The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 81/No. 17      May 1, 2017

(front page)

Build May Day protests: ‘Stop deportations!
Amnesty now!’

“I urge working people to join me and turn out in force May 1. March, rally, take off work, protest Washington’s moves against undocumented workers,” Mary Martin, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Seattle mayor, said April 19.

“And join in demanding amnesty for all immigrant workers here,” Martin said. “That’s the road to unify the working class, to make us stronger to combat the growing attacks by the bosses and their government on workers and farmers today.”

In Seattle representatives from the M.L. King County Labor Council and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW have joined in planning and building the May Day march.

An increase in the arrests of undocumented workers in the first three months of this year, along with threats by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “aggressively” prosecute immigrants, are fueling May Day protests all across the country, already expected to be the biggest in years.

SEIU 32BJ, which organizes thousands of building porters, maintenance workers and cleaning staff in the Northeast, is promoting May Day actions across the region. Their slogan is “Here to Stay.”

“Attacks on workers have been going hand in hand with attacks on immigrants and immigrant workers,” 32BJ President Hector Figueroa told the Militant April 18. “Immigrants should be treated with dignity and respect.”

Teamsters Joint Council 16, which includes 27 union locals in the New York area, has featured on its web page the call to turn out at New York’s Foley Square at 5 p.m. May 1.

The New York Immigration Coalition, the immigrant-based community group Make the Road, and numerous area unions have been building the protest.

In Wisconsin, Voces de la Frontera is organizing a march from Madison to Milwaukee to join the May 1 Day Without Latinos, Immigrants and Refugees action there.

According to figures obtained by the Washington Post, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants from January through mid-March, reversing a two-year decline. Over 5,000 of the arrests — almost one-quarter — involved grabbing immigrants whose only offense is not having a valid visa.

The U.S. rulers have no intention of deporting most undocumented workers. Their policy, carried out by Democratic and Republican administrations alike, is to ensure a large layer of superexploited workers the bosses can use to try and push down the value of workers’ labor power, seeking to maximize their profits and to compete more successfully against their capitalist rivals.

Before 1996 workers deported as “voluntary departures” did not face criminal charges if they returned to U.S. soil.

Bill Clinton signed into law the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. This laid the basis for a shift to “forced removals,” which steeply increases the penalties for “illegal re-entry” into the United States. Four years later, during his last year in office, Clinton deported 1.8 million immigrants, more than any president in U.S. history.

Under the administrations of George W. Bush and Obama the shift to “forced removals” took off.

In 2006 a bill was submitted to Congress making it a felony for an undocumented worker just to be in the U.S. This was met by an outpouring of millions on May Day that defeated the bill.

In 2011, under Obama, for the first time the majority of deportations were labeled forced removals. By 2015 it was more than 70 percent.

Even more telling is the number of felony prosecutions on charges of illegal re-entry — on average more than 35,000 every year of the Obama administration.

By the time Obama left office more than 50 percent of all federal criminal convictions involved immigration-related offenses. As a result, one in four people in federal prison today is a previously deported undocumented worker.

Attorney General Sessions told Customs and Border Protection agents in Nogales, Arizona, April 11 the U.S. government will step up felony prosecutions for re-entry and, wherever possible, tack on charges of identity theft on any undocumented workers they pick up. This would add at least two years to their sentence.

“One of the key slogans on May Day will be ‘We are workers, not criminals,’” Mary Martin said. “Deportations aren’t popular among working people. These are our co-workers, neighbors and co-combatants, when we stand up against the attacks of the employers and their government, cops, courts and prisons. All out May 1!  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home