Feb. 20 – One day after tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters walked off their jobs and out of schools, the Associated Press released an ominous plan from the Donald Trump administration that was likely leaked from a White House source.
The “Day Without Immigrants” took place throughout the U.S. on Feb. 16. The one-day strike even shut down the Senate cafeteria in Washington, D.C.
Communities were shut down as businesses and restaurants closed, either in solidarity or because not enough workers came to work. Actions were held in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Oklahoma City and many other places. At a Tennessee-based painting company, 18 workers skipped work to attend a rally.
“For one single day on a weekday, we must come together and unite in absolute resistance in order to reject the system,” read a social media post promoting the campaign.
The work stoppage, which included thousands of students, is a sign of things to come as the Trump administration implements anti-worker and anti-immigrant policies affecting everyone but the super-rich.
Organizers, activists and progressives from immigrant rights, labor and other struggles are all planning other major actions in the coming months. This especially will culminate with May Day, International Workers Day, May 1, which this year is on Monday.
Throughout the country, diverse activists and organizers are saying that May Day 2017 is likely to be huge. Plans are being made now to shut things down starting at 5 a.m., according to some groups.
Homeland Security retaliates
The “Day Without Immigrants” was slightly pushed off the headlines Feb. 17 after the White House leak dominated the news.
The Atlantic and other sources reported Feb. 17 on an Associated Press “bombshell” — an announcement that the Trump administration was considering “mobilizing as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants.”
The news shocked immigrants and their advocates, even though use of the National Guard is not new. Both former President George H. Bush and former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called on them, but not in such large numbers. Trump is also asking for more enforcement power than previous officials.
That proposal would further militarize immigrant communities already reeling from racial profiling and the constant threat of deportation.
Gestapo-like raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement have already begun. Advocates report that almost 1,000 people were picked up in recent weeks.
Entire communities are desperate, not knowing if or when they will be deported. U.S.-born children are living with the trauma that they may come home to an empty house because their parents have been seized and deported.
Dreamer activists who won some relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are living in limbo, as the Trump administration aims to undermine that victory. Dreamers are now being picked up and detained, facing possible deportation.
One of those was Daniel Ramirez Medina in Seattle, who is being detained despite his DACA status. When the youth explained his status, an ICE agent told Ramirez, “It doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country.”
Latinx, Black, Muslim and Asian immigrants are besieged under a tidal wave of anti-immigrant diatribe and actions; it’s a wholesale war on people of color.
The leaked proposal aggravates this tense situation.
The memo stated that the National Guard would be used not only in large immigrant communities, but also in areas nowhere near the Mexican border.
According to AP, “The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Ore., and as far east as New Orleans, La.” Other states include California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Illinois.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of the 12 million undocumented in the U.S. live in the 11 states targeted.
Within minutes of the leak, Trump officials denied the story.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that this was not a White House document. The Atlantic correctly pointed out that this was “intriguing, because Spicer wasn’t denying that the memo was real; he was only saying it came from outside the White House.” According to the AP report, it was written by none other than Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly!
Within two hours the full text of the memo was available online. The Atlantic reported that it was “full of bullet points, legal citations and footnotes.”
It is unknown how far Kelly’s proposal will go. It would require a great deal of money, which must be approved by Congress. One of the memo’s main points, adding 5,000 new border guards, is indeed expected to be implemented.
But whether it is fully implemented or not, it has already served its purpose: to further terrorize the immigrant community and create a climate of fear.
Immigrant advocates say that Trump has set the tone for an era of unprecedented enforcement. “The level of anxiety and fear has increased tremendously,” said Cristina Jiménez from United We Dream. “What is clear under Trump’s executive order is that everyone is a criminal.”
Trump: the ICE Man
Raids, roundups and “knocks on doors” are all increasing under Trump. An anonymous immigration official told the Washington Post that ICE is flooding “target-rich environments.” (Feb. 11)
An unprecedented development during the 2016 presidential campaign was the endorsement of Trump by the National Border Patrol Council, which represents about 17,000 Border Patrol agents. It had never before endorsed candidates.
The council’s statement declared: “If we do not secure our borders, American communities [read “white people” — TG] will continue to suffer at the hands of gangs, cartels and violent criminals. The lives and security of the American people are at stake, and the National Border Patrol Council will not sit on the sidelines.”
It continues, “America has already tried an articulate freshman senator. … We need a person in the White House who doesn’t fear the media, who doesn’t embrace political correctness, who doesn’t need the money, … who is pro-military and values law enforcement, and who is angry for America. … Trump will embrace the ideas of rank-and-file Border Patrol agents. …
“There is no greater physical or economic threat … than our open border. … In view of these threats, the National Border Patrol Council … asks the American people to support Mr. Trump in his mission to finally secure the border of the United States of America, before it is too late.”
Trump is ICE’s man. The NBPC statement is only one example of the vile, racist ideology of those who are rounding up and terrorizing our sisters and brothers.
White House advisor Steve Bannon is also ICE’s man. Bannon was the head of the right-wing Breitbart News, the website that publishes ICE leaks. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), of the Congressional Black Caucus, correctly called Bannon a “a stone cold racist.”
Trump has had the most successful meetings in Washington with the police terrorizing the Black community and the ICE agents itching to pick up and deport us all.
Like police, most ICE recruits are questionable people. According to a former senior Homeland Security official, nearly 60 percent of applicants fail a polygraph test.
The Feb. 17 New York Times wrote that during the George W. Bush administration, “Thousands were hired … who were accused of taking bribes and providing information to Mexican drug cartels. The former senior homeland security official, James Tomsheck, from the office of internal affairs, said many of the new hires were members of the cartels.” Tomsheck was later removed.
These same agents who refused sensitivity training under Obama want to work with impunity and be able to pick up, detain and deport each and every immigrant despite their status. This amounts to wholesale ethnic cleansing.
In a Feb. 16 New York Times opinion piece, Linda Greenhouse stated that she expects agents to function “with the responsibility of treating unauthorized immigrants not as prey but as human beings entitled to dignity.” This is the opinion of someone who does not have a revolutionary class view, who is unaware of the grim reality for workers of color.
ICE is a racist occupying force that cannot be sensitized; it must be disbanded.
Many well-meaning protesters carry placards stating that current immigration policy does not represent “America.”
But immigration policy has always been repressive and exploitative. The only difference in how much exploitation depends on what the economic needs of the capitalist class are at any moment. Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants were once rounded up, beaten and jailed.
Greenhouse mentions the case of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a Phoenix mother of two who showed up for her routine check-in at her local ICE office. She was coldly and abruptly deported.
The journalist continues, “I’d like to think we’re better than that. A month ago, we were.” This completely and thoroughly ignores the fact that Democratic President Barack Obama deported more people than any other president in U.S. history!
This liberal thinking must be ripped from the headlines and from every placard at every demonstration. A month ago things were not better at all.
Racism at all levels
The day before the leaked memo, in a display of extreme racist, colonial paternalism, certain members of Congress — all Latinx — were not allowed into a Feb. 16 Homeland Security meeting on the raids.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and acting ICE head Thomas Homan asked Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) and Norma Torres (D-CA), two members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to leave. Others were barred entry altogether.
“In 20-plus years, I have never heard of the Republicans controlling what meetings Democrats can have with officials of the executive branch and never had a staffer ask me to leave a meeting to which I am entitled to attend,” said Gutiérrez, an active defender of immigrants.
The meeting, requested by the CHC to discuss the rise of raids and detentions, was originally scheduled for Feb. 14. But ICE canceled at the last minute, saying too many people wanted to attend. ICE said Homan would meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers instead.
The Feb. 16 Huffington Post reports, “ICE set the invite list for the meeting and initially excluded the entire Congressional Hispanic Caucus … before agreeing to include a small number of members.” Gutiérrez and Torres were not on the list.
“Even though they were not invited, Torres and Gutiérrez tried to enter the meeting and several other Hispanic Caucus members stood outside. Members said Gutiérrez was kicked out of the room first, and then Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) asked Torres to leave. Before she left, she asked ICE officials when she could get answers to questions about the raids. She said the officials did not answer; instead, Goodlatte told her that Republican leadership could get information to them.
“’I speak English — I don’t need a translator,’ Torres told reporters afterward.”
It is no coincidence that those kicked out are from states with not only large concentrations of immigrants but also huge demonstrations and activity.
One of those allowed in, Joaquin Castro (D-TX), tweeted, “After attending the ICE meeting it’s hard not to conclude that President Trump has started his mass deportation plan. Only Dreamers with no offenses (including traffic tickets) or perceived gang affiliations seem exempt.”
That is one of the reasons why the Democrats are in motion now. The threat is that they will once again misguide the movement into the electoral arena.
What good is it to be elected if you can’t even get into the meeting you need to be in?
Tasks for the movement
The wave of anti-Trump protests from all levels — liberal or revolutionary, working class or more privileged — is a welcome development. An upsurge in struggle is helpful.
But it is the task of class-conscious revolutionary fighters to take advantage of the split in the ruling class and the “shenanigans” in Washington to look for ways to take the movement forward.
When it comes to the struggle of immigrants, it is important for the movement to develop a plan of action, a program to defend undocumented workers. It cannot be forgotten that the Democratic Party leads in deportations.
This should include defending the workers fired from the Tennessee paint company for missing work on the Day Without Immigrants. Unions and the community should go to that factory and demand they be rehired with back pay.
The same for the workers from the I Don’t Care Bar and Grill in Catoosa, Okla., whose owners texted those who walked out, saying, “You and your family are fired. I hope you enjoyed your day off, and you can enjoy many more. Love you.” The community should show “love” by boycotting!
The Jewish community should form anti-gestapo brigades to stop ICE from carrying out raids and to demand that 287(g), the 2006 law giving enforcement officials the right to stop immigrants, be repealed.
These kinds of actions are already happening. It is another sign of a new day of struggle.
Polls show that a majority of people in the U.S. support the rights of the undocumented to remain, which is remarkable given the hyperbole against immigrants. This solidarity was seen the end of January at many airports in support of the Muslim community.
That solidarity must be seen tenfold on May Day 2017. Workers born here, whether in unions or fighting for one, from the community and every sector, those fighting police and ICE terror, Black, Brown and white — all must come out on May Day 2017 and shut shit down.