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The ‘Illegal-Immigrant’ Issue—Analysis, Sources and Prospects

Friday, January 25, 2008
Time: 5:57 PM

This week, a local resident named James C. Whiteside contacted me and wanted to know if I would publish a report he was working on regarding illegal immigration in Danbury. Today, I received his write-up and it's a wonderful piece of work that covers many of the same points I've raised in the past (i.e. John Tanton organizations, Lou Dobbs misinformation).

It's my honor to share this informative piece with everyone.

James, the floor is yours.

The ‘Illegal-Immigrant’ Issue—Analysis, Sources and Prospects
By James C. Whiteside

The apparent tendency of the Common Council to go forward with an unscrutinized local police-ICE agreement appears to be a means to avoid responsibility for its effects. They can claim they “had no idea” how brutal it would be.

Some members of the Council seem unwilling to consider the justice issues of any such agreement aside from its ‘illegal’ aspects. Their propensity seems to be to run with the ‘sky is falling,’ Chicken Little hysteria about this immigration. Many seem to take their direction from News-Times letters-to-the-editor writers who claim there is a monstrous ‘invasion’ of the country producing overwhelming cost.

This is particularly interesting because none of these letter writers appear to have complained about the truly overwhelming costs of George W. Bush’s despicably invented war in Iraq and the economic troubles that have come with it. The trouble here is that humans don’t like to feel bad, stupid or ‘taken.’ So there has to be some victims found to be sacrificed for American face saving. Low and behold, the Latino immigrants are right here and handy! This can only lead thoughtful observers to the educated opinion that ‘illegal-immigrants’ are being used as proxies to avoid coming to grips with the Bush Administration’s duplicity and for some to supply cover for its bankrupting the country, politically, internationally and economically.

Thus the present immigration issue has several aspects. As always, in examination of any public policy the observer must consider:

a. Who does it serve?

b. How does it do so?

c. Who is made to suffer as a result?

To reprise the matter for a more extensive and secure grasp of the basic economic and historical matters in question and the various peoples at risk ask:

a. What aspect of the U.S. imperial policy in Latin American does unbridled immigration serve?

b. What aspect of U.S. corporate policy at home does uncontrolled immigration serve?

c. Who must be made to suffer so that ‘adequate’ profits can be made and Americans can continue to have exciting shopping experiences?

d. What profits will be considered ‘adequate’ by that 1% of the U.S. population which now controls 33.4 % of the total wealth of the U.S. ?[1]

e. Can our present economic system exist without this inequality that it is based on? Even more specifically, can this system we have and applaud, continue to exist without ‘mining’ that inequality, injustice and exploitation of our own and other peoples? If it can exist without such injustices why hasn’t it done so in the past? Why isn’t it doing so now instead of inventing wars, fostering and allowing uncontrolled immigration, and destroying the American economy by ‘mining’ the least wealthy people obtaining mortgages?

If we can answer any portion of these questions or any relationships between them we can come to at least a rudimentary understanding not only of ‘illegal immigration’ but of many other related matters besides.

The United States has dominated Mexico , Central and South America for more than 150 years, annexing their lands, destroying their economies, bullying, subverting or actually killing their leaders as they sought independence. Mayor Boughton who was a former Danbury High School social studies teacher knows this history intimately—or should. For him to be leading another assault on these people instead of attempting a just resolution of their circumstances grotesquely dishonors his profession as well as his community. This every-mayor-for-himself approach is bound to increase not decrease the lunacy of U.S. immigration policy.

The immigrants are here ‘illegally’ because Bill Clinton’s bipartisan and reprehensible NAFTA policy allowed ‘cheap,’ U.S. taxpayer subsidized, corporate corn to flood Mexican agriculture. That flood, priced below their cost of producing the corn, forced millions of peasants off their lands. Many of the migrants coming here are such farmers. NAFTA critics estimate that 15 million will eventually be in this condition. [2]

‘Illegal-immigration’ is the result of these desperate people forced off their lands into Mexican cities and penury or to become cheap labor for U.S. corporate manufacturing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Some 75% of the Mexican population lives in poverty, 1/3 in extreme poverty while our transnational corporations are allowed to pay below subsistence wages to its young men and women.[3] You don’t hear the anti-illegal crowd talking about these issues.

It is profoundly and perniciously unjust for citizens or government officials to seek punishment of immigrants forced here by the catastrophic effects of U.S. imperial policy. Immigrant ‘illegality’ is a direct result of those policies, our government’s policies, which attempt to dominate Latin America affairs. Policies we neglected to oppose, buying in to Clinton ’s propaganda and the supposition it would generate American jobs. It has actually generated more corporate wealth and preposterous executive salaries than everyday American jobs.

Immigrant ‘illegality’ is also forced by a U.S. government policy that does nothing to prepare and enforce a fair and honest guest worker program. The very basis of such a program would be a legal and safe means for them to enter for work and return home again. This has not been done for all sorts of reasons the most likely being that exploiting workers is much easier without government oversight.[4] The whole of U.S. citizenry may now be able to appreciate this condition since it has become obvious that lack of government oversight over the sub-prime mortgage industry has brought or may shortly bring, our whole economy to a standstill.

We are now in the midst of learning that there is no such thing as a ‘free market’ a condition to which ‘illegal immigrants’ can attest. They are only ‘free’ for the contractors and corporation who make use of them. They are not free themselves. They are forced to work at the lowest possible wages or none at all since they have no redress if their day contractor simply refuses to pay them. There are only markets without government oversight which allow whatever dishonest, greedy tendencies wealthy individuals devise. ‘Managed markets’ that might someday be ruled by fair and decent public policies exist only in the far distant future.

Citizens who don’t know and understand the history of U.S. policy in the Americas should educate themselves instead of merely ape-ing Lou Dobbs and his underlying exclusionist propaganda. He is building his career on the backs of victims. The statistics are always inflated and demeaning. Members of his staff have already complained he never seeks information contrary to his anti-immigrant opinions and when presented with any, refuses to consider it. What is remarkably strange is that in some matters Dobbs seems to support labor policies.

In many immigration instances Dobbs merely launders racist and malicious lies by providing links to the likes of John H. Tanton the founder and/or funding source for 13 anti-Latino groups. Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist, has nearly single–handedly created the anti-immigration ‘movement’ to promote racist conspiracy theories, white supremacist and bigoted organizations.[5]

Tanton’s groups include his funding arm U.S. Inc., and FAIR , Federation for American Immigration Reform, the largest and most well-known anti-immigrant organization, A spinoff is CIS, the Center for Immigration Studies. By assertive lobbying and working its political connections CIS has received a six-figure contract from the U.S. Census Bureau.[6] Letter writers to the News-Times have used this resource, obviously without any investigation, in their continuing attack on illegal immigrants. U.S. Inc. receives millions of dollars from a handful of donors and far-right foundations including those controlled by the family of Richard Mellon Scaife—of Clinton impeachment fame.[7] Mellon is the family name of Gulf Oil and Pittsburgh steel and banking monies.

Tanton has also received funding in the past from the Pioneer Fund, a neo-Nazi organization tied to Nazi eugenics programs of the 1930s.[8] Tanton has called Mexican people ‘bacteria,’ and Barbara Coe, head of California Coalition for Immigration Reform has repeatedly called Latinos ‘savages.’[9]

Drilling down to the wage scales of the immigrant countries is enlightening. For example the basic basket of necessities for an average sized El Salvadoran family of 3-4 people is 1260 colones ($148.84) per month. This is considered ‘abject poverty’ by the Salvadoran government. Workers at Doall Enterprises make $0.60 per hour which is 1/3 the cost of living to make Liz Claiborne, Perry Ellis and Leslie Fay clothing. The National Labor Committee calculated workers were paid $0.74 for every $198 Liz Claiborne jacket sewed. Other labor conditions are as equally oppressive.[10]

In Honduras at Star, SA owned by Anvil of the U.S. , employees work 11 and a half hour days, four days a week. They are paid 786 Lempiras ($41.60) per week or if fast enough (‘100% efficiency’) 980 Lempiras ($51.85) per week. Lunch in the cafeteria is 12% of income per week. 90% of T-shirt production goes to Nike or Anvil. There has been a great deal of turmoil at the factory as workers have tried to organize.[11]

In Mexico Alcoa workers are paid $1.21 per hour. Many sell their blood plasma twice a week to obtain money to stay alive. They are being continually harassed with the threat that the company “can hire three Hondurans for one of them.” June of 2005 Alcoa announced 6,500 layoffs which observers expected to occur in the U.S. and Mexico . In the ZIP Porvenir free trade zone, Alcoa is truly free. It is exempt from income, provincial and municipal taxes and all import and export duties.[12]

Alcoa’s Honduran wage advantage was $0.61 per hour, 26.75 per week until April 2005 when the Honduran government mandated a 12% increase in minimum wage. That resulted in a $0.68 per hr. wage, $38.31 per week with bus transportation at $0.53 per day and lunch at $0.80 per day for a total of $7.98 per week or 23% of the weekly wage. No workers in the free trade zone are allowed to organize. All attempts result in police suppression and/or firings.[13]

In Columbia thousands of peasants have been forced off their lands by palm oil and ethanol corporations under the co-chairmanship of former Florida governor Jeb Bush.[14] Where do the ‘anti-illegals’ think these people are going to end up?

Meanwhile the Bush Administration has awarded Halliburton/KBR $385 million in contracts for migrant detention centers along the U.S.-Mexican border. This highly touted physical and electronic border fence is estimated to cost between $2 billion and $9 billion depending on who you ask.[15] Or $60 billion over 25 years to build and maintain.[16] It has already cost $6.8 million after a high tech unmanned border patrol plane crashed in April of 2006 after less than a year of use.[17] These amounts plus some Iraq war refunds and shorting $70 billion worth of corporate farm subsidies[18] could substantially reduce whatever actual social costs of medical treatment and child education American communities expend on immigrants. They could probably provide tickets home occasionally.

Turning over local jurisdiction to or conspiring with an ICE which is known to use Gestapo tactics in breaking down peoples doors and terrorizing them in the middle of the night is not a valid function of an American municipal police force. It cannot and will not ease the spiraling effort to find a scapegoat for U.S. economic troubles. Since these troubles cannot be laid at the feet of the many immigrants of the past, the Latinos must be fingered for the scapegoats of the present hysteria.

Using a scapegoat allows those portions of the public who need them to avoid facing the overpowering and obvious conclusion that our government has not only failed us, it has betrayed us as a people and our democracy as a decent system. Scapegoats are always a means to distract and redirect public animosity toward targets that will obscure the real powers responsible for the despicable actions and the mistreatment of peoples. It is a sure device to maintain a governing class in power.

The FBI reports a considerable increase in hate crimes against Latinos since 2003. We are sowing a seed for a terrible harvest unless we prevent it. These are immediately desperate people who are given no reasonable and timely means to be granted work permits. Many would gladly go home regularly if they could do so safely. It is an utmost distortion to label them ‘illegal-aliens’ as a triumphant characterization of these unfortunate people.

Any examination of reality and the foregoing material reveal the injustice being advocated under the rubric of a misplaced legalism. As Americans we dishonor ourselves by such stratagems and unjust devices. Finding a way for these people to work where they are obviously needed and to return home safely or work for citizenship to remain is the justice we need to evolve.

Before leaving this discussion of our poorest immigrant workers it is worth considering how well off we are ourselves. The economic information provided here is called the Gini Index of Income Inequality. It is a summary index measure of inequality revealing how far from perfect equality a country is. 0 is perfect equality (all households or families would receive an equal share of national income,) 1 is perfect inequality (one household or family would get all the nation’s income.) Below is the distribution of U.S. income for the years listed.

1967 1970 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2006

.399 .394 .403 .419 .428 .450 .460 .464 [19]

Quite obviously we have been moving away from a greater equality for more than 30 years. Many know it but few understand it. Fewer and fewer families receive more and more of all the income that is to be had.

[1] The Hightower Lowdown. V. 8 No. 7, July 2006, p. 2

[2] Food First Backgrounder. Migrant Farmworkers: America ’s New Plantation Workers, V 10, No. 2, Spring 2004, p. 4-5

[3] Michael D. Yates. Naming the System. Inequality and Work in the Global Economy. New York , Monthly Review Press, 2003. p. 45.

[4] Southern Poverty Law Center, Immigrant Justice Project, 2007

[5] Southern Poverty Law Center . Intelligence Report. The Puppeteer. Throughout.

[6] Southern Poverty Law Center . Intelligence Report. The Puppeteer. p. 3

[7] Ibid, p. 7.

[8] Ibid, p. 4.

[9] Ibid, p. 1

[10] National Labor Committee website, Doall Enterprises.

[11] Ibid, Honduras .

[12] Ibid, Auto Parts: Mexico , Central America , China . The Race to the Bottom: From NAFTA to CAFTA, throughout.

[13] Ibid, Mexico , Alcoa Sweatshops in Honduras , throughout.

[14] Food First Backgrounder, v13, No. 4, Winter 2007.

[15] New York Times, Oct. 30, 2006 A24.

[16] The Hightower Lowdown, v. 10 No. 1 Jan. 2008.

[17] The Hightower Lowdown, v. 8 No. 7 July. 2006.

[18] New York Times, The anti-Reform Farm Bill, July 25, 2007

[19] Yates, op. cit, p. 52, U.S, Census Table A-2; U.S. Bureau of the Census website, Table B19083

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On September 26, 2007, ten plaintiffs filed suit in response to an arrest of aday laborers at a public park in Danbury, Connecticut. Plaintiffs amended their complaint on November 26, 2007.

The amended complaint states that plaintiffs sought to remedy the continued discriminatory and unauthorized enforcement of federal immigration laws against the Latino residents of the City of Danbury by Danbury's mayor and its police department.

Plaintiffs allege that the arrests violated their Fourth Amendment rights and the Connecticut Constitution because defendants conducted the arrests without valid warrants, in the absence of exigent circumstances, and without probable cause to believe that plaintiffs were engaged in unlawful activity. In addition, plaintiffs allege that defendants improperly stopped, detained, investigated, searched and arrested plaintiffs. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights when they intentionally targeted plaintiffs, and arrested and detained them on the basis of their race, ethnicity and perceived national origin. Plaintiffs raise First Amendment, Due Process and tort claims.

Plaintiffs request declaratory relief, damages and attorneys fees.



Danbury Area Coalition for the Rights of Immigrants v.
U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
3:06-cv-01992-RNC ( D. Conn. )

(02.25.08) Court docket

(10.24.07) Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Emergency Motion for Protective Order

(09.26.07) Press Release

(12.14.06) Complaint

Barrera v. Boughton, No. 07-01436
(D. Conn. filed Sept. 26, 2007)

(02.25.08) Court Docket

Amended complaint

Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Defendants' Motion to Dismiss State Law Claims

Plaintiffs' Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

Order on Motion to Dismiss

Defendants' Answer to Amended Complaint

NEW HAVEN REGISTER: Immigrant's 2006 arrest was flawed Danbury mayor testifies

(10.05.07 (VIDEO) Boughton mislead the public about Danbury's involvement in raid

(09.18.07) Yale Law Students expose Danbury involvement in raid

(12.14.06) VIDEO: Interview with Yale Law Students at FOI presser

(12.14.06) VIDEO: Danbury 11 FOI complaint media roundup

City Clerk Jean Natale standing next to skinhead sparks outrage

(10.03.06) VIDEO: Danbury 11 rally

(09.29.06) VIDEO: Danbury 11 case deepens

Word of raid spread across the country

(09/29/06) VIDEO: Danbury 11 protest news conference

(09/29/06) Immigrant newspaper "El Canillita" gives best account of ICE day labor raid at Kennedy Park

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VIDEO: Tereza Pereira's ordeal with ICE agents

VIDEO: Danbury Peace Coalition Immigration Forum (April 2006)
featuring Mayor Boughton and Immigration attorney Philip Berns

VIDEO: 2007 Stop the Raids immigration forum at WCSU

2007: Community protest anti-immigration forum

A tribute to Hispanic Center Director and immigrant activist Maria Cinta Lowe

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