Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants
Deportation Elections 2012:
For a Revolutionary Workers Party
Internationalist contingent in New York City May Day 2011 march. (Internationalist photo)
No to “Secure Communities” – Drive Out ICE!
Democrats, Republicans – Enemies of Immigrants
On May 1, the international workers day, millions take to the streets around the world to demonstrate for labor’s cause. In the United States, since the massive marches that took place in 2006, May Day has become the day of struggle of immigrant workers as well. On 1 May 2008, when dock workers made history by shutting down every port on the West Coast to stop the war on Iraq and Afghanistan, they also called to defend immigrants’ rights. Today again, immigrants are under attack as the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of Arizona’s anti-immmigrant witchhunt law while raids and deportations are going full-blast.
The most recent nationwide immigration raid, codenamed “Cross Check,” was carried out in the last week of March. It involvied 2,000 agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with the support of other federal agencies along with state and local police. The black-uniformed migra cops broke into the homes of immigrants in dawn raids, supposedly looking for a list of “criminals” but arresting any undocumented immigrants they found. Some 3,200 were seized and declared deportable material.
On May Day 2012, the American presidential election campaign is well underway. In the Republican primaries, each candidate tried to be more reactionary than the other, on every conceivable issue: threatening to “bomb, bomb Iran,” promising more tax breaks for the rich and more cuts in social services for the poor, attacking public sector unions, denouncing abortion and thundering against “illegal immigrants.” The virtual nominee, backed by big bucks from Wall Street, is Mitt Romney, who has called for immigrants to “self-deport.”
Democratic president Barack Obama, meanwhile, is trying to outdo the Republicans in imperialist war abroad and police-state repression “at home.” Mired in a capitalist depression that will drag on for some years to come, he has agreed to slash “entitlement” programs in the name of deficit-reduction. Obama has spearheaded a “bipartisan” assault on teachers and public education. And he has frontally assaulted civil liberties while making assassination a mainstay of the “war on terror,” including secret directives authorizing the murder of U.S. citizens anywhere.
Throwing a bone to the “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) movement which exploded on the political scene last fall, Obama mouths empty populist rhetoric about inequality. Yet his economic policy is in the hands of Wall Street bankers, and his ballyhooed health care reform will fork over billions to the insurance companies. Even as he appeals for the Hispanic vote by again promising to make immigration reform a priority after reelection, Obama has deported 400,000 immigrants a year, far more than his Republican predecessor George W. Bush ever did.
Obama deserves to be known “Mr. Deportation,” an immigrant worker comrade of the Internationalist Group said in a workshop on “Immigrants and Occupy” at the Left Forum in New York in March. Yet despite the raids and the administration’s massive militarization of the Mexican border, the leaders of “mainstream” Hispanic and immigrant organizations continue to back the Democratic Party. Even the organizers of the OWS Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group at the forum workshop urged participants to give Obama “the benefit of the doubt.”
The “hope” that Obama proclaimed in 2008 was false from the start. His campaign promise to enact a “significant” immigration reform during his first year in office was simply dropped. Unlike the liberals and various reformist left groups who endorsed or facilitated his election, the Internationalist Group warned that Democrats and Republicans were enemies of immigrants and of all working people. We called then, as today, to mobilize to stop the raids and deportations, to fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, and to build a revolutionary workers party.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) riot police, the hated “migra”, watch over demo in Miami.
In the Republican presidential primary debates, candidates competed to be the most vicious immigrant-basher. In a debate last September, Texas governor Rick Perry demanded more police and National Guard troops to “secure the border.” Congresswoman Michelle Bachman of Minnesota demanded the construction of an impenetrable wall along the Mexican border, saying we are dealing with “narco-terrorists.” (How about the Americans smuggling guns to Mexico?) Herman Cain wanted an electric fence with voltage high enough to kill.
Republican frontrunner Romney (whose father was born in Mexico) cynically presented his call for “self-deportation” as a kinder alternative to just arresting people. Immigrants would just go home “because they can’t find work here.” How would he do that? By issuing an identity card to “legal” workers – a national ID and computerized employment verification that would be used to tighten police control of everyone. In addition, Romney was endorsing the raft of state laws which seek to ratchet up police repression to make life intolerable for immigrants.
In Arizona, there has been a steady stream of racist anti-immigrant laws starting with a 2002 “English only” law. Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio boasts that he has a private air force of 30 planes to track immigrants in the desert, and a posse of volunteers who go immigrant-hunting. Nativist fascist vigilantes including the Minuteman Project and neo-Nazi paramilitary groups have staged armed patrols along the Arizona-Sonora border, killing several immigrants. Now a new Arizona law (SB 1083) has authorized an oficial anti-immigrant volunteer militia.
Meanwhile, Tucson schools were ordered to shut a Mexican-American studies program last year for violating state law (HB 2281) banning ethnic studies that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.” The district then purged classrooms of any books where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes.” Among the books banned in Tucson were Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street and Shakespeare’s The Tempest! Cisneros joined a Librotraficante (book trafficking) caravan that traveled from Houston to smuggle the banned titles back to Tucson.
Laws similar to Arizona’s SB 1070, passed in 2010, have since been introduced in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah. They make it a crime for undocumented workers to seek work or to fail to carry legal immigration papers, and require police to detain anyone they stop that they have a “reasonable suspicion” is not a legal resident. Not only does this promote “racial profiling” against anyone who “looks Mexican,” it recalls Nazi Germany where people were stopped on the street because they “looked Jewish,” or apartheid South Africa’s pass laws.
After Georgia’s law was passed, thousands of farm workers left the state. Growers complain that peanuts, peaches, blueberries and other crops were left rotting in the fields for lack of labor to harvest them. The Alabama law went even further, ordering schools to investigate the immigration status of parents. Fear shot through communities like Albertville, the site of several poultry processing plants. When a federal judge upheld the law last September, panicked families packed up their cars and fled. Within days almost 2,000 Latino students were pulled out of school.
Reactionary immigrant-bashers cheered at the exodus. But the frightened Alabama and Georgia workers didn’t make for the border – they headed to nearby states like North Carolina where business interests have buried legislation to witch-hunt immigrants (they want the cheap labor). And it isn’t just right-wing Republicans and Southern states that are terrorizing immigrant families and blocking any “path to citizenship.” A bill for a state “DREAM Act” recently died in the New York legislature, dashing many undocumented students’ hopes.
But by far the biggest
threat to immigrants comes from the federal
government. Barack Obama is using
reactionary laws and programs such as
“E-Verify” and “Secure Communities” to throw
undocumented workers out of their jobs and
to get local police to turn them over to ICE
for deportation when they are stopped for
any reason. And he is providing outrageous
profits to the private prison industry,
which owns and manages many of the 961 sites
around the country used for detention,
including concentration camps holding
thousands of immigrants.
Deportation” Obama Expels 400,000 a
There are 961 facilities for detention of immigrants in the U.S., and tens of thousands of detainees.
A number of states, including New York last year, have formally opted out of the “Secure Communities” program. But in fact, information exchange with ICE continues as before. This has caused a nationwide crisis among immigrant families as undocumented parents are seized for deportation, leaving their U.S.-born children here. A recent report by ICE revealed that just in the first half of 2011, 46,486 parents of children who are American citizens were forced to leave the country. And that’s not counting many more who are in detention awaiting deportation.
The scope of this horrific government attack is enormous. A 2010 report by the Pew Hispanic Center estimated there at least 4 million citizen children of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. That’s a population larger than several European countries, and they’re all at risk of falling victim to the migra snatch squads. A report by the Applied Research Center, Shattered Families (November 2011), revealed that approximately 5,000 children are being held under temporary custody of the Homeland Security Department.
The Obama government is running a monstrous child-trafficking operation here. When the parents are seized, they are held in detention centers, usually distant from their homes. Children who have no legal guardian are placed in foster homes. If the parents are deported or kept in detention for months, child welfare agencies go to court to cancel their parental rights on grounds of “neglect.” The children are then put up for adoption, or continue in foster care, but their parents have no right to get them back even after they finally get out of ICE control.
This has become so well-known that parents in Arizona, Alabama and other states with draconian immigrant pick-up laws have been going to lawyers in droves to draw up papers providing for custody of their children in case they are seized. In sheer wanton cruelty, this recalls the Argentine military dictatorship in the 1970s, which stole the children of leftists that it assassinated. In the U.S. today, where politicians regularly preach phony “family values” to justify reactionary policies, the government is separating spouses, stealing children from their parents and devastating thousands of families.
Workers of the World, Unite!
Anti-immigrant racism is hardly unique to the United States. In Europe, fascists in Greece have targeted African and Near Eastern immigrants for murderous attacks. In the French presidential elections, President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that there were “too many foreigners” in the country, fostering xenophobia to compete for the electoral base of Marine Le Pen of the fascist National Front. In Norway, anti-immigrant terrorist Anders Behring Breivik slaughtered 77 people in a bombing and shooting rampage last August while vituperating against “Islamic colonization” and echoing mainstream politicians’ rhetoric against “multiculturalism.”
Capitalist rulers regularly use national chauvinism to mobilize backward elements against any perceived threats to their oppressive rule. The current immigrant-bashing in the United States is particularly noteworthy in a country built on mass immigration, where almost everyone originally came from elsewhere except for the Native American population that was nearly wiped out by genocide. From World Wars I (deportation of Italian “reds”) and II (internment of Japanese Americans) to today (U.S. troops’ defiling the bodies of Afghans they have killed), imperialist slaughter feeds off racism, and immigrants are portrayed as the “enemy within.”
In the past, immigrants have been fed hopes that eventually they will be able to legalize their situation as others have before them. For a time, liberal Democrats and reformist leftists talked of an “amnesty,” as in the 1986 immigration “reform,” where immigrants would have to pay big fines and fees but could get residency and eventually citizenship. We in the Internationalist Group have insisted immigrants are not criminals and donn’t need to be amnestied or pardoned. We chant, No rogamos, exigimos, plenos derechos de ciudadanía (we don’t beg, we demand full citizenship rights).
Since the anti-immigrant backlash scuttled any chance of an amnesty, the Democrats have little to offer. Obama’s latest proposal was that undocumented immigrants applying for residency on grounds of family reunification could get a “provisional waiver” while in the U.S., but would still have to return to their “home country” to get a “green card.” This is no more real than Romney’s delusions of “self-deportation.” What immigrant would risk separation from their family on the hope that a U.S. consulate will grant them a visa without giving them a runaround, extorting huge fees and holding them hostage for years, as is now the case?
Today, given the lack of any prospect of immigration reform by the capitalist parties, some on the left have dropped forlorn appeals for amnesty and talk of “full rights for all immigrants,” as the May 1 Coalition does in New York, without saying exactly what rights. This is a watered-down version of the program we have defended for years, full citizenship rights for all immigrants. The workers movement has a vital interest in everyone who lives here having equal rights so that the bosses can’t use the lack of legal status to drive down wages and divide workers. In recognition of that, the Portland, Oregon May Day 2012 march is calling for “full citizenship rights for all.”
It must also be emphasized that this demand will not be willingly granted by any sector of the ruling class. It is necessary to break with the Democrats and all capitalist parties in order to build a revolutionary workers party. Such a party will connect the fight for immigrant rights to a broader class struggle for the defeat of imperialist war, against the racist death penalty, for the liberation of women and black liberation through socialist revolution. It must also call to mobilize the power of the workers movement to defend immigrants, African Americans, Latinos and Asians against racist police and vigilante attacks.
A working class with
revolutionary leadership that fully
understands that “an injury to one is an
injury to all” will be able to realize the
promise of the Paris Commune of 1871 and the
Russian Revolution of 1917, which granted
citizenship to all workers and
revolutionaries as they took power under the
watchword of the Communist Manifesto: Workers
of the world, unite! ■
 Last year Arpaio had actor Steven Seagal riding in a tank to go after a suspected cockfighting site, filmed for broadcast on Segal’s TV “reality show.”
 We have opposed the national DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, in which a central provision would provide legal residency in exchange for joining the military. By this bribery, the Pentagon tried to overcome the lagging enlistment rates and recruit cannon fodder to go kill and be killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. See “The DREAM Act Swindle,” in Revolution No. 8, April 2011, the newspaper of the Internationalist Clubs of the City University of New York; and “DREAMS of Citizenship, Nightmare of War,” in Class Struggle Education Workers Newsletter No. 2, October-December 2010. The New York state DREAM Act did not include such a military recruitment clause, and was a supportable, if limited and inadequate reform that would have provided lower in-state tuition rates for undocumented students who graduated from New York high schools. However, after completing their degrees, these students still would not be able to get legal jobs.
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