United States President Barack Obama pledged on June 30 that in the face of Republican intransigence on immigration, he would take executive action to ease the plight of undocumented immigrants facing deportation.
On September 6, the White House announced that it would delay any action until after the November midterm election.
Cristina Jimenez, managing director for United We Dream, an advocacy coalition for immigrants largely made up of young Latinos, said: “The President’s latest broken promise is a slap in the face of the Latino and immigrant communities.”
When Obama pledged to take executive action, he was vague on the specifics, but this promise did raise hopes. Leaders of several immigrant groups said their members are “furious” for his breaking his pledge.
The move was widely seen as capitulation to Democrats running in the November elections who feared that their Republican opponents would cast them as pro-immigrant.
Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, called the decision a “betrayal,” and that for Obama “politics come before the lives of Latino and immigrant families.”
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said: “Today we are deeply disheartened that the dreams of hard-working immigrant families who have long contributed to the fabric of American life remain in jeopardy … countless families continue to wait in the shadows of fear.”
Just what concrete action Obama had in mind isn’t known. I suspect it never was very substantial. What is known is that before his administration ends, there will be between two and three million deportations, more than under any other President. These deportations tear families apart, including separating parents from their children. That’s why young immigrant rights advocates call Obama “the deporter in chief.”
The Constitutional amendments passed after the Civil War guaranteed that anyone born in the US was automatically a citizen. Many of those deported are parents of such children. Right wing pundits are calling for the repeal of this Constitutional provision.
In the period from July 2010 and mid-October 2012, more than 200,000 deportations were of parents with US-born children, according to official figures.
The deportations create fear among the undocumented — which is their purpose.
There are by official estimates, about 11 million workers without papers in the US who have been here years and decades, largely Latino, but also including Asians and others. The capitalists who employ them want them in the US, and they want them to be without rights.
The mass deportations serve to keep these workers in a state of fear, underscoring that they have no legal rights. Thus they can be super-exploited, with lower wages, longer hours, worse conditions and fearful of fighting back.
This situation drives down wages and conditions for all workers, a plus for the owning class. In the present conditions of high unemployment, immigrants become scapegoats, with the far right charging that they “take American jobs,” and are a drain on social services.
When attention was drawn to the children crossing the border as refugees from deplorable conditions in their home countries, there were white racist mobs screaming at them to “Get Out!” and worse.
Right-wing TV and radio shows charged that the children were the advance guard of an “invasion” from Central America, and were bringing diseases into the US, including ebola.
Republicans are running in the upcoming elections on fear of Latinos and Blacks, pandering openly to white racism. The anti-immigrant drive is part of that. Some Democrats join in.
What about the mainstream Democrats? Obama decries the Republican refusal to adopt “comprehensive immigration reform” already passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
What is this “comprehensive immigration reform”? First of all, it means further militarising the border with Mexico. There are already 20,000 members of the Border Patrol there, the largest number in history, scheduled by the “reform” to rise to 40,000.
There are walls and fences and a system of immigration detention centers that didn’t exist 15 years ago. More than 350,000 people spend some time in such centres every year.
The Senate bill will spend an extra US$47 billion for a “border surge.” The Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), a mainstream — not a radical — group, says this will “significantly increase border deaths as unauthorised crossers brave even more harrowing and dangerous circumstances.”
It will also “cause civil rights violations of US border residents. 40,000 border guards buttressed by electronic surveillance equipment and dozens of drones will ‘occupy’ border communities combing for ‘undocumented immigrant’ profiles that are practically indistinguishable from that of the majority citizen and legal population” — since that majority is Latino along the border.
MAPA also points out that it will “adversely impact indigenous communities whose ancestors have lived in the area and worked the land for hundreds of years.” Many of these tribal lands are on both sides of the border.
The “comprehensive reform” Senate bill does not grant citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants who have been in the US for years and decades.
What the bill does provide for is allowing some of the 11 million to apply for “registered provisional immigrant” (RPI) status, allowing them to work and remain in the US.
But, MAPA points out, the “RPI program will exclude and/or disqualify over time some five million undocumented persons from adjustment of status.
“With the exception of [children brought into the country by their parents] legalization provisions fail most of the 11 million undocumented persons … Only eight of the 11 million undocumented persons will initially achieve RPI status.
“Moreover [a recent study] found that for several reasons the entire population of Registered Provisional Immigrants may never be eligible to apply for permanent resident status (or citizenship) because of onerous ‘continuous employment’ and federal poverty guideline requirements and the high costs combined with the requirement to pay past taxes.”
By requiring that RPIs earn 125% income above the poverty line and must be continuously employed [preventing them from striking], subjects them “to workplace discrimination, exploitation and sexual harassment” and are at “high risk to become indentured servants….”
RPIs “will be without health care and are ineligible for federal safety net benefits,” MAPA points out, including Social Security, in spite of having already paid billions in Social Security taxes.
The MAPA statement includes many more facts on how the RPI will adversely affect immigrants, especially women and children.
Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are the solution.
Open the borders! Full rights for all!