By LISA LUINENBERG
President Trump has taken yet more drastic steps in his ever-expanding war against immigrants and refugees over the past month. Citing “national security” issues, Trump quickly moved to expand his much-maligned travel ban, adding six new Muslim-majority countries – Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania and Sudan – to the list, now totaling 13 countries. Trump’s original travel ban, first implemented in 2017, has now resulted in 42,000 visa denials, the majority of these from Iran. The expanded travel bans now target 320 million Muslims and one-quarter of all Africans worldwide.
This is having a significant impact on many immigrants who already live in the United States and are hoping to bring family members to join them from overseas. Olumide, a Nigerian American and U.S. veteran, who was recently profiled in The Guardian, was overjoyed when he learned at the end of January that the visas for his wife and 11-year old daughter were finally being processed. But now their case is stuck in limbo because of the new travel ban. “This is inhuman,” said Olumide. “… to completely shut the doors… it’s just plain wrong… There’s nothing you can do, and it makes you feel so helpless.” With the original travel ban upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, there are few legal options left to counter Trump’s latest expansion. The need for a return to independently-organized massive mobilizations to demand and win full rights for immigrants has never been greater.
Meanwhile, President Trump continues to push forward in building and fortifying the racist wall along the U.S.-Mexico border at a cost of $billions. In fact, Trump’s wall expansion so far has a shocking price tag of $11 billion, or about $20 million per mile, making it the most expensive wall in the world. According to a recent report by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Trump has constructed 576 miles of new border wall since taking office, and is pushing for funding for another 270 miles. This includes dipping into $600 million of the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, which holds money seized in criminal investigations and diverting $3.8 billion from Pentagon military operations to build additional sections of the wall. As reported in NPR News, Christian Alvarez, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, said “The border wall system will include a 150-foot enforcement zone, lighting, cameras, other technology…so it’s not just gonna be the barrier itself.”
In his push to build new sections of wall before the upcoming 2020 elections, Trump has recently authorized blasting in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which encompasses a remote desert region in Arizona. The 516 -mile park has been designated as a UNESCO ecological park since 1976 and also borders Native American lands. According to NBC News, the Trump Administration has used federal waivers, including bypassing environmental protections and the Native American Graves and Protection and Repatriation Act, to push forward building projects. Concerns have been raised by the Tohono O’odham Nation and environmental groups that sites containing human remains, artifacts, and saguaro cacti hundreds of years old, are being irreparably damaged. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said in a recent statement to NBC News, “The Trump Administration is bulldozing through sacred sites to act on a campaign talking point, no matter the cost to the people of Southern Arizona. This destruction of the cultural heritage of the Tohono O’odham people for the purpose of building a monument to his racist policies is irreparable.”
Trump targets sanctuary cities
On February 14, The New York Times broke the news that the Trump administration is planning to deploy special tactical forces to Sanctuary Cities across the United States. Cities that are on the list to be targeted for increased immigration enforcement include Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans, Houston, Detroit, and Newark, N.J. As reported in a recent email to Customs and Border Protection personnel, special teams will be deployed to these cities in February through May of this year to assist local ICE agents in rounding up undocumented immigrants. ICE requested additional assistance due to difficulties rounding up immigrants in Sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate by turning over undocumented immigrants in local jails to ICE agents.
The extra agents deployed to Sanctuary cities over the next few months will include members of BORTAC, an elite tactical team likened to the SWAT team of CPB. Members of BORTAC have elite tactical training, including sniper certification, and use military gear such as stun grenades. The team usually works on high risk operations, such as targeting drug smugglers along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, in this case, they will be deployed to support ICE agents in run-of-the-mill sweeps targeting undocumented immigrants. These neighborhood-based raids often sweep up friends and family members, referred to as “collateral arrests,” along with the person who is being targeted by ICE. Gil Kerlikowski, a former commissioner of the CBP, called the move a “significant mistake.” Said Kerlikowski, “If you were a police chief and you were going to make an apprehension for a relatively minor offense, you don’t send the SWAT team. And BORTAC is the SWAT team. They’re trained for much more hazardous missions than this.” The move is expected to cause significant fear in immigrant communities across the nation.
Rather than playing to the press, Trump seems to be pushing forward with as many anti-immigrant policies as possible before the November presidential elections. It must be remembered, however, that elections are not the solution to the problem. The immigration system has been set up to keep undocumented immigrants too afraid to fight back, making them easy targets for cheap, exploitable labor in a broad range of industries. The abject failure of today’s largely bureaucratized and often job trust unions that exclude or refuse to fight for their immigrant sisters and brothers also contributes to the plight of immigrant workers.
Even if a Democrat should be elected to office in November, we must remember that Democrats as with their capitalist Republican counterparts are capitalist parties full stop. As such, they are incapable of implementing policies that fundamentally undermine their financial interests. Often times, they employ more “low-profile” tactics against society’s scapegoats, such as President Obama’s “low key” deportation of nearly three million immigrants, more than any president in U.S. history. There is no high-profile presidential candidate in the 2020 elections who truly represents the interests of the working class, the oppressed, and the downtrodden in our society today. What is needed now is a united, massive independent working class movement that champions immigrant rights as well as the interest of all the oppressed and exploited.
To see Socialist Action’s presidential candidate Jeff Mackler’s stance on immigration and other issues, check out our website: socialistaction.org.