For those of us who believe comprehensive immigration reform means something other than “build a bigger fence” (oh, and electrify it, if you can),an editorial published in the New York Times this week is enough to run a chill right down your spine.
On Monday, the paper of record used a little of its editorial space to speak out on what it perceives to be a disaster-in-waiting as the Republicans assert control of the immigration agenda in the House of Representatives. Led by Congressmen Lamar Smith of Texas and Steve King of Iowa — both of whom are ardent supporters of overturning the 14th Amendment (the one that grants citizenship to those born on American soil), and one of whom has come out strongly in favor of racial profiling (which, as the Times editorial hastens to remind us, is illegal) — the new powers that be on immigration reform appear to be dead set on pushing for draconian and downright inhumane measures to deal with undocumented immigrants.
As the Times notes:
If [Republican] legislation looks anything like their campaign ads, there will be no way for illegal immigrants to get right with the law and no real solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Just a national doubling-down on enforcement, with still more border fencing and immigration agents, workplaces locked down, and states and localities setting police dragnets on what always was — and still ought to be — federal turf.
That hard-line approach mocks American values. It is irresponsibly expensive. It is ineffective.
More fences? More questionable methods for deporting people? More federal spending on tactics that are inhumane and known not to work? It boggles the mind — and the House is not alone in allowing reactionary sentiments to guide its policy making here. The Times also points out that every Republican on the Senate Judiciary committee, “signed a letter last month to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement of ‘a lax approach’ for focusing more on dangerous criminals than on those with minor or no criminal records.”
While conservatives keep themselves busy chastising other public officials and finding ways to spend money we don’t have, numbers of organizations working at the grassroots level doing the hard work of producing real, viable solutions to our immigration issues.
Take the women of La Mujer Obrera, who have staged a hunger strike outside the White House to convince our government to invest in long-term economic development, not electrified fences, in border areas. They know that jobs, along with vocational and educational opportunities, provide a much more effective type of border security than increased militarization ever could; they’re working to combat poverty and crime by providing women — who now make up more than half of the US immigrant population — with the economic security they need to ensure real security on the border.
If the new leaders on immigration in the House are looking for real solutions rather than reactionary strategies, they would do well to take a cue from La Mujer Obrera and other women’s organizations that are leading the fight at the grassroots level. These organizations know what their communities need — and they’ll need our support if they’re going to be able to make a difference in the face of this new, conservative leadership in the House.
Read the Times editorial. Watch the video below. And then pledge to help us lift up the voices and visions of women who are organizing for change — on the border and everywhere.