Eleven days ago, the Senate was poised to pass legislation that would have initiated the final step toward a Fascist regime in the U.S. Then the legislative juggernaut crashed to a halt, confronted by what may well be the largest series of mass demonstrations ever in the United States.
On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee was poised to approve enforcement-only immigration legislation. The following Monday, after a month of protests across the country by people of immigrant-descent and, on Saturday, a million-person Marcha flooding the streets of downtown Los Angeles, all eight Democrats and four Republicans shifted gears and sent a guest-worker and citizenship proposal to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was so irate that he sent his own enforcement-only bill to the floor, with the worst of the provisions of the draconian House proposal, HR 4437.
To make sure the Senate got the message, tens of thousands of students across the nation walked out of class on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday.
What do these immigrants and their children see that long-time U.S. citizens have missed? What does this legislation portend for the U.S.?
The Fascist Conscience
Claudia Koonz, in The Nazi Conscience, writes of the Nazi youth leader who watches his friend being marched off to the death camps. A few years earlier, the youth would have decried the round up, but on that day he merely thought, "How unfortunate that Heinz is a Jew." As an adult he recalled, "I accepted deportation as just."
Koonz posits that it was a steady message of racial superiority combined with subtle legal and bureaucratic rule-making that disposed the Good German to turn an uneasy blind eye to the Holocaust. Once he held power, Adolph Hitler dropped his public anti-Semitic rhetoric for references only to the superior German race, leaving the "other" in the shadows of public rhetoric.
The Left today widely acknowledges the emergence in the United States of three fundamentals of Fascism: corporatism, imperialism, and repression. What is forgotten is the fourth, equally critical prop to a Fascist state: scapegoats. Without them, even "good" citizens will question themselves and their government. With them, the frustration of the volk can play itself out on the scapegoats, without threat to the state.
With the emergence of punitive immigration laws like Sensenbrenner (HR 4437), communities of recent immigrants have, understandably, recognized the Fascist implications of scapegoating with far more clarity than most European-descent people in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army is stepping up plans for prison labor camps, and Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) mulls over replacing migrants with prison labor. The Department of Homeland Security has a standing contract with Halliburton for emergency detention prisons for immigrants. DHS has issued Operation Endgame to "provide the endgame to immigration enforcement and that is the removal of all removable aliens." "We must strive for 100% removal rate," according to a cover memo written by Anthony Tangeman, director of ICE's Office of Removal. (The memo has been removed from the ICE website since March 24, but pieces remain at the eScholarship Repository at the University of California).
The minutemen and their ilk have attached every conceivable failing to immigrants, chiefly those from Mexico. To hear the minutemen tell it, Mexican immigrants are responsible for failing schools, inadequate health care, unemployment, gangs, inner city slums, inflation, overpopulation, tuberculosis, and AIDS.
That's scapegoating. The U.S. government, in authorizing labor camps, detention centers, and the threat of enforcement-only "immigration reform," has added its imprimatur. A proto-Fascist government needs a scapegoat, an "inherently" evil population to take the blame, and the minutemen have handed them Mexicans on a plate.
The truth is, nobody can make a decisive case against undocumented immigrants. Perhaps they pay less in taxes, but even in 1995, before most states cut undocumented migrants' benefits to bare survival, they received proportionately less in benefits, according to the Cato Institute. The right-wing Heritage Foundation establishes that on both the high and low ends of the economic scale, immigrants with and without papers aren't taking anyone's job.
So the Sensenbrenner anti-immigrant bill is necessary to authorize the scapegoating. And Sensenbrenner's bill is what finally provoked Mexicans, Chicanos, and other immigrant and immigrant-descent communities across the nation to rise up in a groundswell as great as the civil rights movement at its peak.
HR 4437, along with its Senate siblings (most crafted to make the poison pill more palatable), will not only criminalize most of a national group in this country. They will encourage police harassment of entire ethnic-descent communities, regardless of immigration status, and they will, in effect, legitimize every accusation the minutemen have made of Mexicans and Chicanos.
All anti-racist, anti-Fascist voices need to be heard.
Sensenbrenner Proposals; Nazi Policies
Only those who are our fellow countrymen can become citizens. Only those who have German blood, regardless of creed, can be our countrymen. Hence no Jew can be a countryman.
HR 4437 offers no refuge to undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., no path for becoming legal. No matter that immigrants have been pushed here by NAFTA and CAFTA, and pulled here by available jobs. No matter that they have worked and contributed to U.S. society, many for decades, and they have earned the right to be here, often through back-breaking labor. No matter that they have raised families, built homes, become part of communities. No matter that their Indigenous ancestors traveled across the continent tens of thousands of years before the European invasion. They will all be illegal and without appeal, by their very existence in the U.S. Under HR 4437, eight million to twelve million people would be subject to immediate arrest and imprisonment.
Those who are not citizens must live in Germany as foreigners and must be subject to the law of aliens.
On 24 October 1941, the head of the Order Police [local law enforcement] writes that the Security Police will expel 50,000 Jews, and continues, "According to what has been agreed with the head of the SD and the Security Police, the Order Police undertakes to guard the deportation trains by posting an escort... The duty of the escorting guards ends with the handing over of the transports in due order at the places of destination to the competent authorities of the Security Police."
Local police forces will receive "inherent authority" and funding to turn over immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If local law enforcement has responsibility for immigration violations, every darker-skinned person -- Meso-American, Southwest Asian, Middle Eastern, African -- will become suspect just for walking past a cop. Whole communities will fade into an underground culture and economy.
Two hundred non-felons were rounded up in El Paso for deportation in a joint effort by the Border Patrol and local police in February. In March, 60 immigrants, with and without papers, were rounded up in Boston, and identified by national origin -- but not by the crimes 57 of them were later charged with.
We demand that the State shall above all undertake to ensure that every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood. If it should not be possible to feed the whole population, then aliens (non-citizens) must be expelled from the Reich.
A Reich citizen is that subject who is of German or related blood only and who through his behavior demonstrates that he is ready and able to serve faithfully the German people and Reich.
All undocumented immigrants, all immigrants with visa violations, 1.5 million of their children, their families, their lawyers, their doctors, and the good Samaritans who aid them will become guilty of an aggravated felony. So if you give your co-worker a ride home, or you provide medical aid in your capacity as a health care worker, or you buy dinner for a friend who can't prove their citizenship, or you put a bottle of water in the desert to keep someone from dehydrating, you're a felon facing prison. Not to mention the person you assisted. Everyone arrested would be incarcerated. And, just for good measure, legal residents would waive their right to a hearing if their visa is in violation.
All this because of a supposed "unemployment" problem in the United States, which is, in fact, virtually non-existent in the U.S. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, except for the effects of racism.
Any further immigration of non-Germans must be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans who have entered Germany since August 2, 1914, shall be compelled to leave the Reich immediately.
The object of Operation Endgame is to deport all undocumented people by 2012.
Under Sensenbrenner, the U.S. will build 700 more miles of border wall. Think one and a half times a completed apartheid wall across Palestine. In California, the current border wall is sixty-six miles long. Since 1994 when Operation Gatekeeper was begun, more than 4000 people have died trying to cross around the wall, across the brutal deserts and an often raging Rio Grande River. Fewer than a dozen died annually before the wall. The net effect of 700 more miles of the proposed 3-layer wall can only be more death, hundreds of corpses scattered across the desert and floating in the river.
We demand the abolition of the regular army and the creation of a national (folk) army.
The U.S. interior will be militarized. One minuteman leader has proclaimed, "Oh Jesus, it is unbelievable. I mean, we need the National Guard to clean out all our cities and round them up." Another has called for the deployment 36,000 National Guard and State Defense Force personnel along the border. Under pressure from her legislature, in February the governor of Arizona authorized additional National Guard troops to assist the Border Patrol.
HR 4437 would double the number of border police, add 1000 ICE agents, and 25% more dogs. President Bush has proposed equipping the Border Patrol with extensive high-tech, military surveillance equipment, including a fleet of unmanned drone airplanes based just 150 miles south of Los Angeles. So much for posse comitatus, the law against posting military troops within U.S. borders.
An Unstoppable Force
One thousand Oaklanders protested the current proposals for immigration reform, in a Spanish, Chinese, and English program. In Houston, 1500 Mexicans, Chicanos, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Caribbean Islanders, and labor representatives protested the current proposals for immigration reform. This month in Washington DC, the NAACP and the American Friends Service Committee teamed up with the National Council of La Raza to bring 20,000 people into the streets. In Milwaukee, 30,000 people marched. Add thousands more in Phoenix, Trenton, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Tucson, Kansas City, Las Cruces, and Atlantic City. People were hunger-striking in San Francisco. Polka dancers, Irish immigrants, and Chinese bands joined 300,000 Spanish-speaking protestors in Chicago. At least a hundred thousand marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in a mile-long demonstration, and more than 1,000,000 took the streets in Los Angeles.
In California, the cities of Maywood, Huntington Park, Pomona, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Coachella, and San Francisco have gone on record opposing the Sensenbrenner bill. The Catholic Church is poised to defy the law if it passes.
More actions, boycotts, walkouts, and marches are being planned through May, at least.
It is no longer enough to mumble support for "their" cause. It is no longer enough to "work on your racism." It is no longer enough to "outreach," keep up with politically correct nomenclature, or "get educated." Now is the day to stop the racists and Fascists.