DEFEND WORKERS’ RIGHTS
On May day, demand solidarity and legalization
Published Apr 27, 2011 7:46 PM
More than 1 million immigrants have been deported since President Barack Obama
took office. One million! This is a tsunami of injustice.
This mass deportation of immigrants takes place amid a wave of anti-immigrant
legislation sweeping the country. Many such bills have already been passed by
state legislatures, most recently in Georgia. Many more are pending, as in
Florida, making this the ultimate hour of “show me your papers” in
But whatever the stage of the bills, the legislation has already achieved its
goal of contributing to a racist, anti-immigrant climate. This witch-hunt is
calculated to instill fear in immigrant communities, driving workers to go
further underground or to self-deport, and to prevent immigrants from
organizing for their rights.
Furthermore, the anti-immigrant climate is meant to break solidarity between
workers born in this country and workers born elsewhere.
These attacks come in the context of the deepening economic crisis. What is the
solution of the corporate bosses and their representatives in government to the
crisis they created? It is to attack teachers, steal workers’ pensions,
increase layoffs and foreclosures, and sabotage unions, including the
fundamental right to collective bargaining.
To carry out this program, the bosses must foster divisions among the working
class. The capitalist system counts on social peace as it dismantles
workers’ rights to a job, health care, education and so on. Only
solidarity and a fighting spirit can push their program back.
May Day 2011 is more important than ever. May Day was born as a day of
righteous struggle, of revolutionary militancy, and that spirit must be revived
again in the U.S.
Solidarity. A united, militant fightback. These are the only things that will
stop the deportations as well as all the attacks against workers and the
oppressed. Only by reviving the class struggle can we not only defend past
gains but win new victories.
Washington, not local laws, behind deportations
Behind the 1 million deportations is a federal policy initiated by the Obama
administration in 2008 called “Secure Communities.”
Writing a series of articles in Counterpunch last summer and fall, Stewart J.
Lawrence commented that Obama’s Secure Communities may be more dangerous
than the laws emanating from Arizona.
A half-year later the facts show this to be true.
Secure Communities was sold to the public as a program that would deport
alleged criminals without documents.
The fact is that a million workers have been deported, many of them under the
Secure Communities policy. This demonstrates that this program is meant to
round up the undocumented under any pretext, demanding papers to prove their
official immigration status and then consigning those without papers to the
Legal experts, human rights and immigration activists have all denounced this
as extreme racial profiling. Only people of color are stopped and asked for
Chicago activists point to the case of an immigrant who was stopped because a
cop alleged that the Virgin Mary hanging on a string in his car blocked the
driver’s vision. (Medill News Service, Northwestern University)
The 1 million people who have been deported are not criminals. They are workers
— workers who were forced to come to this country because of
U.S.-orchestrated economic and political policies, such as NAFTA and the
kidnapping of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti.
Often, what police use to justify stopping workers are things people are doing
simply to survive. For example, a woman in New York was stopped, and ultimately
deported, for selling CDs, allegedly illegally.
However, even that small group of workers who might have committed a serious
anti-social act must be defended. Otherwise, the movement would be going along
with ruling-class attempts to divide “good” and “bad”
workers, while the real criminals drop bombs in Libya or foreclose on
The movement cannot go along with this divide-and-conquer attitude of the
ruling class that wants the movement to take sides and agree to deport
“those bad immigrants but not these.”
Lawrence pointed out that Secure Communities targets “low-level
misdemeanor offenders, including people who may be guilty of little more than
running a stop sign or driving with a broken taillight.” Many of these
people are innocent. “But,” wrote Lawrence, “they are getting
rounded up and processed for deportation just the same.”
The program began in North Carolina and Texas in October 2008. Now, about 500
jurisdictions in at least 25 states are working with the Department of Homeland
Security to implement the program. Lawrence noted that is more than six times
the number of jurisdictions working under the earlier immigration legislation,
Section 287(g), which authorizes local police to act as Customs agents.
To add insult to injury, the Department of Homeland Security originally told
state government officials that they could opt out of Secure Communities. This
turned out not to be true.
In mid-April, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California called for an investigation of
federal immigration officials who she said lied about whether states or
counties had the right to opt out of Secure Communities. Opponents of the
program say this deception probably prevented officials who do not want to go
along with the program from filing lawsuits in time to prevent the
According to a commentary by Bill King in the Feb. 16 Houston Chronicle, it
costs about $23,500 per person to deport a worker. Imagine if that money were
used for human needs instead of repression.
Jobs, legalization and health care for all would result in real secure
Obama meets on immigration
On April 19 President Obama met with several elected officials as well as
community and labor leaders. Participants included New York billionaire Mayor
Michael Bloomberg as well as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and the Rev. Al
Sharpton of the National Action Network. The meeting was about reviving the
national discussion on “comprehensive immigration reform.”
The specific call for CIR has been dropped by many immigrant advocates, because
much of the legislation in and out of Congress called CIR would actually do the
opposite of what the progressive movement is demanding.
That’s why the right-wing, anti-immigrant forces have also called for
CIR. Their CIR often includes guest worker programs and compulsory biometric
identification systems that would hurt all workers. These bills grant
legalization to almost no workers.
What much of the pro-immigrant movement continues to demand is immediate and
genuine legalization for all. And it will not stop until legalization is
This wing of the movement condemns any and all guest worker programs and
considers them a slap in the face not only to foreign-born workers, who are
brought here with little or no rights, many in slave-like and abusive
conditions, but to unions as well. Guest workers have been used in the past to
break union campaigns.
AFL-CIO’s Trumka will be speaking at a May Day rally in Milwaukee
organized by Voces de la Frontera and others. This is an important gesture of
Trumka will be representing immigrants, especially the undocumented. In any
further discussions with President Obama he must make sure that legalization is
front and center.
Furthermore, a moratorium on deportations is long overdue.
The 2011 May Day rallies around the country must send a clear message of
May Day rallies must say to all those involved in the debate on immigration
— to the bosses who want to place the burden of the economic crisis on
workers’ backs; to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who
conduct vicious, racist raids in immigrant communities; to all the
right-wingers who are blaming the budget deficit on workers and their unions:
Stop the war on the working class!
Wisconsin showed the way. Now we must take it further.
Only an end to all the attacks on workers will suffice — whether they are
teachers or students, dishwashers or nurses, autoworkers or miners.
Until this war ends, we must not only continue to march and demonstrate but
revive the militant spirit of the Haymarket struggle for the eight-hour day,
from which May Day was born.
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