U.S. Citizenship and Immigration: Reds need not apply
Vadim Ghirda / AP

Immigrants inside the United States can be denied the ability to adjust their status to “lawful permanent resident” on the grounds of membership “or affiliation” [emphasis added] with a Communist or “totalitarian” party, either foreign or domestic, according to new policy “guidance” issued Oct. 2 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The directive refers to the immigrants as “aliens.”

This throwback to the McCarthy Red Scare era should be no real shock. (It is the Trump administration, after all!) In implementing this policy, our country would be banning immigrants in a way that clearly violates the Constitution’s First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” The Constitution does not carve out any exemptions allowing Congress to deny immigrants—or anyone else in the United States—this freedom.

The new directive from the Trump administration is a heartless and stupid rule with far-reaching, disturbing implications that could affect the lives of many trying to be legal residents of the United States – immigrants who do have a belief in democracy, and who want to make a life in this country.

Being a communist is not against the law in the U.S. and the Communist Party, founded in 1919, is a legal, tax-paying entity. Legislation outlawing Communist Party membership has been ruled unenforceable by a series of court decisions. In a 1967 case, the Supreme Court ruled that one such piece of legislation, the Subversive Activities Control Act “literally establishes guilt by association alone, without any need to establish that an individual’s association poses the threat feared by the Government.”

Contrary to the USCIS directive, “communist” is not synonymous with “totalitarian.” Across the globe, communist movements participate in political systems that could not even remotely be considered authoritarian nor totalitarian.

For example, the Communist Party of Spain, is part of a greater coalition of the Left that was democratically elected to office recently. The Japanese Communist Party is one of the largest communist parties that is not a ruling party. The JCP had 300,000 members as of 2017 and multiple members elected to the Japanese parliament and many more elected to local offices. Both the Spanish and Japanese parties are transparent, unarmed, with internal democracy practiced in their own organizations. The same, of course, can be said of the French Communist Party, the Communist Party of Greece, the multiple Communist Parties in Italy, and many others in Latin America. In Germany, the small Communist Party is constitutionally legal and there is a large communist caucus in the Left Party which has seats in the Bundestag.

It is telling that Japan, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany and almost all of Latin America have been through periods of true fascism and do not employ draconian measures to “ban” or limit the communists in any way. It seems strange for the USCIS to make such a point in the year 2020 to place a ban on communists becoming permanent residents. But rationality has never been a strong suit for this administration: we must assume darker, more nefarious purposes.

An election year ploy

This new policy serves two purposes for this administration. First it is a propaganda ploy lumping Communist Party membership with “totalitarianism” and implicitly signaling to the American public that communism represents a real and present danger that must not settle on our shores from the outside world. The USCIS is acting like an arm of Trump’s reelection campaign by issuing such a directive in order to drum up the idea that there is a threat from Marxism in America today (and for an added scare factor, foreign communists could be trying to apply for residency).

Secondly, the absolute vagueness of the directive can be used to deny thousands their right to immigrate to the U.S. What defines a Communist Party? There are parties that are indeed communist with the name communist in the title of course, but there are also communist parties that do not have the title for various reasons. The Workers Party of Ireland is one example – a communist party, through and through, though without being called one. The Socialist Labour Party of Croatia is another, the Workers Party of Bangladesh is another, and the list goes on and on.

There are other parties that have communist currents within them but are not communist. Would that be considered affiliation with a “communist” or “totalitarian” party under this new policy? The New Democratic Party of Canada, a “soft left” socialist party that has been at times an official opposition and the third largest party of Canada, has members belonging to Fightback, a Trotskyist and thus “communist grouping.” If a person was an active NDP member and moved to the United States, would that person be considered to have been affiliated with “communists”?

In a broader sense, if anyone who was an “alien” ever went to a BLM or anti-police protest, would that be considered “affiliation” with communists? It sounds ridiculous to anyone with more than two brain cells, but Trump and Trump’s allies have said that Black Lives Matter is either a Marxist or communist movement. Would BLM be considered a Communist Party? It does have some Marxists and Communists involved though it is hardly a communist group. An “alien” who went to one protest could have America’s door slammed in their face for their exercise of the precious right of free speech.

All in all, this new policy is a combination of the ghost of Joseph McCarthy and the miserable nature of Trump’s anti-immigrant directives. It will be used, abused, and directed at political enemies. Those trying to legally immigrate to the United States will be barred or have to jump through ridiculous legal hoops brought about by the worst president this country has seen in over a hundred years.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Forbes West
Forbes West

Forbes West has a Master’s Degree in Political Science from California State University, Long Beach. He lives and works in Long Beach, California, and Ojima, Japan, in the foothills of Mt. Fuji. He is a published author of several books and a producer of several short films.