On Immigration-History is on Our Side II
The Extreme Right Advances and the Immigrant Rights Movement?
From Rosarito, Baja California-Mexico January 9, 2008
“It should be noted, in November 2006 when the Latino electorate, inspired and motivated by the historical mobilizations, voted at a whopping 84% against the war in Iraq, the Republican Party lost its majority in Congress. Again today, if the political and organizational goals of the movement are met, the electorate in general and the Latino vote in particular, will again be moved by this struggle of hope and dignity and its historical accomplishments”
The year 2007 is gone and we had no immigration reform, but neither did the war on Iraq come to a halt nor was George W. Bush impeached. Why? Obviously the political conditions have not matured. For the immigrant rights movement, a well planned and effective political mobilization in 2008 is key, not only to assure immigration reform gets the nod in 2009, but also the type and quality of the legalization that finally emerges from a democratic controlled administration. A lot will depend on how the groups of power and influence in this social struggle resolve their conflicts and divisions, especially the huge and dominant Latino sector.
On the other side of the spectrum, the nationalist extreme right recovered from the failed HR4437 of 2006, mobilizing its conservative base to stop the not very generous “Grand Bargain Senate Bill of 2007”. Though, in real terms, the highly boasted defeat of that proposal was in reality a pyrrhic victory for the right. Why? Because in the battle, the majority of the social movement táctically opposed it at the same time that the right wing pointed all its cannon on Washington. For it was only a fraction of the pro-reform forces accompanied by the Spanish language Latino media.
Today the neo-fascist and racist anti immigrant sectors, under the direction of F.A.I.R. and accompanied by a reported group of national talk show hosts, camped out in Iowa, at a Marriott Hotel, and reportedly influenced the presidential campaign debate. Considering that the February 5 Super Duper Tuesday Primaries are just weeks away, where 22 states will be participating and that more than likely the candidates for the major parties may well be defined, it is incumbent to point out that this is precisely what the immigrant rights forces should be doing. But like the recently awarded journalist Ruben Luengas says, “Let’s Put it in Context”.
The political panorama is complex and diverse and it includes the country’s, and for that matter, the world’s number one concern, putting an end to the war on Iraq and its catastrophic consequences, the death of almost 2 million Iraqis and millions more displaced refugees and their country destroyed; a major economic crisis for the majorities which recent statistics point to 10%, 30 million Americans suffering from hunger, while ironically, at the same time, wealth is concentrating further in fewer hands; the state of the nation’s health and housing systems have turned into a true social nightmare for the people; a broken immigration system which has over 3 million applicants and their families waiting in an endless line and millions more for citizenship; no humane immigration reform for the 13 million plus undocumented immigrants and their families, violating the human rights of their 3.3 million US born children; and of course President Bush and his Homeland Security’s brutal campaign of terror and fear on the nation’s immigrant community, which has grown into a collective psychosis. Make no mistake, it’s a WAR ON IMMIGRANTS and it is Latinos and particularly Mexicans feeling the brunt of the vengeful targeted racist repression.
Add to this scenario the anti-immigrant media environment, orchestrated by a group of organizations, financed by wealthy millionaires and right wing corporate foundations and massified by key national TV and radio networks. It is not far fetched to speculate that the East Coast mass murder of four Latino immigrants, recently stabbed in their humble dwelling, could be attributed to the neo-fascist propaganda. And more, New York, the Big Apple State just rejected a Republican proposed drivers license law and it appears Michigan is about to consider cancelling it’s law. And all this onslaught without a socially responsible response by the Latino Spanish language media.
Coincidentally, the political background to the final stretch of this epic human drama is vastly similar to the campaign for the IRCA Amnesty Law 82-86, because it also entails a presidential campaign. And this one has all the indicators of a change of guard for the empire. From a republican to a democratic administration that will once again change the correlation of forces in the country, with the latter increasing its majority in congress. With George W. Bush and the republicans out of the White House the extreme right will lose its principal advantages.
However, as we pointed out after the November 2006 elections, “the democrats, as part of the Empire will not make any decisive moves on ending the war, nor resolving the immigration crisis, unless the mass movement, in all its forms, puts the heat on”.
In 2007, an overwhelming majority of the movement opposed the Strive Act and the Grand Bargain bills, opting instead for and to create more favorable conditions for an inclusive, humane, pro immigrant, non-corporate designed immigration reform. One that could conform to the norms established in the 1991 United Nations International Covenant for the Protection of Migrant Workers. But it should be highlighted that the decisive factor in the defeat of the corporate designed Grand Bargain Bill was the right wing and the flood of emails, faxes and telephone calls it generated to the capitol.
Today as in 2006, this movement needs the unity of its forces to influence over the type and quality of the future immigration reform proposals in the house, the senate and the country’s next president. So what is to be done? The grass roots bases await the next move but the leadership and the power blocks are confused, divided and moving without searching for broad unity and broad strategies. At this time within the pro immigrant forces there are several alternatives on the people’s agenda. There are those that will wait until the presidential campaign concludes and then reenter the debate. Then, there is a wing of the movement that is pushing to resurrect the immigration reform debate under the auspices of the Democratic Party and the Hispanic Caucus, within the framework of the STRIVE ACT. It should also be said that the last proposition put forth by Cong. Luis Gutierrez in Washinghton D.C. on October 25, 2007, regressively surpassed that framework, proposing continuous five year permits, with the right to obtain citizenship only after the immigrant’s citizen children reach 21 years of age. Alicia Flores of La Hermandad Mexicana Trans-Nacional poignantly commented, “Congressman Gutierrez had no shame in presenting his new proposal”. The progressive alternative however has been to maintain the struggle relentlessly upfront, capitalize and mount the effort on the presidential campaign, attempt to build a united front with all forces, not give in to the pressures of the liberal establishment and push forward a more progressive immigration agenda such as the “Blue Print Plan”.
The problem that rises forth in the present is the following: the thick of the social forces, those that mobilized the country in these last two years, are seeing May 1st as an end in itself, not as a tactic within a strategic plan that began in March 2006. This is where the the right wing has moved ahead. Led by F.A.I.R., the leading and founding organization of the anti-immigrant movement with more experience, funds, resources and an excessive access to the mainstream national media, it mounted its noxious campaign with relative success on the Republican candidates in the Iowa Caucuses. There was a show of opposition by the pro immigrant forces in this mid-western state but it was an uneven showdown. Logically, as the history of the civil rights movement dictates, at that moment the opposition national leadership should have been there with all its media resources, Latino radio hosts and TV network anchors.
If my calculations are near reality, the victory that will empower the undocumented immigrant could arrive at the end of 2009. But to reach it, the leadership has to formulate a stratégical vision in a framework of cumulative phases for the next twenty tour months.
The Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, though both with overwhelming white voters, are indicators that the country has begun to move around the electoral process. The results are revealing. An African American and a woman, both liberals, win on the democratic side and the clear right winger and anti immigrant Republican candidate Romney, with all his millions lost. At this early stage, in the context of a serious planned strategy, indisputably public opinión has to be mobilized and apparently this could be the opening the movement is waiting for. The tests will be Michigan and Florida this month and then the Tsunami-Super Duper Tuesday primaries on February 5 when 2000 delegates will be decided on. Enough to crown the nomination. Many of the 22 states participating, California, New York, Illinois, etc., have large immigrant populations and also experienced statewide coalitions active on behalf of the immigrant communities.
Then comes the third May 1st-International Workers Day 2008 in struggle. What can be called, the Immigrant’s Super Thursday, with all its mass marches and a potential national boycott possibly as big as in 2006. And then comes another battle, the August DNC-National Democratic Convention, where hundreds of Latino delegates, the base of the democratic party, in alliance with afro-American and progressive delegates, imperatively have to send an unequivocal message to the party on immigration, universal health care, the war and other issues. The work of relating and building bridges with these sectors has to begin immediately, identifying them methodically on a national level and meeting with them to discuss and advance our positions.
It should be noted, in November 2006 when the Latino electorate, inspired and motivated by the historical mobilizations, voted at a whopping 84% against the war in Iraq, the Republican Party lost its majority in Congress. Again today, if the political and organizational goals of the movement are met, the electorate in general and the Latino vote in particular, will again be moved by this struggle of hope and dignity and its historical accomplishments. Additionally, on par, the movement has to find the key message to communicate to the American people. In the war of ideology, the opposition has to be dealt a resounding defeat.
The specialized electoral work, headed by seasoned organizations with which the immigrant rights movement has alliances, is already on the move. And in another vein, so strong is the sentiment against the war, that the Republican hard right, so dominant and shrewd during the last twenty years in Washington, is in disarray, and the rats have been jumping off the ship.
Alter the 2008 electoral fight and the extreme right is defeated, its base will be morally disheartened and in the post-mortem the Republican leadership will have no answers. In this hypothetical scenario, the last battle will be waged against the extreme right wing in 2009, but by then the movement should be once again on the offensive.
In another flank, within the ranks, there are forces that consistently vacillate, but unfortunately they are the ones the system acknowledges and legitimizes as the spokespersons of this new struggle for equality and civil rights. This powerful group is the same one defeated by the right on the “Grand Bargain” battle and it is comprised of a sector of labor and what I have defined as the Latino Political Establishment, made up of the growing and always moderate Latino Political Class. These are the elected and designated politicians and national organizations financed by the state and big capital. Predictably they will continue to play the same role and accept the same low quality immigration reform with its three corporate designed components: national security, a guest worker program and a superficial truncated legalization with no full rights what so ever and which will not make a dent the problem of international globalized exploitation,.
This is key. Soon after the epical historical accomplishments of the grass roots movements of 82-86, of 94 and today’s 2006-07, the above described sectors entered the scene. With their offices and resources in the nation’s capital they became the spokespersons, the brokers and negotiators of the people’s struggles. This, without investing funds, without mobilizing bases, because they don’t know how nor do they believe that the mass political struggle in the streets is fundamental for social change. Again however, there are exceptions.
For the Great American Boycott of May 1st 2006, California Senators Gloria Romero and Gil Cedillo, State Speaker Fabian Nunez and Assemblyman Kevin de Leon and other politicians bred in the immigrant rights struggle, promoted statewide support and astonishingly closed the state’s capital building and joined the marches. However the country’s most popular Latino politician and Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, also a former disciple of the left oriented immigrant rights movement, didn’t close City hall, and not only scabbed on the historical boycott that shut down 50 to 75% of LA’s economy, but, along with Cardinal Roger Mahoney, Governor Schwarzenegger and President Bush actually campaigned against it.
Then there is the perpetual ally of the Latino Establishment, the Latino Spanish language media. An extremely valuable ally on the road to March 25 -with the clarification that it was the social movement who reached out to and motivated them- as the political climate radicalized and the call was made for the 2006 national boycott most of the media radically campaigned against it. In 2007, again with exceptions, it did its best to confuse the people questioning at all times the reduction of the crowds. The “objective news coverage” hardly ever placed the problem in context: the government’s brutal and terrorizing national campaign of raids and deportations, including the vicious and massive police beating of women and children, the elderly and reporters at McArthur Park in Los Angeles. It should be made clear that although the great majority of the rank and file in the corporate Spanish language media is Latino and that the great majority of them sincerely supported the people and the political fight back, most of the venues are the private property of the media conglomerates in the country. The colonial type of relations in this industry unfortunately still prevail.
How then can we neutralize, prevent that this movement and its hard earned results be “disdained, outsmarted and co-opted” precisely after its accomplishments flourish? In this phase of the struggle the construction of the broad front of all the sectors is fundamental. The national coalitions and organizations and leaders of this movement should, because time is of the essence, break with the present organizational and political designs and concert unity in its broadest conception. Key in this uniting effort is ensuring that the work and agreements evolve to be able to open spaces, national headquarters in Washington and selected regions to organize, coordinate, advocate, lobby and project the vision, political positions and the accomplishments of the work of the movement.
Lastly, in November 2007 over 450 delegates from 29 states and more than 150 organizations met in Mexico City at the Legislative Palace of the National Congress and formed the Migrant’s Parliament of Mexican Leaders Residing in the US. This is a new important political development in the struggle of Mexican people in the US, because for the first time a movement of grass roots leaders, from this side of the border debated and planned the organization and defense of the Mexican immigrant sponsored and convened by one of the institutional powers of a Latin American state, the Mexican Congress. And allow me to clarify, in absolute terms, this newborn expressión of social struggle has no direct links, nor is it controlled by the president of Mexico. In the immediate future I will write a historical and analytical piece on the content and significance of this new development in the struggle of Mexican people abroad, who happen to be 65% of the immigrant population here inside the empire. It is fundamental to understand the history and the role of Mexican people, of its Congress and the whole of its social movement, because Mexico can become a strategic link in the migrants struggle for justice and against globalized international capital.
Javier Rodríguez a columnist and a media and political strategist was also the initiator of the historical 25 March 2006 1.7 million mega march in Los Angeles and is a co-founding member of el Parlamento Migrante and the March 25 Coalition. Bajolamiradejavier@yahoo.com 213-909-6397
The May 1st national Movement and the March 25 Coalition will be convening the 2ND National Conference for the rights of immigrants and workers and the organization of may 1st-international workers day. It will be proposed that the conference take place in Los angeles in late february 2008. polítical strategies and táctics for this phase of the struggle, including may 1sr 2008 will be discussed.
The call could be out soon in the next two weeks.