Category Archives: Conservative Opposition

Immigration Debate Brings Strange Bedfellows—And New Hope—to Washington

Submitted by By  on July 31, 2013. On Time

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“It’s nice to be back here amongst old friends and enemies,” Senator John McCain said Tuesday morning as he opened a discussion on immigration at the Washington headquarters of the union powerhouse American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). His comment earned a trickle of awkward laughter from the audience, which included congressional staff members, some undocumented Hispanic youth known as “Dreamers” and a slew of reporters eager to watch the Republican make a begrudging alliance with organized labor.

Widespread confusion over how the House of Representatives will handle pending immigration reform legislation has launched an all-lobbyists-on-deck scramble for influence on the Hill. Delegates from Silicon Valley to the cantaloupe fields of Texas are descending on Washington to weigh in, and McCain is putting aside his history with the AFL-CIO to join the fray. He discussed the importance of creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with labor-friendly congressman Xavier Becerra on Tuesday.

“Treat your opponents, those who disagree with you, treat them with respect,” said McCain, who was criticized by the AFL-CIO as an opponent of worker’s rights during the 2008 election and 2007’s immigration reform debate. The federation of unions spends big bucks promoting Democratic candidates. After endorsing Barack Obama for President in June 2008, they used roughly $53 million of their $200 million campaign budget to run “grass roots mobilization” plugging McCain’s competitor. The group even launched a website, www.mccainrevealed.org (now deleted), which attacked the Senator’s voting record and his ties to George W. Bush.

The AFL-CIO also worked against McCain’s efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Although Democrats controlled the House when their bill hit the floor, McCain and Senate ally Ted Kennedy were unable to satisfy the labor lobby’s demands, which were supported by then-Senator Obama. The primary concern for labor groups was guest worker programs: initiatives that allow foreigners to reside and work in the United States during labor shortages. Such programs would have won the support of big business and the GOP, but the AFL-CIO worried that immigrants brought into the country under such initiatives would be paid less than the median wage in their respective industries. Ultimately, intra-party disagreement caused the 2007 bill to fail.

But 2013 is different, say labor groups and their congressional allies. In March, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka struck a deal with Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Thomas J. Donohue, head of the business lobby Chamber of Commerce. The alliance helped secure support for bipartisan legislation later passed by the Senate. Via conference call, Schumer announced a compromise on divisive guest worker programs. He assured organizers that under the new bill, guest workers would be paid the highest prevailing industry wage as determined by the Labor Department. “This issue has always been the deal breaker on immigration, but not this time.”

Former McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who touted the economic benefits of immigration during a panel at the AFL-CIO on Tuesday, started his discussion by reflecting on fickle Washington allegiances. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more flattered than by the kind of words of Congressman Becerra and my former boss John McCain about my work. But I will tell you that when I was head of the CBO neither of them had a word to say about it. So, time heals all wounds and let us hope that we can get over the wounds of the past efforts on this topic and we can get something done this year.”

Whether or not Tuesday’s discussion helped push immigration reform toward passage in the Republican House—it likely didn’t—the gathering demonstrated that the issue has created powerful, if unconventional, coalitions in Washington. After his Democratic counterpart shared a moving story about his former job as a construction worker, McCain joked, “Congressmen Becerra went from an honest line of work into politics.”

MAG-Net May 2013 Digital Dialogue: “The Immigrant Rights Movement: Advancing Media and Cultural Strategies”

Submitted by bettyyu on Tue, 2013-06-11 15:09 on mag-net.org

May 1st marks May Day, also known as International Workers Day. On May 1st, 1886, nearly a half a million immigrants went on a general strike to fight for a 8-hour workday. Over a hundred years later, starting in 2006, again millions of immigrant workers and supporters participated in May Day protests against H.R. 4437, a draconian anti-immigrant bill. Even today, the majority of May Day protests are led by immigrants.

Currently, the immigrant rights movement is continuing its fight for comprehensive immigration reform–working to create a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented individuals in this country. At the same time, the corporate media depicts undocumented immigrants as job stealers, lazy welfare cheats, and possible “terrorist” all at the same time. This false narrative not only hurts immigrant communities, it also impacts our ability to move any transformative policy. How can the media justice and immigrant rights movements work together more effectively to uplift the stories of those families most directly impacted by bad legislation, border security and deportations? How are the online and office privacy and rights of immigrants being violated by the U.S. Government?

This Digital Dialogue will bring together organizers, media justice activists, journalists, cultural workers and policy experts who are working to advance a immigrant rights agenda that upholds the dignity, labor and human rights of immigrant communities. On the call we will hear about the various storytelling, media making and cultural strategies to advance this fight.

Featured Speakers:
Laura Muraida, Southwest Workers Union
Aura Bogado, The Nation & Colorlines
Chris Calabrese, American Civil Liberties Union
B. Loewe, National Day Laborers Organizing Network
Celso Mireles, United We Dream

Moderated by: Pedro Joel Espinosa, IDEPSCA & Betty Yu, Center for Media Justice

Challenging the Roots of Norway’s Tragedy

The horrific murder of 76 people in Norway on July 22nd underscores the fact that, much like in the United States, migration is a giant issue facing Europe. The 1,500 page political manifesto released by Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed killer, blends together racist, anti-feminist and anti-marxist rhetoric with islamophobia and anti-immigrant vitriol. Yet Breivik’s diatribes are not such a far cry from the political tide gaining strength in many countries of Europe. New laws in France and Belgium banning the veil and the burqa and the rise of anti-immigrant political parties have served to strengthen an extreme right wing agenda on the European continent.

One of the goals of Uprooted is to draw connections between migration and other social / economic phenomena. What are the forces in the contemporary world that push people to leave home, family, neighbors, the familiar to cross barriers of mountains, oceans, deserts and language to go to other, often hostile countries?

Why does the extreme right focus on immigration? How does xenophobia reinforce the imperialist, white, male hegemony, so blatantly promoted by politicians and much of the media? And most chillingly of all: are attacks, like those perpetrated in Norway, the logical next step to arise from the political ideologies espoused by the far right – little examined,  frequently underplayed or even at times rationalized in the corporate media.

Deep Dish TV and the Uprooted team are working with European filmmakers and activists to develop a series of short documentaries that focus on the dimensions of the migration conflicts in Europe, including No Borders a group that challenge the very concept of nation-states and borders.

The following video is from a 2007  No Borders camp on the California/ Mexico border:

Uprooted will help to create an alternative to the mainstream medias discourse on immigration, which finds expression in and  fuels the rise of hate groups and the extreme right.

In their search for a narrative through which to filter the tragic attacks in Norway, many media outlets framed the bombing and shootings in an all too familiar way. Many outlets first pointed fingers at “Islamic terrorists” before anything was even known about the cause for the attacks. The Sun and the Washington Post, not only assumed the tragedies were the result of Muslim militant groups, but that they were attacks on “Western values,” tactical strikes in the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” between “the West” and Islam. In reality however, it was those very theories that state that Europe or “the West” is at “war” with Islam that drove Breivik to his actions. Those actions that he claims were a preemptive strike against the “Islamization” of Europe.

As Glen Greenwald points out in an article for Salon.com, the news media immediately stopped calling the attacks “terrorism” when they learned that the perpetrator was a white European nationalist. This is because, as Greenwald puts it, “Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes.” With attitudes like this perpetuated by the so-called “liberal news media” is it any wonder that members of the ultra-right have stated that they ideologically agree with Breivik, even if they don’t condone his violence?

The mainstream media has labeled Breivik a “madman,” an “extremist,” and even a “psychopath”. By dismissing him as a crazy individual they neglect to place his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in its rightful context: within the rise of right-wing extremism and white supremacy in Europe. The “lone madman” interpretation of events ignores the fact that in the past few years the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hatred of the so-called “extremists also finds congruence within mainstream “reasoned” political discourse . Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented that multiculturalism had “utterly failed.” Shortly before these comments, a German politician released a book criticizing Germany’s immigration policy for engendering the same “Islamization” of Germany and Europe that Breivik feared. Both British PM David Cameron and French President Sarkozy have cast multiculturalism as a threat to their societies.

In his manifesto, Breivik listed Dutch anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders as one of his greatest influences.  Wilders has compared the Quran to Mein Kampf. While Wilders has hastily denied any connection to Breivik, his influence, and that of others like him cannot be denied. As author, journalist and professor Jeff Sharlet stated in an interview on Democracy Now!, the right wing politicians and pundits “are engaging in a rhetoric that sort of walks right up to that step of violence, and Breivik took the step. And it’s a little disingenuous for them to say, ‘Well, we never imagined anyone would do that.’ Painting Islam and immigrants as a threat to ‘western society’ that cannot be reasoned with and must be stopped at all cost paves the way for violence.”

In a well reasoned argument on Democracy Now!, renowned Norweigian peace activist and scholar Johan Galtung, compared Breivik’s philosophy to Nazism in no uncertain terms. He also stated however, that, ” This is exactly the ideology of the Washington-led attack on Muslim countries.” Citing the bombing of Libya and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as policies that take the same philosophy used by Breivik to its logical conclusion. These are scary realities to confront.

Nevertheless, Galtung did offer some words of hope for a solution. He stated that what is needed is a renewed call for dialogue; with the extreme right as well as with those groups which they so fear. “What a fantastic symbol this would be” he said, “leaving these rightists behind, saying, “You are not a part of our history. You belong to the past. Come and join us in this endeavor. Talk with the Islamic people you are so afraid of.” And you will find them 99.99 percent very, very reasonable.”

Fighting dehumanization in this way is the best strategy for challenging the largely white, straight, male political and cultural establishment that so fears the power of a more culturally integrated generation. That is why Uprooted is devoted to reclaiming the humanity of migrants both documented and undocumented. By telling their stories and giving them a place to have their voices heard Uprooted hopes to contribute to this dialogue for peace. By examining how migration relates to labor, imperialism, patriarchy and globalization Uprooted will contribute to the arguments that stand against xenophobia and racism. We hope that this project will be a tool that can be used to help stem the flow of hatred and challenge the pathological path advocated by those like Anders Breivik.

To learn more about Uprooted and how you can get involved just click here!