Revolution #80, March 4, 2007
Mass Deportations, Vigilantes, Government Suppression:
STOP the Fascist Assault on Immigrants!!
On Thursday, February 22, the College Republicans group at New York University (NYU) organized a “game” they called “Find the Illegal Immigrant.” The Republican students had someone going around the campus with a tag saying “illegal immigrant.” The object of the “game” was to catch the “illegal immigrant” for a cash prize.
This “game” held by the NYU College Republicans is nothing less than ideological training in the mentality of slave-catchers hunting down runaway slaves, or of “good Germans” turning in Jews who were in hiding during the Nazi years. Indeed, it is training people in the outlook of the Minuteman vigilantes who right now carry out armed patrols on the Mexican border. Hundreds of students from NYU and other campuses righteously protested this outrage. And this was good, and needs to be built on.
But this event is far from an isolated incident. There is a whole fascist offensive going on that must be brought to light and acted upon. Immigrants are being hunted down and rounded up by the thousands, right now, all over this country, both by vigilantes AND by the federal government. For example:
- On the same day as the event at NYU, federal agents arrested over 250 immigrants working as janitors at 63 locations for a major cleaning company.
- Last December, agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested over 1,280 workers in a single day at Swift meatpacking plants in several states. Officers stormed the plants, all decked out in riot gear with military weapons. They locked the doors, and then they hunted down immigrants like animals. At a plant in Utah, in a scene reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the agents gave the light-skinned and white-looking workers blue wristbands and let them step out of line, while darker-skinned immigrants were lined up to be interrogated and, in many cases, arrested. Children were left at schools and day care centers, waiting for parents who never showed up. A store owner in a Colorado city, where another Swift plant was raided, said, “I wondered if they were taking them to the gas chambers on those buses.”
- Since May 2006, this same agency--ICE--has rounded up more than 13,000 immigrants in a nationwide offensive by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, known as “Operation Return to Sender.” Many have been immediately deported.
- Two human rights groups have just released a report on two “detention facilities” where immigrant families are imprisoned, and where kids are separated from their parents. The Hutton facility in Texas, run by a private prison company, now holds about 200 immigrant children. Michelle Brane, from the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, described the situation at Hutton: “At night, some children do remain in the cell with their parents, and others are separated into separate cells. It depends on family size, space and the age of the child. But children as young as six can be separated at night.” Brane said that at another facility in Pennsylvania, “All children over five sleep separately from their parents. And at night, these parents cannot get to their children. So, many parents talked of their children crying at night or being sick at night and not being able to go to them.” (Interview on Democracy Now!, Feb. 23)
These raids have caused tremendous suffering. The government is bringing down a climate of intense fear and terror on millions of people in immigrant communities around the U.S. (See “Gestapo Immigrant Raids in the Bay Area.”)
Murder on the Border, Abu Ghraib-Style Detention, and Fascist Vigilante-ism
Meanwhile, the federal government has stepped up its militarization of the border. They have added more troops, more walls and fences, and more surveillance equipment. This has forced immigrants to make the crossing through even more remote and dangerous desert areas. And this translates into more immigrants losing their lives. According to official statistics, 460 people died trying to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. in 2005, a 40% increase over the year before. These are murders by design, and there is blood on the hands of every senator and congressman who voted for these measures.
Bush has also announced plans for a huge expansion of “detention facilities” for undocumented immigrants in case of "emergencies." These prisons are to be used for people who have already been branded as “criminals” without trials—as “aliens” who don't deserve the most basic rights. And these concentration camps would be built by the company KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton--the same people who have major military contracts from the U.S. government for occupied Iraq and at Guantánamo.
Along with these government moves targeting immigrants, "nativist” groups like the vicious and racist Ku Klux Klan have been making a comeback by attacking immigrants.(See: Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 9, 2007, "Anti-Immigrant Sentiments Fuel Ku Klux Klan Resurgence") And then there’s the armed Minutemen, and their Young Republican backers and suckups on the campuses. What makes all this even more dangerous is the way in which it blends in with other fascist trends--the Christian Fascists, like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the students who are aggressively trying to purge their faculties of progressive professors; the anti-Black genocidal trends that came sharply into focus around Hurricane Katrina--all of which have backing, and sometimes open voicing, from the powers-that-be.
The people who run this country have an international agenda of endless war; they are attempting to be the unchallenged--and unchallengeable--dominant power on Earth. But this has run into opposition, overseas and increasingly here within the U.S. Meanwhile, every year witnesses great changes in society, economically, socially, and culturally. Global capitalism forces wages down within the U.S. and shifts jobs overseas in the click of a computer mouse. These same capitalists have increasingly penetrated and stepped up their domination of Mexico and other countries in latin America, including in agriculture. These changes have driven millions of peasants off the land and into a situation where they must risk their lives to seek work in "El Norte." The things people took for granted yesterday no longer hold today, and no one can be sure of tomorrow. So the capitalists aim to stamp things--and people--into place to “keep it together” during a period of wild transition in their global order.
This means many repressive things, and one of them has been the clampdown on undocumented immigrants. And now this is being ramped up. The capitalist rulers have huge power over the millions of undocumented workers inside the U.S. These workers lack basic rights and are liable to be deported at any time. But, at the same time, the fact that millions live “outside the law” runs up against the rulers’ need to impose a qualitatively greater level of repression over society as a whole. The U.S. imperialists are also paying close attention to things like the recent political upheavals that have rocked Mexico. They fear that such social and political turmoil—and even revolutionary upsurge—could cross the border, and react back and forth with resistance and revolutionary developments within the U.S.
Given this situation, all the forces in the top power structure believe that the millions of undocumented immigrants must be brought under much tighter control. The leaders of both ruling class parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, have been pushing for “immigration reform” that addresses the system's continuing need for millions who are forced to work for desperation wages. All of these “reforms” aim to keep the immigrant workers in a caste-like status, that is, oppressed in special ways without rights. Both parties aim to tighten up the border, and fortify measures to monitor and suppress upheaval and resistance. And while the debate over how to do this is not totally settled, all the branches of government are nevertheless moving very quickly in a very suppressive and fascistic way against the immigrants. And this whole thing is so explosive socially that the top rulers are even using threats against individual capitalist employers.
But you have to add to this another very important factor. The rulers of this society were profoundly shook by the big immigrant demonstrations last spring. They fear the potential power of millions that they exploit should they dare to rise up, a little glimmer of which was on display in those outpourings. And these rulers fear this example spreading to other sections of the people, both among the exploited and oppressed as well as among people from the middle class who are seething with anger at what is going on. So in one dimension, the raids and repression are designed to take revenge against the people for standing up and intimidate them from doing so again.
What Will YOU Do?
For immigrants and those who actively support the just struggle of immigrants, now is not the time to give in to despair and fear. A blow was struck last Spring, and now there is a counter-blow being delivered. The rulers are hitting back because in the end their fear is much greater: the fear that those they oppress and exploit, those upon whom their power and profit rests, will resist that exploitation and oppression and eventually rise against them. And while the rulers fear the rise of the immigrants, the revolutionary proletariat and the revolutionary communist movement welcomes this--for this brings strength to the revolutionary movement today and the millions of immigrants will play a big role in building the new society tomorrow. The ONLY hope in today’s situation is more struggle, more resistance, and--on that basis--more unity.
For those sitting on the sidelines, now is the time for a look in the news and a look in the mirror. Thousands of immigrants are being rounded up and “disappeared” from the cities, neighborhoods, work places, and schools of this country. They are being locked up in prisons and deported without any rights. Families are being separated. People are afraid to go to work or walk the streets, because of the danger of being swept up in raids.
Think about what it means that a whole section of people are being scapegoated and targeted like this. Think about what Martin Niemöller, the German pastor who was imprisoned under Hitler, summed up about the rise of the Nazis: "First they came for the communists, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, but I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
There are many parallels to the situation in the U.S. today. Whether people draw from and act politically on these lessons from history can shape the future for hundreds of millions worldwide. It was very positive that the cruel anti-immigrant “game” at NYU was immediately challenged and opposed. It is urgent that the whole chauvinist, fascist offensive against immigrants be challenged and resisted by many, many people all across this country. And it is time, and way past time, that the whole system that gives rise to such monstrosities be done away with.
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