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International Migrants Day: How To Change The System?

Above photo: Poster for the 2018 International Migrants Day. African Development Bank Group/File photo.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed December 18 International Migrants Day in 2000. It took into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world. It aimed to further the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

The Convention recognizes the human rights of migrant workers and promotes their access to justice as well as to humane and lawful working and living conditions. It provides guidance on the elaboration of national migration policies and for international cooperation based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. It sets out provisions to combat abuse and exploitation of migrant workers and members of their families throughout the migration process.

The U.S. government has not signed onto or ratified the Convention.

Because of this, and the role of the U.S. government in causing migration from or within many countries, and the chaotic and inequitable dealing with the current issue of migrants to the U.S., including to Chicago, we all have a lot to do to rectify this matter.

Among the things to do is to insist that the City of Chicago open vacant schools to house migrants while assisting them to find jobs and stable housing. And we need to insist that the Biden Administration increase assistance for migrants, not further cut back further on the little the government has been doing (while it spends 65c of every federal discretionary tax dollar for the U.S. military and wars, such as against Russia using Ukraine as a proxy or the war against the Palestinians).

As with other major issues, we need to see and take into account cause and effect as well as what to do (1) how the U.S. capitalist ruling class has generally caused much of the migration and (2) also taken a very unjust stand on the issue of migrants and justice toward migrants.  And we need to (3) consider what to do aside from what I just suggested.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), an office of the United Nations, stated that in 2022 there were 281 million migrants in the world and that this number is growing, with more than 60,000 losing their lives each year in the process of migrating. Their lives are generally miserable. Main factors for the movement are civil wars or other wars, political instability, poverty and hunger, and the growing number of extreme weather events linked to climate change.

(1) What are some of the ways the U.S. capitalist ruling class and its government has caused much of the migration?

For one thing, the U.S. government has not been serious about stopping global warming/climate change even though the U.S. corporations and Pentagon are leading causes of pollution of the atmosphere and global warming.

For another thing, the U.S. government has interfered in many countries around the world, causing problems for the people there.

Here are some specific examples of this interference, focusing on a few of the Latin American countries which have had large numbers of migrants who have headed to the U.S. recently. I am doing this using Statements issued by the Chicago Antiwar Coalition (CAWC).

Venezuela: “As many people know, the U.S. government has been very rough with Venezuela—with attempted coups, stealing billions, sabotage, threatening military intervention, and sanctions [because of their] political structure, which includes participatory democracy and self-determination in local areas…[and] not giving up their alliance with other countries in Latin America opposing U.S. imperialism, such as Cuba or Nicaragua …

“With the $169 billion lost through U.S. attacks, Venezuela could have paid its entire external debt of $110 billion. Or had enough resources to import food and medicine for 45 years, and not have suffered the loss of 40,000 lives from lack of health care supplies.”

Cuba: “The U.S. government has had a ban on most exports to Cuba that began in 1960, and then was extended into a fuller economic, commercial, and financial blockade of Cuba by President Kennedy in 1962. This has  continued through 10 Presidents, Republican and Democrat… Cuba’s most recent report to the United Nations indicates that the accumulated damages caused by the blockade have reached $147,853,300,000. Biden is continuing in the anti-Cuba tradition of service to the ruling class…. signed… extension[s] of the Trading with the Enemy Act…continuing all of the sanctions that have been imposed on Cuba by Trump and other presidents, and adding new sanctions, even ignoring…the  call of 114 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to lift the U.S. sanctions that prevent the delivery of food, medicine and other humanitarian aid to Cuba…”

El Salvador: “Historically, in the mid-1800s, El Salvador depended on export of indigo and then, when that market disappeared, it went mainly into coffee production, as well as sugarcane and cotton. Much of this production and railways for transport was owned by U.S. and British investors. Taking land for these crops led to attacks and break up of Indigenous communal lands and the land of other people by the Salvadoran government. Indigenous uprisings were put down with the help of U.S. weaponry supplied to the Salvadoran government. This was true for other uprisings for over a century afterward.

“The government of El Salvador was dominated by a ruling class… working with the U.S…been transformed from the role of being agricultural exporters into 8 conglomerates concentrating on financial schemes. The U.S. corporations played a role in this by insisting that Salvadorans use U.S. agricultural products. Many people who worked on the plantations lost their jobs….

“From 1980 to 1993 the U.S. actively worked to oppose the popular Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and its fight to seize political power…  U.S.-backed military and death squads were responsible for the deaths of up to 80,000 Salvadorans. It intensified devastation and poverty…

“In 2006, El Salvador entered the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which gave U.S. corporations increased domination. Having U.S. industrial and commercial goods enter El Salvador duty free made it impossible for local industry to compete. The U.S. insisted on this despite big protests by unionists, farmers, and others who knew it was going to impoverish them further. Then, in 2014, the U.S. insisted that the El Salvador government end any support for locally sourced corn and bean seeds, and, instead, favor seeds imported from the U.S.”

Honduras:  “The U.S. also played a big role in the devastation and impoverishment of huge numbers of people in Honduras. For example, Samuel Zemurray, who made his fortune in the banana trade and became president of the United Fruit Company, the world’s most influential fruit company at the time, interfered big time in Honduran politics. In 1911 he worked with a former Honduran President, Bonilla, and U.S. General Lee Christmas to launch a coup and create a banana republic. This was done with involvement by the U.S. military…

“In 2005 Honduras entered CAFTA in the face of protests from unions and local farmers who feared being outcompeted by large-scale American producers. Rapidly, Honduras went from being a net agricultural exporter to a net importer, leading to loss of jobs for small-scale farmers and increased rural migration.

”The United States government under President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton backed the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected and popularly supported President Jose Manuel Zelaya in June, 2009.  The U.S. government has supported successor regimes and maintains a military base in Honduras….”

”Guatemala has many riches that could make it prosperous—if those riches were not being stolen by the more than 200 U.S. and other foreign corporations and for the investors and the rich ruling class in Guatemala. They are engaged in manufacturing, agriculture, mining and drilling, and services…”

“Another area of responsibility of the U.S. is the situation of violent gangs in El Salvador as well as a growing gang presence in Honduras and Guatemala. This begins with the U.S. government not dealing with the social and economic conditions in the U.S., which has given rise to gangs seeking money and control of their lives. The U.S. government has selfishly shifted parts of that problem to.. countries …by deporting gang members who then create a climate of gang control and crime and violence among the people of those countries. This is especially true of the Salvadoran youth who came to the U.S. to escape the civil war, formed gangs to defend against other gangs, and have been deported to El Salvador in large numbers.”

 (2) How has the Biden Administration taken a very unjust stand on the issue of migrants and justice toward migrants…

“The Biden Administration is trying to beat back attacks on it that say it is soft on immigrants coming into the U.S. Meanwhile it is also trying to appear humanitarian… It is talking about addressing ‘the roots of the problem.’  But it is not seriously dealing with the inequities caused by the capitalist system. As well, the situation is still that there are many migrants living in squalor south of the border in Mexico hoping to be allowed entry to the U.S. after being turned away…

“Despite claims of some that the Biden Administration is creating ‘open borders,’ the Biden administration continues to rapidly expel most people who arrive at the southern border… including 40% of all families and 90% of all single adults…

“Biden has proposed legislation that will seem to be humanitarian while making it take a long time and be expensive to gain citizenship…the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021… includes an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the roughly 11 million immigrants living without documentation in the U.S. and calls for additional technology to be used to help secure the southern border. Senator Bob Menendez supports it because the 11 million are ‘essential workers who should not be left behind…’

“This current burning matter… comes in a context where the U.S. ruling class has used and abused immigrants since the beginning days of the country.  Before that, British colonies were established on a racist and profit-making basis against Native Americans and others…

“The racist nature of the U.S. ruling class toward immigrants is shown in the Naturalization Act of 1790. This allows only free white persons of ‘good character’ who have lived in the U.S. for two years to apply for citizenship. Without citizenship, non white residents were denied basic constitutional protections, including the right to vote, own property, or testify in courts.

“Then there was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that suspended Chinese immigration for ten years and declared Chinese immigrants ineligible for naturalization even though from the 1850s Chinese immigrants were needed as cheap labor for the risky job of building transcontinental railroads, working in gold mines, agricultural jobs, and factory work, especially in the garment industry.

“In 1907, amid prejudices in California that an influx of Japanese workers would cost white workers farming jobs and depress wages, immigration was restricted.

“The Immigration Act of 1917 established a literacy requirement for immigrants entering the country and halted immigration from most Asian countries.

“The Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. yearly through nationality quotas that favored immigration from Northern and Western European countries, and completely excluded immigrants from Asia, aside from the Philippines, then an American colony. In 1924, the U.S. Border Patrol was established.

“Labor shortages during World War ll prompted the U.S. government to start the Bracero Program, which allowed Mexican agricultural workers to enter the United States temporarily. The program lasted until 1964.”

(3) What to do about all this?

“We are living in a system in which the corporate owners want to make maximum profits. They do this by employing the cheapest labor they can find, and keeping a supply of unemployed workers as a tool for keeping wages down—or workers will be replaced by someone from the surplus labor pool. They use the divide and conquer method by setting one nationality against another, and citizens vs non-citizens.”

So, in addition to trying to help migrants at the local and federal levels, don’t we also need to get ourselves better organized to change the system that is at the root of the problem that causes so many people to migrate?

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