you can’t support the labor movement and illegal immigration



Freddie deBoer used to blog at, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    One of the most compelling nativist arguments I’ve heard, and one to which I for the most part subscribe (though you make some good points as well) is that in every period of immigration into the United States there was a time when the spigot was finally turned off – whether the immigrants in question were Italian, Irish, or Chinese. The spigot was closed and the immigration stopped, and the various immigrant populations were given time to integrate both culturally and economically to some degree. Then it was opened again. There was a pacing to it that was regulated and to a degree, at least, healthy.

    The immigration we see now from Mexico and Latin America is basically unchecked. There is no settling period, no time for the populations who have arrived to become Americans and integrate to one degree or another.

    Likewise, the system has trouble weaving them into itself. So yes, I believe that part of the answer is to have a better system to welcome workers in; part of it is to be better at enforcing existing laws (not building fences, just enforcing our laws that we already have); and part of this probably lies in curbing the drug wars.

    Then, too, there needs to be something done about the state of our neighbor to the south, because that country is literally falling apart. It’s certainly not an easy question to answer.Report

  2. Avatar Patrick says:

    make the barriers to entry into this country significantly lower, and for the labor movement to make a massive effort to invite these new unskilled immigrants into the labor movement. To me, this makes a great deal of sense for both unskilled immigrant laborers and the labor movement. (Sadly, I know that the odds of any of this happening are strikingly low.)

    And yet there are models more recent than Chavez.

    The Mt. Olive pickle boycott led to unionization of labor on a number of North Carolina cucumber and pepper farms, an incredible achievement in the most labor-unfriendly state in the union, and in agriculture, where historically the labor movement has been an utter failure. It was achieved without government action or litigation, just pressure from the state’s Presbyterian Church and longhaired hippie customers.

    (The end of the boycott was a relief, as Mt. Olive makes some of the finest pickles you’ll ever taste.)Report

  3. Avatar Cascadian says:

    I’m sorry. I just see this as supply and demand. As long as you run with a high supply of labor, domestic labor has no foundation and is forced to run to unions and questionable governmental programs. It would be much better to limit immigration until the domestic labor force achieved a living wage. Even then, I would prefer to see market forces encourage greater automation and a financial incentive for maintaining a robust domestic supply of labor (kids).Report

  4. Avatar Jim says:

    Patrick is right, there have been efforts to recruit workers regardless of their immigration status – SEIU has been active, I think. The thinking is that employers hold the threat of deportation over worker’s heads, but informed workers can hold a threat of tips to ICE about “knowing hire” and harboring over an employer’s head. Actually the thinking really is that equal work deserves equal pay.

    Strikes in agriculture have a huge advantage that other types of striles don’t have – they don’t have to last very long to spell disaster for an employer. It’s even more difficult in other sectors.Report

  5. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    The following is an interesting sentiment, coming from you:

    […] when immigrant workers come here, they have to play by our rules and follow our laws. It is incredible to me that asserting even that has become part and parcel with bigotry in certain circles. Laws and social rules work, really work, only when the large majority of people follow them. […] I want Mexican workers to come to the United States and pursue American abundance, because we have the space, we need the workers and they’re coming anyway. But you follow the rules when you get here. [Emphasis added]

    I find very little to separate your sentiment—and the complaint of unjustified charges of bigotry that goes with it—from the
    discourse of Geert Wilders:

    A total of fifty-four million Muslims now live in Europe. San Diego University recently calculated that a staggering 25 percent of the population in Europe will be Muslim just 12 years from now. Bernhard Lewis has predicted a Muslim majority by the end of this century.

    Now these are just numbers. And the numbers would not be threatening if the Muslim-immigrants had a strong desire to assimilate. But there are few signs of that. The Pew Research Center reported that half of French Muslims see their loyalty to Islam as greater than their loyalty to France. One-third of French Muslims do not object to suicide attacks. The British Centre for Social Cohesion reported that one-third of British Muslim students are in favour of a worldwide caliphate. A Dutch study reported that half of Dutch Muslims admit they “understand” the 9/11 attacks. […] Muslim demands are supported by unlawful behaviour, ranging from petty crimes and random violence, for example against ambulance workers and bus drivers, to small-scale riots. Paris has seen its uprising in the low-income suburbs, the banlieus. Some prefer to see these as isolated incidents, but I call it a Muslim intifada. I call the perpetrators “settlers”. Because that is what they are. They do not come to integrate into our societies, they come to integrate our society into their Dar-al-Islam. Therefore, they are settlers.[Emphasis added]

    Why is Wilders a “weirdo bigoted dunce [Chris Dierkes dixit]” and you are a progressive and open-minded thinker, if you express the same sentiment towards immigrants?

    Please explain.Report

  6. Avatar Freddie says:

    Because there’s a big difference, to me, in enforcing laws that regulate economic behavior, and passing laws that require recent immigrants to assimilate culturally.

    Now, do I want recent Mexican immigrants to learn English? Sure do. I’m not interested in enforcing that legally and don’t know how you would begin to do that. But I want them to, just like I would expect myself to learn French if I moved to France. How for exactly should we take that kind of expectation of assimilation? It’s a dicey, complicated issue. But I know that things like outlawing the hijab simply go to far in the direction of violating individual rights.Report

  7. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Islamic immigration into Europe is a very tricky dilemma, and the fact is, Europe has historically been much worse at integration than the States. It is very easy for an immigrant in the US to claim to be American and be taken seriously, whereas even second generation Algerians in France are not really considered French. I’m not sure exactly what the difficulty or difference is. For some reason, in the States second-generation immigrants move out into the wider society much more easily than in Europe….Report

  8. Avatar Freddie says:

    That’s a crucial point, Erik. Many Americans just casually believe that, because Europe is more left-wing than the States, Europeans are more accepting of other cultures and recent immigrants. That is most certainly not the case. Americans are much more accommodating and accepting of Muslim and other immigrants than the people in many European countries. Places like Germany, France and (to a lesser extent) the UK have a much less inviting nature towards Muslim immigrants. Not unconnected, I suspect, is the fact these place also have a far bigger problem with home-grown radicalism than the United States does.Report

  9. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    The problem is the idea of citizenship. Nations in Europe, like Germany, have an idea of citizenship linked to “blood.” One can be born and raised in Germany, and one’s grandparents can be born and raised in Germany, and still be denied German citizenship.

    The main problem, though, is related to Europe’s more socialist world view: in the States, everyone is expected to earn their own living. This will generate assimilation, whether one wants it or not. Muslims in Europe are free riding on the welfare state so they are free to establish their own enclaves, which become no-go areas for the state and which are really part of the Islamic world, not Europe.

    The point is, Wilders is only saying that Europe needs to adopt policies more in line with ours. He’s saying that Muslims must become Europeans if they want to live in Europe. I simply fail to see the difference between this and Freddie’s sentiment. Economic behavior, as you know, covers such a wide area that it’s really a useless quibble to separate it from other cultural areas.Report

  10. Avatar Freddie says:

    How can people “earn their own living” when they are systematically denied the ability to do so because of their ethnicity and religion? You’re confusing cause and effect. And, look– Wilders is most certainly not just asking for an end to a European welfare state. He is asking for systematic cultural repressions that would be flatly unconstitutional in America. Check his record outside of that quote.Report

  11. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    And in the end much of this can only be achieved culturally, not politically. Europeans need to discover ways to, as a culture, reinvent their notion of citizenship. I’m surprised the EU hasn’t had more luck with this, since borders have become much less relevant there than before. In other words, immigrants and natural born citizens need to find ways to meet each other half way. There are certainly ways to preserve one’s heritage, muslim culture, etc. while adopting Western values and beliefs. It works here. It can work there.Report

  12. 1. Of course, the standard righty response to the issues Europe has with immigrants is that it is a natural problem that arises when you have a large welfare state, since immigrants tend to be less skilled and thus more likely to be able to take advantage of the welfare state. This causes resentment amongst the native population. As such, the argument goes, you need to have tight restrictions on immigration if you are going to have a large welfare state.

    1a. The other standard righty argument is that European immigrants are typically Muslim, whereas US immigrants are typically Latino Catholics, so the cultural differences are far more problematic. This is deployed less often, perhaps because it undermines the basis for the other argument by implying that Latino immigrants can assimilate relatively easily. A variation on this theme is that there is something peculiar to Muslim immigrants that results in greater strife.

    2. I’m not a big believer in the standard righty response (by which I mean point 1, not 1a, though I’m not a big believer in that either); even if you take the premise behind the argument seriously, then it means that either: a) the US welfare state is not nearly as great a threat as it is made out to be (since we really don’t have the problems Europe does with immigrants and since the most anti-immigrant groups in the US tend to be utterly opposed to any welfare state, which I don’t think is true of anti-immigrant groups in Europe); or b) the issues can largely be solved by a liberal guest worker program, which the right typically finds anathema.

    3. I think the real answer tends to reside in the fact that most Americans are fully cognizant of the fact that they are descended in some way from immigrants. Even those who are most strongly anti-immigration in the US are usually very careful to couch their arguments as being a function of changed circumstances of some form or another.

    4. The labor movement actually has become pretty friendly to immigrants over the last several years. Their more or less official policy on immigration reform is here:

    I can say from a certain amount of personal experience that the leadership of the labor movement is actually pretty sincere in their beliefs on this issue, whatever problems I may have with them on other issues, and despite the fact that I disagree with them on the merits of a guest worker program.Report

  13. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    I’ll just add that this, to my mind, has nothing whatsoever to do with welfare states. This has much more to do with customs and the fact that Europe has not been much of a center of immigration until recently, whereas the US has always been a nation of immigrants. We’ve had practice…Report

  14. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Freddie says,

    How can people “earn their own living” when they are systematically denied the ability to do so because of their ethnicity and religion? You’re confusing cause and effect.

    Freddie has a point here. I won’t try to establish any cause/effect relationship at all with any of this. It’s more productive to see it as some kind of destructive system—a vicious cycle at work. European citizenship laws discriminate against immigrants, which hampers their ability to work. Their inability to work is supported by multi cultural and welfare-state policies. It’s all part of a destructive package.

    And, look– Wilders is most certainly not just asking for an end to a European welfare state. He is asking for systematic cultural repressions that would be flatly unconstitutional in America. Check his record outside of that quote.

    I’m not really interested in Wilders’s political program outside of its considerations for Muslims in Europe. He says that Islam must be Europeanized and not the other way around if this war is to ever end. This means that Muslims must give the same respect for Western culture as we give them. It means that Muslims must recognize tolerance for pluralism as a political value. This is where I see Freddie’s opinion as to Mexican immigrants to the US intersecting with Wilders’s opinions about European Muslims. He’s demanding that Mexican immigrants play by our rules; Wilders is demanding nothing less of Muslims in Europe.

    This is from the Wekipedia article on Wilders’s program:

    An immigration ban of five years for immigrants from non-western countries. Foreign residents no longer shall have the right to vote in municipal elections.A ban of five years on the founding of mosques and Islamic schools; a permanent ban on preaching in any other language but Dutch. Foreign imams will be forbidden to preach. Radical mosques will be closed; radical Muslims will be expelled.

    Again, I don’t see any radical difference between this and what Freddie has to say about immigration to the US. For example,

    But if there are people who continue to come in illegally, we’ve got to have a meaningful system of enforcement that preserves our rules.

    Freddie surely knows that banning illegal immigration will ban just about all immigration from Mexico, i.e., it will constitute an “immigration ban” on Mexicans. More than anything, it’s Freddie’s insistence on “when immigrant workers come here, they have to play by our rules and follow our laws.” This is the basic idea that Wilders promotes, and it’s why he’s called “far-right” and a “weirdo bigoted dunce” by the likes of Chris Dierkes. Chris was not talking about his record outside of the speech I quoted.Report

  15. Avatar Jim says:

    Europeans are not going to change their concept of citizenship anytime soon. If the 20th century didn’t teach them the folly of ethnic-based citizenship, nothing will. Being a German and a Gwedish citizen is a lot more like being a registered member of the Yakama tribe than it is like being an American citizen and an American.

    In fact if you are an Americna citizen living in say, Milwaukee, and can show German ancestry, you will get German citizenship long before a Turk born and raised in Frankfurt.

    This sense of blood and shared culture is foundational to their form of socialism, just as many tribes here have very plush safety nets and social problems if their finances allow.Report

  16. Avatar Steve Sailer says:

    In 1979, Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers union, bitterly testified to Congress:

    "… when the farm workers strike and their strike is successful, the employers go to Mexico and have unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers to break the strike. And, for over 30 years, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has looked the other way and assisted in the strikebreaking. I do not remember one single instance in 30 years where the Immigration service has removed strikebreakers. … The employers use professional smugglers to recruit and transport human contraband across the Mexican border for the specific act of strikebreaking…"

    In 1969, Chavez led a march to the Mexican border to protest illegal immigration. Joining him were Sen. Walter Mondale and Martin Luther King’s successor as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ralph Abernathy.

    The UFW picketed INS offices to demand closure of the border. Chavez also finked on illegal alien scabs to la migra. Columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. reported in the Arizona Republic, “Cesar Chavez, a labor leader intent on protecting union membership, was as effective a surrogate for the INS as ever existed. Indeed, Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union he headed routinely reported, to the INS, for deportation, suspected illegal immigrants who served as strikebreakers or refused to unionize.”

    Like today’s Minutemen, UFW staffers under the command of Chavez’s brother Manuel patrolled the Arizona-Mexico border to keep out illegal aliens. Unlike the well-behaved Minutemen, however, Chavez’s boys sometimes beat up intruders. Report