YDS Activist Agenda Proposal: Immigrant Rights

Expanding the Fight for Economic Justice:
Immigration, Foreign Policy and Worker’s Rights

After a full year of YDS’ Immigrant Rights Project, it is clear that our work to promote immigrant rights is necessary and important. The compromise immigration proposal in Congress this summer (while supported by many immigrant rights advocates, particularly those with an inside-the-beltway relationship with institutions of power) was rejected by many other immigrants and their allies, including the Young Democratic Socialists. We believe that the proposed bill compromised far too much and would have created, among other things, an even more unbalanced economic relationship between capitalist institutions and everyday people, both here and abroad, than currently exists. This outweighs the fact that most political analysis believe that the Democratic Party will not take up the issue of immigrant rights for several years, even if they win the White House and maintain their power in Congress.

If YDS believed in a primarily electoral path to justice, we would simply pursue a new national project. However, as socialists committed to true democratic politics, we believe that the fight for reforms is as much about empowering, positioning and preparing working people for the next fight as it is about winning any particular election or enacting needed legislation. It’s about organizing! The right knows this, and indeed the compromise bill emboldened a vocal right wing grassroots such as the Minutemen. The Right wing base, led by the reactionary media outlets and commentators such as Lou Dobbs and hard right elected officials, will continue to demonize immigrants and lay the groundwork for punitive local policies.

This drumbeat for deportation compliments Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country, which have dramatically increased in the last year and targeted workplaces where workers have demanded better working conditions or wages. The Right’s rhetoric demonizes immigrant women, justifies the separation of parents without papers from their American children, and blames immigrants for wasting public resources in schools and hospitals. Such rhetoric ignores the facts that 1) undocumented immigrants pay billions more into Social Security and Medicare than they take out and 2) immigrants collectively pay more in taxes than they consume[1]. Now that capital’s primary goal of a massive new guest worker program failed through the compromise bill, corporate interests are likely to push for this and other policies through individual legislation. Immigrant communities terrorized by ICE attacks on their workplaces, their homes, and even the shopping centers they frequent are fighting back, but they need solidarity from allies now more than ever.[2]

Our role as democratic socialists is thus to organize our communities to side with progressive forces on immigration. The time is now to fight back against the scapegoating of immigrant workers. Our job as socialists is to educate our peers about the true culprit behind economic insecurity and depressed wages: the capitalist system of exploitation. The Young Democratic Socialists nationally and locally must mobilize young people to support the rights of all workers, undocumented or not. This is especially important for chapters outside of major immigrant communities. We must be the allies of immigrants where their voices are often neglected. In addition, it is up to socialists to argue that as long as capitalism is the dominant global economic system, and capital flows across borders without regulation, migration will be a fact of life and immigrant workers will be simultaneously exploited and blamed for native workers’ economic woes.

For these reasons, YDS will carry over our Immigrant Rights Project into another year. In our first year, YDS discussion groups explored the economic, racial and other aspects of this issue, and YDSers mobilized for Mayday protests and other events. In our second year, we hope to reflect on lessons learned and build on our experiences to have an even stronger national project that every YDS local supports and actively carries out. YDS must use the Immigrant Rights Project as a method to unify our voice, build alliances, and create a greater presence for ourselves on the Left.

Suggested Activities (in addition to those proposed last year):

1) Working with National Youth and Student Peace Coalition partners on Immigrant Rights. Immigrant Rights one of six issues in the NYSPC’s “Youth Agenda.”

[1] San Diego ACLU, Immigrant Fact Sheet, http://www.aclusandiego.org/issues_item.php?cat_id_sel=001&sub_cat_sel=000005&article_id=000025

[2] In April ICE agents in full military garb, carrying M-16 rifles locked down a shopping mall in a large Mexican American neighborhood in Chicago and questioned shoppers and vendors, demanding to see papers for everyone before releasing them. The community responded immediately, with a crowd gathering outside to protest.

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