How will the American government deport 4 million illegal immigrants?
While the U.S. Senate and Congress reach a compromise on the immigration legislation before them, neither has talked about how to deport 4 million people in accordance with the proposed new law. Camps used to detain and deport people are a real possibility. American history has seen a couple of examples of what may be in store for Latinos and others who fit the illegal immigrant profile.
Back then it seemed exaggerated to consider these kinds of concentration camps used on Japanese-Americans during WWII. A possibility that it could be used today against the poorest workers in this country is becoming a reality. We must recall that those Japanese people who were taken and locked up were legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and many were even American citizens. Military soldiers surrounded neighborhoods and did a house-to-house search to take them all away. Their homes and property were sold for very cheap or taken and given away for nothing.
We can’t let ourselves be duped, fooled or socad into the trap that this issue is about citizens and non-citizens, legal or illegal immigrants, when in fact the issue is about workers and their struggle to merely survive. This was very much the case during the Great Depression.
In 1930, the U.S. Census counted 1.42 million people of Mexican ancestry, with 805,535 of them being U.S. born, up from 700,541 in 1920. During the Depression, as many as 400,000 Mexican immigrants were rounded up and sent back to Mexico. Many, despite being American citizens, were still taken away (NPR: A Tale of Deportation in the 1930s, Mae Ngai, Professor of Immigration History).
As I wrote in my article, Liberty and Justice for Some:
In 1935 600,000 “Mexicans” were deported while scholars estimated that 60 percent of them were actually U.S. citizens, according to Joe Rodriguez of The Mercury News. It is no wonder that stories about U.S. citizens being picked up and deported are beginning to surface.
[The late] Edward Cortez, [then] Mayor of Pomona, was arrested and detained in 2004 by Federal Immigration Agents. He was out for a morning jog near his home and was caught in the early morning sweep. This shows the realization that anybody who fits a certain racial profile is not safe from arrest or detention. A double standard of proof of identity for the new slaves has become the norm for many Mexicans, Salvadorians, and other Latin Americans. They must carry passports, birth certificates, green cards and a variety of documents to have handy if they are stopped by the legally appointed over seers of apartheid justice, la migra, Federal Immigration Agents.
Speaking recently at a United Nations sponsored event in Mexico City, Lauro Lopez Sanchez, an assistant secretary of the Interior Ministry, said 850,000 Mexicans were deported from the United States in 2005. (www.0101aztlan.net
April Bulletin, “New Deportation Numbers”)
Are we prepared to witness this kind of treatment all over again? It will be on a scale never before imagined by any of us. On April 6, 2005, in the New York Times article, “Senate Republicans Strike Immigration Deal,” the rules for the mass deportations are defined: “Those who have lived here for two to five years, said to number about three million, would have to leave the country…The remaining one million or so, those who have lived in the country less than two years, would be required to leave.”
These oppressive laws being passed are usually useful to divide the working class into a variety of factions. But for the moment it has accomplished something that none of us have dreamed of: unity. I have always heard that Latinos were too diverse and could never be united. A huge stereotype as it turns out. And now we are on the threshold of calling out to all workers for a general strike on May 1, 2006. It will send the message to the government that we will not tolerate unjust laws and we will not allow ourselves to be locked up as a result. We must keep up the pressure as the people of France have.
Recently in France, millions have gone to the streets to protest as a single united group. The oppressive law that incited them was originally pointed at those less than 26 years of age. Later, all ages joined them, unions joined them, and workers at every job joined them in national strikes.
For people in America – workers, professionals, students, especially those young ones in high schools and middle schools, those of us with a sense of compassion for others who suffer injustice – this is our moment. If you choose not to stand side by side to defend them, then be prepared for the day when they come for you and your family.
While there may be various consequences to such a protest, it is up to each person to decide whether or not it is worth it. Because it is the right thing to do, to defend our rights, our freedoms and democracy, I believe it is. What would Gandhi say? Martin Luther King Jr.? Cesar Chavez? Jesus? The Dali Lama? Muhammad? And all the other great humanitarians throughout history?
Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, spoke to Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics at MIT, about this issue and said, “some of the largest protests in the history of this country are taking place, with upwards of a million people protesting in the streets of Los Angeles, tens of thousands in Atlanta and Arizona, the biggest protest perhaps in the history of Chicago. What about this? The walkout of 40,000 high school students?
Chomsky responded with the following:
Well, these protests did have an effect. The bill that went through the Senate Judiciary Committee, to some extent, reflected them. Power centers cannot ignore public protests and, even worse from their point of view, continuing organization. You know, a demonstration now and then, okay, you can live with it. If it continues and becomes real grassroots organization, developing a functioning political system, in which people actually participate in forming and shaping policy and electing their own candidates, if it gets to that stage, they’re in trouble. And we’re far from that.
Chomsky goes on to talk about the great successes of the recent grass roots movements in Bolivia and Venezuela. He points out that these are the, “real democracy. You want to talk about democracy promotion, we need it here, and we can learn lessons from them.” So that is what we are doing: taking steps towards changing a system that can better serve the masses of people and create new governance.
Join us. Be a part of creating a people’s democracy; part of a movement that parallels the Black Civil Rights struggle. Be a piece of living history that will echo for generations to follow. Be a part of history that will give us all a sense of dignity because we stood up and fought for workers who make this country as powerful as it is today. Without them, without us, without our blood, sweat and tears, this country is weak, vulnerable and would crumble.
Stay out of work on May 1, 2006. Say no to concentration camps and illegal deportations.
Well, you don't need to "stay out of work today," but do please stay out of concentration camps. Don't vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the son of a Nazi who interred thousands of people, or Sarah Palin, who is a double speaking Republican puppet - funny. Vote your conscience first.