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The Persecution of Immigrants, and the “American Three-Step” 

For years the U.S.-Mexico border has been engulfed in a huge, intensifying crisis. Politicians of both parties routinely make trips to the border, pose for pictures with Border Patrol pigs, and blare that the situation is “out of control.” They blame immigrants for the fentanyl epidemic, for violent crime, and other social problems in the U.S. 

They act as if the U.S. has no responsibility for what is driving millions of people to the U.S. But let’s look at a case study and see what leads people to risk life and limb to get here.

A Brief Indictment of U.S. Imperialism—The Case of El Salvador

Victims of guerrilla attack on village of El Mozote, 1981.


After Archibishop Romero, who had called on an end to the U.S. aid to the Salvadoran military, was gunned down in 1981, civil war broke out. Genocidal repression against poor farmers in El Salvador’s rural areas was a major focus of the U.S.-directed war against guerrilla forces backed by the Soviet Union, which was at the time a powerful imperialist rival of the U.S. worldwide. On December 11, 1981, a U.S. trained and armed battalion entered the northern village of El Mozote, ostensibly to search for guerrillas. They found none. Nevertheless, they executed more than 800 civilians, including children.   

In 1970, there were just under 20,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S. By 2021, there were 2.5 million. What happened in those 50 years that made so many people leave their homeland? Did they just decide they’d like a change of scenery? 

Beginning in the early years of the 20th century, the U.S. turned much of El Salvador into a gigantic plantation. Millions of peasants were ruthlessly exploited and driven from their land; much of the verdant landscape, and the water sources of the country, were poisoned. The traditional agriculture that had sustained life for El Salvador’s peasantry was destroyed. Vast wealth was accumulated by imperialist corporations and financial institutions centered in the U.S. (The book Coffeeland by Augustine Sedgwick exposes this in detail.) The vast majority of El Salvador’s population lived in extreme poverty, and faced fierce repression from its military and police. 

In 1980 guerilla groups opposed to the government coalesced into the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front. A civil war soon erupted. Horrifying violence was routinely inflicted upon the people by military and police forces funded, trained, and advised by the U.S. Nuns and a prominent bishop were executed; demonstrators were shot down; entire villages of indigenous people were massacred, their wells poisoned, their fields destroyed. The U.S. response to this slaughter? It increased its support of El Salvador’s military and police. 

In this period many Salvadorans fled El Salvador for cities in the U.S., especially Los Angeles. Left with no way to make a living, in a strange land speaking a strange language, and in many cases traumatized by U.S.-backed violence in their country, many of the youth turned to gangs as a means of survival. But in the late 1990s, the U.S. began deporting large numbers of Salvadoran youth back to their devastated and impoverished homeland, in the name of the “war on gangs.” Terrible violence among the people in San Salvador and other cities skyrocketed. Then, in 2019, Nayib Bukele, a fascist closely aligned with the U.S. Republican Party, became president of El Salvador. He soon implemented a series of lockdowns and mass arrests to impose a fascist order upon the country. (The book Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here by Jonathan Blitzer examines much of this history).

The American Three-Step

This kind of relentless persecution of people and shattering of societies has gone on  throughout Latin America—and the entire world—and it is a long-standing hallmark of U.S. capitalism-imperialism. You could call it “the American three-step”—and it is a big part of what has made the U.S. what it is… and large parts of the rest of the world what they are.

Step One—Plunder and Impoverish

The U.S. plunders a country’s resourcesits agriculture, its land, its industry, its finances, its peopleand floods its markets with more cheaply produced U.S. goods, especially agricultural goods. This disrupts the country’s economy, drives people into already overcrowded and impoverished cities, and generally creates chaos and makes life unlivable for millions.

Step Two—Invasion and Domination 

If people question and challenge the U.S. presence in their country, if they go on strike, protest, maybe even rebel against U.S. domination… the U.S. may invade it. In any case, it will make sure to dominate, control, and totally corrupt the government, especially the army and police, and use them to viciously suppress the people. If social relations break down and people turn on each other, death squads are organized, gangs allowed to flourish, and a reign of ever-present violence and fear among people created. 

Step Three—Demonization, Death, and Deportation 

When millions of people and their families can no longer bear to live in the hell imposed by the U.S., when they are driven to seek refuge in the U.S.—they are demonized, insulted, degraded, and called criminals; they die by the thousands in deserts, rivers, and high seas; they encounter a hyper-militarized war zone known as “the border,” a place where impoverished, desperate people are treated as “the enemy” by heavily armed robo-cops. And for most of those who somehow make it through—super-exploitation, brutalization by police, and mass incarceration awaits them. Terror hangs over their lives with the threat (and frequently the reality) of deportation. 

Think we’re exaggerating? Read articles from Revolution’s “American Crime” series linked below for examples of some of the violence and repression that U.S. capitalism-imperialism has imposed on countries to its south for over a century. 

Revcoms Declaration: We Need and We Demand...


And get with the Revolution that can put an end to the system responsible for it.

Now I can just hear these reactionary fools saying, “Well, Bob, answer me this. If this country is so terrible, why do people come here from all over the world? Why are so many people trying to get in, not get out?” … Why? I’ll tell you why. Because you have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power.   

 Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:14

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