Category Archives: Immigration

Solidarity with Tacoma Hunger Strikers / Solidaridad con lxs huelguistas de hambre de Tacoma

This statement was originally issued by Florence Johnston Collective (FJC), a New York City collective of U&S members and other awesome folks.

Solidarity with Tacoma Hunger Strikers

The struggle against austerity connects the worldwide working class, at a time when borders seem to make no sense to anyone but the states who enforce draconian immigration laws. As global capital enters its fifth year of crisis, with the promised stabilization of “recession” never quite delivered, the brunt continues to fall on those perceived as least able to defend themselves: the poor, the sick, the aged, workers in unstable industries, workers with unions unwilling to fight, and the undocumented workers who make countries like the United States run.

Late last week a group of undocumented workers in Tacoma Washington staged a hunger strike and corresponding work stoppage, demanding better conditions and the basic consideration all human beings deserve. It remains ongoing. The strikers are held under harsh condition by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for the crime of seeking low-waged work in the US after their home economies have been ravaged by trade agreements with the US and other world powers. As reproductive workers, circulation workers, and unemployed workers of New York City, we express a deep solidarity with this struggle and recognize it as part and parcel of our own.

The question of what it means to be considered a human being and treated like one is central to the struggle we share. Is a human being “illegal” when they seek to work and provide for their family? Is a human being “insubordinate” when, working as a nurse, they deem fifteen patients too many to care for in a compassionate way at one time, and tell their supervisor this fact? Is a human being entitled to the medicine and health care they need, for as long as needed to improve completely, regardless of their income, race, nationality, or citizenship status?

The hunger strikers have used the only weapon left to them in such a repressive environment as the ghastly ICE detention centers: their very lives. Their gesture is not histrionic, it is a sober assessment of the life or death stakes of the worldwide struggle against austerity. And by seeking to bully and brutalize the strikers into breaking their action, the state is revealing just how dangerous their statement can be, if it finds ears in those around the world who are increasingly left with nothing but their bodies, and nothing to lose in putting them before the powerful and saying “Enough!”

The Florence Johnston Collective expresses its unqualified solidarity with the Tacoma hunger strikers, and all prisoners of our inhuman immigration system, who stand alongside those without healthcare, those without homes, and those supposedly lucky ones whose jobs steal their lives and well-beings away, as living rebukes to the lie that things have to be the way they are and they can never change. To this they reply: “Enough!” We stand with the Tacoma strikers not as allies, but as comrades in the same struggle.

Tonight in NYC we will join a coalition of supporters for a noise demonstration outside of a detention facility, to tell those locked up that they are in our thoughts, that their struggles will not go unnoticed, and ultimately, that their struggles are our struggle.

In solidarity,

The Florence Johnston Collective

Solidaridad con lxs huelguistas de hambre de Tacoma

La lucha contra la austeridad conecta la clase trabajadora alrededor del mundo, en un momento cuando las fronteras parecen ya no tener sentido para nadie salvo para los estados que ejecutan leyes draconianas de migración. A medida que el capital global entra en su quinto año de crisis,   con una recesión y una incumplida promesa de estabilidad, la carga sigue cayendo sobre lxs que están percibidxs como menos capaces de defenderse a sí mismxs: lxs pobres, lxs enfermxs, personas de la tercera edad, trabajadorxs en industrias poco estables, trabajadorxs en sindicatos que no están dispuestos a luchar, y trabajadorxs no documentadxs que hacen funcionar a países como los Estados Unidos.

Hace un tiempo un grupo de trabajadorxs no documentadxs en Tacoma, Washington fueron detenidxs bajo condiciones severas por ICE por el crimen de buscar trabajo de bajo salario en los Estados Unidos cuando las economías de sus países han sido devastadas por acuerdos de comercio con ese país y otras potencias mundiales. Hace una semana organizaron una huelga de hambre haciendo un alto en sus trabajos, exigiendo mejores condiciones y la consideración básica que merecen todxs lxs seres humanos. Como trabajadorxs reproductivxs, trabajadorxs de circulación, y trabajadorxs desempleadxs de la ciudad de Nueva York, expresamos una solidaridad profunda con esta lucha y la reconocemos como parte fundamental de la nuestra.

En el centro de las luchas que compartimos está lo que significa considerarse ser humano y ser tratadx como tal. ¿Es un ser humano “ilegal” cuando busca trabajar y sostener a su familia? ¿Es un ser humano “insumiso” cuando, al como enfermerx, decide que quince pacientes son demasiadxs para cuidar apropiadamente? ¿Tiene un ser humano derecho a la medicina y al seguro de salud que necesita sin importar sus ingresos, raza, nacionalidad, o estatus de ciudadanía?

Lxs huelguistas de hambre han usado la única arma que les queda en un ambiente tan represivo como el que existe en los horrorosos centros de detención de ICE: sus propias vidas. Su gesto no es histriónico, es una apuesta sobria entre la vida o muerte como una lucha mundial en contra de la austeridad. En su esfuerzo por acosar y embrutecer a lxs huelguistas para que desistan de su acción, el estado revela lo peligroso de su acto. Si este acto encuentra oídos en lxs que en todas partes del mundo son dejadxs cada vez más en la miseria, estos no tienen nada que perder en pararse antes lxs poderosxs y decir “¡Basta!”.

El Colectivo Florence Johnston expresa su solidaridad con lxs huelguistas de hambre de Tacoma, y todxs lxs encarceladxs del sistema no humano de migración. Nos ponemos de pie al lado de lxs que están sin seguro de salud, lxs que no tienen trabajo, y lxs supuestxs afortunadxs cuyos trabajos roban sus vidas y su bienestar, mientras la lucha por vivir descalifica la mentira de que las cosas tienen que seguir como son y que nunca pueden cambiar. A esto responden: “¡Basta!”. Estamos con los huelguistas de Tacoma no como aliadxs, sino como camaradas en la misma lucha.

Hoy en la noche en la ciudad de Nueva York nos juntaremos con una coalición de personas que ofrecen su apoyo para realizar un cacerolazo afuera de un centro de detención, para decirles a lxs encarceladxs que están en nuestros pensamientos, que sus luchas no pasan desapercibidas y, que últimamente, sus luchas son nuestas luchas.

En solidaridad,

El Colectivo Florence Johnston

 

Yo Soy el Army: U.S. Military Profiles & Targets Latino/a Youth

As the debate around the Dream Act continues, this interview aired a few months back on Democracy Now! with Marco Amador, the filmmaker of “Yo Soy El Army” still seems a relevant and needed contribution to the discussion.

The documentary traces how the Department of Defense has ramped up its racial profiling of Latino/a youth to be cannon fodder for the U.S. military in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This domestic military mission has been facilitated by two key developments. On the one hand, the No Child Left Behind policy passed under Bush, which requires all high schools to give the military access to their facilities and even student records for the purposes of recruiting. This has made our schools open game for hungry recruiters looking to fill quotas. On the other hand, the deliberate disinvestment from public education, which destroys the few options youth had available to them and instead makes military the only option for them to secure steady work (cuz these wars ain’t ending anytime soon) and an income. The film also draws out how the military apparatus has helped shape the Dream Act into a recruitment tool to draw in undocumented youth.

Tracing together the attack on education, the wars in the Middle East and corresponding attacks on Arabs and Muslims at home, and the scapegoating of undocumented immigrants here in the U.S., it seems clear that the struggles around each of these issues will only be strengthened by connecting them. We can ask: What are some practical ways we can be connecting anti-war organizing and the immigrant rights struggle? How can we connect the anti-budget cuts struggle with the immigrant rights struggle? How can our organizing make links between the specific ways in which state violence plays out in communities of color (i.e. ICE raids in immigrant communities, FBI infiltration of Arab and Muslim communities, and police brutality in black communities, and military recruitment in all three)?

Part 1:

Part 2:

Two Responses to the Failure of the DREAM Act

Letter to the DREAM Movement:

My Painful Withdrawal of Support for the DREAM Act

by Raúl Al-qaraz Ochoa

17 September 2010

I have supported the DREAM Act, despite my critiques and concerns over the military service component. In fact, I was one of the arrestees at the sit-in at John McCain’s office in Tucson, AZ; an act of civil disobedience where four brave undocumented students risked deportation and put the DREAM Movement back in the national political stage. I made peace with my participation because I felt I was supporting the self-determination of a movement led by undocumented youth and I felt we could subvert the component that was to feed undocumented youth into the military pipeline if we developed a plan to support youth to the college pathway.

First, let me say that I applaud and admire the tireless work you have all done for the past 10 years. Your commitment and dedication parallels giant student movements of the Civil Rights era. Your persistence in organizing even when the world turned their back on you is inspiring; your creativity in tactics, visuals and media strategy is amazing. Your movement gives hope to hundreds of students I have come across here in Arizona and beyond. It is because of your grassroots efforts—not the politicians’ nor the national Hispanic organizations’—that the Dream is still alive and has come this far. As an organizer with permanent resident status privilege, let me assert that your cause for access to college and path to legalization is just. No one can tell you that what you are fighting for is wrong.

With that said, I want to share how I am deeply appalled and outraged at how Washington politics are manipulating and co-opting the dream. I understand that some folks may say, “we just want the DREAM Act to pass regardless”, but it is critical to examine the political context surrounding DREAM in its current state. It is disturbing to see how Democrats are attaching our community’s dreams for education/legalization to a defense appropriations bill. This is grotesque in a number of ways:

1)    Democrats are using the DREAM Act as a political stunt to appeal to Latino voters for the November elections because it is seen as “less” threatening than a broad immigration reform. The Democrats have the political will to recently unite and pass a border militarization bill in a matter of hours ($600 million!), yet they won’t pass a broader immigration reform? And now they are up for the DREAM Act? I’m glad they feel the pressure of the Latino voting bloc, but they obviously do not care about our lives, they only seek to secure their seats in November—which by the way look very jeopardized if they don’t move quickly to energize their “base”. They are also seeking to secure the gay vote with the gradual repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as part of this same defense bill. All in all, insincere, token political gestures only serve to stall real justice.

Continue reading Two Responses to the Failure of the DREAM Act

Advancing the Immigration Struggle in Texas

On Saturday June 12th, a hundred anti-racist and democratic-minded folks descended on the south gate of the Texas State Capitol, protesting a rally held by supporters of Arizona’s SB 1070 and who want to enact a similar law in Texas. Supporters numbered around 200-250 and were made up of Republicans, Tea Party folks, Texas Nationalists, and a sprinkling of fascists. The counterprotest and others like it speak to a growing minority tendency of the immigrant rights movement who are ready for confrontation with supporters of white supremacy and which has added new dimension to the debate over the road the movement should take.

Counterprotest in Context

Before the State of Arizona passed SB 1070 and a following bill banning ethnic studies and teachers with accents, Texas made a major encroachment upon public school curriculum which removed historic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez and will place more emphasis on the non-violent tendencies of the Civil Rights movement and in opposition to organizational experiences such as the Black Panther Party.

Such attacks remind us that we’re not living merely through the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, but also the deepest political crisis in likely 100 years. All of the old concessions the rulers have formerly used to coopt mass struggle: better wages, pensions, free and public education, public hospitals, ethnic studies programs, etc. are being removed from the table. There are hardly vestiges of the organs of struggle that working people built in the early 20th century, the 1930s, and 1960s to put the rulers in check and build the independent power of workers, women, and people of color.

Political struggle has been narrowed to either liberal and progressive NGOs and non-profits or spontaneous bursts of mass activity to emerge every few years and that go far beyond the limits of the established organizations. It is this spontaneity that has yet to find permanent organizational form and that can carry it during the highs and lows mass rebellion and consign liberals and progressives to obscurity.
Continue reading Advancing the Immigration Struggle in Texas

on the ground in Arizona

*** written with Will

SB 1070, and the white supremacist attacks on ethnic studies and “teachers with accents” is potentially sparking a new round of mass struggle for immigrant rights.

In Arizona, the fight for immigrant rights has been going on for some time.  The Right has been mobilizing to capture state power in Arizona through the Tea Party mobilizations in the state legislature along with attacks against brown and undocumented peoples by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

In response, organizers across the country – some new and some veterans of the movement – are contending with questions that were left unanswered after the spike in mass activity around the immigrant rights movement in 2006

The right wing of the movement is using the same tactics to demobilize protesters and organizers, and instead supporting bracero-styled legislation, and appealing to the nativist perception of the ‘brown hordes invading America.’

The challenge facing the rest of the movement will be whether we can build our own autonomous institutions that doesn’t compromise with the right, doesn’t sacrifice some undocumented peoples for a ‘well-behaved’ few, and build united working class power among the different sectors of the struggle.

Below are two articles by Joel Olson, an organizer with the Repeal Coalition, which is calling organizers to Arizona for a Freedom Summer in order to fight against this new round of attacks on immigrants and undocumented peoples.

Major questions still face the movement in terms of what next and how to do it:

  • What relationship should organizers and the movement have to institutions like the City Council of Flagstaff?
  • Can undocumented immigrants be organized at the workplace to fight SB 1070?
  • How do workers stop ICE raids?  Do Cop Watch style groups need to be built in light of what Sheriff Joe Arpaio has done in AZ?
  • What support can be given to the folks on the ground in AZ from other parts of the country?
  • How will undocumented immigrants be won over to revolutionary politics in the course of this fight?
  • Is Sheriff Joe Arpaio representative of proto-fascism, fascism itself, or white populism?  How do we look at the Minute Men and the Tea Party Movement under these ideological rubrics?
  • We should also ask what is the relationship of the economic crisis and the attacks on immigrants.

———————–

New Arizona
by Joel Olson

In the midst of the Arizona state government passing the most outrageous anti-immigrant law since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, several happenings pass unnoticed by the national media. At a packed Flagstaff City Council meeting discussing the law, waves of people declare publicly that they are undocumented, practically daring law enforcement officers to arrest them. At the same meeting, a member of a radical immigrant rights group receives thunderous applause for demanding the repeal of all anti-immigrant laws and declaring the right of all people to “live, love, and work wherever they please.” Even the most conservative city councilman admits he liked the notion. Down in Phoenix, high school students spontaneously organize a school walkout through mass texting, without direction from the established immigration reform organizations. This infuriates the organizations because it pre-empts “their” planned protests. And then these same students chuck water bottles at cops when they arrest one of their own.

Welcome to the new Arizona.

Continue reading on the ground in Arizona

SB 1070: Jim Crow in Arizona

Last Friday, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into law the Jim Crow styled anti-immigration legislation known as SB 1070.

In the weeks after state lawmakers passed the bill, organizers called for protests and acts of civil disobedience, and demanded that Gov Brewer veto the bill.

KPHO on the student walkouts in response to Gov Brewer’s decision to sign the bill:
1,000 Students Walk Out in Immigration Protest

Here’s an overview of the bill from Socialist Worker:

Arizona bill is the real crime
by Norma Villegas

LEGISLATION IN Arizona that could become law by this weekend would make it a crime to lack proper immigration paperwork and would require police, if they suspect someone is in the country without documentation, to determine that person’s immigration status.

The misnamed “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” is being described as the harshest anti-immigrant measure in the country. Introduced by state Sen. Russell Pearce, it passed both houses of the Arizona legislature. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has until Saturday to veto the bill, known as SB 1070–if she signs it or does nothing, it will become law.

The legislation would forbid authorities from releasing anyone found guilty until the full sentence is served. Courts are required to force those found guilty to pay court costs and an additional fine of at least $500 for the first offense, and double that for a second or subsequent conviction. Plus, any second violation of the law, no matter how minor, would be reclassified as a felony.

Continue reading SB 1070: Jim Crow in Arizona

Lee Sustar on the Current State of US Labor

The prospects and challenges currently facing not only organized labor but the working class in general are synthesized well in the below article from International Socialist Review no. 66, “US Labor in the crisis, Resistance or retreat?” authored by Lee Sustar.

Sustar, who relies to a certain extent on Kim Moody’s very solid 2007 book, US Labor in Trouble and Transition, paints a broad picture of contemporary labor as one that has faced a thirty-year employer assault that has destroyed its organizations, left workers with stagnant wages, and looted its social services, meanwhile the profits and power of capital soar. The result of this attack has not only left workers in the objectively worst position it has been in since the 1930s and before but has also created a general crisis of historical memory where a newer generation of workers lack the traditions of struggle of an older one.

This ruling class offensive which has been exacerbated by the economic crisis, has hurt people of color, women, and queer folks most acutely. Talks of the “he-cession” which depict the loss of those jobs that employ men disingenuously leave out how it affects the unpaid labor of women who both produce future workers and reproduce current workers’ ability to work. They forget how the recession affects queer folks who already are not entitled to domestic partner benefits. And they forget the already disproportionately unemployed and underemployed black working class who have suffered another round of job losses and concessions that have affected the industries where they are most concentrated, including public employment.

The union bureaucracy has undergone a change. Decades ago, they were reined in through the capital-labor social contract to help deflect working class self-activity into bureaucratic channels. The union structure became removed from the struggles of the shop floor and colluded with management to ensure labor’s productivity. Nowadays, these institutions are dead and dying as capital no longer needs them. The appearance of labor’s organized reup via Andy Stern’s SEIU is in fact appearance only, for in the name of organizing it has undercut labor conditions, bargained behind workers backs, attacked independent unions, and has partnered with management to ensure not only productivity, but capital growth. The UAW is another manifestation of this transition where it has gone from management partner to shareholder under American auto’s restructuring. Where previously it oversaw the destruction of union jobs and wage and benefit concessions, under its new position it is leading this process with the creation of a two-tier workforce.

The hopes for any labor renewal from above that came with either the election of John Sweeney to the AFL-CIO helm in 1995, the Change to Win split in 2005, or the election of President Obama have come crashing down every time. Instead, Sustar points to the 2006 immigrant general strike, the Republic Windows occupation, the Smithfield Strike, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers boycott, and the growth of workers centers as new forms of organization and activity as new possibilities for renewal. People of color have been central to each of these experiences and, at least with the CIW, the Smithfield Strike, and workers centers, have taken place within the US South.
Continue reading Lee Sustar on the Current State of US Labor

Police Brutality in Los Angeles

-Will

Check out this documentary on the police brutality immigrants faced in 2007 in Macarthur Park in Los Angeles.  There is also an important story about what the Non-Profit, CHIRLA, did in this march and after. It raises deep questions about the nature of the Non-Profit complex itself, but that can be explored in discussion.

This piece was made by folks in Revolutionary Autonomous Communities. They have been doing some important work. I hope they update their blog more often so word can get out.

Queer Liberation is an Insurgent Movement from Below

Across the country, the debate over Gay marriage is continuing with Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and Iowa initiating its legalization, and other states currently facing struggles over prop-8 style ballot initiatives which aim to halt the ability of all people to have their marriages recognized by the state. Here in the state of Washington, the legislature passed an expanded domestic partnership law last year which would provide many of the rights and privileges associated with marriage to same sex and elderly domestic partners. The Washington Values Alliance opposes Referendum 71 in an attempt to strike down this law; a yes vote on the Referendum keeps domestic partnerships in place and a no vote gets rid of them.

Washington Values alliance and many of the other right-wing forces mobilizing to attack Gay Marriage are linked to far-right white supremacist organizations that are also attacking immigrants. Many folks on the Left both locally and nationally are discussing how to respond to these right-wing offensives. Many of us are not thrilled about gay marriage itself or the often liberal racist, patriarchal, and assimilationist groups that are fighting for it. But at the same time it is important to fight the bigots who oppose gay marriage since they are using the anti-gay marriage organizing to build their base preparing for more devastating attacks on queer folks and people of color.

This piece raises some key questions about how to tie the struggle against anti-queer bigotry to immigrant workers’ and student’s struggles against white supremacy. It is a talk given in July by comrades Jomo and Wen, two queer Asian American activists with Democracy Insurgent in Seattle. It was part of a panel of various queer Seattle activists from different organizations hosted by the socialist feminist group Radical Women.

—————

Democracy Insurgent is a Middle East solidarity group animated by principles of anti-racism, democracy, third world feminism and queer liberation. The group came together last fall and have started by doing Palestine Solidarity organizing. A few months ago the anti-budget cuts committee within DI was created because of the budget cuts that University of Washington has distributed disproportionally affected immigrant workers, low-income students, people of color, women, people with disabilities and queer folks. That’s how we started getting involved with organizing with the custodians on campus and supporting their fight against the management because we see our struggles as connected with theirs.

How we see “queer movement” as opposed to white liberal queer movement

The topic of the panel today is on queer liberation and that’s what we are here for! DI is a multi-racial, multi-gender and multi-sexuality group. The way we approach queer liberation is not to compartmentalize issues solely on an identity basis, like that of gay people getting together to fight on marriage equality without any class or race analysis, neglecting the needs of people of color, immigrant folks, or women. Identity based organizing can be very harmful to the movement in the long term. We all know that 40 years ago the Stonewall Riot was lead by majority people of color and majority of gender-queer, and trans folks– but how did it turn into a white middle-class gay man’s story of liberation?
Continue reading Queer Liberation is an Insurgent Movement from Below