Saturday, May 24, 2008

Criminalizing Immigrants, Administratively

Criminalization of unauthorized immigration is one of the few right-wing legislative initiatives in the United States that massive demonstrations, major wildcat strikes, and lobbying, by capitalists as well as trade unions, managed to block in 2006, but the White House is achieving administratively what the Right couldn't get legislatively:
In temporary courtrooms at a fairgrounds here, 270 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week to five months in prison for working at a meatpacking plant with false documents.

The prosecutions, which ended Friday, signal a sharp escalation in the Bush administration's crackdown on illegal workers, with prosecutors bringing tough federal criminal charges against most of the immigrants arrested in a May 12 raid. Until now, unauthorized workers have generally been detained by immigration officials for civil violations and rapidly deported. (Julia Preston, "270 Illegal Immigrants Sent to Prison in Federal Push," New York Times, 24 May 2008)
The 2006 demos came at the height of the housing bubble in the US, whose construction boom had significantly boosted undocumented immigrants' economic bargaining power and bolstered their political confidence. Now, after the burst of the bubble, it would be very difficult to mount the same level of action for immigrant rights: Eduardo Porter, "Housing Slump Takes a Toll on Illegal Immigrants" (New York Times, 17 April 2007).

For the ruling class, immigrant workers are the most disposable part of the reserve army of labor, who are also useful as scapegoats on whom they can blame economic troubles. The spontaneous consciousness of workers is more often shaped by experience of competition for private-sector jobs and public-sector programs than solidarity, especially in the context where the frequency of industrial actions has so declined that most workers have never had a chance to experience working together to win. That makes it very difficult -- but also urgent -- to create a political culture that can withstand the divide and conquer strategy of the Right.


Anonymous said...

NYT reports, "The unusually swift proceedings, in which 297 immigrants pleaded guilty and were sentenced in four days, were criticized by criminal defense lawyers, who warned of violations of due process. Twenty-seven immigrants received probation. The American Immigration Lawyers Association protested that the workers had been denied meetings with immigration lawyers and that their claims under immigration law had been swept aside in unusual and speedy plea agreements."

For a possible explanation of the "unusually" speedy procees, I suggest a trip to That press organization originally reported that the federal indictment against the processing plant included charges of methamphetamine production by the kosher mafia. Although admittedly the tactics applied are more reminiscent of a criminal gang than legitimate government, there are always practical motives for their use in some circumstances, and not others.
marc b.

Anonymous said...

yoshie, as I am always suspicious of internet sources, I did some further searching on my last comment. For those who are interesting you can find a pdf copy of the application and affidavit in support of application here:
In addition to the meth allegations, there are references to the use of biometric scanning of employees, etc. A pretty tight operation for a meat processing plant in my opinion.
marc b.