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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 73/No. 18      May 11, 2009


Click here for Militant Labor Forums

(lead article)
Legalization for all immigrants now!
Militant/Janice Lynn
Some 100 students participate in Immigration Rights Awareness Day April 28 at Suffolk County Community College in New York. Right, panel on economic impact of immigrants. From left, Luis Valenzuela, director, Long Island Immigrant Alliance; Dan Fein, SWP candidate for mayor of New York; Kirby Einhorn, Long Island Wins.

A fight in interests
of all workers!

Legalize all undocumented workers without restrictions, now! Fighting for this demand is a life-and-death question for the labor movement and for the working class in the United States, not just on May Day, but all year round.

The fight for immigrant rights is not just an "immigrant" issue, any more than the fight for Black rights is just a "Black" issue or women's rights is solely a "women's" issue. It is key to uniting our class—native- and foreign-born, increasingly drawn from all corners of the world—in waging a more powerful struggle against the bosses to defend our immediate interests.

As the worldwide capitalist economic crisis unfolds, the ruling rich try to shore up their declining profits at the expense of working people. They speed up the production lines; drive to produce more with fewer workers; lengthen the work day; slash wages and health and retirement benefits; and cut corners on safety regardless of the toll on our lives and limbs.

At the same time the bosses’ government is slashing needed services from mass transit to child care to libraries. More attacks are coming; they will go after Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid under the guise of "reform."

Because of the depth of the economic crisis they face, the capitalist rulers are seeking to drive down the historic value of workers’ labor power—the basic living standards won over decades of struggle. They want us to lower our expectations. They want to push more and more of the burden of living and working under capitalism onto the backs of the family, and women in particular.

Central to their antiworker offensive is scapegoating those in our class who are undocumented immigrants, controlling the flow of labor across the Mexican border with the aim of bolstering a modern reserve army of labor. Haven’t you heard bosses say, "If you don't like the pay or conditions here, fine, there are 100 people willing to take your place and take whatever I offer them"?

Capitalist politicians such as John McCain and Barack Obama are calling for "comprehensive reform" and "road to legalization" schemes. These are traps.

"Go to the end of the line," they say. Why? "Pay a substantial fine." Why? For the "crime" of working? "Learn English." As if millions of immigrants are not already learning English because they understand the importance of being able to communicate with fellow workers. And even if you jump through all the hoops there is still no guarantee you will ever get papers. Don't fight for what you don't want! You might get it.

Immigrant workers have been at the forefront of struggles that strengthen the entire working class, from defending trade unions in meatpacking plants in the Upper Midwest to fighting to unionize coal mines in Utah. They will be an important part of the battles to come.

Working people should fight for what we need. Stop the raids and deportations! Free all those in prison for so-called immigration violations! End the militarization of the border! Legalization without restrictions, now!

Socialist candidate:
‘All out May Day’

SELDEN, New York—Dan Fein, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of New York, was among the featured speakers April 28 at Immigration Rights Awareness Day at Suffolk County Community College. Luis Valenzuela, director of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, and Kirby Einhorn, of the immigrant rights group Long Island Wins, also spoke on the panel titled “The Economic Impact of Immigrants on U.S. Cities and States.”

Some 100 students attended the daylong event, which included a second panel discussion on "The Politics of Immigration." Sponsors included the Office of Campus Activities, Amnesty International, Latinos del Mundo Club, Women’s Club, Campus Library, and several academic departments.

“I was out here last November to join 2,000 others in protesting the killing of Marcelo Lucero,” Fein said, referring to the vigil in nearby Patchogue demanding justice for Lucero, an Ecuadoran immigrant who was stabbed to death in a racist anti-immigrant attack by a gang of youth.

“I am a garment worker,” continued Fein, “and I see firsthand how the employers benefit from immigrant labor. They keep workers divided so they can pay less than the minimum wage; pay no unemployment compensation and no workers compensation when we get injured on the job.  
'Join common fight for jobs'
“We need to join in a common fight for jobs, health care, and education for all workers. There’s no such thing as an American job. Every worker needs a job,” Fein stated. "I’m glad when a worker gets medical care. I don’t care where they come from. We need to see ourselves as part of an international working class.”

Valenzuela said the Long Island Immigrant Alliance was formed in response to the attempted murder of two Mexican day laborers who in 2000 were lured to an isolated site near Farmingville and brutally beaten. “It is a myth that immigrant workers are bankrupting our schools, our hospitals, our jails,” Valenzuela said. “You hear some people say, ‘Why didn’t they get on line?’ Well, there is no line. It’s a nightmare. People have been on line 20, 30 years.”

He reminded the audience that “thanks to immigrant workers we have the eight-hour day.” He also said he thought “things look better for immigrant rights under the Obama administration.”

Einhorn said the immigrant population on Long Island has doubled over the last 30 years from 8 percent in the 1980s to 16 percent today. She urged students to support “comprehensive immigration reform” and to turn out for the Long Island May 1 march and rally in Hempstead.

“We must call for legalization now,” Fein responded. He explained that the Obama administration’s “reforms” call for strengthening patrols on the border and put a series of obstacles in front of immigrant workers before they can obtain legal residency or citizenship.

“Legalization would mean that all workers would have the same status and can unite together against this capitalist system that exploits workers," said Fein. "The only way out is to fight to take power—to put working people in the drivers seat. The corporations go all over the world to make more profit. But when workers go from point A to point B they say something is wrong.”

He also urged everyone to “be part of history and join with the vanguard and others who have been protesting raids and deportations and who will be marching in cities around the country on May 1.”

Ana Menendez, a Spanish teacher who encouraged her class to attend the discussion, told of the hurdles immigrants are forced to go through. Even though she came to the United States on a student visa, got her PhD, and applied for a green card, because of a misspelling of her name by immigration authorities she was threatened with deportation and had to pay more than $5,000 in legal costs.

“This meeting was important,” 19-year-old Eugenia Castillo told the Militant, “because it didn’t say immigrants are taking away from native U.S. citizens. It is saying the capitalists want money from all the workers and so we need legalization to help raise the wages for everyone.”

"I'm definitely for legalization!" said Jasmine Huancayo, 20. She recalled the hardships faced by her father's family in trying to obtain legal residency.

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