Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sessions gets his say

On CNN last week, Senator Jeff Sessions was on Lou Dobbs' show talking about his border fence amendment that was approved by the Senate. Interviewed by Kitty Pilgrim, Sessions suggested that Senators "switched" their votes to support of border enforcement after listening to their constituents (This is another example of Republican re-framing: the Senate bill contained border enforcement so this wasn't much of a 'switch' for those who voted for it).

Sessions said that senators felt the cynicism of Americans who "believe we talk the game, but we don't walk the walk. And I thought it was good that we eventually got that passed in a 94-3 vote was, I think, indicates some real change of heart among some in the Senate."

They also discussed Sessions' OpEd in the Washington Times about the Pence-Hutchinson immigration plan. Sessions said the U.S. needs comprehensive reform. "We need to throw out this system and develop a new system of immigration that serves America's national interests, our legitimate interests as a nation. And that includes accepting people who have higher skills. It includes allowing people to apply and wait in line based on merit." He said Congress should reject any plans that allows temporary workers because "they get to bring their families, they get to extend, extend, extend for 12, 15, 17 years. By then, nobody can ask those people to leave. Their children are in high school or in college."

Is anyone else bothered by the statement "Nobody can ask these people to leave"? Maybe it would have been clearer if he said "We want their labor but not them"? Has today's understanding of immigration strayed so far from its traditional meaning that a senator can't understand why immigrants should be allowed to settle in the US?

One of the most interesting aspects of the Pence-Hutchinson is its preference for immigrants from NAFTA/CAFTA countries (THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE PLAN). It is the only hint that anyone in Congress has been thinking about that the root causes of migration might have something to do with globalization. Sessions obviously unconcerned with how and who these international agreements have impacted. He has problems with the plan because, as he says in his OpEd, "By limiting the new program to only NAFTA and CAFTA countries, the bill would be a further and dramatic tilt to Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, over every other country in the world." He says that Irish immigrants would be excluded and after all "Irish settlers helped form this nation yet, amazingly, they received only two-tenths of one percent of our green cards last year."

Besides the obvious historical inaccuracy here (What about other ethnic groups, like Latino-Americans, who helped form this nation? Were the Irish even welcome when they first arrived?), Sessions is hinting at some serious racism and classism.

Sessions also has problems with allowing low-skilled workers entering the U.S. In his OpEd, he claims that low-skilled immigrants have depressed wages. Perhaps in such a small printed space, Sessions does not have the opportunity to examine other research that actually shows that immigrants EXPAND economic opportunities for U.S. citizens. In a statement that reveals Sessions limited understanding of today's immigration law and visa categories, Sessions continues "What we have lacked in this discussion is a serious evaluation of the merit-based policies other developed nations have adopted." He also suggests that only high-skilled workers "will contribute the most to their society and take full advantage of citizenship opportunities." (huh?)

It is also interesting that Senator Sessions is stepping up in the debate at this moment. But then again, he's not up for re-election in November so he can risk taking action.

ACTION STEP: E-mail or call (202.224.4124) Jeff Sessions and tell him that you don't agree with his analysis of the immigration situation. Tell him that immigrants (both highly skilled and low skilled) contribute to our society and they should be treated as full human beings with rights.

E-mail Lou Dobbs and CNN and tell them the same thing. Make them understand that all Americans do not agree with Jeff Sessions and his enforcement-first plans.