Revolution #50, June 11, 2006
Senate’s “Compromise” Bill—A Nightmare for Immigrants
If you are going to insist that crossing borders illegally is a crime which cannot be tolerated, and for which people should be punished, how about George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice (and yes, Colin Powell) and the rest of that gang, with their highly illegal, and violent, “crossing of the border” — into Iraq, among other places?!
On May 26, the Senate passed a “compromise” immigration bill which contains nightmarish provisions for immigrants and actually ratchets up the level of criminalization of immigrants, the Big-Brother databases and spy networks (which will impact everyone in the U.S.—immigrant or not), and the brazen exploitation of immigrant workers.
- The Senate’s bill will call for holding immigrants at U.S. military bases if they are awaiting deportation or awaiting results of their asylum hearings. Immigrants can be held indefinitely in these bases if their own countries won’t accept them, or if it is determined that there is “good cause,” a decision which will be nearly impossible to appeal. Immigrants can be deported based on “secret evidence,” previously supposedly only for use in terrorism cases.
- It divides immigrants based on how long they have been here: some of those here longer than five years will supposedly be offered a path to citizenship—which will apply to very few people. Immigrants who have been here for between two and five years will be required to report to “ports of entry” (like ocean ports or border crossings) no matter how far that is from where they currently live, and once there they will be in a Catch-22 situation: they must prove how long they have lived here, but if any of that proof also turns up evidence that they used a fake Social Security number or another forged document, they will be denied permission to stay and face deportation. We’ve seen this before, with the mandatory registrations of millions of South Asian and Muslim immigrants in 2003, where thousands showed up and nearly 500 found themselves deported, suddenly ripped from their families.
- It gives cops the power to remand immigrants for deportation—which will put millions of immigrants in even deeper fear that any encounter with police will tear them away from their families forever. And it declares a wholesale war on Latino and other immigrant youth in the name of a fight against gangs: anyone who is suspected by a cop of being a “gang member” (with no set criteria for this “gang” membership) would be deported. One study of the Los Angeles Police Department “Gang Database” in 1992 revealed that 94% of the over 100,000 youth in the database (two-thirds of whom were Latino) committed no crime (see “Demonizing Youth,” by Linda S. Beres and Thomas D. Griffith, Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review).
- It creates a special zone within 100 miles of the border where usual procedures that allow people to seek political asylum do not apply. A refugee from a death squad in their home country, for example, would be deprived of their minimal rights under the normal asylum process if, for example, they encountered law enforcement or immigration authorities in San Diego.
- And the Senate bill is not the “path to citizenship” that it is being called in the bourgeois media. It would deny immigrants citizenship if they’ve been convicted of one “aggravated felony”—which might include document fraud—or three misdemeanors, no matter how long ago these convictions were. Anyone that ever used a fake Social Security number to work—meaning millions of undocumented immigrants — will not only be ineligible for citizenship, but they will be subject to deportation. It’s not clear how many people will eventually get citizenship, but immigration rights organizations like the National Immigration Project have warned that many will likely not ever get it.
- And it creates a guest worker program which will further legitimize the vicious exploitation of immigrant workers, while codifying their second-class status into law. (See “The Brutal Realities of ‘Guest Worker’ Programs,” in Revolution #48, online at revcom.us). These guest workers would be brought in to work at back-breaking and dangerous jobs, worked in conditions of debt slavery and in constant fear of deportation or worse, and then expelled when their usefulness is up. Bush and others are adamant that these workers will not be eligible for citizenship.
The Senate and House bills will go before a committee that may include people like Congressman Sensenbrenner, sponsor of the House bill that would make criminals out of anyone who aided illegal immigrants—so it is likely that any “compromise” between the House and Senate will be even worse than this Senate bill.
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