Recently in U.S. Economic Policy Category



There has been a lot of talk lately about Mitt Romney being the poster child for vulture capitalism. This referring to the practice of opportunistically feeding off of struggling workers, prioritizing making profits for shareholders of big corporations over the creation of good jobs for working families. But what about the effects of vulture capitalism on immigration?   

The Obama administration is trying to defuse a trade skirmish with Mexico by proposing to allow long-haul Mexican trucks access to the U.S. after banning them from U.S. roads in March 2009. Like many industries in which U.S. workers feel pressure from non-Americans willing to do the same work for less pay, U.S. truckers are upset, judging by the negative reaction from Teamsters president James Hoffa. But did he have to dredge up the bogeyman of border violence to make his case?

the proposal by the Transportation Department was denounced by the Teamsters union, which represents long-haul truckers and fears that expanded Mexican trucking within the United States will threaten jobs.

"I am deeply disappointed by this proposal," the union's president, James P. Hoffa, said in a statement. "Why would the D.O.T. propose to threaten U.S. truck drivers' and warehouse workers' jobs when unemployment is so high? And why would we do it when drug cartel violence along the border is just getting worse?" Mr. Hoffa also raised safety concerns.

The Teamsters make a stink, and Democratic politicians don't know what to do, not wanting to take a strong position on the issue that will upset either labor or immigrant rights constituencies, or both.

In situations like this, business has the last laugh. Transnational corporations move capital and goods more or less freely across borders, and move management from country to country with relatively little trouble. But workers are stuck in the countries they were born in, either fighting to cross borders in contravention of business-oriented immigration laws or fighting to send workers just like them back to the countries they escaped from. Why is the assumption about low-wage migration always that when workers have more options and more freedom, workers will lose? Why do workers always end up pitted against each other across borders instead of working together, while corporate profits keep rolling in? It doesn't have to be this way.

There's a cosmopolitan, classically liberal element of business that is aligned with an open borders immigration policy. But business in the U.S. has generally been focused on increasing the flow of high-skill, high-wage workers, ceding control over conservative messaging to nativists. Business has not pulled its weight in recent years in promoting liberal immigration reform, it had delivered a paltry number of Republican politicians for any compromise bill and has by now lost even those. Business's families aren't being separated every day, business isn't getting locked up and deported, business isn't dying in the desert. Business is doing just fine under the status quo.

When the Teamsters play to nativist sympathies to keep immigrant workers out of the U.S. or stuck in the underground economy, they are ultimately not doing any favors for U.S. workers.

(Check out Mexico Trucker Online for "straight talk about Mexico and Mexican trucks.")

Mayor Nutter.jpg

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter recently wrote to Pennsylvania Senators Arlen Specter and Bob Casey to ask them to vote for the DREAM Act. Both letters are linked at the bottom of this post. Here is the text of the mayor's letter to Senator Casey:

September 17, 2010

The Honorable Robert P. Casey
United States Senate
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Casey,

I am writing to express my support of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (the DREAM Act), which, as you know, would provide immigrant youth who grew up in the United States the opportunity to legalize their status through education or military service. Passing the DREAM Act would bring hope to thousands of undocumented youth living in this country and ultimately strengthen our economy.

Every year, thousands of students graduate from high school in the United States and cannot obtain student loans and grants that would enable them to continue their education because they are undocumented residents. Many would like to go on to college, but cannot because of their status. Undocumented young adults are also prohibited from joining the military. They cannot get a valid driver's license. Many end up in low-wage, dead-end jobs.

I have set ambitious education attainment goals for the City of Philadelphia, knowing that a skilled workforce is necessary for the city's economic future. Philadelphia and the surrounding counties will not continue to thrive unless more of our residents go to college--including undocumented children who currently have no pathway to citizenship. The DREAM Act would benefit Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania by providing young people with the tools needed to become citizens, go to college or enlist in the military and achieve the American dream. In the current economic situation, we cannot afford to have young people who want to attend college and or serve the nation they grew up in be barred from doing so.

I am encouraged by Senator Harry Reid's pledge this week to bring up the DREAM ACt as an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill and ask that you vote in favor of passage. Thousands of would-be college students and I will be forever grateful for your leadership.


Michael Nutter

Nutter Dream letter to Specter.pdf

Nutter Dream letter to Casey.pdf

I'm happily returning from my blogging hiatus this week to make a common-sense argument: passing the DREAM Act is not only the right thing to do, but in these trying economic times it is also the sensible thing to do. 

I am such a passionate advocate for the DREAM Act that I often forget there are people in this world that don't know what the DREAM Act is.  According to Wikipedia:

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (also called "The DREAM Act") [is] a piece of proposed federal legislation in the United States that would provide certain immigrant students who graduate from a [U.S. high school], are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.
Wikipedia (23 March 2009)
The National Immigration Law Center also has a basic information sheet (pdf) that I print out and give to people who are not familiar with the DREAM Act.  I don't go into any migration-related meeting without it.  In 2007, I pushed hard for the DREAM Act when it was introduced  in the U.S. Senate, and I was crushed when it failed.  Migrant youth cannot wait any longer.  The time to pass the DREAM Act is now. 

David Bacon on Migration and Globalization

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Award-winning author and photojournalist David Bacon spoke here in D.C. last night at the AFL-CIO about his new book Illegal People: How globalization creates migration and criminalizes immigrants.

Bacon is emphasizing the need to frame the immigration debate in this country within its larger context (economic globalization).  It's globalization that is the cause of so many people having to migrate in the first place.  If earlier migrants (i.e. people already here in the U.S. whose families migrated in previous generations) understand the reason why people in other countries are having to come here now, I think we will be able to have a more rational debate about how to create more humane policies and reduce human suffering all around.  Globalization and immigration are different parts of the same story.  To speak of one without the other is to give only a partial telling of that story. 
One large step for migrant kind.  Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre is reporting that the Federal Trade Commission laid the smack-down on those pesky prepaid calling cards that advertise more minutes than they actually offer.  This is a major victory for migrants whose only connection to their home, sometimes, are these cheap calling cards.  Hopefully this is one less way that migrants will get ripped off in the future.  If you don't read spanish, USA Today also has an article on this.

Rick Galeener's Chicken

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Today on NOVA, I heard the usual outrage. Asked if an American would work a 12-hour day in a [dangerous, highly exploitative , blood-slick, bone-chilling, puke-inducing] meat packing plant for $6.25 an hour, the caller yelled, irate: “No! Americans won’t work for that! ‘Illegals’ are holding down the wages at these places!”

Whoever he is, he doesn’t know whether to wind his watch or run.

He could be any Anglo camped outside the Macehualli Worker’s Center in North Phoenix. We may even have seen him pounding his flagpole, screaming curses through his bullhorn at the (obviously legal) immigrants waiting inside the chain link fence for somebody like us to give them a day job. He might even have been Rick Galeener himself, that sun-addled, publicly urinating , dried up, racist old rattlesnake who, probably, was the guy videotaping my license plate and my face as I got out to make arrangements with Sal Reza , the tough and beloved de facto leader of pro-migrant Phoenicians.

I wanted to say to him, “So Ricky baby. You’re saying you “Christian patriots” do want to pay $15 a pound for raw, uncut chicken, right?” Guys like Galeener can’t have it both ways. No undocumented, exploited immigrants, no $1.99/lb roasters. No $4.95 Church’s fried, either, with or without jalapenos on the side.

This is the bottom line that American racist-nativists happy to have cheap chicken as long as they don’t have to see who provides it aren’t willing to talk about. They don't realize it yet, but the self-limited choice, the sublimely short-sighted and settle-for-nothing choice they offer is this: Grow your own or tolerate “illegals.” Which will it be?

Those of us with considerably higher self esteem and a much more wholesome vision for tomorrow see a way better way. For starters, we don’t advocate exploiting anybody. Read on.

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