Obama Sets New Record in Racist Deportations
As part of the ruling class’ plan to step up racist terror against all workers President Obama, the first President of the so called “post-racial” era, has set a goal of deporting 400,000 immigrant workers in 2010, an all time high. And if all goes according to plan they expect to be able to deport 700,000 immigrants annually by 2013.[i] This increase in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) terror represents a steady trend over the last eight years that has seen spending on immigration enforcement increase by 132% and deportations increase by 142%. In real numbers that adds up to over 2.6 million racist deportations, two thirds of which (1.7 million) were non-criminal deportations.[ii]
Representing the clearest form of American style fascism these raids are designed to intimidate Latin workers, both documented and undocumented, in order to drive down wages and further disorganize the working class. In one brazen example of the anti-working class nature of these raids ICE thugs raided the Smithfield Pork Plant in 2007 after workers began an organizing drive in the plant. In order to drive the point home, seven months later they raided the local neighborhoods.[iii]
Since then workplace and neighborhood raids have become common events. In 2008 ICE started raiding grocery stores in Latin neighborhoods in Texas checking both workers and shoppers’ IDs. In 2010 all the McDonalds Restaurants in the Phoenix area became targets of ICE raids.[iv] Local Neo-Nazi Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who regularly does neighborhood immigration sweeps, was responsible for the raids. Prior to the March Washington DC immigration protest in 2010 Obama had DC area restaurants and neighborhoods raided by ICE to intimidate the Latin community. Says one worker swept up in the raid, “For five years all I did was work. I came suffering, and I leave suffering.”[v]
Deadly Immigration Prisons
ICE holds around 32,000 immigrants in prison at any one time to await deportation. They use 363 detention sites across the country to handle their massive prisoner load. In January of 2009 of the 32,000 inmates 18,690 had no prior criminal conviction. With no judge to appeal to and nothing forcing authorities to press charges, immigrants can remain in these prisons for a very long time. During that same period in January nearly 10,000 inmates had been in prison for more than 31 days (which ICE considers the standard turnaround), 400 had been there for more than a year, 12 for at least three years, and one Chinese man had been there for over five years![vi]
Conditions in these prisons were described by a 2009 Amnesty International report as beyond the bounds of international human rights standards and far short of official ICE guidelines.[vii] Despite the fact that most prisoners are non-criminal offenders inmates are handcuffed and shackled and forced into overcrowded cells. After an ICE raid those slated for deportation could be shipped off to any number of prisons all over the country. Frequently a thousand miles from their homes inmates are not given immediate rights to a phone call or a lawyer sometimes leaving their families not knowing where they are for months.[viii]
There have been many complaints filed regarding the non-existent medical care available at these facilities. The New York Times reported that between October of 2003 and January of 2010 107 people died in ICE prisons. ICE officials worked overtime to cover up the details and circumstances of these deaths since many were due to abuse and lack of access to medical care.[ix]
In 2007 Guinean immigrant Boubacar Bah suffered an unexplained severe head trauma while imprisoned by ICE in New Jersey. Guards left Bah in an isolation cell for 13 hours before finally calling an ambulance. At the hospital Bah slipped into a coma and several days later eventually died. While he was still in a coma ICE officials discussed deporting him back to Guinea to avoid unnecessary questions about his condition. Later that same year an investigation into the death of Salvadoran immigrant Nery Romero revealed that he had committed suicide because of unbearable, untreated pain after ICE guards refused to administer his doctor prescribed painkillers. Hiu Lui Ng, a Chinese immigrant, would die from cancer while in ICE custody in 2008 after being repeatedly denied medical treatment that left his cancer undiagnosed.[x]
Many pregnant women rounded up in ICE raids are given no pre-natal care. In Arizona pregnant women are shackled to their beds during and after childbirth. Many don’t even find out what happened to their children until days after giving birth and are not allowed to nurse them until many months later. In 2008 Alma Chacón gave birth while both her hands and feet were shackled to the bed. She was unable to nurse or even hold her child for another 70 days after the birth. Another immigrant woman, Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, who gave birth in ICE custody in 2009 reports being shackled and left to wait in a small unventilated room with 20 other women as she awaited her pre-natal appointments. In the final two months of her pregnancy she had to sit on the floor because of the weight of the chains. She reports weeping frequently afraid that her sadness might hurt the baby.[xi]
The Militarized U.S.-Mexico Border
The intense drive to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border began with the Liberal Jimmy Carter. With the excuse that he was “protecting American jobs” he proposed to double the size of the Border Patrol and build the “Carter Curtain,” a wall separating San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico. During the Reagan and Bush Administrations the Border Patrol budgets were continuously inflated while Latin workers were demonized. Under Liberal leader Bill Clinton the ruling class launched Operation Gatekeeper which tripled the Border Patrol budget in five years and led to the construction of border walls in key cities.
The increased presence of Border Patrol agents and the creation of no-man’s lands in border cities forced Latin immigrants to try and cross through the deserts of the Southwest. According to an ACLU investigation the policies of Operation Gatekeeper led to the deaths of over 5,000 immigrants between 1994 and 2009.[xii] Various anti-racist groups have tried to mitigate some of the danger of this journey by placing water jugs in the desert for traveling migrant workers. Border Patrol agents and Minuteman fascists have aided in the murder of thousands of workers by slashing and emptying these life saving water jugs. During a particularly hot July in 2010 the Pima County morgue had to bring in a refrigerated truck to handle its overflow as it received an astonishing 59 immigrant bodies. It was the worst month for immigrant deaths in Pima County since July of 2006 when they found 68 dead in Pima’s deserts.[xiii]
The militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border has rapidly increased under Bush II and Obama. In July of 2010 Obama sent 1,200 National Guard soldiers to patrol the border. A month later he signed a $600 million bill to deploy 1,500 new Border Patrol agents and other police officers on the border as well as two drone aircraft.[xiv]
In the four years since the Secure Fence Act of 2006 the authorities have built 646 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. The fence ranges between 15 and 20 feet high and has patrol roads paralleling it for Border Patrol vehicles to cruise.[xv] The fence has been criticized by many as a waste of money that does little to stem immigrant traffic across the border, but it should be understood that its real purpose goes far beyond stopping immigration. The fence stands as a visible symbol of the racist nationalism pushed by the U.S. ruling class. Its goal is to impress on workers’ minds a mentality of “us vs. them.”
Anti-Immigrant Hysteria Builds Deadly Racism
The anti-immigrant hysteria that has been stoked by the media and politicians to support the massive ICE terror operation has predictably led to increases in anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hate groups and violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found that between 2003-2007 when CNN’s Lou Dobbs began his racist anti-immigrant rants that hate crimes against Latin workers increased by 40%! The SPLC also found that between 2008-2009 that the number of “Patriot groups” in the U.S. increased by 244%![xvi] These racist hate groups have strong anti-immigrant agendas and count among their more infamous members Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
This increase in racism and violence has been encouraged by a racist criminal justice system that does not view the murder of Latin workers as a crime. Four teens who brutally beat to death 25 year old Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, PA in 2008 while shouting racist slurs only received misdemeanor assault and violation of civil rights convictions.[xvii] A month later when Jeffrey Conroy, a Long Island teen who liked to go “Mexican hopping” with his friends, stabbed to death Marcelo Lucero he was acquitted of murder charges and received only a first degree manslaughter conviction.[xviii] During the trial it came out that Conroy and his friends had regularly engaged in racist attacks on Latin workers. Between April and August of 2010 there were 11 different racist attacks on Latin workers in Port Richmond on Staten Island, NY. These attacks were fostered by capitalists who pit poor black workers against poor Latin immigrants and by police who cynically used the attacks to intensify their fascist police presence in Port Richmond.[xix]
In May of 2010 Seattle police brutally beat a Latino man while shouting racist epithets only stopping when they realized it was not the guy they were looking for.[xx] Despite the incident being videotaped no charges were filed against the officers. Later that month Border Patrol agents murdered Anastasio Hernandez with a taser in San Diego.[xxi] In June a Border Patrol agent in El Paso, TX shot and killed 15 year old Sergio Huereka while he stood on the Mexican side of the border.[xxii] INS has shown no intention of investigating or charging any of these officers.
New Arizona Law Connected to White Power Movement
On July 29, 2010 Arizona put its racist immigration law SB 1070 into effect. The law obligates all law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of every person they stop and anyone deemed “suspicious” of being in the country illegally. Given the law’s blatant modeling of American fugitive slave laws and Nazi “race hygiene” laws, it should come as no surprise that it was crafted by a member of the white power movement.
Kris Kobach, the author of SB 1070, is a lawyer for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) a group that the SPLC classifies as a hate group. FAIR gets its primary funding from the racist Pioneer Fund a group that funds research into “scientific” racism and eugenics.[xxiii] FAIR founder and current board member John Tanton has written that, “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” FAIR president Dan Stein has crudely claimed that immigrants are engaged in “competitive breeding” aimed at diminishing the white majority.[xxiv]
The racism of FAIR is matched by those who have come out to support the law. Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce who sponsored SB 1070 has a long history with the white power movement. In 2006 he forwarded an email from the Neo-Nazi group the National Alliance titled “Who Rules America?” The article criticized what it saw as anti-racist multi-culturalism in the media and espoused a belief in Holocaust denial. Pearce has also been photographed hugging Pheonix resident and member of the Neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) JT Ready.[xxv]
JT Ready and his NSM thugs have taken Arizona’s recent legislation as an invitation to heighten their racist attacks on Latin workers. The group has been going on armed patrols of the Arizona border where they hold immigrant workers at gun point. One of the members of Ready’s group, Harry Hughes, has a history of racist violence against Latin workers. He has advocated murdering Latinos in order to scare others out of neighborhoods and even shot the dog of his Latin neighbors in order to intimidate them.[xxvi]
Now that the Obama Administration has challenged SB 1070 in court various hate groups from all over the country have begun to donate money to Arizona’s legal defense fund. Stormfront.org, the oldest and largest white power site on the internet, has even begun a fundraising campaign for Arizona.[xxvii]
Obama’s challenge to the Arizona law should not be seen as any victory for anti-racism, however. As shown above Obama is as dedicated to the racist ICE system as any other president. The administration’s challenge of the Arizona law is a jurisdictional one that hopes to keep the racist immigration terror in the hands of ICE and not the states. The legal challenge also helps to paint Obama as the good guy while he tries to shove through the equally racist DREAM Act.
Capitalism Needs Immigration
Under capitalism money and those that control it are free to travel all over the world to find workers to exploit. Only the working class is bound within national borders and severely punished for moving to find work. Capitalists control national borders as a way to control the working class. Immigration laws are used to create the deadly racism that pits one worker against another.
In the U.S. the first effort to control the border on the part of the ruling class came in the form of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.[xxviii] A deliberate act of extreme racism, the law was less effective in stemming Chinese immigration than it was in breeding an atmosphere of hatred around Asian immigrant communities. This law created the conditions that allowed bosses to keep Asian workers in virtual slavery as railroad workers and miners on the west coast.
All over the world capitalists use racist immigration laws for the same purposes. In France the target is workers from Northern Africa, in Germany it is Turkish workers, in China it is workers from South East Asia. In all cases these laws are used to drive these populations further underground and make them easier to exploit. The end result is a divided working class and super-profits for the bosses as they use anti-immigrant racism to drive down all wages.
Capitalists punish immigrant workers, but it is capitalists who create the conditions that require workers to search the globe for work. What is called underdevelopment is not an original historical condition but a product of imperialism’s super exploitation.[xxix] It was European imperialism that destroyed the economies of Africa with over 200 years of theft. Yet now the European countries complain of the migration of African workers looking to escape mass poverty at home by going to Europe. 500 years of European and American imperialism in Latin America has created the enduring poverty that affects millions of workers there.
The mass immigration of Latin workers to the U.S. began 30 years ago as U.S. trained and funded death squads terrorized people in Central America and Colombia and U.S. sponsored neo-liberal economic policies destroyed local economies. The 1994 NAFTA agreement that the U.S. crafted instantly destroyed millions of Mexican farmers’ livelihoods by dumping heavily subsidized American corn into Mexican markets. The subsequent mass immigration was met with tightening immigration laws under Clinton and a marked increase in anti-immigrant racism.[xxx]
Obama’s DREAM Act is a Racist Nightmare for Workers
The Obama Administration has tried to use the controversy over the Arizona law to build support for its own Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The bill known as the DREAM Act allows for students between 12 and 35 at the time the law is enacted and who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and graduated from an American high school to apply for a temporary citizenship. This citizenship is granted for six years during which time the person must either acquire a college degree, be enrolled in a college pursuing a bachelor’s degree for at least two years in good standing, or have committed to at least two years of military service.
Immigrant students typically come from the poorest sections of the working class and with Pell Grants and other federal financial aid cut off for immigrant students and most scholarships requiring proof of citizenship the ability to attend a four year university where the average yearly cost is $14,000 (at state schools!) is an impossible dream.[xxxi] With college cut off as a legitimate option for most immigrant youth the military becomes the only realistic option. This of course is not unplanned. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) commented in 2007 to the Army Times, “Under the DREAM Act, tens of thousands of well-qualified potential recruits would become eligible for military service for the first time. They are eager to serve in the armed forces during a time of war.”[xxxii]
The targeting of Latin immigrants by military recruiters dates back to 2003 and the Bush Administration. At that time the Pentagon made a plan to boost the number of Latinos in the military from 10% to 22%.[xxxiii] Four years later the Defense Department helped craft the DREAM Act as a conscious bid to boost the military’s still sagging recruitment numbers. A 2009 study by the RAND operated National Defense Research Institute again emphasized the recruitment of Latin youth as the key to meeting recruitment goals.[xxxiv]
The DREAM Act has other problematic features as well. Anybody wishing to apply to receive possible benefits from the Act will have to voluntarily turn themselves in to authorities permanently marking them as subject to arrest and deportation.[xxxv] For high school age kids who are seeking temporary citizenship status to attend college this means exposing the immigration status of their parents and family and making them subject to arrest.
Perhaps the least known fact about the DREAM Act is the extremely small percentage of the immigrant population that will even be eligible for citizenship through it. Of an estimated population of 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. only 2.1 million (19%) would be eligible for legal status under the DREAM Act according to a study from the Migration Policy Institute. And of that 2.1 million the MPI estimates that only 825,000 would actually be able to achieve full legal status.[xxxvi] That amounts to only 7.4% of the total population of undocumented immigrants!
Anti-Immigrant Laws an Attack on All Workers
Racist terror has been the preferred weapon of choice for the U.S. ruling class in its struggle to keep workers divided and oppressed. Immigration laws are designed to terrorize not just immigrant workers but all workers of color who now have to fear being beaten or murdered by racist thugs or rounded up by the police. The racist intentions of the new anti-immigrant laws are barely concealed. A new law being discussed in Arizona would target so called “anchor babies” criminalizing children born to immigrant women.[xxxvii] This law has its precedent in the 1935 Nazi Nuremberg Laws that criminalized human beings for the simple act of being born. Despite all of the “law and order” rhetoric the intention of these laws is clear as news agencies report that Latin workers are “fleeing Arizona” (the spear head of this racist terror campaign).[xxxviii]
These laws further institutionalize and intensify the fascist American police state, the most oppressive in the world with over 2.6 million prisoners. The intentions of the Obama Administration to carry out and further this organized terror were made clear when he made fascist former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (a staunch supporter of Hitlerite Joe Arpaio) the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Obama has cleverly used workers’ outrage at Arizona’s efforts to re-instate Apartheid to build support for his fascist DREAM Act; an act that is designed to force immigrants into the military to be cannon fodder for imperialist wars. The bosses’ hope that the DREAM Act will both build nationalism among immigrants while maintaining the capitalists’ carefully cultivated system of anti-immigrant racism. Obama’s actions make it clear that he wants both the DREAM Act and continued and intensifying police terror.
Workers have taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands in the U.S. to voice their opposition to this new Apartheid, but like Bush, Obama has shown that his allegiance lies with ruling class exploiters not workers. The truth is that racism is capitalism’s lifeline, its source of super profits and its primary weapon against the working class. Still American workers could learn from the international fight-back against anti-immigrant racism. In France a multi-racial, multi-national strike has lasted longer than eight months as workers demand citizenship rights and the end to threats of deportation.[xxxix] Migrant workers in China are leading strikes for higher wages and safer working conditions shutting down a Honda plant in Guandong and two Toyota plants in Tianjin.[xl] But these reforms will ultimately not solve workers’ problems, for workers to survive in dignity and not in fear we need an organized communist party and ultimately communist revolution!
[i] America’s Voice, “Obama Administration Immigration Deportations Exceed Bush’s Record,” 5/20/10; Stewart Lawrence, Counterpunch, “Obama Reneges on Key Agreement with Immigration Advocates,” 105/10.
[ii] America’s Voice.
[iii] Center for Immigration Studies, “Immigration Raids at Smithfield,” 7/09.
[iv] AP, “21 People Arrested During Immigration Raids at Area McDonalds,” 3/26/10.
[v] Washington Post, “Raids Throw Shadow Over Immigration Reform Rally,” 3/22/10.
[vi] Global Detention Project, “United States Detention Profile,” 3/09.
[vii] Amnesty International, “Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA,” 3/09.
[viii] NPR, “Fresh Air,” 12/10/09.
[ix] NYT, “Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail,” 1/10/10.
[x] NYT, “Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail,” 1/10/10; NYT, “Documents Reveal Earlier Immigrant Deaths,” 1/10/10.
[xi] New America Media, “Pregnant and Shackled: Hard Labor for Arizona’s Immigrants,” 1/26/10.
[xii] ACLU, “U.S.-Mexico Border Crossing Deaths are a Humanitarian Crisis, According to Report from ACLU and CNDH,” 9/30/09.
[xiii] NYT, “Water Drops for Migrants: Kindness, or Offense?” 9/26/10; Phoenix New Times, “Blood’s Thicker Than Water: As Thousands Die in the Arizona Desert as a Result of U.S. Border Policy, an Army of Activists Intervenes,” 2/25/10; Seattle Times, “Ariz. Desert Crossing Lures Migrants, Despite Deadly Risks,” 9/2/10.
[xiv] CBS News, “National Guard Troops Deploying to U.S.-Mexico Border August 1st,” 7/19/10; Democracy Now, “Obama Signs $600M Bill to Increase Militarization of U.S.-Mexico Border,” 8/19/10.
[xv] AP, “Fence Alone Can’t Plug Porous Border,” 5/28/10.
[xvi] NPR, “All the Rage,” 4/1/10; SPLC, “’Patriot’ Groups, Militia Surge in Numbers in Past Year,” 3/2/10.
[xvii] The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, “Confronting the New Faces of Hate: Hate Crimes in America 2009,” 6/09.
[xviii] NYT, “Guilty Verdict in the Killing of Long Island Man,” 4/19/10.
[xix] Racism Review, “Mexican Immigrants Target of Hate Crimes on Staten Island,” (updated) 8/5/10; NYT, “Attacks on Mexicans Leave Neighborhood in Turmoil,” 7/30/10; CHALLENGE, “Black and Latino Workers Unite to Defeat Bosses’ Racism,” 9/8/10.
[xx] Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Videotaped ‘Stomping’ Dominates Seattle Top Cop Selection,” 5/9/10.
[xxi] NBC San Diego, “Illegal Immigrant Shot with Taser Dies,” 6/1/10.
[xxii] MSNBC, “Mexico Slams Border Patrol Shooting of Teen,” 6/10/10.
[xxiii] SPLC, “Hate Group Lawyer Drafted Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law,” 4/28/10; PLP Pamphlet, “Racism, Intelligence, and the Working Class,” February, 1995.
[xxvi] SPLC, “Neo-Nazi Official Patrolling Arizona Border Lauds Violence,” 7/29/10.
[xxvii] SPLC, “Hate Groups Donate to Arizona Law’s Defense,” 7/13/10.
[xxviii] See Andrew Gyory, Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act.
[xxix] Confronting the myth of “underdevelopment” social critic Michael Parenti notes, “The lands of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have long produced great treasures of foods, minerals and other natural resources. That is why the Europeans went through all the trouble to steal and plunder them. One does not go to poor places for self-enrichment. The Third World is rich. Only its people are poor—and it is because of the pillage they have endured.” Michael Parenti, Against Empire, (San Francisco: City Light Books, 1995), p 7.
[xxx] See David Bacon, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants; Mike Davis, Planet of Slums.
[xxxi] The Huffington Post, “The Average Cost of College: How Much Is It?” 8/25/10.
[xxxii] Army Times, “Bill Would Grant Citizenship for Service,” 7/16/07.
[xxxiii] The Independent (UK), “Pentagon Targets Latinos and Mexicans to Man the Front Lines in War on Terror,” 9/10/03.
[xxxiv] UCSD Professor Jorge Mariscal quoted in the documentary Yo Soy El Army; RAND National Defense Research Institute, “Military Enlistment of Hispanic Youth: Obstacles and Opportunities,” 2009.
[xxxv] CHALLENGE Supplement, “Racism – Capitalism’s Key Strategy to Maximize Profits and Divide Working Class Then and Now,” 6/23/10.
[xxxvi] Washington Post, “Number of Illegal Immigrants in U.S. Drops, Report Says,” 9/1/10; Migration Policy Institute, “DREAM vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries,” 7/10.
[xxxvii] Time Magazine, “Arizona’s Next Immigration Target: Children of Illegals,” 6/11/10.
[xxxviii] USA Today, “Hispanics Flee Arizona Ahead of Immigration Law,” 6/9/10.
[xxxix] Challenge, “End Nears for Undocumented Immigrants’ Anti-Racist Strike,” 7/7/10.
[xl] TV Asahi (Japan), “Labor Demands Rising in China After Honda Strike,” 6/15/10; Business Week, “Strike Hits Toyota’s China Production as Honda Workers Return,” 6/19/10.