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Legalization now!
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 70/No. 21May 29, 2006


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(lead article/editorial)
Legalization now!
Unconditional residency for all immigrants
Militant/Sam Manuel
Hundreds protest in Washington May 17 to demand legal status for all undocumented immigrants.

The demonstrations by millions of immigrant workers and their supporters across the United States have put on the political agenda the demand “Legalization now!” Fighting for legislation to grant immediate and unconditional residency to all immigrants is a pressing necessity for the working class and labor movement.

In a May 15 speech, President George Bush proposed legislation tailored to serve the needs of the bosses. His “middle ground” on immigration was quickly rejected by both friends and enemies, an indication that many in the ruling class find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Like the bipartisan Senate immigration bill currently under debate, and the Sensenbrenner bill adopted by the House of Representatives in December, the White House proposed adding thousands of cops to the Border Patrol. Bush also advocated deploying up to 6,000 National Guard troops on the border that would not have a direct policing role.

Bush did so above all to appease those on the right who oppose any measure that would legalize the undocumented. The move is also designed to gain public acceptance for the future use of the military in domestic operations to crack down on anticipated working-class resistance.

The purpose of tightening border controls is not to bar or deport all undocumented immigrants. As Bush himself noted in his speech, that is impossible and not in the interests of U.S. employers. In fact, the U.S. economy would sink into stagnation if bosses had to rely solely on the exploitation of native-born workers. That is why the American capitalists themselves attract labor power from around the world.

What most employers seek is a steady flow of immigrant labor that can be kept in second-class status. That is the aim of the various “guest worker” proposals, under which immigrants would have to leave the country after a number of years. That’s also the aim of the Senate bill, largely endorsed by Bush, to establish a “path toward citizenship” under restrictive conditions such as onerous “fines” and making workers’ legal status dependent on their bosses. The goal of these various measures is to maintain a superexploited pool of labor and foster divisions among workers.

The U.S. capitalists draw in immigrants from abroad on a massive scale and organize entire industries relying on their labor in order to reap superprofits. The employers use their police to maintain this situation through the permanent threat of deportation.

When defenders of the status quo rail against “illegals” breaking the law, they must be answered: What kind of system is it where 12 million working people live and labor in violation of the law? These anti-working-class laws must be challenged and eliminated. As demonstrators often chant at immigrant rights marches: “We are workers, not criminals!”

The labor movement should call for immediate permanent residency for all undocumented immigrants, with no conditions. Such a struggle is in the interests of all working people, foreign- and U.S.-born alike.

This is a great challenge for the union movement. Immigrant labor can push down wages. Increased competition for jobs under capitalism, whatever its source, does lower wages. It does lead to layoffs. Unless all workers, regardless of national origin, are organized into unions. Unless the labor movement champions the struggles of all oppressed and superexploited layers of the working class, in order to wage a more united, a more effective fight for the interests of working people as a whole. Under those conditions, the working class and the trade unions become way more powerful.

To do so today, the labor movement needs to lead the unfolding battle for legislation to unconditionally legalize all immigrants.
Related articles:
Bush’s friends and foes alike scorn his ‘middle ground’ on immigration
How Lenin answered chauvinist calls in U.S. to exclude Asian immigrants

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