Out! Shut the Detention Centers!
Return the Kids! Let Refugees In!
FULL CITIZENSHIP RIGHTS FOR ALL IMMIGRANTS! Internationalist Group and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth demonstrate outside I.C.E. jail in New York City, June 21. (Internationalist photos)
After a tidal wave of outrage, on June 20 Donald Trump was forced to make an about-face on his grotesque policy of stealing immigrant children from their parents. Instead, he issued an executive order to hold entire families in cages in abandoned warehouses and on army bases. This only served to intensify the protests. Soon inter-agency squabbles broke out in the White House with officials saying they didn’t have the resources to handle the immigrants being arrested in droves under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.
So five days later, the administration backed down again, as the top border control official announced that the agency had temporarily stopped handing over immigrants with children for prosecution. But this didn’t stop the xenophobic president from once more going on the rampage, threatening to simply throw immigrants out of the country in blatant violation of their right to due process. Meanwhile, the stolen children have not been returned, thousands of youths are still being jailed, and toddlers are being ordered into court alone for deportation hearings.
There must be no illusions that the immigrant-bashing president and his child-snatching Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) have been stopped. Nor should anyone think that electing Democrats in November will bring relief to the more than 15 million undocumented immigrants living in fear in the United States, or to the desperate refugees camped out along the border. The monstrous deportation machine being used by Republican Trump was built for him by Democrat Obama, who threw a record 8+ million people out of the U.S. during his administration.
Both capitalist parties are enemies of immigrants. It is up to the working class together with black, Latino and other oppressed sectors to mobilize our power to wage a class war against the war on immigrants. The Internationalist Group demands set them free, let them stay. We call for mass worker/immigrant mobilization in the streets to block deportations and to demand that the concentration camps housing immigrants be closed. We say: Stop the detentions! Return the children to their parents! Let the refugees in! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! To lead this struggle we must build a multi-ethnic internationalist workers party to bring down the racist rule of capital through socialist revolution.
Border Patrol Child Snatchers
The entire country has been in turmoil for the last three weeks as the barbaric treatment of child immigrants shocked the conscience and provoked horror and fury among vast swathes of the population. This included:
- Images of rows of children sleeping in cages under fluorescent lighting on thin mats on concrete with foil for a blanket.
- Sounds of wailing children pleading for their parents as Border Patrol agents mock them.
- “Tender Age shelters” – i.e., jails for kids – housing babies and toddlers ripped out of their mothers’ arms.
- A repurposed former Wal-Mart holding 1,500 boys kept inside in cages for 22 hours a day.
- A tent city in Tornillo, Texas where temperatures are over 100°, to hold thousands of children.
- Reports of horrific abuse including immigrant children being handcuffed, beaten, left nude in concrete cells and strapped to chairs with bags over their heads.
- Other reports of children being forcibly administered psychiatric drugs to silence them.
The ghoulish attorney general Jeff Sessions could only respond to comparisons to Hitler’s Nazis with the bizarre claim that the Nazis “were keeping the Jews from leaving.”
Over a two-month period from April to June, more than 2,300 immigrant children – half reportedly under the age of 12 – were kidnapped by the U.S. government while their parents were locked up in immigrant prisons. One Honduran man seeking asylum, Marco Antonio Muñoz, committed suicide in a detention cell after having his three year-old-child forcibly taken from him by Border Patrol agents. And the Border Patrol that rips children out of their mothers’ arms while they are breastfeeding is the same criminal outfit that murdered Claudia Patricia Gómez González in cold blood after she had traveled 1,500 miles from Guatemala.
Demonstrations against family separation have been organized by a host of “non-governmental organizations” closely tied to the Democratic Party. The outrage over these atrocities is so intense that it could represent a turning point for opposition to the Trump regime. While he has the backing of hard-core racists, opinion polls show that two-thirds of the population oppose his immigration policies, and equal numbers say undocumented immigrants should stay. But so long as this opposition is channeled into support for the Democrats, it will lead to a dead end.
Bipartisan Capitalist Deportation Machine
Immigrant women caged in a former warehouse in McAllen, Texas.
The abuse of children by the immigration system is nothing new. The American Civil Liberties Union recently exposed the brutal treatment of detained immigrant children under Obama, from 2009-2014, including beatings, stress positions, denial of medical care, death threats and sexual abuse.1 Moreover, the government has only allowed extremely limited access to a few facilities, even turning away some grandstanding Democratic politicians like NYC mayor Bill de Blasio and Oregon senator Jeff Merkley. But then Melania Trump traveled to a detention center in McAllen, Texas ostentatiously flaunting a jacket with the words “I really don’t care” on the back.
The immigration “crisis” is the direct result of the depradations of imperialist capitalism. The explosion in immigrant detentions began in the 1980s, with a flood of refugees fleeing the U.S.-sponsored dirty wars in Central America. It escalated after Bill Clinton pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 that destroyed much of Mexican agriculture, pushing millions of peasants to emigrate. Clinton’s Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 brought the number of detainees from about 5,000 to about 16,000 per day.
It was Obama – the “Deporter in Chief” – who really created the detention juggernaut we have today. He expanded the system to some 200 centers crisscrossing the country. The children’s prisons were also built by Obama, and expanded in response to the influx of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Honduras and Guatemala in 2014. Today there are approximately 34,000 immigrants being held in detention on any given day in the largest immigrant prison system in the world, jailing about 400,000 immigrants yearly. Detention is now a big business in the U.S., with most of the detention prisons being privately run, and hugely profitable.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, has kept up his vile bigoted ravings against Mexicans and Central Americans. His latest was to declare that undocumented immigrants “aren’t people. These are animals.” And he treats them accordingly. The broader purpose of this massive machinery of repression is to terrorize immigrants, dehumanize them, make them vulnerable and scapegoat them, as part of the divide-and-conquer strategy the bourgeoisie uses to keep the multiracial working class down. This is the putrid state of American capitalism in terminal decay – the richest, most powerful ruling class in the history of the world, stealing the children of the most desperate and keeping them in tents! We say: Free the detainees! Labor must mobilize to tear down the detention centers!
The Democrats and Their “Resistance” That Isn’t
Trump certainly has a knack for plumbing the depths of human depravity. He attacks immigrants coming from “shithole countries,” refers to Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, and attacks children. While Trump and the Republicans are overt in their vile racism, the Democrats pretend to care about immigrants and working people. In demonstrations called by Democratic Party front groups, they claim that the child separation policy is “un-American.” In fact, at a June 26 protest in New York City against the Supreme Court decision upholding Trump’s “Muslim ban,” organizers grotesquely started chanting “USA, USA.” Yet under slavery it was common for the slavers to separate black mothers from their children. And there is the long and shameful history of the U.S. government taking Native American children from their parents and forcing them to speak English instead of their native languages. This vicious abuse was called “civilizing.”
Most of the protests that have occurred in the last three weeks against Trump’s immigration policies have centered around the call to “keep families together.” Organized by Democratic front groups like Rise and Resist, they have been careful to focus exclusively on the Republicans. One of the largest in the Los Angeles area was on June 14. The original blurb for the rally said, accurately, “This criminal government has been doing this for years! Both parties are guilty of these Human Rights Violations!” But then organizers dropped the statement about “both parties” in order to appeal to Democratic liberals. The Internationalist Group together with a contingent from Transport Workers Against Deportations stood out as a class pole at this march, denouncing the Democrats as well as Trump. One of our most popular chants, picked up by the crowd, was, “Stealing children on stolen land, Border Patrol’s got blood on its hands!”
Locals of the Internationalist Group mobilized coast-to-coast to protest Gestapo-like attacks by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement police. Above: IG and Transport Workers Against Deportations at Los Angeles protest against I.C.E. separation of children from parents, June 14.
Across the country, we have been protesting on a daily basis. The New England local of the Internationalist Group organized a June 18 protest outside the bus station in Nashua, New Hampshire to demand that the I.C.E. police get out, and that the Concord Coach company stop cooperating with la migra. In New York City, the IG along with the Revolutionary Internationalist Youth and the fraternally allied Class Struggle Education Workers and Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas protested outside the Hudson County jail in New Jersey where immigrant worker Pablo Villavicencio is being held after being turned over to I.C.E when he delivered pizza to an Army base. We joined the protest against the “Muslim ban,” marched on the I.C.E. jail and participated in the OccupyICE blockade there. In Portland, the IG and Class Struggle Workers came down to the encampment of OccupyICE PDX while simultaneously preparing a June 30 labor mobilization against the fascists.
Left: New England IG organized protest in Nashua, New Hampshire, June 18, to demand “I.C.E. Out of Bus Stations Now!” Right: Internationalist Group and Class Struggle Workers – Portland at OccupyICE PDX camp, June 20. For workers action to smash the capitalist deportation machine Obama built for Trump!
The Internationalists emphasized the need to mobilize workers power to stop the deportations. We insisted that the persecution of immigrants has been carried out by both major capitalist parties, and supported by the Greens, who ran immigrant-basher Ralph Nader for president (with the backing of reformists like the International Socialist Organization and Socialist Alternative). We chanted “I.C.E. out!” and called to drive I.C.E. jails out of the cities. When the Maoists of RefuseFascism chanted over and over “Free the children!” we chanted “Free them all, let them stay, full rights for immigrants!” The Internationalists demanded citizenship rights for all immigrants, and unlike the ex-Trotskyist Spartacist League, which pointedly limits its call to “those who have made it here,” we called for asylum for refugees fleeing from the wars, terror and devastation wrought by imperialism. For the SL, the desperate women and children just across the border have no right to enter the U.S.
The liberal wing of the bourgeoisie, as represented by Bernie Sanders, only offers to put a stop to “inhumane deportation programs and private detention centers.” Thus Sanders, who is backed by the likes of the Democratic (Party) Socialists of America, wants a “humane” deportation program and public detention centers. He also calls to “Ensure our border remains secure and protects local communities.”
None of this will or can really change as long as the private property system is in place. The bourgeoisie needs the superexploitation of immigrants deprived of rights, just as it extracts superprofits from its poverty-stricken neo-colonies. This is not a “broken” immigration system, it works quite well in what it was designed to do – terrorize, scapegoat and divide the working class. This system cannot be reformed, it has to be destroyed.
The Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International insist that the only way out of this horror show is international socialist revolution. Only with the construction of a planned, collectivized economy under workers rule can the needs of all be met. And that requires building revolutionary workers parties around the globe, based on the program of the Bolsheviks Lenin and Trotsky. That is the central task facing those who would truly defend immigrants today. ■
- 1. ACLU, Neglect and Abuse of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (May 2018).