Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Come to the USA vs. Bracero: Immigration Smackdown


In today's Smackdown, we pit two immigration songs against each other. In one corner, from Clarkedale, Georgia is novelty country singer Ray Stevens with "Come to the USA". In the other corner, from El Paso, Texas, is protest folk singer/Marvin Gaye spouse Phil Ochs, with "Bracero".

"Come to the USA" was inspired by Arizona's recent racist immigration that lets police arrest people for looking like illegal immigrants. Naturally, this law provoked massive protests, including a boycott campaign. Ray Stevens, however, wants nothing to do with these protests, so he wrote "Come to the USA" as a counter-protest song.



Now, to be clear, I am on record as saying that mutant cyborgs throwing dead pigs at people is not the most effective method for dealing with the immigration issue. However, if any of you are mutant cyborgs, can you please throw a dead pig at this asshole? Pleeease?

I mean, beyond the reactionary sentiment and the obnoxious voice, this has got to be one of the worst justifications of a harsh immigration policy. He's attacking the USA for it's allegedly lax immigration laws by comparing it to other countries where "breaking the law is frowned upon". And what countries are those? Well, there's China, Sudan, Iran, Mexico, and North Korea. And he argues that not being more like those countries is resulting in the "collapse of the American way of life".

Hey, Ray! If you don't like the collapse of the American way of life, than go to one of those countries that, according to you, exemplifies the American way of life! You know, China, Sudan, Iran, Mexico or North Korea!

The thought that anyone could possibly be swayed by such a terrible argument is simply absurd. And yet, the video has reached over one million hits on YouTube with far more "Likes" than "Dislikes". How could that be? Are they really all that stupid?

I think not. Frankly I don't even think Ray Stevens is that stupid. I think Ray Stevens is a racist and is using a stupid argument that he himself probably doesn't believe as a cover for his racism. So does that mean that all of those people who think Ray Stevens is just wonderful and the Arizona immigration law is totes peachy are racists? No.

There is one crucial reason why anti-immigrant sentiment is so common. That reason is that the immigrants are going to take peoples jobs. That's pretty much what it all comes down to.

And Phil Ochs knows this, which is why he wrote "Bracero", a song about Mexican immigrants taking white people's jobs.



There are a lot of similarities between "Bracero" and "Come to the USA". They both question American immigration policy. They both have these seemingly welcoming refrains uttered with seething sarcasm. In "Come to the USA" it's "Come to the USA" and in "Bracero" it's "Welcome to California where the friendly farmers will take care of you". And they both sympathize with the plight of hard-working Americans who came here legally.

But there is one crucial difference between the two songs. "Bracero", unlike "Come to the USA", isn't excruciatingly awful.

"Bracero" was written in response to the Bracero Program, which allowed people to come to America legally and work for a pittance. The result was that Americans lost their jobs to lower paid legal immigrants, the immigrants got paid diddlysquat and the "friendly farmers" (i.e. big farm-owners) made off with a jackpot. It was a win-win situation.

I suspect that most of the people fawning over Ray Stevens would be just as pissed off at the Bracero Program. In fact most of them probably are pissed of at the Bush's Guest Worker Program, which is basically the same thing. But what about Ray Stevens himself? If his song is to be believed, his only problem with immigration is illegal immigration (that and the fact that the Mexicans are all a bunch of lazy prostitutes who can't bother themselves to learn English).

It should also be noted that Phil Ochs surprisingly doesn't consider Mexicans to be a bunch of lazy prostitutes who can't bother themselves to learn English. In fact, he's actually sympathetic to their plight. Holy shit!

You see, the knee-jerk anti-immigrant response of people concerned about their jobs never looks at why immigrants are taking their jobs. Illegal immigrants and legal braceros/guest workers, are not citizens of the US and don't have the same rights. Amongst those rights they lack are the right to form a union, and the right to vote. Furthermore, they're in constant danger of being deported if they try to do anything about their horrible working conditions. This makes them easier to exploit than American citizens, which is why companies like to hire illegal immigrants and braceros/guest workers.

So the "tough on immigration" policy that Ray Stevens advocates is the reason why immigrants are taking people's jobs.

But what does Phil Ochs advocate? He's not too explicit about that, but it's not to hard to work it out. It's a little thing called solidarity! Both immigrant and American workers are being exploited, and they're being exploited by the same nasty laws. They shouldn't be fighting against each other, like Ray Stevens wants, but together against the business that are exploiting them.

On another note, doesn't Phil Ochs have a wonderful voice?

And the winner is . . . mutant cyborg Phil Ochs throws a dead pig at Ray Stevens, FOR THE WIN!!! I would strongly urge everyone who's fallen for "Come to the USA" to give "Bracero" a little listen instead.

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