Sunday, April 30, 2006

Immigration Indigestion

May 1st has been designated as a date for one of the largest immigration protests the nation has ever seen. Last month, we saw over 500,000 immigrants protest downtown and in the subsequent week thousands of young people walked out of class in support of the protests. So, if this is being billed as one of the largest, then wowee, it should be mind boggling... It's interesting to note that organizers of the protest have laid out rules of engagement for those wishing to participate. Rules like, asking permission to take off of your job... driving with your lights on during the day, and wearing a white t-shirt, or bandana or ribbon of solidarity for the movement.

A week or so ago, I watched incredulously as a predominantly African American group led by homeless activist Ted Hayes, made a stand against immigration.The violence that marred the protest could have (and maybe it did) ruined the credibility of Ted Hayes' Movement. True, a fight broke out and to my eye, it looks as if Ted instigated it, but one not too quick to judge, the incident prompted me to investigate the African American position on immigration. I do not see the prominent black politicians, civil rights groups or even the church speaking out on this issue. Ted Hayes wants us to bond with the Minuteman Project, taking an almost vigilante stance against the issue. He has formed the Crispus Attucks Brigade of the Minuteman Project saying that says that continued immigration is a threat to the lives and culture of blacks in America. Jobs will be lost, educational standards will decline even more and housing - his central position - will be even more scarce... (see a CBS News Report about the demonstration/fight here)

I was surprised when I saw recently installed President of the NAACP, Bruce Gordon stand in solidarity with the immigrants, holding sway on-stage at the massive rally in Los Angeles... But, what is the official stance from the NAACP? Are you saying that immigration reform is right or wrong? Is it in the best interest of your people to allow continued, unabated, illegal immigration? What about the claim that continued illegal immigration affects the job market - especially among black folk? You can read the NAACP's stance here.. It seems ambivalent, at best...

I met a guy once in a diner. He was a truck driver and we were watching the protests on television. I was marveling at the sense of unity the latino protestors had as was he, but his perspective was much different than mine. He told me how even though he owned his rig, the already low fees he has to accept as a result of bias and perhaps, discrimination are now threatend by the proposed "reform" of immigration. How so?, I asked. He explained that the latino can come over the border with his rig and charge as much as FOUR TIMES lower than his minimum. He cannot afford that... Just think - married, two children, house note, car note, groceries.. the essentials of life. He's got to command a certain amount per trip or not survive in the city at all... The immigrant can come over the border, live in a two bedroom house or apartment with 20 other folk, divide the necessities of life and therefore maintain a much lower standard of living and consquently charge less for the gig... He further explained that this was the reality for him.. not being racist or discriminatory, that's just how it is in the real world. He underscored this claim with the observation that because the latino driver can command such a low rate, the employer may be motivated to look the other way when the immigrant's rig is below industry standards (insurance, maintenance logs, etc).. So, he's missing out on jobs left and right... But he said even at that, he worries more about the guys who are single... No one to help them... they have to accept lower paying gigs in a market that demands higher rent, food, gas... the essentials of life...

When I was on the radio, co-host of a program called Front Page, I noticed how a huge number of callers complained about discrimination in the work place. Not by white folk, as is traditionally the fight, but by Latino folk. This was amazing to me. I perceived the problem to be at City and County Jobs. Where there has been a definite rise of Latino managers... I talked to a guy in my neighborhood once who had more than 20 years working for the County. He said that the problem is even larger than Latinos taking over. He described how although the Latinos take care of their own first (hiring, promoting, the language barrier), he said that even if he has the experience and job knowledge, even as he has taken the opportunities given him in his years at the County to better his education, increase his knowledge and expertise on the job.. when it comes time to take the test for advancement, the test favors those who can speak spanish, tagalog, cantonese and other languages... he says, "good grief!! I though this was America!! Now immigrants from all over the world are getting the jobs and promotions because they can speak not only my language which is American Standard English, but thier native language.. They have the advantage not because of education and job knowledge, but because they come from another country!! Plus they will accept the job for a lower rate than we will"

The immigration issue is not a new debate in the African American Community and perhaps in another blog I will point it out, but just in case you cannot wait, click here "Immigrant Indigestion": A. Philip Randolph, Radical and Restrictionist to examine A. Phillip Randolph's position on immigration between the world wars... the issues are the same....

We are sick with immigration indigestion

No comments: