Letter from the US: Trump ramps up immigrant raids amid daily protests

February 17, 2017

Since the huge Women’s Marches protesting Trump’s policies on January 21, there have been almost daily demonstrations against his policies.

These include rallies against his stepped-up raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants, in particular the Day Without Immigrant national protests on February 16 during which thousands of migrants went on strike and demonstrated across the country. 

In one week leading up to February 10, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested nearly 700 people in raids in at least 11 states.

Trump tweeted after the raids: “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!” Like most Trump tweets, this is an “alternative fact” — or a lie, in non-Trump speak.

An executive order by Trump expanded the group of immigrants prioritised for deportation to include anyone found guilty of any crime, as well as those accused of crimes but not convicted.

An example was Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos who was arrested on February 8 and deported to Mexico, leaving a husband and two teenage children behind. She had been living in the US for 21 years. Hundreds of supporters protested her removal by surrounding the van carrying her away.

Her “crime” was a felony conviction in 2008 for using a false social security number to get a job.

Her 2008 arrest was by the notorious racist Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, known for his mass roundups of undocumented workers, subjecting them to humiliating public treatment and having them deported. Arpaio raided the facility where De Rayos worked. He confiscated company records, found her false social security number and arrested her.

After her conviction, she was required to check in with ICE annually, which she did. However, she was allowed to stay in the US and work. On February 8, she had gone to ICE for her yearly check-in when she was arrested and deported. Under Trump’s new rules, her 2008 felony made her eligible for deportation.

After her deportation, Guadalupe’s husband, Aaron, told Democracy Now: “Back in 2008 … my son, he was around eight years old. He saw how his mom was taken away from him, handcuffed.

“Now, that’s traumatising for a kid that is eight years old who doesn’t know what’s going on. Why is police going into their house and took their mom away?

“We’ve been suffering a lot, and now we’re suffering because of Trump. We’re victims of Trump … We think about our kids … They’re not going to have any trust in police, with the sheriff, with ICE.”

Undocumented workers, by definition, have no documents to present to employers to obtain employment. So the great majority — millions — have to use false documents. Others are hired at low wages “under the table”.

All those who use false documents are guilty of felonies. The 11 million undocumented migrants are also all guilty of felonies for entering the US “illegally.”

Moreover, the “War on Drugs” has resulted in millions of felony convictions. This mass incarceration has disproportionally targeted African Americans and Latinos. Many convictions are for “crimes” such as use of marijuana. Such convictions can lead to deportations of migrants.

One of the protesters trying to block the deportation of Guadalupe told the media: “I’m here because it’s Lupita [De Rayos], tomorrow it may be my mom, and the next day it might be your mom.

“We need to stop the deportations, because there are eight million people at risk … who are a priority for the Trump administration, in the Trump deportation machine.”

De Rayos’s 14-year-old daughter Jacqueline Rayos Garcia said: “I’m going to keep fighting for my mom and for the other families that are going through the same thing, because this is unfair.”

Her 16-year-old son Angel added: “We want her back, back in our arms. We want her back over here where she belongs. She belongs with us. And we’re going to keep on fighting. We’re not going to stop.”

ICE said these raids are “routine” and were put in place by Obama. They have a point. Obama did create the machinery for what is happening.

But Trump is using that machinery to go much further. Obama deported two million people, more than any previous president and earning him the title of “Deporter in Chief”, but Trump vows to up the ante.

One favorite line by Democratic and Republican politicians who favour criminalising the undocumented is that they “should have played by the rules and come into the country legally”.

But it is almost impossible for Mexican and Central American workers fleeing the economic ravages caused by US imperialist exploitation, and the crime wave resulting from the US “War on Drugs,” to get papers to enter the US. The waiting lists to do so are so long it can take 20 years to “play by the rules”.

Even the best proposals by politicians of both major capitalist parties for immigration reform completely ignore any reform of the racist “rules” that make legal immigration impossible for most Mexicans.

This setup has for years been useful for important sections of US industries that use undocumented workers. Having no rights as citizens, and subject to deportation at any time, these workers are forced to accept sub-standard wages and working conditions.

The mass deportations under Obama, and the anti-immigrant hysteria whipped up by Trump, have made conditions for these workers more precarious.

Californian agribusinesses have warned against carrying Trump’s racist scapegoating of Mexicans too far. If too many undocumented workers are deported or flee in fear, these businesses fear they will have to hire workers at higher wages with better conditions.

They like the effects of Trump’s campaign in intimidating their workers, but they want to keep it at “just right” levels to allow them to continue their super-exploitation of vulnerable undocumented migrants.

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