Immigration reform was the topic of interest at rallies and protests taking place across the United States this weekend, including one held on Chicago’s West Side.
That rally managed to draw a crowd of just over 1,000 people, including many political types eager for voter support going up as high as Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. His appearance at that rally, where he said that immigration reform must pass Congress “this year,” was the primary reason the Chicago rally was even acknowledged in national news reports – most of which focused their time on the Las Vegas rally where immigration proponents were trying to tout the re-election chances of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
BUT FOR ME, the intriguing part of the Chicago rally for immigration reform wasn’t who showed up – it was largely the usual (and expected) suspects. It was where the rally was held.
It was at Teamster City, 1645 W. Jackson Blvd., which is the primary facility for the Teamsters labor union in the Chicago area.
Not that it’s uncommon for political protests and rallies to be held there. But the fact that this particular event was held there means we have the Teamsters on the side of the immigrants and their proponents on this issue.
Which, to be honest, means we have most labor unions on the side of the immigrants on this issue.
I FIND THAT aspect to be interesting because most of the people who are opposed to immigration reform (or think that immigration “reform” should be defined as an increase in deportations) try to claim that their opposition has little to nothing to do with ethnic hangups.
Instead, they argue they are concerned about these non-citizens coming to our country at a time when we’re in an economic downtown and taking jobs from U.S. citizens.
Now some of these people manage to unmask their racial and ethnic hangups when bringing up this point when they say the low-level jobs now being done by these undocumented workers are jobs that could easily go to African-American people on welfare
Seriously, I have heard it. In their perfect world, black people wash dishes and do other menial jobs.
BUT BACK TO the point. It really has nothing to do with anyone taking away jobs from anybody else.
Because if it did, these labor union types would be the most outspoken opponents of immigration reform. We’d be seeing and hearing them in great numbers engaging in trash talk about the issue.
Instead, we’re seeing the unions realizing that these people are in this country to work, and that stabilizing their immigration status makes it less likely that companies would be able to hire them out of a sense that their uncertain status in this country makes them more likely to put up with abuse at the hands of an employer.
I’m not exaggerating. Anybody who doubts this ought to look at the organized labor rhetoric that occurred some two decades ago (and which we still hear traces of today) when the North American Free Trade Agreement was put into place.
THE UNIONS WERE more than willing to spew the official party line that thinking of Canada, Mexico and the United States as one economic unit would undermine the labor protections they had fought so hard to obtain throughout the years. Which played along with the nativist rhetoric that our country should not want to think of itself as an economic partner (or any type of partner, for that matter) with Mexico.
So I find it encouraging to learn that the unions are on the side of the immigrants,seeing them as mere workers who are trying to earn a living.
Now I realize that for some people, the fact that organized labor is now on the side of immigration reform will be a turnoff. Of course, most of those people likely are ideologically inclined to oppose immigration reform, regardless of who aligns in its favor.
But I like the idea that the ranks of organized labor, which includes many people whose families’ ethnic origins don’t go back that far, is willing to take a stand on this issue.
FOR THE BIGGEST problem faced by the immigration reform proponents is that the perception being spread by the nativist opposition is that this is an issue that no one other than a Latino has any real interest in.
Even though many immigration rallies wind up including many people speaking in an Irish brogue or in some eastern European dialect, too many people want to ignore this issue on the grounds that it is purely Latino in composition.
Which is why I was glad to see someone like Durbin (who often brags about his family’s Lithuanian origins) be willing to take a stance, instead of relying on Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., to do all the talking and political heavy lifting on this issue.
That may well be what persuades some GOP-types in Congress (some seem to think that veteran Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is a potential swing vote) to consider the issue seriously. Which could be the key to actually achieving a vote in Congress during 2010.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Richard Durbin and Luis Gutierrez are becoming national leaders in the political debate (http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/04/11/2010-04-11_immig_reform_cant_wait_till_next_year.html) over immigration reform.