Saturday, June 23, 2007

Segregation used to be the law, too.

I'm going to pick on Barack Obama, or at least on what he's and other Democrats are saying.

At MyDD, Melissa notes Barack Obama's speech at United Church of Christ's General Synod. He spoke on immigration, where he wowed the crowd, as usual, until he said this:

But we also know that this is a nation of laws and we cannot have those laws broken when more than two thousand people cross our borders illegally every day. We cannot ignore the the very real concerns of Americans who are not worried about illegal immigration because they are racist or xenophobic, but because they fear it will result in lower wages when they're already struggling to feed their families.

Not so much, Barack.

Yes, we are a nation of laws and yes, we cannot have those laws broken, but at the same time, our laws must be just. And if our immigration policy results in tens of millions of good people crossing the border, in some cases at great risk to their lives, to do nothing more than work, then that policy is unjust. It must change, and until it does, those who break that law are criminals no more than name.

While the comparison to segregation is undoubtedly hyperbolic, in both cases, we've drawn an imaginary line between ourselves and our neighbors, one that privileges one and disadvantages another, one that creates manifest injustice, and one that diminishes us all.

And under segregation, as now, there were those who were threatened by the prospect of undoing that line - the poor whites who had very little, but still more than poor blacks. While I doubt that they were as free of racism and xenophobia as those that Barack Obama references, they were no doubt equally as afraid of how their wages would fare, were they forced to compete with their neighbors for their already meager wages.

And the answer then, and even more so now, is simple: there is no reason to believe that there cannot be enough good work at good wages for everyone. For decades, the government has promoted an economic policy that permits the wealthiest Americans to become ever wealthier, while the rest of us scrape for fewer and fewer crumbs. There's no reason that the government can't promote an economic system that ensures a degree of dignity and security for every one of us.

That's what Barack Obama should be saying. But instead, he's fallen back on cheap, cliched rhetoric about our "nation of laws." It's disappointing, because if anyone can persuade the people of the fundamental injustice of the current system, it's someone with the rhetorical skill of Barack Obama. But with immigration - as it seems with a lot of other issues, really - he'd rather pursue a comparatively tame vision for reform.

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So I don't end this post on an anti-Obama note, I'll note how much of an ass Johnny Isakson is.

From Political Insider, I see that Johnny Isakson is shilling for Home Depot, a sin I would normally overlook, if it didn't take such an unusually cruel - if typically big government Republican - turn:

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) takes a hit on the editorial page of today’s New York Times.

The NYT accuses Isakson of placing a “squalid little amendment” in the immigration reform bill on behalf of Atlanta-based Home Depot.

The amendment would prohibit states and cities from passing laws and ordinances to mandate that Home Depot — and stores like it — erect shelters for the day laborers they attract.

The city of Los Angeles is currently considering such an ordinance.

Contacted this morning, a spokeswoman for Isakson says the senator is trying to protect private businesses from unwarranted government mandates that leave owners exposed to costly lawsuits.

As usual, the Republican Party loves to talk about local control, but when the locals exercise their control in ways that the Republican Party and their corporate cronies don't like, it's back to state and federal control. We saw that when Earl Erhart and his Republican cohorts gleefully gutted Atlanta's living wage and nondiscrimination ordinances, and we're seeing it again here.

As I see it, this is no different from demanding that Home Depot build a parking lot for its patrons. If it's gonna attract the suburban soccer moms who can't wait to faux finish their dens, it's gonna have to build enough parking spaces to accommodate their Escalades and Suburbans. And if it's gonna attract hardworking day laborers, the least Home Depot can do is offer them is a shady space for them to sit.

That is clearly too much to ask. So much to ask, in fact, that Johnny Isakson is willing to change federal law to ensure that if hardworking day laborers are going to get a shady place to sit, it sure as hell isn't going to be Home Depot that pays for it.