By Javier Rodriguez from Mariachi Plaza Los Angeles 18 November 2012
To be clear, the victory obtained this year which grants deferred action to an estimated 1.8 million undocumented youth in the USA, arrived after years of intensive and persistent struggle by the immigrant rights movement as a whole but led primarily by the sector of our youth known as “The Dreamers.” So far over 300,000 have applied and up to now a reported 53,000 plus applicants have been approved. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known also as D.A.C.A., is an executive order which suspends deportation proceedings for this sector and which President Barack Obama signed in June of this year.
Make no mistake, for these young people, the suspended deportation status has given them the strength to yank the ICE elephant off their backs from their living rooms and the halls of their schools, probably forever. And this also means freedom, a relative new found freedom, but none the less freedom. A good historical comparative can be found in the period of slavery in this country, when groups of African slaves were smuggled out of the southern plantations through the underground sanctuary movement and then found themselves freed in the northern states or in Mexican territory, where slavery had been constitutionally abolished. And more so, after the Civil War and the triumph of the north over the reactionary south, slavery, the cruelest form of exploitation humanity has known, was abolished and the whole of the slave population was set free. History tells us there was also a black regiment that heroically fought in that war and was immortalized in the film “Glory.”
However, an incipient capitalism ruled then and an extended, more brutal form of globalized capitalism rules the planet today. The former slaves did not receive restitution, neither the forty acres and the mules, nor lifetime pay. On the contrary, as they began to gain ground in the political arena in the south, the dominant white ruling class introduced laws of exclusion blocking the ex slaves from democratic participation in the land. The same today, the regularized dreamers now will receive some rights, no deportation for two years, a work permit, a drivers license, the right to student aid, resident university tuition, the right to mobility and travel “only in America,” and the opportunity to begin the process of extracting the social psychosis of being undocumented from the collective mind, but no voting rights.
Like the slaves, the dreamers will not get a lifetime of monetary compensation for all the suffering lived, rathe, they will be entering that new reality of total global corporate class exploitation. The latter is the real basis for their family’s economic displacement which also brought them here as children, and since the early 1970s, it has also removed over 200 million immigrants from their third world countries to the developed world, thus creating, as Prof. William Robinson states, “a new more vulnerable and exploitable worldwide working class, with no papers.”
Another more contemporary struggle is today’s battle against the largest internal displacement of wealth the country has seen in a long time, foreclosures. As we all know, the greed of the 588,000 millionaires and billionaires in America has no limits and like the super exploitation and ravishing of the immigrant sending countries, the taking away of millions of homes from working and middle class families has impoverished dozens of millions in our country, while at the same time concentrating more wealth into the hands of the 1%. The day to day movement in defense of this sector has been taken on by hundreds of small groups nationally and their success is undeniable, though limited mostly on a one to one basis. We have yet to see hundreds of thousands of these affected families on the streets, but trust me the qualitative leaps arise on the basis of quantitative growth and maybe, just maybe we’ll see them marching on May 1st of this year.
For the former African slaves and their descendants, the mass of the undocumented or the foreclosed, there has not been a significant bailout. In contrast, the US deported Mexicans who land in that mega urban center called Mexico City, by law, regardless of when or the age they departed from Mexico, they a have right to unemployment insurance, housing assistance, employment training, free Mexican health care, and their US born children automatically receive citizenship and if old enough the right to vote. I attended a citizenship ceremony for these children and youth, again trust me, it is a highly emotional moment.
Astonishingly, immigrants in the Aztec Capital are considered “guests” and these policies are based on the innovative worldwide trend of the right to human mobility and human rights for all immigrants. Why is this possible? The answer lies in the fact that that special city of 10.5 million people has been governed by a left of center government for approximately 15 years and it will be for another 6, beginning on December 1. It already has a multigenerational population that has enjoyed many other social benefits including being the safest city in the country and one of the safest on earth. It doesn’t stop there, the benefits are extended to all internal Mexican immigrants and since those laws were approved, the left leaning city government has influenced several state governments in the country to do the same. Together, they recently formed a national coalition, that is assisting in the implementation of these same principles in their states, including Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puebla, Tabasco, Michoacan, Zacatecas, who coincidentally have sent huge numbers of immigrants to the north and ironically this also includes hundreds of thousands of poblanos(the people from Puebla) who have unofficially christened the “Big Apple as Puebla York.”
Of course, what is needed in the US is to radically change the social and economic system, injecting a new set of humanitarian values through peaceful mass rebellion or the electoral arena, as it has been done in Egypt, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, the rest of the progressive block of Latin American countries and even Mexico City. But meantime if all goes well this coming year, the 12 million undocumented immigrants in America, the dreamers included, the parents, the brothers and sisters, the uncles and aunts, the US born children and the citizen spouses, their friends and the 50.3 million Latinos, through an approved comprehensive immigration reform, will be able to crown a 27 year struggle for equality and democracy.
This op-ed column is dedicated to Maria Teresa and Lupita Chipole of the Mexico City government and to the staff of the solidarity Quaker hostel La Casa de los Amigos and I thank all of them for their hospitality.
Javier Rodriguez is an independent journalist and a media and political strategist. He recently completed his third trip thru Mexico, observing and writing about the country’s political process, the aftermath of a highly questioned presidential election, the drug war and migrants. A long time social activist, he was the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 million historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006 as well as the May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott. Blog Larayueladejavier.wordpress.com