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Down with Senate Bill 2611!

by Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee Tuesday, May. 30, 2006 at 10:41 AM

In recent months millions of immigrants have been in the streets protesting the vicious attacks that Bush and Congress are preparing to legislate against them, while local governments also formulate attacks. Behind this reactionary onslaught is the fact that the capitalists want immigrant labor, but they want it without rights so that they can more profitably exploit it. They know that without the same rights as other workers the immigrant workers have little chance in effectively resisting the rotten wages and conditions they impose on them. And they know that lack of rights makes it very difficult for immigrant workers to actively support and participate in strikes and other struggles of the "legal" U.S. workers.

Attacks on immigrants are attacks on the working class!

Down with Senate Bill 2611!

In recent months millions of immigrants have been in the streets protesting the vicious attacks that Bush and Congress are preparing to legislate against them, while local governments also formulate attacks. Behind this reactionary onslaught is the fact that the capitalists want immigrant labor, but they want it without rights so that they can more profitably exploit it. They know that without the same rights as other workers the immigrant workers have little chance in effectively resisting the rotten wages and conditions they impose on them. And they know that lack of rights makes it very difficult for immigrant workers to actively support and participate in strikes and other struggles of the "legal" U.S. workers.

The effect of this capitalist strategy of super-exploiting immigrant workers while denying them equal rights is to drive down the wages and conditions of the entire working class. Thus, our demand must be full rights for all immigrants now! Enough of the capitalists' attempts to pit worker against worker! All for one, and one for all!

H.R. 4437 would have turned approximately 12 million people into felons and built a 700 mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the majority of the capitalist class didn't really want this bill that initially propelled millions to participate in huge demonstrations and the May Day strike and boycott. Instead they wanted a more all-sided approach that they all could benefit from, and for selling purposes they labeled it "comprehensive immigration reform". This attack is now embodied in Senate Bill 2611. Although this bill is still being amended, and a final agreement will have to be reached with the House, it`s ultra-reactionary features are crystal clear:

370 miles of wall along the border with Mexico costing a billion or more dollars. This won't stop people from crossing without papers, but it will no doubt cause more people to die in the deserts and mountains as they go north in search of jobs or a better life.

More Border Patrol agents, electronic gadgetry, and constructing detention centers to hold thousands of people without rights (Guantanamo-style concentration camps), and bringing local police forces into the business of hounding and harassing anyone who "looks" like an immigrant.

A "biometric" I.D. card connected to a huge national data base as a first step in applying this measure to all workers, i.e., a fascistic national I.D. card.

200,000 people a year to be handed to the agricultural and other capitalists to exploit as "guest" workers (really, semi-slaves without rights). Already agribusiness is exempted from the pitiful minimum wage laws, but this is not enough, it wants still more government handouts.

A "path to citizenship" that would reduce millions of people to second-class status for a dozen years, financially bleed them, subject them to various tests, and have the Department of Homeland Security monitoring their every breath.

Bush and the liberals (as well as many mainstream immigrant rights groups and union bureaucrats) are pointing to this wonderful path to citizenship as a method of selling their vicious attack to its very victims. But it's path full of landmines: (1) People who have been in the U.S. for less than two years would not even be covered. Thus they would be immediately deported or else be driven further into the shadows. (2) Those who can prove that they've been in the country for from two to five years would have to go to a border point of entry, briefly leave and then be readmitted to the United States... maybe, if they have every paper in order, etc. For the millionaires and junketeers of Congress this would be no big deal. But for millions of immigrants who are trying to hang onto jobs, support families, etc., it would be a big hardship. (3) The fines, fees, back-taxes, etc., are also big hardships, and many people would actually be taxed twice because they couldn't prove they had already paid their taxes under another name. (4) Being unemployed for 45 days is enough to get one deported. (5) The tests include an anti-democratic requirement for proficiency in English. (6) It could take six years just to get a Green Card and 12 or more years to become a citizen. (7) Many people would prefer not to risk everything they presently have in order jump through the costly and difficult hoops for a dozen years which they might at some point fail. So they too would remain "in the shadows".

Thus, Senate Bill 2611 gives the capitalists millions of immigrant workers without rights to exploit and use as a tool with which to drive down the conditions of all, and it's another step in constructing an American police state to use against all workers. And it's not just the dream legislation of Bush and the right. Many of its main provisions were directly taken from the previous McCain-Kennedy bill. True, the liberal Ted Kennedy originally favored a "virtual wall" along the entire border with Mexico rather than 370 miles of fence, but now he's a big supporter of this new bill. According to him "Business and labor, Democrats and Republicans, religious leaders and the American people strongly support our plan to strengthen borders, provide a path to earned citizenship for those undocumented workers who are here and put in place a realistic guest-worker program for the future."

By "our plan" Kennedy and the Democrats mean the anti-immigrant and anti-working class plan of the rich. But this hasn't kept the leaders of numerous immigrant rights groups as well as officials of the SEIU, UNITE-HERE, and other unions from supporting the comprehensive attack originally formulated in the McCain-Kennedy bill, and now embodied in S.B. 2611. And now these leaders advocate reliance on calling Senators and lobbying in order to persuade these political representatives of the capitalists to fashion the noose they're preparing to hang us with a little differently. This is betrayal of the interests of the people they allegedly speak for. What is needed is reliance on mass struggle.

The immigrant communities of this country have already proven that they're ready to struggle for rights and equality. The millions in the streets on April 10 and before proved it, as did the huge "a day without an immigrant" action on May Day. Moreover, the May 1st strike and boycott not only shook-up the capitalist establishment, but it helped reveal to the masses that they must rely on their own ideas and organizations if the movement is to go forward, i.e., many immigrant rights organizations, union leaders, and Catholic Church officials exposed their true natures when they did propaganda against the mass walkouts and other actions. Now this revelation must become the basis for further action.

During the latter part of May many immigrant rights groups that actively in organized for May Day have been meeting in order to further consolidate their groups, discuss what to do next, and even try to build a national center for the movement. Such steps are indeed necessary, and the meetings should confront some very basic questions:

The demand for full rights should be the focus of the movement. It's our measure against those who spread illusions that S.B. 2611, the McCain-Kennedy bill, etc., are something other than comprehensive attacks on immigrants. A good bill can only come as a by-product of a still more powerful movement.

To build such a movement requires constant refutation of the lying demagogy and fear-mongering of everyone from the Minutemen vigilantes to the politicians in the "hallowed" halls of Congress, i.e., immigrants take jobs and bleed social services, they're drug dealers, criminals and "aliens" (apparently ordinary working people are fearful monsters from outer space!), the border with Mexico must be secured against "terrorists", ad naseum.

But to defeat this enflaming of anti-immigrant hysteria it is not enough to just repeat the oft-told obvious truths: immigrants are not criminals; except for the Native Americans we're all immigrants or the descendents of immigrants (or chattel slaves); much of the western U.S. was stolen from Mexico by war. No, we must also address the largest and potentially most powerful class in society -- our class, the working class -- with facts on particular issues that the reactionaries raise, like that migrants cause unemployment. But this "theory" doesn't explain why countries with net emigration also have unemployment, with Mexico having a lot of unemployment as a direct result of NAFTA impoverishing farmers and driving them off the land. Yet Mexico (and the U.S.) had unemployment long before NAFTA was signed simply because unemployment is systemic to the capitalist system of production, a system whose inner laws must create it. It's also of great benefit to the capitalists because they use fear of being unemployed as a club to drive down the wages and conditions of the employed workers. Thus the workers must struggle against the capitalists and their governments for jobs or compensation in every country. But this cannot effectively be done if immigrants are scapegoated as causing unemployment!

We should push forward with the great spirit that "we can do it!" This was the spirit with which African Americans over many years built the powerful movement that forced the U.S. rulers to tear up their Jim Crow laws. This was the spirit with which the French students and workers forced the French government to tear up its anti-working class and anti-minority CPE law just this year. And it's with this spirit that we can rally the existing really pro-immigrant organizations and build new ones to mobilize the masses for the tearing up of S.B. 2611.

Down with all anti-immigrant legislation!

Full rights for all immigrants now!

Workers of all countries, unite!

Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee, May 24, 2006

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