A Day Without an Immigrant and the Fight for Immigrants Rights
Panel Discussion with Class Struggle Workers – Portland
4pm Sunday May 21
at Cider Riot, 807 NE Couch St. Portland OR
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-303-8278
Donald Trump has picked up the title of “deporter-in-chief” where Barack Obama left off and run with it, from his reprehensible “Muslim ban” to his disgusting plan to expand the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. An upsurge of nationalist rhetoric combined with an onslaught of deportations and anti-immigrant measures has been met with protests.
The way to fight the racist bans on refugees and shut down ICE raids is to mobilize the power of the working class. Workers have the power to shut down raids and prevent deportations by mobilizing mass demonstrations backed by strike action.
A “day without an immigrant” is the beginning of what it would take, but the attacks on immigrant workers are a threat to the rights of all of us: the multi-racial working class must use its power together, demanding full citizenship rights for all immigrants. To fight Trump, it’s necessary to break with the Democrats, Republicans, and all capitalist parties, because the Democratic Party is a party of racist American capitalism just as much as the Republicans, and immigrant-bashing is a bipartisan obsession.
Hear reports from workers who have participated in this struggle and learn why the CSWP (Class Struggle Workers – Portland) says “An injury to one is an injury to all!”
These are dark days for immigrants, Muslims and their families, while the working class as a whole is under attack. Immigrants fear the unexpected knock on the door; children worry if their parents will be home when they return from school. Rumors of raids fly, sowing panic and confusion. Muslims and other religious minorities fear attack in their homes, at their mosques and workplaces or in public by fascistic terrorists incited by Trump’s deranged rants. And while significant numbers of workers voted for Trump because of the anti-worker policies of the Democrats, the Republicans (with the support of the White House) are pushing hard for a national “right-to-work” law aimed at destroying unions.
It is urgently necessary for the power of the working class to be mobilized to stop the raids and deportations, to defend immigrants, black people and all those threatened by racist persecution, and to bust the would-be union-busters!
Since Trump inherited the formidable machinery of anti-immigrant repression constructed under the Obama administration, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has increased the number of arrests by about one third. Actual deportations have not yet reached the Democrat Obama’s record. First there was the “Muslim ban,” presently held up in the courts. Now the immigration police are ordered to go after anyone who “in the judgment of an immigration officer … pose[s] a risk to public safety or national security.” In other words, anyone who “looks” like they don’t belong in a racist’s fantasy-America. In his speech to the Congress, Trump promoted the “VOICE” initiative, a federal program designed to stir up xenophobic hatred by publishing a police blotter of crimes allegedly committed by immigrants. Then the government floated its sadistic intention to separate the children of refugees seeking asylum from their parents.
The government says that 680 immigrants were arrested in one week. One woman in El Paso, Texas was arrested by ICE at the local court house during a hearing in which she had sought protection against an abusive boyfriend. In Phoenix, Arizona, Guadalupe García de Rayos had lived and worked without papers in the U.S. for over 20 years, since she was 14 years old. She had agreed to voluntarily report to the immigration authorities twice a year in exchange for staying her deportation. But when she reported on 8 February, she was arrested. Hundreds of people, including her children, gathered at the ICE office and bravely sought to block the van that was taking her away.
In Montrose, Colorado, Bernardo Medina was kidnapped by ICE agents and imprisoned in a “detention facility.” Medina is a natural-born U.S. citizen, but ICE police told him “You don’t look like you were born in Montrose.” In Woodburn, Oregon, eleven agricultural workers on their way to the fields were taken by the ICE police on Feb. 24, with seven held in the Tacoma immigration jail and all scheduled for deportation. Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the legendary boxer, was detained and questioned for two hours about his religious beliefs at a Florida airport. Each day brings news of a new atrocity.
Locally, another case that has gained notoriety is that of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23 year old Mexican immigrant living in Seattle who was brought to this country as a child and has no criminal record. ICE took him and his father on 10 February. He was held in the Tacoma jail until March 29 on $15,000 bail. Ramirez Medina is a “Dreamer,” whose deportation was “deferred” under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – until now. Near-daily protests have demanded his release, along with freedom for the thou- sands of other immigrants held there. Recently, hundreds of prisoners at the ICE jail in Tacoma are taking part in a rolling hunger strike, with daily vigils and rallies by their supporters outside.
Break ICE Terror With Workers Action!
What is happening here? The government – supported by Democrats and Republicans alike – whips up racist prejudice with its obsessing over crimes by those it declares “illegal.” Of course, one could just as logically publish a blotter of violent crimes allegedly committed by white men, or left-handed Lutherans aged 30-49, or any arbitrary category: what is at work here is the logic of racism and nationalist prejudice. In fact, undocumented immigrants are significantly less likely than U.S. citizens to commit crimes, particularly violent crimes. The sadistic, cynical “VOICE” initiative is copied directly from the Nazis, whose propaganda obsessed over “criminal Jews” in order to dehumanize an entire people. Every American is under the eye of a secretive state police (Geheime Staatspolizei in German), which can kidnap those it declares “illegal” and drag them before deportation tribunals: what we call “ICE” the Nazis called the Gestapo. And why not call the network of secretive “detention centers” by their right name: concentration camps where tens of thousands languish for months with no rights to speak of.
Trump is not a fascist. Neither was “deporter-in-chief” Obama, whose immigration policies are the basis and model for Trump’s. The reason for the similarities between the ugly official racism in fascist Germany and “democratic” America is the need of the ruling capitalist class to regiment the population for war abroad and police state at home by demonizing and attacking an “enemy within.” CSWP says to our fellow workers: we must not be neutral in this war of terror being waged against our neighbors and fellow workers. This assault on the rights of all of us must be defeated, and the working class – immigrant and native-born together – has the power to defeat it.
It is all the more necessary for the labor movement to take a clear and principled stand for full citizenship rights for all immigrants because the racist war on immigrants is demagogically sold to us by Democrats and Republicans alike as if it were in the interest of “legal” workers, with the lie that “illegal” immigrants are “stealing our jobs.” Nothing could be more false! “Illegal” undocumented workers’ wages and lives are cheaper for the bosses because they are discriminated against and oppressed, because they are cut off from the rest of the working class by official and unofficial prejudice. Under capitalism, no worker’s livelihood is secure, and the only way we can defend ourselves is to stand together and prevent the bosses from pitting us against each other. Today that means what point 7 of the CSWP program says:
“Fight racist discrimination and anti-immigrant prejudice in our unions. Mobilize labor’s power to stop deportations. Full citizenship rights for all immigrants. For union action to stop I-9 and ‘no match’ firings and ICE factory raids. No to racist ‘English-only’ laws or rules.”
By all indications this May 1 (International Workers Day) will be a big “Day Without an Immigrant” protest/strike, possibly similar to the historic protests in 2006 that revived May Day in this country. In March SEIU-United Service Workers West, the California mega-local, declared that it would strike on May Day, calling for a “general strike.” But when progressive union leaders and their leftist publicists speak of a “strike” or even a “general strike,” their aim is not to shut down production but to jazz-up a class-collaborationist protest/festival, and mobilize the “base” for the Democratic Party of racism and imperialist war.
A strike is not an individual choice to take an afternoon off for a protest march, but an organized deployment of specifically working-class power that strikes at the heart of the capitalist system, its profit-making machine. Workers seeking to organize such actions will often find that the first line of opposition facing them is not a line of riot police but the leading bureaucracy of their own organizations, committed to labor “peace” and class collaboration.
The Trump regime is as fragile as it is fearsome. But the Democratic Party’s “resistance” won’t bring it down. Democrats are partner parties with the Republicans in union-busting and immigrant-bashing. They just want union and Latino votes, and a war with Russia. The key is for the workers to unite and fight for our own class interests. Protests against deportation should be backed up by solid strike action. Already immigrant workers around the country risked their jobs to boldly take part in the 16 February “Day Without Immigrants.” They must not stand alone! Workers defense guards based on the unions must be prepared to defend mosques and immigrant communities. The anti-fascist mobilization resolutions adopted by a number of local unions are a step in this direction.
Above all, we need our own party, a class-struggle workers party to lead the militant defense of our rights. Such a party can only be forged in the struggle to break the workers organizations from the bosses’ Democratic Party, and drive out the pro-capitalist bureaucracy that chains the unions to this party of racism and war. This is the mission of CSWP. Join us! ■
CSWP urges all defenders of the rights of working people and immigrants to participate in the “ICE Out of Woodburn” protest scheduled for Monday, March 20, 4:30 p.m. at 2883 Newberg Highway in Woodburn, OR. For more information visit the Facebook event page for the protest.
This article from the London Guardian gives a vivid description of the cruel terror inflicted by the ICE Gestapo on our fellow workers.
This update from Class Struggle Education Workers describes some of the efforts being made by class-struggle unionists to defend immigrants at NYC public schools and universities. It’s time for unions in the Portland area to take similar measures.
Class Struggle Workers – Portland participated in the “ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the deportation gestapo) Out of Oregon” protest on Monday. We were joined by a contingent from Painters & Drywall Finishers Local 10.
CSWP says it is urgent for the unions to take action now to defend immigrants from deportation. The Trump regime is hated and unstable, but the bipartisan attack on immigrants won’t be ended by appeals to the Democratic Party or liberal platitudes about allegedly American values (this country was founded on slavery and genocide, not democracy, love and rainbows). The multi-racial, multinational working class has the power to drive the ICE gestapo out of Portland and other cities with mass protests backed by strike action.