The immigration crisis in the United States has two essential forces at play. One is the struggle of immigrant workers to find a better life, away from the horrors created by U.S. imperialism in their home countries. The other deals with the forces of capitalist class rule within the United States, who act to divide workers by means of racist myths, while super-exploiting vulnerable immigrant workers and controlling their movements.
are people coming to the United States? Why do they enter illegally?
The reality is human: immigrant workers and families want to escape
the danger of gangs, war, poverty, or domestic abuse. The immigrants,
many of them women, want to find a home that is stable enough so they
can get a job, put food on their children’s plates, and send them
to school. This is the motivation of the vast majority of all who
enter the country at the southern border, legally or illegally.
immigrants who go through legal means to enter the country are
simply rejected, told that “America is full,” and instructed to
return to the horrors they are running from. These cast-off people
choose to face the dangerous trek through the desert; exploitation,
robbery, and brutality by criminal elements; and a dehumanizing
round-up by U.S. border agents because they believe it still gives
them a slim hope of obtaining better lives for their families.
de la Cruz, from Guatemala, was arrested when she and her
four-year-old son crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without having legal
documents for herself. She had tried three times to file for asylum
without success. In mid-July she was reunited with her son, after
border officials had separated them for six weeks. She told a
reporter from al-Jazeera that when agents arrested her at
an airport: “My son stayed there sitting, and I said, ‘I’ll be
back.’ He started to scream, calling ‘Mommy, Mommy!’ But I
couldn’t go back.”
son was sent to a government facility in Texas and then to a
privately run one in Oklahoma, the type of incarceration that
thousands of immigrant children have been subjected to. Yolanda did
not speak with her son for 30 days. “He is traumatized by what
happened,” his mother said. “He has nightmares, wets the bed, and
he tells me, ‘please, don’t send me back to that place.”
beings don’t bring their children to another country with the
purpose of disrupting civil society or committing wanton violence.
That is a racist myth, one that justifies ICE’s existence and
guides every action they take. Indeed, that myth has underpinned the
policy decisions, of not just Trump but of all past administrations,
Republican or Democratic.
this absurdity is what you would have to believe to support the
actions of ICE. Many U.S. citizens understand this; tens of thousands
took part in demonstrations in over 700 U.S. cities on July 30 to
demand “Don’t break up families” and “Abolish Ice.” More
recently, immigration activists have built Occupy encampments nears
the offices of ICE in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, New
York, and other major U.S. cities. Workers at Microsoft and Amazon
have attempted to stop their technologies from being used to abuse
and control immigrant workers.
try to understand why immigrant workers are trying to find a new
home, it is useful to look more closely at Guatemala. A 1944
revolution saw the establishment of a reformist democratic
government. After the country’s land-reform program was seen by the
United Fruit Company to threaten its interests, the CIA instigated a
coup in 1954. Hundreds of peasant leaders were rounded up and
under Reagan’s watch, the genocidal Rios Montt presidency was fully
supported under the guise of anticommunism. Hundreds of thousands
were slaughtered with full U.S. support. The kind of barbarity
suffered in Guatemala at the hands of U.S. imperialism was repeated
in El Salvador and Nicaragua, where the U.S. supported
counterrevolutionary death squads.
should not forget the 2009 military coup in Honduras, an operation
Hillary Clinton has admitted to being involved with. Following the
coup, the murder rate in Honduras skyrocketed—increasing by 50%
from 2008 to 2011. Peasant organizers, LGBT activists, and opposition
political candidates have been killed. Drug-related violence and
governmental corruption have both mushroomed. Unemployment affects 44
percent of the working population.
struggles that workers face in traveling to the U.S. border cannot be
adequately understood without reference to the crushing of democracy
and job opportunities in these countries. The “problem” of
immigration must be placed squarely at the door of the U.S.
government and the capitalist owners of industry.
of immigrants in the U.S. economy
is plenty of work that must be done in the United States to
improve the lives of its inhabitants. Public works are a constant
need, and virtually every industry could use a reduction of working
hours. Food and shelter are not in short supply, though often
unaffordable. The U.S. alone grows enough grain, in caloric amounts,
to end world hunger. There are more empty apartments in major cities
than homeless people. In a rational society, willing laborers would
be welcomed to the country.
the capitalist does not want you to be rational. They want you to be
racist. Racism is used primarily to divide the working class into
easy-to-chew bits. If immigrant workers can be made afraid, then they
won’t report abuse, they will take lower wages, they will eschew
benefits, accept worse housing and health care, if only to avoid
is all very profitable. After all, workers are only exchangeable cogs
in the bosses’ eyes. Why not hire the cheaper form of labor—those
who are most vulnerable? And likewise, migrant labor is much easier
to maintain if the rest of the workers are too scared of foreigners
to see that the real enemy is at home, sitting on top of them—the
capitalists who profit from their labor.
barbarisms of the Trump administration are only the manifestation
of a longstanding policy that criminalizes immigration and
scapegoats immigrants as the source of our economic and social
problems—rather than the capitalist exploiters.
Obama administration saw the largest number of deportations to date,
and both the Obama and Bush administrations laid the legal groundwork
that made the Trump barbarisms possible.
the Trump and Obama administrations differed at all on this issue, it
was simply in regard to the degree of cruelty with which
immigrant workers could be treated—not on whether they warranted
being treated like human beings in the first place.
Obama and Trump are dedicated to the capitalist system of
exploitation for private profit, which necessitates tight control of
the labor force within a country. The question of the “legality”
of an immigrant worker is one that only capitalism asks.
call to abolish ICE is certainly timely. A Pew poll in mid-July
showed that a slightly larger grouping of Americans view ICE
unfavorably (47%) than those who view it favorably (44%). Even many
liberal Democratic Party politicians have gotten on the anti-ICE
bandwagon, in an attempt to increase their support from among the
progressive-minded electorate. New York gubernatorial candidate
Cynthia Nixon referred to ICE as a “terrorist organization!” In
July, three House Democrats even put a bill on the agenda of Congress
to do away with ICE within one year, but more senior Democrats later
indicated that they would vote against the bill.
Democratic Party star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), made the slogan “abolish
ICE” one of the cornerstones of her successful primary election bid
for U.S. Senator in June. More recently, however, Ocasio Cortez has
hedged on her statements, saying that she wants to see ICE replaced
with an “updated INS-like structure,” referring to the earlier
Immigration and Naturalization Service.
immigration activists and socialists point out that it is worthless
to call for the abolition of ICE, while accepting an agency that
restricts immigration with only slightly less cruelty. Detentions of
immigrants were already high in the decade before the
national security crackdown that followed the 9/11 tragedy (ICE was
created in 2002). In the earlier decade, over 1,200,000 immigrants
faced proceedings in U.S. federal courts, slightly less than
two-thirds of the number after 9/11.
today, the arrests and repression on the border are handled by
several agencies—not just by ICE. We have to demand that ICE and
the entire police and prison apparatus that is used to
persecute immigrants be dismantled.
jobs and education to all the refugees would be too expensive” is
often bleated out by people in government who are more than willing
to vote for yet more billions into the capitalist war machine. This
is to say nothing about the stockpiles of tools, equipment, and food
that are simply sitting in warehouses waiting to be sold for a
profit! It is not a matter of funds but political will. If the
workers decided to remake society, to create a new system in which
fulfilling human needs came first, it would be hard to stop them.
these demands, these calls for basic humanity, be achievable today?
Revolutionary socialists do not put off socialism and workers’
control of the economy to some far-away utopian date. It is
achievable now. Dignity, safety, and democracy for all
workers—including immigrants—is possible today. In the process of
organizing against racist deportation and the vile immigration
system, working people will hopefully see that they have the power to
tear down the entire rotten edifice of capitalist society.
fundamental solution is with the working class, and it requires
action and solidarity throughout the world. The spread of
capitalism over the 20th century resulted in the worldwide
penetration of industry and the exploitation of workers for the
capitalist market. Because of this, the working class in this country
has a stake in the survival and well being of the global working
of the workers and their allies against the exploiters is key, and
this path has been bravely blazed by many, from those in the Occupy
encampments against ICE to outright refusals at the workplace or in
our communities to cooperate with them. This resistance must become
universal and ongoing if the workers are to win. Abolish ICE! Welcome
all war refugees! End solitary confinement and family separation!
Money for jobs and education!
>> The article above was written by Andy Barns, and is reprinted from Socialist Action newspaper.