On Thursday, January 5, Joe Biden announced harsh changes in U.S. immigration policy. He said his administration is “taking several steps to stiffen enforcement for those who try to come without a legal right to stay [in the U.S.].”
The U.S. has expelled about 2.5 million migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the past three years, mainly through a mechanism called “Title 42.”1 Now Biden is taking steps to increase that number. He intends to use even harsher methods to enforce U.S. control of the already horrific zone of terror and repression that is the border. This cataclysm of unjust violence and suffering along the border will reverberate across North and South America, and perhaps beyond.
The “Humaneness” of Joe Biden
Biden’s plan allows a total of up to 30,000 people a month from the four countries of Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua to migrate to the U.S. and apply for asylum… if they can afford a plane ticket… if they have a sponsor in the U.S. who will provide financial support… if they pass a background and security check… if they have a valid passport… if they “meet other eligibility criteria”… yes, if they successfully jump through all those hoops, they may be among the 30,000 people who “can be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for advance authorization to travel to the United States and seek a temporary period of parole for up to two years.”
Weigh all that against these cold facts.
One, from the beginning of July 2021 to the end of June 2022, over 2.76 million people were apprehended by U.S. border authorities at its southern border. This is over a million more than the previous record of arrests. There is no reason to think that the crush of humanity heading north in a desperate struggle for survival will subside. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) itself wrote that “the world is experiencing the greatest displacement of people since World War II, and our entire hemisphere is gripped with mass migration.”
Two, at most, only a handful of well-off people from the four devastated and poverty-wracked countries could even meet these criteria.
Think of some of the horrific scenes that have been on display along the border in the past several years:
- dead toddlers floating in the Rio Grande;
- Haitians whipped by Border Patrol pigs on horseback;
- gun-toting National Guard troops facing off against desperate families behind razor wire;
- infants and children separated from their parents and locked in frigid detention centers;
- squalid “tent cities” with thousands of people and no sanitary facilities on both sides of the Rio Grande.
Think of the desperation that compels people to risk this.
WHY Do People Risk Their Lives to Cross the Border?
So why do so many people from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America and, increasingly, much of the rest of the world keep risking death and everything they have earned in their lives to reach the U.S.? Why do they persist, when they know they face a journey of hundreds or thousands of miles across treacherous terrain, plagued by police, soldiers, criminal gangs, rapists and traffickers? Why do they spend their entire life savings or go deep into debt? Why do they risk their lives and even the lives of their children?
Because, as Bob Avakian said, the U.S. has “fucked up the rest of the world even worse” than it has this country! Countries like Guatemala and El Salvador have been the scenes of genocidal wars—wars supported and directed by the U.S. These same countries, along with others in the region, have witnessed environmental catastrophes driven by the wholesale imperialist plunder of agriculture. In the cases of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, there has been mass impoverishment worsened by deadly U.S.-imposed sanctions. All this made-in-USA misery has made life unlivable for tens of millions of people.3
And it’s getting worse. A United Nations report estimates that devastation of the economies of these countries since the onset of the coronavirus could push the number of poor people in South and Central America up to 230 million human beings, and the number of “extremely poor”—meaning people at risk of undernutrition—up to 96 million people.
Bob Avakian: Why do people come here from all over the world?
Biden and AMLO Claim to Get to the “Root Causes”… Really?
After Biden left El Paso, he spent two days in Mexico City meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. Biden and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (nicknamed AMLO), Mexico’s president, issued a statement that ended with them reaffirming their “commitment to address the root causes of migration.”
Actually, the “root cause” of this crisis is the capitalist-imperialist system that Biden represents. It is a system long past its “expiration date.” And it needs to be dug up by its roots—by making a revolution that overthrows it and opens up a path to building a far better world.
A major juncture in the decades-long U.S. effort to “control the border” is likely to be reached this spring. What will happen then is yet to be determined. Any escalation of repression along the border should be met with protest and resistance.
Even more important is that the real choice in front of humanity be powerfully presented. Those who find the anguish inflicted on migrants intolerable, who hate the way people are subjected to violence and degradation, who care about human beings from all over the planet, needs to know that the monstrosity of imperialist domination is not the only world possible. The workings of this system itself have brought humanity to a point where a different, far better world is possible. But this can only happen through making a revolution that overthrows this system and builds a new, socialist society in which people can go to work on uprooting the basis for oppression and social antagonisms among humans and, eventually, borders themselves will be things of the past.
As Bob Avakian has stated:
…in fundamental terms, we have two choices: either, live with all this—and condemn future generations to the same, or worse, if they have a future at all—or, make revolution!
—Bob Avakian, from his talk Why We Need an Actual Revolution and How We Can Really Make Revolution
“For Us Who Have a Heart …”
On Sunday, January 8, Biden went to the border town of El Paso, Texas, to get a close-up look at conditions along the border. El Paso has been a focus of the intensifying “border crisis” for the past few months. It is a place where tens of thousands of migrants have sought to apply for asylum, which is their right, as written into international and U.S. law.
In December 2022, about 10,000 migrants in El Paso were “expelled” from the U.S. (thrown out without any legal hearing) or taken into custody and sent to other Border Patrol facilities for “processing.” Others were forced into the freezing cold—federally funded shelters didn’t accept migrants who hadn’t been processed.
On Wednesday, January 4, hundreds of homeless immigrants were swept off El Paso’s streets by Border Patrol agents. By Thursday, the online journal El Paso Matters reported that no immigrants remained on the sidewalks. Left behind were “… piles of blankets, clothes and toys – which were thrown away by city crews who quickly swept and cleaned up the area.” A 42-year-old Colombian woman who witnessed the mass roundup told a reporter, “To see people run, the fear in their eyes, it was heartbreaking. The way they took women, children especially, was very sad. For us as human beings who have a heart, it was very sad.”
On Friday, a video showed a Border Patrol pig lifting a man outside an El Paso homeless shelter and throwing him on his back onto the sidewalk. According to a local news report, the man was taken into Border Patrol custody and released in Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city across the Rio Grande from El Paso.
And on Sunday, Joe Biden was in town. Streets “cleansed” of homeless, impoverished migrants; a man body-slammed by pigs, then thrown back across the river; a tour along the 18-foot-high “border wall,” guided by enforcers who patrol it—all this provided appropriate backdrop for what the New York Times described as Biden’s “Fresh Crackdown on Migrants.”