MAY 2006 FEATURE ARTICLE
by Maya del Mar
Immigrants have been demonstrating by the hundreds of thousands all over the United States ever since the huge pro-immigrant march in Chicago on March 10. And they are still marching.
They are simply saying that they are a valuable part of the U.S. work force, and that they should be recognized for their contributions and treated with respect.
They are asking for family reunification, a solution to the visa backlog, now at 6.2 million and growing, and a reasonable path to citizenship.
Do they want to be labeled as illegals, which becomes a dirty and dangerous word? Of course not. But it is very difficult for Latinos to enter the U.S. legally. I have traveled throughout Latin America, lived in Mexico, and talked to many about this problem. Basically, you have to be fairly wealthy, or have immediate family here, to get a U.S. visa.
For instance, a good friend, a Mexican who would like to get a visa to visit the U.S., cannot pass the INS requirement of being a homeowner, and having $10,000 in the bank. This despite the fact that he is a college graduate, has no police record, has had his own business for 10 years, and his family lives in Mexico (where they want to stay).
In my experience, most often the only way a regular working Latino can enter this country is illegally.
The message of the marchers is that undocumented immigrants are workers, not criminals. I know this to be true. I see and talk with them in my daily life, I have taught them as students in school, I have lived in their neighborhoods, and for the most part they are earnest, hard-working, conscientious, law-abiding family people.
There are from 11-12 million undocumented workers in the U.S. They comprise 4.9% of the labor force. Many small businesses could not continue without undocumented immigrants, who will work for less than minimum wage. And many large businesses make their profits on these low wages. In general, business interests support having this low-wage, illegal, vulnerable work force.
It does cost the community in social services, education, and medical costs, as does WalMart. The estimate for education is $11.2 billion. However, taxes offset this cost. In California, for instance, it is estimated that just the sales taxes paid by undocumented workers pay half of the education costs.
And the children are assimilating well. In a 40-year study, Economist David Card found, for instance, that, on average, the children of immigrants have higher education and income levels than the children of non-immigrants. Meanwhile, the children of the least educated immigrants have pulled almost even with the children of natives.
No government body has had its credit rating devalued due to a financial drain by immigrants.
Low wage labor also depresses wages for all laborers. The answer here is to make sure that minimum wage laws are enforced. Even so, most unions support the immigrants, including the AFL-CIO.
One of the most outspoken are the Teamsters in Orange County, heart of the anti-immigrant offensive. Teamsters Local 952 says people need real legal status, not a guest worker program. A recently passed resolution condemns both Congressional proposals because
They do nothing to remove the economic incentives that unscrupulous employers have to hire and exploit immigrant workers, and fail to really address the fact that we have 11 million undocumented workers in this country
contributing to our communities.
The AFL-CIO says that if there are jobs for 400,000 braceros (the Senate goal), those immigrants should be given 400,000 green cards, or residence visas, instead, which would guarantee them equal status in their workplaces and communities. The Senate bill (the milder one) tears at the heart of true reform and will drive millions of hard-working immigrants further into the shadows of American society. Instead, we should recognize immigrant workers as full members of societyas permanent residents with full rights and full mobility that employers may not exploit.
Simply the economic contribution of undocumented workers is great. According to Barrons, undocumented workers contribute, per year, $970 billion to the U.S. economy, $7 billion to Social Security, and in New York alone $1.1 billion in taxes in 2005.
There is a good bill for immigration reform in Congress, but it meets with silence amongst legislators. A year ago, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Congressional Black Caucus members introduced HR 2092, which would give permanent residence visas to undocumented people already here, and outlaw discrimination based on migrant status.
Jackson Lee believes that Federal policy should not pit migrants against native-born, as do guest worker programs. Her legislation would instead fund job training and creation in communities with high unemployment, so that both immigrants and non-immigrants can find work.
We can also look at the causes of this great influx. Since NAFTA, people in Mexico have been getting poorer and poorer. Just look at Tijuana, past and present. A major cause is the U.S. huge subsidization program of its (genetically modified) corn. Corn was Mexicos staple and lifeblood. Mexico is the original home of maize. In the country, when I lived there, every family grew their own corn, dried it, ground it for tortillas, and saved the best of the crop for seed.
Now, in Mexico, the price of subsidized U.S. corn undercuts that of native corn, and farmers can no longer make a living. Thus many of them come to the U.S., where there are jobs.
NAFTA has a huge catch (or two or three) for labor. It stipulates that capital and goods can flow freely, but not workers. Thus the corn flows across the border, but those people replaced by U.S. corn are not free to find a new worker niche in the U.S.
This model, where capital and goods whip about freely, while workers are severely restricted and regulated, has led to rising corporate profitability and stagnating wages.
There are long-range solutions, which include caring for the environment. But thats another story.
In the meantime, a huge outpouring of people is demanding real equality.
What is the astrology behind this unprecedented demonstration?
The first big demonstration, a half million people in the streets in Chicago, occurred on March 10. The next huge one was a million people filling the streets of Los Angeles on March 25. Smaller mobilizations occur continually, seemingly spontaneously, but spread by radio and by word of mouth.
March was Eclipse month. We had a lunar eclipse in the worker sign of Virgo, and a solar eclipse in the assertive sign of Aries. These demonstrations unleashed exactly that kind of energy.
The Lunar Eclipse at 25 Virgo on March 14 (link to daily forecast or view chart) was the Full Moon for 25 Pisces. Pisces is a universal sign, compassionate, and feeling the suffering of the world. The Virgo-Pisces opposition is humble and service-oriented, as are immigrant workers. This opposition can be the long-suffering servant, accustomed to being stepped on.
Juno, at 25 Gemini, squared both Sun and Moon. Juno can be victim energy, but the square indicates conflict, with a need for action. Nobody can spread the word faster than Gemini. Young people have been dominant, not wanting their families split up. Gemini is a sign of youth.
The frosting on this cake was Pluto at 27 Sagittarius, who squared both Sun and Moon, and opposed Juno, creating a Grand Square. A grand square shows great pressures, and something has to give. With Pluto involved, it can emerge like a volcanic eruption.
These are all mutable signs, which are the sensitive signs, very tuned into their environment. Ideas can spread through mutables like wildfire.
These mobilizations are not a blip on a screen which will then return to normal. For one thing, we have the heavy involvement of Pluto, who permanently changes things. Pluto is God of the Underworld, and the feelings we see expressed have been simmering underground for decades. Their expression will only grow stronger.
And Pluto is now conjoining the Galactic Center, receiving messages from the cosmos. (Those messages might be that we dont have much more time to shape up.)
For another thing, this is the first of a two-year series of eclipses in Virgo and Pisces. It is just the beginning of a process.
Interestingly, Virgo-Pisces eclipses occurred around the times of major drops in the stock market. I couldnt figure out why from the NYSE chart, but now I may have it: Virgo-Pisces is the axis of realignment, so these periods are realignment periods for the nation and thus for the market.
Also, Chiron, the Wounded Healer, is associated with Virgo. Now Chiron is traveling through the political sign of Aquarius
which is also the sign of the U.S. Moonthe people.
The development of widening the base of equality has been going on since the beginning of this nation, and every step is a fight. We have just taken a big leap in working to live up to our ideals of liberty and justice for all.
Immigrants, undocumented or not, have made this country. It makes sense that those who take the initiative to move into a foreign country and make their way would be the most courageous, the most ambitious, and the most savvy sectors of their population.
After all, we are truly all brothers and sisters. Pisces and Virgo help move us to understand that fundamental truth.