Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fear and Hate Policies Along the Border: R.I.P.

I agree with Dr. Rodriguez. It's high time to look at ruthless border policies in the same what that he's looking at Guantanamo. -Angela


Arizona Watch
New America Media, Commentary, Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, Posted: Feb 03, 2009

Editor’s Note: Just as President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the cases at Guantanamo, it is high time that he take a look at the immigrants who have been convicted in sham trials and housed within the U.S. borders, writes Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez. Rodriguez writes the column Arizona Watch for New America Media.

TUSCON, Ariz. -- For those who favor militarization and strict border enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Bush era has now become the “good ol’ days.” Yet, it is not yet certain that when it comes to immigration, President Barack Obama represents a radical change – or any change at all.

What is certain is that the previous fear- and hate-based approach was ineffective. More importantly, the Obama administration’s examination of Bush’s immigration policies will show that the approach was not simply wasteful and a massive drain on the national budget; it also did not produce any wealth. The same could be said for the entire Department of Homeland Security. Born out of fear, this department symbolizes both the failure of the Bush administration and the epitome of big (brother) government.

Nothing symbolizes Bush's failure more than building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. An official from Customs and Border Protection recently announced that the 669 miles of fencing along the border – as ordered by ex-president Bush – is now almost complete at the cost of nearly $3 billion since 2006. Half of it is built along the Arizona border. It is a perverse idea that necessarily begs the question: Why 669 miles, as opposed to the full-length of the
U.S.-Mexico border? And more importantly, why not a wall along the U.S.-Canada border, or impregnable barriers along the U.S. coastlines? Not coincidentally, Bush exempted the fencing of the border from many federal laws, including those involving environmental protections.

In Arizona, the walls are tragicomic and appear to be anachronistic and more, a monument to fear and hate. With the advent of the Obama administration, the border hence has become a symbol of the past struggling to survive in the future. Its only chance appears to be more fear and more hate.

Several weeks prior to Obama being sworn in, I went to witness for myself "Operation Streamline" – a mockery of a judicial proceeding that generally convicts 70 migrants every day in federal court in about one hour. Generally, the migrants, mostly men, are sentenced to a private prison and then deported. Since Obama’s inauguration, I've gone back and the sham trials continue. And the money flowing to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) private prison continues unabated to the tune of $11 million per month.

Just on the basis of the nation's massive economic crisis, this operation should be terminated immediately. We now are faced with the shameless slashing of education budgets nationwide while jail and prison budgets explode through the roof. In the meantime, this nation continues to fight two costly wars on borrowed credit.

Fear, hate and irrationality lost the election. President Obama knows this better than anyone. This is why he was quick to order the closure of Guantanamo and why he has called for the end to torture.

This is a good beginning. However, to truly create a new nation, the changes have to come not simply in the realm of U.S. policies overseas. Here, in the United States, there is an entire detention system set up to house thousands of migrants, including women and children. They are generally incarcerated without rights, without due process and without trials. In Texas, the Hutto detention facility (also operated by CCA) continues to inhumanely imprison migrant children, separating them from their families. According to the recently released "Unseen Prisoners" study, by researchers from the
University of Arizona, some 300 migrant women were being held in 2007-2008 in three detention centers (two are operated by CCA), subjected to unwarranted and inhumane conditions.

These facilities are not abroad, just as Operation Streamline does not operate overseas. And just as the president has ordered a review of all of the cases at Guantanamo, it is high time that even before pondering the possibility of immigration reform, he should examine not simply the walls, the militarization of the border, the immigration raids, the detention facilities and the sham trials, but also the entire premise of his predecessor's fear-based immigration and border enforcement policies. More than examining them, similar to Guantanamo, they should be suspended and most of them should be remanded to the trash bin of history.

The president should examine the fear in this country that has produced the highest rates of incarceration in the "civilized" world.



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