April 5 Marches and Protests Across the U.S. Demand:
"Two Million, Too Many
Not 1 More Deportation!"

April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On April 5, thousands of demonstrators in more than 50 cities held marches, rallies, press conferences, vigils, launched hunger strikes, and more, declaring "Two Million, Too Many;" and demanding "Not 1 More Deportation!"

This National Day of Action—called for by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), together with many other immigrant rights organizations, religious leaders, and others—was timed to coincide with the two millionth deportation carried out in Barack Obama's six years as president. This figure, amounting to 1,100 deportations every day, is not just a record; it is greater than all the people deported from the U.S. before 1997.

Los Angeles April 5, 2014 march againt deportations

Los Angeles April 5, 2014 march against deportations.
Photo: Special to Revolution

Behind the numbers lie the devastated lives of millions of immigrants, with parents torn from their children in record numbers, reminiscent of what was done to slaves during slavery. People driven to this country by the devastation of their homelands carried out by the U.S.-dominated global economy, whose back-breaking work under dangerous and unhealthy conditions has helped lay the foundation for the richest country in the world, are demonized as parasites, forced to live in the shadows, hunted and hounded with targets on their backs. Millions of people face the constant fear of being ripped off and shipped across a border for a traffic ticket or an open can of beer.

In Arizona, demonstrators walked 60 miles over three days from Phoenix to Elroy, where more than 100 people came together in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, which holds undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation. Many protesters had relatives inside the detention center, including a woman whose son has been held for nearly three years, and another woman who was arrested at her work and held for two months before being released.

In San Francisco on April 4, a protest and rally "snarl[ed] downtown SF" (according to the San Francisco Bay Guardian); 23 demonstrators were arrested after they sat down in the intersection of Sutter and Montgomery Streets. Those arrested included undocumented students as well as clergy from the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

San Francisco April 5, 2014 march againt deportations

San Francisco April 5, 2014 march against deportations.
Photo: Dina Boyer

At the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, protesters marched and rallied, scores of them children, wives, and mothers of loved ones inside who had carried out a weeks-long hunger strike against intolerable conditions. (For more on their hunger strike, see the call by Carl Dix at revcom.us: "Support Detainees Putting Their Lives on the Line.")

In Connecticut, families fighting deportation drove in a caravan passing through 11 cities, including New Haven, holding rallies demanding a stop to deportations.

An estimated 250 protesters in Washington, D.C. marched to a park that flanks the White House, carrying signs labeling Obama "Deporter in Chief," and announcing an ongoing, indefinite presence at the White House.

There were demonstrations as well in New York City; Newark, New Jersey; Chicago; Los Angeles; Orange County, California; San Diego; New Orleans; Atlanta; Nashville; Birmingham; and many, many more.

For months leading up to the April 5 National Day of Action, the #Not1More Deportation campaign had been escalating its resistance to deportations, carrying out acts of civil disobedience and taking bold and courageous new forms, such as:

  • A 15-day hunger strike in Phoenix to protest long-term detention that ended in early March, after some of the hunger strikers had to be taken to the hospital.
  • Activists in Phoenix and Tucson chained themselves to an ICE detention center and to buses carrying deportees, with similar actions taking place in Chicago, San Francisco, and Fairfax, Virginia.
  • Young undocumented activists who have either been deported or made the decision to leave on their own have been testing immigration laws by requesting asylum en masse.
  • Some undocumented youth have surrendered to authorities so that they can spend time in immigration detention centers, including one in El Paso in November and another near Detroit, with the aim of documenting cases of inmates who might be eligible for release.
  • During the hunger strike of prisoners at the federal Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, protesters sat chained together blocking the road in front of the prison.

These protesters, led especially by undocumented youth and students, have shown great courage by publicly announcing their undocumented status, thus risking their own deportation, in a battle to stop the deportations completely. And in doing so they are drawing attention to the human toll that this continued, massive level of deportations is taking on the estimated 11 million plus undocumented immigrants in this country. Their struggle demands the support and active participation of people everywhere sickened by this system's treatment of people whose only "crime" is to escape countries where the economies and societies are distorted and in many cases ruined by imperialist penetration, and to cross the border without official papers in search of work so they and their families can survive.

This outbreak of protest also comes at a time when immigrant detainees—including in Washington State, Arizona, Illinois, California, Virginia, and Texas—have waged hunger strikes protesting the barbaric conditions in which they are held, demanding that Obama sign an executive order halting deportations until the U.S. immigration system is overhauled. (See "Support Detainees Putting Their Lives on the Line.")

The Human Toll

For a number of the youth taking part in the April 5 actions, this was the first protest in which they had ever participated. At the rally in Los Angeles, a group of three high school students told Revolution of their own experiences. One young man described what it was like, at age 14, to have first his mother and then his father deported within a span of three months, both for having traffic tickets. He told how his 17-year-old sister was forced to give up school and get a job to support the two of them plus a younger brother. Since then the three have been supporting themselves in a small studio apartment. He said, "I feel like I don't want nobody to go through the same thing, especially if they're young; really, separating families is something horrible." Another one of the high school students told how his grandfather, here in the U.S. since he was 16, was deported back to Peru at age 67, with no way of supporting himself there. And the third youth told of his aunt who was deported, and the effect it had on his cousins. (See "High School Students Speak Out About Mass Deportations: 'It's unfair, it's not right... it's wrong'" for more from these young voices.)

San Francisco April 5, 2014 march againt deportations

New York April 5, 2014 march against deportations.
Photo: Michael Fleshman/FlkrCC

These kinds of stories have been pouring out as more and more people are sharing their experiences. The New York Times recently described a scene in Painesville, Ohio, where several dozen immigrant families come together regularly to talk about how to help loved ones facing deportation or who have been deported. "The stories spill out so fast, and they all seem to share the same general narrative arc—immigrant drives through red or yellow light, police officer asks for driver's license, immigrant lands in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, children reel from uncertainty."

But it's even worse; five people in Painesville had fathers who were deported, and two of the men died in the Arizona desert trying to get back to their families. And then there's the story of 11-year-old Arlette Rocha, who in April 2010 was found hanging from the stairway at her home in Ashtabula, Ohio; she had committed suicide. Eight months earlier her father had been deported to Mexico; her mother had to take a night job, leaving Arlette to take care of her three younger siblings.

As you listen, the cruelty and intolerableness of all of this is shocking. People are being systematically vilified, criminalized, and subjected to the blatant violation of basic legal rights, like due process. People are constantly living in fear of being deported, constantly vulnerable to the most vicious exploitation. At the same time, the rest of the population is encouraged to ignore what's taking place and go on about their business, or even to demand more and worse under the banner of "defending the American way of life" or "national security."

In BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, Bob Avakian describes the experience of immigrant families being ripped apart, the terror of children coming home from school to an empty house, only to learn that their parents have been deported to a country these children have never been to and know nothing about. And he says this calls to mind for him slavery days for Black people. The slave owners had absolutely no respect for the humanity of the slaves, including their families. They would repeatedly sell little children out from underneath their parents to another slave owner, somewhere else in the South, if it were more profitable to do so. The tears of the mothers and fathers meant nothing to them.

Not 1 More Deportation

This human toll is what is fueling the #Not1More Deportation campaign, which is calling on Obama to stop all deportations; to end the Secure Communities deportation program; and to stop the enforcement of all immigration (ICE) holds. Secure Communities, started in 2008, makes state, county, and local police forces extensions of ICE's immigration enforcement, requiring them to immediately turn over to ICE the fingerprints of every person taken into custody. ICE can then order an immigration hold, meaning that whatever the reason for the initial stop, something as minor as a traffic violation or for no legitimate reason at all, an immigrant can be ordered held in custody until ICE takes him or her to a detention center to await deportation. Under Obama and (then) Department of Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, Secure Communities has now integrated law enforcement around the country, at every level, into a systematic immigrant monitoring system.

Obama has defended himself against these charges by saying his deportation policies have been more "humane;" that his government is going after "criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families."

Even if that were the case, in the situation in the U.S. today, with the widespread terror and vilification of immigrants, this is analogous to the Nazis saying "We're not rounding up all the Jews, just the bad ones." But it is not the case. In an April 6 article, the New York Times reported that an analysis it did of internal government records shows that "since President Obama took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all." In contrast, the records showed that only "Twenty percent—or about 394,000—of the cases involved people convicted of serious crimes, including drug-related offenses."

The Times analysis found that deportations involving undocumented immigrants whose most serious offense was a traffic violation quadrupled from 43,000 per year during George W. Bush's last five years to 193,000 per year during the first five years under Obama. And during that same period, people deported after being convicted for entering or re-entering the country without papers tripled under Obama, to more than 188,000.

At one time it was common for people picked up crossing the border without papers to be handled by informal removal; returning people to the other side of the border without charges. That practice has now been replaced by the prosecution in federal court of nearly every person caught entering or re-entering the country. A program called "Operation Streamline" was started by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice in 2005 to establish "zero-tolerance" immigration enforcement zones along the U.S-Mexico border. This program has led to so many immigration prosecutions that it has made "illegal re-entry" the most-commonly filed federal charge.

Operation Streamline has created a system of fast-track prosecutions, with group hearings where as many as 80 undocumented immigrants can go from arrest to conviction and jail for up to six months—in less than a day. One federal judge hears up to 80 cases from beginning to end each day. Public defenders may represent dozens of clients at a time, meeting with each one for only a few minutes before their court appearance. What this will mean for them is that attempting to re-enter the country will land them in prison. A criminal defense lawyer and immigration activist in Tucson said, "I'm just appalled...This program is endangering our very justice system." (Washington Post, February 10, 2014)

Growing Anger

The demand to stop deportations has taken hold in part because of a growing sense of frustration and betrayal by people who have been told since 2008 by Obama and the Democrats, and those who are invested in the illusion that working through those channels can bring about anything good, that "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" is possible; that it would enable people who have been living and working in the U.S. for some time to gain legal status and provide a pathway to citizenship, and that they just needed to "chill," to not do anything that would make it harder for Obama to negotiate—meaning to conciliate and compromise—with the most reactionary section of the Republican Party.

As the years have gone by, frustration has turned to anger and pressure has mounted, as relief from these intolerable conditions that Obama promised to fight for is nowhere in sight. In 2012, Obama issued an Executive Order to stay (put off) the deportation of some of the undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents when they were children. But these youth continue to live under constant fear of coming home to find that their parents or other relatives and friends have been apprehended and deported. Today they are fighting for significant, substantive relief for the undocumented as a whole. They believe their demands are reasonable and just, that all undocumented immigrants must have the threat of deportation lifted just as it has been for them, and that the promised "comprehensive immigration reform" must provide a path to citizenship.

The executive director of the Center for Community Change, quoted by the New York Times, said: "We assumed that a Democratic president who wanted to move immigration reform would not pursue a strategy of deporting the people who he was intent on legalizing. That was a totally wrong assumption. And there is a lot of anger about that."

What we're seeing is the intensification of contradictions around an extremely volatile issue, one that is fundamental to the continued cohesion of this country and for which the rulers of this country have no solution. Leading figures on both sides of the debate recognize the potential volatility and danger to the entire political and economic system of U.S. capitalism-imperialism if they don't revamp the federal laws and policies meant to manage immigrants and control the U.S.'s borders. And yet this system's driving need for this extremely exploitable population makes their continued presence essential.

As Revolution wrote last May, in describing proposed federal legislation put forward by a group of top Republicans and Democrats in Congress and endorsed by Obama, this proposed law has "nothing at all to do with reforming an oppressive situation to benefit the people. It has everything to do with even further ramping up the brutal militarization of the U.S./Mexico border and instituting highly repressive attacks on and registration of millions of immigrants in this country, in order to better control and exploit a segment of the population that the ruling class of this capitalist-imperialist system both needs and fears—all under the guise of extending a 'path to citizenship.'" ("Proposed New Immigration Law: An Ominous Leap in Repression and the Need for Resistance")

And the House Republicans' "Standards for Immigration Reform," released to coincide with Obama's State of the Union address at the end of January 2014, is qualitatively worse.

Meanwhile, the increasing terror facing more than 11 million people in this country, together with the growing atmosphere of bigotry and hatred toward immigrants being fanned by fascist movements like the Tea Party—backed by a significant section of the ruling class—is creating a polarization that could burst open in different, unpredictable ways.

It is inspiring to see immigrants stepping forward in such a courageous way. And it is our responsibility to stand with them. In this situation, what everyone does who cares about basic justice and humanity, and about what future will be brought into being, is extremely important. The movement that is growing in support of the demand to stop deportations deserves the support of everyone; this is a just demand and a just struggle, with very high stakes. To paraphrase the Neville Brothers: "That's our blood down there."

We are all illegals!


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