Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the May 1, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper
Jose Librado Sanchez was working as a cook in the Caribe Restaurant in Queens, N.Y. When he defended some customers who were fighting with two men, he was wrestled to the ground, shot in the chest and killed by undercover cops.
Mr. Sanchez was a Dominican immigrant working to support his family.
Teenager Kevin Cede=A4o was shot in the back by police on a street in Washington Heights. Cede=A4o was an immigrant from Trinidad.
These cases may seem far removed from the anti-immigration law that has been in effect since April 1. But it shows exactly what's in store for immigrant workers here if they don't organize to fight.
The so-called "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996" will, among other things, cut Supplemental Security Income--as well as food stamps and other entitlements--to all legal immigrants, including the elderly and disabled children.
Another provision requires undocumented immigrants who want to become legal residents to leave the country in six months or face deportation and a three-year wait before applying. Anyone who stays a year in the United States will be deported and will be unable to reapply for 10 years.
Furthermore, border police and immigration agents now have full authority to deny entry to an immigrant right at the airport or the border, without a hearing or an appeal.
So it seems the U.S. government is trying to keep immigrants out of the country, maybe stop them altogether. But is that really possible? Is that really what they're after?
Let's see. We live in an age where a few rich imperialist countries export their capital throughout the world in search for cheaper raw materials and cheaper labor in order to maximize profitability. Agreements like NAFTA are springing up all over the world, building financial and commercial links.
But if capital seeks labor, wouldn't the reverse be true also? Wouldn't labor be forced to ignore borders too? Workers don't move from country to country because they want to--they move because they must.
One could say that many, even most immigrants in this country would have preferred to stay home if they could have found a decent job there.
This is what happens. The same capital that gets exported to, say, Latin America, is drawn there by the low cost of labor and resources. It is like a magnet where labor attracts capital; the lower its cost the greater the attraction.
The magnet works both ways, however. The poorer and more desperate the workers are, the more they will be attracted to capital in search of employment. In Latin America, peasants displaced from farms owned by agribusinesess and big landowners flock to the cities in search of better jobs. The magnet of capital then continues to pull these workers to its source: the United States.
In other words, the attraction of labor to capital produces immigration.
These two features, the attraction of capital to labor, which produces the export of capital, and the attraction of labor to capital, which produces immigration, are laws of imperialism. They cannot be legislated away, just as you cannot force a magnet to stop attracting iron.
So why put forth the anti-immigrant laws? To lower the wages and standard of living of all workers. The $10-an-hour worker will be forced to compete with a $4.50-an-hour worker. This is the real aim of this legislation.
So all workers, citizens or not, must come together to expose this legislation and fight it. Just like the workfare law, this law aims to break unions, break class solidarity and break the fighting spirit of the workers.
But that can't be done. Many of these immigrants have fought against imperialism in their countries. Now they're coming across the border and bringing their revolutionary traditions of struggle.
The immigration laws can be fought. Look at the workers at a company called Rubber Stampede in Oakland, Calif. Most of the workers there were immigrant women, and most were undocumented.
But they didn't let the undocumented status of some of the workers divide them from the legal resident and citizen workers, and that unity brought them victory. They won a union.
This article was adapted from a talk given at an April 18 Workers World Party forum in New York.
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