By Duane Campbell
In spite of the economic boom for the wealthy, working people in the U.S. have yet to receive a significant improvement in their standard of living for over 30 years. At the same time, democratic forces are once again confronted with anti-immigrant campaigns- this time fostered and promoted by a president of the U.S.
As socialists, we stand with and among the U.S. working class in opposition to the rule of the transnational corporations and their exploitation of the economy and their despoliation of our lives, our society and our environment.
We are currently experiencing a major restructuring of the global economy directed by the transnational corporations to produce profits for their corporate owners. The impoverishment of the vast majority of people in pursuit of profits for a small minority has pushed millions to migrate in search of food, jobs, and security. Global capitalism produces global migration. Along with wars NAFTA and other “Free Trade” deals each produce a new waves of migration.
Socialists support the rights of working people to organize, to form unions, and to protect their rights and to advance their interests. Unions have always been an important part of how socialists seek to make our economic justice principles come alive. Working people – gathered together and exploited in the capitalist workplace-are well positioned to fight their common exploitation.
Current immigration laws and practices, imposed upon us all by the corporations and their control of our government, often prevent working class unity by dividing workers against each other and by creating categories of workers with few rights to organize and thus to protect their own interests.
The neoliberal capitalist economic system now being created by the relentless merging of the world’s markets also impoverishes the majority of U.S. workers. The average U.S. worker has experienced a decline in their real wages since 1979. Quality industrial jobs have moved to low-wage, anti-union areas in the U.S. and to Mexico, China, Singapore, Vietnam, India and other nations. At present the U.S. has no significant controls on capital flight. Indeed, the U.S. government subsidizes some corporations to move jobs to Honduras, El Salvador, and the Caribbean.
The economic restructuring of Asia, Africa, and Latin America has pushed millions to migrate to the U.S. and Europe in search of a decent standard of living. In the two decades leading up to 2008, the U.S. experienced a major increase in immigration matching the immigration influx to the U.S. of the period from 1890-1910. The large-scale immigration was largely from Asia and Latin America. It has changed the ethnic and cultural makeup of the labor force and the working class in many states and urban areas.
At the same time, in both Europe and the U.S., among others, we see an intensification of narrow economic nationalism and the blaming of immigrants for the economic troubles of capitalism.
U.S. economic policy (called neoliberal capitalism) promotes the movement of capital and goods across borders to increase profits while at the same time it increases barriers to worker mobility . Since 2004 there has been a militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border, a proposal to build a wall, and the significant increase in in arrests and internal enforcement threatening immigrant labor. The result is a situation in which workers on both sides of this border and around the world have been disempowered and impoverished.
In the current climate the economic forces of global corporate capitalism (neoliberal capitalism) are unrestrained. Corporations encourage the movement of capital, and thus jobs, to low-wage areas. When workers attempt to exercise their power against these conditions via forming unions and organizing to withhold labor, their efforts are easily undermined by repression and the ever-looming threat of factories moving overseas. Labor unions and even local governments lose their power to hold capital accountable and all workers are forced to accept ever-worsening wages and working conditions.
Current border enforcement makes exploitation possible by dividing the global working class into competing sectors and thus inhibiting the possibility of building a united working class movement.
As socialists, as internationalists, we know that rather than building walls and more prisons, what would really help workers to raise wages and improve living conditions is much stricter enforcement of worker protection and anti-discrimination laws, including the right to form democratic unions.
Contrary to the Trump Administration narrative, immigrants create new jobs in the U.S. by buying homes, spending their income and paying taxes. A legal flow of immigrants based upon workforce demand will strengthen the U.S. economy by keeping productivity high and countering the negative impacts of the aging of the U.S. population.
Threats by employers who use immigration status to keep workers from organizing unions or protesting illegal conditions should be a crime. When there’s no punishment for violating labor rights, workers have no rights. We should prohibit immigration enforcement during labor disputes or against workers who complain about illegal conditions.
The problem with our economy is not immigration; the problem is our broken immigration laws that allow business to exploit workers who lack legal status, driving down wages for all workers. If all immigrants were allowed to participate in our system, pay their dues, and become citizens, we could block the corporations’ exploitation and eliminate the two-tiered workforce while building a united labor movement that raises wages and living standards for all workers.
In the end, we need an immigration policy that brings people together instead of pitting workers against each other. We need an immigration policy that benefits migrants, their home communities, and working people here in the U.S. And we need a national policy that limits U.S. military and economic interventions in other parts of the world.
As socialists we support reforms that would grant immediate permanent resident status to all current undocumented workers and their children and that would establish an expeditious and non punitive route to citizenship for these workers and their families.
As socialists, we struggle for a system that produces security, not insecurity. We need a commitment to equality and equal status for all. We need to make it easier for workers to organize and protect themselves through unions. All workers must have full labor rights, including the right to organize, the right to protest unjust labor conditions, the right to change employers, and the right to form unions of their choice. We will work with immigrant rights organizations to promote family reunification, to halt deportations, to demilitarize our borders, and to help all of our children- regardless of legal status- to realize the dream of attaining a university education.
Duane Campbell is a professor emeritus of bilingual multicultural education at California State University Sacramento, a union activist, and former chair of Sacramento DSA. He is the Director of the Mexican American Digital History project. He is also the co-chair of DSA’s Immigrants’ Rights Committee. The committee can be found on the DSA website.
The above is a working paper of the Immigrants’ Rights Committee of DSA with contributions from Mary Ann Watson. Suggestions are welcome. Please send them to [email protected]
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