All workers have a big stake in fight for immigrant rights and should reject those who are trying to use that issue to drive a wedge between people — black, brown and white.

We are a nation of immigrants. Unless they are Native American Indian, virtually every U.S. family has some roots in another country. The U.S. has the most multiracial and multinational working class in the world.

The long-term trend is immigration will continue. Some especially, on the right, think this is some kind of “threat” to the country, but our multiracial character is a wonderful strength.

Why are people coming here? 

Recently migration from Mexico has been dropping because of the economic crisis here. This shows that Mexican immigration is about jobs and survival. U.S. imperialism has always had a stranglehold on the Mexican economy, but it has been made worse by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

I’ve been to the Arizona border with Mexico and I’ve seen the faces of mostly young people who are risking their lives to walk through snake infested, sweltering desert. They carry with them the hopes of their families and villagers they will make it across, get a job and send some money home. Many do not make it.

It brings to mind the plight of thousands of escaped slaves during slavery who would have to walk and run for hundreds of miles trying to not get caught by the bounty hunters, while not knowing what consequences they would have to face once they reached a “free” state.

African Americans have an immigrant past too. We were “illegal immigrants” for over 300 years. We were dragged here from our homeland.

Thousands ran away following the North Star on the Underground Railroad which was run by abolitionists, black and white. Many African slaves ran away and joined Indian tribes. When Mexico abolished slavery in 1829 many escaped south of the border to freedom. These are some of the historic links that showed solidarity between black, brown, white and red people trying to overcome the horror that was U.S. slavery.  

The same kind of racism directed at the African America people for 400 years is being directed immigrants today. There needs to be unity.

The new composition of those immigrating to the U.S. has made immigration a real issue in the Black community. According to the 2008 U.S. Census, 1 in 4 African Americans today were born abroad. Of those born abroad over half come from the Caribbean and 34% were born on the continent of Africa. In 1960 it was only 1% from Africa. Africans now account for one in three foreign born Blacks. Based on the 2008 numbers 8% of all African Americans are now foreign born.   

Barack Obama’s father was an immigrant.

Today over 25% of all children under the age of 6 are being raised by at least one foreign-born parent. The children of immigrants have as much chance for greatness as native-born children, if given a chance. 

Fair and humane treatment of immigrants would reject mass deportations and criminalization. It would include amnesty are issues that should be supported by decent minded people everywhere.

I have been especially disturbed by the efforts by right wingers like Lou Dobbs (who was finally forced out from CNN) to convince African Americans that immigrants are the reason for high unemployed among U.S. born workers.

Those who are trying to promote anti-immigrant ideas in our community are promoting racism and violence and ought to be completely rejected. 

Disunity at this time of crisis is the path towards more hardships and new defeats for the working class as a whole.

To call immigrants “law breakers” as many right-wing commentators do is to not tell the real story.

The fact is our immigration laws are oppressive and unjust. They are selectively enforced depending on the country of origin the race and class of the immigrant worker. The experience of an immigrant trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico versus Canada can be like night and day. 

And by the way, slavery was legal for 300 years but that didn’t make it right.

The key to any humane resolution to the problem is some form of amnesty which will unite families, end the criminalization of millions of working people and allow those without documents to find their way to citizenship and legal employment.

The other part of the solution is jobs. We urgently need a green revolution which would create millions of good jobs. A national jobs bill needs to be passed that will create tens of millions of good jobs through federal spending.

In addition, it’s time to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and shift those trillions of dollars away from war to creating jobs by rebuilding our country.

The U.S. economy will benefit far more from such a huge increase in the buying power of working families through massive job creation then from more tax breaks for the wealthy, not to mention what it will do to our national spirit.



Jarvis Tyner
Jarvis Tyner

Jarvis Tyner is the former executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party's national board. Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism, and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appeared on the media, campuses, and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality, and the socialist alternative.