Refugee status for detained children NOW
Activists put a sardonic but accurate twist on the Fourth of July so-called celebration. It is called the “Fourth of You-Lie.”
This is certainly apropos of the current crisis on the U.S./Mexican border, which played out in Murietta, Calif., on July 4 and earlier on July 1.
Racist, right-wing thugs, in collusion with like-minded government officials, organized two revolting demonstrations to “welcome” buses of migrant children and youth who were being transported by Department of Homeland Security from detention centers in Texas and elsewhere into southern California. Their slogans, as well as the information and formulations in the media and from the government, are indeed part of the “you-lie.”
The first demonstration on July 1 made national and international news. It had been publicly encouraged by Murietta Mayor Alan Long. Protesters echoed Tea Party Republicans that their welcome would encourage more migrants to come. They declared that the U.S. “cannot feed all these people” and that the migrants would “bring diseases.”
Welcome to “Amerikkka,” children of the Americas.
These young migrants have endured hardships that most high-income adults in the U.S. will never experience — hunger, physical threats including rape, extreme poverty and intense desperation, not only in their homelands but as they made their way to the border, primarily from Central American countries.
For them then to be welcomed by thugs screaming racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric is criminal. The question must be asked: Why did the Department of Homeland Security send these children there when agencies made it quite clear prior to their arrival that they were not welcome and were told conditions for accommodating so many would be horrible? And that this would not be changed?
Murietta officials told the media that the station primarily deals with prosecuting drug-related crimes, such as smuggling. It has no dining hall. It has no sleeping facilities that are not cells. Conditions were deplorable to begin with and were aggravated by the collusion of reactionary residents and city officials.
The right-wing miscalculates, however. By its actions it is helping create revolutionaries in the making. How can some of these youth not grow up to join the struggle against the capitalist system after these experiences?
Throughout the Internet, many activists have likened the recent attacks in Murietta to the racist attacks against Black children in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957 as schools were being desegregated. This is, after all, what U.S. society is all about: racism, class exploitation and divisions.
For several months now, an historic development has been unfolding on the U.S./Mexican border. Forced to migrate, primarily from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, tens of thousands of children and youth have made their way to the U.S. Most are unaccompanied by an adult they know.
Over 50,000 children and youth are now being detained. This is a not a new migration, but there have never been so many children before.
The wave of forced migration is not expected to ebb. Some predict 90,000 children will arrive in the coming months.
This new face of migration is a direct result of U.S. foreign and economic policy in collusion with pro-imperialist officials in Central America. It is similar to the migration of millions of Mexicans, Filipinos, Haitians and others.
The issue has become politically charged. Not only Tea Party Republicans blame President Barack Obama for the crisis, but Latino Democrats, especially from the border states, also point the finger at the White House for failed immigration policies.
The anti-Obama rhetoric from the likes of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, however, is not only a “You-lie,” but it is dangerous. This rhetoric whips up racism against the first Black president. Although President Obama has deported more immigrants than any other U.S. president, the inflammatory language by the Tea Party elements must be condemned as racist and dangerous for class unity.
Neither party will resolve crisis
Since 2006, despite a mass movement for immigrant rights, Washington has failed to pass any kind of immigration reform, pro-worker or not. This failure is due not only to the role of the anti-immigrant Tea Party elements in the Republican Party, but to the lack of backbone in the Democratic Party.
Powerful Democrats, however, such as Sen. Charles Schumer, who publicly push for so-called immigration reform, do not at all represent the demands or the interests of immigrants and their supporters.
Most of the reform the Democrats are talking about also includes heavy militarization of the border. It provides billions for military-type aid for the border such as drones. This is no solution for the over 12 million undocumented people in this country, who have earned and deserve immediate legalization.
As one participant declared at a protest in Murietta over the Fourth of July weekend: “We are your babysitters! We clean your hotels!”
But with the capitalist crisis creating an economy where there’s lots of low-paid labor available, the U.S. ruling class has moved to demonize and criminalize migrant labor for over a decade now. The capitalist system needs fewer workers and wants to push further underground those immigrants already here.
The tens of thousands of children and youth are arriving because of U.S. imperialist policy. Whether it is the promotion of the drug industry or the ouster of progressive administrations — such as that of President Mel Zelaya in Honduras — it is Washington and the Pentagon that have caused this massive exodus from Central America.
Illegal drugs can only flow freely from the Americas into the U.S. with the knowledge and profitable gain of law enforcement and other business sectors in the U.S.
All these policies have either been supported or failed to be seriously opposed by both capitalist parties.
Movement must demand refugee status
The children and youth arriving are refugees, fleeing terror in their homelands that Washington is responsible for, one way or the other. They should receive refugee status.
Instead, President Obama and others are now calling for the immediate deportation of these youth. With this policy in place, thousands are expected to be returned to Honduras by mid-July, back to the very danger the children, youth and some of their mothers were fleeing in the first place.
Yet a 2008 human trafficking law signed by then-President George W. Bush and passed by both chambers of Congress states that children migrants from Central America cannot be returned and must be humanely cared for. This law, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, known as the TVPRA, passed to fast-track deportation decisions, states that the Department of Health and Human Services must find safe housing and help with legal advice.
According to a July 2 article in USA Today, President Obama is now trying to change that law. This is unfortunate.
The working-class movement must fight to prevent the government from putting these children in harm’s way. What is needed is for not just the immigrant rights movement but the labor, anti-war and women’s movements and all progressive sectors to come to the defense of the children and demand refugee status immediately. They must be allowed to reunite with their families living in the U.S., free from terror.
Clearly the movement cannot count on the government. Only the working class in motion, organizing and fighting for its rights, can put a halt to all these attacks and welcome children who are in dire crisis, no matter where they were born or where they live.
Teresa Gutierrez is a coordinator of the May 1 Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights.