By DAVID CARDENAS
President Biden is breaking his promises to the immigrant community and falling into line with the border policy of Donald Trump. By continuing and expanding the construction of the border wall, the Democratic Party has once again given up the ghost of immigrant justice and demonstrated that they only view immigration through the lens of electioneering. Now that politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for limitations on immigration, the current administration is facing the contradiction of presenting itself as a staunch defender of immigrant rights while also currying favor with an increasingly anti-immigrant base. In the meantime, over 2 million migrants have been arrested at the southwest border so far this year.
The border wall was most infamous emblem of the Trump presidency, along with the internment and separation of immigrant families. It was a rhetorical and physical weapon used by his administration that represented its overall draconian border policies. The wall stood for everything the Republicans wanted—a white, militaristic, immigrant-free country. In response, the Democrats hurled criticisms against the wall, calling it ineffective, racist, and a danger to immigrant families who were just seeking a better life. Democrats asserted that a Democratic president would put an end to this hateful project and instead work to better the lives of immigrants in the United States. What is clear now is that while the accusations were true, the claim to moral superiority was not, since now it is Democrats who have sold out immigrants and continued building the wall.
The perfidy of the Democratic Party is in full evidence. During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden pledged to stop the construction of the border wall on the Mexican border, stating, “There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration.” Now he has trampled on his promise. Not only is the wall still being built, it is being expanded.
In his attempt to continue with its construction, Biden is doing nothing but following in the footsteps of his predecessors. And by this we do not mean to point our finger solely at Trump; the construction of a border wall has been a continuous policy by every U.S. president—both Republican and Democrat—since Bill Clinton, who called for a 14-mile system of barriers between Tijuana and San Diego. The Obama administration constructed 130 miles of border walls, while Trump authorized 87 miles more. In a way, it is not surprising that Biden would continue with this anti-immigrant project, after all, he supported border walls in 2006 as senator for Delaware.
The fact of the matter is that the border wall is a farce designed to win the support of anti-immigrant voters. The wall does not stop people from crossing into the United States, as admitted by the President himself. All that it accomplishes is making the crossing more dangerous, since it compels immigrants to travel through dangerous areas, like the Sonoran desert, where countless men, women, and children have died from dehydration and heat stress. This then raises the question as to why the president broke this easiest of promises for a project he himself (supposedly) doesn’t even believe in.
This question is clearly answered by Biden himself, as reported by NPR’s White House Correspondent: “The border wall money was appropriated for the border wall. I tried to get them to reappropriate it to redirect that money. They didn’t. They wouldn’t. And in the meantime, there’s nothing under the law, and they have to use the money for what it was appropriated.”
This in of itself is a weak justification, a complete cop out. The president, the most powerful politician in the world, can certainly put a stop to the construction of the border wall. Among the things he could have done to at least slow down its construction would have been to not waive over two dozen laws that were impeding the construction of the wall. But he did waive them, and so the wall is being built even faster than if he had “just followed the law.” Among the laws waived is the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. During the Trump presidency, the waiving of this same law led to “blasting at a tribal burial.” There is no reason not to suspect that it was waived again with the same intention. Most of the other laws waived were environmental laws, which has caused outrage among environmental groups, like the Center for Biological Diversity, as expressed by Laiken Jordahl, one of its members:
Every acre of habitat left in the Rio Grande Valley is irreplaceable […] We can’t afford to lose more of it to a useless, medieval wall that won’t do a thing to stop immigration or smuggling. President Biden’s cynical decision to destroy crucial wildlife habitat and seal the beautiful Rio Grande behind a grotesque border wall must be stopped.
It also prompted over 100 environmental, Indigenous, Latino, and social justice organizations to pen a letter to President Biden urging him at the very least to rescind the waivers, pointing out the cynicism of the administration in claiming that it must follow the law and build the wall while at the same time waiving 26 laws meant to protect communities and the environment.
During the election campaign, Biden’s poor record on most things (imperialism, policing, immigration) had to be swept under the rug in order to garner the necessary votes to beat Trump at the polls. Most working-class people, although not excited by the prospect of a Biden presidency, were willing to hold their nose in order to keep Trump out of office. It would be a stretch to say that hopes were high, but it is true that the masses did have some base-line expectations. And these expectations have been dashed, as low as they were.
But just because his betrayal was expected does not make it any more acceptable, and it just goes to show that not even the most minimal amount of trust can be put in bourgeois politicians of either party. Their interests are fundamentally opposed to ours, and the only way they can stay in power is by offering us crumbs, only to snatch half the crumbs before we even get to taste them!
It is necessary to build a huge mass-action-oriented movement in the United States to secure the rights of migrants and open the road to safe and equitable immigration into this country. In the long run, however, the only sure path ahead is to break with both bourgeois parties and build an activist working-class party that truly represents our interests. This is not a utopian proposition; it is in fact more realistic than believing politicians who serve the interests of the rich will ever give us the time of day. The building of this party is a conscious effort that requires the combined energy of all who work in our unions, community organizations, and campuses for a world of true justice and true equality.
The reason politicians like Biden can get away with betraying the working class, immigrant and otherwise, is because the working class is still under the spell of bourgeois democracy. As long as we continue to vote for them and fall for their lies, they will continue to hold power over us. The first step to building an independent working-class party is to patiently explain to our community and coworkers that our interests and those of our rulers are irreconcilable, and that to achieve our political aims we must walk our own path, free from the influence of the ruling class. Socialists would participate in building the new party, while helping activists to understand the crucial importance of a revolutionary program, which the working class could utilize in the effort to take political power.
Once working people are in power, the old repressive state apparatus can be dismantled, while the construction of a new just society is undertaken. Regarding the specific question of immigration, the new revolutionary government would put an end to the degradation of the immigrant working class; it would pull down that odious border wall brick by brick, it would close all immigrant concentration camps and end deportations. It would address the core causes of immigration by ending the rapacious imperial policy abroad of the United States and replacing it with a policy of solidarity and cooperation, paying reparations to the countries that have been sacked by the U.S. Empire. Our bleeding countries will flourish and take part in building a society where all peoples are free to develop to their full human capacities, and live anywhere they want without fear.
Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images