June 2007  
Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants –
Mobilize Union Power to Block the Raids 

New Haven: Break ICE Terror
with Militant Class Struggle!

More than 1,500 came out on June 7 for vigil against ICE arrests of immigrant workers in New Haven. What’s needed is to mobilize labor’s power to stop the raids.
(Photo: Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

On Monday, June 4, the New Haven Board of Aldermen passed a local ordinance to provide undocumented immigrants a city-issued photo ID card. Barely 36 hours later, the federal government responded by carrying out a first-ever immigration raid in the Connecticut city. On the morning of June 6, agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security swooped down on Fair Haven neighborhood of New Haven. The ICE Gestapo barged into homes, grabbing entire families, picked people off the streets without so much as a warrant, and terrorized the entire neighborhood, home to many immigrant workers. Thirty-two supposedly “illegal” immigrants were kidnapped and sent to federal prisons in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. “There is truly no safe haven for fugitive aliens,” crowed ICE spokesman Marc Raimondi.

New Haven’s immigrant neighborhoods were in a siege atmosphere. Streets and workplaces were empty as immigrants stayed out of sight in fear of more attacks. Yet within a day, more than 1,500 people gathered to condemn the raids. ICE mouthpiece Raimondi gave the lie to government denials that the raid was political retaliation against the city for passing the immigrant ID plan. While the ordinance is a limited reform, far from the full citizenship rights for all immigrants that we demand, it qualified holders for some city services and made it easier to apply for bank accounts and other private services that require a government-issued photo ID (Connecticut does not issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants). The Internationalist Group denounces this latest atrocity and calls upon organized labor to mobilize union power to block the raids. This is the “home front” of the U.S. “terror war” aimed at terrorizing the world into submission.

A march and rally is planned for Saturday, June 16 to protest the raids and defend the city ID program. Several unions are participating, including hotel workers of UNITE-HERE, the 1199 health care workers union, and SEIU 32BJ. The labor presence is important, but it is vital to move beyond mere protest to class-struggle action to stop the raids. That requires breaking with the Democratic Party, which no less than the Republicans is a party of imperialist war in Iraq and Afghanistan and of war on immigrants “at home.” Connecticut senators Democrat Dodd and “independent” Lieberman, and New Haven Democratic congressman DeLauro issued a limp appeal for Homeland Security to “look into” whether the raids were properly conducted! At the same time, liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy is trying to revive the failed immigration “reform” bill by stiffening repression and pitching it as a “national security issue.”

The New Haven raids were a brutal reminder from the feds that the issue is power. After years of futile lobbying for “immigration reform” from Democrats in Congress, many liberals and reformists have turned their sights to more modest local initiatives for “sanctuary cities” and the like. One can critically support many struggles for limited measures, demanding that states grant drivers licenses to all and that government officials refuse to cooperate with immigration officials. But these raids drive home that it is a suicidal illusion to believe that any local reform, no matter how well-intentioned, will get in the way of the government’s war against immigrants. Over the last few months, thousands of immigrant workers across the country have been rounded up and thrown into concentration camps. Just this past Tuesday, the ICE cops seized 165 workers from a Del Monte food processing plant in Portland, Oregon

Many mistakenly look to local Democratic Party officials, like New Haven mayor John DeStefano, as friends of immigrants. They contrast him to Danbury’s immigrant-bashing mayor, Republican D. Mark Boughton, who in 2005 sought to get state police deputized to arrest undocumented workers (and tried to ban Ecuadorian volleyball games!).  Union leaders and community organizers are rallying around DeStefano, who has complained about ICE’s high-handed intervention. Yet in 2003, it was DeStefano’s riot cops who attacked strikers at Yale University and its hospital, arresting over 100, including some of the union bureaucrats who will likely be sharing the podium with the mayor and other capitalist politicians this Saturday! What’s needed to free the prisoners from this raid, and the tens of thousands immigrants already languishing behind bars and barbed wire, is not “popular-front” blocs with phony Democratic Party “allies,” but unchaining the social power of the working class.

How quickly they forget. DeStefano’s riot police arrest Yale workers in 2003. (Photo: Yale Daily News)

When news of the immigration raid hit New Haven on Monday, union activists distributed leaflets in workplaces reminding immigrants of their legal rights in the face of police questioning or arrest. While it’s important to understand and demand the few civil liberties that the cops may occasionally heed, it will take much more than exercising the right to remain silent to stop the migra raids. With serious preparation, the unions can bring out the thousands who shut down New Haven in 2003 during the powerful strikes at Yale, and run the feds’ modern-day slave catchers out of town. “Stop the Raids!” say demonstrators’ signs. Yes, but how? It will take mass mobilization of labor power: jam the streets and form union defense squads to defend immigrants when the ICE blackshirts strike; shut down whole cities with strike action against the feds’ police-state actions; use that power to defeat the imperialist war abroad and the bosses’ war on workers, immigrants and the black, Latino and Asian poor “at home.”

But the pro-capitalist union bureaucrats and their fake-socialist apologists oppose this kind of class-struggle response, precisely because it would bust up their front with DeStefano, who has his eyes on the governor’s mansion, and the Democratic Party tops. A real fight for immigrants’ rights in New Haven or any other city would instantly cause the Democratic officials to tear up their promises that local police would not participate in anti-immigrant “enforcement.” As long as the immigrants’ rights movement remains “peaceful, legal” and reformist, the hordes of federal cops are quite adequate for the job of raiding homes and workplaces, tearing parents from their children and filling the prisons with innocent victims of the imperialist terror-war. But when the working class decides to no longer remain silent, and to speak in its own voice with militant strike action, the local cops will be called to their duty as armed enforcers of racist capitalist rule, just as they were during the 2003 strikes, no matter what fine words a city council might have toyed with in the past.

Various pseudo-socialist organizations, from Socialist Action (SA) to the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and their former comrades in Workers World Party (WWP) seek to make common cause with the small-time Democrats, portraying them as leading some kind of “resistance” to the federal government. The first issue of PSL’s new biweekly, Liberation, writes: “The capitalists – Democrats and Republicans alike – want to prevent the movement for immigrant rights from reasserting itself as a major power. They want to prevent more cities from decisively taking sides in the struggle for equality as New Haven has done.” Are the New Haven mayor and aldermen not also capitalist politicians and Democrats? Do New Haven cops not protect the capitalist class by “serving” the workers violent oppression, just like the cops in every other city?

These fake-socialist groups play a pernicious role by desperately seeking a way, after everything the national Democrats have done, to keep the workers and oppressed chained to this party of their oppressors. The program of these reformists is the permanent popular front: “the people united will never be defeated.” This is dead wrong. History shows that chaining the workers, poor and minorities to the class enemy in the name of the unity of “the people” spells defeat for the exploited and oppressed. New Haven’s history of racist anti-working-class repression should leave no doubt as to what side “the city” (government) is on. We do not forget how in May 1969 New Haven cops under Democrat mayor Richard C. Lee raided the office of the Black Panther Party, arresting BPP leaders Bobby Seale, Erika Huggins and six other Panthers on frame-up charges in cooperation with the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign. Thirty years later, Connecticut Democrats honored Lee by having the New Haven federal courthouse renamed after him.

The Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the League for the Fourth International, insists that fight for immigrants rights is necessarily a class struggle. It must be a struggle against imperialism and its wars, which are regularly accompanied by racist attacks on immigrants as “the enemy within.” In World War II, Japanese Americans were locked up, today it’s Near Eastern and Latin American immigrants. What the workers need to defeat the ICE attacks is their own revolutionary party, built through cleaning the pro-capitalist bureaucrats out of the unions. Mobilize the working, poor and oppressed people to fight for a workers government that would grant full citizenship rights to all immigrants! The chains of class collaboration must be broken, a truly internationalist working-class vanguard must be forged that unites all the oppressed in the struggle for socialist revolution.   n

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com