During the State of the Union address, what Biden should have said about immigration?
When Mr. Biden Spent Too Much Time on the Labor Railway: An Empirical Analysis of a Times of Change for Labor Unions
Even the labor railway situation, in which Mr. Biden urged congress to adopt a contract with significant wage gains and improved health benefits, was more favorable to workers than it would have been under another administration, union officials say.
Mr. Biden has “gestured in interesting ways in certain moments,” said Gabriel Winant, a labor historian at the University of Chicago. “But it doesn’t seem like he has the stomach to see the gestures through.”
Editor’s Note: Lawrence Downes, a writer and editor, covered immigration and politics for The New York Times Editorial Board from 2004 to 2017. He is the co-author, with Linda Ronstadt, of “Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
What Happened to Jobs and Work: The Case against Immigrants in the era of Economic Boom and Low-Hierarchy
President Joe Biden talked a lot about jobs and workers during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. When the address is a report card, the president loves to brag about their grades, and so they have a booming job number and the lowest unemployment rate since 1969.
For a president whose bywords are “infrastructure” and “made in America,” the speech was a perfect moment to summon the nation to a great industrial renewal.
These strong economic tailwinds have given Biden a chance to reshape the conversation about work in the United States; to make it more honest, and to show how making the American workplace better for everyone means making it better and safer for immigrants, including the 11 million undocumented.
What a blown opportunity, especially in a time of rampant xenophobia, anti-immigrant violence and the zero-sum, border-obsessed politics that are former President Donald Trump’s toxic gift to the national discourse.
But on Tuesday he needed to go further — to connect the industrial dots, to defy the mindset about immigrants that separates “them” from “us,” to make it clear that supporting American workers and doing right by America’s immigrants are essentially the same thing.
Because most Americans in safety gear and working at work are more like immigrants than the right-wing politicians and media figures who stoke America’s anger about foreigners.
There are insoluble policy debates that stir only anger or apathy when the word “Immigration” is used. But it doesn’t have to be. Immigration is one of this country’s finest attributes, the source of its proudest stories. And those stories are rooted in immigrant labor.
It’s a smart, bold move that protects the rights of all workers, including native-born Americans. If Biden wants to be the labor president, he should be hitting this point hard and often. We can’t have labor protections for all workers because immigrants without papers are being abused and exploited. Until a 2,000 mile wall is built and Congress passes an immigration bill, we cannot keep deferring justice.
And we can’t keep delegating immigration policy to governors in states like Texas and Florida, whose cruel, useless stunts include busing immigrants across the country in the dead of winter and dumping shipping containers on the border and calling it a wall.
It’s Biden’s turn to finish the job. His administration will honor immigrants’ contributions to the state of this union in ways that will focus on them at this time. He can protect, support and unleash them to do great things, changing the country for the better.
What if instead of making the annual State of the Union call for Congress to fix things, Biden said he would help sign day laborers up as workplace whistle blowers?
What if he promised to go to a memorial service for immigrant essential workers who labored on the front lines of the pandemic, who got sick and died so that the rest of us could stay safe at home? What if he proposed immigration relief for their surviving relatives — citizenship to honor their ultimate sacrifice?
Most Republicans would be outraged. Absolutely, they would. They care not at all about the injustice of millions working on the edge of survival. They use immigrants as bait to argue that the wrong people are to blame for all the problems.
Many natives keep falling for the old story. On Long Island, where I live, people spent years arguing over immigrant day laborers — and missing the point completely. The workers filled a labor gap — contractors and homeowners wanted them for jobs they wouldn’t or couldn’t do themselves. The talk-show hosts and politicians started to hate each other. Workers were harassed and viciously attacked, and sometimes hunted and killed.
This was true around the country. Then one day a real estate developer turned entertainer from Queens declared that some Mexican immigrants were rapists and implied that he was running for president to deal with them. He thought America was a dumping ground for the world. In 2015, some opinion journalists seemed amused or intrigued to see an entertaining new celebrity shaking up our infotainment politics.
The entertainer won the presidency and four years of hatred followed. Children were torn from their parents by federal agents. Some migrants were turned away at the border. Unprecedented limits on asylum also made conditions more dangerous. For decades, migrants have died crossing the burning Sonoran Desert; under the Trump administration, others battled freezing temperatures in refugee camps beside the Rio Grande as asylum seekers were forced to wait outside the US while their cases were pending. A man shot and killed dozens of Latino people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, after posting an online rant against Hispanics and Republican talking points.
Biden and Su: Towards a Common Understanding of Work, Income, and Minority Rights in the United States and in Europe. The Economic Impact of Labor
Biden might tread lightly on immigration since political thinking says it is a third rail and he will regret giving Fox News more things to rouse the rabble with.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday introduced Julie Su, his nominee for Labor secretary, touting the overwhelming support she enjoys among lawmakers and other Democratic supporters.
Before joining the Biden administration, Su was the state labor commissioner and the secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Su was the litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles. She was awarded agenius grant by the macArthur Foundation which gave her recognition for her work in workers’ rights and civil rights.
Su said that her mother came to the U.S. on a ship and received a call from Biden to tell her that she would be a Cabinet secretary.
Su said that Biden has made workers, worker well-being, and worker power central to his economic vision.
The president on Wednesday offered praise to outgoing Labor secretary Marty Walsh – pronouncing his first name, as Biden often does, with an exaggerated Boston accent – calling him a partner as he praised Walsh’s commitment to US workers. Walsh is leaving the administration this month to take the top job at the National Hockey League Players Association.
“Marty, thank you for everything you’ve done… thank you for standing up for labor, thank you for standing up for ordinary people, and thank you for having my back, pal,” Biden said.