The capitalist rulers in the U.S. and the Democratic and Republican parties that serve their interests agree that immigration policy should be built on the needs of the bosses. They turn the spigot on when the bosses need workers, and turn it down when production in factories and agriculture falls. The use of immigrant workers without papers is a key part of the mix, allowing the employers to sow division among workers, which they use to push down wages and attack the conditions of all.
Tactical differences in the ruling class over the pace of immigration, refracted through liberal Democrats’ never-ending “resistance” that is aimed at bringing down the Donald Trump presidency, have led to sharp divisions in Washington and a partial shutdown of the federal government. One thing they all agree on is that many government workers should keep on working with no pay.
Working people have no interest in backing either side of this skirmish over the rulers’ need for cheap labor. Our focus should be fighting for amnesty for all those in the U.S. without papers the government considers “proper.” That is the road to unifying the working class, organizing workers into unions and fighting against the attacks of the bosses and their government.
And workers do have an interest in defending the rights of those from abroad who seek to apply for refugee status here because of fear of violence or persecution.
But calls by a layer of liberals and middle-class radicals to “open the borders” are nothing but utopian posturing meant to score points against their opponents in bourgeois politics, like Trump, but aren’t intended to be implemented.
The Trump administration favors stronger controls on immigration and has been demanding Congress fund a bigger wall along the Mexican border to lower the number of people who come across without being processed. The Democrats shed crocodile tears for immigrants and use their majority in the House of Representatives to join in keeping the shutdown in effect.
The fact of the matter is that some of the most stringent restrictions on immigration were enacted under the Democrats. In 1996 then President William Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. It expanded the powers of the immigration cops to round up and deport those charged with being “illegal” and authorized construction of the border wall. The hated la migra was built up, becoming the largest federal cop agency. Deportations rose to an all-time high in Clinton’s last year in office.
Factory raids exploded under George W. Bush, but were brought to a halt after millions of immigrant workers went on strike and protested on May 1, 2006.
The first parts of a border wall were built near San Diego in 2000, under Clinton. It was expanded under George W. Bush and again under Barack Obama, covering more than 650 miles. “We have gone above and beyond what was requested,” Obama bragged in 2011. His efforts were backed 100 percent by the current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Obama dramatically expanded the “forced removals” of immigrants, which steeply increased the penalties of “illegal re-entry” into the U.S. And during his presidency the number of felony prosecutions on this charge averaged over 35,000 every year.
The government ‘shutdown’
Millions of workers wouldn’t miss the rulers’ cops and jailers as well as the legions of federal regulators who cover everything workers have to apply for with red tape if much of the federal government shuts down forever. But that isn’t going to happen.
Such shutdowns are carefully selective. They come into play when tactical divisions between the ruling parties allow federal budget allocations to run out with no new ones in place.
Exempt are all the repressive bodies of capitalist rule — the army, National Guard, border police, federal prison guards and the like. The boss class won’t let these pillars of their rule lapse for even a minute.
Some federal mandates continue, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But no one who becomes eligible can register for these programs.
What “shuts down” are many agencies and jobs that make payments to workers and others who need welfare benefits, food stamps, disaster relief and similar programs. Farmers can no longer get federal loans.
So far roughly 380,000 of the 2.1 million federal employees have been furloughed, and another 420,000 have been told to report to work but they won’t get paid.
Democrats and Republicans blame each other for the shutdown, but they’re both responsible. It’s another example of the rulers’ disdain for the crises working people face today.