With Liberty and Justice For Some
All is quiet on the immigration question. There is little discussion in the misinformation media, and the candidates of both capitalist parties promise little other than increased "border security." In the meantime, the immigrant masses in America live under the most intolerable conditions filled with deportations, raids, intimidation, and harassment. Tens of thousands have been picked up in raids and hundreds of thousands deported in the past few years. The millions who remain are under the permanent boot of government repression, forced into hiding and always cautious lest they be torn from their communities and source of livelihood.
The rapid expansion of State agencies of repression and the immigration of millions per year has placed questions of immigration on a national stage. Most recently, in 2006, Congress set to vote on H.R. 4437, also known as the "Sensenbrenner Bill," which, among other draconian provisions, was to make housing an undocumented immigrant a felony. The bill caused uproar throughout America culminating in the massive protests on March 25, 2006, as well as on May 1st day also known as "May Day," or International Workers Day.
Yet with so much discussion and so much media and political attention, the poverty of thought and reactionary nature of the official debate has obscured the real roots and social character of immigration. The conservative and nationally chauvinistic attitudes taken by the government, captains of finance and industry, media, (parts of) academia and also among the conservative bureaucratic layer of many unions, has found its reciprocal in the alarming increase of hate groups since 2000, estimated at 48% by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Immigration is certainly as old as America itself; a nation of colonists built upon the bones of the indigenous dead and the forcibly transferred slaves of Africa, both of whom to this day face ethnic and racial oppression. The rulers and priests of Europe came upon the shores of the Atlantic Coast bearing guns and bibles, the latter bestowing the holy ordinance of conquest in the name of God.
Since that time, immigrants have played a central role in the development of American economy, as well as world capitalism. At the same time, demonization and inciting of natives' hatred has been a staple of American "democracy." The Irish faced the anti-Catholic Know Nothing Movement and were publicly portrayed as ape-like and alcoholics, and faced job discrimination. The Chinese were subjected to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. This was preceded by what may have been Los Angeles's first race riot in 1871, which resulted in the deaths of 19 Chinese men and boys.
So, while instrumental in the growth of the American economy, which no one denies, immigrants have and continue to be subject to repression. It is in fact from this standpoint of production, and the role of immigrants in production, that the deceitful nature of contemporary natives' propaganda is made visible. Advanced capitalism has brought the entire world into its sphere, has made exchange international, and broken down all national barriers. Immigrants, compelled by dire poverty to leave their native land, settle in the advanced capitalist nations where they are shamelessly exploited by the capitalists. And while immigrants are a great source of profit, the capitalists seek to sow racism and chauvinism among workers in order to keep them disunited. It is also noteworthy that the particular relationship the United States establishes with other nations or territories directly impact issues of immigration; for example, NAFTA, the Puerto Rican immigrant experience, the U.S. relationship to Cuba, Haiti, etc.
The particularly reactionary period ushered in by the so-called "War on Terror" has greatly accelerated the aggression against immigrants, as it has on labor and democratic rights, to say nothing of the colonial occupations subjected upon the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. The formation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 ushered in a dramatic militarization of domestic life in the United States. ICE, which is a domestic security organization, detains 300,000 people each year, with 30,000 held any given day. There are over 200 detention centers. The military-industrial complex, which has no small role in the formation of policy, is also of course involved. Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, was awarded a $385 million no-bid contract by Homeland Security.
There were over 276,000 immigrants deported in 2007 alone. While in custody, they are not provided with a right to an attorney, so that 84% go unrepresented. Neither are they provided with any literature or books that would give them the necessary information to defend themselves; the libraries empty. The contempt which the government seeks to bestow among the public reflects in the treatment of these migrants.
The increasing difficulties that are arising as a result of the recession which the American economy is entering will inevitably give rise to an increase in attempts to scapegoat and incite mass opinion against immigrants. While depicting the immigrant as the root of the social and economic problems plaguing the working-class of America, it is in fact the gross inequality of American capitalism that is responsible for the deprivations experienced by Americans. The American bourgeoisie is waging an extraordinarily repressive campaign against the undocumented, this period beginning with the Illegal Immigration Act of 1996 passed under the Democrat Party's Clinton administration.
At the same time, a powerful but as yet disorganized movement championing the rights and equality of immigrants is in the making. Indeed, not all the powers in the world could defeat the united action of the American working-class, of which immigrants are a central component. The united actions taken by workers at individual firms against raids must be extended to a national level. The organizing of immigrants into community networks and especially into unions is essential for the strength of both the immigrant and the worker, whose interests are the same. Students must too help raise consciousness on this vital working-class issue and act in a concrete way to support undocumented immigrants. Students were well represented at the 2006 MArch 25 and May 1st marches, including students from SMC. The SMC delegation was initiated by the Revolutionary Student Collective (RSC) and Association of Latin American Students (ALAS).
The ruling class is attempting to frighten us into the embrace of chauvinism and militarism. The class-conscious workers and politically mature students, recognizing the progressive significance of the breakdown of national barriers and prejudices, and seeing in immigrants the more oppressed and exploited version of themselves, must raise their voices against deportation and for the full legal equality for all people in the United States, the only consistently democratic position.