Note: This is a weekly feature by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger
Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death yesterday was a blow to the immigrant community, as New America Media reports. For over 40 years, Kennedy was a tireless fighter for immigrant rights and is remembered for many valuable accomplishments, not the least in making possible the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which did away with the national-origin quotas that had been in effect in the US since 1924. Additionally, Kennedy help bring a close to the exploitative Bracero program, which supplied the U.S. cheap and temporary labor during World War II in the form of Mexican farm laborers who did not have proper protections or rights. Senator Kennedy also helped author the AgJobs bill of 2003, which gave undocumented farmers residency so they could continue working in the U.S. His legacy in the progress of immigration legislation is not in doubt.
The Massachusetts Senator was a vigorous proponent of both Healthcare and Immigration Reform, which isn’t surprising when you consider how much these two issues overlap. In last week’s Wire, we touched on this confluence. Despite the White House’s attempt to compartmentalize the two issues, Immigration continues sit front and center in the Healthcare discussion, often through dishonest argument by reform opponents.
The problem is, if the White House withdraws as an authoritative and reasonable voice on immigration and immigrants, the conversation will be taken over by anti-immigrant fringe groups. Arturo Sandoval of the New Mexico Independent describes the town hall debate during which a protester suggested that a “bullet in the head” was a solution to the idea that the U.S. has millions of undocumented within her borders. The “facts don’t support this xenophobic response,” Sandoval writes. Furthermore, the needs of the U.S. economy “pull” workers into the country. The immigrant workforce is then scapegoated for responding to that need.
The Washington Independent makes it clear that xenophobic sentiment, also championed by members of the Republican party, is not a wise political move. Daphne Eviatar attended town hall meetings where fact-resistant crowds shouted at lawmakers for “seeking to provide healthcare to illegal immigrants.” Eviatar pins much blame on “the anger fomented by anti-healthcare reform groups” which has given way to “nativist death threats.”