Friday, April 29, 2011
Stop Deportations! On May Day Demand Solidarity and Legalization!
By Teresa Gutierrez
Published Apr 27, 2011 7:46 PM
More than 1 million immigrants have been deported since President Barack Obama took office. One million! This is a tsunami of injustice.
This mass deportation of immigrants takes place amid a wave of anti-immigrant legislation sweeping the country. Many such bills have already been passed by state legislatures, most recently in Georgia. Many more are pending, as in Florida, making this the ultimate hour of “show me your papers” in the U.S.
But whatever the stage of the bills, the legislation has already achieved its goal of contributing to a racist, anti-immigrant climate. This witch-hunt is calculated to instill fear in immigrant communities, driving workers to go further underground or to self-deport, and to prevent immigrants from organizing for their rights.
Furthermore, the anti-immigrant climate is meant to break solidarity between workers born in this country and workers born elsewhere.
These attacks come in the context of the deepening economic crisis. What is the solution of the corporate bosses and their representatives in government to the crisis they created? It is to attack teachers, steal workers’ pensions, increase layoffs and foreclosures, and sabotage unions, including the fundamental right to collective bargaining.
To carry out this program, the bosses must foster divisions among the working class. The capitalist system counts on social peace as it dismantles workers’ rights to a job, health care, education and so on. Only solidarity and a fighting spirit can push their program back.
May Day 2011 is more important than ever. May Day was born as a day of righteous struggle, of revolutionary militancy, and that spirit must be revived again in the U.S.
Solidarity. A united, militant fightback. These are the only things that will stop the deportations as well as all the attacks against workers and the oppressed. Only by reviving the class struggle can we not only defend past gains but win new victories.
Washington, not local laws, behind deportations
Behind the 1 million deportations is a federal policy initiated by the Obama administration in 2008 called “Secure Communities.”
Writing a series of articles in Counterpunch last summer and fall, Stewart J. Lawrence commented that Obama’s Secure Communities may be more dangerous than the laws emanating from Arizona.
A half-year later the facts show this to be true.
Secure Communities was sold to the public as a program that would deport alleged criminals without documents.
The fact is that a million workers have been deported, many of them under the Secure Communities policy. This demonstrates that this program is meant to round up the undocumented under any pretext, demanding papers to prove their official immigration status and then consigning those without papers to the deportation process.
Legal experts, human rights and immigration activists have all denounced this as extreme racial profiling. Only people of color are stopped and asked for their papers.
Chicago activists point to the case of an immigrant who was stopped because a cop alleged that the Virgin Mary hanging on a string in his car blocked the driver’s vision. (Medill News Service, Northwestern University)
The 1 million people who have been deported are not criminals. They are workers — workers who were forced to come to this country because of U.S.-orchestrated economic and political policies, such as NAFTA and the kidnapping of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti.
Often, what police use to justify stopping workers are things people are doing simply to survive. For example, a woman in New York was stopped, and ultimately deported, for selling CDs, allegedly illegally.
However, even that small group of workers who might have committed a serious anti-social act must be defended. Otherwise, the movement would be going along with ruling-class attempts to divide “good” and “bad” workers, while the real criminals drop bombs in Libya or foreclose on homes.
The movement cannot go along with this divide-and-conquer attitude of the ruling class that wants the movement to take sides and agree to deport “those bad immigrants but not these.”
Lawrence pointed out that Secure Communities targets “low-level misdemeanor offenders, including people who may be guilty of little more than running a stop sign or driving with a broken taillight.” Many of these people are innocent. “But,” wrote Lawrence, “they are getting rounded up and processed for deportation just the same.”
The program began in North Carolina and Texas in October 2008. Now, about 500 jurisdictions in at least 25 states are working with the Department of Homeland Security to implement the program. Lawrence noted that is more than six times the number of jurisdictions working under the earlier immigration legislation, Section 287(g), which authorizes local police to act as Customs agents.
To add insult to injury, the Department of Homeland Security originally told state government officials that they could opt out of Secure Communities. This turned out not to be true.
In mid-April, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California called for an investigation of federal immigration officials who she said lied about whether states or counties had the right to opt out of Secure Communities. Opponents of the program say this deception probably prevented officials who do not want to go along with the program from filing lawsuits in time to prevent the collaboration.
According to a commentary by Bill King in the Feb. 16 Houston Chronicle, it costs about $23,500 per person to deport a worker. Imagine if that money were used for human needs instead of repression.
Jobs, legalization and health care for all would result in real secure communities.
Obama meets on immigration
On April 19 President Obama met with several elected officials as well as community and labor leaders. Participants included New York billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network. The meeting was about reviving the national discussion on “comprehensive immigration reform.”
The specific call for CIR has been dropped by many immigrant advocates, because much of the legislation in and out of Congress called CIR would actually do the opposite of what the progressive movement is demanding.
That’s why the right-wing, anti-immigrant forces have also called for CIR. Their CIR often includes guest worker programs and compulsory biometric identification systems that would hurt all workers. These bills grant legalization to almost no workers.
What much of the pro-immigrant movement continues to demand is immediate and genuine legalization for all. And it will not stop until legalization is won.
This wing of the movement condemns any and all guest worker programs and considers them a slap in the face not only to foreign-born workers, who are brought here with little or no rights, many in slave-like and abusive conditions, but to unions as well. Guest workers have been used in the past to break union campaigns.
AFL-CIO’s Trumka will be speaking at a May Day rally in Milwaukee organized by Voces de la Frontera and others. This is an important gesture of solidarity.
Trumka will be representing immigrants, especially the undocumented. In any further discussions with President Obama he must make sure that legalization is front and center.
Furthermore, a moratorium on deportations is long overdue.
The 2011 May Day rallies around the country must send a clear message of independent struggle.
May Day rallies must say to all those involved in the debate on immigration — to the bosses who want to place the burden of the economic crisis on workers’ backs; to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who conduct vicious, racist raids in immigrant communities; to all the right-wingers who are blaming the budget deficit on workers and their unions: Stop the war on the working class!
Wisconsin showed the way. Now we must take it further.
Only an end to all the attacks on workers will suffice — whether they are teachers or students, dishwashers or nurses, autoworkers or miners.
Until this war ends, we must not only continue to march and demonstrate but revive the militant spirit of the Haymarket struggle for the eight-hour day, from which May Day was born.