Racist Immigration Policies "Resolved" With Use Of Prison Labor
In Colorado, the state legislature passed laws that would require immigrants to obtain state identification in order to receive any government services. In addition they passed a law that allows the police to check the immigration status of any immigrant. These measures have forced documented and undocumented farm workers out of the state, leaving the Colorado's agriculture industry in shambles. The laws that were supposed to save the state millions will actually cost the state millions in less than a year. Colorado's response to the unattended farmland is to replace the immigrant farm workers with prison inmates who will be paid roughly 60 cents an hour. The Department of Corrections has demanded a total of $9.60 an hour per inmate to pay other associated costs, profiting $9.00 per inmate per hour these men and women work. Immigrant farmers were paid only $8.50 an hour for their labor.
Historically, immigration policy in the United States has been shaped by seemingly economic concerns that mask an underlying racist motive. During the 19th century, Chinese immigrants were welcomed for their labor contributions but were denied fundamental civil liberties enjoyed by whites. An exclusionist immigration policy was enacted when white citizens decried the increasing presence of the Chinese and demanded that further immigration should cease and those already in the country should be sent back.
Never mind the dehumanizing exploitation of prison labor. Never mind the underhanded scheme by Colorado's Dept. of Corrections to capitalize on the legislature's discriminatory practices. And never mind a hypocritical system that chases undocumented farmers out, only to replace them with inmates to work for slave wages. The government's decision to substitute prison labor for the skilled labor of immigrant farmers is a perversion of social policy and justice. Immigrant farmers are not expendable. It is outrageous that a democratically elected legislature in the year 2007 would continue to pursue the hate-filled policies of the past.
What was the point of driving out the immigrant farmers? Citizens who complain about losing job opportunities to immigrants did not take the jobs they left behind. Farm owners are left not knowing if they'll have workers to bring in their crops. Colorado is left policing an expensive program and is forced to turn to poorly paid inmates to repair the damage the state has caused. These anti-immigration policies are not about saving money nor are they about providing jobs for "legal citizens." They are a return to a period in our history where bigoted policies undermine the most fundamental values of tolerance, compassion, and good sense.
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