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Interview with Carlos Montes: Now is the time for “Legalization for all”

By Fight Back! Editors

Veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes

Fight Back! interviewed veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes on the fight to win legalization for undocumented immigrants. Montes is a longtime fighter in the struggle for immigrant rights. Fight Back!: Why is the struggle for legalization for the undocumented so important right now?

Carlos Montes: The struggle for legalization is very important now because immigrants, especially Mexicans and Central Americans, have been suffering tremendous hardships. The deportations, long detentions, police-ICE harassment and raids have caused extreme hardship for the masses of families who live in daily fear. These attacks have been exceptionally focused and hard on Mexicans and Central Americans, since they count for more than 90% of all deportations, and have high rates of incarceration and deaths on the border. On top of all this they face oppressive conditions in public schools, oppression in the work place, with low pay for long hours and poor working conditions, often without benefits or health care.

Fight Back!: There is growing discussion of so-called ‘Comprehensive Immigration Reform’ by politicians in Washington D.C. Is this what the community needs? If not, what demands does the immigrant rights movement need to put forward?

Montes: The community needs a fundamental change to the current oppressive immigration situation. The large Latino vote turnout showed that Latino voters want Obama to work on immigration along with job and other bread and butter issues. The immigrant rights movement needs to continue to put forward the most principled, advanced and progressive demands, such as legalization for all, no more repression on the border and in the workplace, and no guest worker program. We cannot let the politicians set the agenda and the platform of reform, because they will vacillate and compromise for a weak reform that serves the interests of big business and not the community.

Fight Back!: What is the connection between the struggle for immigrant rights and the struggle of Chicanos for self-determination and full equality?

Montes: The fight for immigrant rights is a fundamental part of our struggle for self-determination and full equality. We don’t just want a green card, we want our freedom! The history of the U.S. is a history of oppression and annexation of the Chicano/Mexicano people, our land, labor and culture! Fighting for immigrants’ rights is just a step in our ongoing fight for self-determination, economic and political power and freedom from the chains of U.S. imperialism.

Fight Back!: How can the movement win the struggle for immigrant rights?

Montes: Mass organizing, mass protests, civil disobedience and every tactic and form of protest is valid. Change will only come about if we force the politicians to change. In Los Angeles we organized, protested and forced the L.A. city chief of police and mayor to change the car confiscation policy by police who targeted immigrants without licenses. Real genuine reform has historically only come about when the people demanded it and took action. As in the historic Chicano movement when we organized the East L.A. walkouts demanding quality public education, an end to racism in the schools and Chicano Studies, and the mass anti-war protest of the Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War.

More recently undocumented youth, the so-called Dreamers, took militant actions that pushed the Obama administration to grant temporary residency known as DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. Now is the time to unite and move into action. Many forces are already moving and taking action, everyone should do something in their community. But the key is to base our work among the poor and working class as they are the ones who will stand firm. They should lead this movement – not the politicians, nonprofits, or intellectuals. What poor and working class will unite and fight for is full legalization for all and not a compromise that puts up barriers to legalization while increasing the repression of immigrants.

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