Thursday, January 10, 2019

Coverage of the U.S./Mexico “border wall” in The Militant

The first mention of a U.S./Mexico border wall in the post-2000 issues of The Militant comes in the year 2006, when huge protests defeated the Sensenbrenner bill. There are peaks during Roger Calero's 2008 campaign, and again in 2016 and forward, for reasons you can guess.

Prior to 2006, border wall coverage only pertained to Israel.


10 January 2019


....In an interview published in the New York Daily News two days earlier, Sen. Hillary Clinton, a Democratic Party presidential hopeful, outlined proposals to the right of Bush, such as building a wall along much of the U.S. border with Mexico.

“As for how to stem the tide of illegal immigrants, ‘A physical structure is obviously important,’ she [Clinton] said,” the News reported. “‘A wall in certain areas would be appropriate,’ as long as it was not a ‘dumb wall’ that could be scaled or tunneled. Advocating ‘smart fencing,’ she added, ‘There is technology that could be in the fence that would spot people coming from 250 or 300 yards away and signal patrol agents who could respond.’” The separation wall Tel Aviv is building between the West Bank and Israel might help guide Washington, Clinton stated.

The Democratic senator said she welcomes a crackdown by Washington on employers hiring undocumented immigrants. Such steps, along with “securing the border,” have to come first before any measures may be implemented to regularize the status of immigrants already in the United States, she added....


....An “immigration reform” proposal by U.S. president George Bush says that some undocumented immigrants could be eligible for a three-year work visa at the cost of $3,500 each time they renew it. It includes stiff restrictions on eligibility and requires applicants to pay a $10,000 fine and return to their country of origin to apply for residency.

Bush’s plan also calls for extending a border wall, more border cops, and a special ID for immigrants.

The White House proposal is overwhelmingly opposed by immigrant workers and their supporters.

Another equally antiworker proposal, however, is being hailed as “progressive” by a number of immigrant rights groups such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). That’s the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act (STRIVE), introduced in the House of Representatives by Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, and Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona.

Purportedly offering a path to citizenship, the Gutierrez-Flake bill would not be implemented until border surveillance, with new technology and more border patrols, are put in place. While speaking for this bill at an April 14 public meeting here, Gutierrez said the ID it would require for qualifying immigrants “is better than a license. It has your picture on the front and your fingerprint on the back and it is a visa to enter the country.”


....The following day Calero participated in a teach-in of some 40 students and professors at the Edinburg campus of the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) on “The Cost of Building a Border Wall,” sponsored by the UTPA Political Science Association, Students for Peace, Young Democrats, and the Resist the Wall Coalition.

Calero spoke on a panel with UTPA professors Rod Summery and Samuel Freeman and Veronica Villarreal of the La Unión del Pueblo Entero.

Calero pointed out that the wall is not designed to stop immigration, but to deepen divisions. “Its purpose is to create fear and divert us away from the class nature of our problems.”

In an exchange on the value of actions organized by students in protests at the wall Calero said, “Don’t let anyone tell you the actions you organize in the streets and in teach-ins like this don’t matter. They do!”

“And we need to organize a different kind of government,” he continued. “A workers and farmers government, to invite our Mexican brothers and sisters on both sides of the wall to tear it down with us and to use those materials pictured in the slides shown here today to begin to build the houses and schools we need.”


....“What about national security? What is your position on the wall being built between the United States and Mexico?” asked a student following a talk by Calero at Bloomfield College. “The Socialist Workers campaign is opposed to the wall. We stand for legalization of all undocumented immigrants now,” responded Calero. “Immigrants strengthen the working class in this country—they strengthen the fight for better wages and jobs.


....Crisóstomo came to this country in 2000 in order to get a job that would allow her to support her three children in Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), she maintains, is the cause of the current wave of immigration. Adopted in 1994, NAFTA lifted trade barriers between Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Crisóstomo’s family lost a restaurant along the highway once freeways were built to allow more direct access to the U.S. market. “That was the end of many small businesses, and today many villages have become ghost towns,” she says.

“NAFTA made it impossible for me to feed my children in my home town. The situation has gotten worse,” she explains. On January 1, as part of the NAFTA agreement, the Mexican government ended tariffs on corn and other products imported from north of the border, meaning that many Mexican farmers will be priced out of the market by cheaper U.S. goods. “With the final elimination of the tariffs on corn, food, sugar, and powdered milk perhaps a million more Mexican farmers will cross the border to find work in this country,” Crisóstomo thinks. The U.S. government “can build a [border] wall to the heavens but they can’t stop people from crossing to feed their families.”

She urges a big turnout for the May Day demonstrations this year for immigrant rights: “May First should continue to be the working class’s holiday. We’re already organizing to march in Chicago.”


....Arizona is a main entry point for workers from Mexico and Central America who want to work in the United States. There are an estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona, many of them in the Phoenix area. According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of workers without “proper” papers declined by 18 percent in the past year.


....Trump draws a largely working-class crowd, including unionists, Blacks and Latinos, and rural toilers. Some are enthusiastic supporters, others say they come because working people face a growing crisis and they are looking for new answers.

Some liberals and the petty-bourgeois left say Trump is a fascist, pointing especially to his right-wing demagogy against undocumented immigrants, including calls for building a wall along the Mexican border. When 30,000 turned out for a Trump rally in Mobile, Alabama, Aug. 21, Chris Matthews of MSNBC referred to the area as the “Redneck Riviera.”


....That’s why working people need to reject the reactionary rhetoric against Mexicans and Muslims by Donald Trump. Trump talks up a storm — from threatening to build a wall to denying entry to Muslims. Meanwhile President Barack Obama and his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have already built a wall along much of the Mexican border — though they try to pretty it up by calling it a fence. And under Democrats and Republicans alike the U.S. government has beefed up the number of cops on the border and other harsh measures to better regulate the flow of labor to their advantage.

When millions of immigrant workers chanted, “We are workers, not criminals,” during nationwide demonstrations and a May Day strike in 2006 they won the respect of fellow workers, including U.S.-born, from coast to coast.

They demonstrated the capacity of the working class to act in our interests independently of the capitalist parties. It’s only by relying on our own strength — not on executive orders that strengthen the power of the president or on the promises of bourgeois politicians — that we can win over our fellow workers to a common struggle.


....The number of cops patrolling the U.S. border has doubled over the past decade to more than 18,000 today, ramped up under both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, making it much more difficult to enter without papers.

The initiation of these raids comes amid a lot of media attention to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s call for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and for extending the wall on Mexico’s border.

“The President’s actions are far more harmful than Trump’s demagoguery,” said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, in a Jan. 3 statement. “While Trump’s dangerous rhetoric stigmatizes our loved ones, President Obama actually deports them.”


....Trump presents himself as speaking for the little person, a straight shooter who says what he thinks and a successful businessman who can get things done. But some concrete proposals he pounds away at are anti-working-class, such as building a wall along the Mexican border to keep out immigrants (which he’s now begun presenting as a solution to growing heroin addiction as well!) and announcing this week he supports waterboarding and “worse” for those Washington accuses of terrorism.



‘Down with the frontiers?’

You quote Osborne Hart, SWP candidate for mayor of NYC, as saying, “The slogan raised by many liberals and middle-class leftists to tear down the wall and open the border is utopian and dangerous. If enacted, such moves would sharply increase joblessness and competition among workers, and deal blows to the unity of the working class.”

I find this puzzling. I recall attending SWP conventions in the mid-1970s where “down with the frontiers” was a prominent slogan. National borders are artifacts of the capitalist state, allowing the free flow of capital and commodities but regulating workers’ movements. Please explain your current stance.

Chuck Cairns

Ray Brook, New York

The Militant received the following letter at the same time we received the one above. It quotes Russian Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin explaining why the slogan ‘Down with frontiers’ is utopian and wrong under capitalism. The excerpt is from Lenin’s speech on the national question on April 29, 1917, which is printed in Lenin’s Collected Works, vol. 24, pp. 299-300. In his remarks Lenin refers to another related article, whose full title was “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism.” It can be found in vol. 23, pp. 58-59.

Dear Editor,

I wanted to forward this to you:

“The method of socialist revolution under the slogan ‘Down with frontiers’ is all muddled up. We have not succeeded in publishing the article in which I called this view ‘Imperialist Economism.’

“What does the ‘method’ of socialist revolution under the slogan ‘Down with frontiers’ mean? We maintain that the state is necessary, and a state presupposes frontiers. The state, of course, may hold a bourgeois government, but we need the Soviets. But even Soviets are confronted with the question of frontiers.

“What does ‘Down with frontiers’ mean? It is the beginning of anarchy. … The ‘method’ of socialist revolution under the slogan ‘Down with frontiers’ is simply a mess. When the time is ripe for socialist revolution, when it finally occurs, it will spread to other countries. We shall help it along, but in what manner, we do not know. …

“We say that frontiers are determined by the will of the [local] population. Russia, don’t you dare fight over Kurland [a region of Latvia]! Germany, get your armies out of Kurland! That is how we solve the secession problem. The proletariat cannot use force, because it must not prevent the peoples from obtaining their freedom. Only when the socialist revolution has become a reality, and not a method, will the slogan ‘Down with frontiers’ be a correct slogan. Then we shall say: Comrades, come to us.”

Ernesto X

by email


....In a second memo, Kelly ordered that plans be prepared to meet Trump’s call for a wall across the border with Mexico. Some 700 miles of wall already exist, covering the most accessible areas, much of it built under Obama.

To carry out all the measures, Kelly says ICE will hire 10,000 more agents and 5,000 more border cops...


....What’s behind the actions of tens of thousands of working people like these is not hatred of Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, or a desire to keep women at home, barefoot, and pregnant. Just look at the pictures on the display board at the back of the room. Look at the faces of the women in West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona and elsewhere who are at the forefront of the teachers’ battles!

Workers engaged in these fights are not clamoring for a border wall, groping women, or marching with KKK hoods and burning crosses. They are demanding dignity and respect for themselves and their families, and for all working people like them.

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