Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Handling Immigrants The Republican Way — Like Cattle

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

 It’s not without reason that Latinos in the USA are feeling terrorized these days, thanks largely to the increasing "crackdown" in illegal immigrants being pursued by ICE officials. This week in Iowa, they had the largest immigration raid yet:
The number of illegal immigrants detained Monday in Postville has risen to 390 in what federal officials now describe as the largest single-site raid of its kind nationwide.
The detainees include 314 men and 76 women, according to figures released this morning by federal authorities. Fifty-six detainees – mostly women with young children – have been released under the supervision of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We’re here to discuss not only the largest operation of its kind ever in Iowa, but in fact the largest single-site enforcement operation of its kind in the country,” U.S. Attorney Matt M. Dummermuth said.

The detainees included 290 who claimed to be Guatemalans, 93 Mexicans, three Israelis and four Ukrainians. Among the detained were 12 juveniles, six of whom have been released.
It’s all reminiscent, as the folks at America’s Voice pointed out, of the kind of "round ‘em up, ship ‘em out, and let God sort it out" rhetoric favored by the nativist faction that’s overtaken the Republican Party nowadays, especially folks like Rep. Steve King, the Iowa congressman seen in the video above equating undocumented to workers to cattle and saying, among other things:
We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn’t kill somebody but would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do this with livestock all the time.
As Frank Sharry at America’s Voice observes:
The Bush Administration has given up on real immigration reform to join Congressman Steve King and other Republicans who advocate mass round-ups of immigrant workers. The latest immigration raid in Iowa is an ugly example of the Republican thrust on the complex issue of illegal immigration: scare the public into thinking that immigrant workers are the enemy, round them up like cattle, terrorize immigrant communities in hopes they will leave the country, and pray it helps Republicans win elections this fall.

Moreover, as Joshua Holland at AlterNet recently explored, these kinds of mass roundups are always a bad idea, and always produce atrocities — not to mention a big hangover for civic leaders afterward:
Arizona’s new "enforcement only" immigration law, which mandates the use of an electronic verification system and subjects employers to the loss of their business license for hiring the wrong person, has turned out to be a disaster that might rank up there with the Edsel or New Coke in the pantheon of bone-headed ideas.

The state had a very low unemployment rate when the law was passed — it was, at least in part, a "solution" to a problem they didn’t have. Unemployment was at 4.1 percent when the law went into effect in January, and had been at 3.7 percent when a judge upheld the measure in early 2007.

Law-makers are now scrambling to undo the shock they’ve inflicted on the state as up to eight percent of the population — according to one estimate — have decided to hightail it out of Arizona en masse. The people of Arizona are learning that immigrants not only supply labor, but also demand goods and services in turn — and the labor that goes into them. They’re also learning that newer immigrant communities have a mix of people with different legal status all jumbled together, and that when there is a widespread perception that politicians (and citizens) are attacking immigrants, it doesn’t much matter that some differentiate between those who are "legal" and "illegal" — Arizona is losing citizens and lawful permanent residents among that eight percent drop in population.
Arizona is now faced with labor shortages, and when combined with the loss in demand from all those worker/consumers, the whole enchilada might end up costing the state’s economy tens of billions of dollars.
I have a hunch the fine folks of Iowa are eventually going to feel a similar hangover. And they can thank their good Republican representatives for it when they do.

No comments: