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The Internationalist
June 2019

Mobilize Worker/Immigrant Power to Shut Down
the Democrat/Republican Deportation Machine!

Trump Targets Millions of
Immigrants for “Removal”

Hundreds of refugees seeking asylum are locked up by U.S. Border Patrol under a bridge in El Paso, Texas. 
(Photo: Mark Lambie/El Paso Times)

JUNE 24 – A wave of panic swept across the United States last week as immigrant families were hit with the prospect of being picked up in their homes or on the street, parents separated from their U.S.-born children and packed off to detention centers for immediate deportation. President Donald Trump intended to terrorize as he tweeted on June 17, “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in.”

As usual, Trump’s pronouncement was a political ploy, intended to whip up anti-immigrant and racist frenzy in conjunction with kicking off his reelection campaign for president with a rally the next day in Orlando, Florida. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) claimed they were taken by surprise. Even so, Trump’s bombastic announcement of “millions” of deportations sparked widespread fear among the 15 million undocumented immigrants (when you include their families) living in the U.S. Many were afraid to go to work or go shopping, while immigrant rights activists prepared to resist massive police dragnets.

The fears escalated when I.C.E. reported that it was immediately targeting “only” 12,870 individuals who are considered “at large” for missing court appearances, that the migra cops indeed planned to snatch people in their homes, and that it was set to begin before dawn on Sunday, June 23, with 2,000 families in ten U.S. cities.  But on Saturday, Trump postponed the operation for two weeks, so he can stage a flag-waving military parade in Washington, D.C. on July 4. But if Democrats don’t come across with further gutting of immigrants’ and refugees’ rights, “deportations start!” he tweeted.

Trump’s lieutenant in this operation is acting head of I.C.E. Mark Morgan – the previous acting immigration top cop, Ronald Vitiello, was fired in April for having doubts about the “optics” of a campaign to raid immigrant homes, with parents dragged away from their crying children in front of angry neighbors. Their boss, “Homeland Security” chief Kirstjen Nielsen, also resigned in April as Trump vowed to “get tougher” on immigrants. Even now migra officials are wary of setting off an outpouring of anger and outrage rivalling the explosive reaction last summer to the policy of family separation and holding teenage immigrant youth in pens.

Trump’s terror plans could backfire. But for that to happen, we must act. The Internationalist Group calls on all defenders of immigrants’ and democratic rights to mobilize to stop these raids, flooding the streets to block the unmarked vans and snatch squads. We have called for workers action to stop the deportations. This should include walkouts by unions and mobilization in the streets together with millions of immigrant workers whose labor is key to whole sectors of the economy. But that means breaking with both the Democratic and Republican parties of capital which have fueled the monstrous deportation machine.

Trump’s terrorizing tweet came days after his announcement of a “deal” with Mexico on June 7, expanding a policy instituted in January in which more than 10,000 migrants fleeing war and terror in Central America have been sent by the U.S. to wait in Mexican border towns while their requests for asylum are processed, which can take months or even years. That “deal,” in turn, came on the heels of his threat to impose a 5% tariff on imported goods from Mexico, which was soon dropped after major manufacturers complained that they were in the process of moving production facilities to Mexico as a result of Trump’s trade war against China.

At the same time, tens of thousands of migrants – mostly Central Americans fleeing violence and economic devastation caused by U.S. imperialism – are suffering in wretched concentration camps in the U.S., including thousands of children kept in brutal conditions in private prisons. A scandal has erupted over a private detention facility for over 2,200 teenagers (13-17-year-olds) at the Homestead Air Base in Florida, where kids are prohibited from hugging or even touching each other, allowed only one hour outdoors per day and are placed under constant surveillance, even when they go to the bathroom. When people showed up with boxes of diapers and other sanitary products, the authorities refused to accept them.

Republicans and some Democrats bridle at calling the detention facilities by their right name, concentration camps, made infamous by Nazi Germany. Yet that is exactly what they are, and it’s not the first time in U.S. history. Outrage was sparked as the administration announced plans to hold immigrants at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Japanese Americans told how they were held there in World War II when it was a U.S. concentration camp, ordered by Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another Democratic president, Barack Obama, also used Fort Sill in 2014 as a holding facility for Central American immigrants, as 7,700 children where held there and on other military bases in California and Texas.

Despite the formal suspension of the “family separation policy” that caused mass outrage and protest last year, the administration still sets up obstacles and delays in placing these kids with family members who want to take them in. But 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 to 2014, including beatings, stress positions, denial of medical care, death threats and sexual abuse.

For more than 50,000 adult and family detainees, conditions are even more squalid and overcrowded. Immigrant detainees are given little to eat and little or no medical treatment as illnesses spread. In El Paso, detainees stand on toilets to make room for others in crowded cells. Trump administration officials have argued in court that immigrant detainees do not have the right to soap, toothbrushes or blankets, since none of these items were specified by a 1997 law that required that detainees be kept in “safe and sanitary conditions.”

In Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known by his initials AMLO, upon taking office in January, formed a new police force, the National Guard. As ordered by Trump under the June 7 “deal,” some 6,000 National Guardsmen will be deployed to Mexico’s southern border to make it harder for Central Americans to enter the country. AMLO is doing the bidding of the U.S. president, saying that Mexico “will stick to a no-confrontation policy” with Trump. But Trump the imperialist bully continues to bash Mexico as he did in his 2016 election campaign.

The United States is a police state for immigrants. Subject to being arbitrarily picked up at home, at their workplaces, outside courthouses or on the street, often by plainclothes I.C.E. cops in unmarked cars, immigrants must be wary as they would be under an authoritarian regime. As Trump stokes xenophobia (fear and hatred of foreigners), the rights of all are threatened by this unbridled exercise of police power. Constitutional rights to due process, against unreasonable search and seizure, against cruel and unusual punishment, etc. are supposed to apply to all. As with the phony “war on terror,” the war on immigrants targets everyone’s rights.

Even as fear stalks the land, there has also been defiance. Hundreds of thousands protested against family separation last year. But we are dealing with a regime that has no compunction about ripping up rights: protest alone will not stop it. What is crucial is to bring to bear the power of a force that can stymie the deportation machine – the working class. We need to mobilize the power of the workers movement in mass action nationwide to immobilize the “immigrant removal” system, and using the power that can halt the wheels of capitalism. Raids and arrests must be met by mass protest, including labor/immigrant/student action to block the deportation cops.

The U.S. has become deportation nation. But it’s not just since Republican immigrant-basher-in-chief Trump took over. Democrat Barack Obama earned the title of “deporter-in-chief” by expelling a record number of immigrants, over 8 million altogether, far more than Trump has been able to match. The “well-oiled deportation machine” Obama handed over to his successor is now going into high gear. And his failed 2013 immigration “reform” bill contained many of the measures intensifying repression of immigrants that Trump has implemented. 

The immigration “crisis” is the direct result of the depredations 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 more than tripled the number of detainees, which went from about 5,000 to about 16,000 per day.

But it was Barack Obama who really created the detention juggernaut we have today. He expanded the system to some 200 centers crisscrossing the country, plus more than a thousand other facilities like county jails where immigrants are held. The children’s prisons were built by Obama and expanded in response to the influx of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Honduras and Guatemala in 2014. Detention is now a big business in the U.S., with most of the detention prisons being privately run, and hugely profitable.

While liberals, leftists, many immigrants and youth focus their ire on Trump, the stark fact is that the Democrats have done even more to militarize the border and victimize immigrants. The Internationalist Group calls for mass worker/immigrant mobilization to stop deportations. We call for driving out the I.C.E. jails and shutting down the concentration camps for immigrants. We say: Let the refugees in! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! Above all, we fight to break with Democrats, Republicans and all capitalist parties, to build an internationalist workers party to bring down the racist rule of capital with socialist revolution. ■

Concentration Camps, U.S.A.

Location of 110 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities (concentration camps). In addition, I.C.E. uses at least 600 other jails and processing centers to hold immigrants.  
(Map from dabrownstein.com)

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently caught a lot of flak for tweeting that the “[Trump] administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.” The official outrage machine kicked into high gear as denouncements of Ocasio-Cortez poured in from both sides of the aisle. Yet as even a Bloomberg (21 June) commentary noted, “AOC Wasn’t Wrong About Concentration Camps.”

The Internationalist Group has for years denounced the immigrant detention centers as concentration camps, demanding they be shut down.

Even as she has repeatedly called for, and voted for, “border security,” Ocasio-Cortez is right that the U.S. has concentration camps. At the same time, AOC, like Bernie Sanders, holds up Democratic icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the model and inspiration for her politics. During World War II, FDR imprisoned some 120,000 Japanese Americans, both immigrants and U.S.-born, in what even he called “concentration camps,” which they certainly were. Learn these names: Tule Lake, Manzanar, Gila River – just a few of the dozens of camps where FDR locked up those of Japanese ancestry.

This was in fact part of a long tradition of U.S. capitalist “democracy,” which imprisoned the Navajos in the Bosque Redondo concentration camp in 1868, and drove Filipino independence fighters into concentration camps in the genocidal “pacification” campaign following U.S. imperialism’s conquest of the Philippines in 1898.

And some of the same World War II camps were later designated as detention centers for communists, leftists, civil rights activists and other “subversives” under the provisions of the 1950 McCarren Act. Fort Sill, which the Trump administration wants to use to hold immigrants, as the Obama administration already did, and which FDR used to imprison Japanese Americans, was one of those camps. Moreover, it was a Democratic-majority House and Senate that overwhelmingly passed the witch-hunting McCarran Act.

Today millions of people are rightly enraged at the images and descriptions of the concentration camps for migrants. Building up the Democratic Party and praising FDR, LBJ and the rest of its criminal leaders means chaining the oppressed to the machinery of their own oppression. It is not possible to wage a real fight to do away with this oppression without learning the lesson that you can’t fight it with the Democratic Party. ■