The crises of capitalist economies in several countries throughout the world has deepened social inequalities and the plight of millions of migrants that are desperately fleeing a life of misery. This is especially the reality in Latin America, where governments collude against the most vulnerable sectors of our class and our peoples: from governments that implement economic plans that target the working class to those that push to pass anti-immigrant policies, in line with those being passed in the U.S. This situation creates the kinds of tragedies like the most recent migrant crisis which will only become worse as a result of the policies announced by the Biden administration. Instead, this historic crisis demands an internationalist response from below based on the unity of the working class across our borders. It is with this perspective that we put forward the following declaration.
1. Biden and the Republicans Are Responsible for the Violence, Precariousness, and Poverty South of the Rio Grande and Are Spearheading an Anti-immigrant Offensive
Entire families are begging for access to the United States at Mexico’s northern border in front of undaunted guards carrying long guns at the edge of the Rio Grande. They are thirsty, hungry, exhausted men, women and children, often passing from Ecuador, through the Darien Gap and northward through Central America. They are those who survived the dangerous journey through Mexico, leaving behind their lives, including documents and their few belongings, from the Caribbean islands, from Central America, from Venezuela and Ecuador in South America and from Mexico.
The past few weeks have been crucial in determining the immigration status of thousands of people displaced by violence, the effects of environmental devastation, and poverty. On Thursday, May 11, Title 42, which was approved by the Trump administration during the pandemic – and continued under the Biden administration – expired. The policy restricted the entry of migrants in the name of preventing the spread of Covid-19. This brutal and inhumane bipartisan policy sought to delay and hinder at all costs the asylum requests and visa processing for hundreds of thousands of Mexican, Central American, Caribbean and Venezuelan migrants, and led to a record number of deportations: 2.8 million during both administrations and 72,000 alone since September 2022, in addition to 142,000 arrests – making 2022 the year with the highest undocumented migration since the Second World War.
The Biden administration’s policy, disguised under the guise of a “humane and orderly migration policy,” actually carried out more deportations than under the Trump administration, while promising to increase the quota of visas for asylum seekers, in the face of what his administration has called an “unprecedented exodus” from countries such as Nicaragua, Haiti, Venezuela and Cuba, with which the U.S. has no diplomatic relations. Biden has agreed to establish “migrant processing centers” alongside Gustavo Petro, President of Colombia, and Alejandro Giammatei, President of Guatemala, in their respective countries.
In contrast to these promises, the U.S. has deployed 1,500 additional soldiers to its southern border with Mexico where a total of 4,000 troops are now mobilized. At the same time, the Biden administration is pressuring the administration of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) to militarize the border with Guatemala. Biden has also returned to the Title 8 policy disqualifying people from seeking asylum in the U.S. if they do not first apply in countries they crossed earlier in their journeys or cannot demonstrate that they would be exposed to persecution or torture if they were deported to their countries of origin. At the same time, his policy also subjects migrants to harsher consequences for crossing the border illegally and expedites their arrests, fines, penalties, and deportations if they are caught crossing. The Biden administration has also initiated a policy so that migrants will only have 24 hours to find a lawyer after crossing the border to seek asylum, whereas previously they had 48 hours. These measures will speed up deportations and make visa and asylum procedures even longer and more difficult.
For his part, Greg Abbott, governor of Texas and one of the hardliners of the Republican Party, has sent Black Hawk helicopters and C-130 aircraft along with a new U.S. National Guard unit, which according to his statements, now totals 10,000 troops, to prevent the entry of migrants before the end of Title 42. This xenophobic Republican is also promoting a state law to consider the entry of migrants without papers into Texas a “serious crime” and penalties of up to 10 years in prison for hiding migrants without legal residency permits.
In addition, the Republicans have introduced a Border Security Bill that calls for increased funding for border security, the resumption of the construction of a border wall, improvements in surveillance technology along the U.S. southern and northern borders, and an increase in the number of Border Patrol agents. However, since they do not have a majority in the Senate, it is unlikely to pass.
At the same time, independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a representative from Arizona and former member of the Democratic Party, together with Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican legislator from North Carolina, are pushing for a bill to reinstate Title 42, without any reference to the pandemic.
Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are responsible for the implementation of imperialist policies throughout the Americas that have led to poverty and violence in this vast region. This imperialist orientation was evident in the statements of the General of the U.S. Army Southern Command, Laura Richardson, who recently stated that the wealth of natural resources in Latin America are a matter of “national security” for the U.S., in the face of its geopolitical adversaries; a position that she also promoted in Central America during her visit to Costa Rica in February. Clearly, the reactionary policies against immigration are a bipartisan affair. Both parties are driving a situation which entails greater oppression and precariousness for the entire migrant population living in the U.S. or intending to settle there. The bipartisan regime’s imperialist policies also put downward pressure on the working conditions of the entire multi-ethnic working class north of the Rio Grande.
2. AMLO’s Government Is a Faithful Executor of U.S. Anti-Immigrant Policies
After the signing of the Bicentennial Agreement at the end of 2021, more than 32,000 National Guard troops were deployed to Mexico’s southern border. The agreement, which aims to strengthen cooperation and security measures in a new chapter of the publicized “War on Drugs,” is being touted as a measure to curb the illegal entry of fentanyl into the United States.
In spite of the “progressive” rhetoric of AMLO’s government and a discourse that attempts to distance itself from the previous administrations in Mexico and from the Biden administration in particular, regarding issues such as the blockade of Cuba or Venezuela – which has been denounced by AMLO – the reality is that in substance, AMLO and his government of the so-called “Fourth Transformation” (4T) have continued the essence of subordination to imperialist policies. This was expressed most recently with the renegotiation of the T-MEC, to continue oiling the North American value chain through the precarization of the labor force in Mexico. Added to that is the continuation of a policy initiated in 2006 by the governments of Felipe Calderón and George Bush to militarize Mexico to protect the interests of big national and transnational imperialist businessmen. Finally, the implementation of racist and xenophobic policies against migrants is another example of the subordination to imperialist policies.
Far from demilitarizing the country as he promised in his electoral campaign, AMLO ramped up the presence of the army in the streets, introduced the new “civilian” security corps – the National Guard – in security tasks, and deployed thousands of troops across both borders, particularly in Guatemala, to act as Border Patrol south of the Rio Grande. With the excuse of “fighting organized crime,” the reality behind this militarization has more to do with controlling strategic resource zones and guaranteeing mega-projects such as the Mayan Train than with crime. The militarization is also a way to prevent potential mobilizations and protests against the bosses’ policies of the 4T.
In turn, the government has implemented policies such as “Stay in Mexico,” a program promoted by Trump that forces migrants wishing to enter the United States to wait in Mexico to process their immigration. This has resulted in all kinds of complications for migrants in transit, such as overcrowding in immigration centers that in reality function as prisons.
While AMLO has put forward a slew of social programs that are aimed at combating poverty and helping those that live in the countryside, he has not resolved the conditions faced by the rural masses. Instead, the character of his regime becomes evident through his policies that seek to prevent migration and contain displaced migrants from countries in the region within Mexico, in accordance with the agreement with the United States. On the southern border of the country, the Mexican army represses Latin American and Caribbean brothers and sisters every day to contain their passage to the United States.
The most recent episode that highlighted the oppressive nature of the Mexican state was the tragedy that led to the deaths of 41 migrants who were locked up in a migrant jail in Ciudad Juárez, under the complicity of the guards of the National Institute of Migration who refused to help them while their lives were in danger during a fire. This is yet another example of the negligence and contempt of immigration officials against people who have been unjustly deprived of their liberties and faced a situation of complete defenselessness.
At the same time, the government continues to attempt to dismantle migrant caravans and prevent their passage through the largest migratory corridor in the world via repression and by presenting arrests as a “humanitarian rescue” from human traffickers. In addition, dozens of migrants disappear on a daily basis in states along the northern and southern border of Mexico due to the action of organized crime which collaborates with the police, the National Guard and the army. In the context of this violent situation, women and trans folks are among the most vulnerable to disappearances and sexual violence at the hands of the police, military and criminal gangs.
3. The Critical Situation of Migrants in Central America and the Caribbean
The situation of migrants in the rest of the region is no different. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced by violence, the effects of the environmental catastrophe, unemployment and poverty – all consequences of imperialist policies in the region. This comes as new adjustment plans are in the works in order to pay foreign debts to imperialist institutions like the IMF, as is the case in Costa Rica.
There are no figures on the number of Salvadorans expelled by the violence and repression of the Bukele government, only the records of U.S. deportations are known. But since the beginning of the Biden administration, the border police have deported 195,720 Salvadorans according to reports from the Border Patrol and Customs, in addition to 6,037 citizens of that country who requested asylum in Mexico during 2021. Along with the Salvadoran population, it is mainly Nicaraguans (20,917), Colombians (17,195), Venezuelans (20,044), Cubans (28,848), Guatemalans (14,806) and Hondurans (14,003), according to figures from the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, who are forced to make this crossing, risking their lives. In the case of Nicaragua, the repressive and authoritarian government of Daniel Ortega has had an iron fist policy against migrants, as well as against social protest and opponents of his government, whom he has expelled from the country.
In Venezuela, the urgent situation has to do with a catastrophic crisis, a national collapse that produced what is already the biggest exodus of a country in the history of the region: the dismantling of the main public industries (including the oil industry) and the brutal capitalist adjustment policies of Maduro are combined with the criminal “sanctions” imposed by the U.S. and European imperialisms, in accordance to their own political objectives. The dismantling of the value of wages and the national currency, the drastic expansion of poverty and misery, have gone hand in hand with the profoundly authoritarian decomposition of the political regime, including the persecution of workers. That is what drives millions of Venezuelans into fleeing their country!
In Colombia and Honduras, the violence from organized crime and the militarization of these countries has expelled tens of thousands of people, while the supposedly progressive governments of Xiomara Castro and Gustavo Petro seek to “minimize the migratory crisis” through measures such as increasing humanitarian visas, while reducing institutional measures and support programs for the migrant population and maintaining the militarization of their borders and territories.
The situation in Haiti is also dire, especially since the imperialist occupation of the country after the 2010 earthquake. The humanitarian crisis and extreme poverty have increased with the proliferation of trafficking networks and criminal groups associated with the repressive forces, an untenable situation for Haitians who have opted to migrate to various Latin American countries. There is even a U.S. imperialist policy underway to militarily reoccupy the country, shielded by the “request” of the puppet president Henry.
In the Southern Cone, governments like Gabriel Boric’s in Chile, who also claims to be progressive, have supported the xenophobic and anti-immigrant policies pushed by U.S. imperialism by militarizing its borders and deporting thousands of migrants. In the same vein, the murderous coup government of Dina Boluarte in Peru has deployed the military to its borders to explicitly contain the flow of migrants.
4. We Need to Fight for an Internationalist Response Led by the Working Class to Find a Way Out of the Migrant Crisis
The socialists of the Movement of Socialist Workers of Mexico, the League of Workers for Socialism of Venezuela, the Revolutionary Socialist Organization of Costa Rica and Left Voice of the United States, affiliates of the international network of newspapers that are part of the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International in 14 countries and 8 languages around the world, denounce the criminal and anti-immigrant policy of U.S. imperialism, and its accomplices, the governments of Mexico, the various countries of Central America and the Caribbean.
The plundering of national resources by transnational capital and the respective local bourgeoisies is at the heart of the crises and hardships of our peoples. The resources that they deny us are those that the handful of exploiters keep for themselves, the dramatic needs of billions in our countries are their profits and opulence. There is no progressive solution to this situation without attacking their interests, without turning the tables: it is them or us, we must fight with an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist perspective, united with an internationalist perspective. Otherwise, we will remain prisoners of the respective demagogic, xenophobic, and reactionary policies of all the bourgeois governments of the region and of Yankee imperialism. No to the barbarism suffered by the migrants!
As inflation hits the economy of the working class and popular sectors around the world – at different levels – the funding of the militarization of borders and the harassment of migrants throughout Mexico is scandalous. It is necessary to fight on both sides of the border for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the United States, as well as the withdrawal of funds from institutions that repress migrants in Mexico and Central America, and to allocate them to the establishment of shelters and health care for those seeking a better future in other countries, as well as the urgent increase in the budget for education, health, and housing in all countries of the region. Stop the mistreatment and murder of migrants in the United States!
Faced with the harassment and criminalization of migrants, and the xenophobic and racist policy deployed by imperialism and the native bourgeoisies subordinated to it, we promote an anti-imperialist and internationalist policy, to be taken in hand by the working class of the U.S., Mexico and Central America, so that it can lead the struggle for the rights of migrants.
A solution to this humanitarian crisis that is favorable to migrants can only come from the working class of the region, together with those who face racism and police violence in the United States, peasants, indigenous peoples, queer folks, women, and youth who have resisted the attacks of these regimes in our countries, which in some cases, as in Mexico, display humanitarian and “progressive” discourses while persecuting those who migrate.
The struggle for migrants’ rights is twinned, in the United States, with the struggle against racism – such as the protests for justice for Jordan Neely, recently murdered by a former Marine police officer — and the white supremacist groups that terrorize Black folks, Latinos, and families crossing the southern border and risking their lives. It is also twinned with the struggle of the screenwriters of studios and streaming platforms on strike against job insecurity and wage increases, among other demands, and with the recent struggles of other sectors of workers, such as railroad workers who struggled for a collective contract that includes medical leave or the Amazon workers struggling to unionize.
In the case of Cuba we pronounce ourselves in favor of the immediate end of the blockade imposed by the United States, which only hits the working class and the popular sectors who are facing an increasingly acute social crisis, and against the capitalist restoration measures and the repression of the Díaz Canel government against the workers’ and popular protests, such as those on July 10-11, 2022 and the recent ones in Caimanera for food, or those of the railroad workers on strike for back pay.
In Venezuela we are for an immediate end to imperialist sanctions and the return of all companies, goods, and resources confiscated by the United States. At the same time we denounce the policy of savage capitalism applied by Maduro from his anti-worker economic measures to the repression of those who struggle.
In Central America we denounce all the governments complicit in the imperialist agenda, whether they are dressed up as progressive or transparently neoliberal; we denounce the curtailment of democratic freedoms in the region and the increase in social violence in general, the responsibility for which lies exclusively with the different governments of the Central American states.
It is essential that north of the Rio Grande the trade union organizations and those that claim to be socialist take up the struggle against the imperialist policies of their own government and in particular against the plundering of Latin America that is being carried out through foreign debt and the subordination of national economies, now organized in the interests of U.S. imperialism in the framework of the commercial and technological competition with China, as well as through direct military control over the seas and lands of the region.
Down with the scourge of foreign debts! At different levels, this mechanism of imperialist plunder is among the reasons for the crises, it is a mechanism of usury by which enormous resources are taken from the countries, for the benefit of a handful of vultures of big international finance capital. There is no future for our countries without a break with this: resources for education, health, housing and wages, not for foreign debt!
In unity across our borders, let us strive to build a broad movement to win free transit for migrants throughout the countries of the region, with the right to health care, to work with full labor rights and to safe, dignified, and free shelters.
We fight for full social and political rights for all migrants, granting them automatic legal residence and nationality for the United States or any other country they wish to live in, while confronting racism, repression, and all acts of xenophobia.
It is necessary that trade unions, human rights, youth, feminist and left organizations throughout the region take up these demands as part of a great international campaign for migrants’ rights led by the working class.
The working class is one and without borders!
Originally published in Spanish on May 12, 2023 in La Izquierda Diario.
Translated by Maryam Alaniz