The Immigration Movement at a Crossroads

by DAN La BOTZ

America’s immigrants-most of them Latinos and most of those from Mexico-have been waiting and hoping for a comprehensive immigration reform, one that would legalize those who have been working in the United States and give them a path to citizenship without creating new guest workers programs. A year ago the Latino immigrants marched with their flags, with our flag, and with the slogan "No Human Being is Illegal." They asked to be recognized for their labor and their on-going contribution to our society. Since that wave of demonstrations, they have waited patiently.

Now Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), have put forward the Strive Act of 2007, a bill born in the hope of pleasing not only the immigrants but also conservatives in both parties. The bill will please neither. The immigrants have already spoken. Nativo V. López of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), who has been the most consistent fighter for a genuinely comprehensive immigration reform, has called the bill unacceptable as has the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

Once again, López has it right. The Gutierrez-Flake proposal fails to guarantee legalization for all immigrants who are here now, it would continue to criminalize immigrants, and it includes guest worker programs with the promise of legalization, but many years down the road. Under this bill, immigrants can’t even apply for legalization until corporations like Boeing, Ericsson, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon have made millions making the border secure. If immigrants want something better than this-and we know they do-then they will have to show their power as they did last spring.


A Day Without a Mexican

The immigrants’ power is enormous. Last year’s demonstrations in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, but also in many other cities and small towns, verged on becoming general strikes with the power to shut down both industry and services. If immigrants were to use their peaceful power, either by a one-day national strike-"A Day without a Mexican"-or by a series of strikes in selected cities or industries, they would once again put their case before the American people. They would show beyond a doubt that immigrants are working people-and that they demand their rights.

The grassroots Latino organizations know they have the power to do this, to call national demonstrations and to strike, with or without the blessing of the Catholic Church, without or without the sanction of the mainline Hispanic organizations, and with or without the okay of the unions. Latinos know they have the power because they did it once before, only a year ago, in the largest demonstrations of a social movement in the history of the United States.

If immigrants take to the streets again in the spring they will through their mobilization draw many tens of thousands of people into the movement. New people will come out who have never been involved before. The movement will construct new organizations and create new leaders. A Latino movement in the streets will find new allies in American society and it will keep pressure on Congress.

While the establishment organizations may be fearful of another round of demonstrations and the possibility of a strike, once the demonstrations begin the churches, the mainline Hispanic organizations and the unions will rally to the cause. Latinos and other immigrants represent a minority of the society and they need allies to win, but one gains allies only by acting with integrity in one’s own interest. Power exerts a magnetic force and draws others to it, just as weakness repels.

If immigrants do not keep up the pressure, then they can expect that Flake-Gutierrez will be whittled down to a highly repressive law that legalizes some while leaving most as guest workers or as undocumented immigrants condemned to continue to lead lives in the shadows. If immigrants don’t use their power, they can expect the raids like that in New Bedford, Massachusetts to continue, where men and women rounded up, detained and deported while their children are left behind. If immigrants don’t use their power, we will continue to see more Hazelton, Pennsylvanias and more Butler County, Ohios where local authorities terrorize the immigrant population.

The Latino immigrant movement stands at a crossroads, immigrants themselves will choose. They will either stand up again courageously as they did last year and use their tremendous peaceful power to win the solution that they deserve-legalization for all who are here now, a road to citizenship for those who so desire, and no guest programs-or they will step back from the challenge, allowing their opponents to divide and conquer with a "compromise bill." The lives of millions of immigrants and the future of the immigrant communities for the next several decades will be affected by their decision.

DAN La BOTZ serves on the coordinating committee of the Coalition for Immigrants Rights and Dignity (Coalición por los Derechos y la Dignidad de los Inmigrantes ­CODEDI–www.codedi.org) which helped to organize the spring 2006 demonstrations in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. He alone is responsible for the opinions expressed here.


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman