May Day is the holiday of the world's workers. It commemorates the May 1 start of the 1886 general strike for the 8-hour work day in the United States, a historic strike in which the working people united nationally to fight for their independent class interests for the first time. And it's a day when workers lay demands upon the capitalist class as a whole, and rally forces for future battles.
This year's May Day marches in the U.S. are again standing up for
immigrant rights. When migrant workers are denied rights and
forced to live under the threat of deportation they're easier to
exploit, thereby increasing the capitalists' profits. This
super-exploitation of one part of the working class is not only unjust,
but is also used to drive down the wages and conditions of the rest of
the working class. Thus, the need for the entire working class to
fight for full rights for all immigrants -- a reform. But in unison
with many leading Republicans, social-security-and-medicare-cutting
Obama is also pushing for immigration reform. So we had better
look into the kind of immigration reform Obama says he'll sign.
And that's contained in the 844-page bi-partisan reform bill which the
"gang of eight" in Democrat-controlled Senate has just released.
(If passed, it will have to be compromised with a worse bill from the
Republican-controlled House, if the House even comes up with a
bill.) Some of its features are:
More deportations. The supposed friend of migrant workers, Obama, has already deported more people than any president in U.S. history by far, including a record of over 400,000 in fiscal year 2012. Nearly a quarter of those deportations involved parents whose children are U.S. citizens. This inhuman policy will continue. Among others, it will be directed at hundreds of thousands of undocumented people who arrived in the country after Dec. 31, 2011 plus undocumented new arrivals; at large numbers of immigrants unable to meet the requirements necessary to get (or keep) the new “Registered Provision Immigrant”(RPI) legal status and green cards; at those who will refuse to participate in the entire bureaucratic, fascistic, trap-filled DHS process, which will also include a mandatory E-Verify card.
Further militarizing the Mexico border. Twenty years ago, fewer than 4,000 Border Patrol agents worked the entire southern border. Today there are 18,500. Some 651 miles of fence have been built, and drones and electronic devices are everywhere. The result has been racist murder, i.e., in order to avoid fences and surveillance, a record of at least 477 people died from the elements in the deserts just last year, while attempted crossings have actually declined since the outbreak of the U.S. economic crisis. Border Patrol agents even destroy water bottles left on desert routes by U.S. citizens who are dedicated to saving lives. But that's not enough. The "gang of eight" bill would spend $4.5 billion more on surveillance and fences, and an additional $2 billion if "initial goals aren't met." It would fund 3,500 additional Customs agents nationwide, and authorize deployment of the National Guard on the border with Mexico.
More "guest workers." To serve the high-tech industries, the bill would raise the cap on highly educated and skilled H-1B workers to 110,000 the first year, and then allow it to go to 180,000. To serve the agricultural, construction, hotel and other capitalists, 200,000 "guest" wage slaves will be authorized the first year under a new "W visa," with annual increases for the next three years. After that, a new government bureau would determine the cap. W visa workers cannot quit their employer to take any new job they wish, but must hire on with another employer in the same industry who is authorized to employ W visa workers.
"Guest workers" would be allowed to eventually become citizens, and are supposed to be paid the prevailing rates in the geographic areas where they're employed, which is good. But those wages are notoriously low, while the jobs are hard, dirty and dangerous. And raising them enough to attract a stable domestic workforce would greatly reduce the capitalists profits. So importing thousands and thousands of "guest workers" at present low rates solves their problem nicely--which is why construction, agricultural and other capitalists are already loudly complaining that the "guest worker" caps are too low!
Discrimination against the poor and less educated. The reform would shift away from giving green cards to people with relatives in the U.S. to an immigration policy strictly serving the needs of the capitalists. And since the U.S. education system has gone to hell, 40% of employment-based visas would be reserved for professionals holding advanced degrees, especially in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, plus there would be a new "merit based" visas. Thus, a humble worker with U.S. family members would be pushed aside by the needs of the capitalists.
A long, degrading, snare-filled path to citizenship. Just to get a green card, one would first have to slave ten years under the new RPI status (which would have to be renewed at the six-year mark), pay thousands of dollars in fines and fees, prove that they've worked regularly, and "demonstrate knowledge of civics and English," an anti-democratic requirement. Further, anyone laid off or who had a medical emergency during those years couldn't get unemployment compensation, medicaid, or food stamps despite all the taxes they'd paid...and they'd better not get arrested in a strike or protest because that might put them over the limit of three misdemeanors or one felony conviction. Moreover, actually getting a green card would be contingent upon there not already being too many green card holders (according to the limits the politicians set) who had come through the legal immigration route. Then, after getting a green card, one would have to wait three more years to get citizenship. Thus, thirteen years (!), and it would only start after the Secretary of Homeland Security had certified measures concerning the "security" of the southern border (the so-called border triggers).The Christian Science Monitor estimates that it would be almost 2030 before the main bloc of today's undocumented immigrants could start becoming citizens.
"Gang of eight" conservative Republican Marco Rubio praises this path to citizenship, saying that "the alternative we've created is going to be longer, more expensive and more difficult to navigate" than going back to one's home country and waiting ten years to apply for a U.S. visa.
So the immigration reform Obama pledges to "sign right away" turns out to be a reform most vile. This is because the Democrats, like the Republicans, are political tools of the biggest banks and corporations. And what about the AFL-CIO (which collaborated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help write the "guest worker" provisions of the bill) and the various immigrant rights groups who've for years preached reliance on the Democrats? Well, they're now hiding the rotten nature of the proposed reform. This is why the immigrant rights movement has to be built without and against both capitalist parties and their defenders.
Indeed, history is teaching that a progressive immigration reform is only going to be won through massive and militant struggles like those of the 1930s and 1960s and early 70s, a path the immigrant rights movement was starting to take in early 2006: huge demonstrations, the May Day "day without an immigrant" strike and boycott, etc. A first step in reviving the movement requires exposing and denouncing the rotten reform currently being debated in workplaces, schools, and on the streets. It requires organizing groups of workers and others to do this, as well as holding meetings and organizing actions. And it requires linking up with others in the country who are determined to do the same.
We should expect no quick victories, but our cause is just. The reform the capitalists want means continued super-exploitation and abuse, the platform of the workers is full rights for all our class brothers and sisters now!
Everyone out for May Day!
Seattle Communist Study Group
April 19, 2013
International Workers Day march and rally
Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm
611 20th Ave. S., Seattle (behind St. Mary's Church)
Sponosored by May 1st Action Coalition and El Comite
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