Workers Vanguard No. 894

8 June 2007


Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!

Democrats, Republicans Push Vicious Anti-Immigrant Bill

Another ominous anti-immigrant bill is now before the U.S. Senate—the bipartisan “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.” As Marxists who champion the interests of the international working class, we oppose this bill, just as we opposed supposedly more “liberal” versions introduced last year. We say anyone who has made it to this country has the right to stay here: Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! No deportations!

Should there be any doubt as to the bill’s effects, no less an authority on how to enrich the rich while grinding down working people than the Wall Street Journal (31 May) approvingly states:

“Here’s what the bill does not do. It does not grant amnesty to the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country and nor does it give a free pass to others who want to enter the country illegally.

“The bill provides real border security for the first time…. It doubles the border patrol, expands the border fence and informs law enforcement about foreign nationals in the United States. Because it requires foreign workers to carry tamper-proof identification, both law enforcement and employers will be able to identify and apprehend those who violate the law.”

Predictably, the Wall Street Journal lauds the so-called “guest worker” provisions in the bill. If enacted, the bill would create a system of indentured servitude for immigrant workers, who furthermore are supposed to leave the country for one year after two years’ employment before they can return again. Such “guest worker” schemes recall the 1942-1964 bracero program instituted by the liberal Democratic Party administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Up to 4.6 million Mexican workers slaved under this program for over 20 years, denied rights in the U.S. and facing the prospect of being sent back by their employers at any time. In the 1950s, over a million Mexicans and Mexican Americans were expelled from the U.S. under the racist “Operation Wetback.” In fact, the bracero program came about in part because of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II by the U.S. bourgeoisie, who then discovered a severe shortage of agricultural workers.

The current anti-immigrant bill, introduced in May by liberal Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy among others, is genuinely bipartisan. The Bush White House is pushing it to cater to business interests who employ immigrants, despite screams from its nativist, white racist base as well as from the likes of the more urbane reactionaries at National Review. CNN’s resident xenophobic, race-hate mouthpiece, Lou Dobbs, has gone so far as to cook up inane and lying stories about immigrants being responsible for a (nonexistent) rise in leprosy!

While the Republican Party is engulfed in factional wrangling over the bill, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama chatter about sponsoring amendments to prettify it. One sticking point is the bill’s provisions against immigrant families. Contrary to the hypocritical bleats over “family values” from both parties of American capitalism, the bill would dismantle the family visa system in place since 1965, under which immigrants could sponsor family members. Replacing this with a skills “point system,” it would, according to the New York Times (30 May), “end preferences for the adult children and siblings of United States citizens, and eliminate a citizen’s rights to sponsor parents.” The bill would create a pool of 40,000 visas for which citizens would be forced to compete to bring their parents into the country. The Times article ominously pointed out that “only those admitted on points could sponsor their spouse and minor children.” If enacted, this would have an immediate and devastating effect on millions of immigrants.

For its part, labor officialdom, which has presided over the destruction of untold numbers of union jobs while pouring millions of dollars in union dues into Democratic Party campaigns, is divided. “Change to Win,” the 2005 split from the AFL-CIO, has in the past actually backed proposals for “guest worker” programs. In regard to the present bill, key components of the federation “are more willing to accept an amended version of the temporary-worker program” (Los Angeles Times, 1 June). The AFL-CIO has opposed the bill, including the vile “guest worker” provisions, but with vile, protectionist “American jobs for American workers” demagogy and calls for more border “security.” In fact, among the grotesque provisions of this anti-immigrant bill are those beefing up the Border Patrol with some 18,000 more agents, adding 370 more miles of fences and increasing sinister immigrant-hunting technology.

The mass demonstrations that took place in the spring of 2006 and, to a lesser extent, this May showed the courage and determination of immigrant workers and their allies to fight in defense of their rights. However, the protests were politically dominated by the strategy of pressuring the Democratic Party of U.S. imperialism. That was best exemplified by the slogan: “Today we march, tomorrow we vote!” first used before the 2006 midterm elections and now in the run-up to the 2008 presidential contest. As opposed to reformist left groups such as the International Socialist Organization (ISO) that have uncritically hailed the politics of the demonstrations, we have warned from the beginning that a strategy based on pressuring the Democrats is counterposed to an internationalist, class-struggle fight for immigrant rights.

In a joint declaration of the Spartacist League/U.S. and Grupo Espartaquista de México (WV No. 867, 31 March 2006), we explained:

“In the U.S., the most powerful and dangerous of the imperialist countries, the multiracial proletariat has a particular obligation to oppose the wars and depredations of the U.S. capitalist class. Defense of immigrant rights is necessary not only to fight the exploitation of the most vulnerable layers of the population. It is also crucial to reversing the decades-long decline of the trade unions, by enlisting immigrant workers, many of whom have a history of militant struggle, in the front ranks of the labor movement. Mexican immigrant workers can serve as a human bridge linking the struggles of the North American and Latin American proletariat.

“Opposition to anti-immigrant racism in the U.S. is directly intertwined with the struggle against black oppression. It is particularly important to combat anti-immigrant chauvinism among U.S.-born black and white workers, while immigrant workers must grasp that anti-black racism remains the touchstone of social reaction in the U.S.”

In warning against the earlier immigration “reform” proposed by Senators Kennedy and McCain (“Down With Feds’ Raids at Swift Meatpacking!” WV No. 883, 5 January), we pointed out that it will take the fighting unity of Latino, black and white workers against the bosses and their government to defeat anti-immigrant, anti-union attacks. Such a perspective requires combatting the politics of the labor misleaders—who are opposed to a program of class struggle and look to the capitalist state to defend the rights of working people and immigrants—and poses the necessity of fighting for a new, class-struggle leadership in the unions.

Such a leadership would fight for the political independence of labor from the bosses’ parties—Democrats, Republicans and Greens. There is a crying need for a revolutionary workers party—a party that fights to organize the unorganized, not least in the open shop South; that mobilizes labor’s social power to bust the union-busters; that acts as the tribune of the people and fights for a workers government, i.e., for a workers state that expropriates the bloodsucking capitalist rulers and uproots their system.

Legislative action or the lack thereof will not change the fact that under capitalism, as economic need demands, immigrant labor will be exploited—used in times of labor shortage and disposed of in times of economic contraction. As the capitalist rulers debate how best to exploit the working class while keeping it divided, last year alone saw some 190,000 people deported. On May 22, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized 136 workers, mainly from Guatemala and Mexico, at the George’s Processing, Inc. poultry plant in Missouri. In Ohio over the weekend of May 19-20, federal agents swept through the town of Painesville, arresting 24 in dawn raids. According to the People’s Weekly World (31 May), published by the Communist Party (CP), “Some 400 people sought refuge in St. Mary’s small basement Saturday afternoon, while others nailed their front doors shut and fled to the woods.” Perceiving a green light from the government, racist vigilantes have been emboldened. Virginia teenagers shot and killed a 32-year-old Mexican worker as he walked home to his trailer because they had decided that day to “get a Mexican” (Washington Post, 31 May).

However bipartisan the anti-immigrant outrages, on the street and in Congress, the CP will surely not be deterred from its habitual “fight the right” campaigning for Democrats. Nor has the largely moribund CP cornered that market. The ISO, while opposing the Senate “compromise” bill, gushes: “Nevertheless, the fact that some Democrats are criticizing the legislation from the left is a departure from last year” (Socialist Worker online, 25 May). The article goes on to state: “This year’s larger-than-expected protests on May Day are evidence that the immigrant rights movement hasn’t disappeared—and that the potential exists to mobilize at the grassroots for a just immigration policy.”

A “just” immigration policy under this wretched system? This is the antithesis of a Marxist understanding of the capitalist system and its state as historically developed in the U.S., with its legacy of the racist extermination of the native peoples, black chattel slavery and waves of anti-immigrant reaction; and with the continued pitting of different sectors of the working class and oppressed against each other by the racist rulers. It took blood and iron in the Civil War to rid this country of the scourge of slavery. It took pitched battles by union organizers to lay the basis for integrated, industrial unions. It took courageous fighters to extinguish Jim Crow segregation in the American South. But such reforms as can be wrested in hard class and social struggle are manifestly reversible as long as the capitalists hold state power.

Against the demagogy of the capitalist rulers and the politicians of both capitalist parties—white, black, Latino and other—which is echoed by the labor tops, we reiterate the closing lines of the Communist Manifesto: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!” As we wrote in “How the Fake Left Amnesties the Democrats” (WV No. 873, 7 July 2006):

“We do not seek to tinker with the system, looking for an alternative immigration policy. We will support such reforms as are offered. But, our bottom line is that we will worry about the ebbs and flows of the world economy when the proletariat under revolutionary leadership runs it. We are not responsible for, nor do we seek to advise, the bourgeoisie on its immigration or other policies. We seek to organize the social power of the proletariat to smash this system and establish proletarian rule.”