The Struggle for Immigrant Rights

April 21, 2008

The struggle for immigrant rights, which is rallying workers and democratic-minded people throughout the country, is a clarion call to all the workers and people to rise in the struggle for democratic rights for all.

The immediate aims of the movement are to stop the government from imposing anti-immigrant laws which would criminalize immigrants and further repress them.

The federal government has tried but not succeeded in imposing reactionary laws that would increase the repression of immigrants such as the Sensenbrenner bill (H.R. 4437) in 2005, the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006,” and the STRIVE Act in 2007. All of these bills have included provisions for militarizing the border, moving towards a national ID system, criminalizing immigrants. The latter two would create new castes of workers who can legally be deprived of basic rights—through means including “guest worker” programs and an “earned path” to citizenship.

In the recent period, the U.S. capitalists' anti-immigrant agenda has been carried out increasingly at the state and local level.

In many areas local police have been instructed to ask about immigration status and to report people without proper identification to federal immigration authorities. In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are training over 100 local police departments in targeting immigrants.

Twenty-five states already have laws or amendments declaring English the “official language.” Others are being pushed through in towns and cities. Such laws are reactionary, not only because they trample on the inviolable human right to speak one’s own native language, but also because they are an integral part of the criminalization of immigrants and ongoing propaganda campaigns aimed at inciting racism. Furthermore, they implicitly give the green light to increased profiling and arrests of people of the minority nationalities and immigrants.

Many laws have been pushed through local governments quickly and quietly in an attempt to bypass the inevitable mass outrage. Nevertheless, people have organized in opposition and in many areas such measures have been and are being defeated.

Through mass rallies and numerous other forms of struggle, people are defeating anti-immigrant legislation at the state and local levels, including efforts to cut off public benefits to immigrants, efforts to cut off access to college education, efforts to forbid immigrants from driving legally, and efforts at integrating state and local police with ICE.

People continue to oppose repressive measures as they are being implemented.

Protests took place in Pheonix in April against "saturation patrols" carried out in Maricopa County, AZ. The Sheriff's department, with ICE backing, organized officers and others to stop masses of people in Latino neighborhoods; dozens have already been arrested.

A similar police "crackdown" has doubled the number of immigrants referred by local police to federal authorities in New Jersey over the last year. Mass outrage has forced the racist profiling and repression out into the light of day and authorities are shouting themselves hoarse claiming that such things are "mistakes," but have been forced to back down, at least partially and temporarily.

In defeating and fighting against these measures, the immigrant rights movement makes an enormous contribution to the fight for a truly modern America which recognizes the equality of every nationality and which recognizes that the rights of one are inseparable from the rights of all. This struggle must be carried to completion.