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Vol. 76/No. 16      April 23, 2012

Gov’t rounds up 3,100
immigrants nationwide
Scapegoated as ‘criminals’ in anti-worker sweep
As part of Washington’s relentless assault on immigrant workers and campaign to paint them criminals, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced April 2 that it had arrested more than 3,100 immigrants in an operation carried out in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories.

ICE Director John Norton said this “Cross Check” sweep targeted “the arrest and removal of convicted criminal aliens and those that game our nation’s immigration system.”

This is the government’s third “Cross Check,” conducted under the rubric of targeting so-called criminal elements. All have taken place under the Barack Obama administration. The relatively new scheme dovetails with the capitalist rulers’ stepped-up criminalization of the working class. It’s part of a broader campaign by the capitalist rulers to scapegoat and intimidate those who are foreign-born through maintaining their second-class status and dealing blows to working-class solidarity.

According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release, the six-day operation involved 1,900 ICE agents as well as agents from other Homeland Security departments and local cops.

At least 204 of those arrested are now being prosecuted for felony “illegal re-entry after deportation,” which carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The press release boasts that 1,477 had felony convictions. More than half of those picked up have been convicted of no more than misdemeanors. And some have not been convicted of anything.

The numbers of undocumented workers entering the U.S. are way down due to a combination of fewer job opportunities and stricter border controls. Some 1.1 million workers without papers were detained trying to cross the border in 2005, but only 340,000 in 2011.

The Border Patrol now has a record 21,000 agents, mostly at the Mexican border, and uses remote video surveillance and seven unmanned spy drones to find those attempting to cross without papers.

Meanwhile, in early April Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley backed a proposal to revise the states’ new anti-immigrant law, which builds on existing federal laws. The Alabama law has been met by protests, including a one-day strike Oct. 12 in poultry plants and other factories, and legal challenges.

The U.S. District Court has granted injunctions on parts of the legislation, including provisions requiring school administrators to determine the legal status of students and their parents.

The proposed revisions are designed to help the law make it through the legal challenges. At the same time, it makes some of the provisions even stricter, including encouraging cops to check the immigration status of everyone in a vehicle once they issue a citation to the driver.

The week before the revisions were introduced into the legislature, the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations announced that the state’s official unemployment rate had dropped from 7.8 percent in January to 7.6 percent in February. A year ago it was at 9.3 percent. Similar declines in the official rate were reported in 28 other states.

Trying to convince working people to support the anti-immigrant and anti-worker measures, one of the law’s sponsors, state Rep. Micky Hammon, claimed in November that the falling jobless rate was “thanks in part to our decision to crack down on illegal immigration.”

Other reports said the drop was due largely to official statistics not counting those unemployed who had recently stopped looking for work.

For workers resisting the bosses’ assaults on our wages and working conditions, it doesn’t matter if the claims are true or not. The propertied rulers promote and use job competition among working people to keep us divided and less able to resist these assaults. They use high unemployment and unequal levels in the value of labor power worldwide as levers in this drive. Class-conscious workers know that the only way to combat this is through working-class solidarity. Workers need to join a common fight against the bosses, without regard to nationality or national borders.

In recent years, supporters of immigrant rights have taken to the streets on May 1, the international workers’ holiday, to advance this perspective.  
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