Behind the Federal Court Ruling: Vicious Attack on Immigrants Continues

This article originally in Revolution newspaper

On July 28, federal judge Susan Bolton issued a ruling that "enjoined"—temporarily prevented—Arizona from enacting four major sections of a vicious anti-immigrant law SB 1070. Nine other provisions became state law on July 29.

After Bolton's decision was announced, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer immediately declared that she "will not back down" and said the court's injunction was merely a "bump in the road." She ordered the state to file an appeal in federal court. A hearing on the appeal is expected in the fall in federal court in San Francisco, and lawyers for both sides have said they expect this case to go to the Supreme Court.
 
The Ruling
 
The federal court ruling put some of the most notorious provisions of SB 1070 on hold. These provisions include the requirement that police question everyone they stop, arrest, or detain, if they have a "reasonable suspicion" about their immigration status.
 
Other provisions that Bolton enjoined include those that make it a state crime for immigrants not to apply for "registration papers," to "look for, or solicit work," and to allow the police to make warrantless arrests if they had "probable cause" that the person was "removable from the U.S."
 
Bolton's ruling upheld very repressive portions of 1070 (officially called the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act"). It allowed to go into effect portions of the law that make it a criminal act to "harbor and transport illegal immigrants." For instance, if someone were to pick up an immigrant crossing the desert and dying of thirst and provided them with transportation to get water, she could be prosecuted under this provision.
 
Bolton's ruling also upheld portions of the law that allow residents of Arizona to sue any state official, agency or political subdivision for adopting a policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration law to less than the full extent permitted by federal law. This provision was aimed, among other things, at preventing municipalities from becoming "sanctuary cities." Arizona cities—including Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, and Tucson—are considered sanctuary cities because they have laws limiting or prohibiting the cooperation between their local police departments and immigration officials.
 
Also in effect: provisions of the law that make it illegal for an individual who is "in violation of a criminal offense" to knowingly (1) transport or move or attempt to transport or move an alien in a means of transportation in furtherance of the alien's unlawful presence in the United States; (2) conceal, harbor or shield or attempt to conceal, harbor or shield an alien in the state; and (3) encourage or induce an alien to come to or live in Arizona.
 
In striking down some of the most egregious provisions of the law, particularly those that essentially converted Arizona police into federal immigration agents, the court's reasoning was not that those provisions were inhumane. The court did not rule that these provisions in the law constitute fascist, police-state terror against anyone who supposedly looks like an undocumented immigrant. The federal court ruling was made on the basis that the enjoined provisions interfered with, or stepped on the federal government's role, including in setting foreign policy.
 
Increasingly Deadly Ground
 
There have been significant and important protests in Arizona, and protests against SB 1070 around the U.S. and in Mexico as well. Courageous youth and others, mainly Chicano and Mexican, braved phalanxes of police and took to the streets. Some chained themselves to state buildings. Dozens were arrested. (See "Resistance in Phoenix.")
 
Around the country, artists, athletes, and even many local governments spoke out against the law, and declared boycotts of the state. By early May, the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association announced that 19 conventions, and numerous concerts, had been cancelled by organizations and people opposed to the law.
 
The Border Governors Conference, an annual meeting of the governors of Mexican and U.S. states along the border that had been scheduled to be held in Phoenix, was cancelled by Arizona Governor Brewer after the leaders of six Mexican states said they would not attend a meeting in Arizona.
 
And yet, the attacks on immigrants have escalated.
 
The stated overall purpose of 1070 was to drive immigrants—people who have worked the most back-breaking, low-paying jobs in the rapidly growing state for years—out of Arizona. As Section I of the law states, "The intent of SB 1070 is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona… and the provisions of this act are intended to work to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States."
 
From April 24, when Governor Brewer signed this bill into law, through the recent federal court ruling, the system's fascist attack on immigrants has gained deadly ground. Nine of 13 parts of the draconian, extremely repressive Arizona law were upheld—that is NOT good. And already, SB 1070 has ratcheted up the level of terror facing immigrants in Arizona. Many have been driven from the state. For those who remain, conditions evoke those described in the Diary of Anne Frank—a young Jewish girl who hid in an attic in the Netherlands for years in an attempt to avoid being rounded up by the Nazis in World War 2.
 
And the terms of "debate" over immigration have been further driven to the right. So-called moderate Senator Lindsey Graham is proposing to overturn the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that gave citizenship to former slaves and others born in this country. Barack Obama—the so-called defender of immigrants—followed up his major speech on immigration by saying he is sending more troops to the border, which is bound to result in even greater numbers of people dying attempting to cross. ("Needed: Mass Opposition to Attacks on Immigrants," Revolution #207, July 18, 2010)
 
These developments call for a clear-eyed and sober assessment of the situation, and even more determined struggle. And beyond that, there is a need to confront, and act on, what is required to fundamentally change this whole situation.
 
Divisions—and Fundamental Unity—in the Ruling Class
 
On July 6, the Obama administration filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against SB 1070. The essence of their suit was not that the Arizona law mandated profiling of people because their skin is brown, or because of their accent or the language they speak, or the clothes they wear, or any other reason the police claim to be "reasonably suspicious." The Obama administration objected to the law on the basis that enforcement of immigration law is a federal, not state, mandate or responsibility.
 
The lawsuit filed by Obama's Department of Justice focused not on the obvious "ethnic profiling" that is part and parcel of 1070, but instead solely on the question of who is responsible—the federal or state and local governments—for repressing and controlling immigrants.
 
The contending arguments to the federal court from backers of SB 1070 and the Obama Justice Department reveal real divisions among the ruling class. But those divisions are over how to handle what "both sides" see as a so-called "immigration problem." But both sides in this dispute are in agreement on some basic and fundamental things.
 
The entire U.S. ruling class sees the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants as a source of highly exploitable labor. In 2009, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testified before the Senate that "illegal immigration makes a significant contribution to U.S. economic growth by providing a flexible workforce," and provides a "safety valve" as demand for workers rises and falls. "There is little doubt that unauthorized, that is, illegal, immigration has made a significant contribution to the growth of our economy," Greenspan concluded.
 
Further, there are significant international implications at stake; in particular, it is vitally important to the international dominance of the U.S. ruling class to maintain a semblance of stability in Mexico. Remittances from Mexicans in the U.S. to their families in Mexico accounted for $21.5 billion in 2009. As the column "Spotlight" in the journal Southwest Economy points out, "The money from abroad is important for many families in poorer regions of Mexico, such as the south and west."
 
The entire U.S. ruling class ALSO sees immigrants as a potential political force strongly opposed to the government. They demand that immigrants be forced "out of the shadows," identified, and tightly controlled. "Liberal" Congressman and supposed champion of immigrants rights, Luis Gutierrez, told CNN's Anderson Cooper, "Let's register them with the government, so we know who the good and the bad ones are, and we can keep the good ones and get rid of the bad ones." The Democrats hope to corral "the good ones" (in the words of Gutierrez) into the suffocating confines of the two-party electoral system, and this leads them to adopt less openly repressive and anti-immigrant tactics. 
 
Yet, even within these fundamental areas of agreement within the ruling class, there are very intense disagreements. The forces that backed SB 1070, and the whole fascist network of Tea Partiers, Minutemen, and neo-Nazis… and their sponsors in high places, see this situation as a way to further whip up and enflame a fascist base united around this being a "white man's country." While a few Republicans still hope to win Latino votes, the bulk of the party has shifted to this view.
 
As a recent article in Revolution said: "The heart of the program of these fascists is to restore or return to that original social contract—with its male supremacy and white supremacy—which they associate with a time when the U.S. was 'riding high.' In fact, many even wax nostalgic about the Confederacy when the only reason for its existence was to defend slavery. In their view, if it takes establishing a fascist regime to do it, so be it."
 
The "brains" behind this movement, the more sophisticated reactionary political operatives, almost certainly want to retain at least some of this highly exploitable section of workers in some form. But these sections of the ruling class have incited and inflamed a rabid, nativist movement with something of a life of its own. They have been taken off their leashes. What that will mean is not fully predictable, but it is very alarming and ominous.
 
Obama, and the forces within the ruling class he represents, have approached what they call the "immigration problem" with similar goals, but different methods. And, they argue, they have produced "results." Obama's "stealth raids" on workplaces have taken the form of letters to companies demanding mass firings, not highly visible workplace raids characteristic of the Bush years, but have resulted in more people losing their jobs. Far more people have been deported in the first years of Obama's administration than during any year of Bush's presidency—287,868 in 2009 alone.
 
And the Obama administration has continued and intensified a deadly military build-up along the U.S.-Mexico border. In July, Secretary of Homeland Security (and former Arizona governor) Janet Napolitano announced that the government was sending "mobile surveillance systems, thermal imaging binocular units, and trucks equipped with detection scopes, as well as observation and utility aircraft" to the Tucson sector of the U.S.-Mexico border. (Arizona Republic, August 7, 2010) This year alone there have been two outright murders by U.S. police or border agents along the border. And countless people have died trying to cross harsh mountainous desert of the Arizona-Mexico border region.
 
The importance of maintaining a unified national policy on immigration was in fact a theme running through much of Judge Bolton's ruling on 1070. Bolton's ruling expressed concern about "intrusive police practices that might affect international relations and generate disloyalty."
 
Key figures behind or promoting 1070 see Bolton's injunction on 1070 as a gauntlet thrown down before them. In an email to supporters, Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, one of 1070's sponsors, wrote that "Judge Bolton's temporary injunction against parts of the law is a minor setback, but Arizona will fight this in court until we prevail … SB 1070 is the law of the State of Arizona … By siding with lawbreakers and undermining the Democratic will of the American people, I'm tempted to call Obama and his lackeys domestic enemies. At the very least he is more concerned about what America's enemies think about SB 1070 than the American people." (Border Issues: Mexico, Aug. 3, 2010, www.borderissues.us)
 
The fact that a rising star in the Republican Party can call Obama a "domestic enemy" speaks volumes. Such talk is part of a whole strategy to de-legitimize Obama and the Democrats—to call into serious question their "right to rule"—and this kind of move both reflects the sharpness of contradictions among the rulers over how to rule, and carries with it the risk for the ruling class that at some point the legitimacy of the ruling class as a whole can be called into question… by the further unfolding and development of the situation (in connection with other things going on in society) and the political work of revolutionaries.
 
Meanwhile, the infamous and sadistic Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County (Phoenix and its surroundings), made it clear that he intends to continue raids and sweeps of immigrant communities despite the injunction, announcing that "not much is really going to change, other than the fact that if we come across an illegal alien that doesn't have a state charge, now we can arrest them and book them into the jail or turn them over to ICE; so that's the only little extra hook, but we're going to continue to do our job." (ABC News interview, July 28, 2010)
 
What Lies Ahead?
 
The conflict between different groupings in the ruling class over the best ways to control, exploit and terrorize immigrants cannot be the only struggle on the map! Here it must be said that the revolutionary communists, for our part, recognize in immigrants one potential base for revolution. Many bring with them a first-hand knowledge of, and hatred for, how imperialism has plundered and dominated their home countries. Many also bring the bitter experience of grinding exploitation within the imperialist countries themselves. The revolution seeks to unleash this potential as part of a movement for revolution—not to suppress it, whether by brutal pogroms like those of the Republicans or the silent raids and militarized border of Obama and the Democrats.
 
In opposition to the open wolf-like fascism of the Republicans and the more fox-like repression of the Democrats, we further seek to rally all people to support the basic and fundamental rights of immigrants to live free of brutalization, repression and discrimination. The movement for revolution is an internationalist movement—one that stands for, and lives out, the principle of equality of all nations. This is in sharp contrast and diametrical opposition to both the Republicans and Democrats.
 
In regard to the crisis around Arizona, the whole terms of things have to change. Something unapologetically representing the interests of the masses must come to the fore. The presence of the movement for revolution must be stepped up, and there must in general be much more resistance, from immigrants and non-immigrants alike. This resistance must involve a whole host of political views, and there must be struggle within
it over the real source of the problem and the real pathways to solution. To this point, thousands have courageously opposed demonization and terror inflicted upon immigrants, and the revolutionary stand has begun to get out there. But much more is needed.
 
At stake here is what kind of world we want, and are willing to fight for, and to live in. Will it be a world where people are hunted down and persecuted, separated from their families and loved ones, driven from place to place, penned up and displayed for public humiliation, forced to trek across burning deserts without food or water in a desperate struggle to find a menial job? The intense conflicts between different sets of oppressors can contribute to bringing about rare opportunities for revolution. But the terms of the divide within the U.S. ruling class cannot set the limits of how all this will be resolved.