The 10,000-plus Mexicans, Chicanos and Latinos marching through the streets of Ontario, California June 13 sent a powerful message to the Bush administration – the raids and deportations carried out by immigration enforcement will not be accepted or tolerated. This powerful display of resistance followed raids where immigration agents targeted undocumented workers at bus stops, markets and homes.
The raids came only eight months after Bush announced his immigration ‘reform’ plan. Though the administration’s immigration ‘reform’ was basically a guest-worker program that served big business, the Bush administration reckoned that some of the false hopes raised by the plan would translate into more votes for Republican candidates. However, the raids speak volumes on what the Bush administration is all about. It has an agenda that is racist, reactionary and quick to employ repression.
One effect of this latest round of raids, which are unusual in their size and distance from the border with Mexico, has been to create widespread fear in immigrant communities throughout the Southwest. Mexican and Latino parents are afraid to send their children to school and the undocumented hesitate to go shopping, to church or to use public transportation. The creation of this climate of fear and worry is no accident. It’s by design. The exploitation of the undocumented by agribusiness, manufacturing and retail corporations is one of the pillars of the Southwest economy. The immigration raids are ablunt tool to reinforce a system of robbery and national oppression.
The Southwest of the U.S. was once northern Mexico. Like the slavery of African Americans, the theft of almost half of Mexico cannot be dismissed as ancient history without any relevance for today. One of the results of this land grab, and the subsequent discrimination and oppression unleashed from Texas to California, was the development of the Chicano people – a nation within the U.S. borders. The immigrations raids, directed at Mexican immigrants and others, fit right in with a system of racist inequality which pervades the Southwest. The oppression directed at Chicanos and Latinos impacts on every aspect of life; ranging from wages and working conditions to the denial of basic democratic rights – rights that include equality for the Spanish language, political power and self-determination.
By launching these raids the Bush administration has lifted a rock, only to drop it back on its foot. The days when the powers that be can deny something as basic as drivers licenses to those without documents are numbered. The powerful demonstrations in Ontario and other California cities are the shape of the future. Attacks on the undocumented are being met by a growing and determined movement that will settle for nothing less than legalization and full equality.
On July 10, the National Alliance for Human Rights convened an emergency statewide meeting in Ontario, California to help organize local, regional and statewide coalitions to build a statewide mobilization plan against the raids and other racist attacks. Local actions and mass mobilizations are planned for the next three months.
This editorial appeared in the Summer 2004 edition of Fight Back! newspaper.