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The Racist War on Immigrants PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Wednesday, 28 March 2007 22:04

The Racist War on Immigrants

Stephen Lendman ~ Emma Lazarus' memorable words on Lady Liberty's pedestal once had meaning as a new nation grew.  No longer in a country hostile to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless
and many others not making the grade in a white supremacist Judeo-Christian state worshiping wealth and privilege.  No welcome sign is out for the unwanted poor and desperate.  At best, they're ignored to subsist on their own.  At worst, they're scorned and abused, exploited and discarded like trash or labeled "terrorists" in a post-9/11 world of mass witch-hunt roundups aimed at Muslims because of their faith or country of origin and Latinos coming north to survive the fallout from NAFTA's destructive effects on their lives.

www.pej.org

The Racist War on Immigrants

Stephen Lendman


Emma Lazarus' memorable words on Lady Liberty's
pedestal once had meaning as a new nation grew.  No
longer in a country hostile to the tired, the poor,
the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless
and many others not making the grade in a white
supremacist Judeo-Christian state worshiping wealth
and privilege.  No welcome sign is out for the
unwanted poor and desperate.  At best, they're ignored
to subsist on their own.  At worst, they're scorned
and abused, exploited and discarded like trash or
labeled "terrorists" in a post-9/11 world of mass
witch-hunt roundups aimed at Muslims because of their
faith or country of origin and Latinos coming north to
survive the fallout from NAFTA's destructive effects
on their lives.

Immigrants of color, the wrong faith or from the wrong
parts of the world are never greeted warmly in
"America the Beautiful" that's only for the privileged
and no one else.  They're not wanted except to harvest
our crops or do the hard, low-pay, no-benefit labor
few others will do.  The ground rules to come were set
straight away in our original Nationalization Act of
1790 establishing the first path to citizenship.  It
wasn't friendly to the wrong types as permanent status
was limited to foreign-born "free white persons" of
"good moral character," meaning people like most of us
- our culture, countries of origin, religion and skin
color.

Left out were indentured servants, slaves, free
blacks, native Americans being exterminated, and later
Asians and Latinos whose "appearance" wasn't as
acceptable as the whiteness of English-speaking
European Christian settlers and the mix of others from
Western European countries like Holland, Germany and
Scandinavia.  The law scarcely changed for 162 years
until the 1870 15th amendment loosened it enough to
include blacks by 1875, no longer slaves but hardly
free and in 1940 gave Latin Americans the same right.
After the war in 1945 it extended it further to
Filipinos and Asian Indians.  Original native
Americans, whose land this was for thousands of years,
only were enfranchised and given the right of
citizenship in their own land when Congress passed the
Indian Citizenship Act in 1924 after most of them were
exterminated in a genocidal process still ongoing,
never mentioned in the mainstream, and for which no
redress was ever made or  likely will be.

The 1952 Immigration and Nationality (McCarran-Walter)
Act (INA) only grudgingly did what no law before it
allowed.  For the first time it made individuals of
all races eligible for citizenship but imposed strict
quotas for those from the Eastern Hemisphere with
different standards for caucasians from the West.  But
nothing is ever simple and straightforward in "America
the Beautiful." In the early Cold War atmosphere of
Joe McCarthy's communist witch-hunts, anyone accused
of leftist sympathies could be targeted, and any alien
so-tagged could be deported, and like today no
evidence was needed.

From the INA to the present, immigration laws kept
changing for better or worse, but one thing was
constant.  White Christian Western Europeans are
welcomed.  Others, especially people of color or the
wrong religion, get in grudgingly in lesser numbers
and receive unequal or harsh treatment when they
arrive.  The 1996 Immigrant Responsibility Act
(IIRAIRA) and Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act (AEDPA)proved it showing Democrat
presidents can be as mean and nasty as Republicans,
especially with help from a Republican-controlled
Congress.

The 1996 acts were ugly and repressive ignoring the
rights of due process and judicial fairness.  They
allowed Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
agents to detain legal immigrants without bond, deport
them without discretionary relief, restrict their
access to counsel, bar them from appealing to the
courts, and can be applied for even minor offenses
little more than youthful indiscretions.  These laws
under a Democrat president "feel(ing) our pain" showed
no more compassion or equity than later ones under
George Bush in force today.  They allow no second
chances and deny targeted legal immigrants their day
in court.  Their harshness tears apart families
unjustly made to suffer by a nation hardening its
stance to the wrong kinds of immigrants.  They're sent
an unwelcome message now much worse in the age of
George Bush with his permanent wars on the world and
homeland "terrorists" meaning anyone called that on
his say alone.

It started post-9/11 with the 2001 USA Patriot Act
even harsher in its updated Patriot Act II version.
Enacted to combat "terrorism," it's done on the border
with more guards to spot, detain, arrest and
incarcerate Latinos entering the country for a way to
survive.  For being undocumented and on the pretext of
being suspected "terrorists," they may be indefinitely
detained or deported the way it works under any
despotic national security police state.  It's even
worse for Muslims, 5000 of whom were rounded up and
held early on with only three of them ever being
charged with an offense.  And it got far worse for
them after that still ongoing.

Today, federal immigration courts can hold secret
hearings for anyone here illegally or charged with a
law violation, no matter how minor.  Those convicted
can then be incarcerated or deported to their country
of origin often to face arrest and torture.  It's now
open season on anyone targeted with legal protection
no longer shielding innocent victims Justice
Department (DOJ) or Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) go after. They includes poor and desperate
mostly undocumented Latinos from Mexico and Central
America coming el norte because NAFTA, CAFTA and other
neoliberal unfair trade agreements called "free"
destroyed their ability to earn a living at home
leaving them no other choice but come north or perish.

It shouldn't be that way, and promises were made early
on that "free trade" lifted all boats with higher
wages and more jobs.  Instead millions of jobs were
lost while real wages fell under the effects of a
globalized market system crafted for investor elites
to profit at the expense of ordinary working people
paying the price.  They've been devastated since by a
sustained massive wealth transfer to the top of the
economic pyramid that in the US alone has been a
generational process of well over $1 trillion annually
to corporations and the richest 1%.

For the past 13 years, NAFTA and the rest of
globalized trade provided cover for imperialism on the
march for power and profit.  It prospers from economic
and shooting wars of conquest with an engineered race
to the bottom driven by giant predatory corporations
allied with friendly governments in their service at
the expense of ordinary working people paying the
price.  The result - mass and growing poverty, human
misery, and ecological destruction great enough to
threaten the ability of the planet to sustain life.

Blame it on the globalized market system.  It's the
main reason millions around the world are on the move
each year as reported by the International Labor
Organization.  In 2005, the number reached an
estimated 200 million fleeing poverty and conflicts,
often leaving families behind, heading for developed
countries for jobs and safety unavailable at home.

The toll South of the Border alone after 10 years of
NAFTA was devastating on Mexico's poor and getting
progressively worse.

-- Real wages down 20% and the wealth disparity
between rich and poor far greater than in 1994
(NAFTA's first year).

-- Two - three million small farms now gone with
Research Director Raul Hinojosa of the North American
Integration and Development Center at UCLA predicting
10 million small farmers will eventually be forced off
the land, many heading north in desperation.

-- Mexico's banks, railroads, airlines, mines and
other industry sold off to foreign investors, mainly
US ones with possible plans under the new Calderon
government to sell off the country's crown jewel -
Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the state-owned national
oil company up to now kept free from Big Oil predators
itching to get their hands on the company and now may
have their chance.

-- Two million hectares of tropical forest turned over
to private developers displacing many thousands of
people to make way for "development" and clear-cutting
forests.

-- Crushed homegrown industries unable to compete
against subsidized US giants like behemoth Wal-Mart
(Wal-Mex) now the country's largest private employer
and biggest retailer in Latin America.

The Message to Immigrants On Our Southern Border - No
Vacancy, or Enter As Indentured Servants with No
Rights

Post 9/11, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was
passed establishing the repressive Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) and in March, 2003 its largest
investigative and enforcement arm - the US Immigration
and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) charged with
protecting the public safety by identifying and
targeting "criminal" and "terrorist" threats to the
country, most of whom, in fact, are just desperate
people whose NAFTA-ruined lives at home force them el
norte to survive.

ICE was established to head them off at the border or
hunt them down ruthlessly once here.  It's comprised
of four integrated divisions with responsibilities
over the nation's infrastructure, economic security,
transportation system and the subject of this essay -
policing our southern border with Mexico going after
people the color of the earth victims suffering for
what we did to them by our made-in-Washington trade
and other unfair economic policies.  So the gloves are
off, anything goes, and ICE is free to rampage with
its large share of DHS's total budget now up to $43
billion, heading for $46.5 in the president's
submitted FY 2008 budget.

On the Homeland Security web site, ICE openly boasts
about what it should be condemned for.  At FY-end 2006
on October 30, it listed what it called "historic
results (and) new records for enforcement activity"
including:

-- Total work site arrests sevenfold greater than in
FY 2002.

-- Ended the former practice of "catch and release"
ICE called "the greatest impediment to border
control."  It substituted the harsher practice of
catch and incarcerate or catch and deport - or hound,
threaten, catch, brutalize, incarcerate, then deport
victimized people who'll try again to survive.

-- Removed a record high number of 186,000 "illegal
aliens" and increased its detention bed space by 6300
to a FY-end total of 27,500 with an average daily
number of incarcerated or detained immigrants up to
26,000 since July and rising.

-- Increased the number of "fugitive operations teams"
nationwide from 18 to 50 charged with locating,
apprehending and removing "criminal aliens" meaning
alien victims called criminals.  Through its Operation
Return to Sender, ICE arrested 14,356 aliens and
deported 4716 of them from May 26 to September 30,
2006. ICE intends having 75 teams operating by end of
FY 2007 to up the numbers considerably which they'll
do.

-- Created a national center operating at all ICE
detention facilities to deport "criminal aliens" when
released from incarceration.  Most will be back.

-- Completed a record high number of "arms and
strategic technology" investigations by doubling the
number of personnel assigned to do them and by
implementing new electronic data entry procedures to
track immigration "violators" and "fugitives."

-- Claimed it dismantled the large Colombia Cali drug
cartel to stem illegal narcotics trafficking while
failing to acknowledge other US agencies, most notably
CIA, have a long sordid history of drugs trafficking
worldwide as an important revenue source with CIA now
partnered with Northern Alliance warlords in
Afghanistan (among others around the world) having
turned the country into a narco-state, according to a
UN report, supplying 92% of the world's opium used for
heroin.

-- Conducted financial investigations of human
smuggling and other immigration related cases
resulting in asset seizures of $42 million or double
the amount gotten in FY 2004.

-- Through its Operation Community Shield arrested
3700 since February, 2005 including 2290 suspected
"gang members."

-- From worksites, arrested 716 workers (and a few
employers getting mere wrist slaps) on "criminal"
charges and 3667 individuals on "administrative"
charges - a sevenfold increase in total arrests from
FY 2002.

-- Worked with Department of Justice (DOJ) in document
and immigration benefits fraud cases resulting in 235
investigations, 189 arrests and 80 convictions.

-- Expanded its partnership with state and local
authorities training 40 state and county law
enforcement officers as part of the 287(g) program of
immigration enforcement with additional partnerships
to come.

ICE listed a disturbing array of other FY-end 2006
"achievements" involving enhanced intelligence
gathering and analysis; targeting "national security
threats;" detecting, tracking and arresting visa
violators; "enhancing border security;" targeting
transnational gangs, human smugglers and sexual
predators; targeting money launderers and others
committing financial crimes while granting de facto
immunity to large US banks, including major
international money center ones, known to launder drug
money as one of their major profit centers; and much
more.

DHS/ICE Billions for the Border

With a budget increased by 50% over five years ago,
DHS/ICE has billions to use guarding our borders from
"dangerous" poor people.  Ignored is that those
working here pay billions more in federal, state and
local taxes for performing services (in jobs others
don't want) than they get back in meager benefits like
sub-standard education for their children in inner
city or other public schools and inadequate health
care when they're sick.

Still they come from need, not choice in a risky,
dangerous journey starting with what it costs for help
getting here.  It's plenty extorted by Coyote
smugglers and other predatory intermediaries treating
them like pollos (chickens) once on their way north.
They get crammed in trucks and cars, travel after
dark, and aren't prepared for the hazards they'll face
including 115 degree or higher summer temperatures
crossing an unforgiving desert that end up killing
hundreds each year from exposure who when found are
just anonymous John Does leaving families behind never
knowing what happened or what to do next.

And handling those risks depends on getting past heavy
DHS/ICE border security in place post-9/11.  They're
ready and waiting with video cameras, state of the art
motion sensors, infrared goggles, other security
electronics and helicopters with forward-looking
infrared (FLIR) scopes plus an unforgiving thuggish
army of 6000 or more National Guard troops as part of
Operation Jumpstart.  They supplement the Border
Patrol agent staff of 12,349 heading for 17,819
proposed for FY 2008, double the number it had in FY
2001.

Add to this army an extremist well-funded volunteer
force in place called the Minutemen Civil Defense
Corps (MCDC) or "Minutemen" for short.  Their name
comes from those "ready in a minute men" dating back
to the mid-1600s when volunteers were trained to be
first on the scene to defend their communities in case
of conflict.  Today's Minutemen on our southern border
are for offense, not defense.  All they defend is
white supremacy and racial hatred against poor,
desperate people unable to survive at home.  Left no
other choice, they come north, but doing it pits them
against these ultra-hard right volunteer paramilitary
thugs licensed to kill.  They man the southern border
by the thousands hunting down and terrorizing anyone
caught entering the country without visas.

They're supported by other anti-immigrant hate groups
and organizations like the Federation for American
Immigration Reform (FAIR, not to be confused with the
noted media watch group using the same acronym
standing for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting).  The
racist FAIR is lobbying Congress for repressive
immigration legislation that will deny Latinos and
others coming here basic civil and human rights by
stepping up harsh border security, increasing
Gestapo-like crackdowns against those already here,
and giving predatory corporations the right to exploit
the ones allowed in or manage to come anyway. The fate
of millions of honest, hard-working immigrant families
depends on exposing and stopping the kind of work
these groups do and what they stand for.

In spite of them and all the other hazards they face,
and word gets back about them, the courageous poor
keep coming for a better life to support their
families usually left behind desperate for whatever
aid their loved ones can send back.  No amount of
manpower, security and technology in place can stop
them.  Those caught and sent back try again,
eventually circumventing the obstacles against them on
a near-2000 mile long border, all of which can't be
patrolled. But that takes them into the harshest
stretches of desert many each year never leave.  And
still they come, risking everything, tens of thousands
each year, their numbers growing as NAFTA and
neoliberal market-imposed rules leave them no choice -
head north or perish.

Congressional Reform or Deform in 2007

Things could change if trade was fair, not unfair,
under made-in-Washington one-way "free trade" rules
legalizing unfairness, especially in areas like
agriculture so crucial to millions of small farmers in
developing countries like Mexico forced off the land
unable to compete against heavily subsidized US
agribusiness. But carrots aren't on the legislative
docket in Congress, only assorted sticks in the
stalled compromise immigration bill providing no
relief the way things are progressing so far in both
Houses.

So-called "immigration reform" stalled last year after
the House passed the repressive HR 4437 Sensenbrenner
bill, The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and
Illegal Immigration Act of 2005, in December, 2005.
It was a law only racists and hatemongers could love.
It galled, or embarrassed, enough senators to clean it
up some and pass S 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration
Reform Act or Hagel-Martinez bill last May.  It was
still bad enough to create a permanent underclass of
low-paid workers, allow employers the right to exploit
them, place restraints on wages and benefits, and
create a nightmarish multi-tiered bureaucratic
structure for temporary partial legalization leaving
out of the mix millions of undocumented workers
already here and delaying citizenship for those
eligible for almost two decades.

Workers, most unions and others for immigrant rights
oppose this bill, but shamefully it's supported by the
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE
HERE representing hotel, food service, apparel,
textile and gaming industries with both unions
sacrificing their members' rights for whatever the
leadership gets from collaborating with employers and
Washington.

Proposed Immigration Legislation Includes A New
Bracero Program

New immigration legislation proposed in Congress
leaves in it most of the harsh measures in S 2611
including a new temporary or guest worker plan with
shades of the infamous Bracero Program in force from
1942 - 1964.  It created a system of indentured
servitude ongoing to this day, even after its official
end, with an army of serfs with no rights giving
employers the legal right to exploit over 4.6 million
Mexican migrant farm workers.  They were denied basic
rights; got only temporary, low-wage jobs; often were
cheated out of pay earned; held in virtual captivity
by employers seizing their documents; denied the right
to change jobs freely; forced to live in squalid
conditions; denied medical care or benefits for
injuries received; forced to endure severe harassment
and oppression from employers knowing they could ship
braceros home whenever they complained too much about
what they had plenty to complain about.  It happened
in 1954 when a recession triggered a political
backlash against Mexican communities resulting in the
deportation or flight of over one million Mexican
migrant workers and their families under Operation
Wetback including children born here as US citizens.

Today, 120,000 foreign guest workers receive temporary
H-2 visas established under the Immigration Reform and
Control Act of 1986 for farm and other low-skilled
work (H-2A for farm and H-2B for the rest), usually
for three to nine months, under conditions similar to
the former Bracero Program under which they were
mistreated and cheated on entry, while here and on the
way out in a cycle of abuse sure to be repeated if a
George Bush-style guest worker program becomes law.
Even professional workers are harmed under the H-1B
program assuring they, like non-professionals, are
marginalized and mistreated under a system where
employers control everything, and workers are just
indentured servants with no choice but to take it or
leave it and go home.

Immigrant rights groups oppose the legislation, and
the National Alliance for Immigrants' Rights wants
full legalization for all immigrant workers in the
country and a halt to all raids and deportations -
provisions not in the compromise bill and unlikely to
be added.  Fear of arrest haunts the undocumented at a
time when terrorism in the news trumps immigrant
worker rights, especially Latinos (and Muslims)
getting none.

That came out in a scathing Southern Poverty Law
Center (SPLC) report based on thousands of guest
worker interviews and dozens of legal cases
documenting appalling abuses of vulnerable immigrants
unable to get redress.  SPLC's Immigrant Justice
Project director, Mary Bauer, said: "Guest workers are
usually poor people who are lured here by the promise
of decent jobs.  But all too often, their dreams are
based on lies, their hopes shattered by the reality of
a system that treats them as commodities.  They're the
disposable workers of the global economy."  SPLC
president Richard Cohen added: "The mistreatment of
temporary workers in America today is one of the major
civil rights issues of our time."

New Senate and House immigration bills will soon be
debated including bipartisan legislation unveiled
March 22 in the House by Latino Democrat Luis
Gutierrez and Republican Jeff Flake.  Sadly, it's
little more than the usual "same old, same old."  In
this case, it's largely a rehash of last year's
stalled S 2611 bill that rightfully is sure to
mobilize immigrants' rights groups against it. It
proposes a repressive guest worker bracero program
with provisions allowing those qualified to get three
year visas renewable for another three years after
which workers would be forced to go home.  To be
eligible, immigrants would have to learn English, pass
criminal and security checks and pay back taxes
ignoring the fact that most all undocumented workers
already pay taxes, give far more than they get back,
and are honest hard-working people.

To get a green card then and be eligible for future
legal residency (only for those arriving before June
1, 2006), they'd then have to go home (under the
so-called "touch back" provision) and start again.
They'd also have to pay a $2000 fine and prove to
authorities they're model material enough to qualify
to stay here.  More than half the bill is even more
repressive.  It contains harsh provisions for stepped
up DHS/ICE (paramilitary) border security above what's
now in place with more manpower and a multi-billion
dollar high-tech border surveillance "shield" now
under construction.  Other provisions include a
mandated biometric system employers must use to verify
workers have legal status while overall this bill,
like the others from both Houses, contains a corporate
wish list at the expense of undocumented Latino
immigrants it wishes to exploit.  In short, it's
appalling and will surely be opposed on the streets en
masse around the country in the spring and summer.

This proposal and others will be on the docket in both
Houses for debate in coming weeks with final
resolution planned for late spring or summer unless
protest opposition delays it again or defeats it.
Neither House version improves much over what stalled
legislatively last year, and only mass civil rights
protests like the historic ones in dozens of cities
last spring have a chance to do it or find a way for
real immigration reform benefitting people, not the
special interests exploiting them with help from
Congress and the administration.

Support for continued exploitation is driving the
political process, even from unexpected places showing
how long the odds are for legislative justice.  It's
coming from the National Council of La Raza, "the
largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization
in the United States (working) to improve
opportunities for Hispanic Americans."  NCLR reaches
millions of Hispanics in and outside the country.  It
was founded in 1968 by noted labor organizer,
community leader and author Ernesto Galarza who wrote
about braceros being "indentured aliens" and
prototypical "production (men) of the future" stripped
of all political and social rights in what he called
an "input factor" to suck worth from and discard.  He
and labor leaders like Cesar Chavez and others all
campaigned to end the program.

His organization today, under President Janet Murguia,
is now an apologist for corporate America lobbying for
braceros at home like the ones they exploit around the
world in a global race to the bottom affecting working
people everywhere.  In a February 11 Washington Post
op-ed piece, she wrote her "organization and many
(unidentified) Latino leaders (support) a significant
new worker visa program as part of comprehensive
immigration reform."  Incredibly, Ms. Murguia
denounced the original bracero program for its abuses
while advocating a new version of the same thing now.
It's no surprise because NCLR also supported NAFTA
before it passed opposing US and Mexican labor and
community-based organizations against it at the time
for all the damage it would do now apparent.

The new guest worker program NCLR supports, in
proposed House and Senate legislation, will embrace
all the faults of its bracero predecessor.  It will
create a large desperate, defenseless immigrant
workforce vulnerable here to the same kinds of abusive
exploitive practices corporate giants inflict on their
overseas workers - denying their right to organize,
receive fair wages and benefits or be guaranteed basic
civil and human rights everyone should have by law.
These rights can only come through legislation
guaranteeing all immigrants permanent legal residency,
a fairly defined path to citizenship, and provisions
for family members to immigrate so they all can be
together.

Immigrant and other civil rights groups also need to
lobby and protest for repeal of the 2006 Deficit
Reduction Act denying immigrants the right to receive
Medicaid that's also harming tens of thousands of poor
US citizens having trouble complying with new
requirements.  They include showing passports or a
combination of an original or certified copy of a
birth certificate and driver's license proving their
legal status in the country.  This is another example
of the Bush administration's racist war on Latinos and
the poor with Congress going along in a long-term
bipartisan effort to roll back the country's social
safety net till nothing in it remains.  It's time
human, civil rights and other progressive
organizations of all stripes mounted a combined effort
to fight back, no longer being willing to see the
social state destroyed in service to wealth and
privilege at the expense of society's most vulnerable
that includes the immigrant population giving America
back much more than it receives and now getting even
less.

They may also have to take on another potential
opponent - the nation's oldest and best known
environmental group, the Sierra Club founded in 1892
by noted naturalist writer and wilderness
preservationist John Muir, that's up to now been
neutral on immigration but no longer.  It's leadership
split on the issue with one side called Support US
Population Stabilization (SUSPS) focusing on
population control that includes restricting
immigration to preserve the environment.  So far,
there's no resolution and internal debate continues,
but it needs watching as it's a slippery slope from
advocating responsible world population growth to one
focusing on US immigration that always means those of
color, the most vulnerable, and mainly desperate and
impoverished Latinos forced here by made-in-the-US
predatory trade and other neoliberal policies leaving
them no other choice.  That should be the Sierra
Club's target, not the innocent victims of bad
policies coming here to survive them.

In the Meantime - Terror Raids in the Workplace
Continue

Workplace assaults targeting immigrants continue as
part of a generational war on labor including the
right of workers to organize and bargain on equal
terms with management.  They're also part of the Bush
administration's campaign for a government-controlled
(exploitative) new bracero guest worker program
explained by DHS secretary Michael Chertoff's message
(through the media) to Congress for the need for
"stronger border security, effective interior
enforcement and a temporary-worker program (because)
businesses (needing) foreign workers....can't
otherwise satisfy their labor needs (so government
must help out with) a 'regulated' program."  He also
told reporters in Mexico City February 16...."total
immigration reform (addressing) migrants is actually
an enforcement enabler because it lets us focus more
on the people that we don't want....criminals and
dangerous folks" - racist code language aimed at
Latinos.  It's meant to sanction DHS/ICE detentions
and deportations and allow employers the right to
abuse and fire Latino workers on any pretext as part
of an endgame strategy, Operation Wetback-style.

The plan is a shocker.  It's to mass-remove an
estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants by 2012
while allowing others under captive contacts to stay
as exploitable guest workers. This was what
immigration reform legislation was all about in 2006
to be repeated when debate begins again in both Houses
and a final bill emerges showing both parties support
corporate interests and will affirm their right to
exploit all working people, starting with guest
workers.  Part of it includes Chertoff and ICE
assistant sectretary Julie Myers unleashing a
paramilitary-style reign of terror against so-called
illegals or undocumented immigrants in the workplace
aimed at easy-to-target Latinos.  Both parties want to
assure businesses have a large exploitable documented
temporary worker pool they can use as needed, abuse as
they wish, underpay, deny benefits and above all use
as a wedge to destroy organized labor and the rights
of all working people in the country.

This is what the racist war on immigrants is all
about.  It's to empower employers by creating a
workplace of unempowered serfs including US citizens
with few or no rights or job security at the mercy of
business to hire and fire at will and treat their
employees as they wish written into the law of the
land.  It's to create a "bracero America," corporate
America's wet dream.

The Bush administration is using high-profile
workplace assaults as a sinister strategy to get it.
Complicit with them are the corporate media trumpeting
the message that desperate Latinos here for jobs to
replace ones NAFTA destroyed are threats to national
security.  It happened last December 12 in the largest
ever workplace raid when ICE storm troops swooped in
on Colorado-based Swift & Company targeting six of its
plants.  Agents rounded up 1282 allegedly undocumented
immigrant workers, including 170 accused of identity
theft, detained them at the plants, then bussed them
across state lines to be processed with most later
released far from home.  The raids were vicious and
racist as are all others around the country targeting
immigrants of color.  The Hispanic National Bar
Association reported December 18 "non-Latinos and
light-skinned employees were provided blue wristbands
which exempted them from questioning, while Latinos,
persons perceived to be of Hispanic or Latino origin,
underwent immigration processing (the notion being
that) all persons perceived to be Latinos are
illegal."

Most immigrant workers at Swift and around the country
are impoverished-by-NAFTA Mexicans or other Latinos
driven North for jobs in desperation resulting from
the Global North's failed neoliberal agenda.  They're
helpless victims of savage capitalism forced to leave
home, exploited in the workplace, and terrorized by
Homeland Security ICE storm troop enforcers earning
their keep at the expense of ordinary working people
targeted as criminals because they're less white than
other workers passed over in the raids.

But that's not how DHS and corporate media trumpeting
characterized the victims.  ICE and its media
mouthpiece claimed the raids were a major victory in
the war on illegal immigrants, and by implication the
so-called "war on terror" (against innocent people
they call "terrorists)."  The United Food and
Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)
representing Swift workers scoffed at the claims as
outrageous denouncing them saying they're "not an
effective form of immigration reform (and) They
terrorize workers and destroy families."  ICE also
trumpeted a (hollow) victory against criminal elements
supplying phony IDs that could also be used by
"terrorists" or as part of an identity theft scheme
victimizing many thousands of US citizens and lawful
residents.

It was subterfuge and part of the current political
climate with headline-making theatrics more important
than defending the homeland against legitimate
threats.  It showed in the aftermath of this hugely
expensive ICE operation amounting to little more than
a PR stunt providing red meat for hard liners wanting
their kind of immigration reform meaning no rights for
workers, especially ones of color.  The raid ended up
netting 65 "criminal arrests," many for minor offenses
like reentering the country after being deported, a
technical violation rarely resulting in prosecution.
The others were shipped around the country and likely
released except for those voluntarily agreeing to be
deported.

The December Swift raid was the largest ever, but
immigrant workers everywhere have reason to fear the
same threat that was repeated against meatpackers from
Smithfield Foods' processing plant in Tar Heel, North
Carolina, the largest hog processing plant in the
country.  Most of its workers are African-American and
Latino, and hundreds of them defied plant management's
refusal to give them the day off by rallying in nearby
Fayetteville honoring Martin Luther King Day January
15.

Retaliation came January 24, when ICE agents raided
the plant arresting 21 immigrant meatpackers on
trumped up "administrative immigration charges"
meaning they were poor Latinos vulnerable to ICE
assaults made to send a message.  DHS supports
management rights, not those of working people.  The
Tar Heel plant's 5000 workers have been trying to
organize within the United Food and Commercial Workers
(UFCW) since the early 1990s, but are opposed by
management and its policy of retaliatory firings,
intimidation, and beatings by plant security.
Smithfield like other corporate giants plays hardball.
So doesn't ICE acting like Gestapo ruthlessly
assaulting working people with special viciousness
reserved for vulnerable Latinos (and Muslims) having
no defense.

Still another ICE assault the AP called "the largest
immigration bust in the history of southern
Massachusetts" happened March 6 against Michael
Bianco, Inc. in New Bedford, MA, a manufacturer of
high-end leather goods now producing safety vests and
backpacks for the military.  In this case, conditions
for workers were deplorable, according to US Attorney
Michael Sullivan, who called them similar to the
sweatshops of the early 1900s.  He arrested and
charged the owner, three managers and another employee
but freed them pending a court date for hiring
undocumented immigrants.  It's likely outcome will be
the way it usually is for corporate offenders - a
small wrist slap fine....case dismissed.

Hundreds of workers weren't so fortunate with as many
as 350 of them apprehended and initially detained at
Fort Devens for processing.  From there, some were
jailed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, others
released, and most were flown to jails in Texas and a
few to Miami, far from their families and facing
deportation or incarceration for those unable to prove
they're in the country legally.  Most are poor Latino
women from Central America. In the meantime, as in
other raids, parents and children are separated and
traumatized, their lives disrupted with an estimated
100 children in this instance, including nursing
infants, left stranded with babysitters and
caregivers.  Many will end up at the mercy of
strangers in foster care, uncertain of their parents'
fate only here to earn enough to support them.  Left
unmentioned is that those born here are US citizens
entitled to the constitutional rights they'll never
get because they're less-than-white poor Latinos.

One other example deserves mentioning as well as it's
now in the news.  This one is in Pascagoula,
Mississippi where hundreds of guest workers from India
are protesting job conditions at Signal
International's Gulf coast shipyard they compare to
slavery.  Signal brought in about 300 Indian workers
in December and another 300 to work in Texas as part
of the H-2B visa program.  Workers got promises of pay
and working conditions Signal reneged on plus workers
having to pay recruiting contractor Global Industry
(sent by Signal to India) up to $20,000 to come.  They
were promised $18 an hour for up to 30 months work but
most only got half that amount.  They also had to pay
Signal $35 a day to stay in company labor camp
barracks inside the yard where workers described
conditions as "very bad (with) 24 of us....in a room
in a barracks that measures 12 feet by 18 feet,
sleeping on bunk beds (with) two toilets for all of us
and only 4 sinks."

Workers began meeting at a local church to discuss how
to get Signal to refund their contractor fee, which
they said the company promised to do, and to protest
their working conditions.  They organized a group
called Signal H-2B Workers United.  When the company
learned of it, it responded harshly calling the
workers unqualified and cutting their already lower
than promised pay.  In addition, eight were declared
completely incapable and told they were being sent
home immediately.  Outside the yard, dozens of workers
and community supporters protested denouncing the
firings and mistreatment.  So far, nothing is
resolved, but the Mississippi Immigrant Rights
Alliance and Southern Poverty Law Center are going to
court on behalf of the fired workers to stop their
deportations.  Other workers still employed are
continuing their actions challenging Signal to refund
their contractor-paid money they're entitled to
receive with that issue possibly heading for court as
well.

Plants like Signal's involved Indian workers and
wasn't raided because workers in it were legally
recruited by the company.  Others, however, employing
Latino immigrants, are savagely assaulted, and so are
communities with programs for day laborers like the
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
targeted in January by ICE sweeps in Southern
California Latino neighborhoods.  Coalition leader
Antonio Bernabe told Reuters "The police didn't just
take people with deportation orders, they took
anybody--guys who were just hanging out in the street
and even from a Jack in the Box restaurant....and now
people are afraid to go out."  The sweep aimed mainly
at Latinos, mostly Mexican nationals, sent a message
following George Bush's State of the Union address
calling for "comprehensive immigration reform"
combining a (mean-spirited) guest worker (bracero)
worker program with tougher workplace and border
enforcement meaning it's open season on Latinos and
working people overall.

Immigrant Communities and Supportive Organizations
Respond

Immigrant communities and organizations are fighting
back against ICE rampaging terror raids and are
rallying their members and supporters to take a stand.
The Immigrant Solidarity Network is promoting May Day
2007 and a National Mobilization to Support Immigrant
Workers Rights calling for a "national day of
multi-ethnic unity with youth, labor, (and) peace and
justice communities with immigrant workers and
building (a)new immigrant rights & civil rights
movement."

Proudly and boldly they proclaim "We are all human!
No one is illegal!  It's call to action stands for:

-- No anti-immigration legislation or criminalization
of immigrant communities.

-- No militarization of the border with fences or
other barriers.

-- No more immigration detentions, deportations  or
funding for immigrant detention centers.

-- No oppressive guest worker two-tiered program
allowing employers the right to pay visa workers lower
wages, provide no labor protections, and offer little
or no right to future US citizenship.

-- No employer "no-match" Social Security letters to
fire immigrants and repeal of employer sanction law.

-- Yes to a clear, fair one-tiered path for
undocumented workers to gain legal status and an
opportunity for citizenship.

-- Yes to family reunifications through additional
visa numbers and elimination of long family
reunification backlog delays.

-- Yes to strengthening existing labor law protection
to include all immigrant workers including their human
and civil rights.

-- Yes to the right to organize and bargain
collectively on equal terms with management.

-- Yes to the Dream Act with provisions for states to
aid immigrants with benefits like providing in-state
tuition aid and enable students of good moral
character to qualify for legal residency.

-- Yes to extending benefits to LGBT immigrant
families, passing the Uniting American Families Act
for same sex and unmarried partners, and lifting the
HIV ban on immigration.

Other organizations as well are working for immigrant
rights.  They include:

-- The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education
Fund (MALDEF).  It calls itself the most influential
Hispanic advocacy group in the country standing for
open-borders and for all legal and undocumented
immigrants to be entitled to the same rights as US
citizens.

-- The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund
(PRLDEF).  It calls itself the most important
organization for day laborer rights in the Northeast
standing for real immigration reform so that millions
of the undocumented have a clear path for legalization
and citizenship.

-- The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights (NNIRR).  It's a broad-based organization
advocating for immigrants, refugees, community,
religious, civil rights, labor and activists.  It
promotes a just immigration and refugee policy
defending and expanding the rights of legal and
undocumented immigrants and refugees.

-- The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
(ADC).  It advocates for people of Arabic origin
harshly treated post 9/11 and was a co-plaintiff
challenging Section 215 of the Patriot Act allowing
for government access to medical, educational and
library records relating to "terrorism" investigations
or others claimed for national security.  At least two
ADC chapters publicly condemned immigrant
apprehensions, detentions, disappearances, the denial
of legal representation, and "secret military (or
other) tribunals calling these actions chilling
"similarities to a police state."

-- The Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA).  It calls
itself the most effective legal fund in the country
committed to preserving, safeguarding and promoting
the civil and legal rights of American-Islamic
institutions and Muslim Americans.

-- The Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants
(CHRI) formed in response to increased workplace raids
by the INS, now DHS/ICE.  It advocates for
undocumented immigrants' labor rights (mainly
Mexicans) confronting "anti-immigrant policies through
grassroots education and action."

-- The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) - an
organization involved in training more than 800
nonprofit personnel and attorneys in areas of
immigration law including naturalization, deportation
defense, ethics, and Delayed Enforced Departure.  It
condemns the harsh practices now employed against
immigrant communities and in the workplace as
unconstitutional.

Street Protest Actions with More Planned

Protests for immigrants' rights are beginning in
cities around the country like the week of them in the
San Francisco Bay Area from February 26 through March
2.  Throughout the week, community leaders, people of
faith, labor leaders, teachers and youths rallied
against ICE raids and guest worker programs speaking
out for "yes to legalization for all (undocumented
workers)."

Similar actions are planned elsewhere including in
Chicago by a group called the March 10 Movement named
after the 500,000-strong largest ever protest in the
city held on that date in 2006.  They'll include
rallies for passage of real immigration reform
including a path to legalization for all undocumented
workers and an end to detentions and deportations.
The first of the planned marches was held on March 10
- of course - in the city's downtown area to be
repeated each week "until there is a real solution"
from Congress, signed into law.  If they follow
through, it will mean a long spring and summer of
protest marches.

Last year's mass Chicago march inspired millions of
immigrants and supporters to rally in cities around
the country that helped defeat the worst parts of
anti-immigration legislation mostly crafted in the
racist House Sensenbrenner bill now a dead letter.
Since then, however, no progress for reform has been
made and pending action from the compromise
House-Senate bill and most recent new House proposal
will continue an ongoing war on immigrants only mass
opposition street protests have a chance to stop the
way last year's actions achieved modest success now
stalled and slipping.

That's how things are now in a nation dedicated to
permanent war, a bipartisan criminal class in
Washington beholden to capital, and workers everywhere
losing out in a race to the bottom.  Poor Latinos (and
all Muslims) face some of the worst of it, and those
in Mexico and Central America face a Hobson's choice.
Wither at home under NAFTA and CAFTA or try making it
north to suffer abuse and neglect in an uncaring state
dedicated to keeping its tired and poor and huddled
masses permanently that way.  That's the message from
Congress in the kind of "immigration reform" being
crafted, but Latinos and others on the streets have
other ideas.

At over 45 million strong, Latinos are now the largest
ethnic group in the country and fastest growing with
its Mexican component rising fastest of all.  Nowhere
is this more apparent than in California where about
one-third of all Latinos live and make up over
one-third of the state's population of 36 million.
It's even more pronounced in Los Angeles where Latinos
are now a majority providing a future glimpse of
America with this group becoming more dominant than
ever but still marginalized, demeaned and denied real
equity and justice in a country clinging to its
Christian white supremacist roots.

That can only change with mass civil disobedience
street protests, employer boycotts and a campaign
targeting Congress for justice long delayed and denied
and now demanded in the current legislative session.
Real change never comes from the top down.  It's
always from the bottom up that's unstoppable when
enough people mobilize in the streets and halls of
power for it.

That's where things now are entering spring that
promises months of rallies and protests around the
country.  With enough of them, Congress might start
hearing the Immigrant Solidarity Network's message
that "We are all humans (and) no one is illegal," and
the one from the Mexican American Political
Association that Mexican and Hispanic people want and
deserve the same constitutional and democratic
freedoms all others in America are entitled to.
That's what they say and want.  Now they're coming out
again demanding it.  Stay tuned.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour
on The Micro Effect.com online live each Saturday at
noon US central time.


 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2007 22:04
 

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