(from Detroit Workers' Voice #57, April 6, 2006)
. All across the country there have been massive protests in defense of so-called "illegal" immigrants. The US House of Representatives has passed a bill (HR4437) which makes it a felony to be in the US illegally or for anyone to assist "illegals". This racist bill threatens to jail or deport the estimated 11-12 million undocumented workers presently in the US. This bill's long list of police-state measures against immigrants includes building a 700-mile wall on the Mexican border. This was the impetus for the gigantic demonstrations, walkouts of high-school students, and other protests that broke out largely in Mexican nationality communities, highlighted by the million-strong action in Los Angeles. These actions are putting the capitalist politicians on notice that the immigrant communities won't take such attacks lying down.
. HR 4437 is not the only anti-immigrant bill in Congress, however. There are several bills before
the Senate including the allegedly pro-immigrant "compromise" bill passed by the Senate
Judiciary Committee with support of all the Democrats and some Republicans on the committee.
This bill is allegedly "humane" because it incorporates features of a bill devised by Senators
McCain (R-Az. ) and Kennedy (D-Ma. ) that supposedly eliminate the illegal status of
undocumented workers. But the McCain-Kennedy bill sets up big obstacles to getting legal status
and adds new repressive measures against immigrants. Mainly it would legitimize businesses
continuing the super-exploitation of immigrants. Worse, the deal involves the Democrats
accepting still more police-state measures from a Republican bill. On April 6 the full Senate
reportedly reached a deal with more anti-immigrant provisions than the Judiciary Committee's
An injury to immigrants is an injury to all workers
. The persecution of immigrant labor is part and parcel of capitalist profit-making. Immigrant workers toil in back-breaking work to enrich the capitalists in agribusiness, manufacturing, construction, service industries, etc. The threat of deportation and jail constantly hangs over their heads, undermining their ability to organize and resist. None of the bills in Congress are intended to end this. But depending on what measures are finally agreed to, the repression of immigrant workers could get a lot worse.
. The efforts to keep immigrant workers in wretched conditions is an outrage that should be
opposed by all workers, native-born and foreign, legal and "illegal. " When the capitalists can
single out one group of workers for special oppression, this helps them drive down all workers.
All workers should rally to the defense of our immigrant sisters and brothers and demand "Full
rights for immigrant workers, now!"
Scapegoating immigrants for the crimes of capitalism
. The capitalist politicians seek to pit US-born workers against immigrants. Today they and the
mass media are using hysteria about "the immigrant problem" and "controlling our borders" to
undermine class unity. They blame the immigrants for unemployment and crumbling social
services. This is blaming the victim in the extreme! It's not impoverished Mexican workers who
are slashing tens of thousands of jobs in the auto industry, but the fat-cat CEOs at GM and
Delphi. Social programs are being destroyed not because of immigrants, but because the
capitalist political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, are giving tax breaks to the
corporations and rich individuals and helping private business profit from privatization. That's
why Detroit city workers are losing jobs and public services and schools are crumbling.
Persecuting immigrants in the guise of fighting terrorism
. The capitalist politicians and media also say stemming the influx of foreign workers is an anti-terrorist measure. Republicans and Democrats are trying to outdo each other in police-state measures to "control our borders. " Even the McCain-Kennedy bill, which is touted by liberal Democrats, would more than double the amount of border patrol agents and install high-tech electronic surveillance along the US-Mexican border. The capitalist establishment wants a huge increase in policing of the border so as to indiscriminately harass millions of immigrants who simply seek to earn a living. In the Senate compromise bill's "Terrorist Bars" section, citizenship can be denied to legal permanent residents even for having the slightest association with a group that the government later brands as "terrorist", which, by government definition, can be any group that opposes US government policies. The compromise bill also allows deportation of non-citizens without a hearing, expands powers for indefinite detention without a trial, and authorizes local police to enforce immigration laws. This again shows how the so-called "war on terrorism" is a sham. Not only is it an excuse for imperialist ventures like the occupation of Iraq, but for increased repression of the masses at home.
. And the repression against immigrants is directly connected to police-state measures against all workers. For example, even the more liberal McCain-Kennedy bill calls for setting up an electronic verification system where immigrants would be forced to carry a new tamper-proof ID card. The ID card will be used by employers to get authorization to hire immigrants from a national data base of information that contains the immigrants' work history, legal status, fingerprints, iris scan, etc. This bill calls for eventually extending this electronic verification to all workers. This is a framework for establishing a national ID system that employers and the government can use to track all workers so as to weed out and spy on worker organizers and other activists.
. In the meantime, only immigrants will be singled out for tracking. This, along with enhanced
penalties for hiring illegals in McCain-Kennedy, will give employers desiring to avoid the legal
hassles and bureaucracy an excuse to reject applicants, legal or not, who happen to be
"foreign-looking. " A verification system enacted in the 1986 immigration reform did just that.
Congress legalizes second-class status
. Congress is also debating the question of whether to legalize undocumented workers already in the country and setting up "guest worker" programs which would allow workers to enter the country for a specific period of time. A section of right-wing Republicans and a smaller group of Democrats have clamored for deportation of all undocumented immigrants and no guest worker program. Some of them try to disguise this racist stance as pro-labor. They pretend that low wages and unemployment are caused by immigration. In fact, these dregs could care less about workers. One of them, Dana Rohrabacher (R-Cal. ), went so far as to state "I say let the prisoners pick the fruits. " Indeed, these right-wingers would all like to see American workers be little more than slave-labor!
. But most of Congress recognizes the fat profits made by the capitalists from the sweat and blood of immigrant workers. They have no intention of stopping this, but are debating how many immigrants to legalize and how to keep them as a docile, slave-wage workforce at the beck and call of the capitalists.
. As shown by the Senate "compromise" bill, Congress, left to its own designs, will likely settle its differences by adopting provisions that will be a compromise between McCain-Kennedy and even more repressive bills. Such a compromise would be in line with the wishes of Bush, who at one time praised the vicious HR4437 bill, but also wants a guest-worker program. But if McCain-Kennedy is the best Congress can do, this is bad news for undocumented workers.
. The McCain-Kennedy bill creates two new categories of temporary legal immigrant labor. There's the H-5B program which would temporarily give legal status to undocumented workers already in the US. And there's an H-5A program available to those outside the country who can show evidence of a job offer in the US. At least 400,00 immigrants will be brought in each year under the H-5A provisions. They would get a temporary visa for three years, renewable for another three years. Thus, in a few years there would be millions of workers in the H-5A category. Both categories are also promised a path to a permanent resident status and, after a time, citizenship.
. But this path is full of landmines. There are so many obstacles to this legalization that many immigrant workers, some of whom have already established themselves in the US for many years, will not risk coming forward and risking deportation. Others will try to attain legal status but will fail one of the initial arbitrary requirements of the immigration officials and be deported. Those who survive the initial legalization requirements will face many years of being virtual indentured servants to their employer.
. A few of the obstacles which discourage an immigrant from even applying for the legalization process, or ensure that even as newly legalized workers, immigrants would be easy prey, are:
. There will be some immigrants who will manage to navigate through these and other obstacles
in the Kennedy-McCain bill and, eventually, gain citizenship. But this second-class legalization
is designed to help out the exploiters, not the exploited.
Don't trust Bush or Congress, build the mass struggle
. While Bush and Congress work out a bill to please the capitalists, the masses in the immigrant communities have been taking to the streets. The size of the marches and the boldness of school walkouts, walkouts from workplaces, etc. have given a glimpse of the potential power of the mass struggle. The mass struggle is the only reliable weapon of the oppressed.
. But the dominant leadership of the big protests are channeling sentiment against the openly anti-immigrant bill HR4377 into support for the rotten Senate compromise bill or, at most the McCain-Kennedy bill. The leaders of the class collaborationist unions have also praised the Senate compromise bill among the workers in general. This betrays the interests of the immigrant masses. It confines our demands to a reform designed for the capitalists, not immigrant working people. It also threatens to short-circuit the growing mobilization of the immigrant masses in defense of their rights.
. The masses need their own class stand. Our demands should aim at immediately ending the second-class status of immigrant workers whether they're "legal" or not. We must build a movement that builds class solidarity between all workers no matter where they are from or what legal status the capitalists impose on them. The workers, legal and illegal, need to develop their own fighting organizations. This will strengthen the struggle for immigrant rights. It will also develop the militant unity necessary for other class battles.
Down with HR 4437!
Down with the Senate "compromise" bill!
Down with the McCain-Kennedy bill!
Full rights for all immigrant workers, now!
Workers of all countries, unite!
Last modified: April 8, 2006.
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