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  October 2017

Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!

For Worker/Immigrant Action
to Stop Deportations

On May 1, Internationalist group and Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas joined unionized immigrant workers in New York who marched with signs calling to “strike against deportations.” (Internationalist photo)

From Day One, Donald Trump has been waging a relentless war on immigrants. After launching his campaign for president by demonizing Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals and rapists, he smeared Muslims as terrorists. On taking office, his first act was to issue a ban on refugees, immigrants and visitors from Middle Eastern countries. Despite huge protests at the airports and court rulings against his blatantly discriminatory action, the racist in the White House issued a new Muslim ban at the end of September. Earlier in the month he decreed the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, lifting the temporary hold on deportation of almost 800,000 young immigrants. And in January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of almost 60,000 Haitians.

Meanwhile, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) police have been terrorizing immigrant communities across the country. In the first seven months of Trump’s administration they detained almost 100,000 undocumented immigrants, up 43% over the same period last year. The DHS claims it “targets criminals,” but the number detained who have no criminal record at all has almost doubled over 2016, some 28,000 people torn away from their families just because of their immigration status. Now I.C.E. acting director Thomas Homan has declared that the agency plans to increase factory and restaurant raids by 400-500%, and would continue to carry out immigration arrests around courts and schools (where the I.C.E. agents have been lurking, despite supposedly being off-limits along with hospitals and places of worship).

The U.S. has become deportation nation. But it’s not just since Republican immigrant-basher-in-chief Trump took over. Democrat Barack Obama became known as deporter-in-chief by expelling a record number of immigrants – over 8 million when you include those stopped near the border. The “well-oiled deportation machine” he handed over to his successor is now going into high gear. Under Trump’s executive orders, all 15 million or more undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are potentially at risk. In early October, the White House sent a document to Congress outlining 39 measures for intensifying repression of immigrants inside the U.S., including hiring 15,000 more Border Patrol and I.C.E. agents. In fact, Democrats in Congress voted for many of these measures as part of Obama’s failed 2013 immigration “reform” bill.

But although detentions and detention orders have sharply increased, actual “removals” have fallen. This is partly because of smaller numbers of border crossers but also due to congestion in the administrative immigration courts. There is a backlog of 600,000 cases and an average two-year wait. With more immigration arrests, the number of people held in the I.C.E. labyrinth of detention centers (concentration camps), mostly private prisons run by corporations like GEO, is mushrooming. The government is planning a major increase in immigration jails, expanding the daily count of detainees from 41,000 to 48,000, and I.C.E. says it has secured 33,000 more slots in city and county jails and state prisons where it can warehouse immigrants. In those cases, the agency is threatening to break up families, separating mothers from their children.

Daily there are new atrocities. The administration went all out to stop a 17-year-old woman detained in Texas from having an abortion. Only an emergency hearing by a full federal court was able to stop this act of gratuitous cruelty. And in Oregon, I.C.E. cops were captured on a video uploaded to Facebook as they barged into a home in Beaverton where without a warrant they arrested a house painter they “thought” was “illegal.” (As public outrage grew, the worker was released.) Two weeks earlier, agents stopped a Latino U.S. citizen outside the nearby Washington County courthouse – a blatant case of racial profiling. Being in the country without authorization is not itself classed as a crime, but as they step up “collateral” detentions, I.C.E. agents in Oregon and around the U.S. are grossly violating the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure.

A sizeable majority of the public does not support Trump’s heavy-handed crackdown on immigrants. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 62% disapproved of Trump’s handling of immigration, and 62% opposed his proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border. Barely a third supported his hard-line anti-immigrant policies. Moreover, a whopping 86% were in favor of letting young undocumented immigrants who fill the requirements for DACA stay in the country. Yet as part of a purported deal to extend legal status (but no “path to citizenship”) for so-called “Dreamers,” Democratic Congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi agreed in principle to intensified “border security” and compulsory use of the e-Verify program used to fire undocumented workers. But then Trump upped his demands.

Even before the failed agreement was announced, we warned: “The Democrats would try to get immigrant youth to accept such a deal and throw their own parents, families and friends under the bus. We say, Hell no! We demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants!” (“Beware of Trump/Democrat Deal, Defend DACA and All Immigrants,” Revolution, 7 September). Many DACA recipients weren’t fooled. At a September 18 Bay Area press conference by Pelosi, activists from the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance interrupted her, chanting “We are not your bargaining chip.” They denounced the House minority leader, saying: “Democrats created an out-of-control deportation machine and handed it over to Trump.” They added, “Democrats are not the resistance of Trump. We are” (Huffpost, 18 September).

For immigrants, the United States is now a police state. Arbitrarily picked up in their homes, 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 in some authoritarian regime. As Trump stokes xenophobia (fear and hatred of foreigners), and particularly since the constitutional rights being trampled on apply to everyone in the U.S., not just citizens, the threat to all represented by this unbridled exercise of police power should be obvious. Yet even as fear stalks the land, there has also been defiance. But beware, we are dealing with a regime that has no compunction about ripping up rights: protest alone will not stop them. What is crucial is to bring to bear the power of a force that can stymie the deportation machine – the working class.

Above all, the struggle for immigrant rights must be waged politically, understanding that both parties of capital, Democrats and Republicans, as well as minor-league capitalist politicians and parties like the Greens are enemies of immigrants, the oppressed and working people. Talk of “immigration reform” in this imperialist epoch of decaying capitalism will always be a fraud. Just look at where full citizenship rights for everyone has actually been won: in the French Revolution of 1789, the Paris Commune of 1871 and, exactly a century ago, the Russian October Revolution of 1917.

Skirmishing Over “Sanctuary Cities”

A focal point of the skirmishing between Republicans and Democrats over immigration has been so-called “sanctuary cities.” These are the roughly 400 localities (mostly counties) that have to varying degrees limited cooperation by local police with the immigration cops. The Trump administration has threatened to cut off federal funds to “sanctuary” jurisdictions. The reason it is so exercised about this is that the federal government has only about 6,000 agents in its snatch squads, hardly enough to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. So Washington wants to rely on local cops to do the arresting, for traffic violations for instance, and then I.C.E. would just drop by to pick up the supposed “criminal aliens.”

The monstrosity of police collaboration in deportations was highlighted by the testimony of René Lichtman, a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor, in opposition to a bill in the Michigan state legislature which would ban cities from enacting policies limiting cooperation with I.C.E. Lichtman said, “My family members were picked up in the streets of Paris in the very same way that I.C.E. people are deputizing local police and picking [undocumented immigrants] up in the streets.” He said that the French police, “deputized by the Nazis,” kept lists of Jews in Paris:

“including Jewish children, including children on my street, who were picked up and went to the gas chambers while I was fortunate to be in hiding…. I see a lot of parallels to what is going on in cities like Ann Arbor and Pontiac, where I.C.E. is coming in and with the help of the local police are picking up immigrants.”

Huffington Post, 9 June

In “sanctuary cities” local authorities typically say they will not honor I.C.E. “detainer” requests to hold undocumented immigrants arrested on other charges after they are supposed to be released. But even where such blatantly unconstitutional cooperation with I.C.E. is ostensibly refused, it often happens anyway. In New York City, mayor Bill de Blasio has sought to calm immigrants’ fears, saying “This is your city. Your city will stand by you. Your city will protect you” (Daily News, 21 March). Not so. What happens, as the Daily News (2 April) headlined, is that the “NYPD alerts feds to Criminal Court appearances of immigrants facing deportation despite ‘sanctuary’ vow.” Plus there are some 170 offenses for which NYC will illegally hold immigrants for I.C.E.

Much of the fireworks over “sanctuary cities” has been focused on two states, Texas and California. In Texas, the Republican state legislature and governor rammed through a law last spring, Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), ordering cities and counties to cooperate with I.C.E. and authorizing local and state police to question anyone about their immigration status. This “show me your papers” law (as in Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa), like Arizona’s notorious racist SB 1070, would lead to rampant racial profiling. During the debate on SB 4, a Republican legislator, Matt Rinaldi got annoyed with the hundreds of largely Latino protesters chanting in the gallery and called I.C.E., thus assuming many were undocumented. Rinaldi also threatened on the floor to shoot Democratic representative Poncho Nevárez (Texas Observer, 29 May).

The Texas law is currently on hold due to a federal court ruling that its key provisions violate the Fourth Amendment. But that hasn’t stopped la migra. As Hurricane Harvey approached in late August and residents were urged to leave coastal areas, the Border Patrol refused to close highway checkpoints north of the Rio Grande Valley, effectively trapping undocumented residents of Brownsville, Harlingen and other South Texas cities. And then at the end of October, Border Patrol agents stopped an ambulance at 2 a.m. carrying a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy as she was being transferred from a medical center in Laredo to a specialized hospital in Corpus Christi for a gall bladder operation. Armed agents waited outside her room until she was released and then detained her, all because she arrived in the U.S. without papers when she was 3 months old.1

California, meanwhile, recently enacted a statewide “sanctuary” law, to the great annoyance of I.C.E. acting director Homan, who announced that “As a result, I.C.E. is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.” In a nationwide round-up in late September targeting “sanctuary cities” in particular, during which it arrested almost 500 immigrants, I.C.E. reported it had detained 167 people in and around Los Angeles. Yet the “sanctuary state” law does not apply to anyone convicted of any of 800 (!) offenses, and it won’t stop I.C.E. agents from entering jails. In signing the law California governor Jerry Brown said it was “important to note what the bill does not do,” namely it “does not prevent or prohibit” I.C.E. or the DHS “from doing their own work in any way” (Los Angeles Times, 6 October). Exactly.

It’s also important to note that the “sanctuary city” ordinances were enacted against the “Secure Communities” program of the Obama administration. For all their empty talk of “immigration reform,” the Democrats in office transformed this from a tiny pilot project into a giant nationwide immigrant-catching dragnet leading to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of people living in the U.S. And in defending “sanctuary cities” against the Trump regime’s attack we have repeatedly denounced the criminal action of Democratic city governments which day-in and day-out work hand-in-glove with la migra in persecuting immigrants.

For Worker/Immigrant Mobilization to Stop Raids and Deportations

Immigrant youth protest Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi over failed deal with Trump to  “protect” DACA recipients by sacrificing their parents. (Photo: Lea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle)

In defending young immigrants in the DACA program or opposing deportations, a vital question is: how? Most social-democratic and other self-styled socialist groups whose aim is to reform capitalism basically look to pressuring the government. The International Socialist Organization (ISO) calls to “revitalize the fighting movement that stopped mass criminalization of the undocumented in 2006 with its incredible ‘mega-marches’ and that won DACA in 2012 by relentlessly pressuring politicians of both parties, including Barack Obama as he campaigned for re-election” (Socialist Worker, 7 September). Yet Obama offered DACA in order to deflect criticism over his failure to enact any immigration “reform,” despite his campaign promises. And we warned from the start it could be easily canceled by the next president, after undocumented youth and their parents had supplied the feds with detailed information on where to find them.

The ISO is always out to build one “mass movement” or another, joining with liberals on a program of class collaboration with Democrats or some other capitalist party or politician. But pressuring the racist Trump, whose campaign was built on vilifying immigrants? This can only create dangerous illusions that lead to demoralization when they are dashed. Yet fostering illusions is what these social democrats are all about. A follow-up article on DACA calls for “Protection for all” – not full citizenship rights, but simply “protection.” Meaning what? Under temporary protection programs the recipients still have no real democratic rights and not even a “path to citizenship.” Putting all undocumented immigrants into the limbo that DACA and TPS recipients now occupy is no solution. And, of course, there is no mention of capitalism, socialism or revolution, of course.

The centrist Spartacist League (SL), which puts on “revolutionary” airs, recently published a front-page article headlined “No Deportations!” (Workers Vanguard, 22 September). Nice sentiment. So how is this to be accomplished? While routinely calling for citizenship rights for immigrants, beyond general calls for “militant class struggle” and “world socialist revolution,” nowhere does it put forward any concrete program for what a struggle for “no deportations” should consist of. Neither does the SL have anything to say to the thousands of protesters in Texas who have demonstrated against SB 4 outlawing sanctuary cities.

Earlier this year, the SL published a smear against the Internationalist Group for calling to defend sanctuary cities, which it dismissed as nothing but a “scam.” The fact that these minimal constraints can be hugely important to immigrants facing the federal I.C.E./D.H.S./BP juggernaut is of no concern to them. For our response to this, and the slander that we didn’t denounce the Democrats, as well as to the SL’s refusal to call for asylum for refugees, dismissing them as “displaced persons” with no rights, see “Spartacist League vs. Refugees,” The Internationalist No. 47, March-April 2017.

The Internationalist Group has long called to mobilize the power of labor to stop immigration raids and deportations. Our very first article, distributed to an October 1996 immigrants rights rally in Washington, D.C., called for “union-led mobilization, bringing out contingents from the black ghettos and Latino barrios in a solid show of force the next time there are big INS factory raids.” We pointed to the labor action by Latino truckers who drove from the L.A./Long Beach port to ring Los Angeles city hall with their rigs to protest the anti-immigrant Prop 187. (“Mobilize the Working Class to Smash Anti-Immigrant Offensive!” The Internationalist No. 1, January-February 1997). On the day after Trump’s election last November, we wrote:

“If the new regime seeks to reinstitute raids in the urban centers, there should be workers mobilizations to prevent deportations, including blocking them by flooding the area with defenders of immigrant rights.”
–“Post-Traumatic Election Shock: To Defeat Trump … And the Democrats, Fight for Workers Revolution” (10 November 2016), The Internationalist No. 46, January-February 2017

Today, immigrants have several times acted to oppose the ICE raids. They must not stand alone. In early February, just days after Trump’s inauguration, I.C.E. agents arrested Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos in Phoenix, Arizona. A mother of two who had been in the U.S. since the age of 14, Garcia’s deportation was prepared by the Obama administration, which initially arrested her in 2008 in a workplace raid. But while virulent anti-immigrant racism is rampant in Arizona, scores of immigrants and their supporters courageously blocked an I.C.E. van for hours seeking to stop the deportation of Guadalupe (see “All Out on May Day! Strike In Defense of Immigrants and All Workers,” The Internationalist No. 47, March-April 2017).

Then on May 30 in New York City, as I.C.E. agents attempted to arrest Hardat Sampat, an immigrant from the South American country of Guyana, in the heavily Guyanese immigrant neighborhood of Richmond Hill in Queens, NY, dozens of neighbors poured into the street to block the arrest. Sampat’s wife parked her car in front of the I.C.E. vehicles to prevent them from moving. The standoff lasted until the NYPD came to I.C.E.’s aid, forcing Sampat’s wife to move her car and the crowd to disperse. Despite New York’s claim to be a “sanctuary city” and Mayor de Blasio’s claims the police don’t carry out immigration tasks, in this and other cases NYC cops are acting as auxiliaries for I.C.E.

Recently, on October 11, immigrants rights activists outside the I.C.E. offices in Portland, Oregon blocked a van transporting detained immigrants to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. They managed to hold up the transport for several hours, their arms locked together with “sleeping dragons” (a device made of pipe, plastic, chicken wire, duct tape and chains). While sawing these off, the Portland cops put hoods over the protesters’ heads that recall those used in torturing detainees at the U.S.’ notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The brave action of the activists dramatized the abomination of mass deportations, now carried out in unmarked white vans and buses instead of in box cars, like the Nazis did with Jews in World War II. Nonetheless, such actions are basically symbolic.

The Trump regime won’t be moved by symbolism or protest. What’s needed to thwart the deportations is to mobilize the power of the workers movement in mass action to immobilize the “immigrant removal” system, and ultimately to paralyze capitalism. On May Day this year, unionized immigrant workers at B&H Photo and Video and their supporters demonstrated outside the store in Midtown Manhattan with signs in English and Spanish calling to “Strike Against Deportations,” “Defy ICE,” “Strike for Black and Brown Lives,” “Strike for Immigrants’ Rights,” “Strike for Women’s Rights,” or more simply, “Chinga la migra” (Screw ICE). Workers at the two B&H warehouses slated for closure walked out that May 1. Earlier, on February 16, workers throughout B&H struck in solidarity with the “Day Without Immigrants.”

Such actions send a powerful message, one that should be picked up by the entire workers movement. The Internationalist Group has been actively involved in supporting the B&H workers’ struggle from the start, and the transitional organizations fraternally allied with the IG – Class Struggle Education Workers, Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas (Class Struggle International Workers) and Class Struggle Workers – Portland – have undertaken initiatives to support immigrant workers against deportations. In New York, CSEW members have fought for and initiated immigrant defense committees in schools and hospitals, as have the Internationalist Clubs at the City University. In Portland, the CSWP has sparked union participation in protests outside I.C.E. offices and in communities such as Woodburn hit by I.C.E. raids on farm workers.

These are only small beginnings. As the racist deportation machine goes into overdrive, with factory raids and street arrests in immigrant neighborhoods, there is a tremendous potential for mass action to stop the I.C.E. body snatchers. A successful action anywhere in the country could spark an enormous response from the millions who not only oppose but despise Trump and his I.C.E. cops. But it is necessary to publicize and spread the example, to organize it and above all what’s key is for labor to use its muscle in powerful class action of Latinos, African Americans, immigrants and students. That can only be accomplished by simultaneously fighting against the stranglehold of the capitalist parties, notably the Democrats, who built up the sinister deportation police force and now stand in the way of effective action to stop it.

Immigrant workers are treated as disposable labor without rights, to be hired by the millions as low-wage workers when the economy is booming, and then thrown back over the border when it goes bust. Just that happened in 1954, in the economic downturn after the end of the fighting in the Korean War, as more than a million Mexican workers were deported in “Operation Wetback.” In the 1990s, the mass migration from Mexico was the direct result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), negotiated by Democrat Bill Clinton, which effectively destroyed Mexican agriculture, forcing millions of peasants to emigrate to the North. Today class-conscious workers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico should join to bring down NAFTA through joint class struggle.

Any victory we achieve may be partial and temporary. The lasting impact of the struggle must be to raise the consciousness and will to fight of the workers and the oppressed against the monstrous capitalist edifice built on wage slavery, and that of doubly oppressed immigrant workers in particular. A successful fight to stop deportations and achieve full rights for everyone – a simple democratic right – requires building a revolutionary workers party on a program of militant class struggle leading to international socialist revolution. That is our key task today. ■

  1. 1.See the article by Class Struggle Education Workers, “The Crime of Medical Deportations,” The Internationalist No. 47, March-April 2017.