Workers Vanguard No. 1107
10 March 2017
Down With Racist War on Immigrants!
No to Anti-Muslim Crusade!
MARCH 6—A 26-year-old woman with a brain tumor ripped from her hospital bed in Texas and thrown back into detention; a Los Angeles restaurant worker pulled over and handcuffed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) agents after dropping his daughter off at school; a transgender woman in El Paso arrested after seeking protection from domestic violence. The Trump administration has unleashed I.C.E. and other police agencies in a blitzkrieg of terror against immigrants, racking up hundreds of arrests from coast to coast. Immigrant families are holing up in their homes, refusing to answer the door, afraid to go shopping or to school, fearful of using social media. Kids are being told who to call and where to go if their parents are seized and deported.
Unleashed by Trump, the I.C.E. thugs are now saying that their job is “fun” as they bust into homes in the predawn hours or sweep up day laborers on their way to work, giving them a taste of hell as they fling them into detention centers. Many of these dungeons are run by private corporations that have been big, and powerful, profit-makers under Democratic and Republican presidents alike.
President Trump’s January 25 executive order vastly expanded the pool of those considered a “priority” for deportation to include any undocumented immigrant even suspected of a criminal offense, no matter how minor, or who might “pose a risk to public safety.” Such “risks” apparently include a Mexican mother of two U.S.-born children who was arrested in Phoenix and immediately deported when she showed up for her regular check-in with the immigration office. She is considered a criminal because, like eleven million others, she is in this country “illegally.” Although Trump has not (yet) terminated Barack Obama’s DACA program, which gave a temporary reprieve to people brought to this country as children, a number of these “Dreamer” youth have been swept up in the raids and face deportation.
You don’t even have to “fit the profile” to be subjected to the tender mercies of the immigration cops. Last week, Henry Rousso, a French academic and expert on the Holocaust, was held at Houston’s international airport for ten hours and threatened with expulsion on the completely bogus suspicion that he was trying to enter illegally. Also in February, passengers on a flight from San Francisco were asked to show their IDs as they disembarked at New York’s JFK airport, supposedly so that I.C.E. could nab an undocumented immigrant. Of course, I.C.E. knew everybody on the flight, and no such person was found. The point of the exercise was to cow people into meekly accepting such intrusions by the state—the Bill of Rights be damned.
On top of all this, the White House today issued a revised anti-Muslim travel ban. Aside from permanent residents and current visa holders, the new executive order bans anyone trying to get into the U.S. from select Muslim-majority countries (with Iraq now removed from that list) as well as all refugees for a 120-day period. Even while the initial January ban was held up in the courts, customs agents in Florida detained Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the late boxing great and a U.S. citizen, for two hours after he returned from Jamaica and grilled him about his religion because of his “Arabic-sounding” name.
While the U.S. imperialists slaughter the peoples of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, at home, Muslims and immigrants from Islamic countries are portrayed as “internal enemies.” Similar to what happened after the September 11 attacks, the current anti-Muslim hysteria is fueling murderous extralegal terror. Last month, a Navy vet in Kansas shouted, “Get out of my country!” as he gunned down two software engineers from India, killing one. Just two days ago, a Sikh American was shot in the driveway of his Kent, Washington, home by a masked white man snarling, “Go back to your own country.” With fascist gangs emboldened by Trump’s election, Jews are also a target, with bomb threats at over 100 community centers to date and gravesites across the country being vandalized.
White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who helped craft both anti-Muslim bans, has described immigrants—and Muslims in particular—as a threat to “the Judeo-Christian West.” You can be sure that for this notoriously racist “white nationalist,” the “Judeo-Christian West” does not include black people (or Jews, for that matter).
Make no mistake: The same forces taking aim at those most vulnerable—undocumented immigrants, Muslims trying to enter the U.S.—also have their sights set on the black masses and the entire working class. Trump’s shock-and-awe campaign is all about ramping up police powers and sowing fear and loathing in the population. Trump may have a long way to go to break Barack Obama’s record of more than 2.5 million deportations, but he does promise to throw a lot more money and manpower into I.C.E. and police agencies and to unshackle them from whatever nominal restraints they might have felt.
This was the message Trump delivered in his address to Congress last week when he announced the creation of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office (V.O.I.C.E.). After railing yet again at the murder rate in Chicago, Trump introduced the program by shining a spotlight on Jamiel Shaw, the token black point man from his campaign whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant. With this bit of theater, Trump declared his intent to give the cops even freer rein to enforce “law and order.” As the black population knows all too well, this means a war on them. No wonder the cops cheer Trump’s battle cry to “make America great again,” a slogan that conjures up an earlier time of U.S. supremacy when black people supposedly “knew their place.”
Immigrant Rights and the Fight for Black Freedom
The current anti-immigrant drive makes abundantly clear that an injury to one is an injury to all! It is the duty of the labor movement and of all fighters against racist oppression to defend immigrants with or without papers. We oppose all racist, nationally discriminatory immigration laws and regulations. We demand: No deportations! Full citizenship rights for everyone who has made it to this country!
It’s notable that recent demonstrations in defense of immigrants have included a sizable number of black protesters, who understand that the cops’ guns are loaded and aimed at them. A vocal supporter of racist “stop and frisk” police tactics, Trump is pumping up not only the immigration cops but also county and city police forces. He has even threatened to “send in the Feds” to combat “crime” in Chicago.
It is crucial to link defense of immigrants to the fight for black rights in this country, where the capitalist system, founded on chattel slavery, is rooted in the forcible segregation of the majority of the black population at the bottom of society. As the Spartacist League/U.S. and the Grupo Espartaquista de México wrote in a joint declaration during a wave of immigrant rights protests more than ten years ago (printed in WV No. 867, 31 March 2006):
“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.”
The integrated trade unions should be in the forefront of the defense of immigrant workers. But the American labor movement is crippled by a flag-waving leadership whose fundamental loyalty is not to the workers but to the profitability of U.S. capitalism. And this “America First” chauvinism plays right into the capitalist bosses’ divide-and-rule schemes, to the detriment of all workers.
There is no better example of this treachery than AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka. The morning after Trump’s address to Congress, Trumka told Fox Business Network that he was pleasantly surprised by the speech, saying, “This was the first time the president has talked about legal immigration being used to drive down wages. We’ve been saying that for a long time.” Trumka & Co. sure have, and it’s a lie. It’s the capitalist bosses, not any sector of the working class, that drive down wages, and it is the labor tops’ class collaborationism, politically expressed mainly through their ties to the Democratic Party, that has disarmed workers in the face of the bosses’ relentless anti-union drives.
Back when Obama was trying to push through his bogus immigration “reform” package, Trumka gave his backing to the E-Verify program, a database of everyone legally permitted to work in the U.S. that has facilitated the mass firing and deportation of immigrants, including those involved in union organizing. Trumka’s vile immigrant-bashing is part and parcel of his program of “American jobs for American workers,” as he hails Trump’s calls for aggressive economic protectionism. The labor tops’ chauvinist protectionism poisons the consciousness of U.S. workers, preaching the lie that their class interests lie with American capitalism against foreign competition and pitting them against their class brothers and sisters south of the border and overseas.
For a Multiracial Workers Party!
To get the unions back on their feet will take some hard struggle based on the understanding that the interests of the American working class are counterposed to those of their U.S. bosses, at home and abroad. To unite workers for such struggle, the labor movement must take up the fight for immigrant and black rights against the capitalist rulers’ attacks.
Black people remain that section of the population that is most keenly aware of the vicious nature of racist America. And along with black workers, who have a higher rate of union membership than white workers, immigrants are bound to play a leading role in future class battles. The throwing together of workers from different lands in the factories and workshops of the capitalist economy serves to break down national divisions as well as the parochialism of native-born workers. The foreign-born often bring with them a keen understanding of the depredations of U.S. imperialism in their homelands, as well as experience in hard-fought class battles. Indeed, the tiny handful of union victories over the last couple of decades were in the main delivered by predominantly immigrant labor in the service industries and meatpacking.
Labor needs a new leadership committed to class struggle and proletarian internationalism. That requires breaking labor’s ties to the Democrats, Trump and all capitalist parties and politicians. While Trumka dances with the devil, Maria Elena Durazo, head of the UNITE HERE’s immigration and civil rights committee, has just been re-elected vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. There she will work to keep union activists and immigrants wanting to fight Trump reaction shackled to the other party of racist U.S. capitalism.
The starting point for defending immigrant rights must be opposition to all the political parties and state agencies of the capitalist rulers. A number of Democratic mayors have responded to the anti-immigrant crackdown by declaring their domains “sanctuary cities,” where cops have discretion to not check on immigration status. For the likes of New York City’s Bill de Blasio, waging the racist “war on drugs” and “war on terror” are higher priorities than checking papers. For undocumented immigrants, any arrest—including for minor offenses—can prompt I.C.E. detention and deportation. Fingerprints are automatically shared with federal immigration authorities, regardless of the city’s professed “sanctuary” status. As we warned in “Trump Escalates Obama’s War on Immigrants” (WV No. 1105, 10 February), “It is downright delusional to believe that local agents of the capitalist state will establish oases of refuge for immigrants. The cops who gun down black and minority youth with impunity will not protect immigrants from the Feds.”
Today, as the government sets its sights on immigrants, Muslims and many others, the Democrats are working to refurbish their false credentials as friends of workers and the oppressed, including by playing a leading role in organizing the protests against Trump. The crying need is to forge a revolutionary leadership—a 70 percent black, Latino and other minority workers party that will champion all the exploited and oppressed in a fight for a workers America. By seizing the productive wealth of society and building a new order of material abundance and social equality, the multiracial working class in power will put an end to poverty, joblessness and other miseries produced by the capitalist profit system. With our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México and other sections of the International Communist League, the Spartacist League/U.S. works for the victory of this cause internationally by struggling to reforge the Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution.