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Police target the undocumented, we call for moratorium on 30-day car impounds!

Commentary by Fight Back! Editors |
February 7, 2014
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Los Angeles, CA - After years of community mobilization and pressure put on state politicians, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB60, into law in October of 2013. AB60 will allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses, but not until January 1, 2015. That means that for the rest of 2014, California police will continue to seize the cars of undocumented drivers. These cars are impounded, many for 30 days, forcing the undocumented to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars to get their cars back.

Last November, a large number of immigrant rights organizations and community groups called for a moratorium on impounds. These groups included the National Lawyers Guild, ACLU of southern California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice LA, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, Community Service Organization (CSO), Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Presente.org, Service, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) and others.

Chicanos, Mexicanos and Central American communities in California have fought for drivers licenses for the undocumented for more than ten years (see the 2004 Fight Back! article for early news on this struggle). This movement has mobilized the masses of working people in these communities through protests, rallies and meetings. At the same time a broad united front including Chicano politicians, religious groups, lawyers and nonprofit organizations has been built to further the pressure on politicians in the state capitol at Sacramento.

Like many other struggles for equality, the victory in the campaign to allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for drivers licenses was a partial one, with an almost 15-month delay in implementation. In the same way, the growing struggle for tuition equity to allow undocumented college students to pay in-state fees at state colleges and universities is only a first step, which needs to be followed by the fight for state financial aid.

Ultimately, what is needed is a broad legalization of the undocumented, not the more restrictive plans loaded down with more militarization of the border and workplace repression being promoted by the Democrats in the Senate, or even worse, the Republicans in the House of Representatives. But with legislative action stalled, and even if some reform passes this year, millions of undocumented will be left behind; making local and state struggles against deportations, against the ‘Secure Communities’ and for driver’s licenses and tuition equity important.

It would be a mistake for activists to downplay or ignore these struggles for partial reforms that can better the lives of the undocumented. Through their own involvement in the struggle, people can come to see how the system of capitalism -- where the economy is based on profit, which in the U.S. is based on a history of economic exploitation, political disenfranchisement and social discrimination that non-whites face -- is at the root of the injustices that they face. This history is part and parcel of the historic national oppression that the Chicano Nation in the U.S. Southwest, including most of California.

It would also be a mistake to only focus on the united front and on the struggle in the legislature to pass these bills. Part of the purpose of the so-called democracy in this country, which is really only democracy for the rich, is to draw in activists fighting for change, imbed them in the system and cut them off from the working masses that are the true engine of change.

The editors of Fight Back! News want to congratulate the Chicano, Mexican and Central American communities who have been the backbone of the fight for drivers licenses for the undocumented. We also pledge our support for continuing the struggle for a moratorium on car impounds, for the movement for legalization of the undocumented and ultimately for self-determination of the Chicano Nation, up to and including secession, and for full equality for the Chicano, Mexicano and Central American peoples in the U.S.!

 

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