dimanche, avril 16, 2006

Actualité - House Immigration Bill Criminalizes Immigrants

Franc-Parler publie un article explicatif sur la lutte contre la loi anti-immigrants HR 4437 aux États-Unis. Les manifestations de masse ont rassemblé des centaines de milliers de personnes partaout aux États-Unis à la défense des droits des minorités nationales et des immigrants.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed immigration bill H.R. 4437 in December with a vote of 239 to 182. The Senate debated three main versions of its bill on immigration. The debate ended April 9 when the it failed to come up with a compromise. It is possible that no immigration bill will be passed this year.

H.R. 4437 criminalizes all undocumented workers. It turns simply being in the country without documents into a felony, regardless of circumstance, or time in the country. At present it is a civil offense. Undocumented workers will now be subject to immediate deportation, without a hearing, and imprisonment.

The bill also broadly defines what it calls "alien smuggling." Much like the USA Patriot Act's broad definition of "material support for terrorism," the bill's definition can brand anyone who assists, supports, houses, feeds, transports or in any other manner has contact with undocumented workers, a "smuggler" -- subject to fines and imprisonment. All supporters, including people serving food at a soup kitchen, for example, will now be committing a federal felony offense. This section of the bill is what has brought the Catholic Church, including the Cardinal of Los Angeles and 70 dioceses nationwide, into opposition. Many other religious groups are also opposing the bill as all have congregations that provide sanctuary for immigrants.

In addition, a number of cities, including Los Angeles, have passed resolutions against the bill. The small city of Maywood, near Los Angeles, has declared itself a sanctuary for undocumented workers. The California agricultural, construction and hotel monopolies also oppose the bill. They depend on the ability to brutally exploit and, as needed, deport, the estimated 10 million immigrant workers now in the state. It is estimated that Latino immigrants make up about one third of the California workforce and 28 percent of the population.

The bill also is putting in place the means to criminalize all workers. It includes special identification requirements that must be verified by employers, called the Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS). The bill includes a retroactive clause, meaning all those already working as well as new workers, are subject to the identification requirements. In this manner, the stage is being set for a national ID card, likely with biometric identifiers (such as eye scans), in order to be able to work. Any worker, citizen and non-citizen who cannot meet the requirements to secure the card can be branded as undocumented and refused work. As well, in the name of identifying "undocumented" workers, people could be required to have such ID on them at all times, a requirement that does not exist today.

For the EEVS, employers will be required to match the required ID to a national computer database under the control of Homeland Security. Such a database could also be shared with the Pentagon and other police agencies. As people have already experienced with the government's "no-fly" lists, the likelihood of misidentification by employers is very great. This means many people can be wrongly denied work. As well, like "no-fly" lists, employers can arbitrarily use these lists to create blacklists, or "no-work" lists, targeting union, anti-war or other activity, as the monopolies and government dictate.

Another key part of the bill is a proposed measure to strip people born in the United States of their citizenship, beginning with the daughters and sons of immigrants. Thus simply being born to parents who are undocumented will make the babies criminals, whereas now they are automatically citizens. As well, once such a precedent is set to deny citizenship to those born in the country, then anyone the government may brand as an "enemy combatant" or a "threat to national security" could also be stripped of his or her citizenship.

The demand by government for people to submit to what it terms "American values" or lose their citizenship can already be seen in the demands made on the people applying for citizenship. As President Bush himself said in a recent radio address, repeated in a White House Fact Sheet on immigration, "Every new citizen makes a life-long pledge to support the values and laws of America. New citizens have an obligation to learn the customs and values that define our Nation -- including liberty and civic responsibility, equality under God, tolerance for others, and the English language." At the same time, Bush ordered that those who join the military and participate in U.S. wars of aggression be automatically granted citizenship. About 20,000 people in the military have become citizens in this manner in the past four years.

The House bill also calls for deputizing local police forces, or people they designate, as immigration agents. One House member, for example, is proposing giving $100 million to arm and deputize the vigilante Minutemen. The Minutemen, for a second year are positioning themselves on the border to arrest and harass immigrants. Homeland Security and the Pentagon are also to develop plans to use more military surveillance along the border.

While Congress debates the various immigration bills, Bush is moving forward with increased repression. He is dictating what he calls a "catch and return," policy, mandating that every person apprehended and found without documents be immediately returned. The large majority of those detained are Mexicans and they are generally deported to Mexico within 24 hours. Immigrants detained from other countries, mostly Latin America and the Caribbean, are sent to detention camps. When there is insufficient space, these immigrants were released with a court date. Now, Bush is organizing to expand the detention camps and to require that all those apprehended be detained until they are deported.

(Voice of Revolution)

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