Last week’s defeat of Virginia Representative Eric Cantor, Republican former House Majority Leader, sent shock waves through the political establishment. Democrats were at first jubilant – happy that a long-time foe had been brought down in his own district by far less funded tea party opponent, Dave Brat. That joy revealed the Democratic Party’s utter disregard for the continued suffering of working people in the United States, and its focus only on its own electoral success at the national level.
What does Cantor’s defeat mean for immigrants? The media hacks have condemned immigration reform because of Cantor’s defeat. They say that no Republican will take up reform out of fear of the right.
But what have Republicans, or Democrats for that matter, done on immigration besides deporting millions?
While the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program was a victory for undocumented youth, those youth needed to literally shut down Obama campaign headquarters nationwide during a Presidential campaign to win this victory. They needed to infiltrate immigration detention. At least hundreds needed to be arrested in acts of civil disobedience before any protection was provided at all. And the protection is not permanent.
Moreover, the President has all the power of the executive in his hands and is in charge of all immigration enforcement. Yet rather than act to end deportation and detention, the Administration is using immigrants once again against the Republicans to try to win elections.
The reform that Cantor “supported” was no comprehensive reform at all.Despite alluding to his support for the DREAM Act, to protect undocumented youth, he voted against the DREAM Act in 2010. He actually voted FOR House Amendment 136 (an amendment to HR 2217), which would have prevented the appropriation of any funds to the Department of Homeland Security to enforce executive orders such as DACA. He voted to deprive undocumented children of healthcare and immigrants of foreclosure assistance.
He helped stymie any “positive” reform efforts – even those with widespread support in Congress and among the electorate. He was in the camp of Republicans who lined up after the 2012 elections, confessing the need to “repair the broken immigration system.” Yet, he campaigned in June on “stopping the Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty.”
Cantor is an anti-immigrant racist, who never did anything positive for Latinos or other immigrant communities in this country. Having an “establishment candidate” like Cantor, therefore, would not have been any better in the grand scheme of things for immigrants. He out-fundraised his Tea Party opponent 26-1, and was supported by most major sectors of U.S.c apitalism, from investment firms to telecom to energy and more. Cantor’s top funders, like the Blackstone Group and Scoggin Capital Management, have themselves invested millions of dollars in private prison/immigration detention contractors, including the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, to name a few.
And how have the Democrats reacted to such maneuvering in the House? President Obama himself met with undocumented activists in March, and reprimanded the activists for hurting the chances of the nearly dead reform by demanding a moratorium on deportations. He asked them to hold their stories of separated loved ones and broken communities, lives sabotaged by immigration fees, detention and deportation.
Meanwhile, ICE stepped up raids, arresting hundreds in Milwaukee and tens of thousands along the border. Over 70,000 undocumented children are expected to be apprehended at the border by year’s end. And after Cantor’s defeat, Immigration and Customs Enforcement continued its Midwest-wide raids and arrested dozens more people in Operation Cross Check.
At the end of the day, the Democrats hope to use the Republicans’ midterm Tea Party wins against them in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats will once again come crawling to Latinos, the largest growing voting block, begging for votes. They will say that immigrant families must vote for Democrats or be doomed.
But we know the truth: the Democratic party has carried out the largest deportation assault on immigrants in U.S. history. We must not let it off the hook. We must continue to build an independent movement that struggles against injustice wherever it manifests, including the barbarous U.S. immigration system.