Monday, April 7, 2008

Bob Schaffer: Sweatshops should be our model for immigration reform

The Denver Post ran a puff-piece on GOP Senate Candidate Bob Schaffer's immigration stance today. The piece uncritically accepts Schaffer's new found moderate rhetoric on the issue and only mentions off hand Schaffer's past chumminess with xenophobic Congressman Tom Tancredo and doesn't seem to notice the current inconsistencies in Schaffer's rhetoric. For example Schaffer states,

"To look for a pure way out of a big mess is just unrealistic," said Schaffer, who outlined his immigration views recently in an interview with The Denver Post.

"It's a practical impossibility to contemplate rounding up 15 or 20 million illegal visitors and deporting them"

That sounds like a reasonable answer but then we read further and see that Schaffer does indeed contemplate rounding them up,

In his first extended remarks on the issue as a candidate, Schaffer called for tamper- proof IDs for immigrant workers and tougher workplace enforcement, and even suggested giving federal grants to sheriffs and local police for immigration enforcement...

Schaffer is clear to say he doesn't support amnesty for illegal immigrants now in the U.S. Instead, guest-worker visas should be available only to those who have not broken the country's immigration laws, he said.

The millions now in the country illegally would likely go home through tougher enforcement and as a legal avenue for more immigrant labor became available

So Schaffer doesn't think we can just round people up except he's calling for exactly that. The Post attempts to position Schaffer as a moderate on the issue when, by his own words, he is anything but the sort.

The kicker though is this portion towards the end of the article,

He pointed to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. protectorate that imports tens of thousands of foreign textile workers, as a successful model for a guest-worker program that could be adapted nationally.

This is an astounding statement. The Northern Mariana Islands have been a highly controversial subject in the last decade, to say the least. They have were a pet project of disgraced GOP House Leader Tom Delay with GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff right at the center of the storm. This is the "model" for Bob Schaffer's immigration reform,

sworn testimony of U.S. officials and human-rights advocates that the 91 percent of the workforce who were immigrants -- from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- were being paid barely half the U.S. minimum hourly wage and were forced to live behind barbed wire in squalid shacks minus plumbing, work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, without any of the legal protections U.S. workers are guaranteed

Newly "moderate" Bob Schaffer has endorsed corrupt a system that exploits immigrants as his model for a new U.S. immigration policy. That Schaffer would point to the Mariana Islands as a shining example of how we should handle immigration policy in this nation tells you all you need to know about his new "moderate" stance - it's all a thinly veiled facade. Schaffer's only concern is moderating his image and Denver Post reporter Michael Riley dutifully obliges him.

This is an issue that deserves great attention. Schaffer was in the House of Representatives when Tom Delay, Dick Armey and the House GOP bent over backwards to protect this corrupt sweat-shop industry. A good reporter should be calling for further comment on this from Schaffer today.

For some more background on the Mariana Islands here is a story from Salon from 1999 detailing the abhorrent conditions in the Mariana capital of Saipan. It is truly a disgusting system and a moral blot on the records of Delay and his late 90's GOP cronies. I would encourage you to read more about the issues with the Mariana Islands and how they tie directly back to the supremely-corrupt Delay-Abramoff GOP machine.
Garments from Saipan are made from foreign cloth, assembled by foreign workers on U.S. soil and labeled "Made in the USA."

And they are made cheaply. Wages in the factories average about $3 per hour -- more than $2 less than the U.S. minimum wage of $5.15. No overtime is paid for a 70-hour work week. But that's hardly the worst of it. Far away from the swank beachside hotels, luxurious golf courses and the thousands of Japanese tourists snorkling around sunken U.S. Navy landing craft in the clear waters, some 31,000 textile workers live penned up like cattle by armed soldiers and barbed wire, and squeezed head to toe into filthy sleeping barracks, all of which was documented on film by U.S. investigators last year.

The unhappy workers cannot just walk away, either: Like Appalachian coal miners a generation ago, they owe their souls to the company store, starting with factory recruiters, who charge Chinese peasants as much as $4,000 to get them out of China and into a "good job" in "America." Their low salaries make it nearly impossible to buy back their freedom. And so they stay. The small print in their contracts forbids sex, drinking -- and dissent...

When the Clinton administration sought to yank Saipan's factories into the 20th century in 1994, requiring the workers be paid a minimum wage, overtime and their living conditions improved, the island government hired a platoon of well-connected Washington lobbyists, headed by former DeLay aide Jack Abramoff, to block the plan. Abramoff, in turn, personally or through his family, contributed $18,000 to DeLay's campaign coffers. So far, the island government has paid the firm of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds $4 million for their efforts, records show. They also treated DeLay and Armey to trips to the island, where they played golf, snorkled and made whirlwind visits to factories especially spiffed up for the occasion, according to several accounts.

"Even though I have only been here for 24 hours, I have witnessed the economic success of the Marianas," DeLay told a banquet crowd. As for the critics of the plantation system, DeLay told the dinner crowd darkly, "You are up against the forces of big labor and the radical left."

This is what "moderate" Bob Schaffer believes the U.S. immigration system should emulate. Sweatshop, exploitive, slave labor conditions. That is what Bob Schaffer is endorsing for his immigration plan.

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