While the courts quibble with the Obama administration on his November executive action, hundreds of thousands of workers continue to become casualties of the war on migrants.
Last November, President Barack Obama announced a program that would allow the undocumented parents of children born in the U.S. to obtain temporary work permits so they could stay in the country with their “citizen” children. The legislation is currently stalled in the courts.
But the war on migrants continues. This war has brought conditions so grave that the situation for immigrants today has truly become one of the great humanitarian crises of our times.
Like the war on Black people, the attacks manifest themselves in many ways and demonstrate that workers are deemed expendable by the capitalist system.
The global economic crisis is bleak for billions around the world. Racism and centuries of colonial imperialist domination make it even bleaker for workers of color.
Immigration in the U.S.
The issue of immigration has made the front pages since 2006, when Washington attempted to pass one of the most repressive anti-immigrant bills ever, the Sensenbrenner legislation.
That bill was defeated by one of the largest upheavals of workers in decades when millions of immigrants and their supporters demonstrated throughout the spring of 2006.
This was the beginning of a period of fightback, one when the migrant movement helped to revive the honoring of May Day in the U.S.
Since then, however, conditions for immigrant workers have worsened.
Currently, immigration in the media is handled like a hot potato, a topic to be tossed from one presidential candidate to another.
Since racist demagogue Donald Trump made his disgusting anti-Mexican immigrant comment, there has been a nonstop discussion on immigration in the media with Trump disturbingly stealing the headlines.
The reality for immigrants in this country is, however, very serious. No candidate of the capitalist parties talks about it genuinely.
Two of the most critical areas on immigration policy today are, first, the mass detentions of millions of workers, including children, and, second, the horrifying human crisis of abuse and conditions that come as a result of the forced mass exodus of people who have left their homelands, particularly from Central America.
The mass deportations of over two million workers under Obama should of course also be denounced.
The mass exodus of workers from their homelands into this country and the mass detentions truly have led to a major humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.
This is a global crisis as migrants from Africa, Asia, Caribbean, and the Middle East are forced to make their way to Europe. This year alone, almost 2,000 workers have drowned already in the Mediterranean Sea. (Missing Migrants Project, Aug. 3)
Another ‘Trail of Tears’
In the spring of 2014, immigration again made the front pages as a wave of unaccompanied children made their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The vast majority of these migrants, many of them traveling in family units, were from Central America. Over 60,000 children and young people made the dangerous journeys from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras into the U.S.
Little is said about the role of U.S. imperialism in forcing migrants to leave their homelands. In fact, were it not for the decades of intervention by Washington supporting reactionary regimes, and military attacks against popular movements, Central Americans and Mexicans would not have to leave their countries.
Forced migration is big business. As the workers make their way into the U.S., they are prey for organized crime syndicates backed by the Mexican government. Money is stolen, women are raped, and people are held hostage until families in the U.S. send exorbitant amounts of ransom money. These are just some examples of the danger.
No one would make that trek unless they had to.
Once in the U.S., the detention of workers is also a lucrative business. Government legislation mandates that at least 35,000 beds be filled every night in prisons run by the infamous CCA (Corporation Counsel of America) or the prison company GEO Group, the same private corporations that unjustly incarcerate Black and Brown youth.
This policy comes as a result of the U.S. providing more money annually “to border and immigration enforcement agencies than to every other federal law-enforcement agency combined, including the FBI and the DEA.” (New Yorker, April 27)
Incarceration is exactly what happened to the beleaguered women and children of Central America who fled traumatic and violent conditions at home only to be rewarded with incarceration for their efforts to get their families out of harm’s way.
As an advocate in Texas points out, whether it is organized crime in Mexico or the “GEO group, it’s a for-profit enterprise that makes its money by holding people in boxes until they pay.” (New Yorker, April 27)
What happens in those “boxes” is exactly the same kind of inhumane and brutal torture that happens in prisons throughout the U.S.
Several months ago, detained women and children struggled to get the word out about conditions in the new, so-called family detention centers that opened up in Texas to hold the unaccompanied children as well as some of the women migrants.
The Karnes County Residential Center was built in South Texas by the GEO Group and holds 500 women and children. Thanks to the movement for immigrant rights, which listened to the cries for help, information came out that many women imprisoned at the detention center were accusing guards of sexual assaults. A federal complaint charged that guards were promising women help with their cases in exchange for sexual favors.
Problems with food were reported. The air conditioning is turned up so high that the detention centers are commonly referred to as “iceboxes.”
Conditions overall are so bleak that a professor advocating for these families stated in an Aug. 2 Migrant Clinicians Network publication: “The long-term damage on the mothers and the children is extraordinary. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Japanese internment camps in World War II.”
The solution is solidarity
What is needed to turn this situation around?
Imagine the fear among the ruling class if the families of the over 2.5 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons joined with the families of migrant detainees. Mass incarcerations of Black and Brown workers have become one of the solutions to the ruling class’s economic crisis. As police terror continues unabated against the Black community, as racist violence spews unchecked, solidarity is key to pushing back this offensive.
The solution for the workers is to join hands across the border, through every prison fence and border wall, and fight back together under the banner “All lives will matter when Black lives matter.”