Revolution #52, June 25, 2006
New Developments in Attacks on Immigrants
In an analysis of a major speech by George Bush on immigration (“The ‘Border Crisis’ and Revolution: Stepping Back on Some Strategic Dimensions,” Revolution #48 or at revcom.us), we noted these points about what Bush was pushing:
One: While Bush may pose as a “moderate” on this issue, a study of his speech—and more than that, a real look at the bill he is pushing—shows a raft of very ominous and new repressive measures. Taken together these will amount to a radical change for the worse in the lives of millions, even tens of millions, of people.
Two: The struggle for immigrants’ rights must continue and intensify, reaching out more broadly and refusing to compromise on the fundamental rights of the immigrants. Especially in the face of the reactionary storm being whipped up against it in both the Congress and the airwaves, it is very important for this movement to renew its offensive and get the truth out there.
Events in the few weeks since that speech are bearing out these points. The immigration bill passed by the Senate in May would be a nightmare for immigrants. The bill called for immigrants to be held “indefinitely” if it were determined to be necessary, including based on secret evidence. The Senate bill would allow immigrants to be deported if they are placed on a “gang list.” These “gang lists” are lists that can include—in LA for example—over a hundred thousand Black and Latino youth, most of whom have not committed any crimes. And while the Senate bill is being called a “path to legalization,” in actuality its restrictions are so narrow that millions of immigrants will never get citizenship and in fact risk deportation. (See “Senate’s ‘Compromise’ Bill—A Nightmare for Immigrants,” in Revolution #50.)
And yet…the Senate bill is opposed virulently by immigrant-bashing members of the House. The Associated Press reported this week that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert called for hearings to study the Senate bill—which is a highly unusual move. (Usually differences between House and Senate bills are worked out in conference committee without such hearings.) Different interests are at play with these maneuverings: while people like Hastert are attempting to buy time so that they can make the Senate bill more fascistic than it currently is, others, such as Sensenbrenner, want to force a vote now, before Congress goes on its August break.
While this is going on, anti-immigrant legislation is being proposed in states and cities, and other attacks on immigrants are on the rise as well. The Utah state government recently removed its Spanish-language web site, claiming the state Constitution forbid it. In Colorado a bid to put a measure on the ballot denying any state services—even health care other than emergency care—to undocumented immigrants was proposed. (The Colorado Supreme Court struck the measure down.) Just outside Los Angeles, the city of San Bernardino is attempting to pass an ordinance that would ban anyone from renting to undocumented immigrants and would shut down day labor centers.
Chas Kelley, sponsor of the San Bernardino ordinance, complained to the San Francisco Chronicle about “[being] at the market, stand[ing] in line and not to hear your language spoken, to see Mexican flags everywhere… When does it become my America?”
Here we see the “trickle down” effect, where “rational” calls for “humane debate” by Bush—coupled with the promotion of ignorance, racism, and Lou Dobbs-style blaming of immigrants for all kinds of social problems that are not at all caused by immigrants—are unleashing xenophobic attacks.
Immigrants and Latinos have been the subject of vicious attacks. In Arizona, vandals have repeatedly drained water tanks placed by humanitarians to keep immigrants from dying of dehydration in the desert – this as we head into summer months. The Washington Post reported that in April 2006, two teenagers in Houston viciously beat and sexually assaulted a 17-year-old Latino youth, while shouting racist insults at him. Newsday reported on a rise in attacks in the wealthy vacation resort town of East Hampton, New York, where in April 2006, a teenager who posed in Nazi gear on his MySpace page threatened two Latino youths with a chainsaw and a knife while shouting racial slurs.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has researched links between overtly white supremacist groups and more “mainstream” anti-immigrant groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, as well as the Minutemen. To cite one example, they documented that Laine Lawless, a founder of the Minutemen “copycat” group Border Guardians, sent an email in April 2006 to the National Socialist Movement (a white supremacist group that, it should go without saying, has nothing to do with actual socialism) titled, “How to get rid of THEM,” which called for “warriors for your race” to do things like “Steal the money from any illegal walking into a bank or check cashing place… Make every illegal alien feel the heat of being a person without status… I hear the rednecks in the South are beating up illegals as the textile mills have closed. Use your imagination… Discourage Spanish-speaking children from going to school. Be creative.”*
An NBC affiliate in San Diego reported in April 2006 on an Internet game found on white supremacist web sites, called “Border Patrol,” that allows players to shoot people crossing the border, including pregnant women with children (who the game calls “Breeders”); points are deducted for any human that crosses alive, and you win when you gain a total of 88 points (a common Nazi code number for “Heil Hitler”—”H” is the eighth letter in the alphabet).
Good Morning America and Bill O’Reilly have run shows featuring the owner of a Philly cheese-steak place in Philadelphia who put up a sign reading, “This is America—Order in English!” The same owner, in a spirit of unabashed ignorance, has also sold “Freedom Fries” to promote hatred of French people, and posts signs against Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist on death row. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “A lot of diseases are coming in” with undocumented Mexican immigrants who “weren’t here before. [Mexicans] play and drink out of the same water.” The group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting quoted Lou Dobbs as saying in April 2005 that “the invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans” with “deadly imports” of diseases like leprosy and malaria.
That is Nazi talk. To conflate and then finally equate immigrants with viruses and germs is remarkably similar to Nazi rhetoric, where Jews were described as a “plague.”** (And, as our paper has noted, this argument has been made about gay people as well.)
All this highlights the urgency and stakes of people from all nationalities, and all walks of life, taking a determined stand against all attacks on immigrants.
* Source: “Going Lawless,” by Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse, posted at the SPLC’s web site: http://www.splcenter.org/intel/news/item.jsp?aid=54
** The famous Nazi propaganda film, “The Eternal Jew”, said: “[Rats] spread disease, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and so on… they represent the rudiment of an insidious and underground destruction -- just like the Jews among human beings.”
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