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The Internationalist
April 2020

Detained Immigrants in Mortal Danger: Set Them Free!

Shut Down I.C.E. Jails Now!

Protest outside NY governor Cuomo's Manhattan office
            calling to free detainees from I.C.E. jails.
            (Internationalist photo)
Internationalist Group, Revolutionary Internationalist Group and Class Struggle Education workers at protest outside NY governor Cuomo's Manhatan office, April 28.  (Internationalist photo)

Some of those most endangered by the coronavirus pandemic are the more than 35,000 immigrants (including over 6,000 children) being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) detention centers. With detainees jammed together in close quarters, often in unsanitary conditions, the accelerating spread of the virus could quickly turn these jails into death camps. By I.C.E.’s own figures, over half of detainees tested proved positive for COVID-19.

In U.S. prisons, where over 2 million mainly black and Latino people languish, at least 168 prisoners have died as new outbreaks of the virus hit the dungeons of the racist ruling class. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has used the crisis as a pretext to “seal the border” with Mexico and freeze all processing of applications for residency (“green cards”) while continuing to deport thousands every month, including those infected with COVID-19.

As desperate prisoners engaged in hunger strikes, dozens of protests across the U.S. have demanded that the detainees be set free. With most of the country under quarantine, protesters have turned to car caravans circling I.C.E. facilities and government offices. Supporters of the Internationalist Group, Revolutionary Internationalist Youth and Class Struggle Education Workers participated, but with revolutionary politics counterposed to those of the liberal organizers.

NYC: “For Workers Action to Stop Deportations”

Internationalist protesters in NYC's Times Square call
            to close I.C.E. concentration camps, 24 April 2020.Internationalist protesters in Times Square call to mobilize workers to shut I.C.E. jails, stop deportations and build a workers party, April 24.  (Internationalist photo)

On Friday, April 24, almost 100 protesters – in cars, on bicycles, and “socially distanced” on foot – demonstrated outside New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown Manhattan office, demanding that Cuomo release I.C.E. detainees.

Called by La Cosecha, Close the Camps NYC and the New York Sanctuary Coalition, cars and bicyclists circled the block, honking and chanting, while Internationalist Group supporters and others formed a row of protesters at the building entrance. From Cuomo’s office, protesters marched to Times Square. Those in cars and on bikes continued on, protesting at a Westside I.C.E. “investigations” office.

Protesters demanded “Free them all!” and “Close the camps!” Many of them called on Governor Cuomo to “do the right thing” by ordering release of the detainees.

In contrast, the IG, Revolutionary Internationalist Youth and Class Struggle Education Workers chanted “Let them go, set them free, overthrow the bourgeoisie!” While Democratic Party liberals called to “Abolish I.C.E.!” (to be replaced by a supposedly more “humane” immigration agency), the Internationalists called to “Smash I.C.E. through workers revolution.”

Others of our placards included “For Workers Action to Stop Deportations!” “Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants” and “Break with the Democrats – For a Class Struggle Workers Party.”

The fight to defend and protect immigrants must be linked to the struggle against the capitalist system, which represses and deports immigrant workers as part of its normal workings, to divide the working class and maintain its racist rule.

L.A.: “Democrats, Republicans,
Parties of Militarism & Racist Terror”

Los Angeles protest outside Metropolitcan Detention
            Center demanding free I.C.E. detainees. (Internationalist
Los Angeles protest demanding free I.C.E. detainees, March 31.  (Internationalist photo)

On March 31, a drive-by protest was held outside the Metropolitan Detention Center. The caravan was initiated by Never Again Action. Protesters in some 130 cars participated, proceeding slowly, with signs taped to their cars. In addition to calling to “Set Them Free!” most of the slogans were liberal/moral appeals. Several left groups participated, including Red Flag, a split from Progressive Labor, Democratic Socialists of America (“Detention Is Deadly”) and the RCP with its pro-Democratic Party calls to “Drive Out the Trump-Pence Regime.”

Supporters of the Internationalist Group and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth participated in the caravan with signs calling for “Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants,” “For Workers Action to Stop Deportations” and “Democrats & Republicans, Twin Parties of U.S. Militarism and Anti-Immigrant Terror.”

After several laps around the detention center, some anti-immigrant right-wingers showed up. One had an American flag and a hat calling to “Build the Wall.” Another with a Navy cap, a camouflage Kevlar vest and sporting a large knife began ripping signs off cars in the caravan, including some of our signs, while threatening those inside. The police predictably took no action.

NJ: “Democratic Party, No Solution
Smash I.C.E. With Workers Revolution”

Car caravan outside Newark federal building demands
            shut down I.C.E. detention centers, 1 April 2020.
            (Internationalist photo)
Car caravan outside federal building in Newark, New Jersey called to shut down I.C.E. detention centers.  (Internationalist photo)

On April 1 a caravan protest was held in Newark, New Jersey, beginning at the Peter Rodino Federal Building and then proceeding to the Essex County Jail, where I.C.E. detainees are being held. The protest caravan, initiated by several immigrants’ rights groups, was about 20 cars, and up to 50 people.

The Internationalist Group and Class Struggle Education Workers joined in the caravan, although with notably different slogans on their signs than those of the liberal organizers. One read “Democratic Party Is No Solution, Smash I.C.E. with Workers Revolution.”

One of our signs called for “Workers Action to Stop Deportations.” The importance of this was underlined by the number of big trucks passing by honking in solidarity on their way to the Port Newark Container Terminal. In Newark as elsewhere around the country, a large proportion of port truckers are immigrants.

At the Essex County jail police harrassed protesters, accusing them of being illegally parked – in the parking lot! –  and taking down license plates. This is the same I.C.E. facility where early on, detainees held a courageous hunger strike last month protesting that they were threatened with death by being incarcerated during the coronavirus crisis.■