Let Them In! Asylum for Refugees!
Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!
The Caravan of the Dispossessed
Caravan heads north after crossing into Mexico on October 20.
OCTOBER 28 – As the U.S. midterm elections entered the home stretch, xenophobic president Donald Trump hit on a new tactic for his standard campaign of fear and falsification: whip up hysteria about an imminent invasion by a caravan of immigrants from Honduras. He is reportedly preparing a declaration of national emergency (!), while the Pentagon is readying active duty units of the military (not the National Guard) to patrol the southern border with Mexico. This would keep the fear factor active right up to election day (November 6), plus give him the opportunity to change U.S. policies on refugee status by executive order, in contravention of U.S. laws and international treaties. The imperialist chief ordered the governments of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to stop the caravan, or else. He also ratcheted up his immigrant-bashing rhetoric, declaring that there were “bad hombres” and a “big percentage” of “criminals” among the marchers, as well as “Middle Easterners” and “terrorists.” But it hasn’t stopped the 7,000 migrants from steadily marching north, and now another caravan is forming.
Let us be clear: the migrants who have decided to risk all to undertake the onerous trek of almost 3,000 miles (4,700 kilometers) from San Pedro Sula to Tijuana are fleeing from deadly violence and extreme poverty made in U.S.A. The economy of Honduras has been devastated by “free trade” agreements while the gangs terrorizing its cities got their start in Los Angeles. The right-wing Honduran government which acts as Republican Trump’s toady is the result of a 2009 coup engineered by the Democratic Obama administration. The League for the Fourth International and its sections in the U.S. and Mexico, the Internationalist Group and Grupo Internacionalista, have called to welcome the caravan, demanding asylum for refugees and full citizenship rights for all immigrants! And, as always, we seek to carry out actions in furtherance of our call. The Grupo Internacionalista sent an activist-correspondent to accompany the caravan on its arrival in Mexico, while the Oaxaca local of the GI held a solidarity demonstration together with Section 22 of the CNTE (National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers).
In addition to being used by the racist in the White House as an election campaign ploy, which the Democrats are assiduously trying to duck, the Central American caravan of the dispossessed is a human drama illustrating the brutal realities of decaying capitalism. It is also a political battle of the first order against the U.S. imperialists, who would use armed force to bar the victims of their depredations, just as their European counterparts let African immigrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea. In this, as in every class battle, there are no neutrals. Either the migrants are allowed to enter, or not. We say: Let them in!
When the caravan arrived at the Mexican border at Ciudad Hidalgo, it was met on the bridge over the Suchiate River by a wall of 200 federal police, dispatched by President Enrique Peña Nieto in compliance with the orders of his imperialist overlord. Under a sign proclaiming “Welcome to Mexico,” the police fired tear gas into the crowd which was led by women and children. The next day, as hundreds waded into the river to cross, youths in the caravan tore down the chain link fence and the entire procession headed on to the next city on its path, Tapachula, Chiapas. Contrary to the claims of Trump and his puppet, Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández Àlvarado, marchers insisted that no one instigated them to leave Honduras. “We just couldn’t take it anymore,” a 24-year-old youth told our comrade who met them in Tapachula. With a daughter, mother and sisters to support, he was the only one in his family with a job, until he was laid off.1
As the migrants left Tapachula on the way to the next town, Huixtla, they chanted “Los migrantes no somos criminals, somos trabajadores internacionales” (we migrants are not criminals, we are international workers), echoing the slogan that was painted on the wall opposite Tijuana that was built by Bill Clinton. But more than a political act or a long-planned migration, the caravan is an exodus. In fact, many marchers carried their bibles, the informal organizers periodically calmed people by having everyone pray, and several compared their odyssey to the biblical tale of Moses leaving Egypt. For some this includes the illusion they may touch Donald Trump’s heart and open the door to a better life. But most know that they have a hard road ahead. One woman had a little stall in Honduras to sell things but couldn’t pay the “war tax” demanded by the gangs. She left with her husband, daughters and sisters as they had no future there. A young man carrying the multicolor gay rights flag joined the caravan the day after being threatened with death by a gang of homophobes. This exodus is driven by desperation.
Migrants rest in Huixtla, Chiapas, after walking 26 miles from Tapachula. For more photos of the caravan go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/internationalist4/.
To get an idea of how extreme the situation is in Honduras, the national income is US$2,300 per person, compared to almost $10,000 in Mexico. Only Haiti’s figure is lower in Latin America. According to United Nations figures, 19% of the population in Honduras earns less than US$1.90 a day (the international measure of extreme poverty), a percentage which is six times higher than in Mexico and El Salvador (both 3%). As for inequality, even the CIA World Factbook recognizes that Honduras “suffers from extraordinarily unequal distribution of income.” Thus the poorest 40% of the Honduran population received only 10% of all household income, far less than Mexico and Nicaragua (16%). But it’s not just that Honduras is poor and has a rapacious ruling class, leaving those at the bottom with little or nothing. It is important to understand the political origins of the social and economic crisis devastating Honduras, which lead straight to Washington and Wall Street.
During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan used Honduras as the base for the U.S.’ counterrevolutionary war on Nicaragua, building up a murderous Honduran military. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton began deporting hundreds of members of gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street Gang to Central America. Then when Mexican president Felipe Calderón launched a “war on drugs” in 2006 on orders from George W. Bush, many traffickers shifted their operations to Honduras. The murder rate more than doubled from 2006 to 2012, becoming the highest in the world, and San Pedro Sula, the industrial center, is the most violent city on the planet. The gangs are notoriously tied to the police and military, which are bankrolled by the U.S. Meanwhile, the world capitalist crisis from 2008 on devasted employment in the textile/garment industry. Following the 2009 coup that ousted Liberal landowner Mel Zelaya as president, public services were privatized, subsidies were slashed and tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs. That coup got the green light from Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
So it is militarism and catastrophic economic/social conditions made in the U.S.A. that have led thousands of poor people and entire families with babies and young children to trudge several thousand miles, braving the elements (walking in 95° heat, punctuated by torrential rain), the thieves who prey on migrants, and the corrupt and violent police, in order to arrive at the U.S. border where they will be met by the guns of the United States army. The answer is not “foreign aid” that bolsters the profits of U.S. corporations, or building some factory sweatshops paying starvation wages that only deepen the poverty, it is to break the stranglehold of U.S. imperialism on Latin America, which both conservative and liberal U.S. politicians (like Obama’s former Secretary of State John Kerry) arrogantly refer to as “our backyard.” And that can only be accomplished through socialist revolution, including in Central America.
Honduras is effectively a Yankee neo-colony (it was the archetypal “banana republic,” run by the United Fruit Company), where everything gets decided by Washington. Semi-colonial Mexico is also under the imperialist boot, whether it is governed by bourgeois populists like Mexico’s president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his MORENA (National Regeneration Movement) party or a hardliner like Peña Nieto of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), which ran the country for seven decades with greater or lesser degrees of subservience to U.S. imperialism (mostly greater). This is particularly true of immigration policy. So while the U.S. deported some 294,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras from 2015 to September 2018, during the same period Mexico deported 436,000 who had come from this “northern triangle” of Central America. For its services as a buffer and border police for the United States, Mexico has received billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury (El Universal, 21 October). And now federal police have resumed arresting hundreds at the southern border.
The Grupo Internacionalista in Mexico has from its inception denounced anti-immigrant repression, calling for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. So immediately after the brutal October 19 attack on the caravan by federal police, the GI joined with class-conscious educators of the militant Section 22 of the CNTE to organize a solidarity action in Oaxaca, calling for “Workers Actions in Defense of the Central American Migrants.” On October 21, the state assembly of the Oaxaca teachers passed a motion saying, in part: “Section 22 of the Education Workers declares its support for the caravan of Central American migrants, and therefore will mobilize the workers in its ranks to accompany and support this caravan as it passes through states where the CNTE has a presence, while calling on the rest of the workers movement to join in defending the passage of this caravan.” The defense actions include calling on health workers to organize medical brigades to provide aid. The motion ended: “We reject all racism and xenophobia whipped up by the Mexican bourgeoisie, lackey of U.S. imperialism. Let them in! Neither illegals nor criminals, the migrants are international workers!”
Currently Peña Nieto is promising asylum and jobs to the caravan members if they register with Mexican immigration authorities. Caravan organizers have refused. López Obrador (universally known as AMLO) has also offered them jobs helping to build a transportation corridor across the Yucatan peninsula. Not coincidentally, this would keep the Hondurans in southern Mexico, far from the U.S. border. At the October 24 protest, a speaker of the Grupo Internacionalista emphasized that repression against immigrants will not stop under AMLO, whom many leftists and teachers are supporting. “AMLO has said over and over that he won’t clash with Trump over the question of immigrants.” She stressed that the fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants must be part of a revolutionary struggle, noting that this elementary democratic right was implemented by the French Revolution of 1789, the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The GI spokeswoman concluded with a call to “break with all the capitalist parties and build a workers party on a revolutionary and internationalist program.”
As the Central American caravan approaches the U.S. border, Trump is escalating his anti-immigrant offensive while the Democrats keep a sepulchral silence and try to change the subject. All bourgeois parties are enemies of immigrant workers, whom the capitalists brutally superexploit. In defending our immigrant sisters and brothers, the key is to bring to bear the power of the workers movement, not just in words but in deeds. We are one international class. We have the power to stop racists like Trump and the modern-day slave catchers of the immigration police. But to use that power, we must forge a leadership based on the program of international socialist revolution of Lenin and Trotsky. ■