The Spark

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

Widening Attacks on Immigrants

Sep 14, 2009

In the seven months he’s been in office, Barack Obama has continued and intensified the crackdown on immigrants begun by Bush.

Instead of raids on the work place, the Obama administration issued 652 “Notices of Inspection” nationwide, getting employers to fire those with questionable Social Security numbers, and saving the employers the aggravation of a raid. The government has stepped up getting employers to use E-Verify, a database of Social Security numbers. But the error rate is so high, the government itself admits that this year 19,000 people with perfectly good papers were denied employment.

The Obama administration has turned to local governments to help it crack down on immigrants. The number of people arrested and deported so far this year is double the number deported by Bush two years ago.

The effect of these actions has been to harass and intimidate a part of the working class already forced to work for low pay, under terrible conditions.

There is every reason for immigrants to protest these attacks, just as they did three years ago. Then, there were massive demonstrations, which brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets of cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

But the organizations that led these demonstrations behind the call for immigration “reform” are quiet today.

No surprise. Look who the major players were. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), tied to the Democratic Party, provided the controlling apparatus in major cities. Local and national immigrant rights organizations, often supported by business-funded foundations or tied to the Democratic Party, provided many of the organizers.

Business and the Democratic Party – as well as Bush – were the real controlling forces behind the push for immigration “reform.” And they were aiming for an immigration “reform” that provided employers with a more efficient way to regulate and control immigrant labor. When business saw the massive response of immigrant workers to the call for demonstrations, both Democrats and Bush pulled back, fearful of encouraging a mobilization they couldn’t control.

The demonstrations three years ago showed the readiness of massive numbers of immigrants to come out for their rights.

But they also showed that if immigrant workers are to defend themselves they will not only have to mobilize again – but also to rely on themselves. If they do, in the current situation of widespread attacks, they might well find a response from other workers who have learned some sad lessons from the last three years.