Via: PSL web.org.
Imperialism’s crimes force workers to immigrate
The following is adapted from a speech given at the April 23 public meeting of the SF-Bay Area branch of the PSL.
Brothers and sisters, comrades and friends,
Immigration for survival has been going on from the beginning of time. Even birds migrate to other areas where they will be able to survive. Human beings have been looking for a place where their basic needs will be met since the time when there were no countries, no borders.
As they began to settle in the places that provided them with food and shelter, the process of exploitation also began to develop through slavery, feudalism and capitalism and imperialism. This was initially made possible by the oppression of women, which was key for the development of capitalism. It was through the oppression of women that the laws of inheritance and private ownership of land, cattle and other goods were able to succeed.
Today, immigration continues to be a survival skill. The similarity of our first humans’ migration and ours today is that we both were looking for a better life. The differences are because of imperialism, a stage of capitalism. As we humans began to settle, the formation of countries and borders as the result of the development of private property ownership of the land, factories and multinationals turned immigration into a savage and criminal struggle to survive.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the reasons for immigration to the United States and other countries were due mostly because of political persecution from the military dictatorships and the wars and violence financed by the United States. In the 1990s, the predominant causes were economic and social—the demographic increase, poverty, unemployment, discrimination, the worsening of incomes and the lack of land to cultivate.
All of these are the results of monopoly capitalism, which also makes sure that the humanity and solidarity among the working class is ripped from the heart of the workers, in its place putting a feeling of competition with each other. It has made us believe that we don’t need anybody, that we are on our own and that if we push hard enough, we will make it and one day we will be rich. Every worker is our enemy; the bosses and the rich are our friends because one day we will be rich and powerful like them. It makes us believe that we should be waiting for “somebody” out there to save us and that “somebody” is not our fellow workers, but the rich and the politicians.
The immigrant workers have been made to believe that they have come to live the American dream in the richest and best country in the world. The transnational corporations try to make us forget that it is the exploitation of our countries’ natural resources—including our labor force—that has made this country so rich and ours so poor.
Monopoly capitalism has become so savage that the “remesas” (remittances) we send home constitute the number one source of income for countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, and the second largest source of income for countries like the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico. It is because of this exploitation that we are forced to come here to sell our labor power and our dignity. We are confronted with a situation in this country like what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, when workers from Mexico, India and other countries were brought here to work for $2 or $3 an hour while the Black workers were not allowed to participate in the rebuilding of their own city.
The majority of our immigrant brothers and sisters come looking for the American dream. It was okay with them the way things were going. They were used to the raids and deportations—it was an everyday thing. They would cross the border again and again, and for the majority of them, their plans were to go back home someday. But the bourgeoisie of the United States made a big mistake when they tried to criminalize not only the undocumented worker but also their families, friends and organizations that helped them by trying to pass the Sensenbrenner bill in 2006.
Masses of documented and undocumented workers took to the streets! Class solidarity and consciousness began to take root in the hearts of the immigrant workers. With no one to lead them they took to the streets. Sensing this vacuum of leadership, the non-profit organizations, the Democratic Party and, in some sectors, the Catholic Church took over as the spokespeople for the immigrant rights struggle. They began pushing the demand of a migratory reform and/or legalization under the slogan, “Today we march, tomorrow we vote,” without saying what kind of reform and what kind of legalization we wanted and needed.
Many immigrant groups were opposed to this demand, because they felt that we were allowing those who were attacking us, our own enemy, the government, to decide what kind of reform we were going to get and what kind of legalization they will give us. The immigrants from the beginning wanted amnesty. They did not quite understand what it meant, exactly, but at least they were the ones calling the shots: general and unconditional amnesty for all.
The Catholic Church, the non-profit organizations and some of the liberals claimed that amnesty was related to guerrillas in Latin America. They said that this issue of immigrant rights was not political, that it was a human rights issue and that, if we asked for amnesty, we were asking for forgiveness. We the immigrants know that we have no need to apologize or ask for forgiveness. First of all, we have broken a law because that law needed to be broken.
The law is inhumane because we, the immigrants, are here as consequences of U.S. imperialism. The U.S. ruling class needs to recognize that they are responsible for what is going on in our countries and for leaving us no other option but to leave our homes and families. Therefore, to give amnesty is nothing but a recognition of the war they have waged against our people and reparation for the harm done to all of us.
Many wanted to raise the demand of open borders, because the rich bring their factories, their McDonald’s, their maquiladoras, and they don’t need papers! Therefore, we, the workers, should be able to cross the borders to find a way to feed and shelter our families without papers like they do!
Within the upsurge in the movement in 2006, the struggle continued with the liberal, self-imposed spokespeople saying we will never get amnesty, so let’s soften our demand. Well, they got the Gutierrez reform, which most of them accept and support, even though it will continue to criminalize immigrant workers.
In San Francisco, many non-profits themselves benefit from this situation. Millions of dollars were given to the non-profits to assist the undocumented. We must remember that the non-profit organizations have clients and mobilize clients. They do not have a base in the working class. The non-profits are looking for what benefits them as government-funded organizations.
What is the meaning of this? That the immigrant workers get mobilized but not organized. Workers are mobilized for different demands, and they march because they need a solution. They are told that the system works and all they need is the right politician to carry out their demands to Congress or the right government offices, and the problem will be solved.
The liberals and Democrats told us to believe in Obama, that he would change our situation, that he would give us good immigration reform. The reality is that nothing has been done around the reform, but, during the first year of the Obama administration, 387,790 immigrants were deported, 61.8 percent more than during the yearly deportations by the Bush administration.
If this continues, an average of 1 to 1.5 million people will be deported during the Obama administration. Five million will lose their jobs because of the expanding of the E-verify program. Our communities are being hunted by the state, federal and local law enforcement agencies. Undocumented workers are totally excluded from the health insurance reform, which will also make emergency room health care unavailable to them. The cuts on education will affect the undocumented immediately, leaving them without access to schooling. Buying a house has already become impossible in the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is pursuing an unfair free-trade agreement with Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean that, together with the recession, will force more immigration, more people taking the dangerous journey to the north.
Today, as I was preparing to come here, the governor of Arizona signed SB1070 into law. This is a law that criminalizes the immigrant and criminalizes their friends and families. The law makes the undocumented immigrant a truly hunted animal in Arizona. This is the situation that we face, but the immigrant workers need to continue believing in the American dream because no other alternative is offered to them.
We revolutionaries know that immigrant workers, documented or undocumented, are part of the working class in the United States! We know that we are here because of the policies of imperialism, because imperialism has taken all our natural resources. Imperialism has placed the maquiladoras, the factories, into our countries and then taken them away, leaving the workers unemployed. When the maquiladoras are there, they pay our workers poverty wages with no benefits and no future.
The empire has financed and militarily supported the displacement of peasants and workers in Mexico, Colombia and many other countries. They steal their lands and give them to the multinationals, causing the food production to suffer and making the land unavailable to the people to grow and use it for the workers’ benefit. Instead, the land is being used by the multinationals to produce fuel. The Mexican worker, for example, is not able to grow corn for their own tortillas, which is a basic in their daily diet. They have to import corn from the United States, which makes the price of tortillas too high for the workers. Meanwhile, the land in Mexico is used for the growing of corn by the multinationals for the production of fuel.
Washington finances and protects the military regimes that persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed the trade unionists, the human rights activists and the revolutionaries of our countries who opposed or denounced these situations. In Latin America, thousands have disappeared. Thousands have been tortured and killed. Their sin? To denounce the alliance of imperialism and corrupt Latin American regimes.
Our struggle for immigrant rights is directly connected to the struggle against imperialism. It is imperialism that forced us to leave our homes and our families. It hunted us there and it hunts us here. It humiliated us, has taken control of our lives and used us against our brothers and sisters right here. It constantly tries to dehumanize us.
We know that the future belongs to us, the workers. We know socialism is possible. We know that only the workers and revolutionaries can bring about socialism. We need to build a society in which we own the factories, the lands, the banks, a society in which we are guaranteed housing, education, health care and jobs, a society in which no borders separate the working class.
We must make sure that every demand we support or put forward leads us to raise the consciousness of the working class. We must make it clear to our fellow workers that, as socialists, as communists, we will be with them hand-in-hand, supporting their struggle for reforms to better our lives. But we must let them know that capitalism will make sure that every demand of the workers will be used against them, like the immigration reform that criminalizes the immigrant worker and sets the path for a legalized workers program that will continue to exploit us. We must let them know that socialism is the only answer for the working class, that we must organize as a class whose goal is that one day we will mobilize to take the power of the state into our hands so we can build socialism.
That, comrades and friends, must be the number one mobilization in our agenda.
Unconditional amnesty for all!
Workers of the world unite!
Long live socialism!