A REALISTIC SOLUTION TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
The right-wing radio talk show hosts make a big deal about the illegality of illegal immigration. They say it’s wrong to let illegal actions go unpunished and specifically it is wrong to let illegal immigrants stay in the United States. Deport them all, is their solution.
But why is it illegal for people to migrate across the U.S.-Mexican border in the first place? Why not make it legal, for anybody who wants to, to cross the border?
I have heard three main reasons given for restricting immigration across the border with Mexico:
#1) Illegal immigrants are a threat to American workers, i.e. scabs. American workers are forced to compete with them in a race to the bottom.
#2) Illegal immigrants are free-loaders taking advantage of hard-working Americans. They get welfare, free medical care and free education unfairly.
#3) Illegal immigrants don’t assimilate to our culture by learning our language and adapting to our ways; instead they keep using their own language and then demand that we accommodate to them.
There is certainly at least a grain of truth to all three of these arguments, and far more than a grain for #1. But this does not mean we should support restrictions on immigration and support the police and military actions our government carries out to enforce them.
The problems associated with illegal immigration, some very real (like #1) and others (such as the supposedly greater crime rate of Hispanics, which is actually a myth) greatly exaggerated by radio talk show hosts and demagogues, exist because we are ruled undemocratically by a plutocracy that deliberately creates illegal immigration as part of its effort to strengthen its power over ordinary Americans. The plutocracy’s main fear is that we will develop the solidarity and confidence to challenge their power and create a far more democratic and equal world, one without a rich, privileged and domineering upper class. Yes, illegal immigration is a problem for us, but for the plutocracy it is a major component of the solution to their problem, which is how to control us (see #1 again.)
The plutocracy deliberately created illegal immigration as part of their bi-partisan push to implement NAFTA. It worked like this. First, as part of the NAFTA deal imposed on Mexico, Mexico had to abolish the clause in its constitution (from its revolution in 1917) that gave peasants rights to the land. Second, NAFTA made it possible for American agri-business to flood Mexico with corn (.pdf) that was super-cheap due to U.S. government agricultural subsidies. The intended result was that nearly two million [according to CBS Evening News, July 1, 2006] Mexican peasant farmers were driven out of business and driven off the land, with no way to make a living and support their families other than by migrating north.
This is a huge problem for both Mexican peasants and workers, and for American workers. To solve the problem at its root will require a revolution here and in Mexico so that the people for whom illegal immigration is a solution will be out of power and the people for whom it is a problem will be in power. Then, Mexicans will not be forced to leave their homes and families to work in a strange place in the North. Then, Americans will not have the problems that inevitably arise when unusually large numbers of people speaking a different language and having a different culture are forced to migrate to foreign communities.
In the meantime, the realistic way for the American working class to respond to the problem of illegal immigration is to start by asking, "What is the best thing that we, meaning working class people who control neither our government nor our corporations, can do with respect to illegal immigrants that will strengthen, not weaken, our class, and bring us closer to being able to make a revolution?" Our power lies in good old-fashioned working class solidarity, across all borders– national, race, religious, gender or ethnic.
We face a fork in the road. One direction leads to greater solidarity between all working people in America-- natives and both legal and illegal immigrants--against the plutocracy. The other leads to greater hostility, fear and mistrust between native Americans and legal immigrants on the one hand and illegal immigrants on the other hand.
Our plutocracy, speaking through the mouths of their politicians (both parties), are doing everything they can to manipulate us into taking the road leading to disunity between legal and illegal workers. They want to make us unaware that the other road even exists. The conservatives call for making illegal immigrants and anybody who helps them felons. They want to deport all illegal immigrants immediately, and stop letting them get drivers’ licenses or public schooling for their children. They pretend to be "pro-working class" by saying to American workers, in particular, that the U.S.-Mexico border is "our picket line," one that we should stop scabs from crossing, by any means necessary.
The liberals, like Ted Kennedy, say illegal immigrants should be made to prove they are "good workers" (meaning, for example, that they don’t go on strike for anything, like higher wages and better working conditions) and then, after a long and difficult process, some of them–if they are very lucky–should be allowed to become citizens, maybe. This amounts to making illegal immigrants an inferior caste of worker; it is pure divide and rule.
Both the conservative and the liberal politicians are trying to carry out the plutocracy’s intention to enlist the public in support of the government identifying illegal immigrants as a menace, as people to be dealt with harshly, even violently if they try to cross the border without permission or exercise rights that American citizens take for granted. The plutocracy wants to destroy any and all international working class solidarity. It hopes to advance this aim by turning a major section of the American working class against itself along the line dividing illegal immigrants from other workers.
American workers need to ask, "What promotes solidarity between American and Mexican working people?" Does it strengthen solidarity if we support our government when it violently attacks Mexicans trying to enter the United States looking for work (that’s what it takes, after all, to restrict immigration?) Does it strengthen solidarity if we support our government when it hunts down illegal immigrants to deport them? Does it strengthen solidarity if we stand behind Ted Kennedy’s effort to make illegal immigrants promise to be "good workers" or else face deportation? Obviously not.
What strengthens solidarity would be to do what none of the politicians want us to even think about. Welcome our working class brothers and sisters if they wish to come into the United States. Welcome them to join us in fighting for a better, more equal and democratic United States. Welcome them in joining our strikes and struggles against our plutocracy. Support them when they join us in this struggle by standing with them against government CIS (formerly INS) goons who threaten "uppity" illegal workers with arrest and deportation.
By the same token, treat illegal immigrants no differently from any other worker. If they scab on our strikes or any other struggles, treat them like scabs. Judge people not according to whether our plutocracy gives them "legal" status or "citizen" status, but according to which side they take in the class war.
Remember, no matter who we are, no matter if we are citizens or documented immigrants or illegal immigrants, whenever we do anything that actually, truly threatens the power of our plutocracy to rule over us undemocratically and to enjoy, at our expense, power and privileges beyond imagination, we are all treated as criminals. In the class war, the plutocracy makes it criminal to do the right and decent thing. The right and decent thing is to ignore whether a fellow worker is a citizen, a legal immigrant or an illegal immigrant. As in other issues, the key is, "What approach strengthens us as a class?"
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