The Rights of Immigrants The Rights of All!

March 28, 2006

Over the last few weeks, millions of Americans have come into the public arena to defend the rights of immigrants. Five hundred thousand people marched in Los Angeles. Three hundred thousand demonstrated in Chicago. Tens of thousands marched in Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee and many other cities.

The people are protesting the government's attempt to pass new anti-immigrant legislation.

Already the House of Representatives has passed the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act" - the "Sensenbrenner bill" (named after its sponsor, Congressman Sensenbrenner). The bill is presently being considered by the Senate.

The Sensenbrenner bill would:

- make it a federal felony to live illegally in the country, even in cases of minor technical or procedural violations.

- make it a crime, punishable by 5 years in jail, for family members, social workers, lawyers, clergy or anyone to help illegal immigrants stay in the country.

- build a 700 mile wall along the Mexico-U.S. border.

- dramatically increase federal policing against immigrants and require border patrol officers to deport - without even an administrative hearing - anyone within 100 miles of the border who an agent "thinks" is an undocumented immigrant present in the country less than 14 days.

- require every citizen and legal resident to obtain federal permission to work and require all businesses to participate in an employment eligibility verification program.

This outrageous bill would, overnight, turn 10-12 million undocumented workers and their families, friends and co-workers into criminals. It would further militarize our country and impose a national ID system on all Americans. The Sensenbrenner bill is an attack on the rights of all Americans and on the foundations of a democratic society.

For hundreds of years, the capitalist class has used immigrants as a source of superexploited labor. Today, the government has imposed a complicated caste system on immigrants which denies them their inalienable human rights.

At the bottom of this caste system are 10-12 million so-called "undocumented" workers. These workers, often actively recruited in their home countries by U.S. corporations, are paid the lowest possible wages and forced into the dirtiest, hardest jobs. Under constant threat of arrest and deportation, undocumented workers are often denied vital public services, including even health care and schooling. They are prevented from exercising such elementary rights as the right to unionize, to speak out, etc. Every year, millions are deported - forcibly separated from their homes, their jobs, their families, etc.

The capitalists use this caste of workers, denied all rights, to drag down the wages and standard of rights of all workers.

The Sensenbrenner bill will only drive the undocumented workers further underground, making them even more easy prey for the most ruthless capitalists. It will also be used to increase repression against a broad array of social, economic and defense organizations which help immigrants and all working people keep life and limb together.

In addition to the Sensenbrenner bill, Congress is considering a number of other pieces of immigrant legislation. Some of these measures are advertised as alternatives to the Sensenbrenner bill and even as "pro-immigrant." But the truth is that these bills, including the Specter bill (supported by Bush) and the McCain-Kennedy bill, all include new attacks on immigrants.

The common thread of these "alternative" measures is to legalize a caste of "conditional" workers. Some undocumented workers - who register with the government, confess to being criminals, pay large fines, provide proof of "good behavior" and a consistent work record - would be given temporary work permits for up to 6 years. During that time they would have to remain continually at work. The Specter and McCain-Kennedy bills would also establish "guest worker" programs to enable capitalists to import temporary workers every year to fill low skill, low-wage jobs.

Under these bills, the workers who qualify for "conditional" status would be little more than indentured servants, not only required to work but kept under the surveillance of the government. Those millions of undocumented workers who would not qualify for this "amnesty" would, as under the Sensenbrenner bill, find themselves even deeper in the underground economy and more avidly pursued by law enforcement officials.

The millions of Americans who are coming forward to oppose the anti-immigrant legislation are carrying forward the great democratic traditions of our country. The fundamental demand of democracy is that everyone be guaranteed full and equal rights. Certain rights belong to people simply by virtue of being human and any deviation from this principle negates the very concept of rights. The government cannot declare some humans as illegal or some humans as better than others.

Let us carry the struggle through to the end until our country guarantees, in practice, FULL AND EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL HUMAN BEINGS!