LAUREL, MISSISSIPPI, August 28 — The Gestapo-like raids carried out by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) cops struck again, arresting 595 workers employed by Howard Industries, world’s largest manufacturer of electrical transformers employing 3,000 workers in southeastern Mississippi. And the traitorous AFL-CIO applauded the raid! (See below)
In May, ICE carried out a similar raid, arresting hundreds of workers at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. These raids are terrorizing many small towns nation-wide. At the same time the Laurel raid was taking place, a rumor of an ICE raid in Perry, a small Iowa town 100 miles from Postville, was panicking the Latino community, 25% of Perry’s population.
Hundreds of heavily-armed ICE agents raided Howard Industries’ Laurel and nearby Ellisvile facilities. They arrived in unmarked cars and white vans, sealed the plants and rounded up “suspect” workers, questioning them in mobile trailers.
Just as the Nazis used yellow stars to identify Jews, Latino workers were segregated from other workers. U.S. citizens were given blue armbands to divide them from immigrants. Agents wearing flak vests stopped motorists driving near the plant and told them to leave the area.
The raid’s blatant fascist-like racism shocked many. An immigrant rights group in Jackson, the state capital, criticized the raid, saying families with children were involved. “It’s horrific what ICE is doing to these families and these communities,” said Shuya Ohno, a spokesman for the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. “It’s just hard to imagine that this is the United States of America.” (NY Times, 8/27)
A woman entering a local church with four small children said several of the youngsters’ parents had been detained. The woman, a translator for many of the families, said: “I don’t like this at all. I don’t understand it. They have come here to work. It’s very sad.”
But this is exactly the U.S.A. today, a country led by a ruling class which needs more racism, more fascist terror. The raids’ aim is not really to deport all undocumented workers, or even to find those guilty of “identity theft” as ICE claims. The goal is to terrorize immigrant workers, and all workers, so they accept super-exploitation, rotten working conditions, more social service cutbacks and get used to the kind of mass terror that the bosses and their police agencies will use against ALL workers who refuse to swallow these conditions. These attacks will continue no matter who’s elected the next President.
Plants like this one here will become more important for the bosses’ war machine as it gears for wider wars, from Afghanistan to the Caucasus. The ruling class realizes that the U.S. population is changing. According to Census figures, in several decades most U.S. workers will be immigrants, Latinos or blacks. So racist super-exploitation will be needed more than ever to keep the bosses’ super-profits rolling in.
But this also becomes a contradiction for the bosses: they need those workers they’re terrorizing for their war plants and their military. So, while we might hear a lot of empty talk about “the end of racism” — “after all,” they tell us, “look at Obama” — the opposite is happening.
This makes it primary for PLP to organize among these factory workers, and all workers and soldiers, to win them to fight racism, understanding that capitalism cannot live without racist exploitation. All workers must see these ICE raids as an attack against the entire working class. The AFL-CIO did the opposite here. Rather than unite the workers and organize them all, it pitted unionized workers against immigrant workers.
Robert Shaffer, regional AFL-CIO official, applauded the raid, saying he’s complained for a long time about how companies in southern Mississippi hire undocumented immigrants, disgustingly adding the racist comment that the region “looks like a little Mexico.” The same union traitors who, because of their pro-boss sellout politics, have failed to organize millions of workers — citizens or immigrants — nationwide, are now blaming the victims for their own failures.
Workers who fall for this racist trap are cutting their own throat. We must defend our fellow immigrant workers when the bosses attack. Our motto should be, “All for one and one for all; same enemy same fight, workers of the world, unite!”