United States: New threats against immigrants

Soldiers and racists are patrolling the border

July 27, 2010

A few days before the Arizona law SB1070 goes into effect, the law that allows the cops to interrogate any person whose immigration status is suspicious, civilian anti-immigrant patrols and racist groups have become bolder. The White House is responding to Governor Jan Brewer’s law and to the intensification of activity by racist and xenophobic groups with ... an unenthusiastic lawsuit. This is how Obama plans to confront a law that social, political and human rights organizations are already condemning as the institutionalization of racism! At the same time, the Democratic administration is sending 1,200 new National Guard soldiers to the border, more than 500 to Arizona, the current center of discussion about immigration reform.

Amid the polarized debate about immigration and in the shadow of the border security policy of the Obama administration (which keeps on arresting and deporting immigrants and has now arrested and deported more immigrants than the Bush administration), anti-immigrant groups are proliferating. Armed groups identified with the Nazis and white supremacists, groups that carry swastikas and symbols of the KKK, are patrolling the border between the United States and Mexico. Recently, the activities of the so-called National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group that organizes anti-immigrant patrols on the California border, have spread. Led by an ex-Marine, this group is one of the most aberrant
expressions of the growing threat that is hanging over the Latino community, especially over immigrants.

Unfortunately, these racists are no exception nor a bolt from the blue. During 2009, while Obama was asking for patience from the Latino community, that was waiting for the promised immigration reform, more than 350 laws against immigrants were approved in several states, so-called "hate crimes" (with racist, xenophobic and religious motives) increased by 40%, and there are now more than 1,200 racist groups.

Groups like the Minutemen or the American Border Patrol maintain, without
euphemisms, that the US should get rid of 11 million undocumented immigrants. Among the tactics these groups are publicly promoting are organizing physical attacks at the entrances of factories where immigrants (many of them undocumented) work, and harassment campaigns in the Latino community’s neighborhoods and schools. This is in addition to official harassment and persecution, by cops and officials like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who became famous for his "concentration camp" for "undocumented" prisoners in Maricopa County, Arizona, in tents, under sub-human conditions.

When the economic crisis and unemployment, at around 10%, are striking at millions of workers and poor people in the US, racial tensions and the
divisions instigated by the establishment and its political parties multiply.
With a view to the November elections, a number of politicians, whether inside the Republican Party or outside, in the conservative Tea Party movement, are even flirting with harsh measures like the Arizona law.

Reactionary groups, whose extreme exponents we now see on the border, are hoisting the banner of the cultural battle for US values. An example of their conservative initiatives is the recent vote in a Chicago suburb, where, for the first time, English was designated as the official language, or restricting access to health care and public education for foreigners, because it is considered a waste of the "taxes that US citizens pay."

Contrary to the expectations of millions of African-Americans, Latinos, women, and young people, the Obama administration has not represented an advance in the rights of these groups, which have historically suffered discrimination, in spite of the enormous symbolic significance of the arrival of the first African-American at the White House. On the contrary, delaying immigration reform adds to the dissatisfaction from the effects of the crisis and the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This new law, which will take effect on July 29, aims at undocumented workers of big chains like Wal-Mart, in food plants, or agricultural labor. Protests are being prepared for next week against this law and against the criminalization of immigration. The struggle against racism and xenophobia strengthens the struggle of working men and women in the United States; a victory for all immigrants, male and female, is a victory for the working class and the people on both sides of the border.