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Stop the Deportations! Asylum for the Central American Children!

This is a time to remember Emma Lazarus’ inspiring words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Unfortunately, the current crop of politicians from both major political parties—in their great majority—have long since forsaken these compassionate words in favor of their mantra “Deport them now!”

And what about the undisputed fact that deporting the children back to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador would be life threatening? These politicians obviously don’t give a damn.

As Washington is confronted with an exploding humanitarian crisis without precedent in our history, the tens of thousands of Central American children who have crossed U.S. borders face an uncertain fate, with the threat of deportation hanging over their heads. One favorable factor in the situation is aspects of a 2008 law enacted by Congress and signed by Bush which makes it nearly impossible to repatriate unaccompanied minors to Central America without letting them appear before an immigration judge.

A mounting backlog in immigration courts since then has allowed most Central American minors to stay for years while their cases wind their way through the legal system. Once they are assigned to social workers, as the law requires, the overwhelming majority are sent to live with their parents or relatives in the United States.

The Labor Fightback Network urges that these young people be treated as refugees, which would give them far more protection than does current immigration law. At the same time, the LFN continues its full backing for the just and humane demands being pressed by the immigrant rights movement to reform the immigrant laws currently on the books.

Rights of Refugees in U.S.

Refugees are people whose applications for asylum have been accepted and are allowed to stay in the U.S.

Under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention), a refugee is defined as a person who

“owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country or return there because there is a fear of persecution...”

There are three requirements for a person to win refugee status:

  1. He or she must fear persecution in the home country.
  2. Credible evidence must be adduced that he or she would be persecuted on account of one of five protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or being part of a particular social group.
  3. He or she must establish that the government in the home country is either involved in the persecution or unable to control the conduct of private actors.

It has been said that the legal basis of the refugee admission program embodies the American tradition of granting refugee status to diverse groups fearing persecution. On October 3, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared, “Those who seek refuge here in America will get it.”

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is an agency that is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. The U.S. works with UNHCR and is committed to work with other governments and international organizations to protect victims to ensure thattheir survival needs for food, health care and shelter are met. U.S. policy calls for the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their homelands.

How the Right-Wing Has Sought to Distort Refugee Law

As part of its McCarthyite, “Anti-Communist” campaign, the right-wing has tried to utilize refugee law to admit the most reactionary, anti-working class elements while shutting the door to anyone with even an iota of progressive thinking.

Here are two cases in point. Reagan’s attorney general, Edwin Meese, said the Justice Department’s policy was to “encourage” and “expedite” asylum and legalization applications only for Nicaraguans because “they’re refugees from a Marxist, totalitarian state.”

More than a million Cubans left the island after the Cuban revolution in 1959, the great majority of whom had supported the fascist dictator Fulgencio Batista. They were warmly received by the U.S., no questions asked. The U.S. used many of them in the failed attempt to overthrow the new government through the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

U.S. Groups Which Support Asylum and Treating the Central American Children as Refugees

There is growing support within the immigrant rights movement to win asylum and refugee status for the children, spearheaded by the Mexican American Political Association and Hermandad Mexicana.

The U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Progressive Caucus issued this statement under the heading “Kids First: A Response to the Southern Border Humanitarian Crisis Executive Summary.”

“The United States and the international community have long recognized the unique needs of children seeking asylum. As an extremely vulnerable population, unaccompanied migrant children need special care and protection. We must not allow politics to jeopardize any child’s safety and we should immediately reject attempts to solve the migration crisis on our southern border by circumventing due process or rule of law. Calls for expediting removal of children without due process, back to the violence they have escaped, is an attempt to simplify a complex situation and it is a derelict of U.S. responsibility under international standards. When examining the reasons for migration, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found nearly 60 percent of children had fled violence and were in need of international protection. Only two of 404 children interviewed reported that they had traveled to the U.S. because of rumors of potential immigration reform.

“An effective response must recognize that this is largely a refugee crisis and must place the best interest of the children first. Abrogation or repeal of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, including the protections to children arriving from non-contiguous countries, will do nothing to alleviate the situation and could place children in harm’s way.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus offered a number of recommendations, the first of which is “Current laws to protect children should not be repealed, amended or circumvented, including the right to seek asylum and TVPRA of 2008.

Need to Mobilize

As history shows, only united and independent mobilizations can create real change. We cannot leave it to Obama to determine the fate of the immigrant community. We must continue to build on the actions of immigrant youth and DREAMers and create a mass and united movement — together with all the allies of the immigrant community, particularly the labor movement — with demonstrations in the streets and workplaces.

We have no time to waste. We must mobilize now! Together, in action, we must demand:

Also see:
Debunking 8 Myths About Why Central American Children Are Migrating
by David Bacon, In These Times, July 8, 2014

To read additional comments on the key issues facing the labor movement—and to share your own comments—please visit the Labor Fightback Blog.

An Open Letter to Our Brother and Sister Trade Unionists

[Note: unions and community organizations that agree with the Open Letter below are urged to fill out the form that is provided click the “Submit” button. Thanks!]

With the lockout of federal workers finally ended and with social programs being restored, attention is now being focused on what will happen next. The divide between the major political parties continues to linger and the prospect is for more government dysfunction and paralysis, albeit with bipartisan agreement that “entitlements” must be cut.

The undersigned trade unionists and community activists strongly endorse the position taken by the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations opposing all cuts to safety net programs — especially Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. We not only call for the preservation of these programs but also for their expansion and improvement.

We reject the claim that Social Security and Medicare — our earned benefits — will run out of money within a decade or two unless major cuts to these programs are enacted now. Today the big banks and corporations are sitting on top of trillions of dollars in reserves — thanks in large part to the trillions of taxpayers’ money used to bail them out. We call for taxing those reserves and at the same time eliminating the cap on the tax paid by the very rich to fund Social Security; enacting measures to increase the taxation on the wealthiest 1%; ending corporate welfare; and closing tax loopholes. These are but a few of the many options available to raise whatever revenue may be needed to deal with the fiscal crisis, so it is crystal clear that there is absolutely no justification for cutting earned benefits received by low and middle income families. We fought for those benefits and they belong to us! The politicians have no right to take any part of them from us!

Yet that is what is on their agenda for the coming months. While the major parties may have been at each others’ throats during the past several weeks, their leaders are agreed now on one thing: stick it to the 99% and make them pay though the nose to curb the debt and deficit. And number one on their hit list is Medicare.

To be sure, Democratic Party leaders insist that they will not agree to cuts unless the Republicans agree to tax increases, which the Republicans vow they will not do. But we can’t take it for granted that the major parties won’t come up with some kind of understanding on this question. After all, in 2011 the parties did join in making cuts to safety net programs — despite major differences between them — by enacting the sequestration (which was implemented after the Supercommittee could not agree on fashioning a “grand bargain”). The Wall Street Journal has now proposed a “compromise,” whereby agreement could be reached and an impasse avoided. The paper’s October18, 2013 lead editorial states:

“The way out is to negotiate a revenue neutral reform that lowers a rate in return for closing loopholes, which will lead to faster growth that will in turn produce more revenue. Democrats can get their new revenue, but only by growing the economy. That worked for Bill Clinton in his second term after he agreed to cut the capital gains tax in 1997. By “lower[ing] a rate” the Journal is talking about cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%, something the president has said he supports. In the Journal’s view, this will pave the way for cuts in “entitlements.”

Let’s not depend upon the politicians and their schemes to safeguard our safety net programs. Let’s depend upon our own organized power and our readiness to oppose all cuts, regardless of who is pushing for them and under what guise.

Where does President Obama stand on cutting earned benefits?

So the die is cast. And Democratic Party congressional leaders can be expected to fall in line to present a united front in making cuts — especially when it comes to Medicare — with Republicans pressuring from the right for the most far-reaching cuts possible.

The question now is what is to be done? We are convinced that without massive mobilizations of the labor movement and our community allies, including an occupation of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. if necessary, a bipartisan congressional coalition could work its will under the mantra of “shared sacrifices,” and tens of millions of people could find the benefits they need to sustain themselves and their families substantially diminished. We must not permit that to happen!

To put it more succinctly, what is needed is a national mobilization to defend Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the other safety net programs, and in the process to demand that the government create a jobs program that will put millions back to work with quality and comprehensive health care.

There is no time to delay organizing a broad, united and massive fightback movement, keeping in mind that an agreement is supposed to be submitted by the bipartisan budget committee by December 13, which could very well call for cuts to earned benefits. We urge trade unionists and community activists to take this issue to your respective organizations. Pass resolutions demanding “NO CUTS!” and calling for protest demonstrations both on a local and national scale (see sample resolution below).

Please fill out the form below so that we can help publicize the extent of opposition to proposed cuts to the safety net, and our determination to do whatever is needed to protect our cherished earned benefits.

Sample Resolution

Whereas the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations have taken a strong position opposing all cuts to safety net programs — especially Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid; and

Whereas these programs must not only be preserved but also expanded and improved; and

Whereas since the U.S. government has no problem coming up with trillions of dollars to bail out Wall Street, seemingly unlimited funds to pay for foreign invasions, and providing tax breaks and subsidies to corporations, it is crystal clear that more than enough money is available to sustain and expand vitally needed safety net programs; and

Whereas programs like Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits that we paid for and which belong to us, and no politician has the right to undermine or cut them; now therefore be it

Resolved that [name of union or community organization] opposes all cuts to safety net programs; and be it further

Resolved that we urge the labor movement, together with our community partners, to unite and mobilize locally and nationally including, if necessary, occupying Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. if that’s what it takes to prevent Congress from legislating cuts to these programs; and be it finally

Resolved that a copy of this resolution be sent to [list organizations and individuals your organization deems appropriate].

Form Authorizing Listing of Organization’s Name as Signer of Open Letter and/or Reporting Adoption by Organization of Resolution Opposing Cuts to Safety Net Programs







Open Letter to AFL-CIO Convention Delegates
From Concerned Trade Unionists & Labor Activists

Petition to Stop the Criminalization of the Right to Protest:
Drop Charges Against Saladin Muhammad and Moral Mondays Labor Rights Arrestees!

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