In a momentous deal last weekend that had previously been thwarted by fragmented business and labor leaders for years, the two sides — AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — finally came to an agreement regarding a visa program that would allow businesses to bring up to 200,000 low-skilled workers into the U.S. annually, depending on economic conditions. They also managed to resolve disagreements over wages for new workers and which industries would be included. In the past, the lack of compromise on these details had blocked passage of similar immigration reform bills. This historic agreement marks the beginning of truly progressive immigration reform, which is expected to include a 10-year path to legal permanent status for the country’s 11 million undocumented workers, billions of dollars for new border security measures, and reforms to the legal immigration program.
This agreement of compromise by two rival organizations represents a major shift in our polarized way of thinking. Where the status quo was to not budge from their ideals, this agreement reveals that such staunch positions are not acceptable to the American public and, further, they prove to be a failure at the voting booth. But more so than anything else, it’s a refreshing change of pace after years of the rhetoric coming from conservative legislators like former U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Moorpark, who, up until a few months ago, demanded that the only way to reform immigration was to force undocumented workers to return to their own countries by driving them out of their jobs and making them hungry and homeless. This strategy turned out to be a failure, however, when put into practice and migrant workers didn’t show up to harvest crops when the threat of deportation became a reality. But that didn’t stop Gallegly from continuing to tout it. What a difference a Democratic presidential re-election makes.
The lingering bigotry in this country, however, remains comparable to the stench of road kill in a nice, up-and-coming neighborhood. Without fail, whenever the conversation comes up about equal opportunities for those who have lived and worked in this country for many years, contributing to social security that they will never receive, pay sales tax for services they don’t get to use, etc., the fallback is always the same: they are illegals. And for certain staunch conservative voters, that perspective will never change. But as one reader put it, white conservative Republicans are the new minority (though we fully disagree with the reader’s idea that this new minority is experiencing similar persecutions as African-Americans or any other minority). What these conservatives see as persecution is simply the fact that the majority of Americans have become intolerant of bigotry, racism, discrimination and the lack of compassion in general, for our fellow man and woman. It’s time to go with the flow of tolerance rather than fight it, though it is ironic that those who support tolerance have become intolerant.
While, understandably, both conservative and liberal lawmakers will have to make concessions for immigration reform — the path to legal permanent residency for better border protection, etc. — it’s truly a great time in our country to be finally moving forward with compassion and empathy rather than intolerance and discrimination. The feelings of hatred and resentment are being shredded as the future becomes brighter for those 11 million undocumented workers. In a few years, it is hoped that all of the time spent decrying these people for taking away jobs from Americans and abusing our medical and education systems will be a memory as they, too, will just be people contributing to the growth and prosperity of our country.