Wed Jun 19, 2024
June 19, 2024

Texas Adds Another Racist Law; Democrats Sacrifice Immigrants


On March 19, Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), a bill that among other things would allow Texas police to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants, swung its way back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as the court dissolved its previous administrative stay of the appeal. An administrative (or temporary) stay, to put it simply, upholds the status quo while a decision in court is pending; in this case, it would have allowed SB 4 to take effect while the court deliberated.

The Fifth Circuit’s decision came nine hours after the Supreme Court had upheld the administrative stay, a stay that was meant to “minimize harm.” In doing so, the Supreme Court implicitly endorsed the Fifth Circuit’s initial reasoning that “erroneously” allowing SB 4 to take effect to address the “escalating crisis at the border” would cause less harm than “erroneously” stopping it. The Supreme Court’s decision was one that allowed it to be passive, and thus allowed it to passively allow for the passing of a law, if only for the nine hours between the upholding and the dissolving.

SB4 is a bill that, as stated above, would allow state and local police to arrest and detain suspected undocumented immigrants as well as giving a Texas judge the ability to order deportations. Many immigrants rights groups have decried the bill, with the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center being the first to bring a lawsuit against SB4 with the federal government following a month later. The bill would lead to racial profiling and inevitably to the increased suffering of immigrants at the hands of the police.

But SB 4 is not the first of its kind. A bill with the same designation—Texas Senate Bill 4—was passed in 2017, banning sanctuary cities in Texas as well as in a controversial amendment allowing “police officers to question a person’s immigration status during a detainment.” And before that, in 2011, the Arizona state legislature attempted to pass SB 1070, another bill that would allow state enforcement of immigration policy.

As SB 4 was put in legal limbo, other Republican states followed Texas’s lead. Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds recently sent more than a hundred law enforcement officers and National Guard soldiers to Texas in support of its immigration policy, and the Iowa state legislature passed Senate File 2340, a bill that would criminalize immigrants entering Iowa after being deported or barred from entering the United States. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claimed to have been working on a similar piece of legislation, and the Kansas Senate and House approved different resolutions that called for Kansas Governor Laura Kelly to law enforcement and military aid to Texas. Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond and Oklahoma Speaker Charles McCall both called for the introduction of legislation similar to the Texas SB 4, though no bill has been officially proposed. The Arizona House approved a proposal targeting illegal immigration through heightened verification measures for public benefit recipients, though the bill was blocked by the Senate president, putting it in legal limbo.

With the elections approaching, it is clear that Republicans, following Trump’s lead, are aiming to put pressure on Biden through immigration. Biden attempted to offer concessions on immigration at the end of January but was blocked by Trump-led Republicans, and Trump’s election campaign has once again focused on the “threat” of undocumented migrants and the Biden administration’s failure to address immigration.

Despite the Republican complaints about Biden, the Biden administration has not been kind to immigrants either. After the expiration of Title 42, which led to mass deportations in the name of “protecting public health,” Biden introduced a new policy that effectively led to an asylum ban, according to immigrants’ rights groups. Though the fear mongering of the Republican Party has increased with the coming elections, the tactics that the state and federal government use to “address” immigration remain largely the same. Detention centers still thrive through the support of the federal government, and border patrols regularly use physical violence on unarmed immigrants. Of course, the new legislation coming out of Republican states is a cause for concern, but the increased policing is reminiscent of federal measures and of ICE. As Gov. Greg Abbott put it in a CBS Texas interview: “What the Texas law does is it codifies in the state of Texas what Congress has codified in the United States.”

But while the Biden administration’s anti-immigration policies originally were enacted relatively quietly, Biden’s rhetoric around immigration has become louder and jumped rightward. The Democrats are once again using immigrants as a bargaining chip to appeal to conservative voters, offering them every concession imaginable and catering to their fears about the “crisis” of immigration. The Republicans, meanwhile, are also treating the issue like a political football, refusing the Democrats’ compromises in order to justify their deployment of more repressive powers and to accuse the Biden administration of inaction. Even if Biden’s concessions to Republicans end up ignored and unimplemented, the rhetoric he is now engaging in further fans the flames of xenophobia and places immigrants at a heightened risk of racist violence by an emboldened far right, whose talking points are now being parroted by even Democrats.

Why are both the Republicans and the Democrats zigzagging on immigration policy? The reality is that capitalists in general benefit from the current situation of widespread, criminalized, undocumented immigration. Undocumented workers have fewer rights, and thus can be more brutally exploited than citizens. Immigrants can also be used as scapegoats for political anger, falsely blamed for every crisis of capitalism (real or imaginary). But in reality, workers have nothing to lose and much to gain from open borders; this is our own freedom of movement that we are talking about, our ability to leave and return without fear of repercussion. Immigrant workers are our siblings, our fellow comrades who are here to live, work, create, celebrate, and struggle alongside us, even before we consider the countless economic studies that confirm that immigrants are overwhelmingly beneficial to the receiving country’s capitalist economy. Immigrants (with or without documents) make up nearly one-fourth of all Texas workers and contribute an estimated $119 billion yearly to the Texas economy. Punitive immigration policy under capitalism is, in the end, not about “protecting the border” but rather about control over immigrants’ labor and rights.

The Democrats have shown time and time again that they will abandon immigrants’ rights at the earliest convenience. Universal citizenship and open borders are not things that we will win by writing to Congress members, whose interests lie elsewhere. What we need is a movement that can organize mass marches of immigrants, unions, and working people to take the streets and show our force, to activate more and more people who are not yet engaged with politics but who understand that it is wrong to assign someone less rights because of where they were born.

We need marches like the Day Without an Immigrant in 2006, which put 1 million people in the streets and whose direct impact in mobilizing people to organize for immigrants’ rights is still felt today. Conservative fear mongering about the “danger” represented by immigrants is nothing compared to the power of millions of people in the streets demanding equal rights.

No more deportations! Citizenship for all! Close the detention camps!


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