Many immigrants are nervous about immigration policies under the Trump administration. Trump has proposed cutting off funding to sanctuary cities, building a wall the length of the border, stepping up immigration raids, and banning immigrants from six countries. The fear of Trump’s policies is justified but it is important to remember that undocumented immigrants are terrorized no matter which party is in power.
With the exception of Native Americans, the U.S. has always been a country of immigrants. In addition to slaves, it has always been the labor of immigrant workers that has produced the wealth of this country. By 1920, over half of all workers in the manufacturing industries were immigrants or the children of immigrants. But throughout U.S. history, the ruling elite has used racism as a divide and conquer strategy to turn poor farmers and workers against each other, attempting to prevent us from making a unified fight against them.
Immigrants from Europe were told that Native Americans stood in the way of them owning their own little farms. This led to a genocidal slaughter of the people who were living here. White workers have been told that they were better off and have a privilege to defend against African Americans. The result of this strategy has been the violent and degrading treatment of Black people and other minorities, and has driven down wages and worsened working conditions for everyone. Meanwhile the bosses and bankers continue to profit at our expense.
Throughout U.S. history, immigration policy has been designed to meet the needs of an exploitative economic system that robs workers of the wealth we produce. In the U.S., immigration has been used like a faucet: politicians turn it on when businesses need cheaper labor, and turn it down when unemployment grows and job opportunities become too scarce. Immigrants are scapegoated as the cause of high unemployment while it is the bosses and their greed that is the true cause. These bosses have always hired workers without papers to work in their factories, construction sites, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, farms, and their homes to take care of their families. These are the same bosses who exploit these workers at the lowest possible wage, under the worst conditions.
Clinton and Immigration Policy
Even a quick glance at the immigration policies of the last twenty years makes it clear that both the Democratic and Republican parties are equally the servants of the banks and corporations and the enemies of immigrants. In 1994, Bill Clinton, a Democratic politician, led the push for the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This trade agreement generated intense poverty and massive job losses in both Mexico and the United States. The Mexican market was flooded with cheap corn and pork (corn was subsidized with federal tax money to be sold 19% below the cost of production), and small Mexican farmers were forced out of business. The rate of extreme poverty in Mexico soared from 35 percent to 55 percent in just the first three years after NAFTA took effect. At the same time, the Mexican government privatized indigenous common lands, much of which was then sold off to foreign corporations. Combined, these policies created a surplus of desperate, unemployed workers who flocked to the border to work in the newly built sweat-shop factories called maquiladoras or to seek work in the United States.
While President Trump has threatened to build a “great wall” to seal out these workers, there are already over 650 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, along with 1,550 surveillance and communication towers. The wall went hand-in-hand with the passage of NAFTA. In 1994, the Clinton administration passed Operation Gatekeeper, which doubled the number of Border Patrol agents and began the construction of the border wall. Prior to the Clinton years, most undocumented immigrants crossed the border near major cities. But under Operation Gatekeeper, the wall was deliberately designed to funnel immigrants into the most remote and dangerous terrain. More than 7,000 people have died while trying to cross the border since the wall was built, often baked to death by the hot desert sun.
Obama: The Deportation President
Now Trump promises to step up the deportations of undocumented immigrants. But we can’t forget that the Obama administration laid the groundwork for Trump by deporting more immigrants than any other president. The only difference between them is that the Obama administration was more selective about who they deported and didn’t boast about attacking people forced to flee their homes to make a life for themselves. The Obama administration deported 2.6 million people, more than 900 people per day.
When Central American women and children fled to the U.S. in increasing numbers, the Obama administration called them a threat to national security and launched a new weapon in the anti-immigrant arsenal: family detention centers, where women, children, and babies are locked behind chain link fences, with floodlights and barbed wire.
The U.S. has the largest immigrant detention system in the world. Over 400,000 immigrants are held in 200 immigration jails each year. Private prison contractors make hundreds of millions of dollars each year for warehousing human beings whose only crime is their legal status. Many immigrants work like slaves, paid just a dollar a day. Those who refuse to work are often threatened with solitary confinement or a loss of privileges.
Amidst years of continuous cuts to funding for education and social services, the federal government always funds ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), spending about $2 billion per year on detention alone, and a total of $18 billion on immigration enforcement.
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All
We cannot believe the lies of the Trump administration as it tries to blame undocumented immigrants for creating the problems we all face. It is absolutely false that immigrants are taking our jobs or are responsible for more crime than those who are born here. This is said to frighten us and to get those of us who have legal status to go along with or ignore the attacks on those who don’t.
Workers have a tremendous power to resist the attacks of this system because we do the work to make society run. And immigrant labor is vital to many industries. Over 50% of the country’s entire agricultural workforce is undocumented, along with many other industries, including meatpacking, the construction trades, building services, healthcare, child care, restaurants, retail, and more. When this enormous power is mobilized with that of all the workers in society, we have the power to put an end to these attacks.
With the latest round of attacks on immigrants, the Trump administration has made it very clear that there are two sides. The bosses are on one side while the rest of us are on the other, whether documented or undocumented, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Attacks on immigrant workers are an attack on all poor and working people. When it comes to attacks on any one of us, we need to make it clear that An Injury To One Is An Injury To All! We must stand with and defend immigrant workers against the rich who exploit us all.