Workers Vanguard No. 1136
29 June 2018
Ruthless Trump, Hypocritical Democrats
No Detentions! Full Citizenship Rights for Immigrants!
The sight and sound of terrified children thrown into wire cages and separated from their parents by heavily militarized border police and I.C.E. agents have evoked such widespread horror and outrage that even the Tweeter-in-Chief feigned retreat. Trump signed an executive order on June 20 that allows families to be jailed together—indefinitely. Immigrants and asylum-seekers, mainly from Central America, are being disappeared in the vast archipelago of concentration camps called “immigrant detention centers,” which mushroomed under Barack Obama.
Democrats cynically rail that Trump’s executive order overturns the 1997 Flores settlement, which prohibits the federal government from detaining immigrant children for more than 20 days. While a June 24 Trump tweet called for “immediate” deportation “with no Judges or Court Cases,” Obama—after being prevented from using indefinite detention—used Flores to carry out fast-track expulsions of immigrants without due process. He deported a record 2.5 million people. This is the immediate precedent for the Trump administration’s kidnapping of over 2,000 children since May and criminalizing parents as “smugglers” for bringing their kids with them across the border.
The extreme poverty of life under the jackboot of U.S. neocolonial subjugation compels Latin American families to risk everything in the dangerous trek to the U.S. border. Marco Antonio Muñoz, a 39-year-old Honduran man who requested asylum at the border and was then separated from his family, committed suicide in a Texas jail last month, exemplifying the desperation faced by immigrants.
In solidarity, some activists have organized “Occupy I.C.E” protests, attempting to stop deportations by blocking I.C.E. buses transporting immigrants as well as access to I.C.E. facilities. What is necessary is that the American labor movement mobilize in opposition to the capitalist ruling class, which exploits workers at home, to stop the deportations and fight for full citizenship rights for all those who have made it here. While a number of heavily minority union locals have rightly mobilized to defend their immigrant members and their families from deportation, the bitter truth is that the union movement is crippled by a flag-waving leadership committed to upholding the American capitalist order. The protectionist cry of “American jobs for American workers” pushed by the AFL-CIO tops encourages anti-immigrant bigotry. The bureaucrats’ support for the Democratic Party serves to tie working people, including union activists fighting for immigrant rights, to the other party of racist U.S. capitalism.
Immigrants have been rounded up and disappeared in the biggest workplace raids in years. I.C.E. agents blocked exits and aimed guns at 97 workers in a Tennessee meatpacking plant; another 114 were rounded up at an Ohio landscaping company. To their credit, American Airlines flight attendants broke the story about terrified children, separated from their parents, being loaded onto their planes and posted on Facebook that they refuse to be complicit in such actions again. As a result, several airline bosses (who have lucrative contracts with the government for precisely this kind of dirty work) announced that their companies would no longer fly separated children. Meanwhile the misleaders of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA told these workers with guts and compassion to hush up, stay off social media and file “incident reports” with the union.
Driven by visceral anger against Trump’s anti-immigrant barbarism, many working people, young activists and others are planning to attend nationwide protests on June 30. But the aim of the protest organizers and union tops is to contain growing outrage and deflect it back to the dead end of supporting the Democratic Party, which is cynically manipulating sympathy for immigrant children to boost its own fortunes in the upcoming midterm elections. Trump’s Republican Party revels in overtly whipping up white-supremacist anti-immigrant fear, loathing and violence, just as George W. Bush did against Muslims after 9/11. Continuing that tradition, the Supreme Court on June 26 upheld Trump’s racist anti-Muslim ban.
The Democrats cry crocodile tears while carrying out fundamentally the same policies. They too targeted immigrants as terrorists and criminals, ripped up democratic rights and beefed up the machinery of state repression; rather than banning Muslims from entering the country, Democrats like Obama bomb them in the Near East, Africa and Asia. Before Trump’s predecessor served as Deporter-in-Chief, Bill Clinton launched “Operation Gatekeeper” to militarize the border and escalate deportations.
Manufacturing threats from abroad is a timeworn method to deflect domestic discontent and inculcate conformity through patriotic gore. This invention of a foreign threat is backed up briskly with policing at home. Nothing binds the oppressed within a nation to their rulers quite as effectively as a campaign for law and order against a criminal “other” who must be obliterated.
The granddaddy of Democratic Party liberals, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, interned Japanese Americans in concentration camps and refused U.S. entry to Jewish refugees (including children) fleeing Nazi Germany. FDR’s mythologized New Deal was a pact with racist Southern Dixiecrats that explicitly excluded the predominantly black and Latino agricultural labor force from the right to form unions or get Social Security benefits and exempted agribusiness from child labor laws. Today, nearly half a million migrant children, some as young as nine years old, still legally slave in the fields. The Democrats won’t even whisper “save these children” because, as a capitalist party, their business is maximizing the exploitation of labor for profit. As for Trump Republicans, apparently the only “children” with rights are unborn fertilized eggs.
Trump’s lying equation of Mexicans with criminals is rhetoric intended to mobilize his base and fan the flames of white supremacy. On June 22, Trump hosted a White House dinner for “Angel Families” and ghoulishly autographed photos of dead children supposedly killed by immigrants. Even naturalized U.S. citizens are in the government’s crosshairs. An ominous task force set up by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is charged with identifying foreign-born Americans who will be stripped of their citizenship if any irregularity is found in their paperwork.
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III quoted Romans 13:1 from the Bible in defense of child separation, asserting that the law must be obeyed “for there is no authority except that which God has established.” It was certainly not lost on this walking monument to the Confederacy that this was the same Bible verse cited by slaveowners against abolitionists in defense of black chattel slavery, the bedrock of American capitalism. Sessions also stated that the machinery of death in the Nazi camps was merely for “keeping the Jews from leaving the country,” equating the camps where twelve million Jews, Gypsies, communists, gays and others were exterminated with immigration policy.
Democrats and liberals denounce Trump’s child separation policy as “un-American.” In fact, it’s as American as apple pie. Black families have been ripped apart for hundreds of years, from slaves sold downriver from their spouses and children to the mass incarceration of black men today. This country was founded on the near obliteration of the indigenous population, their history, culture and very identity. The U.S. government systematically separated Native American children from their families, stripped them of their names and suppressed their right to speak their language.
U.S. imperialism extends its reach throughout the planet and, as its economic needs demand, brings new sources of cheap labor into the bottom of the proletariat. The capitalists use anti-immigrant chauvinism and anti-black racism to obscure who the workers’ enemies are. The aim is to drive down wages and benefits and degrade working conditions for all working people. This is how the capitalist system divides the working class into different strata while also creating its own gravedigger: the proletariat. Immigrants are not just victims. They form a key and vibrant component of the multiracial U.S. working class, and often bring with them an understanding of the depredations of U.S. imperialism in their homelands, as well as experience in hard-fought class battles. The struggle to mobilize the labor movement in defense of immigrants must be seen as part of the fight to forge a class-struggle leadership of the unions committed to the understanding that workers and capitalists share no common interests.
Today anti-immigrant bigotry defines racist and rightist politics not only in the U.S. but throughout Europe and elsewhere, and it is an acid test for the workers movement and left. The Spartacist League/U.S., section of the International Communist League, fights against deportations and for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. Our revolutionary internationalist program and commitment to forge a revolutionary workers party—70 percent black, Latino and other minorities—that will fight for a socialist future is truly America’s last, best hope.