Up | February 02, 2013
>>> hello from new york. i'm chris hayes , here with hilda so list, former obama secretary of labor . aaron pena , head of the hispanic conference of texas . joining us on satellite is ruben martinez , author of "america boom and bust in the old southwest." and we're talking about the border which has become a flash point in the nation's immigration discussion, and we're talking about what's been happening on the border , which is a tremendous amount of enforcement. which if you're not down there, it doesn't matter. it doesn't affect your daily life, but in that region of the country, it's been really a tectonic shift. the question before we went to break, if the way that we've gone, more enforcement, more boots on the ground , higher fences, drones, et cetera , is the wrong way to go. what's the right way to go, aaron?
>> first of all, i don't disagree with the enforcement policy. we need to have enforcement. we do have real crimes. the cartels are there. most of the crimes occur on the mexican side of the border , but we occasionally have assassinations or shootouts on our side of the border as well, and we're concerned about that. we're concerned about the effect it has on business and people crossing. but to throw a monkey wrench in our discussion here today.
>> the conservative perspective is, look, we're going to have immigration reform . i fully expect it to pass after much hand wringing and what not. but from a conservative perspective, what they see is 11 million people eventually becoming citizens, and then the magnet is still there. we're going to have more people, and like simpson-mazzoli we had in the past, where we legalized 3 million people.
>> the 1987 amnesty bill.
>> exactly. it doesn't stop. we have more people coming. one of the solutions in texas is we need to have a guest worker program . we need to have a way to deal with this market demand for labor in some industries -- and right now we don't have it. i don't think the obama administration plan deals with the issue, but it's something that we in texas see as a solution to the need for these people to find work and the solution of dealing with the workers that we need in some of our industries.
>> can i touch on that?
>> then lets invest in programs that train people here in the united states . i find it fascinating that the conservatives are so interested in making sure that they have access to workers through a guest worker program , and yet they won't invest in education or employment or training programs or other things that help train and prepare the american work force for those jobs and the jobs of the 21st century .
>> the jobs we're talking about is agricultural workers. it's not a question of training. it's the lowest part of the wage scale.
>> we have high wage workers coming through immigration processes. we have engineers.
>> this is where immigration isn't just about mexico . it's not just a latino issue only. this is about affecting the asian community, africa, caribbean nations, and the full spectrum of skill sets that are needed. so i think, if we want to have a real conversation about the needs in our work force , then let's talk about the investments in education and job training and other things that will get us to what we need.
>> why does it make sense to bring someone from india or china who's an engineer who's going to get paid maybe $1,200 a month as opposed to a u.c. berkeley graduate or cal state graduate from cal state l.a., who after graduation in four years could be pulling down maybe $4,000 a month? those are economic differences and challenges that are going on, and that's also a part of this debate.
>> but we just went through -- wait a second. we just went through the looking glass . i want everyone to note we just went through the looking glass . you two just made the restrictionist case. you guys just made the case, the case that, if you turn into lou dobbs , you turn into fox news, what they say is they're coming and taking our jobs. the two of you just said they're coming and taking our jobs.
>> we're talking about fairness.
>> i said it's about civil rights and equality. and you don't bring individuals to the united states and keep them in low wage jobs, benefit from their labor , and then they never have the pathway to citizenship. i come from a state where immigrants and minorities, particularly african americans , built las vegas . they built our hospitality industry . they built our construction sector. and why would you allow individuals to come and help you build your economy and then not give them a pathway to citizenship.
>> here's the argument i would make. we're talking about a guest worker program . again, i'm not -- i'm sort of playing devil's advocate here. there are people who want to come and work in the u.s. and don't want to be citizens. they want to go back and forth every day, and there used to be an institutional way to do that. here's ronald reagan , fellow republican, aaron, making the case in 1980 for exactly this kind of almost open border policy for this sort of flow of labor . take a look.
>> rather than making them -- or talking about putting up a fence, why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit , and then while they're working and earning here, they pay taxes here. when they want to go back, they can go back and cross and open the border both ways.
>> why force people to immigrate if they don't want to immigrate, they just want to work?
>> i think that one of the perverse things of the build-up on the border is it's made people have to stay in the u.s. because it's too hard to come back if they leave. what i think we need to do for the future is, first of all, fix the problem with 11 million people. the next question is what do we do with future immigrants and how do we make sure that there is opportunity for people in the u.s.? that's why we call it comprehensive. we need to take a look and fix it from all aspects. and one of the things i think we do need, if there's going to be a temporary worker program in the future, it has to be different than what we have today. it cannot be the program that my father entered into 70 years ago. people need to come with full protection of our labor laws , of our wage and hour laws, and they need an effective way of enforcing it. that's not the way it works now. so i think what we need is open up opportunities and fill in where we need this.
>> ruben, if i may, i just love the clip of ronald reagan that shows republicans at that point were to the left of where the democratic party , president obama , is today. that's kind of the orwellian twists and turns the immigration debate has taken over the years. i think part of the problem with the idea of guest worker is the very name guest worker. for people and immigrant rights advocacy, for people who know the history of the border , that name, which translates to brasero in spanish, is tinged with just constitutionalized exploitation. it began in world war ii and continued all the way to the 1960s , and just horror stories of the way workers were treated. i think we need a whole new term for that type. if somebody crosses the border back and forth, maybe it's a trans- border reality of people carrying back and forth. really that labor has to be on both sides of the border , making sure these workers have all the protections to them that only labor reform can give.
>> one of the ways we institutionalize incentives for labor across the border is production to move across the border . so a lot of production moved down right across the border in mexico and use the labor pool here. one of the histories here is about the kind of arbitrage that capital can do to find the cheapest labor . so what is at the core of the way the global economy looks in the 21st century , which is you can pick up your plant and move it to a country with low wages. if you're a worker, you can't pick up and decide whatever country you want to go work in. that makes me wonder, are we -- what ruben just said, are we afraid to advocate the logical conclusion, which is something that actually does look like open borders ? is that the solution and everyone is just essentially too scared to say that because it would be politically toxic? you, congressman, can i get you on the record for open borders ?
>> i think one day we're going to have a mexican president who says to washington, president obama , bring down this wall. that's going to happen one day when there's real leadership in mexico .
>> we are a nation of laws, and we have to have a process, and that has been the case with our immigration policy . so my question on this guest worker pieces, is this about labor and the economy only, or is it about families? how are you affected as a child by that policy? what happens when individuals come under a guest worker program to their children? i have constituents in my district, d.r.e.a.m.ers, who were brought here no fault of their own, played by the rules, graduated from high l skschool, only to find out they can't be full participating members in our society and have been denied opportunities to move on. i've got dream big vegas, that's out there right now fighting to make this immigration reform bill a reality. so what happens to the children and the families under a worker, guest program, and shouldn't we be balancing those interests?
>> that's a great question.
>> i think it's absolutely right. first of all, when you have children left either in the u.s. because of this broken immigration system or in mexico , when people have to come here and are locked in the united states , that doesn't work for families. that doesn't work for children. that's why we need a 21st century model of immigration reform . take care of the ones here, figure out how the immigrants of the future are going to come here in a way that they're not exploited, and then turn our border enforcement into chasing criminals, not nannies and farm workers.
>> i think that's what adds to the hypocrisy of those on the other side who advocate for a guest worker program who also say they stand for family values . i believe our immigration policy should keep families together. they should promote the parents taking care of their kids and kids being able to pursue their education and career goals and serving in the military.
>> i agree. you could do both. you just need to be smart about it.
>> one of the points that eliseo made that i want to hammer home, and i think it's really important. i worked with folks who are undocumented in restaurants and different settings. is the way that border enforcement means that people come and stay in that periods where the border enforcement is lower, people would go back and forth a lot. you come and earn money, undocumented, go back, and maybe build a home and get a job in mexico . instead, we have created increasingly a forced choice. the more that we've ramped up border enforcement, the harder it is to go back. the more it means, okay, i'm going to say good-bye to my family and not see them for 12 years or 14 years. i talked to a family of a woman from the west indies this week in reporting i was coidoing, and she hasn't seen her family in 25 years because it's too risky to go back. that's a big part of this. ruben martinez , author of "desert america." medina of the restaurant employees service union. and