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Wed, Feb

Immigrants Used as Pawns on Political Chessboard: Can the Love of Money End the Immigration Crisis?

VOICES

ACCORDING TO LIZ - Immigration may become the crux of the coming election as the feelings of Americans in both parties flip-flop between advocating for better treatment of those trying to force their way across the southern border and protecting their current lives and livelihoods. 

And it doesn’t help when politicians use people as pawns. 

Which they have done for well over a century from when the losers in the Civil War perceived that an influx of outsiders could further dilute their power and way of life. 

Anti-immigrant activists capitalize on fears of job losses and people’s differences, blaming newcomers for disproportionately sucking up tax dollars and for increased criminal activities. 

And if they can’t prove their claims, they manufacture justifications. Vituperative allegations by the previous Prez prove their power amongst demographics who feel they have been abandoned by the ruling class. 

The root of the American immigration problem is all too simple, but to address it the United States will have to change its policies – policies which increasingly benefit populist politicians who can manipulate them to ensure their own continued rule. 

Instead of wasting slews of taxpayer dollars on escalating the police state and barricading America behind border walls, the government must embrace the principle of the Golden Rule on a global level. 

People in power must develop the guts to take on powerful corporations and financiers who benefit from the status quo to stop funding militaristic approaches and work on diplomatic and humanitarian ways to prevent migrants from leaving their homes in the first place. 

About a century ago the United States doubled down on enacting laws to restrict immigration by place of origin in a reversal of its original plea to countries around the world to send it: 

“...your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me” 

Which meant that by 1970 less than five percent of Americans were foreign-born. And of these nine and a half million immigrants, a super-majority hailed from Europe. 

In the spirit of the times, Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act replaced the old quota system with one that did not discriminate on the basis of race or national origin so thirty years later, the immigrant population exceeded 11% and were over 30 million strong. 

Pluralities arrived from Asia and Latin America diluting the white northern-European stock which dominates our historical self-perception. 

The influx of Spanish-speakers not only threatened the “American way of life” of the Dick and Jane books, it also raised concerns among the Mexican-American activists who had traction through the power gained by the United Farm Workers as well as the Chicano movement in general. 

The willingness of desperately poor immigrants, whether legal or not, to accept work from unscrupulous American companies out to save a buck posed a real threat to the legitimate organized labor of Cesar Chavez and his heirs at the same time as more radical

and the next generation and new immigrants challenged racist restrictions and increased police brutality against people of color. Especially those who spoke with an accent. 

By the 1990s, the U.S.-Mexican border had become, effectively, a military zone. 

The gun rights movement was tightly bound to anti-immigrant animus. The NRA’s lobbying arm was headed by Harlon Bronson Carter, a former chief of the U.S. Border Control helped turn the organization from a sporting association into a political powerhouse just as hostility against immigration was on the rise. 

This Carter emblazoned: “The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed” on its Washington headquarters. Few people knew he had been convicted of a racist murder in Laredo that had been thrown out on a technicality. 

Too often decisions that shape our future are based on the hidden agendas of a small number of individuals with personal axes to grind. 

Each one of us must call on our elected officials to reverse the worst of these and initiate more intelligent and transparent measures to solve our country’s problems. And those of others we would like to see emulate our wise moves. 

Trump ran as an anti-immigrant Presidential candidate in 2015 and today is vehemently opposing a bipartisan deal to tighten border security, probably because he thrives on chaos and sees ongoing border bickering as his ticket back to the White House. 

He has a history of belittling, abusing and vilifying minorities; it’s easier to target “others” than accept blame for his own failures, so the concept of compromise does not exist in his limited lexicon. His self-righteous anger stirs up his disaffected acolytes but does nothing to resolve the challenges that they face. 

Other than encouraging them to act on their anger and generating mayhem, more dissatisfaction, and polarizing factions further dividing the country. 

Shawn Fain, the United Auto Workers president that led the union’s successful strike against the “Big Three” automakers had the right of it when he called for broader political involvement by working Americans to demand that the government represent the workers’ needs and interests, and stop kowtowing to the billionaire class and the corporate elites. 

 “They try to divide us nationally by nationality... Right now, we have millions of people being told that the biggest threat to their livelihood is migrants coming over the border. 

“The threat we face at the border isn't from the migrants. It's from the billionaires and the politicians getting working people to point the finger at one another, when in reality, we're all on the same side of the war against the working class.” 

To stem the tide of economic migrants, people who move from lower-wage countries to those offering an income to lift families out of abject poverty, the United States must stop creating economic devastation around the world by propping up dictators for the benefit of its businesses. 

It must stop supporting a corporatocracy that leverages obscene profits by putting third world countries in perennial debt. It must reverse current policies, enact rules against corporate abuses, and use diplomacy to encourage every country to provide adequately for its own citizens, both financially and enforcement of public safety – ensuring a better life at home with their own families and culture. 

Public safety and economic inequality is a huge issue here at home as well. 

Inflation has eased over the last two years, and with supply chains no longer struggling to keep up with demand and companies' business costs stabilizing, an analysis out Thursday asks: Why haven't American households seen the benefits of a more secure economy, with the prices of consumer goods and services falling? 

Inflation, during and after the pandemic, was driven by corporations' deliberate price gouging. 

And because they can, they still do it with unspoken agreement between the profiteers’ cabals to keep raping in the gelt. 

This has been further augmented by the culpability of the courts in not cracking down on monopolies and their egregious tax avoidance, including stock buybacks and favorable determinations for Wall Street shenanigans. 

In some cases through business barons’ prior purchase of immunity from certain judges by funding their elections or supporting their advancement through activist entities such as the Federalist Society. 

All of which reduces Americans’ faith in the government and its institutions to play fair. 

Kimberly-Clark, General Mills, and PepsiCo and many other major corporations continue to boast to their boards and stockholders about how they have raised prices and will continue to do so even as inflation comes down and supply chains normalize. 

The market research company Groundwork has documented excess company profits are still on the increase despite working families ongoing struggle to afford basic necessities. 

Groundwork documents that, in the four decades prior to the pandemic, profits (as separate from labor and operational costs) were responsible for 11% of price growth in stark contrast to the 53% increases in the second and third quarters of 2023. 

Last year, consumer prices rose over three times faster than business costs overall. By maintaining pandemic-inflated costs at the expense of the consumer, corporations like Procter & Gamble which boasted about an $800 million windfall, laughed all the way to the bank. 

In the meantime, politicians whose elections benefit from funding from these types of companies, stir popular dissatisfaction with Americans’ economic prospects and weaponize it against their opponents. 

Using any means at hand. 

Candidates may urge diplomatic and humanitarian ways to prevent migrants from leaving their homes by addressing the inequalities in economies, the challenges of worldwide climate change, and the harms to individuals and domestic public safety by despots; but they are too often demonized on the election trail and by the corporate-controlled press and the echo chambers of rightwing social media. 

While paying lip-service to border control, big businesses benefits from a porous border and lax immigration enforcement that allows them to employ people illegally, reducing labor costs, avoiding safety measures, and further augmenting often obscene profits. 

There is lots of work to be done in the United States, more if we can boost skills training and bring manufacturing home, but we desperately need governments to level the playing field of who gets to profit. 

Make it profitable to do the right thing. Around the world, in the United States, in California, and here in Los Angeles.

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions.  In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)