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Separating Fantasy from Reality

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stop modern slave labor protestIn “The Three-Legged Stool of Immigration Reform,” Real Clear Politics columnist Ruben Navarette goes to great pains to defend what many groups have called “Bush’s midnight attack on farmworkers.” Navarette laments:

Just look at what happened recently when the Bush administration — which tried to get comprehensive immigration reform through Congress but failed in part because of labor’s opposition to guest workers — tried to make it easier for one group of employers to use foreign workers. 

Back up. Who killed immigration reform? Was it organized labor?

According to an MSNBC article, “Immigration bill suffers major defeat in Senate,” published immediately following the bill’s collapse:

The vote was a stinging setback for Bush, who advocated the bill as an imperfect but necessary fix of current immigration practices in which many illegal immigrants use forged documents or lapsed visas to live and work in the United States.

Victory for GOP conservatives

It was a victory for Republican conservatives who strongly criticized the bill’s provisions that would have established pathways to lawful status for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. They were aided by talk radio and TV hosts who repeatedly attacked the bill and urged listeners to flood Congress with calls, faxes and e-mails.

Now that we’ve got that straight, Navarette continues:

The bureaucratic change, the most significant in 20 years to the nation’s H-2A visa program, was met with incredible hostility from organized labor and its friends in the Democratic Party. […]

Farmers had typically bypassed the program because — with its bureaucratic delays, red tape and requirement that they pay foreign workers more than minimum wage — they considered the option to be more trouble than it is worth.

Apparently, farmers go around the H-2A program now in order to pay their workers less for back-breaking work.

What’s more absurd than not blaming the GOP for killing immigration reform? Putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop, as it were: giving employers free reign to treat their workers as they will.

Immigration reform that’s got a chance must be good for US workers, immigrant workers, and the economy. We needn’t choose between worker protections and real immigration reform, but we do need to separate fantasy from reality.