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The paradox of immigration in Puerto Rico, U.S.A.

Pedro Angel Rivera  |  Issue: October | November 2019

An estimated 5 million Puerto Ricans live and work in the continental USAmerica today. About 3.2 million people live and work in the archipelago of Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans residing in the USAmerica have civil and political rights formally similar to those of any other USAmerican citizen. In Puerto Rico, we are colonial USAmerican citizens, without the right to vote for the USAmerican President and Congress that govern our destiny.

On the other hand, Puerto Rico, U.S.A., is also a land receiving thousands of immigrants from countries such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, Peru, in addition to a little over 100,000 residents born in USAmerica.

In this setting of paradoxical statistics, I had the opportunity to talk with Hilda Guerrero, a civil and human rights activist for the immigrant community in Puerto Rico, that prominently includes some 67,000 immigrants from the Dominican Republic.

Hilda points out that while Puerto Ricans on the island are subjected to colonial inequality, Dominican immigrants, especially Dominican women workers, are today suffering more than ever in the relentless climate of xenophobic and racist intolerance being fostered by the USAmerican federal government under Donald Trump and his capitalist associates.

She adds that while a significant number of Puerto Rican women are victims of violence, workplace harassment and sexual abuse, in the case of immigrant Dominican women the situation is made even worse by the growing climate of intolerance and harassment at the hands of Federal immigration officials.

They are abetted by the illegal complicity of the local police and government agencies that frequently harass immigrants demanding to see their passports and/or green cards.

Comuna Caribe, the organization Hilda Guerrero is working with, raises the point that “capital recognizes no frontiers, no walls. It moves about freely, as it feels like and chooses to.

“Meanwhile, she underscores, “countries like the U.S. … have become rich with the impoverishment of our countries … but they look to close their borders … stopping people from journeying in search of a ‘better quality of life’, and we bear witness to this whole situation of the caravan of people who have left Central America.”

Guerrero asserts that the problem is made worse by the anti-immigrant propaganda in Puerto Rico that still makes a strong impact on certain sectors of the Puerto Rican population that see immigrant workers as enemies because “they take away our jobs,” although this is not true.

Facing this challenge, Comuna Caribe continues to educate Puerto Rican migrants and foreign immigrant workers to say no to the borders imposed by capital, the exploiter of workers. Inspired by the slogan of “Native or not, the working class is one,” Puerto Rican activists in the Antilles like Hilda Guerrero urge us to reap the capacity for solidarity that also belongs to the working class of Puerto Rico by fighting the ignorance fostered through xenophobia, racism, and the immoral and hypocritical anti-immigrant policies promoted by capitalism in Puerto Rico and in the rest of the continental USAmerica.

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