sweat in garment factories, do gardening, clean houses, construction, baby sit children, and take care of America’s sick and elderly, etc. The proposals insure that Mexican workers will continue to be exploited for their “cheap labor.”
Politically, the Chicano position is that politicians and the news media have falsely defined and presented the issue to the American public as an “immigration problem,” when in fact it is a “labor issue.” A historical issue that has existed in the U.S. since the end of the U.S.-Mexico War of 1850. For me personally, I have no doubt that the issue is labor, and not immigration.
Case in point, in my 45 years of dealing with the immigration issue I have met numerous undocumented persons who were stopped, detained, arrested and deported back to Mexico by the U.S. Border Patrol after attempting to cross (sometimes 15 to 20 unsuccessful times) into the US. In all those years I never met one undocumented worker that initially asked me, “Where can I get my immigration papers?” What all of them did ask was, “Where can I get a job, or do you know anyone who will hire me?” To me that is further proof that the issue is labor, and not immigration.
I believe that in the end history will confirm that, “A labor issue cannot be fixed with immigration solutions, or vice-versa!”
Herman Baca is a resident and business owner in National City and the longtime President of the Committee on Chicano Rights.