Of course we should resist Trump (and Obama and all those who preceded him) in their efforts to deport “illegals”, most of whom came to this country because U.S. negotiated “free trade” agreements eliminated their jobs or farms in their home country. How are we to do this in a way that goes beyond symbolic protest?
In what follows I want to briefly outline what I think will be the likely sequence of events to the present course of action that seems to have the full attention of the resist movement, and consider a different course, or at least an additional course, that might have a different outcome.
Non-Cooperation and the Likely Trump Response
Across the country local, and now state, governments are adopting policies to refuse cooperation with ICE. In response, the Trump Administration is rattling swords and threatening dire consequences, the most likely of which will be cutting of federal funds to state and local governments that don’t back down from their positions.
Will Trump follow through? There is little reason to think he won’t. Will court challenges to what Trump does stick? Even if upheld in District and Circuit courts, there is little reason to think they will when they reach the Supreme Court-that-will-soon-be with Senate approval of Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch.
If I am right in that appraisal, who will get hurt when funds are cut? For the most part, poor people, and those public employees whose salaries are paid by the grants that will no longer be. Here’s the dilemma: if it were there decision to take the cuts—as, for example, it is the decision of workers who vote to strike to forego their wages and risk their jobs—that would be one thing. But it’s not. The local and state governments responsible for the loss of their programs and jobs are likely to fold under this pressure. And the argument against folding is not, in my opinion, all that strong. We are talking about national policy. There is just so much that state and local governments can do to buck it. Even the once powerful Dixiecrats finally had to crumble in the face of federal intervention against legally-sanctioned discrimination in the south. Further, if these governments don’t fold they are asking very vulnerable people to make a sacrifice in whose decision they played no part.
Could these governments make up the loss in revenues? Maybe. It would probably require adoption of new taxes, and these new taxes would have to be substantial to make up for hundreds of millions of lost revenue. Will they do it? And even more pertinent, will they do it with “progressive” rather than “regressive” tax measures? None of them have adopted in any substantial way that kind of tax reform thus far.
Conclusion: the end game doesn’t look very good in the present scenario.
Divide and Conquer From the Bottom Up: An Alternative Or At Least A Complementary Strategy?
Our side cannot win this fight or, for that matter, any major fight in the national political arena at the present time. The cards are stacked against us: conservative Republicans control all three branches of the federal government, as well as a majority of state houses where they are using their authority to devise ingenious measures to limit the franchise for historically Democratic Party voters—particularly African-Americans.
If we don’t have a direct shot at the corner pocket, is there bank shot on the table? (Or, if you don’t know pool, are there other targets?) I think the possibility for those other targets lies in the private sector, in particular in businesses or business associations that we public supporters or Trump, in general, and of his immigration policy, in particular.
What would be proposed to such businesses? Publicly demand that the Administration back off its family-breaking policy. What if they won’t go along? Boycott their products and/or services, and use non-violent direct action tactics to publicly shame their executive officers. (By the way, a symbolic “don’t buy” day might be used to supplement the “don’t work” day that is now to be engaged in on May 1 by immigrant workers and their allies.)
Could this work? I don’t know. Neither does anyone. But in the 1960s and 1970s when boycott activity seriously damaged the profits of California agribusiness, growers suddenly became friends of collective bargaining legislation. (Up to that time, farm workers were able to engage in secondary boycotts because New Deal legislation creating the national collective bargaining framework excluded them—the direct result of the Dixiecrats who were protecting the near-slave status of southern black plantation workers. But 30 years later, in California, the shoe was on the other foot. Governor Jerry Brown got an excellent collective bargaining law passed by the legislature. (In fact, Cesar Chavez, leader of the United Farm Workers of America, initially opposed legislation. He now had the power, via national boycotts, to directly force growers to the bargaining table; he didn’t want to give it up to a third party. History proved him right when a newly elected Republican governor appointed pro-grower votes to the Commission that implemented the law.)
A General Point
On a broader front, I think those who are now fighting defensive battles over affordable housing, budget cuts in social programs, job losses to offshoring and similar issues should consider direct action aimed at corporate targets.
Government in the present time is not a likely arena for victories.