Revolution #207, July 18, 2010

Why do we say WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS?

Millions of people who have done nothing to harm humanity are being branded illegal and denied basic rights. People are being shot in cold blood by border patrol agents and are dying of dehydration trying to find their way through the desert. They are rounded up in sudden raids at home or at work or stopped by police in random traffic stops and taken away from their children for not having the right papers. This is already the situation in Arizona where SB 1070 is set to go into effect on July 29, taking this terror to a whole new level and making it the new legal and social norm—and not only in Arizona. Following SB 1070's passage, we have seen a wave of new proposals to deny housing and utilities to those without papers, to deny citizenship to their children who are born in this country, and calls for more federal troops on the border. And many people are being sucked in to endorse these laws and the whole mindset that goes with them. In the face of all this, what should people who abhor this do?

First off, just because a law has been passed does not mean it should be respected. Slavery was once the law of the land: did that make it right? Runaway slaves and anyone who helped them were breaking the law. Who were on the right side then—the slaves who resisted and those who supported them or the slave catchers and the Supreme Court which enforced those unjust laws?

For generations, Black people living in the southern U.S. suffered barbaric brutality under Jim Crow laws—which instituted new forms of segregation, discrimination and suppression of a whole people. Those laws made it illegal for Black people to share public and private accommodations with white people, including public transport, schools, restaurants, jobs—and instituted a whole rule of terror, including official and "unofficial" lynchings, and a whole culture of white supremacy. What would have happened if tens of thousands of white people had refused to obey those laws, had refused to identify as white, and defied the forced separation by race? What if they had refused to be part of all this, including the right to terrorize Black people, but instead had stood with Black people against those laws?

In the 1930s, Nazi Germany passed laws depriving Jews of their rights, forcing them to register and wear a yellow Star of David. What if Germans who were not Jews had worn the yellow stars in protest of this? What if people who were not Jews had opposed these laws and refused to allow this kind of persecution and vilification of a whole people? How would history have turned out differently if people had not accepted and adjusted to those unjust laws?

"We are all illegals" means we refuse to cooperate with the logic and terms that allow a whole section of people to be segregated, hunted down and forced to live in a constant state of terror, to be targeted for mistreatment and abuse by the authorities and reactionaries who have been given license by this whole atmosphere. "We are all illegals" means we have the courage to stand up, shoulder to shoulder with those this foul system deems "illegals," against the horrible injustice concentrated in laws like SB 1070. It means we firmly reject the whole social and political hysteria being whipped up against immigrants and anyone who may look or sound like one.

Many people correctly see SB 1070 as legalized racial profiling on a mass scale and sense it won't stop at the borders of Arizona. Imagine if people all over the country and in Arizona—Black, white, Asian, Latinos, Native Americans—wore T-shirts, armbands, stickers, put up posters all over the place that unapologetically declared "we are all illegals!" Imagine if people began to organize to defeat this whole offensive. This would radically change the current climate of fear and resignation to one of defiance and resistance.

We are all illegals! We don't gotta show no stinkin' papers!

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