Another Open Thread: Political Salon Live Blogging

My wife Jane hosts a monthly political salon in our home. Tonight's topic is immigration with a farm worker angle. If it gets interesing, I'll provide a few updates. Jane is a people person, unlike me. I am not a people person. Bet that was a surprise.


What is an open thread?

It can be hard to figure out the conventions of blogging, especially when you're making it up on the fly. So you might be wondering: What the heck is an open thread?

I think of it like a water cooler in the real world. A place to drop by and say whatever it is that you want to say. Really, anything. I've seen open threads on other blogs that included wedding announcements, fundraising pitches, links to cool stuff, and just about everything else. You don't even have to log in to give the world a piece of your mind.

Starts with spiritually . . .

that food is sacred and that we have an obligation to the people who bring us our food. Those are farm workers.

Sensenbrenner Bill is the focal point of immigration . . . no reform has been made since 1986.

Our speaker is Tony Macias from Student Action with Farmworkers.

Tony Macias
Assistant Director

Tony Macias was born in Georgia and raised in Sumter, South Carolina. In 1998, while attending The University of South Carolina, he participated in the Into the Fields Internship as a health outreach intern in rural S.C. After college he served for two years at EarthCorps in Seattle, working in environmental restoration and outreach in urban neighborhoods. He has studied in Mexico and Costa Rica. As Assistant Director, he coordinates From the Ground Up, SAF's community education and public relations program. He also works with the Apprentice on the Into the Fields Internship and does administration and fundraising for SAF with the Executive Director.

Did you know there is already a guest worker program?

Bush talks about creating one . . . but there is already one . . . and NC has the highest number of guest workers (H2A) of any state. We have 8,000 guest workers out of more than 100,000.

Since 86, the majority of farmwork is done by illegal immigrants. They used to be able to come and go (as illegal immigrants). Now they've been forced to stay. People stranded here.

Illegal Mexicans replaced illegal Haitian workers as a result of with the 1986 law.

Immigrants go all the way up to Maine for blueberries.


The activists say the number of undocumented workers is 20 million, not the 11 million Bush talks about.

A lot of illegal workers got here with a legitimate visa and then overstayed.

Easiest way to get citizenship is to get married.

Dream Act . . . for undocumented high school graduates who have been raised here illegally to get a chance to go to college as an in-state student. If they've been in high school for four years and graduate, then they can go to college.

Of course, our North Carolina legislature won't even talk about the issue because it's a toxic issues. Our DEMOCRATICALLY CONTROLLED LEGISLATURE is afraid to behave like the good Christians they are and care for those who need help most.



Looking for something to do? Volunteer to help drive farmworkers to their union meetings. It's called Project Solidarity. This is a project of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee . . . based in Ohio and here in NC.

Farm workers and domestics

Farm workers and domestics are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act. This started from a law in the 1930s. Basically blacks were excluded. This is part of a practice of agricultural exceptionalism. For example, the minimum wage for workers is lower than the minimum age for farming.

Surprise, surprise. The US policies around agriculture are fundamentally racist. Big bidness exploits that racism for profit.

(Spending time discussing Mt. Olive pickle company. This was a major victory of workers' rights and one of the few boycotts that really worked. Also another effective boycott was Boot the Bell (against Taco Bell).

OFF TOPIC: I wonder how libertarian free-market maniacs justify their objections to unions. Don't we live in a society where anybody can organize any way they want?

(It's okay to eat at Taco Bell now. Now McDonalds is under the gun for tolerating unfair labor practices among their suppliers. Look for a boycott coming to your neighborhood soon.)


Lots of people know people who got their citizenship through being married. It's getting harder and harder.

The other way people immigrate is by applying for a visa and then staying. It's up to the immigrant to prove that they're not going to stay. Some are recruited by contractors as guest workers (this is back to the H2A guest worker program).

Workers can get black-listed (prohibited from being considered for the H2A) for complaining in any way or for getting hurt or for any reason the grower wants to give.


Conversation shifted to the pressure for reforms in Mexico. (Thank you Robin Hayes for being part of the problem by not have strong labor agreements in CAFTA.)

Corn is subsidized so much that you can sell corn at a price lower than it costs to make.


SWEAT SHOPS PROLIFERATED ON THE BORDER BECAUSE OF NAFTA, another trade agreement that had no labor standards.

IMMIGRATION QUOTAS . . . Diversity Visas are given to countries that have low immigration rates . . . recently gave a bunch of visas to Ireland.

Farm work is done by displaced workers. There is a shift going on from Mexicans to indigenous Indians. And also there's a growing level of Thai people being hauled in for illegal exploitation. The reason? Because Mexicans are getting organized and big bigness doesn't like it. That's why we're bringing in Thais.

We'll never stop illegal immigration until you stop employers from hiring them.