Weaponization of immigration policy: Ukrainians welcomed, refugees of US wars abused
The hypocrisy of immigration laws in the United States has been made strikingly obvious by how Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed at the US/Mexico border while those escaping violence in Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Syria, and other countries devastated by US imperialism are turned away, criminalized, and abused.
The Associated Press reported on April 8 that the US government “has sharply increased the number of as well.
For decades, there have also consistently been millions of Palestinian refugees worldwide. Today there are more than 7 million
. But they are often excluded from the total count of refugees and thus invisibilized, because their families were ethnically cleansed and expelled by Israel and have been prevented from returning.
US immigration law was founded on racism
The extreme violence that refugees and immigrants endure at the hands of the US government today has its roots in Washington’s explicitly racist laws.
The first bill the US Congress passed regarding citizenship was the 1790 Nationality Act. This confined citizenship to “free white persons.”
Only white men who owned property and resided in the country for two years could acquire this vital right. Women, non-white people, and indentured servants were not considered citizens.
The Nationality Act created the legal classification of “aliens ineligible for citizenship.” As a result, Asian immigrants who came to the United States to work did not have rights, making it difficult for them to own property or get representation in courts.
White males who did not own property won the right to vote on a state-by-state basis. Women did not get the right to vote until 1920. Black Americans did not truly have their right to vote protected until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
These racist immigration laws similarly have their roots in slavery.
The first English slave ship to arrive to North America hit the shores of Jamestown, Virginia in August 1619
. People of African descent were viciously enslaved by the white ruling class for 246 years after. Today, the long-term effects of slavery are still felt in the United States.
In 1857, the US Supreme Court upheld the policy to deny Africans the right to become a citizen, with the Dred Scott decision
. As a result, the justice system ruled that people of African descent were “beings of an inferior order” and subjugated by the dominant race, whether emancipated or not.
In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, after Chinese workers built vast tracts of the US railroad system, allowing corporations to trade from coast to coast to grow their wealth. Despite their contribution to the country, the law blocked Chinese workers on US soil from being eligible for citizenship.
A few decades years later, Congress passed the Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924, which gave preferential treatment to “desirable races” of Western Europe over those migrating from the Global South.
Growing resistance to US abuse of migrants
More and more people in the United States are learning about this racist history and its impact on politics today. And they are taking action to try to change it.
In 2021, there was a wave of protests in California, after Governor Gavin Newsome vetoed Assembly Bill 616
, which would have made it easier for farm workers to form a union. Hundreds marched to Plump Jack winery
, which Newsome owns.United Farm Workers
(UFW) also held a large march in Washington, DC, bringing thousands of farm workers from 10 US states together to demand a path to citizenship.
Workers at grocery stores across the United States are currently on the verge of a strike as well.
Let's march for legalization, now is the time, this is the year, we can't wait.
Pass legalization for farm workers, dreamers, TPS holders, and essential workers. #SiSePuede pic.twitter.com/vul4dysGKp
— UFW Foundation (@ufwfoundation) September 21, 2021
Undocumented workers play an essential role in the US economy. Their financial contributions and labor power should encourage the Biden administration and Congress to provide them a path to legalization.
Instead, the government has continued to fail the working class, and undocumented workers in particular.
Washington’s favored treatment of some Ukrainians over other refugees and migrants demonstrates how immigration policy is used as a weapon against the undocumented community.
All workers escaping violence and war should be treated with dignity and respect, and given the resources to establish a new life, not be used to push an imperialist agenda.
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