Standing Up for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in the United States

Students and Workers Oppose Escalation of Trump Administration Attacks

Students at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, organized a month-long sit-in demanding the university end all contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and use the funds instead for an immigrant defence fund. They also made the connection between ICE repression in their communities and a university plan to have a private armed police force. As their chants brought out, No Justice, No Peace, No Armed Police! No Justice, No Peace, No ICE in Our Streets! Communities in Wisconsin, Arizona and elsewhere are also taking their stand against detention centres and for the rights of migrant families. As well, asylum officers -- civil servants who are distinct from ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and not an armed force -- are speaking out against new protocols that are forcing people with legitimate claims and fears back to Mexico. Many May Day actions also stood up for immigrant and refugee rights, including the right to driver's licences and other basic requirements of daily life. All are standing up for rights and for a rule of law that actually functions to the benefit of the people.

Contending with this growing resistance, the Office of the President is acting to further attack rights and eliminate rule of law. In yet another presidential memorandum, Trump is acting to block asylum seekers from obtaining work permits. Given that the processing of asylum claims commonly takes at least six months and sometimes years, given the current backlog, this is an effort to starve people out even though they have committed no crime and have the right to asylum. He is also demanding that a fee be charged simply to apply, which would turn a right into a privilege for those with sufficient funds.

In addition, Trump is demanding that all cases be adjudicated within 180 days. This is yet another attack on immigration judges, who are already under quotas. Judges have spoken out against these measures, saying it is robbing them of their discretion and authority as judges to decide cases. Forcing faster trials also undermines the ability of the migrants involved to secure lawyers and prepare their cases. Both these demands, and the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) issued in January, are undermining those judges and asylum officers trained in refugee law and acting to uphold it.

The memorandum directs Attorney General William P. Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to propose regulations within 90 days that would enforce these demands. The memorandum states the goal is "to strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process." There is no evidence any such abuse exists. It is the case that a large number of families are being forced to leave their homes as their countries are engulfed in anarchy and violence as a result of U.S. interference of various kinds, especially in Honduras and El Salvador, where most migrants are currently coming from. Thus more than 103,000 migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last month, the highest level in more than a decade. About 60 per cent were Central American parents travelling with children who, upon arrival on U.S. soil, wherever they crossed, have the right to asylum.

While there is no evidence the migrants are abusing the system, something confirmed by judges and asylum officers, there is abundant evidence that refugees are being unjustly criminalized and terrorized by the government -- with families being separated, mothers and children detained for long periods, minors being kept in cages and denied medical care such that children are dying while in the care of CBP and ICE and people with just claims being sent back to Mexico.

Trump and the government clearly have no solutions to the problems the U.S. state has created, both at home and abroad. They refuse to defend rights while systematically eliminating rule of law. Whether dealing with immigrants and refugees, with police killings and brutality, or with issues of war and peace, such as plans to now militarily invade Venezuela, the action taken is the use of police powers, of which presidential memorandums are one example. As further evidence of this, Trump is sending hundreds more troops to the border with Mexico and has extended their deployment indefinitely. Clearly there is a connection between imperialist war, potentially against Mexico as well as Venezuela, and the repression of ICE and armed police at home. A government with no solutions and which refuses to modernize its institutions can only rely on use of force.

As the growing resistance indicates, defending the rights of all is crucial at this time. A common aim for these struggles, both against U.S. wars and interference and for rights, is an anti-war government. An anti-war government upholds the rights of all at home and abroad, brings all U.S. troops home, and stands against war, interference and the genocide of police and military killings. An anti-war government recognizes that democracy today requires the people themselves to be empowered to decide these vital issues and ensure that positive relations are developed that serve the interests of the people at home and abroad.

(Photos: VOR)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 17 - May 11, 2019

Article Link:
Standing Up for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in the United States: Students and Workers Oppose Escalation of Trump Administration Attacks - Voice of Revolution


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