By Contributor on April 11, 2013

With a drive towards immigration reform gaining momentum across party lines, we have our first real opportunity in years to see change. The only question now is: Can we make it happen?

The so-called Gang of Eight senators certainly appear well on their way. What's more, they have public support.

In a survey released by the Pew Research Center the end of March, more than 70 percent of Americans supported a path to citizenship or permanent residency for undocumented immigrants.

We must seize this opportunity to institute real reform.

The issue of reform has long been complicated by the conflicting goals of labor unions and industry, whose conflicts over the use of immigrant labor have been longstanding.

Even Cesar Chavez, the renowned union leader and civil rights activist, stood firmly against both guest worker programs and undocumented immigrant labor. Chavez saw the exploitation of Mexican workers in both, which in turn created unfair conditions for U.S.-born workers.

The fact remains, however, that businesses will continue to use immigrant labor, legally admitted to the country or not. Ignoring proposals for guest worker programs, or worse, refusing to consider them, would only hinder the goal of effective immigration reform.

Fortunately, the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have managed to work out at least the trappings of an agreement on a new guest worker program. What remains to be seen is if our political leaders can do the same, especially while ensuring the guest worker program truly provides equal treatment, decent conditions and fair pay for workers.

Many conservative pundits and politicians wish to portray the integration of 11 million undocumented immigrants as a form of amnesty for some egregious crime.

The simple truth is that immigrants, those with and without documents, come to the United States to work. They do not arrive here with expectations of living off our woefully inadequate social programs.

Contrary to the image that anti-immigration proponents would like to paint, undocumented workers contribute greatly to our society. In 2010, Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, estimated that undocumented workers were contributing as much as 10 percent of the total Social Security taxes, up to $240 billion a year, while having no way to benefit from it.

The goal of legitimizing the millions of residents around us who exist in a legal limbo is not only noble, but practical as well. We cannot rebuild our economy without the assistance of those who have often been the backbone of our construction, agriculture, and manufacturing industries.

We can't allow ourselves to get stalled by evasive politicians, because right now is looking like the best bet for pushing real change past the partisan posturing.

Let's get it done right this time, so we can all benefit.

Jose Miguel Leyva is a freelance writer and journalist living in El Paso, Texas. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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