(Leaflet of the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee)
. Millions of immigrants are taking to the streets in protest against the vicious legislation Congress has been rigging up against them. There are bills that would turn 10-12 million people in this country into felons overnight, bills that would lock millions of people into second class status for 12-13 years before they could get citizenship, bills for a "guest worker" program to super-exploit the 1.5 million Mexican, Caribbean and other workers in agriculture, bills that would subject immigrants to a police-state regime, and much more. Besides these bills, this great eruption of protest is also connected with the underlying anger that has for years been building against the racial discrimination and oppression that non-white immigrants are subjected to.
. Driving the reactionary Congressional crusade is the fact that the capitalists want immigrant labor without rights so that they can more profitably exploit it. Laws that keep millions of immigrant workers living in fear of deportation if they strike or otherwise stand up for their rights serves this purpose, as do "guest worker" laws that deny these workers the same rights as other workers. In this way the profits of the capitalists are maximized while the living and working conditions of the working class as a whole are driven downward.
. For the working class to effectively resist this situation it must demand full rights for its
immigrant sisters and brothers whether they have papers or not. But, as the Congressional
debates over these new anti-immigrant laws have shown, the demand for full immigrant rights is
one that must be raised from the streets as part of the overall struggle between workers and
Th e workers -- native born, naturalized, or new immigrants --
have no friends in Congress
. Sensenbrenner's H.R. 4437, the McCain-Kennedy bill, and the failed Senate compromise bill that was constructed around the McCain-Kennedy bill all are (or were) vicious attacks on immigrants, and thereby, all workers.
. H.R. 4437, which passed the House in December, is the notorious bill that would turn the estimated 10-12 million "illegal" immigrants currently working, paying their bills, going to the store, etc., etc., in the U.S. into felons, as well as making it a felony for a citizen to assist them in any way. It would also fund construction of 700 more miles of wall along the U.S. -Mexico border, hire more immigration cops, and a long list of other police-state measures. This is the bill that has stirred millions of people in this country into political motion during the past few months. From small towns to large cities they've gone into the streets to protest, with some of the demonstrations being the largest ever held in a particular city or area. In Chicago over 100,000 people filled the streets March 15, and in Los Angeles 500,000 to a million people poured into the streets on March 25, and on April 9, 350,000-500,000 people marched in the streets of Dallas. There have also been bold walkouts by students, walkouts by workers and other protests largely centered in Mexican nationality communities.
. These events have been a welcome breath of fresh air in the midst of the putrid right-wing stench that has been emanating from Washington for decades. But the dominant leadership of the big protests, the mainstream immigrant rights groups, and the class-collaborationist leaders of the SEIU, and UNITE-HERE unions have been working to channel the just hatred against the openly anti-immigrant H.R. 4437 into support for the McCain-Kennedy bill, and even the Senate compromise bill. This is betrayal of the masses because these are also rotten anti-immigrant bills.
. The McCain-Kennedy bill would more than double the number of border patrol agents and increase coordination between different police departments. It would spend billions of dollars to install a high-tech electronic surveillance system along the U.S.-Mexico border (a "virtual" wall rather than Sensenbrenner's real wall). Of course the U.S. government started building fences and escalating these kind of measures along the Mexican border under Clinton in 1994, and they haven't stopped people from crossing illegally. All they've done is to drive people farther into the mountains and deserts to find a way across. And the April 6 Seattle Post-Intelligencer even quotes human smugglers boasting that they like these measures because they've been able to quadruple their "price" in 10 years, and they see more money in the offing with more walling-off. (The morticians have also gotten more business -- 460 men, women and children died while trying to cross in the wastelands just last year. )
. But this is only the beginning. The McCain-Kennedy bill would set up an electronic verification system requiring immigrants to carry a new tamper-proof I.D. card connected to a huge national data base containing the immigrants' work history, legal status, fingerprints, iris scan, etc. Further, the bill calls for eventually extending this electronic verification to all workers. This is a framework for establishing a fascistic national I.D. system that employers and the government can use to track all workers, spy on worker organizers and other activists, fire those they don't like, etc.
. So, after all this, how have the leaders of the big protests, union officials, "official" immigrant rights groups, etc., been able to get away with supporting this reactionary bill? Well, they've cried that a "comprehensive" reform was needed, and, ignoring the attacks the McCain-Kennedy contained, crowed that it would give undocumented workers legal status! But they've generally hidden such facts as that to there are giant hurdles that an immigrant must leap for at least 10 years before s/he can get citizenship, and all undocumented immigrants wouldn't be covered anyway. It would take six years just to get a green card! The hurdles include coming up with thousands of dollars in fines or fees, passing various tests, not being out of work for more than 60 days, etc. Thus, for more than a decade these immigrant toilers would have a second class status, be closely watched by the government, and have deportation hanging over their heads if they raised their voices in struggle against their conditions. Further, the hurdles in this bill are so high that it would be impossible for many undocumented people to make them, while others would not want to come forward to for years jump hurdles that they at some point might fail, and then be deported for failing.
. The Senate compromise bill was even worse. It reduced the number of temporary legal
immigrants by 75,000 per year from the McCain-Kennedy proposed 400,000 (and Yahoo's Daily
News reported that it could now take as long as 13 to 14 years for some undocumented
immigrants to gain citizenship). It provided for a new program for 1.5 million temporary
agriculture industry workers over five years (semi-serf labor). And it allowed for more
deportations of non-citizens without a hearing, expanded powers for indefinite detention without
a trial, and authorized local police to enforce immigration laws. But the liberal Ted Kennedy
supported it, all of the Democrats on Senate Judiciary Committee voted for it, and almost all
voted for it on the Senate floor.
We need an independent movement that relies on mass struggle!
. Had the viciously anti-immigrant Senate compromise bill passed, it would still have had to have been compromised with the House bill 4437 outright criminalizing immigrants in order to become law. But now that it has failed it's unclear whether the Senate will be able to put together another anti-immigrant bill soon. From the standpoint of immigrants and the working class we think this is the best thing that could have happened. A good bill can only come as a by-product of intensified mass struggle.
. Congress is an institution where the political representatives of the rich iron out differences and pass laws that serve the capitalist class, not the working-class majority of this country -- much less immigrant workers. Its failure to iron out differences allows us more time to look at the fine print in all the proposed legislation, and not be blind-sided by leaders who would have us swallow poison like McCain and Kennedy's proposals when they would mean that immigrants' rights were being denied as never before. It allows more time to look into theoretical questions raised in Congress and even raised by the Minutemen . . . like why it is that immigration is not the cause of unemployment (i.e., countries with almost no immigration, like Japan, have it), but that the capitalist system itself creates unemployment, and by its very nature must create it. It allows more time to build ongoing organizations that foster no illusions that a better life for immigrants is going to be granted by Congress, and which rally the masses onto the path of independent political struggle in their own interests. In short, it provides more favorable conditions for building a movement militantly demanding full rights for all immigrants now!
April 29, 2006.