Immigrants under attack, fighting back
Published May 19, 2005 10:57 PM
“We’ve come a long way.”
That phrase has been used many times in conversations about bigotry and racism
in the U.S. If the ruling class and the bureaucracy that serves them have their
way, immigrants will be taking giant steps backwards. Attacks against immigrants
are coming from every angle.
There is the extra-legal Minutemen group in
Arizona terrorizing people coming from a Mexico devastated economically by NAFTA
to look for a better life here. If anybody has a right to live and work in the
Southwestern states, it is the Mexicans from whom those lands were stolen and
the Native peoples from this side of the border.
California governor and
Nazi-son Arnold Schwarzenegger lent his vile support to these racists in
Arizona. “Look, they’ve cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants
by a huge percentage. The whole system is set up to really invite people to come
in here illegally, and that has to stop,” he said on the “John &
Ken Show” on KFI-AM on April 28.
Schwarzenegger had called earlier
for “closing the borders in California and all across Mexico and in the
United States” because he thinks “it is just unfair to have all
those people coming across, have the borders open the way it is, and have this
kind of lax situation.”
“It’s gratifying to see that
elected officials are responding to the will of the people,” said Chris
Simcox, a racist Minute man organizer. The governor has no problem with the
Minutemen’s plan to expand their patrols to California. This nexus bet
ween the state and extra-legal groups conjures up images of night-riders, among
them sheriffs and mayors, terrorizing Black people.
Using the law
There are also legal attacks. The Patriot Act has
been used to attack immigrants of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin. The
rulers hide behind “national security” to imprison, torture and
deport immigrants for alleged offenses, starting from simple violations of
immigration laws to undisclosed offenses.
Two Muslim 16-year-old high
school girls in New York City were arrested this March and held in a
Pennsylvania lock up, labeled as potential suicide bombers. One of the girls,
from Guinea in Africa, released after six weeks, was wholeheartedly welcomed
back by her entire school community. Her father, however, has been put in
detention in New Jersey and will be deported.
An agreement was reached to
allow the second girl and her family to return to Bangladesh as soon as the
arrangements are made. Her family came here as political refugees when the girl
was just four years old.
Attached to the latest $82-billion appro
priations bill for additional war spending was the “Real ID Act.”
The ID act or drivers’ license bill, as it is also called, goes into
effect in 2008. It is an anti-immigrant bill that requires uniform standards for
state drivers’ licenses.
In effect this will be a national ID card
that lists everyone who tries to drive legally in a national data base. States
will also be required to save copies of identification documents for 7 to 10
years, along with facial image scans of each license holder. Three years from
now a federally approved ID card will be required to open a bank account, travel
on an airplane, or take advantage of any government service.
This law will
make life miserable for anyone without legal status. Deportations will break up
families and create untold hardships. Even before the passing of this bill, a
routine traffic stop can and has led to detentions or deportation. People who
can’t legally get a driver’s license will drive illegally. Under
these conditions a traffic stop for many will mean jail for indefinite periods
most likely followed by deportation.
Immigrants’ role in class
These and all other attacks on immigrants are serious threats
to millions of people who just want to work and take care of their
Many immigrants come here from countries where they were
involved in class struggle and understand which side of the class camp they
belong to. They are just following the resources that predatory multinational
monopolies have extracted from their countries.
The ruling class fears
these immigrant workers even as they super-exploit them. The hysteria created
about protecting borders and fighting terrorism is scare tactics meant really to
slow down the browning of the population and to scapegoat immigrants for the
worsening economic conditions here.
That same class consciousness that
scares the ruling class encourages labor organizers and communists, who welcome
these class-conscious immigrants. All workers here are exploited by the same
ruling class, who would pit one against the other with their classic
Responses to these attacks on immigrants are
also coming from many directions. Even state governments are exploring how to
resist the ID changes to avoid their high costs. Some are threatening lawsuits
or even to disobey the license rules.
Many immigrant and civil liberties
groups are also looking for ways to challenge the new law. They point out that
road safety will be reduced by many unlicensed and uninsured motorists. The new
ID will be another fertile ground for identity theft, especially since it will
have so much of people’s vital statistics included.
People in Texas
and California held demonstrations the weekend of May 15 to protest against the
Minutemen. The International Action Center has a new campaign, the Committee in
Defense of Immigrant and Low-Wage Workers, which will work closely with
immigrant workers’ groups. The fightback has begun.
The writer is
an immigrant from the Caribbean.
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