Larry Flynt

Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

The Pathway Is Clear

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

larry-flyntIt’s hard to believe, but even after having their asses handed to them in the last election, Republicans still haven’t gotten the memo on the issue closest to the hearts of America’s fastest-growing group of voters: immigration. With Tea Party extremists still throttling conservative common sense, it’s time for President Obama and the Democrats to seize the issue and own it. A clear and just pathway to citizenship must be at the center of the push for immigration reform.

Progressive immigration policy is not only politically wise; it is just. Undocumented immigrants and their children contribute to our economy and have earned the rights of all Americans. A reform plan without citizenship would create a new Jim Crow reality: They’d have the right to live here—but only as second class citizens. That would be wrong and completely at odds with American values.

This is a country of immigrants, and as long as it leads the world in freedom and opportunity, it always will be. It is also a rapidly changing society. The only way to ensure that our hard-won progress toward greater freedom and tolerance is embraced and carried forward by new citizens is to allow them to personally experience its benefits themselves.

Larry Flynt

Immigration and the Wages of Sin

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

By Robert Scheer

What’s up with those godless heathens forming citizen armies to prevent Mexicans from illegally crossing the border? Have they never read scripture? Newsflash to the Minutemen: God, as quoted in the Bible, commands you to welcome immigrants, regardless of their paperwork.

“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him,” affirms the Almighty in Leviticus. “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.”

Despite this clear injunction from their Lord, however, far too many Christian Americans seem to believe that immigrants living in the United States illegally are the spawn of the devil, come to destroy our City on the Hill.

“I have to tell you that we are facing a situation, where if we don’t control immigration, legal and illegal, we will eventually reach the point where it won’t be what kind of a nation we are—balkanized or united—we will actually have to face the fact that we are no longer a nation at all,” says Representative Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado), a hero of the Far Right and a potential Republican candidate for President in 2008.

Tancredo, whose hardline Immigration Reform Caucus boasts many Christian Right Congress members, is just the latest in a centuries-long list of opportunist politicians, media demagogues and freelance xenophobes who, during low ebbs in our national sense of security and vision, have fomented anti-immigrant hysteria, demonizing immigrants as spies, criminals, terrorists, and even subhumans. Anything but the hardworking, exploited, often churchgoing, labor force that stokes U.S. prosperity.

“We could electrify it,” said Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) of the ludicrous 700-mile “super fence” boondoggle our easily stampeded political leaders have approved for the U.S.-Mexico border. “Not enough to kill somebody, but enough to make them think twice. We do that with livestock all the time.” Added King: If you decide later you want more immigrants, you could open it up and “let the livestock run through.”

The script is as old as the Mayflower: A false alarm is sounded that the values, wages and safety of the current roster of credentialed Americans are jeopardized by the “flood” or “tidal wave” or “river” pouring across our porous borders—be they German, Irish, Italian, Chinese, Jewish, Russian, Mexican or even the freed slaves seeking to earn an honest living in Northern cities after the Civil War. Any and all manner of societal problems have been laid, and continue to be, on these scapegoats, and the same simplistic solution offered: Find and deport them, and don’t let any more in.

Luckily, although it sometimes takes years or even decades, eventually saner voices prevail, acknowledging that the continued influx of immigrants always has fueled America’s astonishing economic and cultural rise, ever since the original natives were bum-rushed off their turf. Immigration laws are liberalized, compromises are reached, amnesties are offered, and the bureaucracy grinds on. Amnesty, thanks to the energetic efforts of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), has been a particular boon to the Irish so populous among us.

But it is the immigrants from Mexico who are most responsible for America’s enormous agricultural bounty and who are most easily maligned. Having intermittently covered this issue for the Los Angeles Times over 30 years, I can well recall the peaks of panic in which we reporters were dispatched to the border and out into the fields to witness the arrest of people desperate to find work—only to be embarrassed by the haunted eyes and clutched crosses of the discovered “enemy.”

The reality is that immigrants are here illegally in the millions because of a force the hypocritical Christian Right is too chicken to challenge: unregulated capitalism. An abysmal lack of enforcement of the labor laws regarding working conditions and minimum wage, paired with a relentless global competition over prices and labor costs, leads American businesses to welcome the cheap labor arriving here, documented or not.

Some 2 million immigrant workers now earn less than the minimum wage, and millions more work without the occupational safety, workers’ compensation, overtime pay and other protections legal status offers. Consequently, when the President says that immigrants perform work that legal residents are unwilling to do, he may be right—but we don’t know. The only way to test that hypothesis is to bring this black market labor pool aboveground by implementing the rarely enforced federal and state labor laws already on the books. That approach has been tried in California with some success in a program started by Republican Governor Pete Wilson and revived recently by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The approach is as simple as it is effective: Treat the undocumented immigrants out in the fields or in those garment sweatshops as exploited workers with rights that are not being enforced instead of as criminals to be hounded. Send a beefed-up army of federal and state labor and health inspectors into the workplace to make sure that the laws governing labor and production are being enforced, but leave the immigration agents out of it—you need those workers as witnesses in upcoming trials against the employers who have broken the law. The approach has worked so well that crooked employers screamed like mad and were successful in getting Schwarzenegger’s Democratic predecessor, Gray Davis, to back off on the raids. Hopefully, the Terminator will hang tougher.

If Congress raises the minimum wage significantly, and it is enforced, legal workers could take available jobs in agriculture, meatpacking and the garment and services industries—drying up the demand for illegal workers—which is the most effective means for cutting illegal immigration. Every serious study has shown that immigrants come here primarily for jobs and that ending the illegal, low-paid job market is the best way to control the flow across the border.

That makes more sense than racist ineffectual appeals to militarize the border with Mexico, or efforts to exploit the longstanding problem of immigration from Mexico and Central America with the President’s fit-all-bogeyman of the so-called War on Terror. All of the 9/11 hijackers entered the U.S. with valid passports, and not one was a Latino. Relax. Terrorists are not hanging out at your local car wash, but if the owners were required to pay them a living wage, some U.S. citizens—including the chronically unemployed Minutemen—might be encouraged to take their places. It’s the Christian thing to do.

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