Revolution #95, July 15, 2007
Immigration Bill Stopped in the Senate
Fascist Anti-Immigrant Offensive Continues
We reported in issue #93 (“The Rulers’ Push for an Immigration Bill—A Program of Increased Repression and Legalized Slavery”) about the push to “revive” the immigration bill by George Bush and Senate backers of the bill. On June 28, the bill’s proponents failed to close debate in the Senate and bring the bill to a vote. This meant that the opponents of the bill could talk endlessly (filibuster) in opposition to the bill and prevent the bill from ever coming to a decisive vote; the bill was withdrawn.
This bill was put together by high-level ruling class “wise men”—a small group of Democratic and Republican senators, working with Bush. If it had become law, the bill would not have meant anything good for immigrants. At the heart of the bill were: (1) more militarization of the border and immigrant detention camps; (2) a “guest worker” program to keep immigrant workers in slave-like conditions; (3) a “legalization” scheme to force undocumented immigrants to register with the government in return for a temporary visa; (4) major restrictions in the ability of citizens and permanent residents to bring family members legally into the U.S. The bill’s proponents called their plan “comprehensive immigration reform”--in reality, the bill was aimed at comprehensive repression against immigrants.
But the Senate bill met furious opposition from within Bush’s own party, right-wing mouthpieces like CNN’s Lou Dobbs, and forces like the vigilante Minutemen who declared that the bill was not harsh enough because it did not call for even more extreme measures like making people without documents into felons. The terms of public debate around immigration became even more reactionary—on one side, the backers of the bill arguing that this was the best way to “control” immigration and “secure” the border; and on the other side, those pushing an openly fascistic clampdown on immigrants. And the defeat of the bill is further emboldening these fascist forces and is part of the accelerating moves toward greater repression overall.
As a key part of trying to get the bill through the Senate, its backers announced changes in the proposal in order to further promote the repressive measures in the bill. In particular, Bush promised an immediate authorization of $4.4 billion for “border security” if the bill became law—for increased militarization of the border with more walls, surveillance equipment, armed agents and troops, etc. And Bush said that this money will come out of the “fines” that undocumented immigrants would have to pay in order to get a temporary visa.
Conservative Republicans opposing the bill called it “amnesty for lawbreakers.” Some Democrats opposed some of the provisions of the “guest worker” program and the awarding of visas based on job skills as opposed to the current system based on connections to family members that are already in the U.S. legally. In the media coverage, the debate over the bill has been portrayed as a clash between anti-immigrant, “pro-enforcement” forces against more “moderate,” “pragmatic,” and “pro-immigrant” forces. But as Revolution has analyzed, this is a debate among the rulers over who has the best plan for much more severely controlling and repressing the 12 to 20 million undocumented people in the U.S. and future “guest workers,” while exploiting them as a critical source of super-profits. (For further background and analysis, see “Senate Immigration Bill: The Clash in the Halls of Power…and the Real Interests of the People” in issue #92, online at revcom.us.)
The stopping of this Senate immigration bill reportedly means that it is unlikely there will be any attempt to pass another “comprehensive” bill this year or next year. There may be some attempt to pass more limited immigration measures, especially to further increase repression. Republican Senator Jim DeMint, one of the leading opponents of the Senate bill, said after its defeat, "We'll proceed with the security and enforcement aspects of this bill.”
Meanwhile, the fascist offensive against immigrants continues, with the defeat of the bill further spurring this on—and this must be opposed. The ACLU reports that “In dozens of cities across the country, local government officials are attempting to drive undocumented workers out of their towns by punishing those who employ or rent to them.” Racist vigilantes like the Minutemen are stepping up their activity. Walls and other border measures continue to increase, driving more immigrants to cross through deserts and mountains, and leading to hundreds of deaths a year. And increasing Gestapo raids by armed agents of Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) are spreading terror in immigrant communities across the country.
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