Youngest Victims of Anti-immigrant laws

By Alvaro Lopez | December 15, 2006 |

CHILDREN BORN in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants will no longer be entitled to health insurance through Medicaid, according to the Bush administration.

Administration officials say they are instituting the new policy as a result of a law signed by George Bush at the beginning of 2006 that tightens requirements on applications for Medicaid, the government’s health care program for the poor.

Under a 1984 law, once a woman received emergency care under Medicaid for the birth of a baby, the child was considered eligible for coverage as well for one year. Under the new policy, applications must be filed for the child, and parents must provide documents to prove the child’s citizenship.

“The federal government told us we have no latitude,” Marilyn Wilson, a spokesperson for the Medicaid program in Tennessee, told the New York Times. “We will not be able to cover any services for the newborn until a Medicaid application is filed. That could be days, weeks or months after the child is born.”

Tens of thousands of children born to undocumented workers in the U.S. will be affected.

According to a spokesperson for Rep. Charlie Norwood, the sponsor of the law that George Bush signed earlier this year, “Charlie’s intent was for every person receiving Medicaid to provide documentation...[W]ith newborns, that shouldn’t be a problem. All you have to do is provide a birth certificate or hospital records verifying birth.”

But Dr. Jay Berkelhamer, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics told the New York Times that obtaining a birth certificate can take up to several weeks, making this a new hurdle for immigrant parents. The policy, Berkelhamer said, “punishes babies who, according to the Constitution, are citizens because they were born here.”

What’s more, the restriction is one more factor pushing undocumented immigrants underground. Because of the escalating crackdown on the undocumented through Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and Social Security “no match” letters, immigrants have a good reason to avoid contact with any type of government official.

Elena Delim, head nurse of the pediatric unit at New York City’s Elmhurst Hospital Center, said she had no idea such law existed. “First and foremost, I’m an immigrant myself and will never refuse to help someone in need,” Delim said. “Secondly, laws will be laws, but we actually run this center.”

So much for the Bush administration and Congress’ talk about family values--apparently taking care of infants doesn’t count.

“I don’t think that people will accept this [law],” said Alberto Reyes, a day laborer organizer in New York. “We should continue organizing in our communities, reach out to nurses and doctors, and confront these attacks on undocumented workers.”


Letter from the past

Dear President Bollinger and co.,
You deplore the demonstrations taking place at Columbia. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place at Columbia, but it is even more unfortunate that Columbia's white power structure left the immigrant community with no alternative.

You may well ask: "Why direct action?" You are quite right in calling for dialogue. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to engage in dialogue is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to dialogue. I therefore concur with you in your call for dialogue. Too long has our beloved Columbia been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the great stumbling block is not the Minuteman or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension at Columbia is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the immigrant passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. We be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? Perhaps Columbia, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.

The above is much abridged from the original. "My dear fellow clergymen" was replaced with "Dear President Bollinger & co." All direct location references were replaced with "Columbia". "Negotiations" was replaced with "dialogue". "White Citizens' Councilor" was replaced with "Minuteman". "Negro" was replaced with "immigrant". And that is the sum total of the changes.

Another quote is apposite:
During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.


Columbia protest videos

Univision footage of the protest.

Abortive debate between Karina Garcia and Jim Gilchrist on Democracy Now! The latter cuts it off "on legal advice".

Debate between Monique Dols and Chris Kulawik (and the "moderator") on Fox.

Jon Stewart takes it on, and manages to be funny, even though politically backwards.


Protest and free speech

Brief but eloquent comment from Nick Cooper at NarcoNews:
Both "Minuteman" James Gilchrist and those who took over the stage when he began to speak at Columbia University were attempting to express free speech. Gilchrist had more authority to speak than the protesters, and that is the essential distinction. To portray it as an issue of free speech vs. anti-free speech is disingenuous.

Do invited speakers have more right to free speech than others? People in the U.S. are familiar with a society where invited speakers are allowed to have the stage for an hour and where audiences should keep quiet, but this is only custom. The members of the audience have every much a right to be heard as the more famous speakers.

Anti-fascists support both freedom of speech and a confrontation of oppression and racism. Occasionally these two are at odds, as with Germany banning Hitler's books. This tension creates a dynamic that is interesting to explore, but such explorations would be meaningless without considering issues of authority and power.

To think of what happened at Columbia as nothing but an affront to free speech, is to pretend that there are not essential differences between the voices of the oppressed and the propaganda of armed groups or powerful institutions. In the market place of ideas, we listen and learn. However, that does not mean that groups that we consider to be racist paramilitary organizations should not be therefore denied venues. In a society where the voices of millions are routinely silenced, and the same empty meaningless nonsense of politicians dominates our media day after day, the voices of those in power and invited speakers need more often to be preempted by the voice of the people.


Colonialism and fascism

Lenin quoted Aime Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism at length a few months back, saving me the effort of typing up a section I just noticed re-reading it for a class, and thought worth posting in the context of the legalization of torture:
First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a centre of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and "interrogated", all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been distilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but sulrey, the continent proceeds toward savagery.

And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific boomerang effect: the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers standing around the racks invent, refine, discuss.
The directness of the applicability to the external and internal components of the "war on terror" is obvious. However, a further point is worth discussing. Cesaire continues:
People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: "How strange! But never mind - it's Nazism, it will pass!" And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole edifice of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps and trickles from every crack.
This seems a very useful way of thinking about what Nazism is, because not only does it refute the myth of a superior Western civilization, but also it makes Nazism itself explicable in a historical context, as something that wasn't a sudden unique burst onto the historical stage, but had precedents and causes in history before the 20th century.

But at the same time, it seems problematic. It's important within European or U.S. politics to distinguish fascists from simple liberals or conservatives; fascists and ordinary capitalist politicians use vastly different strategies at home and must be fought with very different tactics. One relies on a putatively neutral state apparatus to maintain power and the other on a mass movement with a pseudo-populist ideology to maintain the system by street politics and vigilantism. The German Communist Party's mistaken tactics flowing from its lumping of social democrats together with Nazis as "social fascists" helped allow the rise of Hitler. George Bush is not the same as Jim Gilchrist.

How to resolve this? I'm not sure. Cesaire further remarks that what whites cannot forgive Hitler for
is not the crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the 'coolies' of India, and the 'niggers' of Africa
Maybe this can help. If fascism is nothing more than the extension of colonialist methods to maintain power at home, it is still something special, and uniquely dangerous to the ability of people in the colonizer country to struggle for justice at home or abroad.


Racist and fascist groups are not welcome!

... send a letter, sign a petition ...

Statement of Columbia anti-Minutemen protesters who took the stage against Jim Gilchrist on October 4

October 6, 2006

In the aftermath of the protest on the night of October 4 against Jim Gilchrist and the racist Minutemen at Roone Arledge auditorium, we want to state clearly: We are proud to send the message to the country that racist and fascist groups are not welcome at Columbia or in New York City.

As Chicanos and Latinos, alongside African Americans and progressive people of other nationalities, we took it as our responsibility to give voice to the undocumented immigrant families who live in fear at terrorist vigilante groups like the Minutemen. Armed patrols by these groups force more and more people desperate for work to find even more hazardous ways into the United States. Over 3,000 people including hundreds of children have died in the desert. Their blood is on the hands of Gilchrist and his thugs.

Fascist scapegoating is not up for academic discussion. Like Hitler in pre-Nazi Germany, Gilchrist and the Minutemen attempt to demonize foreign-born poor people, blaming illegals for society s problems. His group doesn t present reasoned debate. It spouts racism and hatred, aiming to divide people against one another.

Regardless of how Gilchrist tries to sanitize his message for national audiences, more candid moments tell the real story. Gilchrist is a member of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which is now notorious for referring to Mexicans as savages. Speaking about Mexicans and Central American immigrants, Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox once said, "They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughter and they are evil people."

This vile racism translates directly into violence on the ground. It should be legal to kill illegals, said one Minutemen volunteer. Just shoot 'em on sight. That's my immigration policy recommendation. It is no wonder that neo-Nazi organizations like the National Alliance praise the Minuteman Project in their publications, and have members signing up for Minutemen militias.

We are sure that if the Nazi party held a public meeting on campus, Jewish groups would be there to challenge them so would we. We are sure that if the Ku Klux Klan held a public meeting on campus, African American groups would be there to challenge them so would we. The Minutemen are no different.

We are pleased that an overwhelming number of people answered our call to demonstrate against the racist, fascist Minutemen the night of October 4. The hundreds of people outside Roone Arledge chanting, Minutemen, Nazis, KKK, racists, fascists, go away! represented students and community people from all walks of life. Inside the auditorium, perhaps as much as 80 percent of the crowd was repelled by the Minutemen s message of hate.

When we walked on stage on the night of October 4, with anti-racist banners for immigrant rights, we were met with violent attack by Gilchrist s goons. We were the ones who were punched and kicked. We are proud that despite these attacks, we held our ground. When Gilchrist walked off stage, it was because he and his Minutemen outfit were isolated.

This is not an issue of free speech. The Minutemen were able to reserve a hall at our university and had the protection of campus security and the NYPD all to espouse their hate speech. We along with hundreds of others expressed our right to speak and protest.

Over the last 50 years, throughout the Civil Rights movement and the women s rights movement, ultra-right wing groups have routinely used violence, lynchings, armed assaults and bombings against oppressed people. Yet when we organize to oppose them to express our contempt for their violence, we are criticized for inhibiting the free speech of the ones who perpetrate violence.

We thank everyone who joined our protest inside and outside of the auditorium.

Shame on the Columbia University administration for launching an investigation of peaceful protesters, and failing to condemn the perpetrators of violence. Shame on the College Republicans for inviting this fascist thug and provoking such outrage on our campus.


Latin America and the Fight for Worker's Rights

The battle to control natural resources was the underlying cause for slavery in Latin America. This battle for natural resources continues to be the noose around the continent’s neck. From the massacres waged in the name of the United Fruit Company to Coca Cola’s use of union organizers for target practice, the people of Latin America have been caught in the crossfire for more than five centuries. Today, as corporations have replaced conquistadors in their raping and pillaging, ordinary workers, farmers, and the displaced have begun to organize and challenge those in control of resources. From taking power of factories in Argentina to Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution, to the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Latin America has become the sight of a class war where both sides are armed and fighting.
So important was natural resources that the great Bernal Diaz del Castillo, co-conquistador of Mexico, along with Hernan Cortes, claimed at the arrival of the “new” land “We have come here to serve God, Our majesty, and also for its natural resources” (Galeano 18). Sadly enough this statement remains true five hundred and twelve years later. America was discovered as a business for the imperialist powers of the time which were the Spanish, British, Dutch and Portuguese. Unlike modern day scavenger hunting for oil fields or natural gas reserves, in the Americas not only was their seas of gold, copper, and silver, but free labor as well. Bartolome de Las Casas explains it best when he portrays the blood spilled by the indigenous people of America in order to support the new world market:
Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starving for many days…for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola, once so populous having a population that estimated to be more than three millions, has now a population of barely two hundred persons. (Quoted in Zinn 34)

However, like modern day economists who feel that in order to support the world market and the demands of the market, we must break our backs twice, Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that the discovery of the “New World” and the ensuing opening of trade with Asia began “to raise the mercantile system to a degree of splendor and glory which it could never otherwise have attained to” (quoted in Weatherford 39). This new trade and splendid mercantile system that Smith speaks about is actually the two structures that supported the world market, the slave trade with Africa and the piracy of American silver. Karl Marx, satirically echoed Smith’s assessment when he said that the turning of hunting dark skin to a business and the looting of the West Indies “signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production (quoted in Wallerstein, p. xv). As the rivers of indigenous blood strolled on, the Africans made up for the lost labor in the Americas.
The picture has not changed much in Latin America, just the faces. No longer are there Spanish flags flying at every harbor, and no longer are the Latin Americans waiting for the orders of the Consejo de Indias. However, they are those pirates that represent neoliberalism, i.e. the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and of course there is U.S. imperialism and the sacred Monroe doctrine that must be preserved. In all over the world especially in third world nations the fever of a new world economic and political order reached its height during the 1990’s. Professor of Sociology, James Petras explains in detail:
The economic conditions of this “new world order” were created on the basis of a “new economic model”, which provided the underpinnings of a process of structural adjustment, globalization, and neo-liberal capitalist development. (Petras 3)

Neoliberalism also known as the “Washington Consensus” represents the new stage of capitalism and that’s mass privatizations of natural resources (water, gas, and oil), globalization, and the absolute dictatorship of the “free” market;
Neo-liberalism describes a familiar set of policies that became orthodoxy in Latin America in the 1980’s and 1990’s—privatization, free trade, deregulation, balanced budgets, production for export on the world market and the dismantling of the social safety net. In what had previously been highly state-controlled economies, neo-liberalism unleashed the capitalist market to determine nearly every facet of social life. In sum, neo-liberal “reform” brought Latin America the economic policies associated with right-wing politicians like President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (Selfa 7)

Without a doubt this resurgence of capitalism in Latin America was a direct result of the military dictatorships throughout the 1970’s and also the result of a class war conducted at the national, regional and international levels against the working class of the world.
In today’s major class struggles of Latin America the fight against neoliberalism is the catalyst. In Brazil there is the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), which organizes hundreds of thousands of peasants to take militant actions like land occupations, peasant militancy of Paraguay, the ongoing guerrilla war in Colombia led by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the factory takeovers in Argentina and the mass riots by the unemployed workers (piqueteros), and the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Mexico led by subcomandante Marcos. However, the most significant change in this mass radicalization and resurgence of labor power has been the re-election of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the newly elected President of Bolivia Evo Morales.
After the coup/bosses strike in 2002 against Hugo Chavez, that was supported by the United States, the rank and file oil workers who were avid defenders of Chavez took over the factories and started to run them on there own saving Venezuela’s population of mass devastation, reminiscent of the cordones in Chile during the 1970’s, when bosses decided to shut down factories out of rage against the reformist Salvador Allende policy’s to nationalize resources. What Chavez has helped to do in Latin America is to exorcise the myth that capitalism and bourgeois representative democracy has triumphed on the corpse of socialism, and open up the debate on socialism as an alternative to capitalism. He has along with the Missions program; help meet basic human needs throughout the urban poor by providing basic healthcare, social security, and cheap food distributions. However, Venezuelan socialist and leader of the National Workers Union (UNT) Americo Tabata is correct when he says:
The missions, being community and revolutionary gains for the oppressed masses, are not properly understood socialist measure. Rather, they are democratic achievements, wrested from the bourgeoisie and imperialism by popular struggle…the “solidarity economy” based on cooperatives, is another chimera. It is impossible to achieve this kind of spirit throughout the population while we are still bound by the limits of consumerism, individualism, and competition…Socialism is in essence, a system where social and collective property in the means of production prevails. Where workers are the owners and decision makers in the factories, businesses, and services…only by radically transforming the relations of production, and beginning to build socialism, can democratic policies like those discussed above reach their full potential. (Tabata 15)

In other words, Hugo Chavez represents an alternative to the dead-end road of neoliberalism; however, real socialism does not come through parliamentary means or isolated guerrilla struggles, but through the self-emancipation of the working class with a revolutionary socialist party as the fighter for their interest.
In Bolivia the election of indigenous leader Evo Morales is electrifying. Completing Jose Marti’s prophecy that Latin America will one day be governed by its most oppressed, Evo Morales is also another symbol for an alternative to neoliberalism. However, as president Morales repositions himself from a different seat and his recent gestures shows his willingness to actually work with the neoliberal agenda pushed from giant corporations, but at the same time has nationalized the nations natural gas resources:
The need to negotiate with foreign investors for development capital will limit how far he can go toward full nationalization. His stated plan is to nationalize only subsoil resources—the gas, oil, and minerals in the ground—and to leave the surface property and exploitation largely in private hands. (Lewis 17)

The struggle over natural resources is inextricably linked to capitalism and the struggle against capitalism. A fundamental question we must raise is who controls the Earth’s resources, who controls society, and how the overall quality of life for the majority is actually lived under these circumstances. As millions across the world get piled up on urban slums, workers living standards continue to decline, and imperialist wars continue to kill innocent lives, the time for a socialist alternative has never been more needed and necessary than ever.


--Galeano, Eduardo. Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, s.a. de c.v. Septuagésimo segunda edición, 2000.
--Lewis, Tom. International Socialist Review: Hope and challenge in Bolivia: Will Evo Morales end neo-liberalism? March-April 2006, Issue #46. Published by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change.
--Petras, James. Social Movements and State Power in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Pluto Press, London. 2005.
--Selfa, Lance. International Socialist Review: Latin America: Rebirth of Resistance. Winter 2000, Issue #10. Published by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change.
--Tabata, Americo. International Socialist Review: Venezuela An unconscious socialist revolution. March-April 2006, Issue #46. Published by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change.
-- Wallerstein, Immanuel. The Modern World-System. I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the sixteenth Century. New York: Academic Press, 1974.
--Weatherford, Jack. Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World. Fawcett Books: New York, 1988.
--Zinn, Howard. Voices of a people’s history of the United States. Seven Stories Press: New York, London, Toronto, Melbourne. 2004.

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