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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people                              
Vol. 81/No. 6      February 13, 2017



Available Online
(lead article)

Gov’t orders target refugees, immigrants, workers’ unity

Workers debate how to defend immigrants, jobs

Militant/Betsey Stone
Jan. 29 San Francisco airport protest, one of dozens nationwide demanding government release immigrants barred entry after Washington begins enforcement of anti-working-class executive orders issued by President Donald Trump, building on two decades of government attacks.
Thousands of people across the country took to the streets to protest a series of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump attacking immigrants and refugees in the name of “national security” in times of war. The orders lay preparations for expanding deportations of workers without papers.

They build on anti-working-class measures taken over the last 20 years by Democratic and Republican administrations alike that have broadened the powers of the immigration police; built fencing along the Mexican border; stepped up deportations of immigrant workers accused of being “criminals”; expanded “E-Verify” document checks that keep workers without papers in a second-class, superexploited status; and targeted refugees in countries in the Mideast and North Africa where Washington’s wars, military actions and threats have led to deepening crises.

The White House decrees include an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria; a four-month ban on refugees worldwide; and a three-month ban on travel to the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen while the administration prepares a regime of “extreme vetting.”

Travelers from those seven countries were already subject to intensive “vetting” under the Barack Obama administration’s “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.”

Demonstration organizers see the actions as part of a broader war against the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, falsely portrayed by many as fascist. Many of the signs and chants at the protests targeted the Trump administration as “illegitimate” and portrayed the president and those who voted for him as “deplorables” and racist bigots — often in very crude terms.

Like at the large bourgeois feminist marches Jan. 21, these protests were shaped by liberals and middle-class leftists who are campaigning to capture the Democratic Party and take back Congress in 2018.

Many workers around the country told interviewers they were put off by the inhumane way the orders were implemented, but remained concerned about competition for jobs in times of economic crisis for working people and fearful of the possibility of terror attacks.

“The bipartisan propaganda by the propertied rulers blaming undocumented workers for joblessness and Muslims for terrorism affects this debate,” Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor in New York, told the Militant. “As our party goes door to door talking to workers we find an open hearing to our proposals to unite the working class in struggle for jobs, for an end to the criminalization of immigrants and for an end to imperialism’s wars.”

Rulers label immigrants as criminals

One executive order issued by Trump on Jan. 25, titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” states that it is government policy to extend the wall on the Mexican border, speed up deportations, expand immigration detention facilities and add 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

The order traces its continuity to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, signed by then President Bill Clinton. The average daily population of men, women and children held in immigration detention centers soared from 8,000 before the law to 34,000 in 2014.

The other Jan. 25 executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” includes a threat to cut federal funds to any self-proclaimed “sanctuary jurisdictions,” which have been set up mostly by Democrats in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Put forward as humanitarian moves, these “sanctuary” arrangements do nothing to address the illegal status that keeps undocumented immigrants in fear as a low-wage and unorganized labor force.

On Jan. 27, Trump signed another order dubbed, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” aimed at restricting entry of refugees and targeting Muslims.

Washington implemented the policy immediately, and dozens of travelers with visas to enter the U.S., including some with permanent residence status, were detained at airports across the country.

Thousands of protesters gathered at New York’s Kennedy and other airports across the country Jan. 28, demanding release of the detainees. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which has 19,000 members, held a one-hour strike halting rides from Kennedy and joined the demonstration. “As an organization whose membership is largely Muslim, a workforce that’s almost universally immigrant,” the alliance said, “we say no to this inhumane and unconstitutional ban.”

Several federal judges issued injunctions blocking deportations of detained travelers. The White House said Jan. 29 that the ban would not apply to green-card holders, reversing its earlier position.

Washington’s existing policies already prevent the vast majority of those seeking refuge from entering the U.S. Only those approved by a United Nations refugee agency — less than 1 percent of those fleeing violence or persecution worldwide — can even apply to settle here. Applicants are then screened by at least four different U.S. government entities, a process that takes years. Washington allows entry for fewer refugees per capita than almost any other imperialist country.
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