The terrifying images showing the human tide escaping from hunger in their countries, from the bombing by the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad or the atrocities of the Islamic State, and the closed the borders of European countries are spread around the world.

 We shudder when we see wrecked boats on the Italian coast, leaving many dead and wounded. It caused a commotion the photo of the Syrian child dead on the beach, which became a symbol of this great crisis of immigration, the worst Europe has ever lived. 

When we talk about this in the workplace, school or college, we become outraged by the pettiness of European governments that have the “great kindness” to enact admission fees or the Pope, when he says that one family could be sheltered in every church! 

That indignation is just, because  what we are witnessing is brutal. But it’s not true immigrants have problems only in Europe. 

The employers and governments promote xenophobia to divide us 

The employers have always exploited immigrants. In periods of economic growth they favor the entry of workers coming from very poor countries to take advantage of their plight to pay them lower wages and thus lower the wages of all workers. In periods of crisis they are also used. They are the first to get unemployed and governments enact increasingly reactionary immigration laws.

At the same time they start campaigns against them entering the workers’ minds, that they are lazy, unskillful, that you can not have confidence in them, that their neighborhoods are dangerous. That is, it begins xenophobia, the discrimination against those who are not born in the country. And this also happens in Argentina. 

Many times in the queue of a hospital we hear protests against the Bolivians and Peruvians who come to attend and would take out the Argentines’ place. Or they are said to be responsible for the layoffs because they come from abroad to take local workers’ jobs. So, they use to be teased about their spelling, their clothes. And it becomes natural to use derogatory terms. The “bolitas”, the “perucas”, the “paraguas.” [1] 

And we don’t realize that in doing so we play the game of the government and employers, who are the ones who put these ideas in our heads to divide us. So that, instead of uniting to fight for salary, health care, decent housing, we may fight among ourselves, and blame another worker solely because he was born in another country. 

And when the crisis comes, many of us do that, without recalling that most of us are grandchildren or great-grandchildren of immigrant workers who came to our country escaping the famine in their homelands. We forget many of us have a son, a brother or a friend who left the country and is working as an immigrant somewhere in the world, suffering the same discrimination that Bolivians, Peruvians and Paraguayans suffer here. 

Then, it is right to strongly reject what is happening with immigrants in Europe. But that should serve to address any abuse, any discrimination against foreign workers everywhere. Because that discrimination is not a problem only of those workers. It is a problem of the whole working class, because xenophobia divides and weakens us in the struggle against the bosses.

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Notes:

[1] – Bolitas for Bolivians, perucas for Peruvians, paraguas for Paraguayans.