Workers Vanguard No. 1109
7 April 2017
Monday, April 24, 2017
NYC: Union Defends Worker Against Deportation
NYC: Union Defends Worker Against Deportation
Trump’s ever-expanding deportation threats continue to sow terror among immigrants, including those who follow the orders of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.). Juan Vivares, an electrician living in the Bronx who has been in the U.S. since 2011 after he fled paramilitary violence in Colombia, was instructed to attend a “check-in” appointment with I.C.E. on March 21. His wife, Yahaira Burgos, a U.S. citizen, accompanied him to what was supposed to be a routine update on Burgos’s permanent residency petition for her undocumented husband. Instead, Vivares was arrested and taken to a deportation center in Louisiana.
Burgos, a member of Local 32BJ SEIU, appealed to the union for help. Local 32BJ, a multiracial union that organizes service workers, including office cleaners and doormen, made sure that Vivares would not be just another nameless, faceless deportee. The union held a small protest outside I.C.E.’s Manhattan offices the afternoon of Vivares’s arrest and issued a call for his freedom and right to remain in the U.S., which garnered significant attention in the press. Last week, Vivares was granted a stay of removal and his case is now pending further review. Such union solidarity provides a small taste of what the labor movement must do to mobilize in defense of immigrant rights. Stop the deportation of Juan Vivares!
The persecution of Vivares comes amid an anti-immigrant blitzkrieg ordered by the Trump administration, which has notched hundreds of arrests from coast to coast in highly publicized, armed I.C.E. raids. In what many immigration attorneys describe as a new, Kafkaesque nightmare, immigrants are now being detained as they show up for scheduled meetings with immigration officials: fathers and mothers who are applying for Green Cards, others who are trying to regularize their status by attending the “check-in” meetings. If you show up, you risk arrest and deportation; if you don’t, you risk becoming a fugitive. According to the New York Times (21 March), Vivares had considered defying the “check-in” order, but decided against it, saying: “I would feel like an animal if I stay here and hide.”
Most immigrants lack union organizations that could mobilize in their defense. Take, for example, the case of 31 workers of the Tom Cat Bakery in Long Island City. Having worked there for over a decade, the immigrant workers were told by the company last month that Homeland Security gave them ten days to show proof of legal immigration status or else they would be fired without compensation. The workers and their supporters held a demonstration in protest, and I.C.E. has since postponed the day of reckoning to April 21. Defend the Tom Cat workers!
Mobilizing the unions in defense of immigrants is of vital importance to all working people. The same forces taking aim at immigrants also have their sights set on black people and the entire multiracial working class. Working-class unity, embodied in labor actions, can be a crucial force to push back the vicious, racist anti-immigrant campaign. What is needed is a class-struggle fight against deportations and a drive to organize immigrant workers into the unions with full rights and protection. A fighting labor movement would inscribe on its banner the calls: No deportations! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
Trump’s ascent to the White House included playing the tried-and-true card of scapegoating immigrants. His racist rants and anti-immigrant raids are intended to both inculcate fear and poison the working class with the lie that foreign-born workers are stealing their jobs. But it was his predecessor, Barack Obama, who ensured that the deportation machine became more efficient and robust. Obama deported more than 2.5 million people, instituted programs to expedite deportations and allocated an annual budget of $18 billion to immigration enforcement, a 300 percent increase over the Bush years. The Homeland Security audit of the Tom Cat workers was initiated by the Obama administration. Even The Nation (27 June 2016), an ardent apologist for Obama, noted that he left behind “the most sophisticated and well-funded human-expulsion machine in the history of the country.”
The fight for immigrant rights will only go forward if it is in direct opposition to illusions in the Democratic Party. During the presidential campaign, Hector Figueroa, president of Local 32BJ SEIU and a member of the Democratic National Committee, advised that the Democrats “need to reconnect with working Americans, with the working families of this country.” In fact, the capitalist Democratic Party is the class enemy of working people and the oppressed. The Democrats are the other party of capitalism—the other party of war, exploitation and racist oppression.
If the unions are to be instruments of struggle, including in defense of immigrants and the oppressed, they must break the shackles chaining them to the capitalist parties. Our aim as Marxists is to advance the solidarity and consciousness of the entire working class—black, white, Latino; native-born and immigrant—through building a revolutionary internationalist workers party in opposition to both the Republicans and Democrats. Such a party is the necessary instrument to lead the working class in the fight for its own rule.