Reject Immigration Proposals
Our Security Lies in the Fight for Rights
The starting point for dealing with issues of immigration is the stand that No Human Being is Illegal. As human beings, whether citizen or non-citizen, recently arrived or here for generations, young or old, we have rights by virtue of being human. Defending these human rights is a necessity for any modern society and government. But this is not the aim of the recent immigration proposals. Instead, the proposals from President Obama and a group of eight Senators serve to further criminalize immigrants and all workers while unleashing yet greater police powers for the president. They have new mechanisms for the government to deny individual and collective rights when what is needed is to affirm these rights.
Both proposals, for example, include requirements for “national security” checks. The federal government is to determine whether an individual poses a “threat.” Yet neither proposal attempts to define or provide concrete criteria as to what actions by an individual would constitute a threat. This will be arbitrarily decided by the federal government and its policing agencies. Given that Obama keeps secret on what basis he determines his “kill” list for assassinations, and his indefinite detention without charges list, the same will likely be true for these “national security checks.” Additionally, Obama wants to “Streamline removal of non-immigrant national security and public safety threats.” Again, who and what constitutes such a threat is not stated. Striking port workers, antiwar demonstrators, have all be branded as threats in the past.
The “national security check” and “streamlined removal” are mechanisms for unfettered power, as no specific measure, such as committing a crime, is utilized. Nothing blocks the arbitrary action of the federal government to designate someone a “threat.” It can be anticipated that while presenting these proposals in the context of immigration, they will be utilized far more broadly against the rights of workers and the people as a whole.
Both proposals also call for mandatory, “tamper-proof” electronic identification for all workers, to be phased in over five years. First all undocumented workers will have to register with the government and provide biometric data and in time all workers will need to do so as the ID will be a requirement to work. Such mandatory ID is not for identifying undocumented workers. It is for regimenting and controlling the entire workforce. The federal government will arbitrarily decide who does and does not qualify, who does and does not work, who does and does not participate in the economic and political life of the country.
Further, these mechanisms are consistent with establishment of the single United States of North American monopolies. Such mandatory ID could become common ID for workers in all three countries, putting them at the disposal of the monopolies and their exploitation and destruction of human and natural resources. They can be used not only to target organizers and all those resisting, but also to divide workers and pit them against each other. Denial of the ID on a broad scale also paves the way for slave labor camps for all those refused ID but still forced to work. That such a possibility exists can be seen in the fact that detention prisons are expanding and could readily be used for such purposes.
These proposals also do nothing to solve major aspects of the current problems facing immigrants, such as the massive detentions and deportations and terrorism imposed on immigrant communities. Far from legalizing anyone, they are measures to further criminalize workers while increasing the unfettered police powers of the executive. They must be rejected. Security can be found by affirming the rights of all, the rights of immigrants, the rights of all workers, the human rights of all human beings.
Highlights of Immigration Proposals from Obama and Senators
President Barack Obama announced proposals for immigration legislation on January 29, in Nevada. The day before, a group of Senators issued their proposal. Both are outlines for immigration bills, not actual legislation. They are similar in several important ways, including making use of immigration to further criminalize immigrants and all workers. This is done mainly with their proposals for mandatory federally issued “tamper-proof” identification (ID) for all workers, likely with some kind of biometric identifier, like fingerprints or eye-scans. It is also done by adding a “national security check” for all those trying to secure documents as immigrants and a “streamlined removal process” for any considered “threats to national security and public safety.” The “national security check” is in addition to the usual FBI “background check” for criminal convictions. For “national security,” however, what constitutes a “threat,” how it will be decided and by who are not part of the proposals.
Neither plan deals with ending the massive deportation of workers. Under Obama, since 2009, more than 1,594,000 people have been deported. These record numbers of people being deported are continuing, with families ripped apart, often leaving children without their parents. While Obama did say that the “deportations of criminals is at its highest level ever,” he did not address the main problem of concern to all workers, which is the unjust deportations of more than a million people guilty only of working. Many of the deportations also target the more experienced and active workers, who have been in the country for years and are only now being deported. Various studies have confirmed that the majority of those being deported are guilty of no crime or of only minor misdemeanors, like traffic violations, or civil, not criminal offenses, like overstaying a visa.
In addition, Obama calls for expanding federal programs like Secure Communities — responsible for these record numbers of deportations and the widespread racist government profiling they impose on state and local policing agencies, as evident in Arizona, California, New York and elsewhere. It is the broad demand of those defending immigrant rights that these racist programs that terrorize communities be ended.
The plans also do not address the massive detention of immigrants in conditions that violate their human rights. This includes the torture of solitary confinement. Many are kept for months and years in detention before their case is even heard in an immigration court. While Obama’s plan calls for more immigration judges and mentions “alternatives to detention,” it does not have any specific measures being demanded by the people, such as closing the worst detention prisons and requiring they meet human rights standards.
Criminalizing Workers Using Mandatory ID Requirements
The fact sheet on immigration issued by the White House calls for “Mandatory, phased-in electronic employment verification,” using government databases. Indicating that it will be applied to all workers, it states, “The new mandatory program ensures the privacy and confidentiality of all workers’ personal information.” The proposal also “mandates a fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant Social Security card and requires workers to use fraud-resistant and tamper-resistant documents to prove authorization to work in the United States.” There are also plans for “new methods to authenticate identity.” Similarly the Senators’ proposal calls for a “mandatory employment verification system…We believe requiring perspective workers to demonstrate both legal status and identity, through non-forgeable electronic means prior to obtaining employment is essential to an employment verification system.”
Thus while the ID is presented as necessary to deal with undocumented immigrant workers, it is actually being made mandatory for all workers. Electronic and tamper-proof means ID cards with magnetic strips and biometric identifiers, with all information residing with the federal government. As well, the government will determine whether the documents used to prove citizenship or residency are valid. And, given existing experience with “no-fly” lists and E-verify, the determinations made will be arbitrary and often wrong. In areas like Massachusetts where similar requirements for proof of citizenship are already in use, many who are citizens were still branded as non-citizens as they did not have the documentation the government required.
It can be seen from the mandatory requirements and existing experience that this federal identification will be a mechanism of government control of the entire workforce and a means to arbitrarily exclude anyone the government decides has not met their “documentation” requirements. It opens the way potentially for slave-labor camps, or something close to them, of all those refused ID cards but still able and needing to work. Further, when coupled with proposals regarding the borders and sharing of information, the mandatory ID could well become the common ID for workers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. This would put the workforce of all three countries at the disposal of the North American monopolies to utilize how and where they see fit.
Criminalizing Workers Using Citizenship
A main issue addressed by both proposals is providing what is called a “pathway to citizenship” for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Reaching agreement on this in Congress is being presented as a main stumbling block. Most likely, this “stumbling block” will be used to justify harsher measures to criminalize immigrants and all workers — all in the name of reaching agreement. Certainly, neither proposal begins from the basis of defending human rights, which means recognizing that no human being is illegal.
Obama’s plan requires all undocumented immigrants to “come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks.” The Senators also call on people to register and state, “Individuals with a serious criminal background or others who pose a threat to our national security will be ineligible for legal status and subject to deportation.”
For both proposals, the “probationary legal status” granted can be revoked and likely will take at least 10-15 years before it becomes permanent. As well, both have lists of requirements, such registering with the government and paying fines simply to get temporary status, and even more requirements, such as work history and current employment, learning English, more fines, and additional “security” checks just to have the “opportunity” to apply for a green card (permanent residency status). There are no guarantees of actually getting one. These requirements show that the aim is not actually a path to legalization and citizenship for those who want it, but rather registering and controlling the workforce and justifying “national security” checks as normal for workers.
The “national security check” is a new requirement. Unlike the FBI “criminal background check,” commonly based on whether or not felony level crimes have been committed, the criteria for passing the “national security” check is unknown. It likely will remain a secret, even in the legislation. This is consistent with the arbitrary powers now being exercised by the president, such as for determining who is on his “kill list,” or “indefinite detention” list.
Adding this “national security check” is a mechanism for unfettered power, as no specific measure, such as committing a crime, is utilized. Nothing blocks the arbitrary action of the federal government to designate someone a “threat.” While these checks are starting with undocumented workers, there is nothing to prevent them from being immediately included, or phased in, as part of the mandatory ID program.
Additionally, this use of arbitrary unfettered power by the executive can be seen in the plans to “streamline” various measures. For example, the White House fact sheet says Obama will “Streamline removal of non-immigrant national security and public safety threats. The President’s proposal creates a streamlined administrative removal process for people who overstay their visas and have been determined to be threats to national security and public safety.” Once again, reference is made to non-immigrants and immigrants.
While the “streamlined administrative process” may begin with those overstaying visas, it is likely the legislation will leave open the ability to utilize it more broadly against all who represent “threats to national security and public safety.” For example, striking workers, especially port workers, transportation and communications workers, have in the past been labeled as a threat to national security and public safety simply for striking. Demonstrators against NATO in Chicago last year, as well as those against U.S. wars more generally have also been branded as threats to public safety. By instituting a measure that provides a “streamlined administrative removal process” for anyone the government determines is a “threat,” the planned law will provide the architecture to justify removal and/or indefinite detention without charges or trial on a far broader scale.
More Militarization of the Border
President Obama has already doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, added drones, extended the border death wall and more. His proposal “gives law enforcement the tools they need.” It also calls for “enhancing our infrastructure and technology…to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute national security threats.” The Senators’ proposal similarly calls for more drones and “the latest technology, infrastructure and personnel needed to prevent, detect and apprehend every unauthorized entrant.” Apart from more drones, exactly what the “tools” and technology will be is not elaborated.
In addition Obama’s proposal “creates new criminal penalties dedicated to combating transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, weapons, and money, and that smuggle people across the borders.” It is known that the U.S. government and its CIA and Special Forces are the number #1 criminals in drug trafficking, weapons, money and smuggling people (like themselves) across borders. These crimes are not the target of the new criminal penalties and expanding “the scope of current law,” to confiscate funds and resources. The target is likely those forces organizing to defend rights on both sides of the border. It is those striving to protect and defend themselves from the anarchy and chaos the U.S. and its “war on drugs” has unleashed.
It should be remembered, for example, that when RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) laws were first proposed, they were said to be for stopping the mafia and organized crime. Yet once passed, their first target was the trade unions. These new criminal penalties will be significant as additional tools in the government’s efforts to further criminalize and repress resistance, while putting in place its arrangements for a state of the North American monopolies, encompassing all of Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
These highlights make clear that the aim of the immigration proposals is not defending the rights of immigrants and all workers, which is the basis for “fixing our broken immigration system.” Our security lies in defending rights, including governing arrangements that affirm that no human being is illegal and guarantees rights to all as human beings.