|Written by La Voz de Los Trabajadores|
|Monday, 04 March 2013 00:48|
On 2/16/2013, a draft of Obama’s immigration reform proposal was leaked. In this piece, we retake our stance on the kind of immigration reform we need.
Is it finally time for immigration reform?
“All talk and no action”. This seems to be the present situation of immigrants: they keep waiting for immigration reform, but it never arrives. This situation is especially true after the pro-immigrant mobilizations that developed in the first half of 2006, which shocked the entire country and the world.
We would like to insist that the independent mobilizations of millions of immigrants in 2006 showed the right path to win an immigration reform that is complete, without conditions, and that recognizes automatically all the fundamental democratic rights of immigrants at the same level of any American citizen.
The mobilization of millions of immigrant workers in 2006 was done in a spontaneous way but through truly revolutionary methods that belong to the working class. Actions included very well organized, massive marches supported by democratic decisions made in the heat of the fight, work stoppages, and a persuasive campaign of unity, solidarity, and fraternity towards the immigrants’ brothers and sisters, the American workers.
This mobilization was the immigrants’ response to the Bush government and the bourgeoisie that aimed to criminalize immigrants and their mass movement. The explosion of the mobilization took the government, the bourgeoisie, and their collaborators in union leaderships by surprise. This is because these sectors (with the collaboration of union leaderships) had been accustomed to imposing their plans of exploitation and the oppression over a docile and sleepy working class.
However, in spite of the height and strength that the fight reached, there was no revolutionary leadership to maintain the revolutionary character of the mobilization, to preserve its political independence from the government parties and, above all, to carry forward the political decision to win the fair and heartfelt demands of immigrants. The logical consequence of the absence of a revolutionary direction in the movement was that the bourgeoisie rapidly took control of the movement’s direction in collaboration with the church, the union bureaucracy, and a big majority of the pro-immigrant groups belonging to the Democratic Party, in order to put an end to the mobilization and to funnel the frustration of immigrants into the institutional terrain of the electoral process with the motto, “Today we fight, tomorrow we vote.” This policy signified a defeat for immigrants, for the working class, and for American mass movements. A defeat that would have its tragic consequences later.
Replacing the movement with electoral illusions? Bad politics!
Demobilizing was the tactic by which the Democratic Party managed to put the immigrant struggle on the defensive at the appropriate moment. After many years of Republican administrations that conducted the American imperialist bourgeois offensive against national and international mass movements through wars and relentless repression against every kind of democratic and revolutionary protest, the Democratic Party won a victory. Having defeated the immigrant movement by taking it off the streets and into the area of parliamentary illusions, the Democratic Party became the majority in Congress in the elections of 2006. Thus, this paved the way for the swap of the two bourgeois parties in government, before the imminent defeat of the Republican Party and the hated Bush administration.
Robbed of the power they had gained in the streets, the immigrants’ aspirations were muted by the backstabbing leaderships to mere illusions in bourgeois parliamentarism. A large majority of the Latino vote was for the Democratic Party (65% voted for Obama in the 2008 elections). With the arrival of the Democratic Party to power through Obama, the bourgeoisie arranged the chess pieces in order to face the economic crisis that erupted in 2007 and 2008.
By placing the immigrant fight in the territory of parliamentary illusions, the bourgeoisie put an end to one of their biggest headaches in recent years, which was to demobilize this sector of the American masses and in this way initialize their counterattack. All of this at a time when the country was sliding into the economic crisis.
The High Cost of Electoral Illusions
In the middle of the economic crisis that opened in late 2007 and in the beginning of 2008, the main concern for the American imperialist bourgeoisie was implementing an emergency plan against the crisis. In this way, the bourgeoisie saved their interests at the expense of impoverishing and exploiting working people even more. The emergency plan that resulted in massive layoffs, home foreclosures of millions of working families, and budget cuts to education, healthcare and other social programs, could have only been done by a president like Obama who had the ability to deceive the working class.
Filling workers’ heads with parliamentary illusions is the most challenging obstacle for the permanent mobilization of the masses. This distances workers from independent self-organization and from a direct fight for the achievement of their aspirations. It was in this way that the Democratic Party disarmed the immigrant masses, thanks to the collaboration of the church and the union bureaucrats.
In the course of Obama’s first administration, in which immigrants suffered one of the most despicable betrayals, immigrants and other forces of the mass movement and of the working class did not leave the struggle and suffered the attacks of the bourgeoisie and the collaborative union bureaucrats in order to demobilize them. It was the same for the student struggle against cuts to public education, healthcare workers, and the rebellion of workers in Wisconsin, among others. All of these processes of struggle contributed to the emergence of the occupy movement. However, once again, the scissors of state repression with collaboration of the union bureaucracy managed to isolate these struggles and reduce them to government lobbying.
During the first term of Obama the attacks on immigrants redoubled. The rate of unemployment among immigrants in the most critical moments of the present economic crisis have been the highest, together with those of African Americans. Massive detentions in worksites by immigration agents and raids in immigrants’ homes due to the Obama’s implementation of Secure Communities have raised the immigrant detention and deportation records to their highest levels ever.
Obama’s Latest Proposal on Immigration Reform is Another Illusion.
Obama’s administration has no plan to stop these attacks, in fact, their proposal for immigration reform is evidence that they seek to advance them even further. The government’s reform plan propagates exploitative and coercive measures, under which immigrants would be punished for illegally coming to the country by paying large amounts of money to cover the immigration proceedings, undergoing thorough background checks, and waiting for long periods in order to obtain legal status. Moreover, Obama wants to push for greater militarization of the border, the border at which more than 5 thousand immigrants have been found dead because of close monitoring by the police and even being killed by immigration officials.
In Obama’s second term, once again, immigrants are falling into the trap of bourgeois illusions. Because of the treachery of the opportunist union bureaucracies, immigrants remain in an endless wait to get a little more than what they’ve got until now with no relief in sight at the end of the road.
Building on the desperation of undocumented immigrants seeking paths to legalization, the bourgeoisie, the Obama administration, and the bureaucratic union leadership have come up with an immigration reform plan that would benefit them – not the actual undocumented people. This includes programs such as the bracero visas, which allow workers to come and work under employment contracts, but do not offer any paths to legalization, any rights to collectively organize, or any protections against exploitative bosses.
Combating the Ruling Class’ Congress and Retaking Independent Mobilization
An immigration reform that satisfies the democratic aspirations of undocumented people cannot be given by an imperialist bourgeois government in crisis.
To praise the bourgeois proposal for immigration reform, which penalizes and extorts immigrants and makes them helpless at the hands of the exploitative interests of the bourgeoisie, is a betrayal to the immigrant struggle. This will not only bring more sacrifice and frustrations to the very important immigrant sector of the working class but to all American workers.
An immigration reform that satisfies immigrant aspirations and one that defends unity, fraternity, and solidarity of the entire American working class cannot be realized without the permanent mobilization of immigrant workers. This mobilization needs to connect the immigrant struggle with the rest of the American working class struggles and vice versa. The goals of the immigrant struggles and the working class in general should be to fight against the policies of exploitation by the imperialist bourgeoisie, and for the implantation of a working class government.
Revolutionary union leaders should welcome the demands for legalization for immigrants without conditions raised by the innumerable mobilizations and actions of struggle. They should denounce the union leaders that collaborated with Obama in order to pass an immigration reform that would make the lives of immigrant and the whole working class more difficult.
At the same time, they should call for meetings, assemblies, and every type of actions that creates the conditions for the convening of a representative meeting of workers, where one can present a plan of immigration reform from the point of view of workers, as well as a plan to build a permanent mobilization around this point and every other issue that affects the working class, such as cuts and the austerity promoted by the bourgeois government of Obama.
These are some of the lessons that we must learn from the heroic struggles of millions of immigrant undocumented activists, who not only aspire to have their fundamental, democratic rights recognized, but also await to build a path for the annihilation of the exploitative capitalist system and for the construction of a government of the working class.