by Mike Kimel
Labor, Immigration, and Democrats of Today v. Democrats of 1989
Lifted from comments I made to this post:
In 1989 plus or minus a year, I went to see Cesar Chavez speak. Its been a long time, but I have two memories of the event. The first is that every time the word “Armenian” was mentioned, activists throughout the hall would blow on whistles. There were (are?) a number of prominent of Armenian families among growers of various crops in California. Additionally, George Deukmejian (of Armenian background) was then governor.
The second thing that stuck out was how much Chavez and the mostly Hispanic crowd was against immigration. And when Chavez spoke of immigration, he meant (and I could be wrong, but I think he spelled it out) illegal immigrants who would come to California to work as farm laborers. Chavez and his supporters understood that more farm workers meant more competition and less pay for Chavez and his supporters. I never went to a speech by Deukmejian or any of the growers, but I imagine they understood how the supply and demand for farm labor works too.
I suspect Chavez and his largely Hispanic supporters that day would have strongly supported the construction of the Great Wall of Trump had it been suggested at the time. I also imagine every one of them would have taken issue with being described as race baiters. Instead, Chavez was arguing, essentially, that the first priority of the country should be to the people currently there, and that with few exceptions, the decision of whether to allow someone else to enjoy the privilege of coming to the country should be predicated more on the pros and cons to those already there. That is to say, the position Donald Trump has now on immigration from Mexico and Central America is the position Cesar Chavez held in 1989 (plus or minus a year).
And, of course, the one thing Democrats keep telling us Trump’s immigration policies is that they are bad. Racist too. The notion that people currently in the US should have some say in who else gets to come to the US seems to be an unfathomable evil. So where are Democrats now? Fastforward, and we have this Dep’t of Justice news release dated Sept 1 which is confusing me:
Justice Department Partners with Mexico to Combat Employment Discrimination
The Justice Department and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States established a formal partnership today to protect workers from discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status and national origin. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Mexican Ambassador Carlos Sada signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the embassy and its consulates, and the division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC).
As part of the MOU, OSC and the Mexican government will collaborate to educate workers about their employment rights and provide them with the resources needed to protect those rights. The MOU also seeks to promote training for employers on their obligations under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status and national origin. Specifically, the MOU provides that:
– OSC will train Mexican consular staff on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, participate in events organized by Mexican consulates to educate workers and employers and distribute educational materials to the embassy and its consulates.
– The embassy will establish a system for referring discrimination claims from the embassy and consulates to OSC.
“The Mexican government plays a vital role in helping the Justice Department ensure workers know about their rights and the protections the law provides,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “Mexico has taken a leading role in Labor Rights Week, ensuring that workers in Mexico and throughout the world know about their rights in the workplace and where to access help and support. I thank our Mexican counterparts for their collaborative partnership in our shared mission to empower workers and combat discrimination.”
In the last year, the department has also established formal partnerships with Ecuador and El Salvador to empower and educate work-authorized individuals from those nations.
OSC is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, this law prohibits citizenship, immigration status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process; retaliation and intimidation. In addition to its enforcement work, OSC educates the public on its rights and responsibilities under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision.
For more information about protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, call OSC’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call OSC’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); sign up for a free webinar; email email@example.comEmail links icon; or visit OSC’s website.
The part that confuses me is ” the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status and national origin.” Every job I have ever had, barring consulting gigs, has required me to provide evidence that I can legally work in the US, which amounts to either being a US citizen or having the right sort of visa or green card. Put another way, during my working life, the law of the land had always specifically involved “employment discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status and national origin.” Has that gone by the wayside?
And if so, has it only gone by the wayside for Mexican citizens? The document did state: “[i]n the last year, the department has also established formal partnerships with Ecuador and El Salvador to empower and educate work-authorized individuals from those nations.” Or is the “work-authorized” bit just, well, so 2015? Is this an attempt to move the goalpost on policy or simply to inform us of what has quietly become policy? Or perhaps it is just unclear (deliberately or otherwise) writing from some minion at Justice?
How one interprets this press release is very different now than it would have been even last year, much less, say, in 2006 or 1996. Immigration policy is changing fast, but not in a direction that, on aggregate, is good for people who currently make up the US workforce.