by Bill Gallegos
The US has never welcomed non-white, non-European immigrants. It was under President Obama that deportations reached an all-time high.
But today, the Trump Administration has made the demonization of migrants, particularly those from Mexico and Latin America, its main political rallying point, and has ramped up an ethnic cleansing campaign aimed at the forced removal of more than 11 million undocumented workers from the US.
While the overwhelming majority of this population is Mexican@, it also includes significant numbers of Centroamerican@s, Asian, and African peoples, and even 500,000 European immigrants. To gain public support for his policies, Trump foments fear of the “other.” Immigrants are painted as criminals, terrorists, rapists – sub-humans looking to harm “real” Americans. When the public is taught to fear and hate, the doors open to ethnic cleansing.
Trump also aims to prevent new migrants from entering as a way to “make America white again.” In June, Trump decided to rip 3000 children from their parent(s) as a way to “punish” those asylum seekers who have the audacity to think that the U.S. might grant them safe haven – even though this is U.S. policy!
Overwhelmingly, these migrants do not simply seek economic refuge; they carry evidence proving that their lives are in danger from criminal or domestic violence in their home countries. Threats to harm a child if a parent does not cooperate is political terror — it is a form of torture.
Fortunately, these heart-wrenching violations of human rights inspired broad and sustained resistance throughout the US, spearheaded by Chican@/Mexican@s and Latin@s, and include a broad cross-section of the US population, from Black Lives Matter, to elected officials, to media personalities, to labor unions, indigenous networks, and even the Prime Minister of Canada, who has said that his country would accept these refugees.
Though public outcry and a court order forced Trump to reunite the children with their families, the weeks and months of separation will leave these children with lasting psychological damage. While few are still paying attention, many children remain “misplaced,” are still in for-profit detention centers, and unknown numbers of parents have already been deported without their children.
In November, the Trump Administration again ramped up its ethnic cleansing campaign. It sent thousands of US troops to the US-Mexico border, with orders to use deadly force if they believe it is necessary, to stop several refugee caravans from entering the US. The caravans consist of thousands of men, (and mostly) women and children seeking safety in numbers by traveling together from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to seek asylum.
Again, thousands of US Latin@s and their allies have come to the defense of the refugees as have masses of people throughout Mexico. Manuel Lopez Obrador, the progressive newly-elected president of Mexico has also stated that the refugees will receive support from his government in their efforts to win asylum in the US.
If Trump’s intent to end Latin@ immigration succeeds, human rights and civil liberties are up for grabs for all of us. Trump, with the full support of right-wing forces in Congress and the “Justice” Department, has chosen his strongest line of attack on our democracy at the border, and he must be defied. The Left must dig deeper and fight to end all of the injustices embedded in US immigration and refugee policies.
At bottom, this is a fight against hatred, fear, and selfishness; it is a fight against ideas, policies and practices that open the door to fascism. In a growing sense, we are all asylum seekers. But through unity, with courage and love, acting on our knowledge that an injury to one is an injury to all, we can win this fight.
10 Points of Analysis
- White supremacy is “in,” vociferous, open, encouraged, rewarded. New- Confederate ideology is dominant; that is, a belief that this is a white country, that Black and Brown lives don’t matter, and that everything and anything must be done to keep America white and unequal.This includes repression of citizens of color, making it lengthy, difficult, and expensive for legal immigrants to gain citizenship, tracking and deporting all without papers, using harsh measures such as the snatching of the children to make immigration as terrible as the situations in the home country, and stopping the entry of people seeking asylum due to documentable threats of violence from political or social oppression.
- The Black Freedom Movement is still the primary target of Trump and the Right, but the Chican@-Mexican@ fight for immigrant rights is an important target as well. While mass incarceration has had its most devastating impacts on the Black population, it has also had a massive impact on the Latin@ population. While the focus has been on border security, most detentions and deportations are still taking place in the interior (since pre- Trump but amped up since his election), where ICE is raiding workplaces, homes, buses; and starting deportation proceedings on people when they go to court, to the hospital, to visit their soldier sons on military bases, to regular INS check-ins.Often, fathers or mothers are deported, leaving their citizen children behind. ICE and the Border Patrol are now the largest domestic fed-eral law enforcement apparatus in the country, dwarfing even the FBI, DEA, and the NSA. Ethnic cleansing is getting rid of as many Latin@s as possible; they are now the largest population of color in the US, (over 40 million); if their numbers increase at the current rate, then the U.S. will be majority non- white by 2045.
- There was a time when the Republican Right made some efforts to di-vide Black and Brown communities, conducting outreach programs and lauding Latin@s for “family values” and their “work ethic” (as contrasted with a Black community that they believed lacked such values).Ultimately however these efforts were unsuccessful as a more openly racist wing gained control of the Republican Party and began a campaign of demonization and repression against Chican@s and Latin@s. In California, the backlash from the Chican@/Latin@ population resulted in the near marginalization of the Republican Party, which, at the statewide level, cannot get elected dogcatcher.Those setbacks have motivated the New-Confederate Right to ramp up their attacks on both citizens and non-citizens: suppressing voting rights, minimizing political representation through gerrymandering, pursuing English-only laws, outlawing Chican@/Latin@ studies, ending immigration for family reunification, and now, the mass incarceration of babies.
- Mexican immigration to the US has been motivated mostly by US economic domination of Mexico, which has contributed to that nation’s massive poverty. NAFTA is a clear example of this domination. Within a few years after NAFTA went into effect in 1998, more than 3 million Mexican@s were driven out of the Mexican agricultural sector by US agribusinesses like Con-Agra and Archer Daniels Midland which decimated most of the small and medium-sized farm operations in Mexico. Mexico’s economy is unable to absorb all of these workers who then have no other option but to be “pushed” out of Mexico to head North. In the US, agribusiness, retail and service industries have been more than willing to employ undocumented immigrants who are denied most basic civil and labor rights. This is the “pull” of the “push-pull” dynamic that drives immigration from Mexico.
- The US shares a 2000-mile border with Mexico, the most important nation in the US “backyard” because of proximity, Mexico’s enormous oil and gas reserves, massive US investments there, and the linkages that exist between Chican@/Mexican@s in the US and those in Mexico. These include linkages between social movements, artists, unions, and intellectuals as well as family ties. US ruling class domination of Mexico and “control” of the border has been an important element of US ruling class strategy for decades.
A new threat to this domination is the recent overwhelming election of the left-leaning Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador (AMLO) as President, the election of members of his political party Morena to a majority of seats in the Mexican congress, and the victories of thousands of Morena candidates to seats in local and regional governments. Mexico’s strategic importance to the US has heavily influenced US immigration policies, never more so than now.
- Immigration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras can be directly linked to US support in the 1980’s for right wing governments, the military, and right wing death squads in those countries. With US (and Israeli) support, these forces in El Salvador and Guatemala murdered tens of thousands of workers and peasants, created hundreds of thousands of refugees, devastated their economies, and crushed all efforts at land and wealth re-distribution. A similar situation occurred more recently in Honduras as the US government, under President Obama, supported a coup against a progressive, democratically elected president who wanted to institute democratic and economic reforms. The poverty, crime, and violence that now dominates in those nations and compels people to migrate to the United States can be traced to US government policies.
- Drug trafficking and gang violence is claimed by Trump to be one of the main reasons for the crackdown. In Mexico, the drug wars have wreaked terrible carnage, and this is a major issue for the Mexican people. Contrary to Trump’s assertions, Mexico and the U.S. have long cooperated in stemming the tide. In Central America, youth gangs that have taken hold originated in the U.S. and were exported to El Salvador when young people arrested for felonies were deported.
According to Human Rights lawyer Jennifer Harbury, people flee Guatemala and El Salvador to es- cape the violence of the drug cartels led by former military thugs, trained at the School of the Americas, from the US-supported dirty wars against popu- lar forces in the 1980’s. In other words, the US created the refugee crisis – and is now, illegally, treating asylum seekers as criminals and denying them the right to enter and to ask for asylum.
- Republican fear-mongering about the danger of “open borders” is totally bogus. The US-Mexico border was drawn in blood after the United States invaded Mexico in the 1840’s and stole its Northern territories, including the modern-day US Southwest and California. In fact, all US borders have a blood history rooted in the genocide and displacement of Indigenous peoples, the colonization of Puerto Rico, the annexation of Hawai’i. As the great Chican@ theater artist Luis Valdez has said about Chican@-Mexican@s in the US, “we did not cross the border, it crossed us.” When the US needs a supply of easily exploited labor, the US-Mexico border is “open.” When economic crisis or political and social benefits derive from scapegoating immigrants, the border is closed.
- US capitalism is a white racist capitalism rooted in a history of genocide, enslavement, annexation, and colonization. That history includes the forcible annexation of Northern Mexico, territories that include some of the most fertile agricultural lands in the world, enormous oil, gas, and coal deposits, as well as deposits of other important minerals, and broad coastal access to trade from the Pacific Rim. Control of these territories has helped enable US capitalism to become the wealthiest country in the world.
- A system of white privilege has helped the US ruling elite to secure the support of a broad section of the white population. Whites have greater wealth, higher incomes, political, social rights, and cultural and language dominance, than do oppressed people of color. These privileges help ensure votes and political support for the policies and programs of the ruling Right, including economic policies that mainly benefit the 1%, and that hurt the very people voting for these policies. Scapegoating immigrants detracts attention from the real problems white working class and middle class white Americans face. Trump paints the majority of Latin@ immigrants as rapists and murderers at worst and freeloaders at best, and promises to “deport them all.” He uses fear to convince whites to lock the doors against newcomers, even those banging on the door to cry out for help, even children who have braved the desert crossing alone. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – and now, Trump is building a base on fear.
Ten Point Program of Resistance
- Practice internationalism. Chican@/Mexican@ organizations and activists and the Left must build ties with social movements in Mexico as a key element of strategy for freedom and self-determination for Chican@s/Mexican@s in the US, as well as to support the movement for genuine independ- ence and social change in Mexico. As we rejoice in the victory of Lopez-Obrador in Mexico, we know that the U.S. will not sit idly by and allow socialist reform there; we must be ready to work across the border to help the Morena Party succeed. Similarly, we must strengthen the Central American Solidarity movement that still exists in the form of CISPES, School of the Americas Watch, Witness for Peace and more. The issues, like families, reside and are connected on both sides of the borders; solutions must include changes in both the US and Latin America.
- Workers (of the world) Unite! Ethnic cleansing is a workers issue. The labor movement can –indeed it has to—play an active and aggressive role in the immigration fight. Not only do unions have significant numbers of Latin@ members, but strengthening workers’ rights abroad stops the global race to the bottom. In 2000 the national labor federation, the AFL-CIO, reversed a hundred years of anti-immigrant activity and since then has played a more progressive role.
Some unions have reached out aggressively to bargain contract language to protect undocumented members from termination (Unite-HERE), fought for sanctuary for its members seized by ICE (Painters – IUPAT), mobilized large-scale naturalization and voter registration efforts (Orange County Central Labor Council, Texas AFL-CIO), and built rapid-response networks to support and defend families broken up by raids (teachers and others).
Direct actions, such as the West Coast longshoremen shutting down docks to enforce a boycott of South African products to help end apartheid, or the 2015 ‘Day without an Immigrant’ strike shows the potential for labor action across many economic sectors. Leftists in the labor movement need to understand that labor’s future will largely be determined by our approach to white supremacy, and today that requires practical and political responses to the immigration crisis like those mentioned above.
- Build Black-Brown unity. Separating families has consistently been white supremacist U.S. policy: Native Americans (forcible removal of children to schools designed to knock the Indian out of them), African Americans (selling husband, wives, and children separately), Asians (in some cases putting just the fathers in the internment camps during WWII) and Latin@s as we are now witnessing in horror.
Together, the Black and Brown populations in the US represent more than 80 million people in areas of historic concentration in the US South and the US Southwest. A “Sunbelt Strategy” that unites our two social movements could anchor a united front of all oppressed people of color and a significant minority of white working people. A common campaign against the mass incarceration of Black people and the ethnic cleansing of Latin@s could be a major launching point for melding these forces into the foundation, the beating heart, of the United Front that can lead the working class out of capitalist barbarism.
- Build unity on the Left. Left and socialist organizations should be finding more ways to unite against the Trump ethnic cleansing campaign. This is at once a working class, women’s, and oppressed peoples’ issue. The moral outrage and the political strategy behind this campaign should motivate left organizations to meet, to talk, to strategize, and to collaboratively support the growing and massive resistance movement that has developed around these issues.
In many communities the Sanctuary movement has united a broad range of people in the name of protecting their neighbors and friends. This takes many forms, from campaigns to pass Sanctuary legislation to civil disobedience at ICE facilities to disruption of raids and establishment of literal sanctuary churches and homes where people at risk of detention or deportation can be protected. This could be an important first step towards building the broader Left unity we need to truly transform this country and achieve socialism.
- Build a united front NOW against the extremist New-Confederate Right, which is constructing a dangerous path to fascism. They are eliminating the right to vote for tens of millions of people of color; demonizing the media; putting forward falsehoods, praising dictators, gutting trade union rights, women’s rights, and civil rights; mobilizing an openly racist, white nationalist, neo-Nazi social base, all aimed towards creating an apartheid country. Time is of the essence. We must unite all who can be united in a broad united front that even includes neoliberal Democrats to confront this common enemy and build a new majority committed to justice and self-determination.
- An immediate end to the policy of arresting and criminalizing asylum applicants and incarcerating their children. While the government should pay the cost for reuniting children with their families, the actual work of and resources for doing so should be done by respected immigrants rights organizations, the faith community, community-based organizations.
- Abolish ICE. It is the modern-day Gestapo and should be immediately closed down. The resources now committed to ICE and the Border Patrol should be directed instead to immediately processing all asylum applications, the reunification of separated families, and speeding decisions on hundreds of thou- sands of other legalization applications.
- Immediate and unconditional residency for all DREAMERS, and a simple path to citizenship. These young people were brought to the US as children and are undocumented; they have spent most of their lives here, and do not remember or identify with their country of origin.
- Just and democratic immigration policies. Immigrants usually leave home due to US military, economic, and political policies; we on the Left say they should therefore be granted full legal, civil, and labor rights. But beyond the political rationale, just immigration policies are based on the moral sentiment engraved on the Statue of Liberty: to give refuge and freedom to those suffering from want.
Our policies now do not welcome – they punish: they cause immigrants to die near the border, to be deported to face violence and death from which they are fleeing, to live in constant fear of deportation, to survive in the shadows of the society they desperately seek to join.The US must reduce and retrain the Border Patrol in humanitarian practice; stop migra raids in our communities; get the US military off he US-Mexico border. We have resources, we have room, we have compassion based on our own immigrant histories: we demand that the US grant immediate and unconditional residency for all undocumented immigrants. If there is free flow of capital across borders, there should also be free flow of labor.
- Hands off Mexico. Trump and company want to make NAFTA worse?! US bilateral relations with Mexico must be based on respect for Mexico’s sovereignty, genuine mutual trade reciprocity, and an end to the War on Drugs which has contributed significantly to the rise of the narco-cartels in Mexico. We must also oppose all US efforts to politically, economically or militarily pressure the new Morena government to disrupt AMLO’s agenda for greater social and economic equity.
The ultimate goal of Trump and his New-Confederate supporters is to institutionalize an apartheid system in the United States. We already have a highly racially oppressive and unequal society. But we do not have apartheid, a racially based system where a white minority exercises political, economic, and cultural dominance over a non-white majority population. We will inevitably become a majority people of col- or nation, and that’s when apartheid could be fully institutionalized. The white supremacists in power are preparing for that day.
Maintaining supremacy will require a massive repressive apparatus and that is being put in place; the agenda of the Right is to defund social programs while increasing expenditures on policing and the military. It also requires the dismantling of democratic processes.
The attacks on voting and other civil rights specifically targeting people of color is laying down more prerequisites to apartheid. The dehumanization and demonization of people of color is another important ingredient, and hatred and fear are powerful weapons in the arsenal of the racist Right. The carrot element of the carrot-and-stick strategy to pacify people of color has been abandoned, as is painfully evident with the Trump/Right ethnic cleansing campaign. The radical Right is ascendant, and now we are getting the stick: they mean us serious harm.
But as people of color become a majority, we are going to be a very angry majority. A majority situated strategically economically and politically. A majority with immense potential networks in the global South. A majority with vast experience of struggle in virtually all arenas.
Unless the ruling class completely abandons all pretense of democratic governance, for example outlawing elections, the electoral arena will become an even more highly contested arena of struggle. Our populations are young. Increasingly large sections of our population can vote. We are situated in crucial areas of the South and Southwest, as well as other areas. The Asian Pacific Islander populations are the fastest growing of all, with significant concentrations in the Southwest and South. We are undoubtedly a threat.
The choice between barbarism and socialism is more clear than ever, as barbarism is the order of the day particularly for Blacks and Browns. For all who love peace and believe in human dignity, the time is now.