Sep 10, 2009

Framing is Everything: Where is the Immigrants' Rights Movement Now?

You know - the thing that irks me far more than Wilson's outburst last night? It's that the actual policy point that is being hammered again and again, both by the right wing fringe and mainstream conservatives AND the liberal media establishment (Keith Olbermann and the rest of them) as well as the spin doctors for the dopey Democrats, is that "illegal" immigrants are not going to get any kind of Federal subsidy for healthcare.

On the policy point, this means they may be forced to make decisions between breaking the new law because they didn't know or they can't afford the coverage, if maintaining healthcare coverage becomes mandatory through health reform, or paying full rates for health care coverage and not having money to send back home to their families, or not paying rent, or not feeding their families. The backwardness of this proposition, which is just an extension of wrongheaded policy decisions made as part of the 1996 Welfare Deform legislation, boggles the mind.

You know, if we have to outline who shouldn't get any government money for health care premiums, I would suggest it should be Federal income tax-evaders. But make sure we're clear: that would be people who actually have to pay taxes and don't, rather than just assuming that includes all undocumented folks. Because so many undocumented immigrants don't make a lot of money, those who do not file tax returns could be saving the Feds money by not claiming their Earned Income Tax Credit as very low income families.

But the biggest loss here is that democrats, liberals, "progressives" - they are all just willing to blindly accept that it's okay to leave out the undocumented in this debate. Sure! They aren't going to vote, they aren't going to donate, so let's scapegoat and toss them around as the political hot potato that we can all agree to ignore (or worse, talk about as if we're harder on them than the crazies on the right).

The "immigrants rights" people should be burning buildings down at this point. But I don't know if liberal white women do that kind of thing. So will the real immigrants' rights movement please stand up? There are people impersonating you, waiting quietly and patiently in the wings as the healthcare fiasco winds its way through the legislative halls until they can get a chance at gazing upon their icon and selling off large pieces of the movement as part of a "coordinated strategy on comprehensive immigration reform"... or at least their thinly veiled audition for coveted positions within the Administration. This anemic "movement" has no real vision, no real balls to take on the Administration the way that the right does every step of the way.

Dare I say it: they could learn something from the self-proclaimed "progressive caucus" of the House that is claiming that no health reform bill without a public option will be acceptable. They will likely be shut down (the President conceded more to the other side of the aisle than members of the "progressive caucus" last night, folks), but at least they finally said something. Will immigrants' rights folks do the same to stand up for our communities? The world waits to find out... or perhaps most sadly of all, they don't even know that this is an issue.

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