a bird and a bottle

Abortion – Illegal Immigration Connection? I think not.
November 14, 2006, 11:26 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, politics, Uncategorized

The blogosphere is abuzz today with news that the Missouri state House Republican-led panel has released a report blaming abortion (read: women) for the perceived problem of undocumented immigration. Pandagon has a good summary and argues that this is just another example of the racist motivation at the fringe of the anti-choice movement rearing its ugly head. The full story can be found here. Basically, the report says that “liberal social policies” including abortion have discouraged Americans from working and have incentivized illegal immigration by leaving the unskilled jobs that Americans are not being forced to fill open to undocumented immigrants. The “logic” goes something like this: the U.S. allows immigration, and undocumented immigration, to fill the menial jobs that Americans won’t or don’t fill. But if there were 40-odd million more Americans (who do not exist because the fetuses that could have become those Americans were aborted), then we could just stop immigration and call it a day.

This is a fallacy for several reasons. First, it’s a blatant attempt to blame (who else?) women, and particualrly women who do not conform to the model of feminine purity against which the far right believes women should be measured. Women who have abortions must have had sex to become pregnant in the first place. They are therefore dirty and can be blamed for all of America’s ills. Next thing you know, young women will be blamed for Bush too, even though we were less supportive of him as a group than most other age range groups. Second, the “logic” of the Missiouri report is fallacious because it relies on a mistsaken assumption that the U.S. is “desperate” for workers, and presumes that even if these “extra” Americans did exist, they would fill the thankless jobs that are currently filled by undocumented immigrants. The U.S. is not desperate for workers. It’s just that Americans refuse to fill the low-level unskilled jobs for which they are paid far less than a living wage. And for good reason. Also for good reason, undocumented immigrants are happy to take these positions.

To me, this points not to an arrogance on the part of Americans, but rather to an alternative solution that might really help lessen the pull of the U.S. in the international immigration market. And that is this: if American workers were paid better across the board (a living wage not minimum wage) and received healthcare even at the lowest levels on the employment ladder, they might be more willing to take jobs that they perceive to be thankless or “below” them. Perhaps the fact that undocumented immigrants fill so many millions of jobs in the United States this year points not to how women have failed to reproduce in adequate numbers to perpetuate the workforce, but how the government has failed to make employment in America worthwhile for American workers.

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Agreed. The Missouri argument is so unabashedly hateful and stupid, it’s hard to identify exactly where the logic doesn’t fail. But your connection to labor policy strikes me as crucial. I don’t know whether a living wage and national healthcare would decrease the attraction of the American labor market – though it could decrease the need. As far as immigrants and wages are concerned, undocumented and even documented immigrant workers tend to drive wages down (thus, the years-long opposition to immigration on the part of unions, a trend that has only recently reversed as unions realized that immigrants are among the only groups left to fill their ranks). I believe that bringing immigrant workers into the documented and unionized fold would help drive wages up as it would decrease the pool of readily exploitable workers. (Any experts know this for sure?) If so, it’s yet another reason why all wage-earning Americans should support progressive immigration reform (rather than bogus and misogynist state house reports).

(Also, I would put “happy” in scare quotes: “undocumented immigrants are happy to take these positions.”)

Comment by professorplum

[…] Katha Pollit’s got a new column up about the politics of blame. More specifically, the politics of blaming women. For everything. She picks up on Missouri’s decision to blame women for the perceived problem of undocumented immigration (which I wrote about here), and adds several more to the list. I think Pollit’s list makes it clear that blaming women for all kinds of ills of “modern” (and ancient) society has become trendy because of the political favor such a tactic can curry in the U.S. and abroad. […]

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[…] it, she highlights the ways in which anti-choice groups are trying to capitalize on anti-immigrant sentiment to push for restrictions on abortion rights. Huang writes: Anti-choicers are also starting to get in on the immigration debate. In fact, many […]

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