Immigration Struggle in Texas
The Texas-México border has once again become strategically key to the struggle of dispossessed workers on both sides of the border, over 150 years after plantation owners made Texas strategically key to their expansion of slavery by stealing one-third of México. In 2019, over sixty percent of all those arrested crossing into the U.S. came through the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors. In 2019 the number of migrants grabbed at the border was less than in 2018, but the El Paso region had a 477 percent increase, the highest of the nine southwest Border Patrol sectors (apprehensions grew from 31,561 to 182,143). In this region, the members of families, including children, increased from less than 300 in October of 2017 to 30,000 in May 2019.
The strategic importance of the Texas border was the focus of a 3-day long Border Security Expo in San Antonio this March. Its theme was “how technology, international partnerships, and the political landscape are impacting the flows of people along our southwest border,” with presentations by government leaders like Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, and leaders of corporations who sell the government high-tech surveillance systems such as drones. The Expo’s third day was the Sharpshooter Classic, which supposedly “simulates real-life scenarios that border agents face” and proudly invited shooters to “Show Off Your Skills.”
This example of the new fascism in which our government is merging with leading corporations did not go unchallenged. A coalition of groups immediately demanded that local government not allow any public facilities to be used for the Expo. The Southwest Workers Union posted the coalition’s statement that “San Antonio must make a very clear stance that ‘security’ is not enhanced by ramping up the lethality of forces lined up along the border or aggressively targeting immigrants. These are methods of terror. San Antonio should redefine “security” to mean access to food, housing, health care, education and work.” SWU identifies itself as “an organization of low-income, working class families and youth.”
Migration as Anti-Capitalist Resistance
“We are living in a highly militarized region where constitutional rights are null since (President) Trump gave the green light to proceed against all immigrants,” said Carlos Marentes to WWLP-TV22 in February. Marentes directs El Paso’s Centro de los Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos (Center for Border Farm Workers), and believes that the government’s widening attack on the whole working class requires a revolutionary new understanding of the role of immigrants. “For most of society’s organizations, their vision of migrants is a vision of compassion—of bringing them clothes, water, and assistance. Relieving suffering is very important, but that vision limits migrants to being seen as ‘the poor’ and such limited actions as ‘helping victims.’ Looking at migration as an act of resistance means looking at migrants’ leading role. We see immigration as an act of anti-capitalist resistance, a resistance founded by the destiny that the system has imposed on them. So, we have to recognize their leading role, and advance it.”
“There is a crisis in the capitalist system, like a wall that is cracking more and more. The most visible “crack” in the system is immigration. It’s very important to understand the central role of migrants, and specifically of women among them. For migrant sectors like agricultural workers and indigenous people, this resistance is so that their community does not disappear. Migrants have been left out of the logic of capitalism; there is no place for them except to migrate, or to die. By migrating, they leave their family, their land, their town … they are also challenging the system that has abandoned them, because they do not produce profits.” Marentes adds that today the border is highly militarized because the government seeks not just “to stop them, but also to contain them. Despite this, people keep coming – it’s a massive act of resistance”.
“We struggle so our organizations get politically independent of the dominant class. We have many things in common with others, we’re all in the same system of production, of exploitation. For example, the Pacific coast Mexican workers in San Quintin, Baja California are exploited to satisfy the U.S. Western agricultural market, so day laborers there get paid $5 per day… governments do nothing. For agricultural workers, their economic places have been destroyed, not just by NAFTA, etc., but by neo-liberal economic change.”
Since the 1900’s, the concept of people producing crops mainly to feed their own families was seen as an absurdity by the capitalist class, because it did not add to their profits and capital accumulation. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the “Green Revolution” funded by the World Bank used new methods, technologies and chemicals to seize control of worldwide food systems, and eventually destabilized rural and indigenous communities. Once they lost the capacity to produce their own food, they became rural workers and migrants, and today those ruined peasants are the ones at the Mexican border attempting to enter the US in order to resist oppression and to survive.
Immigrants and Citizens Attacked
The growing oppression of these migrants is now hurting U.S. citizens, too. On February 25th the Border Patrol announced they had the power to stop and do identification checks on anyone riding commercial buses. A few days earlier, the nation’s largest bus company (Greyhound) said it would no longer allow Border Patrol agents to board its buses and do immigration checks without a warrant. The agency responded with the statement that “Greyhound not allowing agents to board and search without a warrant does not impact our traffic checkpoints. ALL conveyances and occupants are subject to stop and immigration inspections at traffic checkpoints.” That makes U.S. citizens subject to stop-and-check, alongside immigrants. “We live under no pretense that we have the right to free transit, the right not to be stopped and questioned” says Marentes, adding that, since few undocumented workers use the buses because of the checkpoints, this policy actually affects U.S. citizens even more.
The government also admits that over 600,000 young U.S. citizens now live [in] México, because their families fled the effects of the Recession and the persecution of the undocumented under both the Obama and Trump administrations. The U.S. government has resisted helping them prove their U.S. citizenship, which limits their access to some health and education services in México. An investigation by NBC 5 in Fort Worth and Telemundo 39 in Dallas called these youth “The Invisibles” because their needs are not seen or addressed by either government. Reporters found children like 11 year old Giovanni Aguilera, who couldn’t get treatment to save his hearing for many months. In just one year, the backlog of kids’ requests to prove Texas citizenship grew from 26,000 to 66,000.
As high-tech globalization destroys the old economy, masses of workers are being thrown into a new class and towards a previously unknown equality of poverty. The ruling class is desperately intensifying the use of fascist ideas and policies, in an effort to control them. But their developing economic equality, and the vicious attacks of the government, are undermining all the old ideologies that attempt to divide them by color and national origin. The Texas border struggle shows that immigrant members of this new class are playing a leading role in resistance to the system. Their class brothers and sisters are playing a similar role in struggles over housing, healthcare, and other basic needs. The next step is the conscious revolutionary unity of this new class of workers, based on understanding the commonality of its interests.
The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011