Immigrant-bashers occupy land stolen from Mexico
Published Apr 27, 2006 9:01 AM
As Congress fights over what anti-immigrant law
to impose, and the right wing rails against the powerful new movement demanding
legalization of undocumented workers, one question is never addressed by the
politicians and pundits: Who does the land of the United States really belong
The “founding fathers” and their successors stole the
entire country from the Indigenous nations through centuries of war, treachery
and genocide. A huge swath of the country was torn from Mexico.
California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and parts of Colorado, Wyoming,
Oklahoma and Kansas belonged to the Mexican@ people. The Spanish had first
annexed Mexico, killing millions of indigenous people.
Even before the
Mexican people won liberation from Spain in 1821, rulers in this country were
plotting to take their land, proclaiming with cruel arrogance that it was their
manifest destiny to take whatever they wanted.
The United States spread
westward, seizing land to expand the slave territories. Pro-slavery Southerners
began settling in Texas. John Ross writes in “The Annex a tion of Mexico:
From the Aztecs to the IMF” that, by 1835, they outnumbered the Mexican
population seven to one. Ten years later President John Tyler annexed Texas to
the Union. But that wasn’t enough.
In 1846, President James Polk
provoked a war with Mexico to grab more land. He sent U.S. troops into territory
that he declared the United States suddenly had rights to. When Mexico fought
back against the invaders, Polk got Congress to declare war on Mexico.
After nearly two years of brutal slaughter of the Mexican people, the
United States took half of Mexico in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Washington promised to pay Mexico $15 million for this vast territory, but Ross
notes that only about half that amount was ever paid.
profits from immigrant labor
It is bitterly ironic that the
right wing in the U.S. is now waging a vicious campaign—from the vigilante
Minutemen to proposed legislation that would put up a 700-mile wall along the
border—against Mexican@s crossing onto land once owned by their ancestors.
The United States was built on the labor of millions of Africans captured
and sold into slavery. The capitalist class grew rich through murder, torture
and horrific brutality. The railroads were laid, factories and steel plants run,
and crops planted and harvested with the blood and sweat of millions of
immigrants from China, Mexico, Europe and Latin America.
Pacific and Central Pacific railroads hired 10,000 Chinese workers and 3,000
Irish laborers to build the first transcontinental railroad. Howard Zinn writes
in “A People’s History of the United States” that the Union
Pacific used 20,000 workers “who laid five miles of track a day and died
by the hundreds in the heat, the cold and the battles with Indians opposing the
invasion of their territory.”
From 1860 to 1880 nearly 200,000
Chinese entered the country, primarily on the West Coast; over the next 20
years, 9 million immigrants arrived in the United States.
States portrays itself as a welcoming refuge for immigrants. “Give me your
tired, your poor, your huddled mas ses yearning to breathe free,”
proclaims the poem engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the
ultimate symbol of U.S. beneficence. But the capitalist government in reality
has welcomed immigrants only when businesses needed their labor. In the early
years of the 20th century, Mexican workers could gain entry into the U.S. for a
few cents. In 1942, the U.S. implemented the Bracero Treaty that allowed
Mexican@s to immigrate, but only temporarily, to do agricultural work in the
But when their labor has not been needed, the U.S. government has
whipped up a racist assault against immigrants. In 1892, Congress passed the
Chinese Exclu sion Act prohibiting Chinese laborers from entering the country.
During the Depres sion it pressured nearly 500,000 people of Mexican heritage to
leave the country. Many who were born in the United States or had citizenship
had to leave in order to avoid being separated from their families. Then, in the
early 1950s, the government launched a racist campaign that resulted in the
deportation of millions of undocumented Mexican@s.
Now Congress, the Bush
administration and corporations are debating how to deal with undocumented
immigrants. But hundreds of thousands of people have marched in cities across
the country demanding legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
They know this land does not belong to the politicians and corporations.
It belongs to the working people, including immigrants, whose labor is essential
to keep every aspect of the country functioning. n
Ross’s “The Annexation of Mexico: From the Aztecs to the IMF”
and Howard Zinn’s “A People's History of the
United States” can be found at www.leftbooks.com.
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