WHAT WE THINK
April 5, 2002 | Page 3
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS don't count as human beings. That's the message that the U.S. Supreme Court sent last week when it ruled in a 5-4 vote that illegal immigrants aren't entitled to legal protection when they are wrongly fired from their jobs.
The Court heard the case of José Castro, who was dismissed in 1989 for handing out union cards at a plastics company in California. Federal labor laws protect workers from being fired for trying to unionize, so the National Labor Relations Board awarded Castro $67,000 in back pay.
Not so fast, said the Supreme Court. The law only applies to workers if they're "legal." Since José is an illegal immigrant, he wasn't entitled to compensation. Allowing the law to protect undocumented workers would "encourage" illegal immigration, said the justices.
But by not giving illegal immigrants the same protection from job harassment and discrimination, the ruling throws the most vulnerable workers in the U.S. to the wolves. The decision is a cruel attack on the estimated 7 million undocumented workers in the U.S. who usually toil in the lowest-paid and most degrading jobs.
It's also a slap in the face to unions like the Service Employees International Union and United Farm Workers (UFW), which have spent decades organizing immigrant workers, and to the AFL-CIO as a whole, which last year called for amnesty for undocumented workers. As UFW President Arturo Rodriguez put it, the court's decision will create "a permanent underclass of semi-slave laborers."
The ruling shows how the Bush administration's anti-immigrant scapegoating since September 11 dovetails with the interests of employers--and how far the Supreme Court will go in gutting the rights of all working people.
That's why an attack on immigrant workers is an attack on all workers--and why we must all stand together to defend immigrant rights.