May 1st – La Voz de los Trabajadores Declaration:
The Economic Crisis and the Increasing Attacks on Immigrants Workers by the Obama Administration
From “Immigration Reform” to Deportation: The Obama Administration Points at Immigrants for Scapegoats
While everybody is talking about the “Immigration Reform” promised long time ago and never delivered, we need to analyze the framework in which the debate happens. Immigrant workers are barely surviving unemployment, poverty and repression. All this is happening while the U.S. Congressmen are staging long debates. We should ask ourselves then, what kind of “reform” this government deliver?
The Obama government and the American ruling class are using the immigrants as the scapegoats of the crisis. Believe it or not, Obama’s administration is beating Bush’s number of deportations and prosecutions. The so-called government of “Change” has chosen to increase the repression and criminalization of the Latino and immigrant population to supposedly combat the rising unemployment. Consequently, the number of deportations is rapidly increasing under Obama: in 2010, 393,000 people were deported, which cost the government $5billion, which is 100,000 more than under all of the Bush administration’s 8 years. These raids are enforced more and more at the workplace and through the “Secure Communities”. This is a program that the Federal government is imposing in many states and wants to extend nationwide by 2013 through the Department of Homeland Security.
Furthermore, Obama has increased the criminalization of the immigrants. Since 2007, the number of felony prosecutions targeting immigrants along the border has increased by 77%, and 259% for the non-felony prosecutions.
But these attacks are not all; the current administration is continuing and expanding the militarization of the US-Mexico border. With the traditional excuse of earning “Republican support” Obama increased the ICE staff by 22% since 2008 and the Customs and Border Protection staff by 21%, while slashing public services and education for the “citizens”.
Republicans and Democrats launch a new wave of Anti-Immigrant Racist Attacks at the State Level
Whereas the Federal government is in charge of pushing the racist program of increased repression and deportations in the last two years, the State administrations seem to be in charge of fueling the public debate with the most disgusting racist ideology and oppression. SB1070 in Arizona was not the last attack on immigrant rights, but the opening a of a new wave of racist hate across the states all along this past Spring season. The purpose of this is to divide the white and Latino workers who are both suffering from the crisis staggering unemployment and poverty. And now, with the immigration debate in Congress, the Republican Party is pitting Black workers against Latinos, accusing Obama’s immigration reform proposal of preferring Latino immigrant workers over Black unemployed ones.
The attacks on immigrants and Latinos continue today. In Arizona, 5 new bills against immigrants were proposed in March, and even though they did not pass, they represent a serious attack against the Latino community: SB 1308 and SB 1309, known as “the Birthright Bills, tried to deny US Citizenship to U.S. born children whose parents are undocumented and tried to challenge the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The three other ones wanted to make it illegal for undocumented persons to enroll in a public school, college or university, receive medical services or drive a vehicle and would’ve forced hospital and school workers to verify the legal status of each individual before providing any service.
These 5 bills were stopped in the Senate because of the fear of a new boycott campaign against Arizona. The proof of that is a letter that was made public March 16th sent by 60 corporations with interests in Arizona (including Wells Fargo and Intel) against the passage of these bills per fear of the economic repercussions.
In Georgia similar bills to the one in Arizona (SB1070) were passed, even though 8, 000 people, mainly high school students and students from Georgia State University, marched on March 24th against it. Many took direct actions with the slogans “Education not Deportation” and “Reverse the Ban”. Earlier this year, the Governing Board of Georgia’s public universities banned all undocumented students from state public colleges. Virginia has been discussing passing a similar bill.
Furthermore, this past March, Utah passed racist and anti-immigrant profiling bills that force police to pull over people they suspect to look like ‘immigrants” and impose a guest-worker (immigrants would practically have no rights and can get paid less then minimum wage) program. Alabama and other states are looking to pass similar legislation.
No Confidence in Obama, the Democrats and the Union Bureaucrats
What is more scandalous than the government attacks is the complicity of the current union leadership, that is to say the collaboration of the workers organization in racist and anti-worker policies. The bureaucratic leadership of the unions has helped the government to prevent fight-backs, like the million-person demonstration in 2006, by enacting deportations, lay-offs, persecutions, and further job exploitation.
The proof of that is the criminal silence of the public sectors labor movement regarding the E-Verify program (a federal program that checks for correct Social Security Number) implementations, and the complete inaction when the “I-9”* checking, or “silent raids” of workers that happen outside the workplace as well as the constant “background checks”.
The leaders of the union bureaucracy (i.e. SEIU, AFSCME, Teamsters, etc) unconditionally support Obama and only occasionally criticize other Democrats. They say that the Obama administration has not been able to advance immigration reform and other policies that would benefit workers because the Republicans won’t let them.
These are lies since Democrats have not stopped the anti-immigrant legislation of the past years, and most have in reality been working with Republicans in pushing for anti-immigrant legislation.
The reality is that these policies of the Republican and Democratic parties are in the interest of the American bourgeoisie (i.e. the 1% that has 99% of the world’s wealth) to try to create over-exploiting conditions that are increasingly brutal against the workers in order to raise their profits in this time of crisis.
What Must the Labor Leaders Do? Stand Up and Fight Back!
The labor leaders should publicly denounce the current immigration policy as being an attack not only to immigrant workers, but also to the American working-class as a whole. The lowering of wages and right for immigrant workers gives the bosses some leverage to pressure the rest of the workforce to accept the worst working conditions. The unions should explain that to all the American workers!
First, the union should fight in the workplace against the implementation of E-Verify and any kind of background checks. Second, it should be organizing the active solidarity of documented and undocumented workers, and also of workers across sectors and unions, through collective mobilization like pickets, boycotts and strikes. They should enact the most fundamental principle of working class solidarity: an injury to one is an injury to all!
But more importantly, labor unions should be at the fore-front in the immigration movement, fighting for the demands that truly represent the needs of the workers, and not the demands of criminalization, partial legalizations or “guest-worker programs” that represent the interests of US multinationals. They need to put forward a different political program to accomplish the immigration reform that has been democratically discussed by the rank-and-file workers and the immigrant community.
Furthermore, labor unions have the capacity to start confronting at the workplace and in society, the fundamental racism that is dividing workers in this country across racial lines. This racial oppression maintains oppressed sectors in their exploited conditions and deprives them of political rights.
Instead of fueling the nationalistic approach to the crisis, unions must combat racism and put forward a program of struggle that unites the working-class to fight back, like: “Jobs for ALL and Legalization for ALL”.
After Egypt and Wisconsin, We Need Mass Mobilizations of Immigrants and Workers
Our evaluation of the situation is that the mobilizations of Europeans last year, the revolutionary processes in North Africa and the Middle East & the systematic deterioration of the living conditions of the American working class are likely to push workers and oppressed communities (people of color, immigrants, women, LGBT, etc.) everywhere to mobilize in a more permanent way.
The workers’ mobilizations in Wisconsin & Ohio are an encouraging sign, which could be crucial for the unity of the working class in the event that processes of struggle of the workers and immigrants coincide in future wave of mobilization. The struggle of Latino immigrant workers in the United States will play a principal role, as it is the sector of the working class that is most oppressed and exploited in the country, along with other communities, such as African-Americans. In 2006, immigrants showed the power of their mobilizations. And we have confidence that the next time that they mobilize, they will express themselves in a more forceful way.
Many immigrants and union activists are now more aware that they can’t trust Obama’s Democrats nor the union leadership’s bureaucrats, and that we need to start a fight to remove these bureaucratic leaders from these positions. To be able to advance this struggle, immigrants and workers have to trust their own strength and at the same time fight against the bosses and against the betrayals of the bureaucratic leadership.
Large immigrant marches and mobilizations in 2006 were able to defeat the racist and anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner law. Last year’s racist bill in Arizona, SB1070, had its most harmful parts beaten thanks to the big marches & mobilizations in Arizona and else.
We Need Demands That Unite The Immigrant Community!
The struggle for partial legalizations, like the original DREAM Act are important ones we support. Unfortunately, this very progressive demand of the Latino youth that aimed at fighting for equality in colleges (through equal access to funding regardless of the immigration status) and at establishing a path to citizenship has been co-opted by the Democratic Party. The same thing happened with the 2006 general strike of immigrant workers.
The Democratic Party changed the DREAM Act to soften the language of naturalization to “residency”, but most importantly, it introduced a “new path” to gain “residency”: the enrollment in the US Military. We need to strongly oppose this new clause of the DREAM Act! It is a hidden way to re-institute a military draft to to the most oppressed and poor communities. But it is also a criminal way of dividing the interest of immigrant workers that come from semi-colonial countries, to the Iraqi and Afghani workers that are living under the U.S. occupation! We must denounce that lie!
The new DREAM Act does not unite the Latino and immigrant community, it divides it! It forces immigrants to support U.S. wars to gain a legal status, which many of them are not ready to do because they understand the trap and the injustice of the wars and are themselves the victims of the U.S. foreign imperialist policy
But more importantly, in addition to fighting for partial legalizations, like the one of the original DREAM Act, we should fight for the legalization of ALL immigrants, for the end of the criminalization and the raids and for the de-militarization of the border. These are the demands that La Voz de los Trabajadores (Worker’s Voice) defends and that many immigrants support.
Jobs for ALL and Legalization for ALL! Stop the Raid Now!
For a Fighting May 1st!
* The Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 is a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services form. It is used by an employer to verify an employee’s identity and to establish that the worker is eligible to accept employment in the United States.
Demands of the Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network
1. Build bridges between the peoples of the U.S. and Mexico instead of walls that segregate them and turn them into competitors in a struggle for survival.
Take immediate action to stop the deaths along the border and end border militarization.
2. Analyze the effects of free trade agreements like NAFTA on the economies of “sender” countries.
End all economic and foreign policies that leave people in “sender” countries with no choice but to migrate in order to support their families.
3. Provide a clear and easy legalization program for the millions of undocumented immigrants who have built their homes here and contributed greatly to the prosperity of the U.S. economy.
All immigrants deserve the full rights accorded to U.S. citizens, not a second-class status.
4. Clear the backlogs of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have been waiting to legalize their status since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
Allow more families to reunite with their loved ones by expanding the definition of “family” under current immigration law.
5. Bracero-style guest worker programs and other forms of labor exploitation should be eliminated, and the labor system made to benefit workers and their families, not corporations and agribusiness.
Increased labor protections for immigrant workers should also include the freedom of movement between jobs and across national borders.
6. End the criminalization of work through the use of 1-9 audits, E-verify, “silent raids,” and other tactics used to carry out mass firings of workers.
All workers, immigrants included, have the right to work and seek work without the fear of retaliation.
7. Immigrants and their families have the right to live in their communities without fear. Stop the raids and deportations, end ‘enforcement first’ policies like 287(g) and Secure Communities, eliminate the privatization of the detention system, and decriminalize the status of undocumented workers.
Extend equal rights to all by ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers.