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Fight for a world without racist border controls

This article is over 5 years, 7 months old
Immigration laws are the backdrop to increasing attacks on migrants and refugees, argues Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue 2630
Border controls are racist
Border controls are racist

Attacks on refugees and migrants are at the forefront of the racist assault waged by rulers across the world.

In the last few weeks alone, they have intensified their scapegoating.

Donald Trump sent 15,000 troops to the border between the US and Mexico with permission to open fire at a caravan of 12,000 migrants from Central America.

And Italian senators cleared the way for a nasty law that would make it easier to strip migrants of citizenship and deport them.

These sorts of attacks have caused outrage among many.

So Diane Abbott has said Labour will end the Tories’ “hostile environment”.

Yet she also promised 5,000 more border guards to tackle “illegal immigration”.

Most people, even those who see themselves as anti-racist, support some form of immigration controls.

But from their introduction at the turn of the century, the British state’s immigration controls have always been racist.

For instance, the Aliens Act 1905 targeted Jewish people fleeing pogroms.

And subsequent restrictions specifically singled out black people.

That’s a central reason Socialist Worker stands against all immigration controls and borders.

Racial profiling is still tied up with immigration controls.

In 2004 the Court of Appeal ruled that it was legal for British border guards at Prague Airport to turn away Roma people more than other Czech nationals.

Facing intense racism at home, many Roma people had tried to claim asylum abroad.

And this doesn’t stop at the border. Migrants from outside the European Union face restricted access to free healthcare and council services.

These sorts of policies were driven by the Immigration Act 2014, which tried to turn bosses, landlords and public sector workers into border guards.


This means many migrants live in fear—and also makes people whose parents or grandparents came to Britain as migrants a target.

So 27 percent of landlords told a survey that they would be less likely to rent to people with a “foreign-sounding” name or accent.

Labour has said it would scrap the act.

But its immigration policy for after Brexit is based on discriminating between “lower-skilled” and “higher-skilled migrants”.

This just makes it easier for the Tories to divide us.

Mass migration has had a hugely positive effect—black and Asian workers built the NHS and it still relies on migrants to run.

To stop racist division taking hold, we have to say that no one is illegal.

This shouldn’t be a condition of being part of the movement against racism.

Immigration controls are a recent invention and nation-states divided by borders are only a few hundred years old. Before 1905 millions of people didn’t move to Britain.

Bosses want migrants to cross borders during times of capitalist boom when they face a shortage of labour and need workers.

But alongside the need for labour, capitalists need to divide workers and use immigration controls to stoke up racism and manage labour flows.

Our capitalist society of competing states and class division will keep relying on racist immigration controls.

The result is death, deportations, detention camps and migrants facing racism.

The revolutionary Leon Trotsky wrote that “amid the vast expanses of land and the marvels of technology” capitalism had “converted our planet into a foul prison.”

A socialist, borderless world could break it open.

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