by Raza Press and Media Association – Editorial Board
The recent announcement of “executive action” by the Obama Administration is being met with celebrations in some sectors of Raza and most certainly by the Democratic Party operatives in our community. We are told that Obama, in a “daring move” has confronted the Republicans and is going to “do right” by our community. We are furthermore led to believe that he wanted to do something for us all along but that the Republicans would not let him. Now, they would have us believe the most vulnerable among our people will be safe and our families will not be torn apart.
It is important to know what the action is and what its provisions are. We also need to be clear who it protects, what it means for border communities and Raza factory workers living in our barrios everywhere. We need an understanding of the reasons why different sectors of the ruling class are addressing this issue as it is now and why the media spin. Finally, we have to know what to do to defend our communities.
First of all, in spite of the assertions by the most rabid anti-Mexican sectors of gringo settlers on Mexican land no less that this is “amnesty that threatens sovereignty” (this action does not guarantee anything but a deferral). What it does is allow for a questionable partial stop of the massive deportations Obama has been carrying out for the past six years with a Democratic Congress for most of his tenure. What we see here is some possibility for legalization and the famous “path to citizenship” that has caused so many on the extreme racist right to lose their minds. In fact, best estimate is that a small number of the 11 million plus who are under the threat and fear of deportation have any hope, not guarantee, that they will not be deported. What it does guarantee is that it solidifies and expands the functions of the Border Patrol and the militarization of the Border.
Deportations will continue and expand. What is clear is that Obama talked about speeding deportations. They will continue to deport “felons, not families”, he said What this may translate into is that felony arrests that may have happened decades ago will be used to deport people who have been in the US all their lives and have not had any other problems in years. This means that the fallout many forces have protested for years will continue unabated. A recent article “Executive Action on Immigration: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly” by Perna Lal discusses who would be eligible for removal and how it breaks down in the real world:
“Priority 1: Non-citizens convicted of aggravated felonies, suspected terrorists, convicted gang members, people apprehended at the border while unlawfully entering the U.S., will be a priority for removal unless they qualify for asylum or another immigration benefit. Most troubling here is the use of language such as “suspected terrorists” without built in civil rights protections that discourage racial profiling. Additionally, people apprehended at the border will now be a top priority, even though many are coming to reunite with family. The prioritization of people with gang-related convictions is very troubling, as law enforcement targets specific racial/ethnic groups as gang-affiliated.
Priority 2: Non-citizens convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses, non-citizens convicted of significant misdemeanors (including DUI), non-citizens apprehended who entered after January 1, 2014; non-citizens who are perceived to abuse the visa waiver program should be a priority of removal unless they qualify for asylum or another immigration benefit. Significant misdemeanors – a new legal fiction created by DACA – is here to stay, even though it has no legal foundation. The prioritization of people with a DUI, and their exclusion from DACA, is incredibly troubling, as is the prioritization of people who overstay their visas under the visa waiver program. Many of these people are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and have much to contribute to the U.S.
Priority 3: Non-citizens issued final orders of removal after January 1, 2014 should generally be a priority for removal unless they qualify for asylum, or another immigration benefit. Immigrants who dared to come to the U.S. in 2014 will now be subject to Draconian enforcement.”
Now, surely the Democratic Party cheerleaders in our community will say: “you’re just looking for an excuse to discredit this action. If we don’t accept this we get nothing.” Moreover, it may seem completely crazy to many of the Raza and families who may qualify under an expansion of Deferred Action to be condemning it. However, even in the euphoria of what it could be, we have to look at what is and what is going to be. In fact, Lal lays out some things that should make anyone who is serious about defending the fundamental human and democratic rights of our community very concerned and very vigilant of what is to come for us as a people when/if this is implemented:
“1. Increased border enforcement – DHS plans to fund an additional 20,000 CBP agents, and continue to trend towards further border militarization of the Southern border we share with Mexico.
2. Ramped up interior enforcement through existing programs such as the Criminal Alien Removal (CARI) Program, which profiles Latinos for detention and deportation, and ICE raids, which will continue under these new announcements, despite right-wing talking points.
3. Due process concerns: Expedited deportations and Operation Streamline will continue.
4. No reforms to the existing detention system: Family detention will continue as the DHS opens a brand new center in Dilley, Texas, and arriving asylum seekers at the border will continue to be detained.”
While the above can look like minor issues to those are hell-bent on thinking this is an acceptable solution, the concerns for Raza every day are all too real. Already, the “US Mexico Border”, which crossed us in 1848 and not the other way around, is a virtual war zone that has claimed the lives of thousands of Raza workers in recent decades without mentioning the countless thousands since the US annexed over half of Mexico. For border communities and Raza who are not lucky enough to have the promise of review under Deferred Action, the Obama administration is not calling for business as usual but an increase to the aggression against our gente. ICE Raids will continue, crossing will continue to be a crime; there will be more migra agents to terrorize our communities. Most important, there is no provision for a review of the so-called “Detention Centers” that house our people in concentration camp conditions. There is no promise to hold any hearings or examine the conflict of interest in privatizing this burgeoning part of the US Government’s incarceration system making money for its cronies.
In effect, we will have only a select few in our community whose privilege it will be to be “chosen,” while the rest will remain as “illegals”. This will create what Professor Alfonso Gonzales in his book Reform Without Justice calls the “good immigrant vs. bad immigrant binary”, a classic case of divide and conquer. In fact, in one of the worst ironies, many who could be helped by deferred action will see their own parents deported under this new Executive Action. As Michelle Chen of The Nation magazine stated in an article entitled “What Will Happen to Immigrants Left Out of Obama’s Executive Actions?” she notes:
“And while the reprieve will be welcome news for millions, it contains a paradox: young people who were part of the 2012 reprieve, the DACA-mented, will see their parents excluded from the pending relief measures, because the new reforms exclude the undocumented parents of DACA recipients. In other words, the youth who have been on the frontlines campaigning for an expansion of their program now face the devastation of their parents being among the millions who the new measures leave behind.”
So much for “families will not be ripped apart”…
Another point that gets lost in all the hoopla and euphoria is that migrants would have to pay taxes but would not get any social benefits. That means in short: no medical, retirement, or other job guarantees while it decides whether it will ultimately deport. Also, the system will “prioritize skilled workers.” That leaves those who crossed out of economic necessity and who are the backbone of this economy in the same condition.
What this action and the discussion on “Immigration” fails to address are two underlying issues. It is necessary to inject them here for the sake of truth and clarity:
1. The migration of Raza from Mexico and Latin America which has grown over the past 20-30 years in spite of the militarization of the “border ” is a direct result of US Capitalism and Imperialism’s imposition of exploitive “free trade” policies in the region which have destroyed economies, caused massive poverty, and gone out of their way to cut out any pretense of social programs and other minimum safety nets to prevent starvation and misery. In short, our people are crossing that “border” to chase after their stolen resources. They are also escaping US sponsored “Wars on Drugs,” and government death squads and repression sponsored, funded, and supported in Washington.
2. The whole discussion of “Immigration” as it relates to Raza from Mexico and anywhere else in Latin America is absurd. The “border ” is imposed by US Imperialism and Raza are indigenous to this continent. Our community is native, not “immigrants” who a settler government can “decide” who is worthy to “stay” in our own land. That is why phrases like “get to the back of the line” should enrage anyone who has any understanding of our history.
This second point must be highlighted because hardly anyone in this “debate” will address this truth. Many will tell us that this “polarizes”, but the fact is that we live in a polarized system: one in which a small minority exploits an overwhelming majority. No amount of waving US flags will change that.
THE PRIMITIVE RIGHT WING’S TANTRUM SHOWS THE CRISIS IN WHICH THIS SYSTEM IS.
Leading up to and following the Obama announcement, we saw the ultra-right Republican Party (as opposed to just the Right that Obama represents) coming out with statements saying there is a “constitutional crisis” and threatening to shut down the government. Even Arizona’s Sheriff Arpaio has filed a lawsuit against Obama citing “unconstitutional abuses of the President’s role in our nation’s constitutional architecture and exceed the power of the President within the U.S. Constitution.”
The primitive sector of the ruling class and its useful idiot constituents have been predicting “doom” for the US Empire. If we look on the comments on the talk shows and on the Internet we see them calling Obama a “traitor” and a “dictator” who is causing a “constitutional crisis” and “destroying freedom.” You can hear them lamenting that “America is not America anymore” and in a total panic because their colonial white privilege seems threatened.
This debate just shows just the disagreements between sectors of the ruling class. Obama represents the more advanced sector that understands that this will squeeze maximum profits for the system, exploit our people without having to pay benefits, and will close the door to anyone who tries to escape US manufactured poverty and repression. Obama and the sector of the ruling class he represents also know that they can neutralize and confuse our people by promising the possibility of legalization which can keep that part of our community beholden, grateful, and paralyzed from struggling against the system that oppresses us.
The primitive sector and their racist settler followers see their privilege in crisis and will not make any concession, no matter how cosmetic. They think they can continue with business as usual. What is clear is that though they talk about “deporting everyone” those who do the manipulating don’t want to do that. What they want is to deport enough of our people that we are once again a “manageable number” in our own land. In no part of this debate is that historical fact present, nor is the responsibility for the situation from which most are fleeing mentioned. We are expected to accept the debate in the framework it was given us.
No solution proposed by this system can resolve the conditions of our community. The only solution we will accept is full legalization and an end to the militarization of our communities and the “border.” The legalization we accept goes hand in hand with an end to US Imperialism’s imposition of its looting neoliberal model in Latin America and its use of puppet governments and the War on Drugs to silence all opposition through mass murder. Nothing that deports and separates families or deems who is worthy to stay in their own land is acceptable. No “action” that militarizes our community should be met with less than ferocious opposition. Threats by law enforcement and their racist organizations must be met with a movement to defend our gente.
Our solution will come from organizing our community, in building a movement that is based on history and in our rights as an indigenous people. – Nothing else will suffice.
WE DIDN’T CROSS THE BORDER, THE BORDER CROSSED US