Immigration! Problem & Solutions? A Chicano Historical Perspective
Reprinted from the Herman Baca UCSD Archives / Part 2
All past and current immigration plans submitted by U.S. presidential administrations, and Congress’ both Democratic and Republican have since the 1970’s included amnesty proposals. The proposals basically stipulate that undocumented persons 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.”
The first question for persons/organizations seeking “comprehensive immigration reform,” 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 second question: exactly what are the political offenses or crimes that Mexican undocumented workers committed? Growing and picking America’s food, cleaning hotels/motels, cooking and waiting on tables in restaurants, sweating in garment factories, gardening, cleaning houses, construction, baby sitting children, taking care of America’s sick and elderly, paying taxes, etc.?
The third question: does it takes two to tango? If undocumented Mexican workers are going to be subjected to “political offenses or crimes,” will U.S. Corporations and individual Americans that hire & exploit these workers also be subjected to the same treatment? Such as, legal sanctions for illegally hiring undocumented workers? Background checks to determine if, income, social security, worker compensation, and health taxes were paid? And get to the back of the line behind U.S. citizens that never hired undocumented workers if they are legally charged & convicted?
Amnesty of all the proposed immigration so-called solutions, has been the one proposal that has been adamantly opposed & raised the ire of white America. Why? The basic reason is that most “Americans,” (falsely) believe that amnesty rewards law breakers, & encourages future illegal immigration. That it poses a security breach because the government does not know who is here, & cannot possibly vet the millions of persons presently here. Some politically believe (Republicans) that if millions of “illegal aliens” are amnestied, they will vote for the Democratic Party. Finally, that amnesty will demographically change & transform the U.S., & regulate white people to “minority population” status.
While a majority of white American’s oppose amnesty for Mexican workers, who pick their food most of them have and continue to support the “instant amnesty” policy for Cubans since the 1960’s. That hypocritical U.S. policy provides Cubans that flee from Castro’s Communist Cuba with instant amnesty, but denies it to Mexican workers? The policy allows Cubans that set one foot on U.S. soil to automatically be paroled into the U.S. as refugees. Receive work permits & instant welfare, health benefits; subsidize housing, job training assistance, etc. Are those “Americans” racist, misinformed, or ignorant? You decide. The hypocritical Cuban amnesty policy in the 1970’s was widely criticized worldwide by the Pope, United Nations, etc. To counter the criticism the U.S. Government began to propose “false amnesty” proposals in every immigration plan proposed since then. Today, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates (especially Cuban Marco Rubio & Ted Cruz) all oppose amnesty for undocumented Mexican workers, but not one opposes the Cuban instant amnesty policy?
So what then is the Chicano’s position on amnesty? I first heard the term amnesty for undocumented Mexican workers from Chicano leader Bert Corona, the Father of the Immigration Movement in the early 1970’s. Corona’s concept of amnesty was that it was a just & humane solution to end the historical exploitation of undocumented Mexican workers in the U.S. Corona’s proposal was adopted at the 1978, 1st International Conference for the Full Rights of the Undocumented Workers in Mexico City. The proposal stated that, “Every immigrant worker shall have the right to establish legal residency by demonstrating a status as wage earner and taxpayer.”
After the 1978 conference the labor amnesty proposal was high jacked by powerful U.S. corporate/political interests, & redefined to “Americans” as a criminal/immigration issue. To most white Americans amnesty was seen as a reward for illegal lawbreakers, “criminals, cheats, culprit” for breaking U.S. immigration laws. Chicanos, Mexicanos, Latinos & other progressive rights organization (based on the above) will continue to oppose the U.S. government’s “false amnesty” proposals!
Herman Baca is a resident and business owner in National City and the longtime President of the Committee on Chicano Rights.