PSL Statement on Pres. Obama’s executive action on immigration

By Party for Socialism and Liberation
PSL Statement on Pres. Obama’s executive action on immigration

After winning limited concession, step up the fight for full equality!

Granting a concession to years of struggle from immigrant workers and youth, President Obama announced new immigration policies on November 20 that will provide temporary protection from deportation to roughly 4 to 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Led by undocumented youth, this fighting movement has for years demanded an end to deportations. It challenged President Obama’s claim that he could do nothing without legislative action, that the deportation machine was out of his control. In the first six years of his presidency, a record-setting 2 million people were deported with this justification. It was an historic crime against the immigrant community, managed by the Democratic Party, which is now proven to have been completely preventable.

The Nov. 20 announcement has proven that the fighting sections of the movement were right to pursue a strategy of confrontation with the Obama administration. The liberal proponents of partnership with the administration, giving cover to the deportation machine, have been proven decisively wrong.

The executive action allows undocumented immigrants who have been in the country since January 1, 2010, and who have citizen or permanent resident children, to apply for working papers, which can be renewed after three years. It will grant Social Security cards to those who are approved. It also expands last year’s “deferred action” program (DACA) to an additional 300,000 young immigrants.

The executive action also ends the notorious Secure Communities program, which required local law enforcement to report all arrests to the federal government. This is an important victory for immigrant organizers and the working class as a whole, provided the next fingerprint-based program — Priority Enforcement Program — does not recreate the same system with a new name.

Through the power of organizing and struggle, potentially millions of families will be spared separation and the devastation of deportation. Millions who for decades have not been able to travel and see their loved ones back home, who have missed their families’ funerals and weddings, births and birthdays, may be able to reunite.

The Democratic Party establishment is now trying to project itself as the saviors of the immigrant community — with an eye towards the 2016 elections. But without this struggle, it would not have done anything to alleviate the crisis for immigrants.

Now they will say that full rights and equality for immigrants is impossible — that the undocumented immigrant movement is naive to advance such demands. But that movement has proved a powerful lesson: that the level of the struggle shows what is “possible.”

The limitations of executive action

Even with this program, many deportations will continue. This program is far from full legalization, giving no substantial legal protection — let alone full equality — to those undocumented immigrants it does cover. It leaves out an estimated 7 million undocumented immigrants. Many civil rights leaders who fought for the protection will not qualify. It will leave out the parents of many undocumented youth and those with DACA — the very people who led the struggle for executive action.

Since the early 1990s, the immigration system has harshly oppressed immigrants with even minor criminal records. Many are subjected to months or years in prison, not for any crime but because of a lack of immigration papers. This policy will continue and even may increase, entrapping those with non-violent records, or those targeted by racist “anti-gang” or sexist policing.

For those that do qualify, the program requires the payment of assorted fees and taxes, and it does not provide a pathway to citizenship, Affordable Care Act eligibility or other social services.

It does not reform the U.S. immigration system itself, which retains all of its violent and racist elements. It will reduce certain aspects of enforcement while ramping up others, and will still treat recent and new immigrants as “priority deportations.”

President Obama’s program, like the broader immigration system, discriminates against LGBTQ immigrants by limiting benefits to those with U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children.

It will harshly punish children fleeing gang persecution. It leaves out any recent immigrant and those whose children were not born in the United States.

Pres. Obama claims this executive action will make the immigration system “humane.” The system, which has left a trail of divided families, is far from humane. A look inside any of the country’s overcrowded detention centers, where workers are deprived of any semblance of dignity or legal rights, shows that.

As an executive action, the program could potentially be overturned by the next president or new legislation. Many immigrants who are eligible for the program are rightfully anxious that after signing up, their temporary status could be rescinded and they will be short-listed for deportation. While the historical precedent of DACA and other temporary relief programs makes such a reversal unlikely, there are clearly no depths to the treachery of the Democratic Party, or the bigotry of the Republican Party, on this issue.

One can guarantee, however, that any attempt to take away this temporary relief, and shred the newly issued Social Security cards, would provoke a social crisis and response on the same order as the undocumented workers’ strike of millions on May 1, 2006. The era of remaining in the shadows is over.

Winning concessions under the dictatorship of capitalism

This program is meant to appease and ultimately pacify a movement for progressive change. It is meant to put demands to rest for a moratorium on deportations and detention. By reinforcing and creating legal categories that divide immigrants — eligible vs. ineligible, “criminal” vs. “hard-working,” young vs. old, recent vs. long-time, parents vs. childless — it aims to weaken the movement that has become strong based on its unity and the powerful slogan “Not One More Deportation!”

All concessions granted by the capitalist state pose new challenges for a people’s movement, because concessions are designed precisely to weaken, confuse, divide and conquer that movement. It is typical only of revolutionary crises — when the ruling class feels the entire social order shake — for the people’s movements to receive concessions exactly as they have demanded them.

In other periods, where the concessions are far more limited and contradictory, the task for revolutionary and progressive organizers is to emphasize what still must be fought for and to show that concessions are only a result of struggle.

Ruling-class politicians try to use concessions to promote illusions about their system and their parties, to give up the fight. The political leaders of the working class draw the opposite conclusion: every bit of new breathing room granted to us from our class enemies must be utilized to step up that fight.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation rejects the portrayal of undocumented immigrants as criminals. Immigrants need not apologize for traveling to this country to work, for breaking unjust laws in order to survive. The very economic forces that bring immigrants here benefit Washington politicians and Wall Street banks. They are the ones who should be held accountable for the countless families separated through their anti-worker immigration policies.

The PSL further emphasizes the responsibility of U.S. imperialism — which uses militarism and neoliberal free trade agreements to secure new areas of geopolitical control — in driving global migration flows.

The U.S. government has destabilized and destroyed multiple countries of the Middle East, essentially eliminated their borders and turned millions into refugees. It is actively working to overthrow popular governments throughout Latin America, as it has done throughout history. It is backing the corrupt Mexican state that is now being targeted by a people’s movement for the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa.

A key priority of the Obama administration in the next two years is securing fast-track free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been identified as a key area for collaboration with the Republican-led Congress. U.S. exports will continue to flood local markets, causing local and eventually national economies to crash, and people to leave.

The very politicians who on one day devise systems for the free transnational movement of capital and goods turn around the next day and criminalize the transnational movement of workers.

Like all workers, these migrants are merely following capital as a precondition for survival. Any policy that holds migrants in a second-class and vulnerable status is not only a moral abomination but a threat to the working class as a whole.

Over 2 million deportations have shown immigrants that the Democratic Party is not a friend. The Obama administration has deported tens of thousands of parents of U.S. citizens annually – some of the same people it has now vowed to protect.

The President still sits at the helm of the same capitalist state, which maintains an active deportation apparatus that will not rest. That apparatus, and the economic system it serves, must be destroyed in order to win real protection for immigrants.

A new immigration system — and a new world — is indeed possible, where no worker is criminalized based on their nation of origin, where the economy is organized to meet the needs of poor and working people, the historically subjugated countries are free of imperialist control, and the very concept of “foreigner” becomes a thing of the past.

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