Obama’s Parallel Brutality: TPP, Immigration Raids and the #SOTU

By Celeste Larkin Ramovic, CRLN’s Public Policy Coordinator, Organizer Against the TPP, clarkin@crln.org


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Last month, two days before many celebrated Christmas, the Washington Post published an article leaking the Obama Administration’s plan to start 2016 with immigration raids targeting Central American families who had previously been ordered deported. With these raids as the backdrop to  last night’s speech, Obama also plugged the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal during his State of the Union address, urging lawmakers to pass it through Congress before he leaves office. The cruelty of these parallel efforts by the same administration is not lost on us here at CRLN.


CRLN and many other organizations in the field of human rights have been working to place in the center of public awareness and discussion the realities of undocumented immigrants, many of whom are some of the millions of people displaced after the passage of disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA. The Obama Administration ignores their experiences, instead propagating the idea that the agenda of the TPP, based on the NAFTA and CAFTA models, is to create good jobs and raise labor and environmental standards globally. Yet even if we ignore history and just look at the 90% of 605 cleared trade advisors that come from corporate America, how can we possibly believe that those negotiators have working people’s lives and not just their bottom line in mind?


Being honest about the long history of U.S. economic and political interests in Latin America alone, we understand the TPP to be consistent with America’s economic priorities that favor major corporations through international ‘development’, extraction of other countries’ resources, and massive waves of privatization in the public sectors of other nations. In this equation, working people have been fighting for their rights and autonomy on a field dramatically tipped in favor of private capital.


While there are chapters in the TPP on workers rights, the environment and consumer issues, there are practically zero enforceable mechanisms to keep states and corporations in compliance with the standards, themselves inadequate, outlined in the final negotiated text. Meanwhile, corporations continue to be given the power to sue sovereign nations over domestic laws meant to protect workers, the environment, access to medicine or consumer rights, should those laws inhibit corporate future profits.


The TPP will extend the history of skyrocketing wealth disparities and social destabilization in poorer nations, creating an environment that makes it difficult for working people to survive. Many who risk their lives to cross multiple, militarized borders in the middle of a brutal drug war do so not because it’s a reasonable option, but because they see it as a better option than the minefield of survival facing them where they are, which has been exacerbated by U.S. economic and military policies. If President Obama and the next administration want to avoid being hypocritical and demonstrate real concern about “future” instability and crises in Latin America, which President Obama last night said could “feed the next wave of refugees,” they must desist from supporting corporate-led trade policies like the TPP, which time after time have only served to worsen living conditions in Latin America for the majority and which are directly linked to the forced migration and displacement of millions.


We also know one way forward is immediate and radical change to U.S. immigration enforcement policies and practices, ending record-high deportations under the Obama administration and the use of immoral immigration enforcement tactics to raid immigrant homes and workplaces and to drive fear and panic into immigrant communities. It is our moral responsibility to stop the raids and to implement an immediate moratorium on deportations.


This past weekend, I went door-knocking with Organized Communities Against Deportation,  CRLN, Centro Autonomo, Fight for 15 and many others who wanted to raise awareness in Albany Park, a Chicago neighborhood especially vulnerable to the new wave of expected ICE raids. We knocked on doors to tell people about their rights (don’t open the door, you can remain silent) and let them know about a Know Your Rights forum this coming Saturday. It is crucial that we understand the root causes of migration, make demands on lawmakers to not repeat them, and fight to keep families together who have survived so much to flee desperate conditions.