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The Internationalist
November 2018

For Workers Action to Defend the Caravan:

Border Flashpoint in the
Racist War on Immigrants

We Say: Let Them In – Free Them All – Let Them Stay!

A migrant mother and her children run to escape from tear gas grenade fired into Mexico by  U.S. Border Patrol. (Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants! Asylum for the Refugees!

Mobilize Workers to Smash the Democrat-Republican Deportation Machine!

The war on immigrants reached a flashpoint on the border between the United States and Mexico on November 25. In two dozen cities around the U.S. there were demonstrations of solidarity with the caravan of migrants from Central America, mainly from Honduras, that has arrived at the border city of Tijuana. Meanwhile, hundreds of members of the caravan tried to enter the U.S., only to be repelled by joint action of the Mexican and U.S. immigration police. The U.S. Border Patrol fired scores of tear gas grenades into Mexico. But instead of protesting this blatant act of imperialist aggression, the servile Mexican government arbitrarily arrested several dozen migrants who sought to get around the police barricade. The next day, a photo of a fearful mother and her barefoot children in diapers running from the gas was on front pages around the world. It summed up the plight of desperate migrants who had trekked 3,000 miles only to run up against a wall at the border (not the one Republican Trump wants to build but the one already built by the Democrat Clinton three decades ago).

Marchers of the Central American caravan yell at Border Patrol cop after he ripped down banner, November 25.  Then the migrants were gassed by U.S. immigration cops. (Photo: Gregory Bull/AP)

The dramatic clash between this caravan of the dispossessed and the racist immigration policies of the United States, under both capitalist parties, came as hundreds of marchers headed toward the border that morning. For the last ten days they had been stuck in the Benito Juárez refuge in Tijuana, literally a stone’s throw from the U.S. They were first blocked by Mexican federal police who formed a wall with riot shields at the entrance to a walkway across the Tijuana River. The crowd then turned and many went below the bridge to cross the stream on a narrow footbridge. When Mexican police closed off the roadway on the other side, the crowd turned and, finding a hole in the barriers, once more rushed toward the border, where they were again blocked. Meanwhile, at the crossing point for freight trains (to the east of the San Ysidro highway port of entry to the U.S.) migrants pried open a section of the wall. In both locations there were not only young men but mothers carrying young children and strollers, while videos show a man in a wheelchair, all anxious to reach the border so they could apply for asylum.

The scene at the Chaparral pedestrian border crossing point on November 25: hundreds of migrants from the Central American caravan crossed the nearly dry Tijuana River (upper left in the photo), then streamed back on the embankment to where there was a hole in the barrier (lower left) only to be met by Mexican federal police blocking the roadway with a wall of riot shields.  (Photo: Simone Dalmasso/PlazaPública)

Right-wing media in the U.S. naturally played up this despairing rush as an attempt to “storm” the border, in line with Trump’s xenophobic twitter barrage about a mythical “immigrant invasion.” Border Patrol riot police fired off round after round of tear gas over the wall into Mexico. So whose border was actually being attacked? This chemical weapon, formally banned in war but regularly used by cops against protesters, was being indiscriminately used on people in another country. Squads of active duty U.S. Army and National Guard troops stood at the ready. CBP (Customs and Border Protection) police closed the San Ysidro entry point for several hours, while the racist U.S. president tweeted that he would “CLOSE our Southern Border” if necessary. A few dozen migrants made it through to the U.S., where the Border Patrol announced it had arrested 42. On the Mexican side, the government of outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto said that it had detained and deported 98 migrants. More than 100 Mexican federal police were posted around the Benito Juarez refuge, turning it into a veritable prison.

Above: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) riot cops (in black) and military seal off the San Ysidro port of entry on November 25 while desperate migrants sought to enter.  (Photo: Sandy Huffaker/AFP)
Right: As migrants were under assault by U.S. military and immigration police at the border, Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador elaborated on his plan for a new military force, a National Guard,  to police Mexico, before a mobilization of 32,000 troops. (Photos: Pablo Salazar/El Heraldo de México; Luis Cortez/El Universal)

Meanwhile, Mexico’s president- elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (who took office on December 1) was at the main military base in Mexico City in an unprecedented meeting with 32,000 members of the armed forces, including 5,000 officers and 102 generals and admirals. There he presented the constitutional amendment of his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) enabling the military to police the country. (For years, army and navy forces have been used in the “drug war” without any legal basis.) AMLO’s plan would establish a National Guard, initially composed of 60,000 members of the military police, naval police and federal police, that would then be expanded to include other soldiers and new recruits to cover the entire national territory with 266 regional commands. Thus the president who in the previous (2012) election posed as the harbinger of a “loving republic” (república amorosa) is now proposing a sharp increase of military power in what is already a semi-bonapartist regime. Central American immigrants may be the first to feel the brunt of this beefed-up repressive apparatus.

In the U.S., Internationalist contingents participated in caravan solidarity demonstrations at the border in San Ysidro (south of San Diego, California) as well as Portland, Oregon and New York City. Our leaflet, including the account by our activist-reporter (see “With the Caravan of International Workers”) who joined the caravan as it entered southern Mexico, declared: “The Grupo Internacionalista in Mexico and the Internationalist Group in the United States, sections of the League for the Fourth International, call, as an elementary act of international workers solidarity, to let them in and for full citizenship rights for all immigrants (both in Mexico and the U.S.).” It also demanded asylum for refugees and denounced the offer by incoming Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to act as Trump’s border patrol, turning Mexico into a holding pen for asylum seekers. In the face of the xenophobic attacks on the migrants whipped up by the Tijuana bourgeoisie, it added: “what is needed are workers defense guards of defenders of democratic rights to protect the immigrant shelters, and massive workers mobilization to crush the attackers” (see “Mexico: For Workers Action to Defend Immigrants!”)

Although immigrants’ rights groups such as Cosecha and the New Sanctuary Coalition had talked optimistically of bringing 15,000 people to the border to greet the caravan, the demonstrations in various cities were notable for their small size, ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred participants. This contrasted sharply with the mushrooming protests last June when tens of thousands came out to protest the separation of families and jailing of youth in cages at the border. The obvious reason for this difference was that in June liberals like moveon.org, the Resistance, Indivisible, the Women’s March and other Democratic Party front groups went all-out to organize protests. Now, however, under fire from Trump’s fear-mongering about the Central American caravan, the Democrats are ducking for cover. In San Ysidro, where some 400 marchers went from Larsen Field to the border and back, speakers went on about the racist Trump, while giving the Democrats and “deporter-in-chief” Obama (who deported over 8 million people) a pass.

Above: Internationalist Group at solidarity demo in San Ysidro at the Mexican border, November 25, called for workers action to smash the deportation machine of Democrats and Republicans.  (Internationalist photo)
Right: Internationalists at caravan solidarity demo in Portland, Oregon. (Photo: CSWP)

In sharp contrast, the Los Angeles local of the Internationalist Group was present with a banner calling for “Workers Action to Defend the Caravan – Let Them In! Asylum for Refugees! Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!” A banner of Transport Workers Against Deportations called to “Unionize Undocumented Workers!” while our signs denounced the “Deportation Machine of Democrats and Republicans” and declared that “Pressuring the Democrats is a Dead End – Build a Workers Party to Fight for Socialist Revolution!” In Portland, where the turnout was tiny, comrades carried the banner of Class Struggle Workers – Portland calling for “Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants – Break with Democrats and Republicans – Build a Class Struggle Workers Party.” In New York City, where some 200 people gathered at the NY Public Library, an Internationalist Group banner called for “Workers Action to Stop Deportations” and to “Drive I.C.E. Jails Out of New York.”

After marching to the Mexican consulate, a speaker for the Migrant and Refugee Solidarity Coalition, which called the protest, went on at length about the coalition’s six demands. While denouncing the “racist anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Administration” and calling for “freedom for incarcerated migrants and free movement for asylum seekers,” it also demanded:

“The US government must publicly acknowledge a) its role in Honduran Coup in 2009, b) that the Honduran government is a US supported dictatorship, and c) recognize the political and social crises throughout Central America as caused by US foreign policy.”

This is an absurd call on the imperialist tiger to change its stripes. The speaker did say that a Democratic administration gave the green light for the 2009 coup, but lamented the unfulfilled “promise” of  2008 (i.e., the election of Barack Obama). Interestingly, the call to “Abolish I.C.E.” which was all the rage last summer was hardly mentioned, if at all. As we noted then, the liberal Democrats and their reformist left camp followers wanted to dabble in a little radical-sounding rhetoric, while in the concrete seeking to return to the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), an earlier incarnation of la migra, and calling for “secure borders.”

Internationalist banners at New York demo of solidarity the Central American caravan demo, November 25.  (Internationalist photo)

An Internationalist Group banner, in contrast, declared: “Smash I.C.E. Gestapo with Workers Revolution,” and “You Can’t fight Trump with the Democrats – Build a Revolutionary Workers Party!” Speaking at the consulate, comrade Lucio of Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas (TIC) stressed that:

“These caravans are a consequence of the political situation caused by the attacks of U.S. imperialism in Central America. Those policies have been implemented by the Republican and Democratic parties. We call on the workers to break with those bourgeois parties. We also say that this government [pointing to the Mexican consulate] is complicit with what’s happening to the Central American immigrants. We call to break with all those parties, including the PRI, PAN and PRD, and also MORENA. We say that the only way to stop this is with a party of our class, that defends our interests, which defends the interests of women, of gays, of lesbians, of blacks, of the peasants, of the Indians. And to those baby-snatchers, we say that we will crush them with a social revolution. We need such a party on both sides of the border. We are not illegal, nor criminal, we are international workers!”

Various pseudo-socialists bandy about utopian liberal calls for “open borders” (essentially asking the capitalist state to abolish itself) while simultaneously supporting Democratic politicians such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (of the Democratic Socialists of America) who call for “secure borders” and replacing I.C.E. with an agency akin to the earlier incarnation of la migra, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In contrast to this opportunist double-talk, we Trotskyists oppose all racist immigration laws, along with the police forces that impose them and the bourgeois parties that write them. In demanding full citizenship rights for all immigrants, no matter how they got here, and asylum for those fleeing the devastation wrought by imperialism, we underline that defeating capitalism’s drive against immigrants can only come about through international socialist revolution. ■

For a brief video of the Internationalist contingent in the November 25 demonstration in solidarity with the Central American migrant caravan, click here.