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Saturday, April 08, 2006


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What do you think? The t r u t h o u t Town Meeting is in progress. Join the debate!

Read more of Marjorie Cohn's columns.

 

Click here to go to t r u t h o u t ' s 'Marjorie Cohn' Page!    THE NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
    (Despite the Curbing of Dissent,
    It Is Increasing Exponentially)

    By Marjorie Cohn
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective
    Friday, 31 March 2006
    [Copyright (c) 2006 in the
    U.S.A. and Internationally
    by t r u t h o u t (.org)
    and/or Marjorie Cohn.
    All rights reserved.]

 

    In a wave of mass protest not seen since the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand justice for the undocumented. An unprecedented alliance between labor unions, immigrant support groups, churches, and Spanish-language radio and television has fueled the burgeoning civil rights movement.

    The demonstrations were triggered by the confluence of a draconian House bill that would make felons out of undocumented immigrants and HBO's broadcast of Edward James Olmos's film, "Walkout." But the depth of discontent reflects a history of discrimination against those who are branded "illegal aliens."

    Since September 11, 2001, immigrants have become the whipping boys for the "war on terror." Calls for enhanced militarization of the southern US border - including a 700-mile-long Sisyphean fence - reached a crescendo in the bill passed by the House of Representatives.

    Under its terms, three million US-citizen children could be separated from their parents, who would be declared felons and be subject to immediate detention and deportation. Those who employ them, and churches and nonprofits that support them, could face fines or even prison.

    Cardinal Roger Mahony called it a "blameful, vicious" bill, and vowed to continue serving the undocumented even if it were outlawed.

    Immigrants comprise one-third of California's labor force. But claims that immigrants take jobs away from Americans are overblown. Last summer, California suffered from labor shortages in spite of the high percentage of undocumented workers who labor in the fields.

    As a likely result of pressure from business dependent on cheap labor and the escalating protests around the country, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that strikes a more reasonable balance. It would legalize the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants, and provide them with the opportunity to become citizens. They would have to remain employed, pass criminal background checks, learn English and civics, and pay fines and back taxes. A temporary worker program would allow about 400,000 foreign nationals to enter the United States each year; they too could be granted citizenship.

    The current debate in the full Senate has focused on accusations and denials of "amnesty" and threats to national security. But the "immigration problem" is more complex than the sound bytes that proliferate. Seventy-eight percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants are from Mexico or other Latin American countries.

    According to Michael Lettieri, a Research Fellow with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, "The free trade accords that the Bush administration so tirelessly promotes do little to remedy such maladies, as both NAFTA and CAFTA-DR leave regional agricultural sectors profoundly vulnerable, as well as disadvantaged, in the face of robustly subsidized US agribusiness that enables Iowa to undersell Mexico when it comes to corn."

    The US was instrumental in the passage of NAFTA, which protects the rights of employers and investors but not workers. As a result of NAFTA, wages in Mexico, Canada and the United States have fallen. US food exports have driven millions of poor Mexican peasants from their communities. They come north to find work.

    Seventeen-year-old Carlos Moreno was among the thousands of students in Los Angeles who walked out of their high schools to protest the attack on immigrants. "I was born here," he said, "but I'm doing it for my parents, and for my family, and for all the Latinos, because I know what the struggle is."

    Sergio, an undocumented tenth grader from San Diego High School, attended a rally in San Diego's historic Chicano Park. "My parents are proud of me," he said. "They told me that I should help every time I can."

    A few years ago, San Diego filmmakers Issac and Judith Artenstein released "A Day Without a Mexican." In the film, all of the Mexicans in California disappeared one day. Gone were the cooks, gardeners, nannies, policemen, doctors, farm and construction workers, entertainers, athletes, as well as the largest growing market of consumers. The world's fifth largest economy was paralyzed.

    Today we celebrate the birthday of Ceasar Chavez, one of the most influential labor leaders this country has ever known. In the 1970s, when undocumented workers crossed the border and went to work in California's fields for lower wages than employers had to pay union members, the United Farm Workers began to call the migra to have them deported. Eventually, Ceasar realized that a much better solution was to organize those immigrants into the union.

    The answer is not to shut out those who work for less than minimum wage, without workers' compensation, occupational safety protections, and overtime pay. "It is a common-sense solution to bring an underground economy above ground," Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, "with strong labor protections to improve working conditions for all."

[The protesters are not the extremists. The "Far-Right Theocratic Corporate-Fascists" who are running and destroying True Democracy and Freedom in our country right now are the extremists. They are the radicals, not the dissenters who are doing nothing but exercising and carrying out their Constitutional rights to protest in a country that is supposed to be a True Democracy, and a country "....OF the People, BY the People, FOR the People....", where they too are SUPPOSED TO BE, and IT IS THEIR DUTY TO BE, a check and balance on the government, as well as "the three branches of government" which are failing us miserably right now, in fact which are selling "We, The People" out to hundreds of billions of dollars in profits for the military-industrial complex that President-General Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about, and that are draining the U.S. Treasury dry by design.

More and more of us True Americans must stand up against all of the insanity that is presently being foisted upon us in droves, and go out and protest and dissent against it as it is our True Patriotic duty to do. Greater and greater numbers of us will, and the mass-protests will only increase; and it should point out to, and open the eyes of, those who very falsely and wrongly think dissent and protest are "unAmerican", that the more the protests and dissent increase, it shows and proves that very seriously wrong things are going on that are an extreme threat to the liberty(ies) of ALL Americans; and, rather than fighting against the protests and/or dissenters, they should join with them in seeking to take our country back from going over the brink into self-destruction. (Subtitle, and Words in brackets {"[ ]"} and/or emphasis, added by Wolf Britain.)]



    Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. She writes a weekly column for the great and powerful t r u t h o u t website.

  ________

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