Thursday, June 28, 2007

For Liberty, Justice, Equality & Sustainable Communities Across Borders

For Liberty, Justice, Equality & Sustainable Communities Across Borders

Determining Our Rights, Envisioning Our Future

A message from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

The first U.S. Social Forum, being convened in Atlanta, Georgia, the heart of the U.S. South, is taking place amidst momentous global, national and local transformations and crises. These provide unprecedented challenges and opportunities to the U.S. movements for social, racial, environmental and economic justice. Here, together, we must begin envisioning not only a different and better world, but one where we reposition ourselves and our country in the service of solidarity – with the struggles of Indigenous peoples everywhere, with the foreign-born, migrants, refugees, women, children, workers, and “other” – the marginalized and exploited people and communities the world over so that a “another world” becomes possible.

These challenges involve “defragmenting” our movements in order to broaden the impact and scope of our work and band together more easily across different sectors and organizing ideas, strategies, visions and agendas.

Immigrant rights provide a core challenge and issue that almost demands the attention of all sectors and movements. U.S. immigration policy is also trade and foreign policy – immigrant rights has never been just about the rights of the foreign-born. The U.S. war and occupation of Iraq, the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and the anti-immigrant, rightwing climate in the U.S. are all linked. The militarization of border and immigration control have become the entry points for unprecedented attacks and rollbacks of civil rights and liberties.

U.S.-led and imposed economic development, “free” trade and neoliberal policies, are the root causes of forced and involuntary migration around the world. As a result of unequal and profit-driven capitalist development, working class, Indigenous peoples and people of color communities are being destabilized. Migrants are also Indigenous people who are losing their remaining traditional lands, are forcibly displaced and must endure wherever they can find work. Migrants are workers who have lost jobs and all else, and now must cross international borders to survive.

The password for development has become privatization: almost everything -- including air, water and land, rights, humans, and culture -- can be bought and sold or deprived from those who have little or nothing. At the same time, the natural world is being radically destroyed and altered, where global climate change threatens the human habitat but starts by destroying the most vulnerable and poor in the global South.

The U.S. Social Forum provides an ideal setting to cross-fertilize ideas, movements and communities. Only through such dialogue -- becoming vulnerable and opening our hearts -- can we as social justice movements become invulnerable. It is through the process of dialogue that we can arrive at a shared vision and analysis - the necessary preconditions to work from a shared agenda, where together we define our rights and organize to attain them as part of envisioning another future, the better and more just world that is possible, and that we must enact into being.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

At the US Social Forum, Immigrant Rights Groups Press Congress to Stop Repressive Senate Bill


At the US Social Forum, Immigrant Rights Groups Press Congress to Stop Repressive Senate Bill

Immigrant and Refugee Communities Advocate a New Start, Based on Human Rights, Dignity and Justice for All People and Communities

For Immediate Release: Thursday, June 28, 2007

Immigrant Rights Groups Press Congress to Stop Repressive Senate Bill and to Restore Rights as Part of Deliberations at the U.S. Social Forum

Arnoldo García, (510) 928-0685, (English / Spanish)
Colin Rajah, (415) 203-8763, (English / Bahasa Melayu-Indonesia)
Catherine Tactaquin, (510) 459-4457, (English)
Diana Pei Wu, (510) 847-9339, (English / Spanish / Mandarin)

WHAT: A media conference to address the hotly debated immigration reform bill before the Senate and other concerns being expressed by immigrant and refugee communities during the U.S. Social Forum.

WHEN: 9:30-10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday, June 28, 2007

WHERE: At the Immigrant Rights Tent at the Atlanta Civic Center (in back corner, in front of the registration site entrance), site of the U.S. Social Forum proceedings.

WHO: Members and allies of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights with participants of the "Immigrant Rights Caucus" at the U.S. Social Forum. (See caucus list and national immigrant and refugee rights contact list for media below), representing African, African American, Latino, Asian & Asian American, Pacific Islander, South Asian and other communities.

WHY: Ignoring broad immigrant community opposition, the U.S. Senate continues pushing forward an immigration reform bill (S.1639) that offers little relief for immigrant communities seeking legalization and family reunification. S.1639 would continue criminalizing immigrants, eroding the civil rights and liberties of the foreign-born. Based on a new guest worker program, S.1639 would dismantle the family unity basis of current immigration policies and impose a "merit" point system that favors skilled, educated, and English speaking workers considered more beneficial to the U.S. economy. The bill will deepen the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, expanding immigrant prison construction, interior immigration policing, detention and deportations.

* * * * *

Immigrant Rights Caucus at the U.S. Social Forum (partial list)
June 26-July 1, 2007 - Atlanta, GA

Carol Barton
United Methodist Women's Division, New York, NY
Cell/Telephone numbers: (917) 584-9726 (cell); Atlanta Marriott
Language(s) spoken: English (Spanish)

Gabriel Camacho
American Friends Service Committee, Project Voice, Boston, MA
Cell (617) 947-7019
Languages Spoken English, Spanish

Viola Cásares and Alejandra Bergemann
Fuerza Unida, San Antonio, Texas
Cell (210) 273-5510
Email: and
Language(s) spoken: Español/Spanish, English

Trishala Deb
Audre Lorde Project, New York, NY
Cell (917) 488-6701
Languages Spoken: Hindi, Urdu, English

Lillian Galedo
Filipinos for Affirmative Action, Oakland, CA
Cell & Telephone numbers (510) 409-1679 cell; (510) 465-9876 (w)
Language spoken: English

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Arnoldo García, cell (510) 928-0685, (English, Spanish)
Colin Rajah, cell (415) 203-8763, (English, Bahasa Melayu / Bahasa Indonesia)
Catherine Tactaquin, cell (510) 459-4457 (English)
Diana Pei Wu, cell (510) 847-9339, (English, Spanish, Mandarin)

Isabel Garcia and Alexis Mazón
Coalición de Derechos Humanos, Tucson, AZ
Cell/Telephone (520) 891-6169 and (520) 390-1604)
Email: and
Language(s) spoken: English, Spanish

Adriana Jasso
American Friends Service Committee, San Diego, CA
Cell (619) 808-7277
Languages Spoken: English, Spanish

Hamid Khan
South Asian Network, Los Angeles, CA
Cell Voice 562-403-0488 x 105
Languages Spoken English; Urdu; Punjabi

Gerald Lenoir
Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Berkeley, California
Cell: (510) 435-0382 (510) 849-9940 (voice)
Languages spoken: English

B. Lowe and Francisco Pacheco
Latino Union of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Cell (773) 791-4668 (Loewe) and (240) 463-6410
Languages Soke Spanish/English

Monami Maulik
DRUM: Desis Rising Up & Moving and the Immigrant Community Action coalition, Queens, NY
Cell: (347) 385 9113
Languages spoken: Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, English

María Poblet
St. Peter's Housing Committee, San Francisco, CA
Cell (510) 725-9646
Languages Spoke: Spanish/English

Janis Rosheuvel and Prince Brown
Families for Freedom, Brooklyn, NY
Cell (917) 526-1136
Languages Spoken English (both); French (Ms. Rosheuvel)

Pedro Rios
American Friends Service Committee; US/Mexico Border Program, San Diego, CA
Cell 619/370-5908
Languages Spoke: Spanish/English

Rafael Samanez
(VAMOS) Vendedores Ambulantes Mobilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad; New York, NY
Cell: (646) 330-1951
Languages Spoken: English and Spanish

Lily Xiong
Hmong American Women Association,
Tel (414) 342-0858.
Languages Spoken: Hmong, English


For more information, the full schedule of events and links to the latest news & analysis:

NNIRR Network News & Analysis:
Immigrants Rights Caucus:
NNIRR Dispatches on the Road:
U.S. Social Forum homepage:
NNIRR Homepage:


About The Immigrants Rights Caucus at the US Social Forum (partial list)

The Immigrant Rights Caucus is convened by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (

The Caucus includes members and advocates from over 25 organizations, including the following groups and partner organizations:

· American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
· Audre Lorde Project (ALP)
· Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition (BAIRC)
· Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
· CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities
· Center for Parrticipatory Change (CPC-NC)
· Chinese Progressive Association (CPA)
· Coalicion de Derechos Humanos
· Coalicion de Organizaciones Latino Americanas (COLA)
· Colectivo Flatlander
· Colonias Development Council
· Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)
· Esperanza del Barrio
· Families for Freedom
· Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc.
· Fuerza Unida
· Grassroots Global Justice
· Highlander Research and Education Center
· Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA)
· Movement for Justice in el Barrio
· Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA)
· Multiethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network (MIWON)
· National Immigration Project (NLG)
· National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
· Priority African Network (PAN)
· Progressive Communicators Network (PCN)
· Queers for Economic Justice (Q4EJ)
· South Asian Network (SAN)
· Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network (REJN)
· Southwest Workers Union (SWU)
· St. Peter's Housing Committee
· Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research & Action (TIGRA)
· United Methodist Church - Women's Division
· Vendedores Ambulantes Mobilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad (VAMOS)


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Who Killed the Immigration Bill, and Who Wants it to Come Back?

Who Killed the Immigration Bill, and Who Wants it to Come Back?
By David Bacon
TruthOut/Report Oakland, CA 6/9/07

Within hours of the Senate vote to kill its comprehensive immigration reform bill, the lobbyist for software giant Oracle Corp. had already declared that Silicon Valley's proposal for more guest workers was still alive. "We don't think it's dead," Robert Hoffman told the San Francisco Chronicle. Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer threatened to move more high tech jobs out of the country if electronics corporations didn't get more contract migrant labor. Other corporate spokespeople also announced they were looking for ways to revive the Senate bill in which they'd invested so much political capital.

Immigrant communities and union activists had been in the streets for months, trying to stop the same bill. In San Francisco alone, seven were arrested in the office of Senator Diane Feinstein, during the recess that preceded the June 7 vote. Dozens more debated the senator in front of her home the morning after the arrests. Around the country, similar demonstrations did what they could to kill the bill. The National Day Labor Organizing Network called it a "cynical and mean-spirited effort of those Senators that seek to poison the immigration reform debate yet again," and warned, "we are fearful that an insufficient Senate bill cannot be adequately repaired in the House of Representatives or in a conference session."

It was no surprise that many greeted the (perhaps temporary) death of comprehensive immigration reform as a necessary move to protect immigrants themselves. These groups saw in the bill a threat of more contract labor programs, more enforcement and raids, greater militarization of the border and erosion of basic due process rights. Filipinos for Affirmative Action, voicing a criticism common in Asian American and Latino communities, said the bill "moved away from permanent, family-based immigration toward a temporary employment system."

As debate in the Senate proceeded, even the bill's promise of legalization for the nation's 12 million undocumented residents proved so restrictive that only a small percentage eventually would have qualified. Migrants without status would have had to place their families in jeopardy just to apply.

After the vote in the Senate defeating cloture, killing the bill at least for the moment, John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, declared it "plagued by anti-family, anti-worker provisions," and called it " doomed at the onset. The bill abandoned long-standing U.S. policy favoring the reunification of families and failed to protect workers' most basic rights."

Despite the fact that the bill was brokered by the Bush administration, many of its proponents were not Republicans, but liberal Democrats, most prominently Senator Edward Kennedy. Supporting it was a network of lobbyists referred to in the press as "immigration advocates," large employers, and conservative think tanks. For two years this alliance advocated a strategy of trading legalization of undocumented immigrants for increased immigration enforcement and guest worker programs. The National Immigration Forum and the DC umbrella group it initiated, the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, were key players in this strategy. Behind them was the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which brought together over 40 of the largest corporate trade and manufacturing associations in the country, under the aegis of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. EWIC head John Gay, also head of the National Restaurant Association, chairs the NIF board.

These Washington groups supported all the compromise bills embodying the legalization/enforcement/guest worker tradeoff, beginning with the original Kennedy/McCain bill in 2005. The same argument was used to justify them all: "It's not possible to get legalization without including more enforcement and guest worker programs." While the groups occasionally disagreed with individual provisions of the proposals that followed, they not only agreed with the basic structure and architecture of these bills, but became their ardent advocates in meetings around the country.

As the proposals moved through negotiations with the administration and Congressional Republicans, legalization schemes became more restrictive, enforcement provisions more ferocious, and contract labor schemes more extensive. Yet the recently defeated Senate compromise was greeted as a "good starting point." Even at the end, the DC groups called on immigrant communities to urge defeat of "bad" amendments to it, while continuing to urge Senators to support the comprehensive immigration reform, or tradeoff, framework.

While Congress considered this series of proposals, the Bush administration embarked on a series of highly publicized immigration raids and workplace firings, to put pressure on immigrant communities and unions to accept its reform program. The bills themselves called for giving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, more enforcement authority to conduct these raids. The administration, for instance, proposed that employers be required to fire any worker whose Social Security number didn't match the agency's database. Although Bush never actually issued this regulation, and the bills obviously hadn't passed, ICE and employers began using it as the basis for enforcement actions.

Workers at the Woodfin Suites in Emeryville, California, were fired after they tried to enforce the city's living wage ordinance. At the Smithfield pork plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, hundreds were fired, and many then deported, during the hardest-fought union organizing drive in years. Similar raids and firings swept the country, as the administration set ICE loose on immigrant communities, implementing the very language in the comprehensive reform bills. Beltway lobbying groups often expressed alarm over the raids, but didn't withdraw their support for bills that would have made such raids more widespread.

After coordinated raids at Swift meatpacking plants in November, in which over a thousand workers were picked up for deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters the enforcement actions would show Congress the need for "stronger border security, effective interior enforcement and a temporary-worker program.'' Bush wants, he said, "a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers, because they can't otherwise satisfy their labor needs, to be able to get those workers in a regulated program." Within weeks of Chertoff's statement, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report, "Close to Slavery," which provided exhaustive documentation that current guest worker programs, like those the administration proposed, systematically violated workers' rights. Abuse in H-2 programs was so extensive, and government enforcement of existing labor protections so completely absent, that SPLC called them "fundamentally flawed."

The SPLC and other exposes gave guest worker programs such a bad reputation that DC-based groups took pains to disassociate themselves from the term. The bills they supported would "break the mold," they claimed, by creating contract labor programs that wouldn't exploit workers. They invented new terms: "essential worker" or "new worker" plans. Behind the semantic fog, however, the bills preserved the two crucial characteristics of all employment-based guest worker schemes: new migrants could only come if recruited by an employer or labor contractor, and people had to remain employed to stay. Migrants losing a job and unable to find another within a short time would be deported.

To justify contract labor programs, the DC coalition asserted constantly that U.S. corporations face dire labor shortages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, estimates the May, 2007 unemployment rate at 4.5%, and says over 7 million workers were unemployed in 2006. Most unions believe these are serious undercounts. Unemployment in African American and Chicano communities is much higher, over double digits even during economic booms.

Yet instead of raising wage and benefits to attract workers, or paying more taxes to improve education and training in working class communities, employers held that only huge guest worker programs could meet their labor needs. In an joint oped piece for, Thomas Donahue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (one of two unions that supported the tradeoff bills) stated that "we need legislation that will create a carefully monitored essential worker program," and called it "a system that provides U.S. businesses with the workers it needs."

Meanwhile, legalization proposals in the same tradeoff bills were presented as the payoff for immigrant communities. Yet many of the legalization schemes threatened to disqualify immigrants guilty of document fraud. ICE now says this includes anyone who's given a false SS number to get a job, something almost all undocumented workers have done. Other proposals would have imposed employment requirements, imposed high fines difficult for most working families to pay, and required people to take an undetermined amount of time off work to return to their home countries to apply for readmittance, with no guarantee they could pass a host of bureaucratic checks. Most proposals would have had people wait at least a decade before they could get a green card for permanent legal residence (not citizenship). Legalization programs wouldn't even take effect until the U.S. gained "operational control" of the border, leaving the door open for years of increased enforcement with no change at all in the status of the undocumented.

Many organizations outside DC did not support this approach to immigration reform. Instead they called for a positive agenda focusing on human and workplace rights, legal status and equality. They proposed reforms that didn't criminalize migration, work or the border itself, and that instead protected families and communities. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights urged that "we work for a different "starting point" for immigration reform that protects the rights of all immigrant families, workers and communities."

The beltway lobbying strategy started by asking what employers and a Republican administration would be willing to accept. Groups like NDLON, however, proposed building a popular movement to change the political terrain in Washington, like the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Responding to lobbyists who called the Senate bill the only chance to reform immigration law for years, NDLON said "We know the struggle for justice and immigration reform requires a long view of history, and we will not be pressured into accepting an insufficient compromise simply for sake of political expediency. We owe it to this and future generations to pass a bill that we can all be proud of."

"The best way to guarantee the rights and wages of all workers in this country," added the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney, "is to give every immigrant the opportunity to become a citizen, with all the rights and duties that entails. At the same time, Congress must revise our immigration system so that in the face of labor shortages, future foreign workers may enter this country not as dispensable units of production but as permanent residents with the same rights and protections as all other U.S. workers."

Basic differences have divided the immigrant rights and labor movements, not just over tactics and strategy, but also over goals. Should immigrant rights groups and unions support increased enforcement? Should they allow employers to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers a year, on visas which condition their right to stay in the US on continued employment? Should temporary or contract labor programs be the condition under which the undocumented are allowed to stay?

This division, between Washington-based organizations, and grassroots coalitions outside the beltway, has existed for over a decade. In 1996 many community-based coalitions around the country withdrew from the National Immigration Forum when it insisted it was not possible to save the rights of undocumented immigrants in the Clinton-backed immigration bill. The DC-based strategy tacitly called for saving the rights of legal immigrants by telling Congress that while the country needed to do something about illegal immigration, legal residents shouldn't be punished in the same bill. The strategy failed, and according to Filipinos for Affirmative Action, "the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act undermined the basic rights of all immigrants, denied their right to due process, and expanded the reasons for detention and deportation." The starting point for immigration reform should be instead an agreement that "all immigrants have a right to be treated equally, with full legal, employment, human and civil rights."

Today's disagreements are similar. They are in part over strategy and tactics, but also raise a deeper issue: Should U.S. immigration policy become a labor supply system for corporations, or should it support families and communities? In the mainstream press, this question gets little coverage because the framework proposed in Congress so heavily sets the media agenda. Anger over exclusion from the debate provoked the Mexican American Political Association to declare that "We are totally opposed to the off-handed declarations made by compromising individual Latino television commentators or organizations that advocate - NOTHING IS WORSE [than failure to pass an immigration bill]. In fact, NOTHING WILL BE WORSE [than the proposed Senate legislation] in terms of the millions of individuals and families who will be criminalized in perpetuity."
Moving from an effort to defeat anti-immigrant legislation to an agenda that can win more progressive reforms requires an open debate over those disagreements. As Silicon Valley and other employer groups move to bring the Senate bill back, that discussion is more urgent than ever.

For more articles and images on immigration, see

See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US, Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

David Bacon, Photographs and Stories


TRADING ON MIGRANT LABOR - migration & trade

Why the United States won't be able to enact true immigration reforms until we re-examine our trade policies
By David Bacon

The American Prospect, web edition
Photo Essay:
June 11, 2007

The comprehensive immigration bill may have stalled in the Senate last week, but the debate over immigration policy will undoubtedly continue -- especially over the status of the millions of undocumented workers presently in the United States, as well as those who will come in the next few years.

In fact, that continued flow of workers is inevitable, since Congress is also considering new trade legislation that is guaranteed to increase the number of undocumented workers in the United States. Our nation's trade and immigration policies have never been as closely connected as they are today. Four new agreements are currently being considered, while President Bush is pushing for "fast track" authority to negotiate even more of them. All will exacerbate our current immigration issues by displacing thousands of workers and farmers, most of whom will join the cross-border flow of migrant labor that already tops 200 million people worldwide.

Over the last two years, all of the immigration proposals considered by Congress have sought more openly than ever to channel that labor, making it available to the world's largest corporations at a price they want to pay. Welcome to the new world order.

U.S. employers have always wanted the country's immigration policy to supply workers when needed, and get rid of them when the need ended. At its logical extreme, this policy produced brutal results. In the 1930s, tens of thousands of Mexicans were deported in neighborhood sweeps around the country, when unemployment rose and threatened social unrest. Less than a decade later, the U.S. government negotiated the return of those same people as braceros, or temporary contract workers.

Growers (and, for two years, railroad companies) didn't want to raise wages to draw workers out of cities to work in the fields or on the tracks. Instead, braceros were recruited in Mexico, housed in barracks, and shipped from job to job. They were paid the minimum, often cheated of that, and deported if they went on strike. Braceros were isolated and pitted against the communities around them.

Repealing the bracero law in 1964 was one of the greatest accomplishments of the civil rights era. A year later Cesar Chavez, Ernesto Galarza, Bert Corona, and other Chicano leaders convinced Congress to pass a new law that gave preference to families. Instead of bringing in contract labor, the law sought to root immigrants in local communities. It encouraged equality, by giving people permanent residence visas that couldn't be taken away if people lost their jobs or couldn't work. Many in Congress now want to undo that policy, and have proposed a "point system" for future migrants that would end most family-based immigration, only permitting people to come if they can provide labor that corporations want.

A lot has changed since the 1960s, however. Today Congress is also using trade policy to create a regulated flow of vulnerable labor -- a possibility civil rights activists never even imagined. Once the Cold War ended, the economies of countries that send migrants to the United States, such as Mexico, Guatemala and the Philippines, were opened to foreign investors. Economic reforms designed on Wall Street and at the University of Chicago, imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, then required developing countries to create a favorable climate for large corporations.

Today trade agreements, like the North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA and CAFTA) enforce those rules. They include ending subsidies on agricultural products. NAFTA forced corn grown by Mexican farmers without subsidies to compete in Mexico's own market with corn from huge U.S. producers, subsidized by the farm bill. U.S. agricultural exports more than doubled during the NAFTA years, from $4.6 to $9.8 billion annually -- $2.5 billion last year in corn alone, the main crop of Mexican family farmers.

Industrial workers fared no better. After NAFTA, Ford and Chrysler's Mexican assembly plants no longer had to buy parts from Mexican factories. Instead they bought them from their own subsidiaries, and thousands of Mexicans lost their jobs. Mexican mines were privatized, their unions busted, and workers fired when they protested.

Corn farmers, autoworkers, and miners all had to go on the road to support their families, joining millions of others. For many workers, that road ended in a low-wage job in Los Angeles or Chicago. For others, it ended in even more poorly-paid work in a maquiladora -- a foreign-owned plant on the border, making products for U.S. consumers.

In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act established a commission to study the causes of this flow of displaced people. It concluded in 1990 that people are displaced by poverty. The commission recommended that Mexico open its economy to foreign investment and negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.S. Foreign investment. These actions, it predicted, would produce jobs, raise income, and slow migration. NAFTA negotiations started within a month.

At the same time, the IRCA criminalized the labor of undocumented immigrants. Old-timers like Corona and a new generation of activists tried to stop the law's passage. They predicted employers would use it as a pretext to firing workers without papers who organized unions or protested bad wages and conditions. They were right. Over the next two decades, thousands were terminated. Despite courageous, and often successful, efforts to organize, the price of immigrant labor fell.

Meanwhile, rosy predictions of NAFTA's boosters were proving false. Between just 2000 and 2005, Mexico lost 900,000 jobs in the countryside, and 700,000 in the cities. After the treaty was implemented, six million Mexicans came to live in the United States. Another million went to work in the maquiladoras. Mexican wages, adjusted for inflation, dropped.

Free trade's proponents didn't demand a change in course. In fact, they insisted on more of the same. CAFTA brought free trade to Central America; new agreements were signed with Chile and Jordan, and negotiated with Colombia, Peru, Panama and South Korea.

These agreements don't stop the flow of migrants. In fact, they produce it. Immigration laws then regulate it. Employers need access to displaced people, and endlessly predict vast future labor shortages. But they don't want to leave it to chance, much less to workers themselves, to decide where labor is needed or what it should be paid. Attempts to manage this flow of labor have shaped all the major immigration proposals of the last two years -- the Kennedy/McCain and Hegel/Martinez bills, last year's Senate compromise, the Gutierrez/Flake STRIVE Act, and now the recently-defeated Senate bill. Details vary, but the basic structure stays the same.

The bills set up contract labor programs, allowing employers to recruit migrants, who must remain employed or leave the country. The proposals then seek to reduce spontaneous migration. They beef up enforcement on the border, which already causes hundreds of deaths every year, and require mass firings as they seek to drive those with no papers out of the workplace.

The carrot dangled before immigrants is legalization. But unlike IRCA, which in 1986 gave them green cards, today's proposals would make the undocumented spend more than a decade as contract workers. The latest proposal would have virtually ended family-based migration, replacing it with an employment-based scheme rewarding those with skills companies find valuable.

For some Washington lobbyists and Congress members, this went too far. They called for saving the old family preferences, letting the other changes slide through. It's far too late for that, though. Family and community ties have no function in an immigration system that regulates the flow of displaced people created by free trade, putting them at the disposal of corporate employers.

Congress still has a choice. It can vote for these corporate trade agreements. It can keep returning to immigration proposals that treat immigrants only as a reserve of cheap labor. Or it can propose an alternative. Give the undocumented residence visas. End the backlog and make green cards more accessible. Stop the raids, and focus enforcement on workers' rights and labor standards. Set up jobs programs in low-employment communities to reduce job and wage competition. Scrap NAFTA and protect Mexican producers, instead of promoting the dumping of U.S. corn on the Mexican market. Cancel Mexico's debt. Give cheap loans to farmers. Stop pressuring Mexico to weaken unions and cut wages to attract U.S. investors.

People who do come to the United States should be equal members of the communities they live in, not contract laborers in constant fear of firing and deportation. Says Juan Manuel Sandoval, who heads the Mexican Network Opposing Free Trade, "Migration should be a choice, not something forced on families by economic desperation."
The only way this will happen is if Congressional Democrats acknowledge that our trade policies are deeply intertwined with our immigration crisis, and stand up for people rather than corporations.