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March 26, 2006

The Future Marches in LA -- and Denver, Chicago and...

500,000 people marched yesterday in Los Angeles against making being a global economic refugee a felony -- and they were joined by hundreds of thousands more in Denver (50,000), Phoenix (20,000) Houston, and other cities across the country, including Chicago where over 100,000 people marched two weeks ago for immigrant rights.

The march in Los Angeles was the largest political rally in the city's history. This is the future marching. Many of those marching can vote today; many of them will register to vote where they can or when they become eighteen; and even those who can't vote, their children will vote.

There is a historic decision for Democrats to make in the coming year. They can listen to their better angels and fight for the basic principle that those in economic need should not be treated as criminals or they can embrace short-term anti-immigrant expediency and lose both their soul and long-term political advantage.

Some see the issue as whether the undocumented committed an illegal act. But the real question should be whether our current immigration policy is itself moral. Slavery was legal, but that didn't make those who defied it immoral.

The United States has an estimated 12 million people living in our country without legal status. Do we seriously expect to deport that many people in an act of ethnic clensing that would bring global condemnation?

And globalization can't just mean that money has freedom but people don't. If anything, we need more rules for money and fewer for people-- since the ability to walk away from bad job choices is about the only right the poorest of the poor have ever had in this world. Take away the right of mobility from workers and all the rest of their rights largely disappear as well.

The AFL-CIO executive council early this month detailed the problems driving immigrants to the US:

Any viable solution to this crisis must address the reasons why people are coming to the U.S. Most immigrants come from countries where the international development process has failed, and many are from countries where International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and trade policies have weakened countries’ economies and labor protections, causing a devastating impact on all workers. In some developing countries, IMF policies have caused public-sector workers to lose their jobs and their union protections, forcing them into competition in the private sector, where few, if any, jobs are available, driving down wages and working conditions even further. Trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement undermine the agricultural economies of developing countries, leading workers to leave the fields and consider moving north. Without rising living standards abroad for workers and the poor, the pressure for illegal immigration will continue and escalate.
If we want to slow immgration to the United States, the real way to do it is to end sweatshops in Mexico and the rest of the developing world and end the rising inequality in global wealth within such countries. Mexico, for example, has increasing wealth, but because of the trade deals we created with them, most of that wealth goes to the richest section of the population-- Mexico has 13 billionaires yet working families are left struggling to survive.

To tell such refugees from an economic system the US government helped engineer that they are to blame for their fate is immoral. And progressives should be standing side by side with the labor unions, civil rights groups and religious leaders marching by the hundreds of thousands in the streets to demand decent treatment for those refugees and a more just global economic system.

Posted by Nathan at March 26, 2006 08:40 AM