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When I think of immigration reform in the US today, I think of people migrating here from across our southern border in search of work, usually for low-skilled and low-paying jobs --- such as farm workers, dishwashers or car wash attendants --- jobs which were once known as "jobs that Americans don't want to do").

Or when I think of immigration reform, I might also think of H-1B visas for tech engineers living half way around the world in China.

In many ways I greatly admire these people. I couldn't imagine moving to Mexico to look for a job, let alone immigrating all the way to China (especially back in the 1800's; what a hardship that must have been!)

But hundreds of thousands did, and they still do, and they still will --- despite how perilous their journey might be. Although the US minimum wage is now only $7.25 an hour, for most of these immigrants, it's still far much more than what they'll earn back in their home country.

And their journeys to the US are often times far less deadly than the jobs they might have left behind.

Chinese Immigration to the U.S.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 was our country's first set of laws dealing with citizenship. Applicants had to be "a free white person" of "good moral character." This excluded indentured servants and slaves. Good moral character was substantiated by establishing residence for at least one year in the state from where they were applying.

During the 1800s Chinese immigrants worked as laborers, particularly on the transcontinental railroad, such as the Central Pacific Railroad. They also worked as laborers in the mining industry. While industrial employers were eager to get this new and cheap labor, the "white public" was stirred to anger by the presence of this "yellow peril." Despite the provisions for equal treatment of Chinese immigrants in the 1868 Burlingame Treaty, political and labor organizations rallied against the immigration of what they regarded as a degraded race and "cheap Chinese labor."

The Page Act of 1875 was named after the Republican Representative Horace F. Page. This is the first U.S. federal immigration law to explicitly prohibit the immigration of a particular group, those of Asian descent. Primarily it was meant to limit Chinese immigrant labor and prostitution.

During this time newspapers condemned the policies of employers. So hostile was the opposition that in 1882 the United States Congress eventually passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was signed by President Chester A. Arthur and was the first federal immigration law to prohibit immigration on the basis of race.

The immigration bill had barred all Chinese laborers (both skilled and unskilled) from immigrating to the U.S. for ten years. The law was then extended by The Geary Act in 1892 (about the time when the Eastman Kodak Company was first founded --- and when the corporate strategy of "acquisitions and mergers" began to intensify.) By 1924, all Asian immigrants were utterly excluded by law.

Only since the 1940s, when the U.S. and China became temporary allies during World War II, did the situation for Chinese Americans begin to improve. The Magnuson Act in 1943 lifted the ban on all Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S. --- and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (The McCarran-Walter Act) formally ended all Asian exclusion.

After World War II, anti-Asian prejudice in the US finally began to decrease. In the 1950s and 1960s, the rallying cry for corporate industrialists was for "diversification" --- to broaden corporate bases and take advantage of economies of scale.

Large-scale Chinese immigration to the US did not occur until 1965, when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 had also lifted "national origin quotas". This was after the Chinese forced-labor camps had already been in operation since the Korean War.

The Laogai Labor Camps in China

"Laogai" has been used to refer to the use of prison labor and prison farms in the People's Republic of China. It is estimated that over the last fifty years more than 50 million people have been sent to laogai camps.

The existence of an extensive network of forced-labor camps producing consumer goods for export to Europe and the United States was considered "classified" by China. The publication of information about China's prison system by Al Jazeera  (English) resulted in its expulsion from China on May 7, 2012.

Critics have long complained that China's prisons produced products for sale in foreign countries, with the profits going to the Chinese government --- including everything from green tea, to industrial engines, to the coal from China's infamous mines, where workers are constantly killed.

In early 2013, Chinese state-run media Xinhua reported that the country plans to "reform" its slave labor camps this year. The conditions at these Chinese labor camps are much more horrendous than the factories of Foxconn.

Outsourcing Jobs to China

The seeds for outsourcing American jobs to China were first planted with Henry Kissinger's secret diplomatic missions to Beijing, where he met with Premier Zhou in 1971; and then later, with Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to the People's Republic of China and the Paris Peace Accords.

This was before Master Sergeant Max Beilke was officially designated as the last American combat soldier to leave Vietnam on March 29, 1973 (He later died on September 11, 2001 while working on veterans' issues at the Pentagon when a hijacked airliner had slammed in to it.)

The Chinese eventually agreed to a peaceful settlement for the normalization of relations regarding Taiwan and enabled the U.S. and China to open trade. The United States continued to maintain official relations with the government of the "Republic of China" in Taiwan until 1979 when the U.S. broke off formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established full diplomatic relations with the government China.

Corporations that were attempting to compete globally in the 1970s and 1980s were handicapped by a lack of agility. To increase their flexibility, many large companies developed a new strategy of focusing on their core business, which required identifying critical processes, and then deciding which could be outsourced.

Although Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975, the product was dropped for fear it would threaten Kodak's photographic film business. As of 1976 Eastman Kodak commanded 90% of film sales and 85% of camera sales in the US.

According to one technical publication, A Brief History of Outsourcing, the current stage in the evolution of outsourcing is in the development of "strategic partnerships", which was first pioneered by Eastman Kodak with their decision to outsource their information technology systems in 1989.

Kodak was quickly followed by dozens of major corporations, whose managers had determined that it was not necessary to own the technology to get access to the information they needed. All throughout the 1990s the off shoring of jobs had escalated --- mostly tech, call service centers and manufacturing --- by companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell. During the last presidential campaign, Bain Capital was often mentioned.

In 1999 Bill Clinton signed the controversial trade agreement with the People's Republic of China. The trade agreement was the result of more than a decade of negotiations, and lowered many trade barriers between the two countries.

Data shows that since then, when George W. Bush first took office in 2001, there were 398,887 private manufacturing establishments of all sizes in the United States. By the end of 2010 the number of manufacturing firms had declined to 342,647 --- a loss of 56,190 facilities.

And More Outsourcing

Major America corporations have been outsourcing jobs to places such as China, India, Mexico and Taiwan for several decades now --- and then there's also the trade agreement with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. And some companies, such as Nike, already have their shoes manufactured in Vietnam, which is home to ten Nike factories. 75 million pairs of running shoes are made there each year. Chinese workers in Vietnam earn $1.75 a day; while Vietnamese workers earn $l.60 a day.

In a new twist, some individuals have borrowed the idea from corporate America, and have been outsourcing their own jobs to China.

But the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is poised to become the largest corporate trade agreement in U.S. history. The massive trade and investment pact is currently being negotiated behind-closed-doors between the United States and countries throughout the Pacific Rim —  600 business lobbyists are helping to write the law. TPP countries currently include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam with Mexico and Canada recently joining. The TPP  intended to become the trade law for the world as it includes a “docking agreement” that allows all nations will join over time.

Currently in the US, about 25 million Americans remain unemployed, of which less than half are acknowledged by the government any longer in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' U-3 unemployment rate. And while the BLS reports that the ranks of the long-term unemployed have dwindled by 1 million since last year, economists are uncertain of whether they're finding jobs or just dropping out of the labor force. And it was also recently reported that "the U.S. economy continues to churn out low-paying jobs in the weakest labor-market recovery since World War II."

Meanwhile, US corporations continue to seek out the cheapest labor whenever possible, including the outsourcing from China to even lower wage countries --- everywhere from Guatemala to Java.

The Aftermath

As of the 2010 United States Census, there are now more than 3.3 million Chinese in the United States...and the influx continues. The number of people that have immigrated to the U.S. from China and Taiwan has actually surpassed Hispanic and Latino immigration in the year 2012. Ironically, many of the jobs that they came here to acquire, may have already been off-shored to their own home country.

Since 2003, Eastman Kodak has laid off almost 30,000 employees world-wide, but now Kodak has been in bankruptcy for the past year as its most recognizable businesses have been either transferred or sold.

Part of Eastman Kodak's corporate complex is also up for sale, and is being considered for a downtown campus for the Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y. --- and the New York Times reports that when Eastman Kodak finally emerges from bankruptcy later this year,  "it will be a shadow of the blue-chip corporate giant it once was."

But other companies, such as the Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation, are doing very well. Rockwell has 22,000 employees, but 61 percent of them are outside the U.S. --- and in the US, it's becoming the standard for many manufacturing companies to require employees to have college degrees --- and some jobs even require a PhD.

But what most companies won’t say about their employees overseas is, whether or not THEY need college degrees. After all, what type of skills are required to work on an assembly line, repetitiously doing the same thing over and over again? What type of skills are needed to pack a box, drive a fork lift or sweep a factory floor? Speaking of which, factory-floor openings in the US are scarce and they too often require "specific" credentials. (In the old days, they would have offered "on-the-job training).

A company like Rockwell Automation creates wealth and jobs all over the world --- which is great for the world and for Rockwell's shareholders --- but it's not so great for the people of Milwaukee. Between 1961 and 2001, Milwaukee has lost 69 percent of its manufacturing positions.

The Next Emerging Market?

During the 1800's the American Colonization Society began sending black volunteers to the Pepper Coast of Africa (the present republic of Liberia) to establish a colony for freed American blacks. It was supported by prominent American politicians such as Abraham Lincoln, who believed that repatriation was preferable to emancipation of slaves.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on May 18, 2000 as part of The Trade and Development Act of 2000. The trade agreement allows businesses in West African countries (such as Liberia) to export to the United States duty and quota free, raising interest from U.S. clothing manufacturers that have seen increases in both cotton prices and the cost of hiring workers in China, where much clothing manufacturing now occurs.


Yesterday, as President Obama had to defend the US government's collection of cyber-data (the Prism surveillance program), he sidestepped questions about Chinese cyber-espionage of US military weapons systems after a meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping. And that's odd too, especially since we've also just learned that Chinese hackers had also infiltrated McCain and Obama's campaign networks in 2008.

But US corporations continue to offshore jobs to China, and therein lies the dilemma. How do the politicians and CEOs continue to convince the American people that free trade agreements are a "good thing" for this country... and that it's "ok" to send our jobs to countries that hack our most vital computer systems?

Or will America's emancipated slaves in West Africa eventually become corporate America's new labor force? Will the free people of Liberia once again become slaves for American industrialists?

Originally posted to Bud Meyers on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 01:50 PM PDT.

Also republished by Way of Dragon and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Not getting much traction on this diary. (4+ / 0-)

    This excellent diary deserves better but many people seem willing to let President Obama sell America to the highest bidder because he's "our guy".

    As a person with 40 years in the tech industry, I have seen the ravages of outsourcing and imported H-1B visas. What used to be a well-paid professional career path has been turned into just another path in the race to the bottom.

    It sickens me. Sadly, though, I seem to be in a small minority.

    A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

    by edg on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 08:08:07 PM PDT

    •  Yes, amazingly, Democrats (3+ / 0-)

      appear to now be in the same camp as Grover Norquist.

      Democrats used to care about jobs for Americans. That's what unions were all about. Unions are EXCLUSIONIST - union members were eligible, and others were not. That is what union power comes from - keeping the jobs for union members.

      But today, the Democratic Party is the pro-scab party. They want jobs not for Americans, but for immigrants. The democratic party has made a very clear choice - the illegals get jobs in construction, field work, and other areas, and American workers do not.

      The simple statement is that "these are jobs Americans do not want to do". Of course, this is a vicious anti-American statement of hatred toward our own children. There are no jobs Americans will not do. What is REALLY going on is that "There are jobs Americans will not do at specific wages".

      The H-1B onslaught is devastating to America. We lose intellectual capital. We bring in our enemies to run the critical jobs at the heart of our country, and they steal our knowledge and take it home. We are betraying our own children, and forcing them to take crap jobs while reserving the good jobs for the foreign illegals, on the bottom end and the top end of the labor spectrum. We are burdening our children with huge debt to go to college and then giving the good jobs to foreign scabs.

      Why do Democrats allow this?

      The answer is simple - the Democratic Party is now the Party of the Illegals, and not the Party of the Working American.

      It's fucking stupid.

      We are paying a huge price for it, too. We are losing the industrial midwest. IL, MI, WI, OH, PA - these states are "blue" for the minute, but only statewide. Within each state, the rural parts are red, and cities are blue. That's because the white working class knows that the Democratic Party doesn't give a fuck about them. They know that the Democrats care ONLY about the illegals. The Democrats don't care if students get jobs, they don't care about skilled trades, just illegals.

      •  they'll get it when there's a tech version of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Pearl harbor. But amurica's vast store of guns will be no match for the new enemy.

        •  Read the headlines (0+ / 0-)

          The Chinese are infiltrating our tech.

          I suppose what you mean is when some chinese hacker uses his US-Trained skills to shut down a nuclear reactor.

          •  Paranoid idiocy (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            randomfacts, FG

            The idea, not the posters, of course.

            America seems unable to contemplate China without either over- or under-estimating it.

            How do you know these Chinese hackers were where they thought they were, and not in a dummy site?

            If I were the Chinese military, I'd be taking any information gained through such uncontrollable and uncheckable sources with a few tons of salt.

            And the very idea that some Chinese hacker might "shut down a nuclear reactor" -- what permanant damage would that do, other than revealing the existence of the hack? Do you seriously think they can make the reactors explode? Sheesh. Must be the first and the last time I've ever seen anyone here treat shutting down a reactor as a bad thing.

            "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

            by sagesource on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 07:40:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  No. Check out Silicon Valley. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

             About half of the newer major companies have been founded by Indian and Chinese and other Asian immigrants, and large amounts of investment is arriving from China.  
                They also fill about half of the grad classes at Berkeley.
               Many of the jobs developed here with US basic technology are brought to market and then shipped back to China or India and the rest of Asia for production.  
               It's not like we are GIVING it all away, because they are certainly working very hard and investing in order to establish it all, but we certainly are missing the boat ourselves in not having any real policy for our own economic expansion.  
               The new immigration law will allow about a million new H1B visas (150.000 or so per each year for over 6 years)
            and guess which jobs they are coming for!
                Hillary Clinton used to be known as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-Mumbai.
                Our local reps seem to believe that they have an obligation to open all the gates for the Business sector (after all that 's who donates money for their political campaigns) and they forget the 'little people' that live here and can't find work, nor get an education.

            •  tell you what else (0+ / 0-)

              I bought a dozen lithium batteries through the mail off ebay direct from the chinese for less than than one in the store here. I thought the USPO has a sign up - no shipping lithium batteries through the mail. And how can the postage be so gol darn cheap when ours is so gol darn high? and yes, I didn't pay sales tax. Now that's a little thing, but all those little things undermine what? and what happens when we can get no batteries in the USA if the Chinese don't want us to? What then?

      •  Careful! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I've learned first hand that it is not proper etiquette to criticize Democrats on this web site. You might be accused of being a right-wing troll. It might be because we're all expected to blindly (and ignorantly) follow our fearless leaders into the Abyss, without any thought at all. And then drool in rapture while doing so. So I'll be trying to keep any of my future topics more apolitical (except when I sometimes feel like bashing the Tea Party or the Republicans.)

        If people won't go protest in the streets, then they'll end up sleeping on them instead.

        by Bud Meyers on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 03:21:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, I read that diary (0+ / 0-)

          Whew! Hot stuff ...

          The Democratic Party needs to carefully think of where it is going. We are in a position today in which we take states on the senatorial - presidential level, yet every unit of government below that state level is wholly owned by the Repukeliscum. Look at MI, WI, PA, OH - all states that went comfortably for Obama, and yet the Repukes have a majority of the HoR delegation, the statehouse, a majority in (both houses) of the state legislature, and many if not all local officials.

          And why is that? Simple. The Democratic Party is living on ONLY large city populations, and has NOTHING of any interest to anyone in rural areas anymore.

          And the immigration bill is going to make that process even stronger. While we are attracting the Hispanic vote, we are losing the white working class vote, and when students realize how much we have fucked them over, there will be hell to pay.

          Thanks for your thoughtful and sensible comment.

        •  Not correct. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          What is unacceptable is to blindly lash away without offering any solutions of your own. I'm willing to bet that the left column of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders here would have done almost exactly what Obama has done if they had been in his position. Brave words are cheap. Tell us how you'd translate them into brave realities.

          "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

          by sagesource on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 07:42:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Probably has to do with this diarist's (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      history. I personally see this diary as mojo gathering to make up for the shitty, RW trolling in others.

      I'd like to start a new meme: "No means no" is a misnomer. It should be "Only 'Yes' means yes." Just because someone doesn't say "No" doesn't mean they've given consent. If she didn't say "Yes", there is no consent.

      by second gen on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 12:37:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No mojo at all... (0+ / 0-)

        If you want my history, read ALL my Daily Kos posts --- or go to the right-hand column of my blog and pick any date of your choosing --- and read what I've been saying on this subject for the past 2½ years.

        Just because you might have bitterly disagreed with me on my opinion on one subject (such as having Hillary Clinton in the White House), doesn't make me a RW troll.

        And BTW, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of a third political party either. You know nothing at all about me. Speaking of which, what other subjects are you ignorant about?

        If people won't go protest in the streets, then they'll end up sleeping on them instead.

        by Bud Meyers on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 03:13:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No thanks. I've already read enough. (0+ / 0-)

          I'd like to start a new meme: "No means no" is a misnomer. It should be "Only 'Yes' means yes." Just because someone doesn't say "No" doesn't mean they've given consent. If she didn't say "Yes", there is no consent.

          by second gen on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 05:17:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Even if this diarist has unacceptable opinions.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ....can you give me a reason why your unsupported personal insult here should not result in a hide rating?

        "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

        by sagesource on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 07:44:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you... (0+ / 0-)

      It's always nice to get a kudo.

      If people won't go protest in the streets, then they'll end up sleeping on them instead.

      by Bud Meyers on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 03:22:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  An error (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You write:

        The Chinese eventually agreed to a peaceful settlement for the normalization of relations regarding Taiwan and enabled the U.S. and China to open trade.

        China did not agree to any peaceful settlement and has never renounced the use of force to annex Taiwan. Indeed, officials make regular threats and China's military build up, as Chinese officials have said, is aimed at annexing the island by force.


        •  This is correct but.... (0+ / 0-)

          .... until they start building a fleet of landing vessels, any threat to invade Taiwan is empty. And probably afterward, for that matter. You've seen the Taiwan coast. It's an effing nightmare for long-distance amphibious operations.

          I understand the reasons for Beijing keeping a hard-line position on eventual reunification, but I think too much of the intelligence of the people running the PLA to suppose they'd seriously consider a suicide operation. Lots of shouting, little preparation is about the mix of action one would expect, given the circumstances.

          "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

          by sagesource on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 07:51:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Any threat to invade Taiwan is not empty... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            auron renouille

            ....since direct invasion is hardly the only way they can annex Taiwan via military means.

            Further, the coast is hardly the only way to get troops onto Taiwan; the island has innumerable ports of various sizes. And of course they need not have dedicated landing craft; they have plenty of fishing boats.

            As for the intelligence of PLA leaders, recall that they are the hardliners on Taiwan. It would not be difficult to make a list of nations who launched suicidal wars, out of arrogance, miscalculation, or desperation.

            •  Taiwan owns China (0+ / 0-)

              They outsource manufacturing to China and collect the profits.

              We need to be careful not to mark China as an enemy.  Free-market capitalist competitor, yes.  

              But not a threat to our security.  They have been merchants and capitalists for millennium.

              Joy shared is doubled. Pain shared is halved. Spider Robinson

              by nolagrl on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 08:13:16 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  China and Taiwan opened direct flights... (0+ / 0-)

              a few years ago.

              That feud will die down as those originally involved age-out and newer generations come to power unencumbered by bitter memories(like younger Cuban-Americans supplanting their parents/grandparents).

              Besides, why would two booming, successful nations throw it all away to fight a fight they'd BOTH lose?

            •  They Invade Taiwan, We Don't Repay China (0+ / 0-)

              ....and it's adios China.  The rest of the world applauds as the Chinese economy is vaporized.   Is any country in the world going to abandon the dollar as the reserve currency as a result?  Anyone?  

              There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

              by bernardpliers on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 02:25:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  China has been developing a true blue navy (0+ / 0-)

            It is their fervent wish to continue to project power. In many ways, looking at china is like looking in the mirror. There are important differences surely.

      •  a minor error (0+ / 0-)

        Clinton signed the African Growth and Opportunity act in 2000. Bush signed an extension in 2004.

        The evidence is overwhelming: Hilary hired that Ben Gahzee guy to kill Vince Foster.

        by ebrann on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 09:33:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Incarceration and more (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nathanfl, nolagrl, FG

    We have an incaceration rate of 716 per 100,000. China has an incarceration rate of 121 per 100,000. And yes, we put our prisoners to work, I see them doing road work on the highways in MA. The problem with the Laogai is that conditions were horrendous. China officially eliminated these labor camps in 1997, but there is evidence that they still exist in some form.

    If Obama criticizes President Xi for this then Xi should rightly criticize the US for having the worlds highest incarceration rate, six times China's incarceration rate.

    The manufacturing outsourcing problem is really an income distribution problem. We have a GDP of some $14T. If you do the math that is more than $200,000 per family of five. Consider that median family income is more like $51,000. We have survived economically as a nation despite losing most of our manufacturing sector. Only about 18% of our population is in manufacturing today, a record low. We buy offshore products because they are cheaper. Non manufacturing jobs pay less on the average because wage determination is fucked up. The rest of our economy has figured out how to employ people and get away without paying a living wage yet make enormous profits. It's counter productive to blame China for this.

  •  Dude's not playin with the tags... (0+ / 0-)


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