By La Voz/ Workers’ Voice
The Trump government announced on Tuesday it is implementing one of its most horrible threats made during the presidential campaign: to end DACA. The blunt announcement of this frontal attack against 800,000 immigrant youth, a big number of which are put at risk of deportation, has expectedly sparked many spontaneous protests of thousands in New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Milwaukee and many other cities and towns.
Workers’ Voice stands in full solidarity with all DACA recipients and their families (who are predominantly of Mexican origin, but also from Central America, and Asia) and with all the undocumented persons living and working in the United States not covered by DACA. We will be part of the active resistance and independent mobilizations to stop and defeat these attacks, for we believe in working class solidarity at home and abroad and in full political rights for all workers regardless of nationality. As our movement chants, “We did not cross the borders, the borders crossed us!”
The borders and walls Trump wants to erect to divide and repress our class and communities are the walls of free trade and free circulation for capital and investments, the borders of White supremacy and nationalism and the borders of gender and racial oppression. Trump only seeks to further criminalize immigrant workers and increase terror in our communities, and on top of DACA, ICE and other law enforcement agencies have announced unprecedented massive raids.
On Which Grounds Should We Defend the DACA Program?
DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived to the country as children. The Program was implemented by Obama through an executive order in 2012 without going through Congress because of the lack of political unity of the Democratic Party to get behind it. Thus, after the repeated failures of the Obama administration to pass any version of the DREAM Act, which was a slightly broader but very controversial immigration reform, the President signed this executive order. By 2017, 800,000 youth, also known as Dreamers, were enrolled in the program.
The bogus argument given by the Trump administration to unilaterally end DACA is that it is an “illegal” program Obama made into law without going through proper parliamentary procedure and that what they actually want is to pass in Congress an “overall immigration reform.” Basically, DACA is suspended and, according to Trump, “Congress has now 6 months to legalize [it].” We know this argument is a total lie. Trump wants to end DACA to further terrorize the immigrant community, which has been emboldened by important labor struggles, like the fight for a $15 minimum wage. He wants to keep cheap labor under constant terror and fear. And furthermore he wishes to regain popularity as a strong president, after his multiple failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and reinforce his racist and pro-white supremacy profile to appeal to his dwindling electoral base.
Yet it is important to understand that the DACA program, like the 2009 DREAM Act bills, were manoeuvres by the Democratic Party to divide a powerful and fierceful immigrant workers movement that showed its muscle in the massive demonstrations of millions and partial strikes in 2006 in California. The Democrats’ goal was to separate the few “model” and “deserving” immigrants from the vast majority of the immigrant communities, by offering them a highly vetted path to health care and work-permits to the former and criminalizing the latter. For that end, Obama, as we have explained in previous articles, increased the militarization of the border, the number of deportations, and established the E-Verify program.
For these reasons it is very important to combine the defense of DACA with the demand for an immediate and unconditional amnesty for all immigrants, and for full and equal political and civil rights for all workers regardless of nationality and legal status. Moreover, we demand an end to any mass deportation plan like the ones that were denounced by the Detention Watch Network, the National Immigration Law Center, United We Dream, and the Women’s Refugee Commission.
The CEOs of the major Silicon Valley companies are arguing in a letter signed by more than 400 “business leaders” (including Wells, Fargo, Amazon, Apple, Google etc) in favor of keeping DACA because “Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs,” for they contribute to these companies by having “a global competitive advantage.” Many of the Democratic Party politicians are using the same arguments to defend DACA. For example, the Center for American Progress, a liberal and DP think tank on economic policy, issued a report calculating the “economic impact” of the loss of DACA: “the loss of all DACA workers would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by $433 billion over the next 10 years.” Many liberal politicians, as Democratic Senate leader showed, support what they label as “talented” and “deserving” immigrants with a moralistic discourse of “hard work”: “These hardworking #DREAMers & their contributions are vital to our economy & biz who will be hurt if this order stands..”
While we do not dispute the numbers and figures, we disagree with their interpretation and the logic of this argument. We argue for Dreamers and all immigrants to be allowed to stay and have full equal rights in the US because, like the rest of workers, we together produce all of the wealth generated in this country. The minimum would be that, given that immigrant workers are “increasing the GDP” (which means increasing the billions of profits of these multinational corporations), they are allowed to do so legally and with equal rights.
Needless to say, that if both the apparently pro-immigrant sector of corporate America and the Democratic Party were coherent with their analysis, they would argue not only to keep the protections for DACA workers, but for full and equal civil rights for all immigrants in the United States. There are in our country a total of 11 million undocumented workers (not only 800,000) who are producing also tremendous amounts of wealth that does not get redistributed according to our needs, but appropriated by a tiny minority, the so-called 1%, or the capitalist class.
For us, as workers and community members, we need to make very clear that we believe that every worker living and working in the U.S. deserves equal political rights, including citizenship if they desire so, precisely because they are the ones that make, build, serve, teach, clean, etc. this country. We need to reject the paternalistic conditioning to our rights to being perceived “talented”, “hard working” or “deserving” in the eyes of those who exploit our labor and oppress our communities. And second, that we would like, as workers, to take back the wealth we produce, so we can have free quality health-care, education, cultural activities and better working conditions. We will defend DACA too, but with a different political framework and end goal than the CEOs.
NAFTA, Neoliberalism and the Causes of Immigration
Even though DACA recipients come from many parts of the world (Guatemala, Korea, El Salvador, and the Philippines are some of the nationalities with more DACA-Elegible population), we are aware that population of Mexican origin is the largest and most affected with these policies. A close analysis to their situation sheds light on the extreme racist and market-fundamentalist character of both U.S administrations’ approach to the immigrant question and of Trump’s decision. The Mexican families’ migration is deeply connected to the precarious conditions of their country of origin and have to do with the inequalities prompted by U.S. economic policies throughout the continent. The migration of Mexico’s workforce to U.S. has been a common trait of the binational relation, rather than an abnormality as Trump and his white nationalist advisors state. However, it was during the 1990s that Mexican migration to the U.S. significatively increased due to the neoliberal policies which the U.S. government demanded from Mexico, leading to the collapsing of the Mexican economy. In 1994, these policies came to a determinant point when the governments of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico agreed to transform their territories into a free trade space through the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, and signed by the Democratic president Bill Clinton. This economic deal constituted a vast region lacking regulations for capitalist corporations, but with increased barriers for working people.
Before NAFTA, the Mexican government subsidized corn and other crops which were the core of small farmers’ economic livelihoods. NAFTA forced the Mexican government to end these programs for agriculture, which, ultimately, destroyed small farmers’ living conditions. During the 1990s, an estimated 2 million Mexicans abandoned their homes located in rural areas and went to big cities. However, urban areas did not offer better conditions than the countryside. NAFTA also caused the decline of the Mexican manufacturing sector, which experienced the loss of 1.5 million jobs. NAFTA, and the Mexican government’s negligence to protect their citizens from these unfair economic conditions, are responsible for the disappearance of well paid jobs in Mexico and the complete collapse of the Mexican peasant economy. As a result, during the 1990s, Mexico to U.S. migration skyrocketed. Of all Mexican migration to the U.S., an estimated 40% took place during the decade after NAFTA creation. Impoverished Mexicans, who migrated because that was their only opportunity to escape from precarity and violence, were captured by neoliberal-style companies, especially along the Mexican border, and farming industries eager for very low-cost labor. In the U.S., NAFTA also had disastrous consequences for the working class: almost 850,000 manufacturing jobs were lost when corporations moved their manufacturing centers to Mexico. Furthermore, the awful conditions NAFTA created for workers in both Mexico and the U.S. were used by subsequent U.S. governments (Democrats and Republicans) as models for new free trade agreements. That is to say, the transformation of the global economy into a realm for capitalists’ advance at the expense of workers. As our Mexican comrades have argued, NAFTA have “only brought 26 years of growing misery for workers and the looting of Mexico.”
Even though, one of Trump’s central campaign points was a strong criticism of free trade agreements as the cause of jobs depletion for the American working class, he isn’t planning to end the agreement, but rather to renegotiate it. However, this renegotiation, which has already started, is far from improving working conditions for both Mexican and U.S. workers. Instead of establishing regulations for multinationals as he promised before his election, Trump and his team of economic advisors are attempting to “update NAFTA rules to facilitate digital trade in goods and services.” Instead of forcing corporations to keep jobs within the U.S., these changes will facilitate the outsourcing of labor to Mexico. Workers in both countries will face a new attacks to their working conditions and that is why a stronger and unified mobilization is necessary. Trump and his advisors are aware of that, so they found in the racist rhetoric of White Nationalism a way to divide the working class injured by NAFTA. For all the reasons above, we need to unite workers in the U.S. and Mexico to impose an immediate end to NAFTA.
Enacting Solidarity: Uniting Workers to Defend All Immigrants
For all the reasons mentioned above we need to unite workers to defend all immigrants under attack. This means of course to defend DACA and to stop the raids immediately, but also to argue for the rights of all immigrants. It’s also crucial to explain the true causes of immigration: neo-liberal programs and the role of undocumented labor in the U.S. to increase exploitation, lower wages and divide working people. We need to build opposition to these programs by uniting the working class of both Mexico and the U.S.
The successive U.S. governments have been using competition, racism, nationalism and repression to divide us. First, to put American workers in competition with Mexican workers across the border in order to outsource jobs and lower wages and working conditions. Then, by eroding the Mexican economy and forcing migration, fueling racism and white supremacy to put immigrant workers in the U.S. in competition with U.S. native-born workers, and having one sector of the class turn against those who come to “steal their jobs.” This competition and race to the bottom however, is also the logic used to divide the immigrant community living in the U.S. between those living and working here legally and illegally, and since 2010, between the undocumented immigrants who are deserving and those who should be brutally deported.
This logic of competition and rising nationalism is only hurting all workers, and the role of labor unions is to educate the working class and build active solidarity. Education means showing the underlying economic logic of these divisions and hierarchies, the role of NAFTA in forcing migration, and point out who really benefits from these racist and neoliberal policies: the multi-millionaire U.S. corporations. Active solidarity means to go beyond statements and organize labor actions against any attack to immigrant workers, who are a growing and key sector of the working class and the labor movement in the U.S. We need to build a labor movement that organizes active solidarity and puts forward a perspective that unites our class and combats racist behaviors and ideologies.
Defend and Expand DACA!
Stop the Raids!
Amnesty and Papers for All!
End NAFTA now!
Defend and Expand DACA!
Stop the Raids!
Amnesty and Papers for All!
End NAFTA now!