Join May 29 Day of Action
Reject Militarization and Biometric ID!
Across the country people are mobilizing to stand with the peoples of Arizona against racist government profiling and impunity. The racist Arizona law SB 1070, which legalizes government -profiling, is a main target. Many are also directing their fire at the federal government, whose joint policing programs with local and state police, like “Secure Communities,” “CAP, and “287g,” make the Arizona law possible. These programs are responsible for widespread profiling and a massive increase in deportations.
Everywhere the demands of the peoples are the same: Stop the Raids and Deportations! Legalization Now! Humane Immigration Reform Based on Immigrant and Worker Rights! These demands are being made directly to President Obama and the federal government, responsible for the impunity and racist profiling that has been unleashed in Arizona and across the country. A National Day of Action is being organized May 29 to express the peoples’ stand that No One is Illegal and an Injury to One is An Injury to All! Voice of Revolution salutes these efforts and urges all to join in!
President Barack Obama has responded by calling the Arizona law “misguided” and misdirected,” but saying nothing about the federal programs that make it possible. In particular, the Arizona law authorizes only those police officers who have been authorized by the federal government to conduct immigration enforcement to question people. As well, the local police can only verify an individual’s status through the federal government. Obama simply has to remove federal authorization of Arizona forces and freeze federal cooperation — both legal and immediately possible. He refuses to do so. He also can immediately end the raids, such as the massive ICE raid in Arizona in April, using 800 agents to arrest 47 mainly unarmed workers. This too he refuses to do.
Instead, what stands out in President Obama’s first year in office is the military response to all social questions and increased militarization of society. Not only has the aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan been intensified, it has been extended to Pakistan using the brutal predator drones massacring civilians.
The U.S. response to the humanitarian disaster facing the people of Haiti following the January hurricane was a military one. Military occupation and militarization of relief efforts has characterized U.S. intervention. It has sent soldiers, not the temporary housing and doctors needed. The Pentagon is also testing its “social networking” weapon, where the Pentagon registers and is in command and control of the many non-governmental organizations working in Haiti, by controlling communications and internet activity.
The issue of immigration is also being used to further militarize society and accustom everyone to government impunity to profile and question people with no cause whatever. The latest proposal by Democrats, advanced mainly by New York Senator Charles Schumer, is, as he put it, stronger than the Arizona law. It calls for use of the National Guard at the border, authorizing the Secretary of Homeland Security to utilize the guard “whenever needed.”
It requires local law enforcement to work with the federal government to enforce immigration law, something which is currently voluntary. This serves to increase federal command over local and state law enforcement and forge a single integrated force. It also will increase the brutal raids and deportations that are terrorizing communities and ripping families apart. Obama’s budget dedicates $1.6 billion for increasing deportations. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports already show that 57 percent of immigrants identified through the CAP program in FY 2009, for example, had no criminal convictions. Another recent study showed that 58 percent of immigrants handed over to ICE by local police were arrested (not necessarily convicted) for a misdemeanor, like a broken taillight, as their most serious charge. The Schumer proposal will increase this criminalization and profiling making it mandatory nationwide. It demands a “zero tolerance” for anyone without documentation.
The proposal also requires a biometric identification card, issued by the federal government, and mandatory to work. All immigrants and new workers will be required to have the biometric ID within 18 months of passage of the law, and all workers will be required to have it within 5 years.
The content of the Schumer proposal is to militarize life and control the workforce, increasing the ability of the government to serve the labor needs of the monopolies, while greatly regimenting the workforce. The government will decide who does and does not qualify for work, and no doubt for receiving government healthcare or welfare, for voting, and so forth. And given that Schumer is from New York, where efforts are already being made to have a “common biometric ID” for people on both sides of the border, one can predict that such a work authorization card will be expanded to include the people of Mexico and Canada. All under U.S. dictate and control.
Militarization is no solution and serves to increase insecurity. It is a means for the U.S. to block efforts by the peoples to advance their fight for rights while preparing conditions for more war, potentially world war. It is vital to vigorously oppose that all efforts to militarize society and impose this militarization abroad. Defending worker and immigrant rights at home and opposing war abroad are currently at the forefront of this battle. Actions across the country and worldwide are making clear —
Our Security Lies in Our Fight for Rights!
Reject Democrats’ Immigration Proposal Serving Militarization of Society
On April 28, the Democrats presented a “Conceptual Proposal for Immigration Reform,” written mainly by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. The Democrats’ proposal is focused on increased militarization of society, including troops on the border and increased use of federal documentation — a biometric identification card — for all workers. It authorizes use of the National Guard at the border and mandates substantial increases in Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and requires police at local and state levels to work with the federal government in deporting immigrants.
The three Senators, accompanied by Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, presented the proposal just days before the massive May Day actions across the country. These actions called for immediately ending government raids and deportations and humane immigration reform based on defending the rights of immigrants and all workers. Militarization of the border and government profiling and criminalization of immigrants was denounced.
President Barack Obama refuses to support these just demands of the workers. He instead has supported the Schumer plan since it was first announced back in June of 2009. Speaking on Cinco de Mayo (May 5) and on the visit by Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón May 19, he again supported Schumer’s “strong proposal.”
Militarization of the Border
The Schumer proposal emphasizes that before any action can be taken in relation to the rights of immigrants, the borders must be secure. The content being given to “secure” is a military one, meaning more police and more enforcement, not a human one, meaning protection of the rights and well-being of the human beings living on both sides of the border. The language of the proposal reflects this. For example, there are to be additional “Forward Border Patrol Operating Bases.” The Secretary of Homeland Security is being given “authority to deploy the National Guard to the borders when needed.”
The Border Patrol in particular will receive “substantial upgrades in technology including use of Pentagon equipment and drones (Unmanned Aircraft Systems), Remote Video Surveillance Systems and Mobile Surveillance Systems,” and a large increase in “high-tech ground sensors throughout the southern border,” along with more helicopters, SUV’s and power boats.
The proposal specifically calls for “substantial increases in the number of border patrol agent stations on the southern and northern borders.” This includes increased Border Patrol officers; increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers; increased ICE “worksite enforcement,” which translates into more workplace raids; increased ICE “document fraud detection officers”; increased personnel and resources to “conduct inspections for drugs, contraband” and undocumented immigrants. There will also to be more ports-of-entry constructed with “enhanced connectivity with all government fingerprint databases.”
In short, the borders are to be fully militarized and those living near them or traveling to them will be under constant police surveillance. Residents of southern border towns where similar equipment, including cameras and infra-red sensors of various types are installed, report that it is people living on the border that are the main target of surveillance, not the big-time drug smugglers and human traffickers.
In addition, the proposal “recommends the creation of a border patrol auxiliary unit to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in accomplishing the mission of detecting, interdicting and apprehending those who attempt to illegally enter or smuggle people, including terrorists, or contraband, including weapons of mass destruction or narcotics across U.S. borders between official ports of entry.” It should be noted that there are no examples of “terrorists” or “weapons of mass destruction” being smuggled across the southern border and only a few people the government claims are “supporters of terrorists” stopped at the northern border. Including this language in a proposal for immigration serves to provoke fear and equate immigration with terrorism. It is an effort to justify the militarization in the face of broad opposition.
Further, an “auxiliary unit” likely means civilians, including mercenaries of the Blackwater variety, will be recruited to do immigration enforcement. Border towns are also well familiar with the “Minutemen,” a civilian group that took up “detecting and apprehending” people coming across the border. They are well known for being backed by the government and for being utilized in the promotion of government-organized racist attacks. The Schumer proposal, in creating such “auxiliary units” will now openly put the power of the government behind groups like Blackwater and the Minutemen or similar formations. It is an action that serves to engage civilians in policing fellow neighbors and workers and fomenting attacks against people on a racist basis.
In addition, a bipartisan commission is to be established to provide recommendations on “additional resources, technology, manpower and infrastructure that must be implemented to ensure complete operational control of the southern and northern borders within 12 months.” Congress will be required to vote on the recommendations, after which “states and municipalities will be prohibited from enacting their own rules and penalties” regarding immigration. While some consider this prohibition is aimed at laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, it could mainly apply to the many sanctuary resolutions in various cities preventing local and state police from enforcing immigration law and lessening the likelihood of federal raids. As well, it is clear that “full operational control” within one year and use of the National Guard “when needed,” means broader use of the military in border areas is on the agenda.
Far from eliminating the broad government impunity, profiling and mass deportations and terrorizing of communities already t-aking place, these proposals for militarization of the border and use of “auxiliary units” will further unleash these crimes while fomenting conflict among working people.
In a section on “Detection, Apprehension and Removal” of undocumented immigrants or those who have overstayed visas, the Schumer proposal continues with its military response, presenting immigrants as though they are enemies to be identified and removed. The proposal emphasizes there will be “zero tolerance for illegal entry and reentry into the U.S.” Programs like “Secure Communities,” which are now voluntary, will become required. The proposal mandates that “all criminals in federal, state and local prisons will be checked for lawful immigration status and will be deported if they are here illegally.” The federal government’s “Secure Communities” already considers anyone who has simply been arrested, not convicted, as a criminal. As well, minor, non-violent offenses, including traffic violations are being used to target and arrest immigrants. Schumer’s proposal will now require fingerprint checks at all jails and mandatory deportation of anyone undocumented. Like Arizona’s SB 1070, it will be a crime to be in the country without documentation, whereas at present it is a civil, not criminal, violation.
In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will “promptly investigate and initiate removal proceedings” against anyone who exceeds the time limit on their visa. All foreign nationals will now be required to provide biometric information, such as fingerprints or an eye-scan.
Penalties and sanctions will be increased for violators of immigration law. There is nothing in the proposal to distinguish between fines and prison sentences for criminals who engage in trafficking from ordinary people coming in search of work. Instead there will now be substantial fines and prison sentences for all individuals who evade border checkpoints or fail to obey the lawful commands of border officials or engage in human smuggling. Human smuggling is not defined, so, like in Arizona, it could simply mean a family or friends traveling with an undocumented parent or coworkers.
Given current practice, where families are being torn apart and workers deported at record levels, while those responsible for major trafficking are not being stopped, this “zero tolerance” policy will mean criminalization and prison sentences for those guilty simply of working. Many have experience with use of “zero tolerance” in the schools, which is serving to criminalize youth — especially African Americans and Latinos — and force them into prison in large numbers. Like “zero tolerance” the schools, Schumer’s proposals are all means for greater regimentation and control of the population, while justify broad impunity and attacks on rights. As well they greatly increase federal direction and command of local and state law enforcement.
Biometric Work ID
A major portion of Schumer’s proposal is devoted to requiring a biometric ID for all workers. The militarization of the border is to take place within one year and the biometric ID is to be completed within 18 months. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will essentially be turned into a policing agency issuing the biometric cards. The cards are supposed to “prevent future waves of illegal immigration.” Again, the target is individuals seeking work. A far more effective and humane method would be for the U.S. to end its unequal trade agreements, like NAFTA. Taking action on the root causes of migration, where the U.S. has acted to wreck agriculture and food production in countries like Mexico and Haiti, to rape natural resources and impose impoverishment on the peoples, would yield far greater results. U.S. imperialism forces people to migrate then criminalizes them for doing so. This is what must stop. Humane immigration reform requires an end to the imperialist domination and oppression of peoples that forces people to migrate in the first place.
Currently, the SSA exists primarily to ensure people get their social security in retirement and those disabled get government disability insurance. Social security funding and records have generally been kept separate from police records. Now SSA, in practice, will essentially be integrated into DHS and act as a policing agency. It is SSA that will issue the biometric cards, which will be electronically coded with a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint. SSA will require documentation from all new workers, likely a notarized birth certificate or passport for citizens and green cards or similar documentation for non-citizens. SSA will be equipped to screen applicants and determine if they qualify for the biometric ID. They are to use social security numbers to do “background screening verification techniques currently used by private corporations.” DHS will secure “enrollment locations” across the country operated by the federal government.
All employers will be required to enroll in what is called the “Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment (BELIEVE) system. Within five years, the biometric ID will be “the sole acceptable document to be produced by an employee to an employer for employment verification purposes.” Thus the government will fully control the workforce and determine who does and does not qualify and who does and does not work. Only those issued a biometric ID card will be authorized to work.
Experience with similar government “verification techniques,” has already shown the impunity and arbitrary government actions such plans unleash. Government “no-fly” lists and its existing “e-verify” program are notoriously wrong and have served mainly to humiliate and terrorize people. A program in Massachusetts requiring proof of citizenship in order to receive state Medicare or Medicaid has already kicked 10,000 citizens off the rolls, as they were unable to produce the required documentation. While BELIEVE is targeted at immigrants to start, its aim is to enable the government to have full biometric ID on all workers while also deciding who is and is not authorized to work. The potential use of such a card to target union organizers and worker and immigrant rights activists and any engaged in dissent is clear. BELIEVE will provide the government with far greater control over the workforce in service to the monopolies, while greatly increasing insecurity and military-like regimentation of workers.
Schumer clearly anticipates opposition to the national ID card. He claims the card will “only serve as evidence of lawful work-authorization but will in no way be permitted to serve — or shall be required to be shown — as proof of citizenship or lawful immigration status.” He also claims “storing of biometric data” on the ID cards “in any government database will be prohibited.” No doubt “storing” and using or accessing are not the same thing! Given existing experience with massive government spying and Pentagon data mining, few believe these government claims.
In addition, the DHS Secretary is to work with SSA and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “establish a national birth and death registration system. The system will ensure fraud prevention and uniformity for all states.” While the proposal does not say so directly, such a national birth and death registration could well be a mechanism to deny citizens their citizenship. The U.S. Constitution provides citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. So openly trying to remove citizenship of natural born citizens is difficult. However, a government requirement for national birth and death registration can easily be used to deny citizenship to those who for whatever reason did not or were unable to register, or were arbitrarily disqualified for lack of the documentation mandated by the government to prove citizenship. This would essentially mean their civil death — the inability to receive government benefits, to vote, or worse. Given the “zero tolerance” being planned, the criminalization of workers, as well as the civil death of citizens can be predicted.
“Guest” Worker Programs and Mandatory Registration
Schumer’s proposal, without using the name, calls for guest worker programs, better known as worker enslavement programs. This is done in the form of issuing visas first for highly skilled people. In an effort to keep the many international students graduating from U.S. universities in the country, a green card will immediately be issued to foreign students that have an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics and a job offer. The per-country cap currently in use would be eliminated.
In addition, changes will be made to ensure greater government control over agricultural workers, using the AgJOBS program. A provisional visa (H-2C) will also be created for non-seasonal, non-agricultural workers, such as day laborers and restaurant and service workers. These workers will be required to secure a three-year visa, renewable once for a total of six years. After that they must either qualify for permanent residency or be deported.
The proposal by Democrats also demands mandatory registration of all immigrants currently in the country without documentation, an estimated 10-12 million people. As part of registration, everyone is to be fingerprinted and will undergo a “rigorous security check.” Again, the government will arbitrarily determine who does and does not pass such a screening. Anyone they designate as a “threat to national security” or “public safety risk” will be deported. Once the law is in place, anyone found that did not register will automatically be deported. In addition, anyone who has been convicted of any class felony (any crime with a jail sentence of 1 year or more), or three misdemeanors (including non-violent petty offenses like traffic violations) will automatically be refused and deported.
It should be noted that large numbers of the people detained in mass raids the past few years, guilty only of working, were forced to plead guilty to a felony offense or face indefinite detention. All of these workers will automatically be deported if they now register. Thus millions of people face deportation if they do register and if they do not and millions more families will be torn apart. This is not the legalization for all being demanded by workers across the country, expressed in all the May Day actions, the March 21 action in DC and ongoing actions across the country.
Existing experience with federal government’s “Secure Communities” and “CAP” shows the majority of those already being deported are guilty simply of working, or of only minor offenses normally dealt with by issuing a ticket. They are contributing to society, have rights as human beings and as workers, yet they are being branded as a “public safety risk.”
The mandatory registration combined with the biometric ID cards are designed to give the federal government far more control over the workforce, while wreaking havoc on immigrant and working class communities. The government will claim everyone was given a “fair chance,” while in reality the systematic militarization of all aspects of life is taking place. All immigrants and all workers will be required to be registered and fingerprinted and regimented according to government demands.
The Democrats’ proposal solves none of the problems related to immigration. It is a military response to a social and economic problem that further exacerbates conditions facing the peoples. It does not begin by addressing root causes such as U.S. imperialist exploitation of the peoples of Mexico, Latin America and those worldwide. It does not begin with a humane approach recognizing the rights of immigrants and all workers and acting to guarantee them. This is the requirement of a modern society and one being firmly demanded by the peoples here and abroad. Immigrant rights and human rights require an end to raids and deportations and an end to racist government profiling and criminalization of workers — now!
Democratic Party leaders recently introduced their latest proposal to reform U.S. immigration policy. The proposal, which is given little chance of passage in a polarized election year, offers carrots and sticks in an attempt to bring some semblance of order to a broken and outdated policy that has left nearly 12 million people in the United States without legal documents.
The carrots are few and shriveled: an arduous path to U.S. citizenship for those already in the country. The sticks are large: a further crackdown on border enforcement and increased policing to catch and punish those without papers. No combination of carrots and sticks will address the immigration issue unless reform efforts also take up the agricultural, trade, and labor policies that feed migration.
The Meat of the Matter
Industrial livestock firms such as Smithfield and Tyson are among the big winners from the range of U.S. policies, which serve them both inside the United States and across the border in Mexico. These multinational giants are so dependent on immigrant labor – documented and undocumented – that they shut many of their packing houses to avoid the embarrassment of empty factories when labor protests on May 1, 2006 declared a “Day without Immigrants.”
These companies also benefit from U.S. agricultural policies. Reforms in the 1996 Farm Bill deregulated the last vestiges of the supply-management policies the government had used to balance supply and demand and to maintain stable prices for consumers and remunerative prices for farmers. With deregulation, land that had been held out of production came back in, production jumped, and prices fell 40 percent to levels well below the costs of production.
This policy change gave the industrial consumers of U.S. farm products an enormous gift: vast quantities of below-cost crops. For industrial hog and chicken companies, the boon came in the form of discounted feed, which is made up mainly of corn and soybeans. From 1997-2005, corn prices were 23 percent below production costs while soy sold for 15 percent below cost. For a company like Smithfield, this amounted to a 26 percent discount on feed, their main operating expense, a 15 percent “implicit subsidy” to their operating costs. Smithfield saved an estimated $2.5 billion during that nine-year period.
The Trade Link
Agricultural policy connects to the immigration problem through trade policy. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994, promised to allow Mexico to “export goods, not people.” NAFTA not only opened Mexico’s borders to U.S. meat, with pork exports increasing over 700 percent from their pre-NAFTA levels. The treaty also gave U.S.-based multinational firms greater freedom to invest in Mexico, where Smithfield dramatically expanded its operations. Through its joint-venture partners, the firm is now the largest hog producer in Mexico, with more than 15 percent of the market. [It is this same Smithfield, with industrial hog production, that had responsibility for the spread of the swine flu in Mexico.]
Still waiting for the immigration connection? Smithfield’s Mexican hog operations put a lot of small-scale hog farmers out of business, as producer prices fell 56 percent in real terms. More importantly, U.S. exports of below-cost corn flowed south in a torrent thanks to NAFTA. U.S. exports increased over 400 percent while real prices in Mexico declined by two-thirds. These shocks to rural Mexico pushed an estimated 2.3 million people out of agriculture between 1993 and 2008, among them former corn and hog farmers desperate for work.
A few of them no doubt found work in Smithfield’s Mexican hog operations. But with the Mexican economy floundering under the NAFTA economic model, many looked northward for their jobs. Migration to the United States doubled from the already high pre-NAFTA levels, despite stepped up enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border. The border crackdown not only failed to slow the influx, it paradoxically encouraged those who survived the perilous journey to stay rather than risk repeated trips for seasonal work, as many had done before.
Hogs In, Workers Out
The new migrants have found work in the United States at Smithfield and other industrial livestock operations, among other places. Undocumented workers make up an estimated one-quarter of the workforce in packing houses. Once there, both documented and undocumented immigrants confront the final policy gift to multinational agribusiness: labor policies that make it hard for workers to organize to defend their rights. Smithfield’s persistent violations of U.S. labor laws at its massive Tar Heel plant prevented unionization for over a decade, until a broad-based campaign brought a union to Smithfield in 2008.
Beyond a broken immigration system, U.S. policies make U.S. farm products cheap, open the borders so we can dump them on Mexico, promote an economic development model that fails to create jobs, and makes it easy for companies to use undocumented workers to drive down wages and prevent unionization.
The United States certainly needs a new immigration policy. But we also need new agricultural policies that allow farmers to earn a decent price for their products. We need new trade policies that help our trading partners grow and create jobs rather than opening the doors for agribusiness and dumping cheap products on poor farmers. And we need new labor policies that protect the rights of workers – citizens and immigrants, with and without documents – rather than the rights of multinational firms.