Trump escalates war on immigrant workers

May Day Protestors March For Immigration Reform

By MARK UGOLINI

Trump’s war on immigrant workers has moved into high gear as new orders unleash the full force of the U.S. government to greatly expand deportations, harassment, and provocative police actions in minority communities.

Under Barak Obama, deportations reached a record high 434,000 for the single year 2014. Known as the “Deporter-in-Chief,” Obama, during his entire presidency, oversaw the deportation of over 2 million immigrant workers, more than any previous president.

However, fearful that the Democrats would lose support in the 2016 elections, Obama subsequently implemented guidelines that slightly limited deportations during his final two years in office; 2015 saw a 23 percent reduction from the 2014 record high.

Trump’s new plans scrapped some second-term Obama guidelines and issued new ones that signal the dawn of an all-out offensive that could end in mass roundups. All new measures are designed to broaden and aggressively expedite deportations.

The Feb. 22 New York Times reported: “Documents released … revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s new offensive would:

• Hire 15,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and agents

• Greatly expand lists of immigrants prioritized for deportation

• Speed up deportation hearings

• Greatly expand the capability of Immigration enforcers to bypass due process protections by allowing “expedited deportations,” which totally bypass judicial review

• Establish “partnerships” with local police to assist in patrols, with full authority to make arrests

• Allow detainment of immigrants until brought before an immigration judge and throughout legal proceedings. Court backlogs currently delay hearings more than one year

• Allow for federal prosecution of parents of “paperless” minors who cross the border unaccompanied by a parent

• Allow enforcers to bypass personal privacy protections previously provided under past administrations

Consistent with practices of the Obama administration, Trump continues the racist branding of “paperless” immigrant workers as “criminals” who pose a threat to “public safety.” The new orders vastly expand the definition of what Trump during his campaign called “criminal aliens,” that “routinely victimize Americans,” ignore the “rule of law and pose a threat” to society.

Under new guidelines, virtually all immigrant workers without papers are subject to arrest, ICE/police harassment, and deportation at any time. The orders expand the list of immigrants targeted for deportations to include anyone either sentenced or accused of any crime.

Dreamers under threat

The only group not yet included is that of the Dreamers, 750,000 immigrants under protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Having come to this country as children, many have been issued work permits and are not included in Trump’s new policies. But they remain under significant threat since Trump loudly touted termination of this program during his campaign, calling it “executive amnesty.”

In addition, Dreamers are under serious threat by the new provision eliminating privacy protections, which enables enforcers to violate personal privacy of “paperless” immigrants and even those in possession of a green card. This means that any personal data previously provided to U.S. immigration agents could be used against them in future immigration proceedings.

This provision threatens Dreamers especially, since all who applied for this status during the Obama years in order to avoid deportations were required to provide extensive personal background information on application forms. All personal information supplied by Dreamers to avoid deportation can now be used by the government to deport them.

Trump’s immigration raids began in the first part of February. During just one week, ICE enforcers arrested over 680 immigrants in at least 11 states. Immigrants who had been earlier targeted by ICE were seized during neighborhood “sweeps” of streets and homes at all times of the day and night. Trump explained the raids by his bellicose declaration and lie that “gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!” On Feb. 23, Trump referred to the deportation raids as “a military operation.”

Protests erupted in response. On Feb. 13, more than 20,000 marched in Milwaukee, protesting raids and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who is providing local police to act as federal immigration enforcers.

On Feb. 16, immigration rights activists took to the streets in at least 12 states, declaring “A Day Without Immigrants.” These actions, billed as a “one-day strike,” brought out over 5000 protesters in Chicago and thousands more in other cities.

In Alabama, 60 businesses closed down, and hundreds of restaurant workers walked off the job around the country. USA Today reported that high schools around the country had noted unusually high absenteeism, and one-third of high school students in Phoenix had skipped class.

NBC News reported that over 100 workers were fired for participating in the nationwide protests. Of these, 18 were strikers terminated by Bradley Coatings, a commercial painting company in Nashville, Tenn. Workers were warned they would be fired, but walked off the job anyway.

Bipartisan attacks

Both the Democratic and Republican parties favor deportation and other forms of regulating the flow of immigrants into the U.S. They differ only on what level of flow is necessary. Both capitalist parties benefit from the super-exploitation of immigrants, because nearly all U.S. industries, including Trump’s luxury resorts, profit mightily from the cheap and sometimes slave labor these immigrants provide.

Trump and the Republicans are aggressively expanding the program of deportations conducted under the Democrats. Trump is utilizing Obama’s method of targeting “undesirables” or “non-deserving” immigrants who may have been arrested, jailed, or charged in the U.S. The Republicans use a broader definition of “criminal,” but both capitalist parties want to deport what they term “undesirables.”

The false idea that a certain category of immigrant deserves deportation needs to be roundly rejected. It divides the immigrant rights movement, which stands opposed to all deportations. It also provides political cover for politicians who spread the lie that large sections of the immigrant population are “criminals.” Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Both capitalist parties promote the fiction that poor immigrants in search of a job and a better life can easily chose to enter the U.S. “legally.” This cynically exploits the widely held misunderstanding behind the question, “Why don’t they just get in line?” In fact, no line is available for the vast majority of the poor workers and farmers who are classified as “unauthorized” immigrants. The “regular channels” in U.S. immigration rules simply don’t apply to them, and in most cases “legal” entry requires a U.S. employer to request specific workers.

Those who cross U.S. borders to work have no rights as citizens, can be deported at any time, and are forced to accept the lowest paying and most dangerous jobs. They are demonized and in constant fear of deportation and separation from their families, which makes them easy targets—prey to greedy employers out to manipulate and abuse them.

This super-exploitation provides another benefit to capitalist owners; it allows them to maintain sharp divisions in the working class, and drive down wages of the working class as a whole, pitting one section of workers against another. This is especially fostered by the racist scapegoating of Mexican workers.

Trump’s orders, like those of his predecessors, are not intended to stop the flow of immigrant labor into this country, but merely to regulate it. Many U.S. industries profiting from exploitation of immigrant workers fear Trump’s new orders will force their workers back to Mexico and require them to hire U.S. citizens at higher wages. They support a flow of “paperless” immigrants sufficient to allow their businesses to continue to profit.

Many liberals, including the reactionary labor union bureaucracy readily join the crusade to scapegoat Mexican workers—or immigrants from other Latin American countries who are lumped into the category of “Mexicans.” The privileged union bureaucrats, who have demonized immigrants for years, now buy into Trump’s nationalistic “America First” and protectionist “Buy American” themes, promoting the rhetoric that these measures would help protect the jobs of native-born U.S. workers.

This approach is thoroughly racist, falsely painting the main problem as competition between U.S. and Mexican workers, and aids ruling-class efforts to divide working people from each other. Actually, our struggle is one with that of Mexican workers in demanding that our capitalist governments provide good jobs and union rights for all, regardless of which side of the border we happen to live on.

Revolutionary socialists are internationalists, working to build solidarity among workers everywhere. To fight against unemployment and for good paying jobs, we demand government-funded public-works programs. These can rebuild badly needed infrastructure and build things we need—like housing and schools—and put millions of unemployed back to work at union wages.

An effective working-class program gives special attention to the plight of immigrant workers. It demands an end to deportations, ICE raids, and all forms of harassment and racist scapegoating. It also demands that immigrants receive “legal protections” afforded to other citizens; this means tearing down the Wall and demanding full citizen rights for all immigrant workers.

As Marxists, we are first and foremost internationalists, and as such we call for open borders. Borders are a means by which the employers control their private property, capital equipment, and wage labor. Immigration controls give employers power over migrants beyond what they can exert over native workers. The capitalists put forward the policy of “secure borders” as a way of whipping up national chauvinism, encouraging workers to oppose, mistrust, or ignore workers living elsewhere.

What do socialists answer? The First International of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels put it this way: “The poor have no country; in all lands they suffer from the same evils; and they therefore realize that the barriers put up by the powers that be, the more thoroughly to enslave the people, must fall.”

NO to Deportations and Raids! Equal Rights for All Immigrants! Open the Borders!

Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images