Immigrants and their advocates have waited for years for Washington to create a humane pro-worker policy that would provide some relief for the more than 12 million undocumented workers in this country. But instead of relief, conditions for migrants continue to deteriorate — not only on the U.S. side of the border, but as workers make their way into this country as well.
No talk on Capitol Hill about immigration reform has dealt with the root causes of migration, which is decisive for real change. None of the thousands of pieces of paper on immigration policy addresses unfair trade policies, such as NAFTA (North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement), or the U.S.-created violence that sweeps Mexico and Central America.
President Barack Obama announced in November the creation of a program that would allow undocumented parents of children born in the U.S. to obtain temporary work permits so they could stay here with their citizen children. The Obama administration had also planned to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy of 2012 (DACA) that offers relief and work permits to undocumented youth who came here as children.
However, these measures have hit a legal stalemate because 26 states, led by Texas, are suing the Obama administration, seeking to stop executive actions signed by the president in November that could grant some relief for a sector of undocumented workers. This lawsuit, filed last December, contends that President Obama overstepped his constitutional authority by issuing executive actions that amount to a form of amnesty and that the Department of Homeland Security does not have the authority to grant work permits.
The 26 states behind the lawsuit are claiming a violation of states’ rights — a right-wing, racist tactic rooted in the history of slavery in the U.S. South. The 26 include 13 states in the Deep South and Southwest.
In the legal battle between the Obama administration and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, migrant workers are no more than pawns. Oral arguments were heard on the case on July 10 by the court that is seen as one of the most conservative in the country.
The online magazine Politico reported on July 10: “President Barack Obama appears likely to lose — again — in the protracted legal fight over his executive actions on immigration. The chilly reception from the three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on whether Obama had legal authority to take such action seems to indicate that a lower court decision blocking the new programs would stay in place.”
Build a united movement
To the movement’s credit, hundreds of migrants and their supporters converged in Louisiana for a spirited demonstration outside the court. Additionally, the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice blocked roads outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in a massive civil disobedience action that included many undocumented workers.
Despite right-wing bluster against the November executive action, Washington’s war on migrants continues in every way. Obama has deported more workers than any other U.S. president. The current executive action is way too little and way too late. It amounts to posturing more than anything else as the Democrats gear up for the 2016 presidential election.
The fact that the conditions for forced migration continue means that no matter what difficulties workers face once in the U.S., they have no other option but to leave their homelands. What undocumented workers need above all is a united movement of workers in this country that is fighting for the interests of workers and oppressed people.
A united movement with the Black Lives Matter movement front and center — which raises all the issues vital to the working class — can help to resolve the grave humanitarian crisis that has become a reality for migrant workers. The solidarity of U.S.-born workers with those born outside the U.S. is the first step.