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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 74/No. 12      March 29, 2010


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(lead article)
Legalize immigrants!
Stop the deportations!
Militant/Laura Anderson
Students and workers march in Chicago March 10 to demand legalization for immigrants

U.S. gov’t targets

Seventeen immigrant workers were arrested by immigration cops March 9 at the Fremont Beef meatpacking plant in Nebraska and accused of “identity theft.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claimed this wasn’t a raid, just an “enforcement action.” The 17 workers were flagged during an immigration audit when their names were checked against a Federal Trade Commission database.

Workers and youth across the country have been standing up to increased government attempts to scapegoat immigrants. Some 500 people, including from high schools and at least six universities, marched in downtown Chicago March 10 chanting, “Undocumented and unafraid,” “Education, not deportation,” and “Legalization now!”

On March 13, 400 workers and students rallied in Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston, to support the call for the upcoming March 21 mobilizations for immigrant rights.

“I think we are part of a historic process and it will take more and more actions to win,” said University of Houston student Kody Allen.

During his campaign for president and after his election, Barack Obama promised to bring undocumented workers “out of the shadows.” While vowing to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers and tighten border “security,” Obama said he would back “immigration reform” to create a “pathway” to citizenship for immigrants already in the United States. This includes requiring immigrants to pay hefty fines, learn English, pass background checks, and “go to the back of the line” before becoming eligible for legal residency.

Since taking office, the Obama administration has stepped up actions leading to the firing, deportation, and prosecution of workers without papers.

In 2009, ICE deported 387,000 immigrant workers, the highest number in U.S. history. Federal prosecutions for immigration violations also jumped nearly 16 percent.

Over the last year, ICE has tripled the number of immigration audits, which lead to the firing of workers who can’t prove they have work documents. If ICE concludes a worker does not have required papers, the company can be fined up to $10,000 per undocumented worker.

These penalties were part of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, passed when Ronald Reagan was president. The law granted amnesty to some 3 million undocumented workers, but included new anti-immigrant measures.

The Obama administration has also stepped up attempts to criminalize immigrant workers. In December, ICE arrested 286 undocumented workers in California during what it called its “largest ever enforcement surge” targeting “criminal” immigrants.  
Border agents doubled
In August last year, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano boasted that she had doubled the number of ICE agents on the U.S.-Mexico border in the first six months of 2009 as part of a twin antidrug, anti-immigrant campaign.

In a signal of what the White House means by “reform,” Obama met with Democratic senator Charles Schumer and Republican senator Lindsey Graham March 11 to discuss what the U.S. president called “their promising framework” for immigration legislation. The two presented Obama with a three-page outline of their proposed reform. Last year Schumer said that the priority should be to make a “dramatic reduction in future illegal immigration.”

Graham is pushing to make it even harder for immigrants to cross the border from Mexico to the United States by expanding “virtual fencing.” Both Schumer and Graham want to mandate a “tamper-proof” ID card for all workers in the United States.

Another key section of the so-called reform is expansion of programs that allow immigrants to work temporarily in the United States. These “guest workers,” while technically holding work papers, have little more rights than undocumented workers. If fired or laid off, or if they quit or go on strike, their papers become invalid and they can be expelled from the country.

Illinois congressman Luis Gutiérrez has introduced a 645-page bill in the House of Representatives that is favored by some leaders of immigrant rights groups and union officials as a way to pressure Obama to modify his position. It also calls for tightening border security along with demeaning background checks and substantial fines before a foreign-born worker can apply for residency in the United States.

Jacquie Henderson in Houston and Laura Anderson in Chicago contributed to this article.

A fight for entire
working class

The stepped-up deportations and firings of undocumented workers are a key part of the capitalist rulers’ attempts to place the burdens of the grinding, drawn-out depression onto the backs of working people.

Millions have been laid off. Social services across the board, from mass transit to hospitals and schools, are being cut. Bosses are speeding up production lines to crank out more goods with fewer workers. This war at home is the other side of the wars being waged abroad, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

The capitalists have no intention of deporting most of the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States. They depend on this massive pool of superexploited immigrant labor to compete against their imperialist rivals around the world and against China.

Instead, the mass firings of undocumented workers, the increased scrutiny of work documents, the depicting of immigrants as criminals, and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border are aimed at heightening insecurity and fear among immigrants. The boss class wants to discourage their involvement in unionization efforts, as well as struggles against social injustice and other political fights. They want to drive a wedge between native- and foreign-born workers and between those with and without papers.

But immigrant workers and youth refuse to be victims. In 2006 millions took to the streets demanding legalization. “We are workers, not criminals!” they shouted.

Those actions marked the increased confidence, combativity, and politicization taking place in the working-class movement, which continues today. It is seen in the youth and workers who demonstrated March 10 in Chicago with signs that said, “Undocumented and unafraid.”

The anti-immigrant, anti-worker programs of the U.S. government are promoted by the Democratic and Republican parties alike. They make vague promises to workers who are foreign-born to “fix a broken system”; at the same time they appeal to U.S.-born workers to scapegoat immigrants for unemployment and deteriorating social conditions.

A central part of these immigration “reforms” is instituting a national “tamper-proof” ID card for all workers. This won’t be used just against immigrants. It will be used to blacklist any worker who stands up and says “enough!” The bosses are preparing for the broader working-class resistance they know is coming.

That is why there is only one immigration reform worth fighting for: full, immediate legalization for all, without restrictions, and an immediate end to deportations!

In the course of this fight and others to defend working-class interests, such as the fight for jobs, to protest police brutality, to defend women’s right to abortion, and to win unions, we will begin to act on the conviction that the revolutionary conquest of state power by a class-conscious and organized vanguard of the working class—millions strong—is necessary and possible in order to eliminate capitalism and build a world based on human solidarity, not profit.

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