Solidarity With Immigrants and Refugees

On March 24 the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights held a rally at Liberty Plaza to demand an end to deportations that are tearing immigrant families apart and to oppose the anti-immigrant bills then before the General Assembly. Barbara Joye joined other allies who spoke in support, representing MADSA. Click on “read more” to see what she said. (Photo: Gloria Tatum)

“I represent the Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America, but I also speak from a sense of personal responsibility. I learned from Mexican-American friends the saying “We’re here because you’re there,” meaning that the forces driving people to leave their homes, their communities, their families and their cultures and take the dangerous journey north result in large part from the policies of the United States government and U.S. corporations.

I myself have visited a village in Mexico populated almost entirely by old people and children, because all the adults of working age had left to find jobs in the U.S. so they could support their families. And this was in 1993, a year before NAFTA made it even more difficult for Mexican farmers to compete with American agribusiness.

Another cause of immigration from Mexico and Central America is the terrible violence due to the so-called war on drugs. And, the U.S. government’s support for the Central American elites’ wars on their own peoples, which intensified under President Reagan. This continues today. The most recent example is the coup in Honduras, overthrowing a democratically elected reform government, which the U.S. government welcomed. Today, Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the hemisphere.

In Guatemala and in El Salvador, gang violence has driven many children and their parents from their homes. The gang leaders in many cases learned their trade in places like Los Angeles, and after being deported brought those gang connections, practices and structures to Central America.

Also, the destabilization of the Middle East, which has created a terrible humanitarian crisis displacing millions of people, started with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan by George W. Bush. The crisis continues for other reasons, but the U.S. is taking only a token number of the refugees, leaving the European Union and countries like Turkey to bear the brunt, and our governor Deal wants to refuse all Syrian refugees asylum in our state.

Clearly, what we need is comprehensive immigration reform so the 11 million people without papers who are working, studying, raising their families and contributing to our economy can have a path to citizenship, and a humane policy that offers compassion and dignity to refugees.

I’ll close with the words of two famous U.S. socialists: Eugene Victor Debs, who was himself detained for many years right here in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta for opposing World War I, who said “While there is a soul in prison I am not free,” and the poet Emma Lazarus, herself from a family that had fled oppression in Europe, her words on the Statue of Liberty: “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Let us continue to struggle together, in unity, so that people all over the world, and in the U.S., and in the State of Georgia, and our children and grandchildren, can breathe free!

Barbara Joye