The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Migrants and the “Labor Shortage”

Sep 4, 2023

For over a year, the Republican government of Texas has been busing tens of thousands of migrants to Democrat-controlled “sanctuary cities” all over the country. About 13,000 of these migrants have arrived in Chicago in the last year. Almost 2,000 are still sleeping on the floors of the city’s police stations and airports, with others overcrowding the city’s woefully inadequate shelter system.

According to current law, asylum seekers like these have to wait at least six months before they can legally work. And it’s harder for them to work under the table than previous generations of immigrants because they are so tracked. As a result, many spend their days hanging out in front of police stations, relying on donations of food and clothing to survive.

Faced with this crisis, at the end of August, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and other high ranking Illinois Democrats held a press conference to ask the Biden administration to fast-track approval for work permits for recent migrants who have applied for asylum. They made their case while standing next to restaurant, hotel, and construction business owners who claim to be facing a labor shortage. In fact, this plan to fast-track work permits was written by the American Business Immigration Coalition, a club of business owners who want to profit from immigrant labor.

It’s true, there are not enough workers on many jobs. But the companies could get enough workers tomorrow if they paid enough. The companies’ interest is to get these migrants’ work permits—but keep them under the legal gun, so they can be superexploited, willing to work on a roof in the sun, or in a boiling kitchen, for little more than minimum wage.

Neither these companies nor the Democrats who serve them have made any proposals to make these migrants citizens with the same rights as everyone else. Instead, they want to give them a pathway, a limited permit, with all kinds of conditions.

That’s democracy in this capitalist country: dividing people into legal “tiers,” with some given full citizenship, and others—including the 500,000 or so undocumented people already in the Chicago area, along with the tens of thousands of people convicted of a felony—given a lower “tier” of rights.

As anyone who works in a workplace divided into tiers knows, creating a lower tier hurts those on the higher tier as well.

The only way to stop these migrants from being used against the rest of the working class is to demand that everyone here has the same rights as everyone else.