Immigration is one of, if not the most, hotly debated topic in mainstream US politics, and has been for much of its history. The “acceptable” positions are essentially variations between “we should allow a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and reform our immigration agencies” and “we should keep immigrants out and prosecute and/or deport all undocumented immigrants”. Both sides consider citizenship to be what legitimizes a person, to be what justifies their presence in a country, and neither side really, truly, considers why people immigrate to the US. Therefore, their “solutions” are based on dealing with the end result of immigration rather than basing solutions on the causes.
Immigration to the US is almost uniformly caused by US imperialism. The most hotly contested immigrants to the US are from Latin America. The US, for the past century, has used Latin America for cheap production. It has restructured the economies of said countries to maximize benefit to the US and the flow of resources and revenue to itself. Take, for example, a banana republic, like the Dominican Republic. Such a country’s entire economy is structured around producing a single commodity, and is almost always an economy de facto run by a foreign government or corporation. In the case of the Dominican Republic, United Fruit used it for banana production. Similarly, Guatemala has been used by United Fruit to maximize benefit to its shareholders, and the US has aided it in its domination. United Fruit and the US have collaborated to support military dictatorships in Guatemala so they can guarantee security for their fruit production, even as far as supporting them during the Guatemalan genocide.
Such activities throughout Latin America force people to come to the US, both because of the violence in their home countries from death squads, dictatorships, and gangs, all of which spring about from conditions the US creates, and because their countries’ resources aren’t used to benefit its people, they are exported to the US and their wealth is accumulated in the US. If they want to avoid death, and have enough money to survive, they must come to the US. Today, Latin American immigration to the US is largely from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The US supported a military coup in Honduras in 2009 against the moderately social democratic president Manuel Zelaya. The ensuing instability of which has contributed to the country holding the global highest murder rate and crippling conditions of poverty, desperation, and gang warfare. The US supported murderous military dictatorship and death squads in El Salvador against the left-wing FMLN. Post-Salvadoran Civil War, these actors became gangs such as MS-13 as a result of the instability. The US-created violence of El Salvador forces Salvadorans to leave their countries. The US, as I explained, supported military dictatorships in Guatemala up to their genocidal actions against Mayans. As one could guess, such terror has forced Guatemalans to immigrate to the US for safety.
Middle Eastern immigrants are forced, too, to come to the US due to conditions contributed to by US imperialism. For example, the US caused Iran’s present, reactionary state by toppling the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in favor of the autocratic Reza Pahlavi Shah, whose harsh regime inevitably led to the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The US invaded Iraq on false pretenses of WMDs and plundered its oil and destabilized it. In the aftermath, it privatized countless assets and ravaged the region. The resulting chaos left a power vacuum for ISIS and other salafi jihadis to fill. In 2011 the US bombed Libya to overthrow Gaddafi. The resulting instability which today has reached the lows of a slave trade. The US-supported reactionary fundamentalist Mujahideen in the Soviet-Afghan war became the fundamentalist Taliban. Countless Saudi volunteers for the Mujahideen later joined Al-Qaeda, with some, including Osama bin Laden, participating in the attacks of 9/11. The US continues to support reactionary actors throughout the Middle East, from the Saudi Monarchy to the Turkish dictatorship simply because it benefits its interests. The US is a destabilizing force in the Middle East just as it is in Latin America, it will do anything to maintain and spread its global hegemony, to create a climate compatible for US businesses. Such actions force Middle Easterners to come to the US for safety in order to experience the wealth which has been accumulated from their nations into the US.
The capitalists also benefit off the restriction of such immigration and xenophobia. Borders are an economic tool, a price control. They never keep all undocumented immigrants out, they aren’t truly intended to. First of all, they benefit from people of the global South being kept where they are cheap laborers. These people are kept in regions with few rights for workers, low wages, poor working conditions, etc. Second of all, the terror of immigration agencies towards immigrants who make it into the US allows them to be squeezed dry by capitalists for value. Because the capitalist can threaten them with deportation if they demand a decent wage, they can profit off the cheap, unprotected labor of immigrant workers. Third of all, capitalists redirect the grievances of capitalism towards immigrants, specifically unemployment. Capitalists encourage the perception of immigrants as job stealers, as economic competitors to American workers. They like it when immigrants are blamed for unemployment. In reality, it’s the fault of the capitalists. They are the ones who exploit the working class.
Do not fall for the idea that the workers and capitalists of one nation have the same interests merely due to a shared national identity. Workers and capitalists as classes have no true national identity, they are global. Whether you like it or not, the interests of workers in all countries are of the same class, and they seek to satisfy the same basic interests, and the same is true for the capitalists of all countries. You cannot simply attend to the interests of the workers of one nation and expect to improve their wellbeing. If one takes a nationalist-alone approach to aiding the workers, they are bound to fail. If, in one country, the minimum wage is raised, working conditions are improved, social welfare programs are implemented or expanded, and taxes are raised, the capitalist class dodges these reforms through capital flight and outsourcing, they simply go somewhere where workers do not have those benefits. Whenever you enact reform, the capitalists will squirm out of your grasp. As long as workers somewhere in the world suffer with no or few rights, then they serve as an alternative for the capitalist class to exploit. Unless the working class of the world is united, then it cannot challenge them. If they are divided as they are now, then the capitalist class can simply turn to another fraction of it, turning them against each other and further fragmenting their power. Again, you cannot simply aid one section of the proletariat, you must have a united working class to fight the bourgeoisie, whether you like it or not. American workers must aid their immigrant comrades, and help them resist exploitation. American workers must support the workers of the global South in their fight against neoliberalism and capitalist exploitation. If they do not, then they will be turned against each other, endlessly undercutting each others interests in a downward spiral which capitalists laugh in joy at. Yes, outsourcing hurts American workers. But you’ll never stop such undercutting unless you ensure that the workers of the world unite against exploitation.
Liberalism and social democracy are not ideologies or movements which can effectively solve the question of immigration. Liberals love to posit themselves in utter opposition of the brutal practices of immigration officials, as standing up for the rights and freedom of immigrants, as loving diversity. Liberal pro-immigrant rhetoric, however, falls short, and is even sinister in some regards. Liberals, as they still buy into the nation-state and capitalism, believe immigration agencies just need to be reformed, and that they aren’t inherently bad. They think they should be “nicer”, that undocumented immigrants should “be given a path to citizenship”, and that “we should only deport the criminals!”. They think an institution which exists to keep people where they can be exploited more easily can be reformed. Liberals believe immigration restrictions are necessary for “safety” and to prevent “overpopulation”. Liberals say “immigrants make America great”. What does this mean? They see the ultimate value of immigrants as being in their ability to benefit the nation-state. Liberals talk about how the US economy relies on immigrant labor in farms, how, though they say it in nicer terms, the US economy needs the cheap labor of exploited immigrants to run. They’re essentially saying we can’t get rid of immigrants because we can’t survive without being a vampire draining their blood. Liberals are still a product of nationalism and capitalism. They just choose to be more inclusive in their system of valuing people according to their contribution to the nation-state by valuing them regardless of national origins (unless, of course, they’re a RUSSIAN!). Ultimately, the value of people still comes from their ability to assimilate to and benefit the nation to a liberal, whether they admit it or not.
Liberalism cannot help immigrants. “Reforming” borders, emphasizing legalistic morality regarding immigration, and evaluating people based on whether they can be exploited in the name of the nation-state is not going to help immigrants. Liberals don’t consider the causes of immigration, they don’t consider why people flee their homes. They try to “solve” the end result rather than the cause. Immigration can only be “solved” by the uniting of the working class, and the abolition of borders, of nations, and of capitalism. “Overpopulation” is not a real issue, and freedom of movement will not result in it, especially if people have a choice in where they live without the push factors of violence or poverty. Without capitalism, imperialism, and nation-states, people wouldn’t be forced to immigrate to the imperial cores. If communities control production, use it to meet the needs of their communities with local resources, people will not need to leave their homes unless they wanted to. If capitalists cannot leech of the labor of many, and the fruits of our labor go toward meeting our necessities, then our societies will not be structured around meeting the desires of private owners. Only socialism can end the parasitic natures of nationalism and capitalism, and socialism can only come about if we begin building it now. And one of the most important steps to building working class power is to unite it.