July 18, 2024

Source: https://cbsaustin.com/news/local/abbott-and-biden-begin-new-year-at-odds-over-border-security-policy-texas-austin

The following has been translated and republished from El Machete.

There has been much coverage of the dispute between Texas Governor Greg Abbott and President Biden over the US federal government’s immigration policy as 2024 begins.

The Texas National Guard has attempted to take control of the border with Mexico to stop what the governor describes as an “invasion” of migrants seeking to enter the country as refugees or illegally. It was an escalation in the political conflict between the two sides of the American bourgeoisie, following decades of persecution against migrants, Trump’s xenophobic electoral campaigns and state laws enacted in Texas in recent years that have unilaterally begun to grant immigration control powers to local police and military forces. For many writers and media, the dispute had been discussed solely within the political-electoral perspective of the immigration issue and the constitutional repercussions within bourgeois legality. Some sensationalists have even gone so far as to raise the question of a civil war in the US, but the lack of a materialist understanding of the origin of this contention between different interests of the bourgeoisie is perceptible.

Given the causes of current migration created by capitalism, even more so in its imperialist phase; not underestimating the significant influence of socio-cultural and political-electoral aspects, in view of the 2024 elections; and an understanding of the capitalist state as the agreed administrator of migration (imported labor) based on the needs and profits of the bourgeoisie; it is extremely important to have a primary understanding of the economic base that produces and conditions the other elements. It is equally necessary not to fall into the error of perceiving intra-bourgeois disputes with total cynicism and ignoring the sectors in conflict, in contradiction, within the same bourgeois class. We are then confronted with the question: why is there this difference in politics? Democrats and Republicans have historically harassed and exploited the majority of migrants who arrive at their borders and shores equally, but the degree of resistance to and segmentation of migration has also been distinguished by the interests they respectively represent.

By contrasting the policies and rhetoric of the Biden and Trump administrations, we understand that the difference between the two is not the choice between absolute freedom of movement or hermetically sealed borders. At the same time, one cannot deny Biden’s relative softness in not keeping deportations in proportion to the increase in arrivals and having, until recently, facilitated the entry of migrants. To elucidate the distinctions, the focus will be on Texas for this analysis, since it has emerged as the vanguard of the reaction in this case and the political, moral and material support of other Republican, non-border states may be influenced more by other immediate political considerations. It will be by comparing California and Texas that the bourgeois nuances in the economic basis of the class struggle will become evident. Two border states with high migrant populations, comparable in size and economic power, but different in certain particularities of their political economy.

Texas is the second state with the largest migrant population (5,092,132 people), after California, comprising 17.2% in 2021 of its population (data from the US Census Bureau), a number that has undoubtedly increased since then.

The migrant population represents approximately 23% of the Texas workforce, almost a quarter. With 8% of the workforce made up of undocumented migrants. The number of migrant workers for 2018, in Texas, were concentrated in the following industries: Construction (517,957), Manufacturing (361,818), Health care and social assistance (353,961), Accommodation and food services (336,864), Retail trade (332,182). Migrants represented, as a percentage of workers, high levels in the following occupation categories: Building and grounds maintenance and cleaning (46%), Construction and extraction (42%), Agriculture, fishing and forestry (39%), Production (32%), Computers and mathematics (27%). (Analysis of 1-year PUMS data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey by the American Immigration Council.) By 2019, undocumented workers would be concentrated in agriculture (33%), construction (27%), and building and grounds maintenance and cleaning (24%), as percentages of the total workforce in those sectors. (FWD.us analysis of 2019 American Community Survey data) These sectoral distributions are similar in California and to national data.

The Texas economy is characterized by low average wages compared to most of the continental US, particularly in sectors with higher concentrations of migrant labor. In California, average wages are some of the highest in the US, but this is offset by the high cost of living, meaning that more pay is required to reproduce the workforce. Both states maintain unemployment rates above the national average (3.7%), Texas at 4.0% and California at 5.1% unemployment. Considering that this rate does not take into account the population dropping out of the labor market, recently arrived undocumented migrants or the intensity/duration of unemployment. Texas is also known for its totally defenestrated unionism, with a union representation rate of only 5.4% compared to California which has a much higher rate of 16.9%. (“State Employment and Unemployment” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) One can begin to understand from here why Democratic California is more receptive to migrants than Texas.

Increasing the labor pool allows California to offset high wages and unionization rates. And it is those relatively high wages that would allow the Golden State to tolerate, or even require, higher levels of unemployment to make labor cheaper.

Sectoral issues will also need to be considered, with differences in the agricultural industry as the main attractor of illegal migrant labor being a topic of discussion. Agriculture employs a comparable number of people, 408,506 in Texas and an average of 418,258 people in California in 2017, but in Texas it contributed $186.1 billion USD (~9.1% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) while in California it contributed $51.3 billion USD (~2.5% of its GDP). Agriculture relative to its value is less labor intensive in Texas. This is naturally the case due to the dominance of fruits, nuts, and vegetables in California agriculture, which tend to be more labor-intensive, while Texas agriculture is dominated by livestock and cotton. Other differences are the fastest growing sectors in each state, which determine where the labor force will be directed and what type of work is required. The California Workforce Development Agency projects that some of the fastest-growing sectors are leisure and hospitality and food preparation and service. Both have high concentrations of migrant workers and, in addition to agriculture, are accessible to undocumented migrants. On the other hand, the Texas Department of Economic Development is betting on the technological and advanced manufacturing sectors. This in the context of an internal migration of people and capital to Texas, particularly from California. 165 American companies have moved to Texas between 2020 and January 2024, Tesla and technology companies standing out among them. And being the second state, after California, to receive foreign investments, mainly from energy companies (Shell, BP, Iberdrola, among several others), manufacturers (Samsung, Foxconn, Siemens, Mitsubishi, Toyota and more) and the “outstanding” Bimbo bread. Regarding people, since 2018, internal migration to Texas has surpassed international migration, with the majority being college-educated Californians, based on data from the Dallas Federal Reserve.

With all this information in mind, the logic and differentiation between the positions of the Texas Republicans and the Democrats in California can now be understood more clearly. Abbott is simply looking out for the future collective interests of the bourgeoisie in his particular environment. It seems that the recent increase in Texan dislike towards Central and South American migrants arriving en masse at its borders may be because they do not require unskilled labor, they cannot assume the social and economic costs of further cheapening work in construction, manufacturing, agriculture, etc.

What the bourgeoisie in Texas demands is educated and technically trained labor. Now, we cannot ignore how the persecution of these recent immigrants feeds or at least maintains the profits of the construction and agricultural companies, some of the most important financiers of Governor Greg Abbott. They tie undocumented workers to their bosses under the threat of deportation to receive miserable wages and inhumane conditions. Nor can we ignore how foreign workers are used as scapegoats in the demagogy of the bourgeois parties to foment antagonisms within the working class itself. But it is the degrees of difference that demonstrate the needs of this or that fraction of the bourgeoisie that determine how it wishes to regulate the reserve army of labor. While in Texas they suppress and regulate the movement of the labor factor in favor of more specialized detachments, the Democrats do so with their own considerations, calling for immigration reform that in every practical sense is the call for the free right to exploit. Repressive or not, with or without violence, all immigration policy under capitalism is anti-migrant, anti-worker and anti-popular because it is exercised at the convenience of the exploiting class, for the benefit of its profits.