“Mayor Eric Garcetti says that immigrants play an important role in the economy here and brags about L.A. being a ‘sanctuary city.’ But sanctuary without rights doesn’t cut it. Amnesty means that immigrants can join without fear with workers born here to struggle to defend our jobs, our working conditions and our rights.
“Tomorrow is a ‘national day without immigrants’ and I urge everyone to join me at the protest,” he said.
“Working people in Los Angeles and beyond are facing economic carnage in our lives,” Richter said.
“In face of these economic hardships we need to build a movement of the working class to fight for what we need,” he said. “I participated in the protests at the airport against Trump’s anti-Muslim executive order, and at a rally in Van Nuys against the arrest by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] of hundreds of workers without papers. The protests had an impact on the judges, who suspended Trump’s executive order.
“We need to understand that the root of all these problems we are facing is the crisis-ridden capitalist system,” he said.
Richter was asked what he would do about the city’s housing crisis.
“The majority of people need low-income housing. The working class is being forced out of their neighborhoods because here and across the U.S. rents have more than doubled since 2000. Most of the jobs created since 2008 have been part-time, temporary or minimum-wage jobs,” he said. “There has been no recovery for the working class. We need a massive government-funded public works program to put everyone back to work at union-scale wages, building housing, infrastructure, hospitals, schools — all the basic things working people need.”
A worker in the city’s film industry asked Richter if amnesty wouldn’t cause more unemployment.
“Bringing into the labor movement the millions of workers who are superexploited because they don’t have papers acceptable to the government would immediately strengthen the fight of all working people — for jobs, higher wages and safer conditions on the job. This is a life and death question for our unions,” Richter said.
Richter also spoke at a Northridge Community Council meeting held the same day. He was asked what the Socialist Workers Party had to say about shootings and other worker-on-worker crimes.
“Hiring more cops is not the way to fight crime. The cops exist to protect the private property of the employing class and to keep working people ‘in their place,’” he said. “We have to tackle anti-working-class violence in our neighborhoods by rooting out the source of it — capitalism.”
“Under the depression conditions the working class faces today, some families don’t have the resources to raise and care for their children. The schools have little to offer. So some of our youth get raised in the streets or in the gangs and they’re shaped by the dog-eat-dog mentality at the heart of social relations under capitalism,” Richter said. “When young people and others get involved in the struggle to change society, crime goes way down. This was true during the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the fight for industrial unions in the 1930s. That’s where people learn their humanity and life gets a purpose.”
Richter joined a rally of several hundred Feb. 19 against new federal executive orders targeting immigrants from majority-Muslim countries. It was held at the Islamic Center of Southern California. The action drew Christians, Jews, Muslims and others.
“We need to talk to one another. I can’t believe we hate each other. I can’t believe that half the country that supported Trump hates us,” Hedab Tarifi, chairwoman of the center’s board of directors, told the crowd. “We need to talk to those who voted for the president.”
“What you spoke about is important,” Richter told Tarifi following the rally. “Millions of working people who voted for Trump and millions of others who did not vote are not enemies of Muslims, they’re looking for ways to change the economic catastrophe working people face. Trump says he’s for the working people, but he demagogically tries to turn us against each other. We have to reject anti-Muslim prejudice, Jew-hatred and attacks on immigrants, and fight together for our common interests.”
SWP candidates and members joined tens of thousands across the country who took to the street to protest Washington’s new anti-working-class moves against people without papers. They demanded, Amnesty! Stop the raids! No immigration “tests” based on religion, nationality or political views!
Omari Musa, a leader of the SWP from Washington, D.C., was invited to speak when some 500 people rallied and marched Feb. 16 in the “Day Without Immigrants” in Highlandtown, a working-class neighborhood in southeast Baltimore.
“We need to unite and fight our common enemy. We need to fight and build unions to fight the bosses on the job,” he told the youthful crowd in Spanish. “Our enemy is the capitalist system. Let’s demand amnesty for immigrants to unite us in battle.”
“Sí se puede,” The crowd chanted back.
Socialist campaigners going door to door in the town of Lake Worth, an hour north of Miami, met a number of Guatemalans who work on area farms, in nurseries and in construction.
“We talked to a number of construction workers,” Cindy Jaquith, SWP candidate for mayor of Miami, told the Militant. “A couple of them told us how they took the lead in organizing workers at the dry wall company where they work to stay home on the Day Without Immigrants. They met with the boss who said he accepted what they were doing. They also kept their kids out of school that day.”
In Seattle, Sandi Kamuf stopped by a busy street-corner campaign table where SWP mayoral candidate Mary Martin was introducing the party to fellow workers Feb. 16. Signs on the table read: “Mary Martin for mayor,” “Amnesty now,” and “Stop the raids.”
“My husband and I lost our home through foreclosure,” Kamuf said. “I never thought at this point in our lives we’d have to be fighting and going to meetings. I’d like to come to your Militant Labor Forum Saturday night. I like your campaign ideas.”
Kamuf picked up a subscription to the Militant and six Pathfinder books the party distributes on the SWP’s revolutionary program and the lessons of working-class struggles from the history of the labor movement to the example of the Cuban Revolution.
Arlene Rubinstein in Baltimore and Edwin Fruit in Seattle contributed to this article.
Socialist Workers Party says ‘Fight for Amnesty! No raids!’
Hundreds of thousands join ‘Day Without Immigrants’
Wash. rally: Defend rights of workers, immigrants
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