Narrow nationalism 1, international solidarity 0

Earlier this year, immigration 'reform' legislation was introduced in the Dáil. The legislation contained some of the most draconian provisions ever announced in this country, including harshly punitive measures for most undocumented immigrants, and limitations on their right to challenge the Government's decision on their status; biometric ID requirements; new restrictions on the right to family reunification; and the creation of an underclass of temporary migrant workers with few labour rights and no prospect ever of permanent residency. The bill was strongly opposed by civil liberties organisations and many of the country's leading trade unions, as well, of course, by left or left-leaning political parties such as Sinn Féin, Labour, and the Greens, who condemned its obvious human rights violations.

If the above paragraph doesn't sound familiar, it's because I've changed a couple details. The bill I'm talking about is real (and so are all those measures, and the bit about the civil liberties and trade union opposition), but it wasn't introduced in the Dáil - it was the US Congress. And far from condemning it, every major political party in this State lobbied heavily for its passage. Including the left or left-leaning ones. Including my own.

The reason, of course, is because of one of the few positive provisions in the Bill - the regularisation process for those undocumented immigrants who can afford it. For the sake of a relative handful of Irish people to whom, let's face it, the worst that could happen is that they'd have to come back and live in Ireland, we have not only accepted but actively supported legislation that we would never in a million years agree to in this country.

I understand the realpolitik involved, and I'm sure that if I had a loved one in the US who I hadn't seen in years because of the current immigration regime (as opposed to just a lot of friends in that situation, which I do have), I'd probably be more concerned about them than about the millions of people - mostly poor, brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking - who are going to suffer greatly when this legislation is finally passed.

But it still makes me a little bit sick.

5 comments:

yourcousin said...

Wednesday,
You have to understand the limitations of any bill even attempting to address the immigration issue here in America. The bill failed because it was construed as too liberal of all things. Just as SF caters their message differently for the Northern and Southern constituencies they also cater to ex pats and "Irish" America.

Most baby boomers are rabidly opposed to any kind of immigration lesgislation short of all out deportation for all illegals. Now admittedly my demographic (white construction/blue collar workers) are the ones most effected by any influx of immigration but the unremittance of this latest wave has made many people extremely bitter.

I don't quite share in it because I've grown up with alot of Mexicans and worked Heavy highway/Industrial construction and worked with all Mexicans for the last couple of years before I got fed up with endless swing and night shifts on the highway and switched to commercial. On my new job I work with older white guys who are great carpenters, good union men and fairly militant liberals, but immigration is a huge blind spot which I can see no way to breach. The worst part of it all is that they have a point. We have guys that have lived here for over ten years and don't speak any english and have no desire to do so. It's a fact that immigration increases the size of the labor pool and brings down our wages and working conditions.

I mean its nice to talk about international solidarity (which I actually do believe in by the way) but it's different from dealing with the issues that immigrations presents in a realistic way. It's something that no party on either side of the pond has really done. Though from what I've read I'm impressed with SF's approach to travellers and more recent immigrants looking to share in the Celtic Tiger's wealth.

Wednesday said...

Just as SF caters their message differently for the Northern and Southern constituencies

I'm against that, too!

It may well be impossible to get a deal for the Irish that doesn't involve making things worse for the Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans. My point is just that I find it very unpleasant that so many of us are willing to make that sacrifice - and don't even seem to feel guilty about it.

yourcousin said...

For all of the rhetoric around the bill I personally think it was as good as we'll get from Congress and the White House for quite awhile.

Many of the things that you are opposed to will happen anyway except that thre won't be any new path to legalization. This will be enflamed after the Republicans are routed in '08 and go back into reactionary conservative mode.

If you want to see how well Democrats will do I suggest you google "Colorado special session 2006". Much like foreign policy, they try to outdo the Republicans on toughness but give it a nice window dressing so as to appear progressive (but not too progressive). You might also want to google "ICE raids" to see what I mean in regards to the more Draconian measures going forward anyway with or without a bill.

To be honest I don't think Congress, state legislatures or even city councils can legislate the issue away. There needs to be a very honest look at what truly causes immigration and how it affects this country. Something which I don't think the American public let alone our political establishment is ready to do.

Wednesday said...

Every time we get up and speak against an Irish Government bill we're speaking against something that's going to happen anyway. We would never consider refusing to speak out on that basis. It's not a legitimate excuse.

And I'm not sure where you got the idea that I think the Democrats would do any better. They've always been useless.

yourcousin said...

Well at least we agree on something (re the Democrats). I think we are trying to compare apples and oranges when we discuss parliamentary actions in the US and Ireland. While I will be the first to admit that FF can pretty much do what it likes you do have the advantage of a multiparty system (at least you have a voice in the Dail). Here we Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee and Joe Lieberman if you can really count him as an independent.

Also what I was getting at in the end of my last comment is that the problem can't be solved in the parliament until we settle it in our homes and hearts. We need to inject into the popular consciousness the need for real dialogue about immigration that goes beyond "si, se puede" or "pinche mujados go home".

We're also approaching it from different sides in regards to peer groups. To be honest I'm not too concerned with what happens to the immigrant Irish here because I don't know any and I know that it's not that bad back in Ireland. I do know many Mexicans and am much more concerned with happens to them. I've yet to see ICE round up hundreds of Irish at their respective works and tear them away from their families as I've seen happen with the Mexicans in Greeley, CO.

I would also argue that the bill we have been discussing was never about actually making progress on the immigration issue so much as Bush trying to shore up conservative support without alienating business and the latino vote (and we wonder why it failed).

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