A Debate Between Punkerslut and the
Date: December 31, 2008
I've been reading through some of the materials on the FAIR website. In particular, I've looked through the "Our Purpose" and "Our Principles" sections in the "About FAIR" page. Your general purpose appears to be described as, "to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest." Heightened border security and stopping illegal immigration are issues that both of our major political parties support. However, you're only slightly out of tune with their platforms in seeking to reduce the immigration levels of the United States. You're even going to the point of seeking to temporarily prohibit immigration altogether: "FAIR advocates a temporary moratorium on all immigration except spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and a limited number of refugees." What are your arguments? Well, thankfully, they were quite clear...
Capitalists and wealthy landowners can dissolve their property and become completely limitless in their world traveling; such capital flights occur today from the United States and Europe to South America, Africa, and Asia. Little is offered against this type of migration from FAIR. For the Capitalist, the right to move and live anywhere in the world is guaranteed and sacred. But to the poor laborer, the small individual who makes up the 'teeming masses,' the right to immigration must be prohibited. Few can deny the fact that an influx of unskilled labor into other markets tends to bring down wages -- it is a simple fact that is constantly demonstrated. But few can deny that the depletion, waste, and movement of capital has destroyed economies, cities, and states; it has brought millions to grinding poverty and starvation for decades.
Why would FAIR examine the economic decay when it's caused by someone trying to feed themselves, but pass over it when it's caused by someone trying to build their fifth mansion? Simple justice would suggest that one who does something out of absolute necessity as far more innocent than one who does it to only slightly benefit their already mass fortune. Why should we vilify the poor farmer, who spends hours and hours in toil, to feed their family? And why should we acquit the wealthy landowner, who contributes nothing to society, and then suddenly pulls up the roots of industry from these hard laborers? A gentle thinker is going to have a million more sympathies for those driven by a necessity to eat than those driven by an impulse to extravagance.
Those who become immigrants and leave their countries have both push and pull factors. They may be pushed by economic constraints, such as a depression or high unemployment. Or, they could be pushed by political constraints that threaten their personal safety and well-being, such as an oppressive dictatorship or ongoing war. The majority who do move, however, are leaving behind their culture, their homeland, and many of their family members -- only to come to a new region with a different language, different customs, and even the potential of violent cultural or racial clashes. The natural barriers to immigration are tremendous in themselves; and those making the journey tend to be living a hand-to-mouth existence. In the world's population, there are two hundred million national immigrants, with the majority in Europe (70 million), followed by North America (45 million), and then Asia (25 million).
The majority of those who immigrate do so for economic reasons or to escape political tyranny. These push factors become tremendous in effecting the personal life of the individual. This person will leave, because conditions are so unbearable, that anywhere else could offer better opportunities and more freedom. Whether or not the United States is available as on option is not the first thought that enters into their minds. They do not have the time or the energy to make the best plan and to land in the most prosperous country; wracked by starvation or driven from their homes by an intolerant government, these immigrants are first moved by an absolute need. The brain drain that occurs when these mass migrations occur are the result of tyranny and economic turmoil. An open-border policy in America will make it easier for some immigrants, but such a policy is not the cause of such immigrations; it is definitely not responsible for the "mass migration."
What does create this type of civil unrest or murderous economy? Take a look at a country with fairly significant immigration. Gérard Latortue was appointed the president of Haiti in 2004 by the United States government, dissolving the powers of the then elected, Haitian president. This resulted in a tremendous migration of both labor and capital. There were summary executions without trials, massacres of peaceful protesters, and what Amnesty International described as "an alarming number of illegal detentions." [*1] If the United States government is responsible for creating this situation, by empowering a dictator over a third world nation, then why should we close our borders? Our government is responsible for creating the flood of immigrants -- our puppet government burned homes, executed the sons and daughters of their people, and then used wide-spread, illegal detention. This situation has been constant throughout Latin America, with US-sponsored coups of dictators in Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, and Nicaragua.
One of your own principles is that "immigration and population policy is the sovereign right and responsibility of every nation." Our government caused the event leading to these immigration floods. Doesn't true and genuine responsibility thus imply the alleviation of the problem we caused -- and what solution could be better than allowing those we dispossessed into our nation? And I'm sure you wouldn't keep such great minds as Einstein and Jung in Nazi Germany, under the argument that they are "desperately needed in their homelands."
So where is the call for democracy and workers' rights in third world nations? If we're going to remove the political and economic problems of high-migration regions, then our battle is against the United States government -- not against an open-immigration policy. To stop the causes that create these migration floods, we must dismantle the power of the state and the Capitalists in interfering in third world nations. Where the US government seeks to impose a dictator over a nation, it does so at the urgings of the Capitalist class.
For instance, in Bolivia, Capitalists gained control over the water supply by bribing the local government. In 2000, the national supply of water was privatized and awarded to American corporation Bechtel. Daniel Cohen, who traveled to Bolivia and covered the story, wrote, "...prices rapidly skyrocketed as much as 200 percent. Under the Bechtel contract, it became illegal for city residents or peasants in surrounding communities to collect rainwater for drinking, irrigation, or anything else." [*2] But this is far from the only example. Two years later, the United States government sponsored a coup in Venezuela -- once again, corporations played a significant role. Oil industrialists were being impeded by Venezuela's democratically elected Socialist candidate. [*3]
Ronald Reagan is already notorious for his funding of the Contras, a guerrilla terrorist organization. Perhaps even more disturbing about the Iran-Contra affair was that the funding came from the Reagan administration illegally selling cocaine to the American people. Oliver North, who ran the Iran-Contra Affair, kept well-documented notebooks where he noted the Contra-Cocaine connection. [*4] Nancy Reagan's slogan was "Just Say No" in public, but at the back of the White House, it was "Twenty for a Gram." When the BCCI bank went belly up in 1991, some of its records were made public. It was discovered that the US intelligence agencies were using foreign bank accounts to payroll a variety of terrorists in third-world nations -- the Iran-Contra scandal was just the tip of the iceberg. [*5]
If you want to curb the conditions that cause massive immigrations, then your enemy is in your own land -- the capitalist, statist, imperialist government. It's absolutely ridiculous that such persecution is so evident, clear, and well-documented; but instead of attacking the one who has caused so much misery, you've made an enemy of the victim. On the statue of liberty, there is a poetic phrase, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Your policy of immigration would turn it into a hideous lie.
There is quite a bit that these statements are assuming. Why is this "the era of mass international migration to the United States as a solution to international problems"? The fact that immigration has been allowed in this nation does not mean that it is the avowed, foreign policy of the government. It is not being offered, pitched, or suggested, in any way, "as a solution to international problems." FAIR was founded in 1979 by John H. Tanton -- a European whose presence in this country is only granted because one of his very recent ancestors was an immigrant. When Tanton's family came over to this nation, did they do it in the spirit of "a solution to international problems," or were they evading a tyranny of economy or politics? I'd probably vote on the second one. Immigration doesn't happen because it's advocated and allowed; it happens because there are significant motivations to those who emigrate from their own homelands.
The second sentence here is ever more dubious. "...problems of poverty and overpopulation must be vigorously confronted where people live, rather than postponing their solution by either the export or the importation of masses of people." First, this statement assumes that poverty and overpopulation are inherent characters of immigrants. Today, China and India are the world's most overpopulated nations. China prohibits all immigration into the country by law. [*6] And even then, it seems that the flow of immigrants in China is towards out of the country. [*7] In India, likewise, only a half percent of the population was not born in the country. [*8] The idea, then, that immigration leads to overpopulation does not conform to the evidence; overpopulation itself is the cause of immigration, not the effect.
Similarly, the idea that people inherently carry poverty with them, and will bring it to whatever land they visit, is absurd. Many of the world's immigrants left their war-torn, economically-depressed homelands. By resettling in North America, Europe, and Asia, it didn't "postpone" the conditions they escaped. Tyranny, dictatorship, and a malfunctioning economy are symptoms of an elite, propertied class and its intrinsic ties to the state. They are not aspects of the human characteristic that can be carried through immigrants and reborn in other countries or regions.
Furthermore, I'm a bit skeptical that you're dedicated to "vigorously" confronting the problems facing the people in their homelands. If you genuinely seek to alleviate these people of their problems, then fight the American state and the American Capitalist. These are our own domestic forces of politics and economy. They are imperialists and mercantilists; the only situations they create in Third World Nations are those of bleak poverty and vicious, unapologetic dictatorship. If we disempower these masters in our own homelands, then perhaps the causes of immigration in foreign lands wouldn't be so significant.
This is a particularly curious statement, and it deserves more investigation. FAIR is applying this concept to the United States by suggesting a reduction of immigrants coming in to the country; it is presuming the United States government to be the rightful sovereign of the nation. That is to say, it is the legal authority. Only a third grade history lesson will teach you otherwise. I am only required to ask one question, "Where did the land come from?" Those who founded and established the present government stole their land from Native Americans, Mexicans, and other indigenous peoples. The fact that the United States government coercively occupied these territories gives it absolutely no right as a sovereign.
To quote Article 64 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1950, "The penal laws of the occupied territory shall remain in force, with the exception that they may be repealed or suspended by the Occupying Power in cases where they constitute a threat to its security or an obstacle to the application of the present Convention." [*9] If we apply this simple premise of justice, it's clear to see that when the United States government stole territory, it did not grant it the moral right to such theft.
If an individual steals from another, their use of the stolen property does not legitimize their activity. Eating bread, after taking it from a poor family, does not extend or grant any rights over the ill-acquired object. It does not turn it into a moral, justified act. These are all very simple premises of justice and fairness. But FAIR skips this reasoning when European authorities acquired territory from a native population. This is an ethnocentric argument, or more specifically, a Eurocentric argument.
Without any legitimate basis for sovereignty over its empire, the United States government holds no right to pass any laws whatsoever over the people inhabiting the occupied territories. If FAIR genuinely believed in the principle of sovereignty, the first thing it would do is campaign for completely open borders -- if this land is not the legitimate possession of the US government, then at least we shouldn't deny it the civilians whom it rightfully belongs to. That's defined in Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. [*10]
Open borders? Completely open borders? Absolutely. If a people have a right to their homeland, then everyone has a moral obligation to let them exercise it. This means allowing all Mexicans and Native Americans the right to enter and leave the United States at their whim. It is certainly undeniable that the mainland USA is the homeland of many indigenous groups -- but, if we trace back any individual's lineage far enough, we will find an ancestor who lived in a world without property. Before landed society, the earth was the collective property of its inhabitants; and borders were as absurd as deeds. And if property rights are hereditary, then we each still possess our collective right over the world.
1. "Amnesty condemns Haitian human rights failures," ABC News Online, Saturday, November 13, 2004. 4:00pm (AEDT); http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200411/s1242883.htm.
Date: December 31, 2008
Thanks for your analysis of FAIR's positions posted on our website.
Many of the points you make are valid and need to be addressed. There are certainly many factors that contribute to the worldwide phenomenon of migration. However, FAIR has taken the position that we cannot wait until all of the causes for migration are addressed to deal with the impact that mass immigration has on our own society. Many, if not most of the factors contributing to migration are beyond our control. We can have some influence, positive or negative, but ultimately social and economic reform needs to occur in the sending nations.
It is also unfair to punish ordinary working Americans for decisions made on Wall Street -- which, of course, we're doing anyway. Even if the decisions made by global capitalists are responsible for the conditions that drive people to migrate, the construction worker in L.A. or the hotel worker in Dallas should not pay for it with his job.
There are many, many domestic, foreign and trade policy reforms that need to be implemented. However, not to address immigration or any other policy because there are other problems that will continue to exist is merely a prescription for paralysis.
Federation for American Immigration Reform
Date: January 5, 2009
Thank you for reading my somewhat-long letter and replying. I do appreciate it.
My sympathy is always with the common individual of the lower classes. I may not have worked construction, but I've worked in industrial plants and the painful service industries. These workplaces, naturally, have many laboring immigrants, or many of them may have parents or other relatives as immigrants. There is no division in the work ethic between laborers of a foreign or a domestic culture. Whether American or Mexican nationality, Middle Eastern or African ethnicity, my sympathy is with all laborers. They each give their blood and sweat to sustain their families, to create the life that allows their culture to survive. They are the most honest and innocent of all classes; without them, all of society would not be possible.
Why would we want to value the American worker over the non-American laborer? They both seek the same ends: to feed their children, have a community, and express their cultures. A change of language doesn't change the inherent character of the lower-class laborer. And even then, foreign labor has only a mitigating effect on employment. The exportation of factories has destroyed the laboring classes of entire cities. These post-industrial centers are everywhere in the country: Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Oregon; Baltimore, Maryland; the list goes on and on. There are still millions of empty fields, thousands of idle factories, and a rising unemployment. The greatest threat to employment of the American worker is not foreign labor; it is the inability of "entrepreneurial ability" to provide productive employment where there are empty fields and idle hands.
The Capitalists aren't just responsible for the causes of migration. They are also responsible for the most significant obstacles of favorable employment rates. The migration of workers from region to region, in search of a way to feed their families, is a symptom of this illness -- and if political problems resemble psychological ones, suppressing a symptom will only lead to a greater neurosis.
To establish a moratorium on immigration, however, is probably just as beyond your control -- such a policy resembles the situation of the Berlin Wall, a memory that does not incite fond or cheerful emotions. We have reached a point of hopeful tolerance and liberalized ideas; to go back to closing our borders would be such a tremendous regression.
If you have so much commitment and willingness to preserve the employment of the American laborers, then organize the workers -- help them to establish job security, to create employment, to spur on industry. It's clear that FAIR has dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy towards promoting a policy of reduced immigration; but if that money had been spent on union-organizing, instead, you'd certainly have done much more to preserve jobs than by fighting an open immigration policy.
Date: January 5, 2009
Why would we want to value an American worker over a non-American laborer? Because that's the purpose of a nation. If a citizen has no greater claim to a job or other societal benefits than any of the other 6.5 billion people on the planet, why bother having a nation at all? We could argue whether we should have nations, or whether we should just be one global community, but as long as we have nations (and I don't think any of the other 200 or so nations are ready to dissolve themselves), then there must be some distinction between citizens and everyone else.
The word "nation" is derived from the Latin word for family. If your child desperately needed a transplant to live and so did someone else's child, you would obviously want your own kid to get it. It is not that you lack sympathy for the other child or wouldn't do whatever you could to help that kid, but you would place the interests of your own child first.
Your analogy to the Berlin Wall is backwards. The Berlin Wall was built by a repressive regime to keep people in. FAIR does not suggest hermitically sealing the United States to keep everyone out. We can establish sensible policies that limit immigration and select people based on their individual merits and qualifications. We can have sensible policies that make it clear to people that they will not benefit by settling here illegally. There will never be zero illegal immigration, just as there will never be zero murder, zero bank robberies, or zero tax evasion, in spite of stringent laws against those sorts of behaviors.
FAIR is fully supportive of efforts to improve the lot of workers in this country. Even if we were to do all the things you suggest, unless we also limit the supply of labor the best we can hope to achieve is a nation of minimum wage workers working under the most minimally acceptable conditions. As long as there is a limitless supply of workers from other countries who are prepared to take jobs, why would employers ever improve wages and working conditions?
I am also always a bit amused when people ask why FAIR isn't doing more to help union organizing or change trade policies. Would anyone ask a representative of the American Heart Association why they're not doing more to cure cancer? There are many organizations that focus on union organizing, making trade fairer (and I don't suppose anyone is asking them why they're not working on immigration policy). FAIR is an immigration policy group -- that's what we do.
Federation for American Immigration Reform
Date: January 6, 2009
I'll try to respond to some of your comments...
For modern society's means of production, there is a virtually limitless supply of low-wage workers around the globe. The continuing trend is the exportation of business operations to where the laborers are more desperate, oppressed, and subjugated. But this pool of unlimited labor has not yet reduced Americans to "a nation of minimum wage workers".
A new labor supply devalues the present laboring force, by the simple laws of supply and demand. These forces tend to balance out, as the new labor force is also a new consumer base, which will cause the demand of laborers to increase. More importantly, though, is that wages and working conditions have not ever improved because immigration was curtailed -- the first Eight-Hour Day occurred from pitched battles between Anarchists and police officers in 1919, Barcelona; the rights to safe factory and mining conditions, to union organizing, to striking; all of these rights were not just "handed down" because the Capitalist class needed to entice new workers. Wages and working conditions are the collective product of ages of struggle, oppression, and resistance. Capitalists weren't "aiming to attract new workers with more incentives" when they granted the right to organize unions; the liberty of granting union rights had nothing to do with free market economics. It took a sacrifice workers' blood and life to create that right.
In the United States, we have been infinitely benefited by immigrants who brought this analysis of the social order with them; Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and Cesar Chavez, for instance, were among the many immigrants who contributed to America's labor movement. Your logic, that immigration causes wages to decline, is the reverse of these actual situations: these immigrants built social movements that succeeded in achieving our present standards of wages and working conditions. It wasn't by opposing immigration that these rights were achieved; it was by allowing the free movement of these people, ideas, and cultures.
The purpose of a nation is divisive and contradictory. It is quite certain, more than anything, that the interests of the American capitalists are quite opposite of the American laborers. What one gains in profits, the other sacrifices in wages, or what one loses in dividends, the other gains in working conditions. Their interests, on this scale, would be considered as completely opposite. To use the phrase, "the purpose of a nation," then, is to make a reference to something with completely self-contradicting interests -- the interests of a nation's people are so opposed to each other, that they often erupt in unrest, violence, and insurrection.
If you genuinely desire what is good for the American worker, then what you seek is going to be bad for the American capitalist. The individual, then, isn't really benefited or disadvantaged when the abstract concept of "the nation" makes a stride forward or a stride backward; the nation does not move as a whole, a single thing, with each member gaining or losing from an action. The individual is effected by the clash of the interests of the laborers and the interests of the capitalists; and they are effected according to which of those camps they belong. To speak of the "purpose of the nation," then, is rather beguiling. The purpose of a nation is divided, between the working masses, and the minority of property owners.
In a war, the workers are drafted to the battle lines, but the industrialists get expensive contracts and cheap labor. One class grumbles, while the other dominates. So it is when a national, eight-hour day becomes law; the workers celebrate, but the masters of industry groan. To speak of a nation advancing or regressing, then, is illogical; a nation doesn't advance or regress, but its classes are constantly either advance or regress. It is not so much the purpose of nation that we ought to be looking at; it is the purpose of a class.
You spoke so fondly of "the construction worker in L.A. or the hotel worker in Dallas." And now, your sympathies completely vanish when it is a laborer from another nation -- someone with a different language, culture, or religion. I cannot fathom this at all. You encourage, promote, and defend the American laborer as an honest, hard-working individual. When something as trivial as place of birth changes this to the Lebanese laborer, or the Mexican laborer, or the Guatemalan laborer, you withdraw as their supporter. Why? Both the domestic and foreign laborer are motivated by the same impulses, the security and well-being of their family. They both provide the essential structure to the whole of society. Why are you the staunch defender of the one, but then the strong opposer of the other?
In your initial response, you had said that the workers were going to be greatly disadvantaged by a flood of cheap labor from immigration; you described it as "a prescription for paralysis." My suggestion was simply that trade unions are far more capable of preventing laborers from being exploited by their employers. If you are genuinely working in the direction of alleviating the condition of the worker from cheap labor markets, then unionize. Compared to organizing, lobbying for lower immigration rates will have such a weak effect on improving the conditions of the nation's workers. If you really cared about the worker, that is where you would be involved right now -- I understand that you're an anti-immigration, policy group. I understand what your position is. My only point is, the argument for your position is flawed.