La Rayuela de Javier

with the American 2012 presidential campaign on the move, The immigrant rights movement is once more at a crossroads iii Part A

By Javier Rodriguez-Isabel Rodriguez-Antonio Rodriguez 21 August 2011

“Make no mistake, here in America the 11 million undocumented immigrants, public school and college students included, their 4.5 million US born children and their 2 million plus spouses have been living a comparable 25 year old dictatorship, entrapped in this country almost as indentured slaves, living in a giant prison, in persecution, fear, terror and stigmatized to psychosis levels. And with hundreds of thousands of their kin incarcerated, deported and displaced, they exist without having the space to rest in between their long hard labor and school days.”

“In total, US millionaire households have at least $45.9 trillion in wealth, the majority of this wealth is held within the upper one-tenth of one percent of the population. If all this isn’t obscene enough, to further demonstrate how the global economy has now been completely rigged, Deloitte’s analysis predicated, based on current trends, that US millionaire households will see a 225 percent increase in wealth to $87.1 trillion by 2020.” DAVED DeGRAW

The presidential campaign season has begun and it has arrived after two and half years of disappointments with the current Obama administration. Since the change of guard at the White House in January 2009, the right wing in Congress has been fighting Barack Obama at every corner and for every inch of ground with ominous results for democrats: losing the House of Representatives in the midterm elections. However, in this brief period since November 2010, signs point to disarray in the Republican ranks. The pundits and the polls have begun to reveal that the conservative troops are clearly not all in tune with the Republican leaders and their obsession to protect the tax breaks of the rich and to dismantle the nation’s socialized programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on the backs of working and middle folks. And since the tumultuous debate over the debt ceiling, the polls say Congressional popularity is down to a record low at 14% while the president stands at 41%.

On the side of the working and poor people, labor, clergy, the country’s left and progressive movement and other sectors, including the progressive and black caucuses in Congress, continue the fight back against the billionaires, their armies of lobbyists and right wing politicians. In relative terms, the resistance has never ceased. The same can be said for the fight for a comprehensive immigration reform, legalization and the titanic battle to stop deportations and the massive separation of families. In a clear sign that the immigrant rights movement is gaining ground, in Aug, just three days ago, the immigrant rights community and its widespread leadership wrested an important concession from the Department of Homeland Security that, on a case by case basis, will immediately suspend all the present deportation proceedings of an estimated over 300,000 undocumented immigrants and will provide them with the coveted work permit. And propitiously not long ago, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and several key democrats recently introduced a full immigration bill, which, unequivocally, goes hand in hand with President Obama’s efforts to place immigration reform on the national agenda as part of his campaign to woo Latinos in big numbers.

As a context to the historic immigrant struggle, we have selected the following quotes. They are taken from speeches or writings by several respected political commentators and leaders, which provide a succinct but panoramic view of the harsh and desperate political and economic conditions in the country, the growing might and insatiable appetite for wealth and power of the ruling class, the growing discontent with Barack Obama’s submissive performance against right wing extremism in Congress, as well as a window to the nation’s conservative political elite and the need to defeat it:

“There’s no question about it: The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and religious right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with structural deficits that will last until our children’s children are ready for retirement, and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions except rewarding the rich and waging war. Let’s face the reality: If ripping off the public trust; if distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the poor; if driving the country into deficits deliberately to starve social benefits; if requiring states to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor; if squeezing the wages of workers until the labor force resembles a nation of serfs – if this isn’t class war, what is”? Bill Moyers

“For eight years under the Bush administration, the beast of regression was cloaked in darkness, working quietly to rip loopholes in regulation, to start never-ending wars of aggression, to steal from the working class and to forever enshrine the CEOs. Now, with the fracturing of the right-wing coalition – along with overt power grabs by the Supreme Court and neo-corporatist state legislatures – the plan has been laid bare for all to see. Sure, it’s scary to see the corporatist beast without its clothes on, to stare at its heaving, massive, hairy chest expanding and contracting as it sucks in fresh air and breathes out venom. But at least now we know what the beast looks like, and we know where it is.” Jim Trumka AFL – CIO President.

“The hope engendered by the president’s election in 2008 has turned into disappointment for many people. This has to be acknowledged, but at the same time, it also has to be said that the president inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the Republicans have blocked this administration at nearly every turn, even when the Democrats had the majorities in both houses of Congress by use of the Senate filibuster. For the president they have made the country, for all practical purposes, ungovernable. Moreover, it has to be said that what we are seeing now from right-wing extremism, as bad as it is, is nonetheless only a small down payment on what they would do if they regain control of every branch of government in the 2012 elections.” Sam Webb

“While 68.3 million Americans struggle to get enough food to eat and wages are declining for 90 percent of the population, US millionaire household wealth has reached an unprecedented level. According to an extensive study by auditing and financial advisory firm Deloitte , US millionaire households now have $38.6 trillion in wealth. On top of the $38.6 trillion this study reveals, they have an estimated $6.3 trillion hidden in offshore accounts. In total, US millionaire households have at least $45.9 trillion in wealth, the majority of this wealth is held within the upper one-tenth of one percent of the population. If all this isn’t obscene enough, to further demonstrate how the global economy has now been completely rigged, Deloitte’s analysis predicated, based on current trends, that US millionaire households will see a 225 percent increase in wealth to $87.1 trillion by 2020.” DAVED DeGRAW

“Though signed into law by Bush, TARP was almost wholly administered by President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. It used $700 billion of taxpayer money, which had to be borrowed, to backstop banks. More importantly, the Federal Reserve allowed banks to use the toxic subprime mortgages on their books as collateral to access over $1 trillion in government money at little or no interest. For banks, this was free money. But they did not use the free money to keep families in their homes or fund job-creating industries, as had been promised. Instead it went into in-house proprietary trading operations, which are basically legalized private casinos that firms use to bet on stock price movements. Tax payer-subsidized gambling on Wall Street led 2010 to be the financial industry’s highest paid year ever. Meanwhile, Americans suffered with double-digit unemployment, the lowest level of homeownership in 40 years, $12 trillion in erased wealth, and the worst economic indicators for people of color in almost two generations. The racial wealth gap grew to 20-to-1, driven by a still spiraling foreclosure crisis in black and Latino neighborhoods, while poverty and hunger hit record rates. Saving Wall Street did not save America .” Imara Jones- Color Lines

He surrendered last December, extending all the Bush tax cuts; he surrendered in the spring when they threatened to shut down the government; and he has now surrendered on a grand scale to raw extortion over the debt ceiling. Maybe it’s just me, but I see a pattern here. Did the president have any alternative this time around? Yes. First of all, he could and should have demanded an increase in the debt ceiling back in December. When asked why he didn’t, he replied that he was sure that Republicans would act responsibly. Great call. And even now, the Obama administration could have resorted to legal maneuvering to sidestep the debt ceiling, using any of several options. In ordinary circumstances, this might have been an extreme step. PAUL KRUGMAN

RANSOM PAID “Anyone who characterizes the deal between the President, Democratic, and Republican leaders as a victory for the American people over partisanship understands neither economics nor politics. The deal does not raise taxes on America ‘s wealthy and most fortunate who are now taking home a larger share of total income and wealth, and whose tax rates are already lower than they have been, in eighty years.” Robert Reich

“The Republicans have been absolutely determined to make certain that the rich and large corporations not contribute one penny for deficit reduction, and that all of the sacrifice comes from the middle class and working families.” Sen. Bernie Sanders

“Progressive lawmakers and working families were thrown under the bus by a deal that trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals.” The result is as bad for the Democratic Party as it is for the country. We have given much and received nothing in return. The lesson today is that Republicans can hold their breath long enough to get what they want. While I believe the country will not reward them for this in the long run, the damage has already been done.” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

“We’ve got to educate the American people at the same time we educate the President of the United States . Neither Speaker Boehner
nor Majority Leader Cantor called for Social Security cuts in the budget deal. The President of the United States called for that, and my response to him is to mass thousands of people in front of the White House to protest this.” Cong. John Conyers

“Mr. Obama is a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” Cornel West, Former supporter of President Obama and a Princeton University professor

“Corporate America has a plan for you. Eat low nutrition junk, earn low wages, pay high interest rates, pay high medical bills and when you’re young and healthy enough, go overseas and lay it on the line to preserve the American Way of Life.” Public Domain

“We’re going to have to develop our own ways of communicating the truth to the American people and that means grassroots organizing, town halls, and using social media networks. We’re going to have to be 21st Century communicators to turn it around and to hit each and every front simultaneously. Because the fact is that money now rules in campaigns and those with money can distort the facts, tell lies, and it’s hard to get a consistent platform to refute them.” Congresswoman Barbara Lee

“We are now faced with a nontraditional, radical view of “democracy” coming from the Republican Party. To them “democracy” means that nobody should care about anybody else, that “democracy” means only personal responsibility, not responsibility for anyone else, and it means no trust. If America accepts this radical view of “democracy,” then all that we have given each other in the past under traditional democracy will be lost: all that we have called public. Public roads and bridges: gone. Public schools: gone. Publicly funded police and firemen: gone. Safe food, air and water: gone. Public health: gone. Everything that made America, the crucial things that you and your family and your friends have taken for granted: gone.” “The democracy of care, shared responsibility and trust is the democracy of the American Dream. The “democracy” of no care, no shared responsibility and no trust has produced the American Nightmare that so many of our citizens are living through. Our nation has vast national wealth: a huge continental landmass with wealth in minerals, agricultural land, forests, cities, beautiful places, as well as its public wealth, that is, the creative wealth of its educated citizenry and the collective wealth of all its citizens and corporations. We, the public, can put our nation’s vast wealth to use in creating jobs that make the lives of all better: building, educating, curing and imagining. That is the Dream. To realize the Dream, we must end the Nightmare. George Lakoff and Glenn W. Smith , Truthout | Op-Ed

Incisive and burning comments, especially those of Moyers. However, with the exception of Congresspersons Conyers and Lee, they all leave out the most important factor to radically push for change, the masses in the millions on the streets. But, you don’t have to be a socialist to understand that the picture they paint does not conform at all to the “God bless the United States of America ” slogan so endeared by the political class, which perpetually pays homage to the empire. Foreclosures and the outright theft on millions of American homeowners have not abated; and Latinos and blacks, including undocumented immigrants are the hardest hit. Furthermore, in an absolute contempt for humanity, reports are filtering out that say the banks have begun bulldozing unsold homes; real unemployment tops 16 million workers and for youth it stands consistently close to 40%; layoffs continue everywhere including the federal government with the very recent and frightening announcement of the upcoming 120,000 jobs reduction in the US Postal Service; massive cuts in social services and basic education; community colleges and university fees are on the rise; the state of Rhode Island has filed for bankruptcy and most state and local governments are also on the edge of the cliff; clinics and hospitals and health services have seriously diminished the quality of health prevention and shut downs are on the rise; hundreds if not thousands of parks are slated for closure; there are longer lines at food banks; 30.7 million children, that is 42% of our kids in the “God bless American nation” live in poverty and 1 million in California alone witnessed the loss of their family’s homes to the banks; And lastly here is a real capitalist banger that belies racial equality in the Obama era: from 2005 to 2009 Latino household wealth fell by 66%, and wealth gaps rose to record highs among whites, Blacks and Latinos with the median wealth of white households now being 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Latino households.

These are the stories that not only fill the newspapers and TV news daily but also the living rooms of America and astonishingly today 1 of every two Americans, 150 million, are in or near poverty. At the same time, the world’s richest 1%, including over 400 US billionaires, has not only maximized the exploitation of the two hundred million undocumented of the world but also on the majority of humanity, including Americans. Astonishingly, according to the latest economic revelations, America’s wealthiest 1% in 2008 had more income than the rest of the population and in these times of the debt ceiling crisis, these same societal economic parasites, who used to pay 30% of their income to Uncle Sam, according to Wall Street Financer Steve Rattner, “since the George W. Bush years, they pay now only an 18% tax Rate for a 40% reduction.” Not surprising, the approved plan to raise the debt ceiling collects nothing from the wealthiest Americans to reduce our budget deficit, even though they can afford it. This screaming American reality of class warfare on the people emanates from the developing world globalization of the capitalist system which inherently enriches a tiny handful at the top, the ruling elite, whilst keeping the vast majority at the bottom.

In contrast to the radical downward spiral of the standard of living in the US , let us look below to South America . Brazil is an example to explore. Formerly a brutal military dictatorship that for decades was backed by the American government, between 2003 and 2010, Brazil has watched its middle class climb 42% to 105 million. In this same period former president Lula da Silva , an ex-steel worker and socialist, implemented government policies that helped 28 million Brazilians out of poverty and indigence. Continuing in the same direction, Brazil ’s new President Dilma Rousseff , an ex guerrilla, launched her program ” Brazil without misery” which pretends to end the extreme poverty in which 16 million Brazilians still live. It’s a no brainer. The roots of the problem are the values and principles behind the governance and the distribution of the societal wealth.

This is the unmistakable panorama of the general class struggle, the broader context in which the matter of the empowerment or legalization of the millions of immigrants and their families in the US has developed and hopefully resolved before next year’s presidential elections. However, if the negotiations on the debt ceiling give any indication of what we can expect from the Obama administration and the dogmatic conservative class on immigration reform, brace yourselves.

If you kindly notice in the analytical statements quoted above, none of the exponents include the issue of immigration and if any have in the past, it’s always been in light references. And before you jump into the crying game, let us firmly say, that the blame has to be shared, and we argue that we have not united, fought and sacrificed enough as a people and as a social movement to place immigration today on the same playing field, not yet. Though however, since IRCA 1986, the brutal campaign against Proposition 187 in 1994 and the intense struggles of 2006 to the present, we have fought and built mountains of organizational and political support that has set the basis for the growth and the continuous empowerment of Latinos nationally. Nevertheless, the measuring stick that history places in front of us today, indisputably points to Spain, England, Greece, Mexico, Israel, our own Wisconsin and of course to the ongoing Arab revolutions. In the latter, the throng of thousands killed by government forces, the self immolation of an Arab street vendor, repression, persecution and torture has not stifled the temerity, courage, conviction and sacrifice of those people to overthrow 40 year old US backed dictatorships that since January of this year, have been on display for the world to see.

But make no mistake, here in America the 11 million undocumented immigrants, public school and college students included, their 4.5 million US born children and their 2 million plus spouses have been living a comparable 25 year old dictatorship, entrapped in this country almost as indentured slaves, living in a giant prison, in persecution, fear, terror and stigmatized to psychosis levels. And with hundreds of thousands of their kin incarcerated, deported and displaced, they exist without exercising the human right to move freely and finally not having the space to rest in between their long hard labor and school days, always looking to the sides and over their shoulders and as Prof. William Robinson labels it “the new nomads of the 21st Century are forever living on the edge.” Staggeringly, 60% plus of the 50.2 million US Latinos have one or more undocumented family members in their ranks and they know of this reality first hand.

Today with the American presidential campaign on the move, the immigrant rights movement is once again at a crossroads. The quandary facing it is the fact that the economy -the latest poll on Latino public opinion reveals it- and the 2012 elections will increasingly take center stage and so far the leadership, with exceptions, has not displayed the vision, unity nor apparently the political skill to rebuild the massive street force, like the one displayed in 2006, and mount the campaign for comprehensive immigration reform, the grand prize, el premio gordo, unto the electoral arena, as it was successfully done in 1984.” That political strategy was the most important factor of public pressure that led to the IRCA Amnesty Law of 1986.

Part B and C are upcoming in the next few days as well as the translation.

Javier Rodriguez is a journalist and a media and political strategist. A long time activist, he was the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 MILLION historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006 . Isabel Rodriguez is a workers compensation attorney and a long time activist Antonio Rodriguez is a civil rights- anti police brutality attorney and also a long time activist All three are siblings who played a prominent role in organizing the mass street immigration movement of 1984 and 2006