A.N.S.W.E.R.'s response to Bush’s Speech on Immigration:
Hit the Streets May 16th and May 17th
No to Troops at the Border -- Yes to Amnesty and Full Legalization!
Caught between his extreme right wing and racist base, and fearful of the power of the people that has exploded on the streets in the last two months, Bush was compelled to go on national television tonight to announce his version of immigration reform. His announced plans show that militarism is not only the favored method but the actual goal of the Bush administration as it deals with every issue from the Middle East to the struggle for workers rights inside the United States itself.
As a direct response to the heroic mobilizations of millions of immigrant workers and their families seeking to achieve basic civil rights and workers rights, Bush went on national television tonight to announce that he is sending thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexican border as a support apparatus for the arrests of millions of immigrant workers as they try to cross the border in a desperate search for employment.
The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition calls on people all over the country to take to the streets at emergency protests tomorrow May 16 in New York City and on Wednesday, May 17, in Washington DC, to demand: No to Bush’s anti-immigrant campaign! Stop racist deportations and border militarization! Support full civil rights, legalization and amnesty for all undocumented workers! This week Congress is debating immigration bills, Bush wants to sign a measure by the end of the months - it is urgent that the voice of the people be heard.
Immigrant Rights Groups, Unions, Civil Rights Organizations and the Anti-War movement are Building Unity to Stop the Racist and Anti-Worker Campaign of Bush and the Right-Wing.
As with every political program based on racism, the campaign against immigrant workers is based on dehumanizing, stereotypical lies and propaganda. Uprooted from their homelands by the process of corporate globalization and so-called Free Trade, which has led to massive unemployment, millions of workers from Mexico, Central America and elsewhere have migrated to the United States, where they are forced to take employment in low-paid, back-breaking jobs.
In the last year, 1.2 million people have been arrested at the U.S.-Mexican border. Since 1994, when the Clinton Administration further militarized the border at common crossing sights, more than 3,600 immigrants - forced into ever-more dangerous routes - have died in the Arizona desert, in the mountains in California, in other remote locations, or have suffocated in the back of trucks stuffed with human cargo. Bush tonight announced that he would use the military to erect "high tech fences in urban corridors," a decision that will inevitably consign an ever larger number of people to silent death. This is an effort to force people into ever more dangerous and deadly crossings through the deserts and mountains.
The struggle of the undocumented worker
Those undocumented workers who make it across the border are employed at poverty wages and live with ever-present fear of arrest, ICE raids and deportation. Undocumented workers are viciously exploited by bosses who know that it is difficult for these workers to participate in union drives that would offer protection and higher wages.
Undocumented immigrant workers pay taxes and have deductions taken from their paychecks and yet they are ineligible to collect any benefits. Undocumented immigrants pay more than $7 billion into Social Security each year but unlike other workers who pay Social Security taxes, they can receive no benefits from the program. Likewise, they pay more than $1.5 billion into Medicare each year even though they are ineligible for Medicare. (New York Times, April 5, 2005). Undocumented workers pay sales taxes and property taxes.
Background to the Current Immigrant Rights Struggle -- NAFTA’s Impact
In 1993, after negotiating for several years, the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA went into effect in 1994.
The results have devastated workers' communities in all three countries.
First, NAFTA prohibits the Mexican government from subsidizing agricultural production. But at the same time, it allows the government of the United States to continue providing subsidies to U.S. agriculture to the tune of billions of dollars every year. The practical result is that U.S. producers are dumping in the Mexican market their subsidized products at prices with which Mexican producers can’t compete. With no jobs, and in order to survive, many Mexican farmers are left with only one choice: to migrate to the United States.
On the U.S. side, NAFTA has meant that many good-paying jobs have gone to Mexico. For example, U.S.-owned auto plants have set up shop in various parts of Mexico where workers earn a fraction of what those companies were required to pay under the terms of their collective bargaining agreements to their U.S. workers.
Unlike their displaced Mexican counterparts who migrate to the United States, American workers choose not to migrate for obvious reasons. U.S. workers do not have the incentive to migrate to Mexico to earn one-tenth of their former salaries.
What happens next? The agents of Corporate America distort the terrible situation created by so-called Free Trade. They do so by working long and hard to exploit the anger of the U.S. worker to foment racist feelings and attitudes against the undocumented and against everything foreign, especially against non-European immigrants. This is done in order to divide, weaken and maintain effective political control of the working class, and to ensure their continued economic exploitation.
That is why today the U.S. government—instead of offering legalization, equality and amnesty—promotes the Bush “guest worker” immigration plan, which in effect amounts to indentured servitude for immigrants. This after Bush had promised his “good friend,” Mexican president Vicente Fox, an amnesty plan for Mexican immigrants.
In order to leverage the Bush immigration plan, the political right wing in the United States funds and promotes groups like the so-called Minutemen. This fascist group and others like it are spreading like wildfire throughout the country, increasing racist attitudes against immigrants and sowing confusion amongst the working class about who their real class enemies are.
Yes to Amnesty and Full Rights -- No to a Guest Worker Program!
Everyone in the immigrants rights movement agrees that the HR4437, the Sensenbrenner Bill that turns undocumented workers into felons, must be defeated. But there are differences over what should take its place. Some in the union movement and the immigrants rights movement support the McCain-Kennedy Bill or the Hagel-Martinez Bill under the assumption that this is “the best we can get.” Many corporations and banks support these “compromise” bills because they are tailor-made to benefit corporations who want low-wage workers who have no rights and are dependent on the employer to prevent deportation.
Some in the labor and immigrant rights movement, reacting to the pressure of the racist right-wing’s opposition to the demand for amnesty insist that the word “amnesty” should never be uttered. This is self-defeating and does not in any way correspond to the sentiments of the immigrant worker community. When people at the mass marches are asked: “What do we want?” no one yells back “a guest worker program.” The chant that resonates at the base of the movement is Amnistia or Amnesty -- and it is heard everywhere. The people want equality. They want equal protection under the law, an equal right to join a union, an equal right to live in dignity.
What is wrong with a Guest Worker Program?
The historical record of “guest worker” programs shows that the main beneficiaries are rich business owners, not immigrant workers. The United Farm Workers, under the leadership of Cesar Chavez, worked to overturn the Braceros guest worker program as a key element to eventually organizing farm workers into the union.
The Bracero program initiated in 1942, lasted until 1964, by which time the program’s federal director, Lee G. Williams, deemed it “nothing short of legalized slavery.”
In 1942, many U.S. citizens working in agriculture were either drafted into World War II or sent to factories to help with military production. U.S. agribusiness faced a labor shortage crisis and called on the government for help. The U.S and Mexican governments quickly instituted the Bracero program—bracero means “hired hand”—that brought in Mexican laborers for seasonal harvests or a set period of time. After their contracts expired, most of the workers were deported to Mexico.
The braceros were cheated out of hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid labor. After a long, organized struggle, now elderly survivors have only recently won some of this money back. The Mexican government just announced a program to compensate former braceros and their families. Mexico’s program falls far short of what the braceros are actually owed. The U.S. government has offered nothing.
The new proposed guest worker program is nearly a repeat of the Bracero program. Most of the guest workers, like the majority of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., come from Mexico.
This time, the program is meant to expand far beyond agriculture. Employment and deportation will not be based on seasonal harvests. According to the White House website, “The program will require the return of temporary workers to their home country after their period of work has concluded. The legal status granted by this program would last three years, be renewable, and have an end.”
As John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO stated about the "compromise" legislation: they “tear at the heart of true reform and will drive millions of hard-working immigrants further into the shadows of American society, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.” By dividing immigrants already here into three different classifications, the…proposal will create an undemocratic, three-tiered society that degrades and marginalizes millions of immigrant families in our communities while driving down wage and benefits standards for everyone.”
We encourage everyone to join a demonstration and rally in your area on May 16th and 17th and in the coming week. Now is the time for everyone to stand up for full equality, legalization and amnesty for undocumented workers. The struggle for workers justice has no borders.
Protests condemning the militarization of the border!
New York City
Tuesday, May 16 at 5:00pm
Department of Homeland Security, 26 Federal Plaza
Wednesday May 17 - 5 pm
Federal Plaza (Adams & Dearborn in Chicago)
Wednesday, May 17
National Mall at 14th St.