Immigrants Jobs and Civil Rights

Immigrants Jobs and Civil Rights


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



  We insisted that employees provided a safe workplace and a workplace

with dignity and equal rights. We also provided for the anti-smuggling provisions, that would stop the coyotes from bringing individuals

across the border and causing danger to their lives.



Latino Immigrants, Jobs, and Civil Rights

Amy Goodman Interviews Sheila Jackson Lee


Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D – TX) submitted an immigration bill in Congress that would allow for legal permanent residency for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for the past five years. It would double the cap for family visas and would increase the number of work visas.

On Monday night (3 April 2006), a group of Republican senators reached a compromise that they hoped would bolster votes for the bill. The talks were led by Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Mel Martinez of Florida.

Under the compromise proposal, undocumented workers who could produce pay stubs, billing records or other proof showing they have lived and worked in the United States for five years would qualify for a work visa and an opportunity to apply for citizenship. They could stay in the country as they apply for a green card. Those not meeting the requirements would have to return to their native countries.

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter said after leaving the meeting “People who have roots who ought to be treated differently.”  Any bill that passes the Senate would have to be reconciled with a House bill passed last year that has been described as the most repressive immigration bill in 70 years.

HR 4437 would, among other things, turn every undocumented immigrant into a felon and make it a crime to offer help to undocumented immigrants. The bill sparked widespread demonstrations and student walkouts of historic proportions across the country.

Democratic Congress member Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas has called the immigration issue the civil rights issue of our time.  The compromised Senate Bill fell apart (6 April 2006) when Conservative Republican Senators attempted to add amendments (“poison pills”) against the opposition of Democratic Senators.

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Amy Goodman: Congress member Jackson Lee, you’ve submitted an immigration bill to Congress that would allow for legal permanent residency for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States, for how long?

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: If they’ve been living consistently in the United States between five and six years.

Goodman: Can you talk about – just give us the layout of your bill and where it stands now.

Lee: To give you some framework, I want to at least mention the tone of the debate that is occurring now in the United States Senate and what occurred in the House. The great disappointment of this issue is that the members of Congress who were so opposed, outrageously opposed to any fair consideration of documentation of the undocumented individuals in this country really sort of debated this as if they had no sense of humanity, no sense of family and no sense of what this country was built on.

And that is, of course, immigrants coming from all over the world during periods of our history and making this country great. In fact, many of us know that African Americans came to this country not as documented citizens and did not obtain citizenship until very, very late, so I’m disappointed at the level of debate.

My bill attempted to craft this as a civil rights issue, and that is, to give a sense of fairness to individuals who had been in this country and had worked and paid taxes and wanted to come from under the shadows. And it provided the earned access to legalization with English conversance, the idea of working, investment in the community, family and community service and no felon record.

We also provided for family unification. We provided for the DREAM Act, so the children could go to school. We eliminated or provided penalties for the utilization of fraudulent documents, for the abuse of women, for the abuse of workplace, which would take advantage of those who are undocumented.

We insisted that employees provided a safe workplace and a workplace with dignity and equal rights . We also provided for the anti-smuggling provisions, that would stop the coyotes from bringing individuals across the border and causing danger to their lives.

We looked at this in a holistic viewpoint that, in fact, if you identify the undocumented individuals, they become investors in this society. They become part of the economic engine. They invest their dollars in banks. They don’t send most of their money back overseas. They’re allowed to have bank accounts in our country, which is a part of an economic engine.

The disappointment in this debate that is now being politicized in the Senate is that we’re being overtaken by minority voices within the Republican Party, because if you explain to the American people, one, I’m prepared to protect your jobs – and by the way, I have a provision in my bill that takes the fees that immigrants would pay to become documented and utilize them for job creation amongst American workers and protection of American workers and job training.

I try to bring two district groups together in the legislation that I’ve offered, Save America Comprehensive Immigration bill, which has the support of many members of Congress.

The disappointment was that in the debate, we didn’t allow all members’ bills to be fully debated. The McCain-Kennedy bill on the House side, which was a Kolbe-Gutierrez bill, my bill and a number of others never had an opportunity either to be debated and/or to be voted on, because of the singular, unilateral, exclusive approach that the Republicans took and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee took.

None of us were allowed to submit our legislation.

Goodman:Yesterday, Congress member Jackson Lee, we were speaking with Professor Ron Walters, who is raising the issue of the concerns of African Americans that immigrants take jobs in this country. Your response?

Lee: You’re absolutely right. Professor Walters is absolutely right. This is what is permeating throughout the nation. And that’s why I’ve said that we have operated in this debate with the wrong facts, with the idea of creating divisiveness, rather than finding a common ground that would educate Americans, no matter whether they’re African Americans or whether they are white Americans or Asian Americans or others.

Let me share with you what I think is really the framework of difficulty in the African American community. With our communities having the highest unemployment rate, with administrations or the administration and this congress being very unconcerned about the plight of African American males, the plight of poor quality schools, yes, I can sympathize and empathize with the African American community about what they perceive to be a population group that takes jobs.

But frankly, that is not the case. If you look at the large percentage of the undocumented who are working here, unfortunately, they are working in jobs that possibly are available to African Americans, and they have chosen not to take, or as the normal progression of immigration occurs, each group comes in and the group preceding them moves up. The heavy hand of discrimination in this nation has kept many in the African American community from achieving their dreams, from gaining jobs and gaining education opportunities.

And, of course, we’ve not responded to it. It appears then that any group that is working may be taking their job. But what we need to do to address this question is invest in job training, invest in the protection of American jobs, stop the outsourcing that is impacting Americans of all races, and begin to look at the 11 million undocumented as an economic engine that would churn the economy, helping to create more jobs. I am sympathetic. And I think that’s an important response.

Goodman: Do you have the support of the Congressional Black Caucus on your bill?

Lee: I think we have the support of many members of the United States Congress, which include members of the Democratic Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus and, yes, the Black Caucus and the Asian Pacific Congress. We have received support from across the Congress. And it would have been – the House, that is, would have been an appropriate part of the debate, if we had been allowed to have that debate, including the House version of the McCain-Kennedy bill, which was not allowed on the floor. Neither was mine, was not allowed on the floor.

I hope to participate as a member of the conference committee, which is a place where maybe reasoned minds can generate a debate. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that will be the case, inasmuch as I understand the chairman of that conference may be the author of the House bill. I hope that we will have a conference that will be open, that will be inclusive and will allow us to produce a product that is, if you will, deserving of the reputation that America has of respecting the rights of all human beings.

And might I just say this? I talked to a young Hispanic male yesterday in a high school. It was one of the most emotionally charged meetings or conversations with a youngster, a person under the age of 18. We had just had a whole class talking about this question, because, as you would know, many high school students around the country have been walking out. And they’re still doing so.

We’ve been going to high schools to discuss this. He asked the question: Does America want him any more? Is he wanted? He felt so hurt and so disenfranchised. And he was not documented. But he wanted to join the United States military. And he had always wanted to do it. It was his dream, along with a number of his classmates.

But he asked me the question, and it was so difficult to answer. Am I wanted? What is this debate about making me a felon? And I think America can do better, and I think we need to have a better debate and a better response to individuals who simply come here for an economic opportunity.

Goodman: You have called this the civil rights issue of our time.

Lee: I believe it is. And that’s one of the reasons why I truly believe that there is an opportunity for the African American community to be great leaders in this movement. We understand discrimination. We understand isolation and separation. We also understand striving and fighting for just a chance, an economic chance or a chance of dignity.

 I believe this is a great opportunity for the civil rights organizations of both communities, Hispanics and African Americans, Muslims and others, who have been discriminated against, to come together.

That is why the NAACP and LULAC have worked together and are struggling to understand this issue of immigration, because if you have a large body of individuals who you isolate and discriminate against, what is the question? It is civil rights.

Many people believe these are illegal persons, they have broken the law and this word of amnesty has become an ugly word. I don’t even call it amnesty. I call it the right to earn the access to legalization. I call it the right to earn dignity. And I believe it is a civil rights question.

Source: Democracy Now

posted 8 April 2006

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.

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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 1 July 2012




Home  Louis Reyes Rivera  Civil Rights: Struggle for Black Power   The Constitution and the Negro Table

Related files:  Latino Immigrants, Jobs, and Civil Rights (Interview with Sheila Jackson Lee)  Old Civil Rights Groups and Immigrants

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