Travis Morales:

Resisting the War on Immigrants

"We won't collaborate, we won't cooperate"

Revolutionary Worker #903, April 20, 1997

Travis Morales of La Resistencia gave the following talk on April 2, at a symposium on "Strategies to Resist the Attacks Against Immigrants." This gathering was held at New York City's St. John's University, sponsored by the Multicultural Students' Advisory Group, the NAACP, the Organization of Latin American Students, the Asian Students Association, and the Haitian Society. Other speakers that day were Guillermo Chacón from New York's Latino Commission on AIDS; Ted Cox, an attorney representing immigrants of the Golden Venture ship; Teresa Gutiérrez of the National People's Campaign; Jocelyne Mayas of Brooklyn's Haitian Immigrant Coalition; and Professor Janice Villiers of the St. John's University School of Law.


Four years ago President Clinton said, "The simple fact is that we must not, and we will not, surrender our borders to those who wish to exploit our history of compassion and justice."

Just what history of compassion and justice is he talking about? Let's look at yesterday, April 1. It was the first anniversary of the beating of the immigrants by the Riverside Sheriffs in southern California, a beating people saw on videotape all over the world--what many came to call the Mexican Rodney King and what many people from other countries who have crossed the border know is everyday standard operating procedure.

Is this the history of compassion and justice that Clinton is talking about?

Let's look at what began yesterday with many of the anti-immigrant provisions of the Welfare Reform Law going into effect: The Chinese woman, with crippled hands from working 20 years in New York garment sweatshops, being told her Supplemental Security Income and food stamps--her only sources of income--are being cut off. The pregnant Salvadoran woman, who tells how she crossed the border to escape U.S.-sponsored death squads in her home country, being told there is no pre-natal care for her high blood pressure. The Mexican children being told they no longer qualify for school breakfast and lunch programs, their only meals of the day. The elderly Cuban couple being kicked out of public housing.

Is this the history of compassion and justice that Clinton's talking about?

Yesterday, April 1, was a critical turning point--a watershed day in the government's war on immigrants, the beginning of enforcement of the anti-immigrant provisions of the Welfare Reform Law. Estimates are that between April 1 and September, Supplemental Security Income for 500,000 people who have come here from other countries, overwhelmingly blind, disabled or old, will be cut off. 900,000 will lose their food stamps.

With these new laws, the government has moved to deny social services like food stamps, SSI for disabled children and adults, rent subsidies, Medicaid, public housing and more to most documented immigrants, as well as require government social service agencies to report to the government all undocumented people who, out of desperation, come in trying to get help--so they can then be arrested and deported.

This is Clinton's history of compassion and justice.

This is exactly why we need a national movement of non-compliance with the Welfare Reform Law and all anti-immigrant legislation. People from across the country like People of the Golden Vision; the chief executive officer of an El Paso, Texas community clinic; the Immigrant Workers Association in New York; the Texas-Oklahoma Region of the National Lawyers' Guild; a priest in Oakdale, Louisiana; the Los Angeles Coordinator of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights; Chicano poets in Texas and Colorado; the Los Angeles Catholic Worker; and others have all signed a call that says in part, "...we call on social service and health care providers to pledge to act independently of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and other federal agencies, find the ways to provide all services to all immigrants in need of help, and refuse to report the undocumented to the INS." And in addition, it states, "We will express our determination not to comply with the Welfare Reform Law and new anti-immigrant laws and affirm our commitment to support those who put themselves on the line through non-compliance."

Recent experience has shown there is widespread support for a movement of non-compliance. That can be seen from all the different kinds of people who have signed this call, copies of which are available along with the list of signatories.

In talking with people from across the country I can tell you that there are many social service and health care providers who hate these new laws and don't want to comply, and many are discussing how to continue providing services to immigrants. But in order for them to have the freedom to continue providing services to immigrants and refuse to report the undocumented to the INS, there needs to be a widespread movement of non-compliance that makes clear:

1) That they are not alone. They may feel isolated from each other, but in fact there are many just like themselves who don't want to comply, and;

2) There is a movement that will support them when they put themselves on the line.

In building this movement of non-compliance we need to study the lessons of earlier movements--specifically the Abolitionist Movement, the anti-slavery movement back before the Civil War. There was both a very public face and a very non-public face of this movement. Some people had the responsibility of publishing anti-slavery newspapers, speaking across the North, and organizing public opposition to slavery. Others had the responsibility of organizing the Underground Railroad--of actually leading escaped slaves out of the South and into Canada, all of which was very non-public and all of which was very illegal. Again, there is much to learn from history.

In the Abolitionist Movement, supporters who lived on the banks of the Ohio River would put a candle in the window at night so escaped slaves knew that that house was a house of safe haven, a house of refuge. In that spirit, La Resistencia will be popularizing a poster developed by the Immigrant Rights Action Coalition in San Francisco to be put in clinic and social service office windows--a poster that has five differently colored hands joined in a circle and says in English, Spanish and Chinese: "We will, not under any circumstances, now or in the future, give information to the INS. We will do everything in our power to make sure that everyone gets the services they need, regardless of their immigration status."

This is a first step in building a movement of non-compliance, a movement that was publicly launched on April 1.

In implementing these vicious new laws, the government has one big weakness--a weakness that we must exploit. The government is depending on people just like us to enforce this new welfare law. They are depending on many people who went into health care and social services because they wanted to help people, not because they wanted to see people suffer from the disease, hunger and homelessness that this law will cause. This is why we need a movement of non-compliance.

The rulers are relying on having health care providers, social service providers and the public at large swallow the big lie that immigrants have violated U.S. borders to come here and take advantage of social services and are the cause of all of society's problems from unemployment to drugs to the deteriorating conditions of life for millions in the middle class and the working class. Well, we have to ask, is it the fault of a campesino from Michoacán, selling oranges at a Los Angeles freeway entrance ramp, that the aerospace industry has collapsed in southern California? Is it the fault of a Mexican construction worker making $5 per hour in Chicago that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in the steel mills, the auto plants, and other heavy industries have left the Rustbelt, never to return? Is it the fault of the Chinese garment workers slaving for less than minimum wage that over 150,000 manufacturing jobs have left New York City over the last 20 years? Just who is downsizing and restructuring the economy, sending investments all over the world in search of profits? Certainly not immigrants!!! And just who had the planes to fly in the cocaine, anyway?

The government screams that their borders are being violated by immigrants. Well, let's ask the Puertorriqueños in the audience, did the U.S. respect your borders in 1898 when they invaded Puerto Rico, occupied it militarily and turned in into a U.S. colony? Let's ask the Dominicanos, did the U.S. respect your borders in 1965 when the U.S. Marines invaded the Dominican Republic to try and crush an uprising of the Dominican people? The United States has a whole history of violating everyone else's borders, a whole history of invading and dominating, so don't tell me these lies and hypocrisy of how U.S. borders are being violated.

With these new laws, the border blockades, and all the attacks on immigrants, the government is trying to keep people out and drive people out, trying to decide who can survive and who cannot, trying to decide who can be here and who must go.

In La Resistencia we have four basic points of unity around which to build a movement of resistance against all attacks on immigrants:

1) People are driven from their homelands and come to the U.S. to survive.

2) All people have a right to survive regardless of legal status.

3) Being an immigrant is not a crime. Human life is more important than laws.

4) People with legal status have the responsibility to defy and resist unjust laws, struggle alongside our brothers and sisters who have been deemed "illegal," and protect them.

I call on everyone here who agrees with these points to join La Resistencia, form chapters of La Resistencia, and whether or not you join La Resistencia to take up organizing this movement of non-compliance with the anti-immigrant provisions of the Welfare Reform Law, calling on health care providers and social service providers to not deny services to immigrants and not turn immigrants over to the INS.

No Denial of Rights and Services Based on Legal Status!

Full Medical, Social, and Educational Services for All!

We Won't Collaborate --
We Won't Cooperate!

Don't Be a Snitch for the INS!

Stop the U.S. War on Immigrants!

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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