Saturday, April 28, 2007

What is the EWIC? (guest post by Uranus)

It's the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, of course. Having spent days trying to get my mind around it, I'm still very uncertain about its fundamental status as an enterprise, and although gossip about an effort to put large numbers of "unnaturalized" foreign nationals to work in the United States has been heard for 10 years or more, the activities of its central core, the EWIC, remain a closely held secret. Why is that?

I never believed the many truck drivers I heard angrily discuss "government plans" to replace every driver in the U.S. with barely-compensated Mexicans. Despite the fact that trucking companies complained they couldn't keep their power units staffed, while treating drivers worse than dogs, I couldn't imagine a real effort to replace them by "lesser humans," and considered the reiteration of this fantatsy utter nonsense. Apparently, I was wrong—completely wrong. I ignore rumors and dumb theories, but what little information I can find about this plan is dark and troubling.

The local TV news story that Mexican drivers and trucks would be allowed to run the lower 48 states was broadcast one time and pulled. Forwarding companies on the border have been handling freight going into Mexico or the United States, and Mexican trucks didn't run more than 25 miles into the U.S. But, American commercial vehicles have always been allowed to run into Canada and vice-versa. You can be sure of this: any American truck wouldn't get 20 miles into Mexico before it and its driver disappeared. For that reason, I'm not warm to Mexican trucks running freely in the U.S.

If the plan is to replace American professional drivers with Mexicans, it's no small number,
estimated in 2004 at between 10.4 and 11.4 million. But EWIC isn't just about truck drivers:

The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC) is a coalition of businesses, trade associations, and other organizations from across the industry spectrum concerned with the shortage of both skilled and lesser skilled ("essential worker") labor. EWIC stands ready to work with the Administration and Congress to push forward on important immigration reform issues.

EWIC supports policies that facilitate the employment of essential workers by U.S. companies and organizations. Current immigration law largely prevents the hiring of foreign essential workers. EWIC supports reform of US immigration policy to facilitate a sustainable workforce for the American economy while ensuring our national security and prosperity.

That's their mission statement. There are a great many links at that site, and I haven't read them all. I was too busy vomiting after reading their first letter to Congress which lays out what they're about:

Dear Representative/Senator:

While all sectors of the economy have benefited from the extended period of economic growth we are enjoying, one significant downside is now making its presence felt: the shortage of non-professional ("essential worker") labor. With unemployment rates in some areas approaching zero and after vigorous welfare-to-work, school-to-work, and other recruitment efforts; businesses are now finding themselves with no applicants of any kind for numerous job openings. Reliance on market forces has proven to be unsuccessful. There simply are not enough people to fulfill the demand in the economy...

You can read the rest of that witch's brew for yourself. I don't need a PhD to know the assertion there simply aren't enough people in America to fill the unlimited, great jobs is a damned lie. These pigs just want cheap labor, and they are willing to commit to an effort to write legislation creating a new kind of legalized peonage:

• Include a requirement for undocumented workers living in the United States to come forward and register as guest workers; and,
• Provide these newly registered workers with a multi-year process for legal residency and eventual citizenship.

You can find other gut-wrenching polls lending support to this exploitive plan on the EWIC website here. As you read, you'll begin to realize the scientific validity of the surveys is suspect; that it's the exclusive province of the republican party and the Bush administration; and its specious claims are justified with statements like "the majority of Americans agree" or "everyone knows."

I was self-employed for almost 10 years and hired and fired a great many people. I also handled the business adminstration, and knew that while payroll is a large expense, the profitability of our business (and most any other) didn't depend on getting the cheapest possible employees.

Another very disturbing fact about this endeavor is it is being promulgated through the supposed respectability of the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I've considered chambers of commerce unnecessary, useless and superfluous; but the national chamber has been considered legitimate, historically. I expected to find a link to EWIC on their website. There isn't one. If this is a valid solution to a valid problem, you'd think they'd be justifiably proud of it and would carry it on the home page. But, if you want to learn about EWIC on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website, you have to do a search. Sure enough, they have one lonely article about it; however, if you want to see what it says, you're going to have to join the chamber. And that isn't cheap! I guess making it legal to exploit peons is pretty expensive.

You couldn't draw a cartoon that's as bizarre as this real-life satire. You can find a list of the members of EWIC
here. As you can see, these groups clearly hope to replace their tens of millions of employees with cheap, foreign labor they can obligate to work for years with the goal of attaining citizenship (which is the effective definition of peonage), and the members consist of some of the country's biggest labor associations.

I haven't checked any of their websites except this one,
the American Health Care Association, and it offered nothing reassuring:

The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition was disappointed by the passage of the potentially devastating House bill (H.R. 4437). This bill is detrimental to the business community imposing new, unreasonable fines even for paperwork violations; requiring all employers to verify employees' work eligibility through what has up to now been an unreliable pilot program; and declaring existing undocumented workers "aggravated felons." We now look forward to Senate action on what we expect to be a more comprehensive bill, which would fix the underlying dysfunctional immigration system while also enhancing border security and interior enforcement.

By now you can see why I've been confused. Fortunately and unfortunately, we have this alarming appraisal by Peter Phillips for Truthout which is too good to excerpt, so here it is en toto:

Threats of terrorism and twelve million "illegal" immigrants are being used to justify new police-state measures in the United States. Coordinated mass arrests, big brother spy blimps, expanded detention centers, repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act, and suspension of habeas corpus have all been recently implemented and are ready to use against anyone in the US.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) flooded Mexico with cheap, subsidized US agricultural products that displaced millions of Mexican farmers. Between 2000 and 2005, Mexico lost 900,000 rural jobs and 700,000 industrial jobs, resulting in deep unemployment throughout the country. Desperate poverty has forced millions of Mexican workers north in order to feed their families.

In the wake of 9/11, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) has conducted workplace and home invasions across the country in an attempt to roundup "illegal" immigrants. ICE justifies these raids under the rubric of keeping our homeland safe and preventing terrorism. However, the real goal of these actions is to disrupt the immigrant work force in the US and replace it with a tightly regulated, nonunion guest-worker program. This policy is endorsed by companies seeking permanent low-wage workers through a lobby group called Essential Worker Immigrations Coalition (EWIC). The fifty-two members of EWIC include the US Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart, Marriott, Tyson Foods, American Meat Institute, California Landscape Contractors Association and the Association of Builders and Contractors.

A new program, established by the Department of Justice in cooperation with Homeland Security, uses the code name Operation Falcon (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally). Operation Falcon carried out three unprecedented federally coordinated mass arrests between April 2005 and October 2006. More than 30,000 fugitives, including immigrants, were arrested in the largest dragnets in the nation's history. The operations directly involved over 960 agencies, including the FBI, ICE, IRS, Homeland Security and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

To accommodate the detention of tens of thousands of people, Homeland Security, in 2005, awarded Halliburton's subsidiary KBR a $385 million contingency contract to build detention camps in the United States. According to the Halliburton web site, "The contract provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the US, or to support the rapid development of new programs."

Other new police-state programs include US government contracting with Lockheed-Martin to design and develop enormous unmanned airships, seventeen times the size of the Goodyear blimp, outfitted with high-resolution cameras to spy on the Mexican border. The airships are designed to float 12 miles above the earth, far above planes and weather systems. The high-resolution camera will watch over a circle of countryside 600 miles in diameter and could be moved to spy on any region of the US.

The programs described above, combined with two recent changes in US law, make the reality of a full police-state in the US increasingly more feasible. The Military Commissions Act, signed in October of 2006, suspends habeas corpus rights for any person deemed by the president to be an enemy combatant. Persons so designated could be imprisoned indefinitely without rights to legal counsel or a trial. And the Defense Authorization Act of 2007 allows the president to station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities. By revising the two-century-old Insurrection Act, the law, in effect, repeals the Posse Comitatus Act and gives the US government the legal authority to order the military onto the streets anywhere in America.

Threats of terrorism and illegal immigrants are being used to justify the implementation of police-state programs. But once started, enforcement can be rapidly deployed to any group of people in the US, and we all become endangered. Mass arrests, big brother in the sky and the loss of civil rights for everyone does not bode well for those who believe in democracy, free speech and the right to critically challenge our government without fear of reprisals.

I apologize for this patchwork of a story. What to assume, and where to go from here, is unclear. I didn't go past the second page of a Google search, because the first two pages yielded so little. I conclude it's just more of a long-term plan to exterminate the middle class. I hope you will keep your eyes peeled for more information, and will share it if you find it.


starroute said...

Just a few bits and pieces to throw into the pot:

1) This article by Lindsay Beyerstein and Larisa Alexandrovna which appeared at Raw Story recently, detailing some of the abuses of the H-2B visa system.

2) Jennifer Van Bergen's account of Larisa's cousin, a legal resident alien for many years who was picked up in that ICE sweep last fall. (Also originally at Raw Story, but the link goes to a reposting here, with comments.)

3) No single link -- but there are many indications that the Chamber of Commerce is not as innocuous at it seems. It's currently one of the four main pillars of the National Endowment for Democracy, well known for meddling in other countries' affairs on behalf of US business. I also have files suggesting more vaguely that the Chamber of Commerce was an active source of pro-business lobbying and propaganda as far back as the 1920's, was actively stirring up McCarthyite hysteria in the late 40's, and may have been tied in with the CIA.

I might tentatively suggest that what this is really all about is control -- not money, not globalization, but control of the workers by the bosses. Immigrants are far more easily controlled that native workers. Native workers are more easily controlled if you have the option of immigrant labor to threaten them with. The threat of immigrants/terrorists is a handy excuse for cracking down on border enforcement and internal policing.

And if that ain't fascism, it'll do until the real thing comes along.

(On the other hand, who was it that said, "Workers of the world, unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains"? Sounds like good, hard, practical advice to me.)

«—U®Anu§—» said...

Thanks, starroute. The Raw Story article lays out a classic example of peonage. I don't know where to begin giving my opinion of this garbage I read, but it would extend far longer than the stuff I posted. I don't think Mexicans will go along with it in the long run. You know it will be really abusive. Similarly, I was all in favor of affirmative action, until I got into the work force and saw its real purpose was to make it practically illegal for employers to hire people who were white and male. Once hired, the employer acted like, "hey, I'm risking life in the electric chair to have you here, so I'll treat you any way I like." It's also interesting to see on the U.S. Chamber's site that while they're in favor of immigrant labor and tout Bush's No Child Left Behind act, they spend lots of space complaining how education in America isn't training people for life on the job.

We used to take care of our own, it was sacred and it was understood, self-evident. We declined from a production society to a service society. Now, we're farming out the service economy with creative schemes that are unbelievable. I can't help but feel there's more to it than WalMart wanting cheaper workers.

starroute said...

Have you seen the current story about the USAID guy who resigned when it came out that he was a client of the DC madam?

Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.

Tobias, 65, director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), had previously served as the ambassador for the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.

A State Department press release late Friday afternoon said only he was leaving for "personal reasons."

On Thursday, Tobias told ABC News he had several times called the "Pamela Martin and Associates" escort service "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage." Tobias, who is married, said there had been "no sex," and that recently he had been using another service "with Central Americans" to provide massages.

Central Americans? One can only wonder what went on those H-2B visa applications.

Anonymous said...

The Chamber of Commerce 50 years were communities of small businessmen joined together to represent themselves.

Now it is a disgusting cannibal capitalist front for corps. And it's going global.

When peaceful revolution is impossible...violent......well you know the rest

«—U®Anu§—» said...

I meant to mention this which states although arrests at the U.S./Mexican border have dropped a third, deaths of people crossing the desert had dropped only 8 percent (compared to the "same period" last year, whatever that is).

About a month ago I found a story that said the Chicago Tribune had learned some 600 cattle had crossed the border from Canada without documentation. The U.S. had halted beef imports from Canada for fear of BSE, or mad cow disease. (I didn't save the link, and can't find it now.)

Could it be our government as constituted can't deal well with border issues? It could be. They don't deal well with other issues, either.

The stuff about Tobias is funny, starroute. These are the people who've been trying to proselytize the whole world for the last 6 years. Even Janet, who isn't naive, has been surprised enough about this hypocrisy that, among the many books she reads, has included an exhaustive study of the Bible in the last couple years. I guess she wants to be ready to argue with real, live Christian head jobs.

lukery said...

When peaceful revolution is impossible...violent......well you know the rest

sheesh! wouldn't you rather be a slowly-boiling frog?

Anonymous said...

"sheesh! wouldn't you rather be a slowly-boiling frog?"

LOL...not really, I'd rather blow the lid off.

lukery said...

after 6 years of this nonsense, i'm hard-boiled... viva la revolution

(btw U - great post)

Kax said...

Well you know we've hit bottom when we're outsourcing the oldest profession....

Most scarey to me about this particular array of laws, FEMA, ICE, Patriots Act and MCA is the fine print, as it pertains to citizens, as well as aliens, legal or otherwise, and the now legal possibility for Busholini to declare Martial Law and cancel the next elections, while rounding up we big mouthed folks for an extended stay in one of those Halliburton built detention camps. Waterboards are free, folks.

«—U®Anu§—» said...

Between the many undated invoices from Cox and the way they change everything, I never know when my payment is due, and they cut my service off over the weekend. Unfortunately, I am back. What fascinates me most about this is how it looks like it's driven by private sector greed. An equally good argument can be made that the driving force is government philosophy--a think tank recipe-formula which addresses obvious issues as well as obscure ones, and at the outset has nothing to do with statutes, but is intended to produce legislation. Neoconservative proponents claim it's what immigrants want, a shameless, transparent lie. The whole thing is so ridiculous you wouldn't think it stands a snowball's chance. But when I consider that probably 80% of the young adults in the U.S. could not give a satisfactory definition for the word "peon," perhaps the probability the policies EWIC seeks could get statutory support is quite good. Thinking about that makes my head hurt. It will hurt immigrants, natives and employers too, even if they can't understand it will.