By DAVID CARDENAS
As the presidential election season comes around the corner, the drum beat of racist anti-immigrant populism is picking up tempo. We must dedicate our energy to fighting back against these attacks and defending our communities.
All three frontrunners of the GOP primary—Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy—are carrying out a political offensive against undocumented immigrants. All three of these ghouls have put out statements promising that if they are elected president, they will utilize their executive power to strip birthright citizenship from the children of undocumented migrants, with the goal of deporting the whole family. It is unlikely that any of them would have the ability to strip birthright citizenship were they to reach office, since previous attempts (like that of Trump in 2018) have all failed to do so. Nevertheless, their venomous statements should be taken as a signal that they will ratchet up anti-immigrant policies and sentiment.
Birthright citizenship in the United States exists under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, clearly stating: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” This means that regardless of the legal status of the parents, any and all children physically born within the borders of the United States are citizens and thus enjoy full citizenship rights, which prevent their violent seizure, concentration camp detention, and deportation by the state. The proposed revision of this amendment would strip citizenship from millions of second-generation immigrants, leaving them vulnerable to deportation to countries they may never even have visited. In essence, it could leave millions in a stateless limbo.
Examples of the result of such policies are found around the world, like the permanent second-class nature of immigrant workers in countries such as Kuwait, where they are subject to routine abuse by their employers with little protection from existing institutions. The same can be observed in Sweden, where the only option available for rejected asylum-seekers who seek to stay is in what the Swedes call a “parallel society,” where immigrants are pushed into low-paying jobs with no access to the ‘famed’ Swedish welfare system, becoming an effective underclass.
Our denunciation of GOP anti-immigrant populism should not be confused as a call to support the Democrats in the upcoming presidential election, or any election for that matter. When the Democrats are not spineless in the face of GOP bigotry, they are complicit in the oppression of the immigrant working class, as we see with Biden’s incapacity to halt deportations or shut down the concentration camps on the border, as well as Democratic Party-run California’s complicity in the torture of immigrant strikers by private-prison guards in Texas. The only path to liberation lies in the hands of the working class itself, not in the laps of bourgeois politicians.
Unsurprisingly, the first to propose the policy of stripping citizenship from the children of undocumented parents was Trump. His well-known use of anti-immigrant rhetoric throughout the years is again repeated with added insult to immigrant communities. Just like his first presidency, today he spews accusations against undocumented immigrants, weaponizing the derogatory term “illegal aliens”, calling them “the meanest people you will ever see”, and “criminals.” As unsurprising as it is unoriginal, this proposal rapidly picked up steam among his base, as well as with the other GOP primary contenders.
Pathetically following Trump’s example (even his mannerisms!), DeSantis also calls for the stripping of birthright citizenship. Just like Trump, he calls immigration through the southern border an “invasion” and promises to hold a hard line against undocumented immigrants. DeSantis already has a recorded anti-immigrant agenda, as seen with his current term as governor of Florida with the passing of the anti-immigrant law SB 1718, which among other things, restricts undocumented immigrants from regular employment. And this is the same blood-thirsty politician that advocates utilizing drones to bomb “Mexican cartels” south of the border under the pretext of the “War on Drugs” and a farcical fear mongering of an ongoing “invasion.” Considering that he, like the rest of these depraved GOP frontrunners, conflates undocumented immigration with drug-smuggling and criminality, he implicitly advocates the bombing of innocent people on both side of the Mexico-U.S. border.
Finally, Vivek Ramaswamy—the billionaire newcomer to the GOP primary—is the latest candidate to announce his intention to strip away birthright citizenship. But he is even more cunning; he combines pro-family rhetoric with anti-immigrant populism. To an NBC reporter, Ramaswamy state: “The family unit will be deported, as a unit. We will never separate families.” When the journalist asked him if he intended to deport the naturalized children of undocumented immigrants, he answered, “Yes. That is correct.” He proceeded to raise contentions about the 14th Amendment and the legal right to citizenship for children born on U.S. soil. Subsequently, after claiming that he would follow the “letter of the law to a tee,” he ended by saying that “we will never use separation of families as a deterrent. I think that that is a mistake. I am a pro-family person.” The vulgarity and cynicism of such a statement is plain to see. Under his presidency, immigrant families can sleep soundly knowing that they won’t be separated; instead, they will simply be kidnapped by ICE agents as a unit and removed from U.S. soil by force.
Underneath the thin veneer of claiming that all they want is “legal immigration for people that meet the requirements,” as Vivek states, there is a sludge of racist and anti-worker sentiment. These scum are for the terrorizing of Black and Brown working-class immigrant communities with the final solution of removing them from this country.
For the U.S. capitalist class, immigrant workers are tools to be used and discarded on a whim. If it would benefit the bosses to have a larger reserve army of labor, they can have it with immigration. If they want to tighten the labor market, they can restrict immigration. But they will always keep oppressive policies pressing down on the necks of undocumented immigrant workers. By keeping them in a status of legal uncertainty immigrant workers can be super-exploited by their bosses, since speaking up can easily mean the loss of one’s job, if not outright arrest and deportation. A vivid example of this is found in every piece of produce harvested by immigrant hands, in every restaurant meal cooked, in every construction site. The United States, a state organized for the benefit of the U.S. ruling class, will always maintain immigrant workers in precarious working and living conditions. The benefit they reap from this is the stifling of immigrant grievances, since to complain, to organize for change, becomes even more of a risk when the threat of deportation looms over their shoulders.
But immigrant workers do not always keep quiet. As the historic 2006 one-day immigrant-worker strike demonstrated, immigrants are integral to the U.S. working class, and at the slightest flexing of their muscles, they can make the likes of Trump, DeSantis, and Ramaswamy squirm like the worms they are. The fact that birthright citizenship is enshrined in the Constitution should be of no consolation to us, since time and time again the U.S. bosses’ state has demonstrated that when their Constitution is in the way of their machinations, they will trample it without a second thought. Only organized revolutionary mass action by the workers can rip concessions from the oppressive U.S. state; only community self-defense can protect immigrants from the violence of ICE.
This is why Workers’ Voice calls for Open Borders Now! Nobody is illegal on stolen land! For an immediate end of all deportations! Abolish ICE! Shutter the concentration camps! Public inquiry into human rights abuses by immigration authorities! Immediate, accessible, and quick path to citizenship for all those who work and live in the United States!
Photo: Justin Hamel / UPI