It seems that the much-beleaguered former head of our state’s short-lived experiment in coalition government now believes that his extensive legal and political problems arise from his fight for immigrant rights, whatever that well-worn phrase implies. It’s remarkable when you think of how many of these alleged protectors of immigrant rights are later discovered to be exploiting the very same people whose rights they so volubly and tirelessly declaim upon. In this case, Espada was exploiting the labor of the Bronx community that he represented in the legislature, but in which he elected not to reside.
But the case of Mr. Espada is not unique. Unfortunately, there are many “immigrant rights” activists whose activism is merely a thin veneer used to justify their exploitation of immigrant labor and/or the uncompensated services of illegal aliens. A perfect illustration of this pattern of behavior is the case of American Apparel, the trendy clothing manufacturer well-known for its quasi-pornagraphic advertisements of models wearing garish, 1970s retro attire.
But perhaps its most trumpeted initiative is its owner’s well-publicized Legalize L.A. campaign, which seeks to persuade Congress to enact legislation that will grant amnesty to the 10-25 million illegal aliens currently living within the United States. What would appear to be a public-spirited campaign undertaken with the interests of millions of desperate, would-be Americans foremost in mind began to look much different in light of AA’s decision to fire 1,500 workers whose immigration status it could not independently verify.
The action, however, does not appear to have been forced upon the company. ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said, “There’s no direct order from ICE to terminate an employee…. But if a company continues to employ individuals who are not authorized to work, they understand there may be potential legal consequences.”
In other words, it wasn’t an edict issued by some federal bureaucrat that had forced the hand of Dov Charney-the CEO of American Apparel-but his own belief that relieving these workers of their employment was in his, or his company’s, self-interest. To me, that seems like a rather heartless decision if this man is indeed the compassionate immigrant rights crusader we have been led to believe. Unfortunately, Mr. Charney was only concerned with their ability to enhance his portfolio and burnish his corporate image as a socially conscious entrepreneur, just as Pedro Espada was concerned with the ability of immigrants to bolster his political fortunes in Albany.
Isn’t it ironic that the people most often castigated for their callous disregard for non-citizens are, perhaps, more concerned with their personal welfare than their supposed champions?