By Alan Benjamin (editorial board member, The Organizer)
Working people have every reason to be outraged by Donald Trump’s fueling of the white-supremacist massacres that killed three people in Gilroy, California; nine people in Dayton, Ohio; and 22 people in El Paso, Texas, including children. Since he took office, Trump has been railing constantly against the “immigrant invasion” and endorsing every expression of racist hate imaginable. In August 2017, his endorsement of the neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, was barely veiled.
The increased racist shootings have gone hand in hand with an increase in ICE workplace raids, such as the militarized operation in Mississippi this August – the largest ICE raid in history – that rounded up 680 workers in seven chicken-processing plants throughout the state. Not coincidentally, workers at some of the plants had challenged abusive conditions on the shop floor and had embarked on a union organizing drive by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW).
A resolution adopted by the national convention of the Painters Union (IUPAT) in mid-August characterized both the shootings and the raids as “acts of terror against working people.”
That is not all: The Trump administration has separated more than 2,300 children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border while placing hundreds of migrants in concentration camps with deplorable conditions. Many of these children have been jailed in cages.
As if that were not enough, Trump is now threatening to deport immigrant children with leukemia, muscular dystrophy, or cystic fibrosis. “In some cases this is virtually a death sentence,” stated an editorial in the August 28 Boston Globe titled, “Can the Trump Administration Sink Any Lower than Threatening to Deport Sick Kids?”
That is why we have endorsed and are building actively the September 16 protest and march in the San Francisco Bay Area to demand: “Close the Camps, Free the Children!”
Role of Democrats No Less Deplorable
While we denounce the Trump administration and work to build the broadest unity to demand the closing of the camps, we have to see the bigger picture if we are to put an end to this scourge and actually obtain justice for the millions of migrants forced out of their communities in Mexico and Central America as a result of policies (U.S.-backed interventions, coups, and “free trade” agreements) imposed by the U.S. government.
The stepped-up attacks against immigrants actually began in 1996 under Democratic President Bill Clinton. A September 2016 report by Hacking Law Practices reads, in part:
“Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant, xenophobic presidential campaign must be condemned. But this does not mean that Democrats get a pass here.
“The truth is that Bill Clinton signed the most draconian immigration bill of our lifetime: the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). … While Barack Obama has deported more people than any U.S. president in the nation’s history, lost in all of this is the IIRIRA, which essentially invented immigration enforcement as we know it today, where deportation is a constant and plausible threat to millions of immigrants.”
Obama, in fact, deported more than 3.2 million people, increasing the budget for “border enforcement” by 24% (or $18 billion).
The Hackings report concluded:
“Proponents of immigration reform and immigration advocates are understandably appalled by the harsh rhetoric coming from the Republican Party on this issue. But it cannot and should not be lost on any one who follows this issue that the Democrats have a lot of blame for our current situation as well.”
When the Democratic Party leadership caved to Trump, voting on June 26 to support the administration’s request for an additional $4.6 billion for “enhanced border security,” labor and immigrant rights activists across the country could not contain their anger.
Al Rojas — vice president of the Sacramento chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, LCLAA, AFL-CIO, and a steering committee member of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) — did not mince words:
“The Democratic Party is a full accomplice in the attacks on immigrant workers and their families, as it (1) authored and promoted the NAFTA and CAFTA trade agreements, which deepened the poverty in Mexico and Central America, forcing millions to flee their lands and communities, and (2) it promoted the militarization of the U.S. border and the mass deportation of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Only last month, the Democratic Party majority voted to allocate $4.6 billion for ‘border security,’ including huge sums going to for-profit prisons and detention centers.
“Having a ‘D’ next to your name does not give you a free pass. Working people are organizing outside the Democratic Party — and the movement is growing. Change is coming — so that we can elect independent working-class candidates who genuinely represent working people. Building such an independent movement, and such an independent political party, is the task before us.”
Building politically independent labor-community coalitions that incorporate the fight for immigrant rights (Papers for All, Abolish ICE, Stop the Deportations, Tear Down the Wall of Shame) among their primary demands and mobilize around them is the place to start. The union leaders and activists who formed the Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) are promoting these coalitions as the building blocks of an independent party of labor and the communities of the oppressed.