Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't Pick on the Underdog

Don’t Pick on the Underdog.

The assault on illegal immigrants continues unabated. After the passage of the anti-illegal immigration law in Arizona, almost 20 other states are considering similar legislation. Other states, for instance Massachusetts, are considering other ways of responding to anti-illegal immigration sentiments among the voters. They want to make sure that illegal immigrants do not receive any social services or health care.  The voters in Fremont Nebraska (population 20,000) voted to adopt an anti-illegal immigration ordinance that forbids landlords to rent to illegal immigrants and employers to employ them. Similar measures were passed in Hazleton, PA and Farmers Branch, TX and elsewhere.

One prominent explanation for this wave of anti-illegal immigration legislation is widespread anger over the economic conditions in the country. Unemployment continues to hover above 9% and all of the federal stimulus expenditures don’t seem to make much of a dent. According to some reports, one quarter of all homeowners owe more money on their house than the house is worth today. A variety of efforts are failing to help people hit by foreclosure. The rate of foreclosures is not going down.

No wonder people are scared and angry. But who should they be angry at? The illegal immigrants?
Richard Trumka, head of the AFL -- CIO has a good answer to that question. He writes in a blog on Huffington Post: “An immigrant worker did not move your plant overseas. An immigrant did not take away your pension. A Mexican or Salvadorean or Guatemalean worker did not cut off your health-care. His wife did not foreclose your home. Her children did not crash our financial system.”

That is an important reminder. It was Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Citibank and the Bank of America, AIG and others that crashed the financial system. It was the large mortgage lenders that knowingly sold mortgages to people who could not afford them. It was the banks that gambled their money and that of their depositors on financial instruments so complicated  that hardly anyone understands them.

More importantly even, it is the Congress of the United States that still supports large business while it  is unwilling to spend money to keep the unemployed from going hungry. Our country has been sold to the highest bidder.

Yes, undocumented workers did break the law entering the United States. But the real culprits for the present crisis are the large companies whose lobbyists write the laws and pay Congress to pass them. In this way, they can make sure that what they do is not illegal even if it ruins the lives of literally millions of American citizens.

It is convenient for these large companies and their representatives in various legislatures to get everybody really riled up about illegal immigrants. In that way we can detract attention from what is really the matter in the United States today: that the large banks, the large brokerage houses, the large mortgage companies can do whatever they want and have  it legitimated by the legislators who are in their pay.

But the citizens who angrily focus on illegal immigrants are not angry at the institutions and individuals who deserve our anger. By allowing themselves to be distracted, they surrender any possibility we might have to pass financial regulation laws with teeth. Democracy will not work when citizens blame the victim, and allow themselves to be deceived by the victimizers.

Let’s stop being so upset about poor people coming across the border to make some sort of living and look at the extremely rich people who have sunk our economy.