Our VoiceImmigration

5 distortions that prove the nativist movement doesn’t care about American workers

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • Aug 29, 2014

The organized anti-immigrant movement in this country thinks we’re stupid. Why else would its leaders continue swearing to us that they care so deeply about American workers?

Now, as those concerned with immigration reform await an announcement from the Obama Administration regarding administrative relief for immigrants, these leaders are again broadcasting deceptions concerning the role of immigrants in the American economy.

Killing Economic Growth on the Vine

The president’s plan for relief will only come after the House of Representatives failed to bring up the Senate’s immigration reform bill (S.744), which passed with bipartisan support well over a year ago. Reckless Congressional Republicans have responded with threats of another government shutdown.

Helping the House flounder, the organized anti-immigrant movement played a pivotal role in obfuscating the important issues surrounding that bill, even going as far as to politicize the lives of children fleeing violence from a trio of small Central American countries. Working in quiet coordination with their influential allies in the House Judiciary Committee, the principals of that movement disregarded the lives of immigrants daily with their facilitation of yet more House GOP fecklessness.

In doing so, they’ve done damage to American workers.

Our economy lost $37 million in revenues every day the House failed on reform. Revenues we’re still losing. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) report on S.744, passing the bill would’ve increased the GDP, increased wages for all workers over the long run and led to higher levels of capital investment and entrepreneurship. Further, the bill would’ve expanded the labor force, employment and raised the level of labor and capital, as well.

The CBO also concluded that “changes in direct spending and revenues under the legislation would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the 2014–2023 period and by roughly $700 billion over the 2024–2033 period.”

That in mind, the anti-immigrant movement’s abhorrent record on aiding American workers extends far beyond their recent role in destroying immigration reform’s vast economic benefits.

5 Distortions

1. This movement has never supported a piece of policy – like raising the minimum wage – without also or first attaching such benefits to the advocacy of harsh immigration enforcement measures, the eradication of visa categories and/or other political crowbars and monkey wrenches. I challenge all leaders of this movement to prove otherwise.

2. This movement has long attacked farmers, small business owners and entrepreneurs in vital sectors of our society for their lawful employment of immigrants, even in areas of the labor force long ago vacated by the vast majority of Americans. And their powerful lobbyists and lawyers have fought hard alongside politicians to see the passage of bills that have nearly collapsed some of those sectors, as happened in Georgia and Arizona.

3. This movement refuses to acknowledge the daily realities of existing as working class, or poorer, underneath the powerful structures that orchestrate the global economy and manipulate transnational capital. Instead, nativist leaders aim their bigoted criticisms at immigrant workers. And they pretend that the following realities simply don’t exist: powerful lobbies favoring foreign investors, regressive corporate welfare and corporations abandoning their domestic workforces for tax breaks abroad and/or access to vulnerable labor forces.

4. This movement also fails to critique U.S. foreign policies that have destabilized countries and catalyzed the “push factors” behind many larger migration patterns. These destabilized spaces are so often then exploited by the powerful forces described in point three. Workers of all nationalities thusly suffer.

5. This movement disgracefully poses as a champion for the rights of African American and Black workers. Nativist leaders purport that immigrants are directly responsible for the high unemployment rates in African American and Black communities. Several anti-immigrant leaders are connected to organized white nationalism. Unsurprisingly, their messaging never confronts the historical legacy of structural and institutional bigotry that has ravaged those communities. Instead, these leaders – nearly all are white – attempt to cast immigrants as the self-positioned beneficiaries of racial oppression, when many are also victims.

Scapegoats & Demons

To understand these points is to understand how the organized anti-immigrant movement seeks to pit working people against one another. In doing so, its leaders seek to capitalize on the legitimate grievances of American workers, willfully dressing up immigrant workers as scapegoats and cultural demons.

By continuing to broadcast distortions, movement members continually reveal to us that 1) they lie to Americans, and happily, about the root causes of workers’ struggles, and 2) they’re content compounding those struggles by disguising harsh anti-immigrant policies as economic solutions.

Importantly, though, nativist leaders lose when Americans understand that immigrant workers are often fleeing fragile economies and oppressive, deadly conditions manufactured by the same forces that also treat Americans as disposable.

Aaron Flanagan is the director of research at the Center for New Community.

Image Source: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook via Creative Commons

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