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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 to?

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.

Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas belonged to the [email protected] 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.

History of 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 [email protected] 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.

The Union 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.

The United 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 [email protected] to immigrate, but only temporarily, to do agricultural work in the fields.

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 [email protected]

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

John 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.