By Contributor on March 20, 2013

The time has arrived for President Obama and Congress to take immediate action on comprehensive, humane immigration reform.

By immigration reform, I am not talking about militarizing our borders, empowering employers to behave as immigration enforcement officials and imposing fines and back taxes on aspiring citizens.

Instead, I am talking about allowing labor to cross our borders as transnational capital does, preventing employers from exploiting immigrant laborers and lowering application costs for future citizens.

Too often, when Democratic and Republican leaders speak about comprehensive immigration reform, their message mainly centers on enforcement-dominated policies.

For instance, while Obama spoke eloquently about immigrants in his second inaugural address, his administration has deported more immigrants than that of his predecessor, President Bush, during the same time period.

As the Obama administration continues to separate hardworking immigrants from their families and friends, I find it hard to believe the president when he says, "Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity."

I don't find the deportation of more than 1.6 million undocumented immigrants during Obama's first term in office as "welcoming."

Moreover, given that Republican leaders remain hostile and pay only lip service to Latinos and immigrants in this country, it's incumbent on Obama and Democratic leaders to invest the necessary political capital for the benefit of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.

Instead of dehumanizing and blaming recent immigrants for America's financial woes like the GOP, Obama and Democratic leaders should demand that Latino immigrants be treated with dignity, respect and tolerance.

More specifically, Democratic leaders should educate and convince the public about the pivotal role undocumented immigrants play in America's social and economic prosperity, highlighting key characteristics like their willingness to sacrifice themselves for their families, a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial bent.

In developing a humane immigration reform policy, both Democrats and Republicans should learn from past immigrant policies with progressive elements. This includes the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, where immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa benefited from family reunification components of the law. This also includes the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, where almost 3 million immigrants qualified for amnesty. Republican leaders should learn from their iconic figure, President Reagan, who signed this legislation into law.

Instead of doing what's right in both moral and economic terms by proposing another amnesty plan, a recent bipartisan group of senators, also known as the Senate "Gang of Eight," introduced a regressive, comprehensive immigration reform proposal. It includes a so-called pathway to citizenship for qualified undocumented immigrants.

But it mainly focuses on punitive measures, such as a border-enforcement prerequisite before granting citizenship, imposing fines and back taxes, deputizing employers to become more effective immigration enforcement officials and creating an exploitable labor pool of guest workers, like the Bracero Program of the mid-20th century -- a program that my father, Salomon Huerta Sr., participated in under inhumane working conditions.

In short, there's only one humane and simple plan for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country: amnesty.

Let's get over the hostility to the term, and welcome the people who have been working in the shadows.

Alvaro Huerta, a UCLA visiting scholar at the Chicano Studies Research Center, is the author of the forthcoming book, "How the Other Half Gets Scapegoated: Immigrants and the Working Poor in the U.S.," by San Diego State University Press. 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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