Jul 23, 2007
Despite protests by thousands of people, the city council of Waukegan, Illinois, passed a law assigning two local police officers to work with federal authorities on deportation.
Even if two cops means very little, this measure is a threat hanging over the heads of all undocumented workers. And it’s one of many similar measures introduced in cities and states across the country following the failure of federal immigration law in the Congress.
The bills proposed in Congress, supported by the majority of Democrats in alliance with Bush and the Republican leadership, had two aspects, both aimed at keeping immigrants without papers in a subservient position. One was a further crackdown. The other aspect of the proposed laws was the offer of so-called “legal” papers to only a part of the undocumented immigrants, papers so limited that immigrants in fact could have no real legal rights for at least 13 years, if not many more. It also would have driven in a wedge, dividing immigrant workers themselves.
With the failure of this Congressional legislation, the focus of attacks on undocumented immigrants has shifted to the states and local areas. Laws have already been passed in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Rhode Island, among other places.
In Mamaroneck, New York, the city used checkpoints and ticketing to harass day laborers. Similar attacks on day laborers are occurring in many towns. The city of Freehold, NY began fining day laborers seeking work in public.
None of these towns bothered to fine those employers who hire day laborers for less than the minimum wage – or who work them, but then don’t pay! The point of these laws is not to stop such bosses – it’s to harass and scare the workers.
Anti-immigrant laws are an attack on all workers. When workers are fearful that anything they do can lead to deportation, it’s harder for them to stand up for their rights, to fight against low wages and horrible working conditions. And when one part of the working class is kept in this kind of semi-servitude, every part of the working class can more easily be attacked.
Recently, the state of Alabama passed a law aimed at immigrants, requiring people getting Medicaid for their children produce a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship. The effect was to kick vast numbers of poor people off Medicaid – people who often never got a birth certificate, or can’t find it, and can’t afford to get another one, especially if they were born elsewhere. Sixty% of those kicked off were black and 38% white, while only 2% were Latino.
It’s in the interest of all workers to strongly oppose all these attacks on immigrant workers.