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Vol. 81/No. 9      March 6, 2017

(lead article)

Socialist Workers Party says
‘Fight for Amnesty! No raids!’

Hundreds of thousands join ‘Day Without Immigrants’

Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP
March in Austin, Texas, Feb. 16 against immigration raids, one of many protests nationwide.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants skipped work, kept their children out of school and were joined by other workers in “Day Without Immigrants” demonstrations Feb. 16 to protest the first raids carried out since Donald Trump became president.

More actions have been scheduled around the country since the Department of Homeland Security issued new guidelines to target a broader range of immigrants and step-up deportations of undocumented workers.

Two memorandums from DHS Secretary John Kelly were issued Feb. 20 to implement Trump’s Jan. 25 executive orders on immigration. Despite White House claims that the orders defend “national security and public safety,” their real aim is to divide the working class, intimidate workers without papers and drive down wages to boost capitalist profits.

The first round of raids Feb. 6 to 10 led to the detention of some 680 workers without papers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement cops targeted individuals — alleged to have violated various laws — at home, on the street or by having them called into the office at work, where agents grabbed them.

Word about the “Day Without Immigrants” spread like wildfire at restaurants, construction sites, packinghouses and other work places where immigrant workers labor and live coast to coast.

One flyer promoting the protests appealed to “the undocumented, residents, citizens, immigrants from all over the world,” adding that “without us and without our contribution this country would be paralyzed.”

In Washington, D.C., more than 70 restaurants closed for the day. Many of the chefs and owners, who are dependent on immigrant labor, OK’d workers taking off, saying they support the fight for amnesty. Even the cafe inside the Capitol that serves the U.S. Senate shut down, as did seven restaurants at the Pentagon.

Chanting “respect, respect” and carrying signs that said, “I am not a criminal” and “No more abuses,” more than 50 workers started demonstrating outside New York’s Hunts Point produce market in the Bronx — the largest in the world — well before sunrise to convince fellow workers to join the strike.

Nearly 200 people marched though Grand Island, Nebraska, home to a JBS USA slaughterhouse and beef distribution center that employs 3,200 people.“We just want to be treated the same — nobody better than anybody else,” marcher Ramiro Gomez told the Grand Island Independent.

“I’m here to see the movement. We’ll see what we can accomplish,” said restaurant cook Efren Rivera, 60, at a march of thousands in Chicago. March organizers announced that workers will go on strike again on May 1, International Workers Day.

About 1,000 marched in St. Paul, Minnesota, including Latinos; Somalis; Native Americans; construction, warehouse, hotel and restaurant workers; unionists; and representatives of Black Lives Matter.

More than 1,000 people joined a demonstration that evening in New York, to protest the detention of Daniel Ramirez in Seattle, one of those picked up during raids there. Ramirez had qualified under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The government claims he is a gang member.

The round of attacks on workers without papers comes on the back of grinding depression conditions facing working people. “The last eight years have not been good for us,” Oscar González, said at the New York action. It’s not just the attacks on immigrants, he said, “but the unions have been pushed back.”

Door opened for more deportations

Under Obama administration directives, ICE prioritized immigrants convicted of felonies or “significant” misdemeanors. But those raids, many much larger than the ones ordered by Trump so far, also swept up “low-priority immigrants” who happened to be present at the time.

The Feb. 20 memorandums say that in addition to “criminals” ICE will go after any immigrant who engaged in “willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter” — such as working under another name — or “abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.” The memos also instruct ICE to keep more immigrants who are appealing deportation orders in prison, instead of allowing them to live at home until a judge hears their case.

The memo maintains Obama’s policy of not deporting “dreamers” nor the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Senior Homeland Security officials told the press there are no plans for “mass roundups, mass deportations.”

Trump said Feb. 16 that plans he announced Jan. 27 to bar immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries will be replaced by new, more specific strictures soon. The original was stayed by the courts.

In a second memo, Kelly ordered that plans be prepared to meet Trump’s call for a wall across the border with Mexico. Some 700 miles of wall already exist, covering the most accessible areas, much of it built under Obama.

To carry out all the measures, Kelly says ICE will hire 10,000 more agents and 5,000 more border cops.

Helen Meyers in Twin Cities, Minnesota, contributed to this article.
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Wash. rally: Defend rights of workers, immigrants
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