Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mexican Election To Proceed Despite Assassination

June 30, 2010

Leaders of Mexico's former ruling party have convened in Tamaulipas to try to choose a new candidate for governor just five days before this weekend's election, after the previous candidate was gunned down Monday.

Mexican officials have declared that they won't let the high-profile assassination of Rodolfo Torre Cantu, 46, derail Sunday's balloting. Torre, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was remembered Tuesday at a huge memorial service in the state capital, Ciudad Victoria.

At a modern convention center in the city, thousands of people rose to their feet and applauded for almost five minutes as the bodies of Torre and his bodyguards were carried to the podium. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

Torre was killed as he was wrapping up his campaign. Gunmen blocked his campaign convoy with a tractor-trailer and then opened fire.

Even the day before he was killed, he vowed to tackle "insecurity," the word politicians use to refer to the rampant drug gang killings. He was eulogized by current Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Hernandez, who told the crowd Torre was a man who gave his all for the state of Tamaulipas. He said Torre was a symbol of hope during what have been troubled times.

High-Profile Victim

Across Mexico, 12 politicians have been killed this campaign season, but the killings of mayors and local political party chiefs no longer garner much attention. They tend only to get a day or a day-and-a-half's worth of headlines. Torre, however, was on the verge of being a state governor, and he's the highest-ranking candidate to be killed since Luis Donaldo Colosio was gunned down in Tijuana in 1994.

Earlier this year, the Gulf Cartel and its armed wing, the Zetas, had a falling out. The two gangs have been battling each other here in an increasingly violent fashion for control of drug-smuggling routes through Northeastern Mexico.

The national newspaper Reforma in an editorial implied that Torre was executed by the Zetas because he favored the Gulf cartel. Torre's supporters say he didn't have ties to any organized criminals.

Beatriz Paredes, the national head of the PRI, said there's a battle going on in Mexico right now between good and evil.

"We believe that in Mexico," she said, "there are more people who want truth, goodness and democracy than people who want hate and, for no reason, chaos."

Insecurity Ahead Of Vote

More than 23,000 people have been killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in December 2006.

After Torre's killing Monday, there were calls by some politicians for this weekend's elections to be suspended, at least in Tamaulipas. But officials now say all the polls nationwide will go forward as scheduled.

Calderon called a special meeting of his security ministers in response to the assassination.

"These actions represent an attack not just against one citizen," Calderon said. "It's an attack against our democratic institutions. And thus it's an act that requires a strong and unified response on the part of everyone who cares about democracy."

And Calderon said organized crime remains the greatest threat to Mexico.

"We cannot and should not allow organized crime to impose its perverse rules," Calderon said, "as they are trying to do now by interfering in the decisions of citizens and the electoral process."

Calderon and other leaders have been calling on the Mexican people to show their solidarity against organized crime by going to the polls Sunday. But in the streets, people said they are terrified.

Many parents rushed to pull their children out of school when word of Torre's shooting hit the airwaves, and some people say they have even less reason to vote now that the leading candidate is dead.

Arizona's New Laws: An Attempt to Secure Cheap Labor?

This is an excellent essay on the anti-labor motivations behind SB1070. It also conveys that attack on ethnic studies (HB 2281) aptly: "In order to maintain an environment that keeps big business safe and secure, Arizona's leaders understand that it is not enough to control contemporary labor markets; they must also control history. HB 2281 is part of a resurgence of white nationalism that wants to make sure that capitalism and the Confederacy are given their proper due in our nation's classrooms."

I agree as well that while we desperately need immigration reform—including the passage of the Dream Act—"we also need to launch an all-out offensive against racism." Great piece.

-Angela


Arizona's New Laws: An Attempt to Secure Cheap Labor?
By Paul Ortiz


Published in Truthout

[Paul Ortiz is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida. He is writing a book titled "Our Separate Struggles Are Really One: African American and Latino Histories," that will be published by Beacon Press.]

Why are there 40 million poor people in America? When you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring….

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., message to Southern Christian Leadership Council (1967).

In the debate surrounding Arizona's laws targeting immigrants and ethnic studies, we've heard very little mention of capitalism and its place in American politics. Senate Bill 1070 is an insurance policy for capitalism, a way to ensure that the cheap labor that serves the foundation of the new economy remains cheap forever. House Bill 2281 is part of a package deal. The erasure of ethnic studies courses that show how poor people have changed history - when they have organized - will allow the invention of a historical narrative as one sided as the old myths of the European Conquest. These bills are a gift from a steadily shrinking, white, ruling class to its own posterity and to any white workers and ethnic minorities willing to accept second-class citizenship in order to avoid something far worse. Unless we mobilize to defeat these measures, worse things are on the horizon. Our history proves it.

SB 1070 makes racial profiling the de facto law of the state, but police in Arizona or anywhere else for that matter do not need a law to continue feeding working-class people to the expanding prison industrial complex.(1) We need to listen carefully to Governor Brewer's rationale for this bill. She consulted closely with major business owners before signing the new law. "The bottom line is that when I go about meeting with businesses that come into Arizona," Brewer stated, "they want to know that we have a safe and secure environment into which to move their businesses here….They want to know that their employees are going to have a quality of life that they've had in the places where they're moving from to move here."(2)

Arizona, Is This America?

Arizona has a long record of robbing working people in order to provide a "safe and secure environment" for big business. The US conquest of northern Mexico resulted in a dual racial system with similarities to Jim Crow in the southeast.(3) In the copper mining camps of the Grand Canyon State, there were two wage scales in the early 20th century: a "white wage" and a "Mexican wage." In Arizona mines, the top wage for Mexicans was $2.50 per day; $4.00 for "Anglos."(4) Ninety-seven percent of the mine foremen in the copper mine camps were white. Pervasive wage differentials in the southwest gave white workers an incentive to maintain a separate-and-unequal economic system and served as the most visible wedge in the working class. One official exulted, "Mexicans came cheap by the dozen and could be bought for ten cents each."(5) Many Mexican-American miners became union activists in an effort to abolish this system.(6)

Armed vigilantes seized and deported 1,300 striking miners in Bisbee, Arizona, in 1917. Many of the workers were members of the Industrial Workers of the World, who envisioned a world without capitalism. Arizona also gave us the anti-labor crusader Barry Goldwater. Elected to the US Senate in 1953, Goldwater sought to extinguish the New Deal. He was an ardent foe of unions and warred against social welfare programs. After initially supporting civil rights, Goldwater embraced the GOP's "Southern Strategy" of wooing white voters away from the Democratic Party by using coded racial appeals to white masculinity.(7) On the advice of a Republican lawyer by the name of William Rehnquist, Senator Goldwater voted against the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.(8)

During Goldwater's first term, the federal government initiated "Operation Wetback" in Arizona and other southwestern states. Reprising the brutal racial repatriations of the 1930s, Federal agents seized and forcibly deported tens of thousands of Mexican-Americans from the state using what one critic calls a "mass deportation on the Soviet model."(9)

Many workers who were repatriated to Mexico were owed back wages by their employers.(10) White leaders have pined for a new Operation Wetback for years.(11) SB 1070 is their new Bill of Rights.

The defeat of the Copper Miners' Strike of 1983-1986 in Arizona was a devastating blow to the labor movement. The victory of the Phelps Dodge Corporation over the miners was made possible by massive state military force as well as infiltration of the unions by the Arizona State Criminal Intelligence Agency.(12) A strong organizing tradition of Mexican-American leadership in mining unionism was wiped out. In the midst of the struggle, a white strikebreaker responded to Mexican-American unionists by asserting: "I'd rather be rich than an ignorant fucking Mexican union-loving son of a bitch."(13) Dozens of union locals were crushed.

Arizona delivered Chief Justice William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court in 1971. Two decades earlier, as a clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson, Rehnquist defended the Court's 1898 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that validated racial segregation. The young lawyer was also a leader in the Republican Party's "Operation Eagle Eye" in Arizona. According to retired State Senator Manuel Peña, this group deployed what Gregory Palast later called "voter harassment teams" who tried to prevent African-Americans and Chicanos from voting in Phoenix during the 1962 elections.(14) Rehnquist's generation of reactionary Republicans, (to borrow a phrase from A. Phillip Randolph) viewed African-American and Latina/o voting as dangerous and disruptive of white business supremacy.
Among its many anti-labor rulings, the Rehnquist Court ruled in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB (2002) that "….a worker who is undocumented could not recover the remedy of back pay under the National Labor Relations Act." How convenient for the bosses!(15) Arizona - and the entire country - is continuously becoming more "safe and secure" for employers and more unsafe for workers who want to get paid for their work, nurture their families and develop their capacities to the fullest.

Actually Existing Capitalism

Latina/o workers have been in the forefront of new labor organizing.(16) This has not escaped the attention of employers and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has carried out so-called "immigration raids" in Iowa, North Carolina and other states targeting workplaces where Latinos were trying to organize unions.(17) These raids are ostensibly carried out to enforce immigration laws. Anyone with common sense knows otherwise. "If anything," David Bacon writes, "ICE seems intent on punishing undocumented workers who earn too much, or who become too visible by demanding higher wages and organizing unions."(18)

Arizona's SB 1070 is capitalism's latest salvo against the American working class.

One of my UC-Santa Cruz students, Marisa Verónica Espinosa, wrote a senior thesis in 2005 titled "Capitalism at Work: A Contemporary Look at Mexican Immigration to the United States." In this brilliant essay, Ms. Espinosa showed that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was forcing tens of thousands of Mexican farmers off of the land on terms wildly advantageous to US businesses. She argued that "The capitalist tendency to displace people and force them into migration is not recognized in public policy."(19) Drawing on the work of Jorge Bustamante, Espinosa continued, "Instead, the United States exerts its 'right' as a nation-state to police its borders from 'unwanted' but necessary foreigners. Of course, this occurs because it 'has the function of producing savings for the US economy.'" Espinosa demonstrated that the increasing militarization of the US-Mexico border had the effect of terrorizing many Mexican workers into silence and that "…the goal of these operations has been to satisfy the desires of a nativist electorate and big business." Chalk up another victory for capital.(20)

A generation of propagandists claimed that capitalism emancipates the poor as long as the state stays out of the way. Espinosa's thesis proves otherwise. She quotes a 1926 Congressional hearing on immigration that illuminated how capitalism really works:

Mr. Chairman, here is the problem in a nutshell. Farming is not a profitable industry in this country and in order to make money out of this, you have to have cheap labor…[I]n order to allow land owners to make a profit on their farms, they want to get the cheapest labor they can find and if they can get the Mexican labor it enables them to make a profit. That is the way it is along the border and I imagine that is the way it is anywhere else."(21)

Decades later, Jorge Bustamante observes that social conditions for migrant workers in the border states have declined even as NAFTA-fueled agribusiness has thrived.(22)

Racism

SB 1070 is not only an anti-immigrant bill, it is an anti-labor bill designed to scare a portion of the American working class into accepting their lot. It criminalizes the Latina/o working class the way that Jim Crow criminalized the African-American working class in the South. Segregation, like slavery is a labor system. It is designed to extract wealth from one portion of society in order to distribute it - unequally - to the rest of the nation.(23) Insightful African-American leaders are making this connection. "To my ... black brothers and sisters that think this is not your fight," Rev. Al Sharpton recently said, "Let me tell you something, after dark, we all look Mexican right now."(24) At the 2010 May Day Immigration Rally in Washington, DC, Rev. Jesse Jackson compared Arizona today with Selma in 1965 and urged a boycott of the state.(25) Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-California), calls SB 1070 a "national disgrace" and argues that it "It harkens back to the era of Jim Crow or apartheid in South Africa."(26)

Representative Lee is absolutely correct. SB 1070 will help to sustain the Jim Crow style racism that Latino workers face nationally. A survey of recent United States Equal Employment Commission (EEOC) cases demonstrates that sexual and national origin discrimination against Latina/o workers is a pervasive problem. The EEOC recently filed suit against Sizzler Restaurants "for the explicitly targeted harassment of Mexican women by non-Mexican men. Latinas were targeted as 'Mexican bitches only good for sex,' physically and verbally harassed and told 'go back where you come from if you don't like it.'" Latina workers at an Arizona firm were fired after they reported being subjected to discrimination and intrusive body searches.(27)

An analysis of the EEOC cases reveals Latina/o workers are often paid lower wages than their white peers for doing the same work regardless of educational attainment. This confirms contemporary findings of wage discrimination in the scholarly literature on race and wage inequality.(28) A recent survey of labor market studies demonstrates that Latina/o workers "earn lower wages and/or experience higher unemployment than similarly qualified White workers and [they] attribute some portion of the differential (10%-50% of the White-Latino wage gap, equal to about 4%-16% of Hispanic wages) to employment discrimination."(29)

Racial injustice continues to be a major barrier to Latina/o progress. We need immigration reform. However, we also need to launch an all-out offensive against racism. What other than racism explains the slander spread on cable television stations about what Latinos do in the United States? We need more truth tellers. "In case you don't know what immigrants do in this country," Barbara Ehrenreich observes, "the Latinos have a word for it - trabajo. They've been mowing the lawns, cleaning the offices, hammering the nails and picking the tomatoes, not to mention all that dish-washing, diaper-changing, meat-packing and poultry-plucking."(30)
Barriers to Unionization
Comprehensive immigration reform will not improve the lives of America's working people unless workers regain the right to collective bargaining. Recent reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch show that US workers - particularly Latino workers - who try to organize face severe corporate and state hostility. The obstacles that workers faced in their decade-long quest to organize Smithfield Foods in North Carolina show why few workers are able to form unions in the United States. Employees testified that pro-union employees were harassed and fired while management tried to convince Latino workers that African-Americans were organizing to steal their jobs. One former manager of the firm admitted to Amnesty International that "We were told to fire anyone who advocated for the union." According to the manager, a company lawyer instructed her to deal proactively with a union-inclined employee under her supervision: "Fire the bitch. I'll beat anything she or they throw at me in court."(31)
Local government officials assisted the firm by distributing anti-union propaganda at the workplace. Investigators responded to workers' safety complaints by haranguing them about their union sympathies. The federal government later targeted the firm for a raid on suspected illegal immigrants. Union activist Julio Vargas affirms that Latino and African-American workers believed that the government raided their plant "because people were getting organized."(32) Human Rights Watch concludes "that freedom of association is a right under severe, often buckling pressure when workers in the United States try to exercise it."(33)

House Bill 2281

In order to maintain an environment that keeps big business safe and secure, Arizona's leaders understand that it is not enough to control contemporary labor markets; they must also control history. HB 2281 is part of a resurgence of white nationalism that wants to make sure that capitalism and the Confederacy are given their proper due in our nation's classrooms.(34) (After all, the antebellum slave owners were possibly the most successful capitalists in history!) If students in Arizona have access to stories of labor and civil rights movements, they would learn critical lessons about how to create social change. They would also learn that many of the contemporary social problems they face are the result of centuries of institutional discrimination. Progressive social history taught by scholars such as Ernesto Galarza, Elizabeth Martinez, Rudy Acuña and others teach us that racism, segregation and anti-immigrant politics feed a very profitable system of exploitation where the few live off of the labors of the many. They also teach us through historical case studies how to end this cycle of victimization.(35)

Sociologist Oliver Cromwell Cox noted, "The capitalist exploitation of colored workers, it should be observed, consigns them to employments and treatment that is humanly degrading. In order to justify this treatment the exploiters must argue that the workers are innately degraded and degenerate, consequently they naturally merit their condition."(36)

The target of House Bill 2281 is any courses that "….are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group…[or] advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."(37) In other words, students will be taught that they are isolated individuals without recourse to broader networks of solidarity. According to Governor Brewer's spokesperson, "The governor believes ... public school students should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people." Because many episodes of human rights struggle involved fighting racial and class oppression of one kind or the other, these must not be taught.

HB 2281 means that Arizona students will not learn about the rise of the United Farm Workers nor will they be allowed to study the histories of the Western Federation of Miners or the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers' Union in Arizona. These organizations taught that unbridled capitalism was not going to solve the problems of the working class. It is fine for scholars to publish articles about these organizations in academic journals, but state educational officials are fighting harder than ever to keep Chicano studies and narratives of resistance out of the high school classroom. The Texas Board of Education is replacing UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta in favor of "conservative hero" Phyllis Schlafly in forthcoming textbooks.(38)

House Bill 2281 is designed to ensure that the status quo remains unquestioned.(39)

The Way Forward

On May 1, 2006 - International Workers' Day - Latina/o workers initiated the largest work stoppage in the history of the Americas. Migrant laborers, Nuyoricans, Chicana/os, Afrocubanos, Guatemaltecos and immigrants from every continent on earth united in protest of immigration restriction measures that threatened their families, their livelihoods and their dignity. Hundreds of thousands of Latina/o workers and their allies sought to end the cycle of isolation and alienation from the broader society which has left them vulnerable to exploitation. The protests were marked by a profound sense of urgency.
Latino workers used International Workers' Day to prove that their labor power is an integral part of the New Economy. Indeed, several days in advance of the gigantic protest dubbed as "A Day Without Immigrants," corporations such as Cargill Inc., Tyson Foods and the Seaboard Corporation announced that they would be closing due to a lack of personnel.(40) On the West Coast, entire fast food chains were forced to shut down as truck drivers refused to deliver supplies. The US working class has not exerted this kind of power in decades.
Latina/o marchers expressed a democratic vision of an economy where labor is the source of all wealth instead of being a pitiful captive to capital and paternalistic employers. Nursing home worker Corina Payan, who participated in the Denver march, explained, "I know that without us, they're not going to be able to do anything. They're not going to go out in the field and clean the bathrooms or anything…Everywhere you go, Wal-Mart, anything, all you see are Hispanic people filling their carts to the top….We're the ones making them money."(41)
SB1070 is part of a larger effort to crush the nascent Latina/o social movement that has formed the base of the May Day protests. The measure is part of a national trend to steal our rights and to keep us powerless in our workplaces and neighborhoods. HB2281 is designed to enforce a historical amnesia upon younger Americans and to teach them that any problem they may have will be magically solved by the free enterprise system. Never mind organizing for mutual interests. Leave that to the National Association of Manufacturers.
We must support the students, workers and reformers fighting SB1070 and HB 2281. Our future hangs in the balance. If we value a society where human rights are defended, we must act now. Today, the focus is rightly on Arizona. However, we must understand that Arizona is only one part of the problem. Unless we democratize American workplaces, even comprehensive immigration reform will not improve the lives of millions of workers.
Marisa Espinosa's senior thesis serves as a starting point for understanding this crisis, especially her insight that "The capitalist tendency to displace people and force them into migration is not recognized in public policy." Until we grasp what Espinosa is telling us we cannot solve the immigration problem. Workers' rights must be at the foundation of all US trade policies. NAFTA needs a massive overhaul or revocation if it continues to push Mexican farmers to the wall. In the US we need to reconsider the relationship among capitalism, public policy and immigration. For example, Social Security, Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Security implicitly recognize that the free market creates a number of harmful conditions at critical points in human life that must be mitigated by the state. Capitalism also has harmful effects on migrants, but where are the social programs to ameliorate their plight?
Along with assertively stating that "No human being is illegal," we must add the cry "Capitalism needs Perestroika." A system that impoverishes people and imposes harsh public measures to preserve itself, needs to be rethought.(42)
We need to deepen our commitment to grassroots organizing, and we need to listen to the workers who are carrying our rickety economic system on their shoulders. Their voices are missing in the current debate and that is a fatal oversight. As María Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, reminds us:
The most dramatic social changes of the past did not happen because a few politicians and rich people took pity on black people or workers. It did not happen in Congress, or in the White House. It happened in the streets - churches, unions and workplaces. And it needs to happen there again. We must build a movement with thousands of leaders and millions of supporters that can pressure elected and corporations to do the right thing. When we build a movement of the working poor, we will have the power to end poverty.(43)
Footnotes:
1. Jon Swartz, "Inmates vs. Outsourcing," USA Today, July 6, 2004; Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006); Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010); Critical Resistance at: http://www.criticalresistance.org/
2. "New Immigration Law Won't Hurt Economy, Arizona Governor Says," CNN.Com, April 26, 2010.
3. I discuss the impact of the Mexican-American War on Latina/o workers in: "¡Si, Se Puede! Revisited: Latino/a Workers in the United States," in Social Work Practice with Latinos, Eds., Richard Furman & Nalini Negi (Chicago: Lyceum Books, 2010), 45-66.
4. Los Mineros. (The American Experience), Dir. Hector Galan. Writer, Paul Espinosa. Perfs. Luis Valdez. PBS. 1992; Katherine Benton-Cohen, "Docile Children and Dangerous Revolutionaries: The Racial Hierarchy of Manliness and the Bisbee Deportation of 1917." Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies, (2003, June-September) 24.2-3, 30-50.

5. Carlos M. Larralde and Richard Griswold del Castillo, "Luisa Moreno and the Beginnings of the
Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement in San Diego," The Journal of San Diego History, Volume 43, Number 3 (Summer 1997).
6. Zaragosa Vargas, Labor Rights Are Civil Rights: Mexican-American Workers in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 220-223.
7. Laura Jane Gifford, "Dixie is no longer in the bag": South Carolina Republicans and the Election of 1960,"
Journal of Policy History, Vol. 19, No. 2, (2007), 207-233.
8. John W. Dean, The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the
Supreme Court (New York: The Free Press, 2001), 129.
9. Pierre Tristam, "'Operation Wetback': Illegal Immigration's Golden-Crisp Myth," Daytona Beach News-Journal, April 5, 2007. For the forced reparations of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans to Mexico in the 1930s, see: Francisco E. Balderrama and Raymond Rodríguez, Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006)
10. "Owed Back Pay, Guest Workers Comb the Past," The New York Times, November 23, 2008.
11. John Dillin, "How Eisenhower Solved Illegal Border Crossings from Mexico," The Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2006.
12. Jonathan Rosenblum, "Union Busting: How Arizona's 'CIA' Helped Phelps Dodge Destroy The Unions," The Tucson Weekly, June 29, 1995, http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tw/06-29-95/curr4.htm (Accessed May 22, 2010)
13. Barbara Kingsolver, Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press), 113.
14. "Panel Hears Conflicting Voter Challenge Testimony," Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), August 2, 1986; Gregory Palast, Armed Madhouse, 10th Plume Printing p. 261; Laura Flanders, "A Racist Elephant," Common Dreams.org, December 13, 2000. (Accessed May 22, 2010.); Alan Dershowitz, Telling the Truth About Chief Justice Rehnquist," The Huffington Post, May 20, 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-dershowitz/telling-the-truth-about-c_b_6844.html (Accessed May 20, 2010); John W. Dean, The Rehnquist Choice (New York: Free Press, 2002).
15. Amy Sugimori, Rebecca Smith, et. al., "Assessing the Impact of the Supreme Court's Decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB on Immigrant Workers and Recent Developments," National Immigration Law Center, n.d.
16. John Trumpbour and Elaine Bernard, "Unions and Latinos: Mutual Transformation," in Latinos: Remaking America, ed., Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco and Mariela M. Páez (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 126-145.
17. "Immigration Raid Breaks Up Organizing Drive at Iowa Meatpacking Plant," Labor Notes, August 26, 2008.
18. David Bacon, "Mass Firings, The New Face of Immigration Raids," The Progressive (December 2009/January 2010).
19. Marisa Verónica Espinosa, "Capitalism at Work: A Contemporary Look at Mexican Immigration to the United States," Undergraduate Thesis, UC-Santa Cruz (2005), 33. See Jorge A. Bustamante's important essay, "Mexico-United States Labor Migration Flows, " International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 4., Special Issue: Immigrant Adaptation and Native-Born Responses in the Making of Americans (Winter, 1997), 1112-1121.
20. Espinosa, 5. A powerful analysis of the continuing devastation wrought by NAFTA is found in: John Ross, "The Feminization of Mexican Agriculture," Counterpunch.org, May 19, 2010 (Accessed May 21, 2010).
21. Espinosa, 32.
22. Jorge A. Bustamante, "Mexican-United States Labor Migration Flows," 1116.
23. Paul Ortiz, "Before the CIO: Segregation and Black Labor Struggles," Against the Current, (January/February 2009).
24. "Al Sharpton Wears 'Los Suns' Jersey During March to Arizona Capitol Protesting SB 1070," Phoenix New Times Blogs, May 6, 2010 http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2010/05/al_sharpton_wears_los_suns_jer.php (Accessed May 22, 2010)
25. "Immigration Advocates Rally for Change," The New York Times, May 1, 2010.
26. " Dems: Ariz. Law Like Jim Crow, apartheid," Politico, April 28, 2010. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/36503.html (Accessed May 15, 2010).
27. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC Settles Suit Against Arizona Company for $3.5 Million on Behalf of Low-Wage Workers. August 8, 2001; EEOC, Central Casino to Pay $1.5 Million in EEOC Settlement for National Origin Bias. July 18, 2003) EEOC, "EEOC Settles Lawsuit on Behalf of Hispanic Employees," April 12, 2006; EEOC, Statement of William R. Tamayo, February 28, 2007. See also: "Life Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South," Southern Poverty Law Center (April 2009).
28. Daley M. Camoy and Ojeda R. Hinojosa, Latinos in a Changing US Economy: Comparative Perspectives in the Labor Market Since 1939. Inter-University Program for Latino Research, New York: Research Foundation of the City University of New York, 1990; Edwin Melendez, Clara Rodriguez and Janis Barry Figueroa, eds., Hispanics in the Labor Force: Issues and Policies (New York: Plenum Press, 1991).
29. Raul Yzaguirre and Charles Kamasaki, "Comment on The Latino Civil Rights Crisis: A Research Conference," The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, University of California, Los Angeles (2007), Retrieved October 9, 2007 from http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/latino97/latino97.php
30. Barbara Ehrenreich, "What America Owes its 'Illegals,'" The Nation. Org. (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070625/ehrenreich) (Accessed, June 13, 2007).
31. Kristal Brent Zook, "Hog-Tied: Battling It Out (Again) At Smithfield Foods," Amnesty International Magazine (Winter 2003), http://www.amnestyusa.org/Winter_2003/ (Accessed June 4, 2007).
32. David Bacon, "Feds Crack Down on Immigrant Labor Organizers," The American Prospect Online, May 11, 2007, http://www.prospect.org (Accessed June 5, 2007).
33. Human Rights Watch, "Unfair Advantage: Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States under International Human Rights Standards," (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2000), 141-142.
34. "Texas School Board Hears from Critics of Social Studies Changes," The Washington Post, May 21, 2010.
35. Critical work in Chicano and Latino Studies include: Ernesto Galarza, Spiders in the House & Workers in the Field (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970); Carey McWilliams, Factories in the Field: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California (originally published, 1935; Santa Barbara: Peregrine Publishers, Inc., 1971); Rodolfo Acuna, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos (New York : Harper & Row, 1988); Elizabeth Martinez, De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century (South End Press, 1999); Vicki Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (Oxford University Press, 2008); Carlos Muñoz, Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement (London: Verso, 1989); David Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican-Americans, Mexican Immigrants and the Politics of Ethnicity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).
36. Oliver C. Cox, Race: A Study in Social Dynamics. New Introduction by Adolph Reed Jr. (Monthly Review Press, 2000), 19.
37. "Arizona Gov. Signs Bill Targeting Ethnic Studies," Yahoo News, May 12, 2010. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100512/ap_on_re_us/us_arizona_ethnic_studies (Accessed, May 20, 2010)
38. Lauri Lebo, "Texas Textbook Massacre," Religion Dispatches.org, April 27, 2010 (Accessed, May 20, 2010).
39. Bill Bigelow, "Those Awful Texas Social Studies Standards. And What About Yours?" CommonDreams.org
May 22, 2010 (Accessed, May 23, 2010); Christine E. Sleeter, "Standardizing Imperalism," Rethinking Schools, Volume 19, (Fall 2004). http://www.rethinkingschools.org/restrict.asp?path=archive/19_01/impe191.shtml (Accessed, May 23, 2010).
40. Immigrants Take to US Streets in Show of Strength," The New York Times, May 2, 2006; "US Latinos expect a momentous May Day," The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey), April 28, 2006.
41. "Prompted By Anger, A Colorado Immigrant Marches for Principle," The Associated Press (Denver), May 2, 2006
42. Mikhail Gorbachev, "Capitalism in Crisis," The Guardian, October 30, 2009.
43. María Elena Durazo, "Living Wage for All: A Plan for a New Living Wage Movement," The Burning Bush: A Publication of the Center for the Working Poor. http://www.centerfortheworkingpoor.org/ (Accessed May 1, 2010).


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poll: Immigration Tops Economy for Latino Voters

Poll: Immigration Tops Economy for Latino Voters

Kirk Siegler (2010-06-25)
DENVER, CO (KUNC) - A new poll shows the divisive immigration debate is weighing heavily on the minds of Latino voters in four key states - including Colorado.

The poll samples 1,600 registered Latino voters in four states with influential Latino voting blocks; California, Texas, Florida and Colorado. It finds that immigration reform is the single most important issue for voters, trumping even the economy and jobs. The release corresponds with the annual meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed officials in Denver, which commissioned the poll.

"We expect a fairly robust turnout of Latino voters come this November and with the potential of effecting statewide outcomes in these four states," says Arturo Vargas, the NALEO executive director.

In Colorado, the poll also found that Latinos overwhelmingly sided with democrat John Hickenlooper over Republican Scott McInnis in the governor's race.

The US Senate democratic primary was tighter; with Senator Michael Bennet leading Andrew Romanoff 38% to 31% and a 15% block of undecided among the 400 voters sampled here.
© Copyright 2010, KUNC

ICE and Florida Department of Law Enforcement announce statewide activation of Secure Communities to prioritize, identify and remove criminal aliens

MIAMI - On Tuesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), announced that ICE is using a new biometric information sharing capability in every Florida county to help federal immigration officials identify aliens, both lawfully and unlawfully present in the United States, who are booked into local law enforcement's custody for a crime. This capability is part of Secure Communities - ICE's comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the United States.

Formerly, during the booking process, arrestees' fingerprints were checked for criminal history information only against the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), a biometric database maintained by the FBI.

With the implementation of Secure Communities, this fingerprint information is now automatically and simultaneously checked against both the FBI criminal history records and the biometrics-based immigration records in the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), which is maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

If any fingerprints match those of someone in the DHS biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE. ICE evaluates each case to determine the individual's immigration status and takes appropriate enforcement action. This includes aliens who are in lawful status and those who are present without lawful authority. Once identified through fingerprint matching, ICE will respond with a priority placed on aliens convicted of the most serious offenses first - such as those with convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape and kidnapping.

"This program maximizes the use of biometric technology to exchange critical public safety information," said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. "FDLE is pleased to work with ICE and local law enforcement to help protect Florida citizens."

"The Secure Communities strategy provides an effective tool to help ICE identify aliens charged with crimes in law enforcement custody with little or no cost to our law enforcement partners," said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. "Applying this biometric information sharing tool in Florida improves public safety by enabling ICE to prevent the release of criminal aliens back into our communities when they complete their sentences."

"This initiative ensures that our local law enforcement partners know as much as possible about the people in their custody," said Michael W. Meade, ICE field office director for Miami Enforcement and Removals Operations, the office overseeing the Secure Communities initiative in Florida. "By using sophisticated biometrics, this tool allows us to quickly and accurately identify those criminal aliens who pose the greatest threat to our communities."

With the expansion of the biometric information sharing capability throughout Florida, ICE is now using it in 392 jurisdictions in 23 states. ICE expects to make it available in jurisdictions nationwide by 2013.

Since ICE began using this enhanced information sharing capability in October 2008, immigration officers have removed from the United States more than 8,500 criminal aliens convicted of Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping. Additionally, ICE has removed more than 22,200 criminal aliens convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes, which account for the majority of crimes committed by aliens. Already in Florida, ICE has removed more than 1,800 convicted criminal aliens. ICE does not regard aliens charged with, but not yet convicted of crimes, as "criminal aliens." Instead, a "criminal alien" is an alien convicted of a crime. In accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, ICE continues to take action on aliens subject to removal as resources permit.

The IDENT system is maintained by DHS's US-VISIT program and IAFIS is maintained by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS).

"US VISIT is proud to support ICE, helping provide decision makers with comprehensive, reliable information when and where they need it," said US-VISIT Director Robert Mocny. "By enhancing the interoperability of DHS's and the FBI's biometric systems, we are able to give federal, state and local decision makers information that helps them better protect our communities and our nation."

"Under this plan, ICE will be utilizing FBI system enhancements that allow improved information sharing at the state and local law enforcement level based on positive identification of incarcerated criminal aliens," said Daniel D. Roberts, assistant director of the FBI's CJIS Division. "Additionally, ICE and the FBI are working together to take advantage of the strong relationships already forged between the FBI and state and local law enforcement necessary to assist ICE in achieving its goals."

For more information, visit www.ice.gov/secure_communities.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Philadelphia to bar immigration agents from arrest data

By Michael Matza
Inquirer Staff Writer

Philadelphia is expected to end the arrangement that permits federal immigration agents to scrutinize the city's computerized list of arrests, including country of origin and other data, Everett Gillison, the deputy mayor for public safety, said Sunday.

Immigrant advocates say the year-old agreement between the city and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, known as ICE, has resulted in deportation proceedings against immigrants arrested on even minor charges. Under the agreement, ICE agents can routinely access the city's Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS). That agreement is up for renewal on Thursday.

"It is the mayor's view that the PARS agreement should not be extended," Gillison said, speaking at a South Philadelphia church meeting attended by more than 300 immigrants and their supporters.

He said there would be a formal announcement of the city's position in the coming week, probably on Friday.

Mayor Nutter has expressed concern about the human rights of all immigrants, regardless of their legal status.

In a directive he issued a year ago, he barred municipal employees on official business from inquiring about the immigration status of any person, including, but not limited to, victims, witnesses, arrestees, and detainees.

Gillison said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams "agree with the mayor" that the ICE-PARS arrangement should be terminated.

His announcement, which followed an hour of public testimony from immigrants about their fears and mistrust of the police, drew chants of Si, se puede! - Yes, we can! - from a mostly Latino audience that also included members of the city's Asian communities and a contingent of suburban supporters from the Central Baptist Church of Wayne.

Organized by a coalition of proimmigrant groups, including Juntos and the New Sanctuary Movement, the standing-room-only meeting took place in the basement of Annunciation Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary on South 10th Street. It was conducted mostly in Spanish, with electronic headsets available to permit simultaneous translation into English.

In addition to Gillison, officials in attendance included City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez; Police Capt. Michael Weaver, commander of the immigrant-rich Third District in South Philadelphia; and Leslie Davila, assistant director of Victims' Services, who represented the District Attorney's Office but who left before the end of the meeting without addressing the group.

Because Williams did not attend, someone had filled the seat reserved for him with a large cardboard cutout of the district attorney's face.

"This is about human rights. It's about civil rights," Sánchez said. "And I am very, very encouraged by [the administration's] movement around PARS."

Some of the speakers who provided testimony about their encounters with police used their real names. Others used pseudonyms. They spoke from a lectern decorated with a poster that said, "Public Safety Now."

One man, who gave his name as Ignacio Aguirre, described the arrest of his son. He said the boy had been at the beach, where he used a knife to cut a watermelon. He put the knife into a backpack. Several days later, without thinking about it, he took the backpack to school and tripped a metal detector. It was an innocent mistake, the man said, but it resulted in a visit from ICE and house arrest with an ankle bracelet for his child.

He did not elaborate on the status of the case but said, "Now I'm afraid to call the police for anything."

Guadalupe Hernandez said she came to the United States from Mexico in 1996 to escape domestic abuse. She said her 16-year-old son was arrested in Philadelphia in 2007 while trying to stop a drunk friend from slashing car tires on Dickinson Street.

"My son tried to take the knife away," she said, but when police arrived, he found himself arrested "as an accomplice."

Although the boy eventually was exonerated, she said, "ICE wants to deport him."

Mark Medvesky, a spokesman for ICE in Philadelphia, said he could not comment in detail about the city's intentions regarding PARS until it took formal action.

But he did say, "Our priority is convicted criminal aliens, getting dangerous people off the street. That's one of the reasons we wanted access to PARS."

Trouble in three states draws scrutiny for veteran private jailer



The nation’s largest private jail operator is facing a new public relations fight following multiple high-profile incidents this year in three states – Idaho, Texas and Arizona. The Corrections Corporation of America based in Nashville, Tenn. experienced a meteoric rise during the 1990s when Washington opened its doors to privatization during the Clinton administration and helped set the stage for public-sector outsourcing that is now commonplace in the United States, notably at the still-young Department of Homeland Security.

Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed in late May that a guard at the company’s T. Don Hutto Residential Center located 35 miles east of Austin, Texas, sexually assaulted women detainees held there. The federal government has since reportedly directed CCA to institute changes, such as prohibiting male guards from being alone with women in custody, and ICE said it would enhance oversight of the government’s larger detention facilities. A letter to the company from ICE obtained by the Associated Press said the guard’s alleged actions occurred because CCA failed to follow federal guidelines regulating the transport of detainees.

During a past life when CCA helped lead the movement toward privatization, it so anticipated limitless fortunes that the company nearly went bankrupt building more beds than federal, state and local governments wanted to fill. But Washington pumped new life into CCA partly after the Bush administration moved to dramatically scale back the federal government’s “catch-and-release” policy in which suspected immigration violators were freed before being required to appear at a deportation hearing unless they had a criminal record.

Detention facilities ballooned after the change creating significant new demand for CCA’s services and a path for the company back to big earnings. Today CCA is a top five contractor for ICE and earned more than $200 million in revenues from the agency last year alone, according to the jailer’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Executives at CCA also believe that the economic downturn and a perception by public officials that outsourcing is a solution for money woes will make it more competitive on Wall Street.

The company’s latest successes, however, are occurring alongside allegations of misconduct among guards and other episodes that have attracted the attention of critics.

The Hutto facility in Texas is named after one of CCA’s founders and houses not just individuals accused of entering the country illegally but also asylum seekers, the investigative journalism outfit Texas Tribune noted earlier this month. According to the most recent accusations against Hutto, women were allegedly molested while being patted down by a guard and one was propositioned for sex.

The ACLU of Texas called the revelations part of a pattern at immigrant detention facilities in the Lone Star State. A guard in Los Fresnos, Texas, was sentenced to prison time in April for the repeated sexual abuse of detainees. The man admitted that he “snuck into medical isolation rooms at the detention center infirmary to grope female patients. He frequently volunteered for infirmary duty so that he would be alone with the victims, and his victims were usually asleep when he entered the room,” the Justice Department says.

Also at the Hutto facility in 2007, a CCA guard was reportedly fired amid an investigation into whether he had sex with a woman inmate in her cell.

According to Lisa Graybill, legal director for the Texas ACLU:

Sadly, the most unusual aspect of this incident [at Hutto last month] may be that the abused women actually complained. Immigrant detainees, particularly women, are especially vulnerable to abuse because they may not speak English, and may be afraid of retaliation if they speak up. Victims may be promised help with citizenship proceedings if they comply, and threatened with rapid deportation if they resist.

Further west in Idaho, meanwhile, CCA found itself in another controversy when the Associated Press reported that state officials would be fining the company over $40,000 and demanding that it improve health care services and overhaul weak alcohol treatment programs. The Idaho Correctional Center near a town called Kuna (not an immigrant detention facility, to be clear) was described by one local paper in a recent editorial as “easily the most trouble-prone prison in the state’s history.”

The Magic Valley Times-News recounted how three years ago state leaders imagined savings for taxpayers by contracting out the costly responsibility of incarceration to a company like CCA, which has long lured government officials into contracts by promising fewer headaches and expenses. But documents later obtained by reporters showed that most of the facility’s alcohol and drug counselors lacked necessary qualifications.

A probe also cast CCA’s procedures for carrying out medical care as flawed, while the ACLU sued the company earlier this year over how it was generally managing the Idaho prison – inmates allegedly described the facility as a “gladiator school” due to its reputation for widespread violence. The suit in addition charged that CCA guards enforced control by allowing inmates near others likely to commit brutality and withheld medical treatment to save on costs. An ACLU attorney claimed he’d brought cases against at least 100 prisons and jails nationally but none were as violent as CCA’s facility in Idaho.

An AP investigation last year revealed that carnage at the prison was three times greater than elsewhere in the state, and authorities believed occurrences were underreported by inmates and CCA employees. According to the Times-News:

The ACLU contends that [Idaho Correctional Center] is understaffed, with sometimes only two guards on duty to control prison wings with as many as 350 inmates. Which may be one of the reasons that the publicly traded company was able to report a four percent revenue increase for the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year, and a 12.5 percent increase in earnings per share. Not many legislators have much appetite anymore for another [such] facility in the state. There’s much more enthusiasm for alternative sentencing and drug, alcohol and mental-health courts to keep Idaho’s inmate numbers as low as possible. But stay tuned. Thanks to CCA’s actions, a federal judge – and not the state – may soon be dictating how Idaho handles its prison population.

Finally, at a CCA-managed facility in Arizona where nearly 2,000 inmates from Hawaii are held as part of a contract with that state’s Department of Public Safety (also not a center that holds immigrants, for the record), two convicts have died already this year. One was killed during a dispute with another prisoner, and police concluded only in recent days that the second was strangled to death by his cellmate. The latter victim was discovered unresponsive June 8, according to news accounts, and authorities from Hawaii traveled to Arizona following both incidents to investigate what happened.

Stock.xchng image courtesy of amirhd

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Friday, June 25, 2010
Roberto Rodriguez: Ipalnemoani: That For What We Live For

Ipalnemoani: That For What We Live For
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

As we prepare to get arrested as a result of the passage of a new anti-ethnic studies law in Arizona, several attorneys explain to about 30-40 of us in Tucson’s state building the consequences of getting arrested. As such, the numbers are winnowed down to 15 due to legal reasons, parental authority, age, etc. Many of those making these decisions are middle and high school and college students.

All of us who remain on the 2nd floor have thoughts racing through our minds. As I think about why I will get arrested, all I can think of is the Nahuatl concept of Ipalnemoani: That for what we live for – or the Maya concept of Hunab Ku.

We can summons all the linguists and all the great philosophers of the world, but in the end, their translations will not suffice. It is meaning that I am looking for, not words. This is about who we are and about what makes us human. At this time, it boils down to one question: What in life is worth getting arrested for?

For those of us here, the right to our own narrative – the right to memory – is one of them.

The decision to get arrested is a collective one. These youngsters are courageous and determined to defend that which is theirs: a department (Ethnic/Mexican American Studies) that affirms who they are as full human beings – as peoples with a thousands-of-years culture, history and philosophy on this very continent.

Perhaps another 200 protestors on the first floor are also subject to arrest because they are also participating in a boisterous demonstration inside the state building. It is here where the state superintendant, Tom Horne – who spearheaded this law – has taken refuge after he failed to show up at Tucson Unified School District headquarters where perhaps 1,000 students surrounded that building.

Now in the heat of summer, that question – as to what triggers a decision to get arrested – is foremost on peoples’ minds, especially here in Arizona. It has come to that.

Several weeks before the racial profiling law (SB 1070) was signed, nine students and community members chained themselves to the state capitol and got arrested (The charges have since been dropped). After the 15 of us got arrested for criminal trespass, the week after that, five Dream students and community organizers staged a sit-in at Sen. John McCain’s office in Tucson. All subjected themselves to historic arrests – exposing themselves to deportation. Then a week later, a dozen members of the statewide O’odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective took over and occupied the Border Patrol Headquarters in Tucson (http://oodhamsolidarity.blogspot.com/). Six were arrested for Disorderly Conduct and Criminal Trespass.

This flurry of arrests highlights and brings to the fore what is happening in this insane asylum called Arizona, including the forthcoming attempt to void the 14th Amendment, which guarantees birthright citizenship to all those born in this country. This is also happening amid the constant arrival of racial and political extremists to this state.

As Arizona gets more insane, we have arrived at a moral precipice. Soon, others will face the same question; beyond protesting, people will ask: what am I willing to get arrested for?

In other countries, and at other points in history, this has triggered a different question: What am I willing to fight and die for? Here, that question has been inverted: What am I willing to live for? That such a question is being contemplated tells us that many people here are not content with simply sending emails or blasting text messages to our senators, etc.

And thus, as the anti-Mexican/anti-Indigenous and anti-immigrant hate-and-fear drums continue to increase in volume, the Obama administration capitulates by continuing to further militarize the border. This Arpaioization of not simply the border, but the nation, continues to elicit an unprecedented response. Human rights activists nationwide have united to boycott the state, while more than 100,000 recently protested in Phoenix.

As July 29 fast approaches, the date when the racial profiling law will take effect, people in Arizona, but also nationwide, will face a life-changing decision (We will also face that decision on Jan 1, 2011, the date when the anti-ethnic studies law goes into effect). Will we commit to mass civil disobedience or will we lack the courage as happened when Americans sat idly by as their fellow Japanese American citizens were illegally and inhumanely marched off to camps during World War II?

This is when history calls upon all of us to make that momentous decision. This time around, hopefully, the right decision will be made.


Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the university of Arizona, can be reached at: XColumn@egmail.com
Posted by Brenda Norrell at 2:15 PM

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Political rhetoric ignores border reality: 'Secure first' calls ignore facts, undermine reform

Political rhetoric ignores border reality: 'Secure first' calls ignore facts, undermine reform

by Dennis Wagner - Jun. 20, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Re
public

Amid a growing national angst about illegal immigration, Americans keep hearing a chorus: Secure the border first. Then talk about immigration reform.

The idea appeals to public sentiment, and it seems like a simple demand.


But what do pundits and politicians mean?

Is a border secure only when no one crosses illegally and when no contraband slips through?

If some permeability is acceptable, what is the tolerable amount?

Political leaders mostly dodge those questions, and for good reason: Anyone with a minimal knowledge or understanding about the nearly 2,000-mile swath of land between Mexico and the United States realizes that requiring a secure border establishes an impossible standard.

One reason: There is no way to conclude success because authorities have no idea how many undocumented immigrants are getting through. Authorities can count only the number of unauthorized intruders captured. Such unavoidable uncertainty prevents any absolute assurances that no one is sneaking over, making declarations of victory impossible.

Another reason: The motivation and creativity of those trying to get across.

Impoverished Mexicans, willing to gamble their lives and savings to reach America, subject themselves to desert heat and extortion or torture by coyotes. Drug runners risk being caught and imprisoned or getting killed by competitors.

So the smugglers dig tunnels, create false compartments, bribe border guards, fly ultralight planes and use every means imaginable to get over, under or across the line. The more security there is, the higher the smuggling price and the greater the profit incentive.

Here is another way to consider the problem: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a leader in the anti-immigration movement and acclaimed as America's toughest sheriff, cannot secure his own jails. Every year, despite armed guards, electronic locks and video monitors, inmates smuggle drugs in from the outside and sometimes even escape.

No one would blame Arpaio. All penal institutions, regardless of security measures, have breaches. Yet imagine if America adopted a position that no new laws could be passed regarding prison reform "until the nation's jails are secure."

Tom Barry, director of the Transborder Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., said the demand for a completely secure border is a ploy by those opposed to immigration reform to prevent new policies.

"No matter how much enforcement you have, there will always be people coming through," he said. "Since that is true, opponents to immigration reform will always be able to say the border is still not secure . . . and therefore we cannot pass immigration reform."

At some point, the question becomes: How much border enforcement is necessary? Or enough?

David Shirk, director of the Transborder Institute at the University of San Diego, said the United States has more federal agents deployed along the Mexican line than at any time in the past century.

"It seems to me the argument can be made that we've gone as far as is reasonable," he said. "The border will never be secure enough for some people. . . . Politicians are using the idea of the border as a phantom menace and establishing an unreachable goal."

Border enforcement rises

For the past decade, critics have complained that the U.S. government does little or nothing to stem the flow of undocumented intruders.

"Our nation's border security efforts are a litany of failure," Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., wrote in a recent commentary for the congressional newspaper The Hill. "Ultimately, Congress must fix our broken immigration laws. . . . But we cannot address that difficult task until we, as a nation, control our own borders."

While the success of America's border enforcement may be questioned, historical data reflect an escalation of effort:

• Today, there are 22,800 U.S. Border Patrol agents, five times the number in 1993. About 17,000 agents work along the Southwest corridor, double the number from seven years ago. They are supported by National Guard troops, local police and thousands of port officers using everything from drug-sniffing dogs to gamma-ray machines.

• In Arizona, the primary smuggling corridor on the U.S.-Mexico line, there are now more than 3,600 Border Patrol agents, about 10 for every mile of boundary with Mexico.

• The budget this fiscal year for Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency charged with guarding U.S. borders, is about $17 billion, double what was spent in 2003.

• The number of illegal immigrants arrested by Border Patrol has plummeted by almost two-thirds in just five years, a combined result, authorities say, of fewer people trying to cross because of the economy and increased security.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the Southwest border is "as secure now as it has ever been." Challenging the sincerity of lawmakers who demand security, she asked, "Will it ever be reached as far as Congress is concerned, or will that goal post continue to be moved?"

Still, amid a decade of record spending on enforcement - increases that began under Republican President George W. Bush, who twice tried and failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform - America's estimated illegal-immigrant population increased from 8.5 million to 11. 9 million. The vast majority of the immigrants came from Mexico.

'Operational control'

Apprehensions of illegal crossers in the desert began to decline only in the past few years, as the nation's economy and job market collapsed. In 2009, Border Patrol agents arrested 550,000 undocumented immigrants on the Southwestern border, though that is considered a fraction of the total slipping through. Drug seizures continue to increase, though it is unclear how much of that reflects increased trafficking and how much is a result of improved enforcement.

Amid the ebb and flow of statistics, the calls for tighter border security continue.

But public understanding is stymied by simplistic notions of border dynamics and geography.

Those unfamiliar with the vast border zone have little sense of its challenges or the creativity of trespassers. Many ignore the value of the millions of legal crossings each year, the vital importance of legitimate trade and the fact that border crime is a two-way street.

According to Alonzo Peña, deputy assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, each year $19 billion to $29 billion from illegal-drug and human trafficking is smuggled from the United States into Mexico, where it is used by drug cartels to finance their violent operations. Only $200 million gets seized. As part of controlling the border, the southward flow of cash and arms also must be stopped.

Gustavo Mohar, Mexico's intelligence chief, shakes his head at the idea of securing such a huge swath, an area exceeding 100,000 square miles.

"The correct word is 'managing' a border," he said. "You cannot close it."

Even the U.S. Border Patrol does not set its sights on complete security. Instead, its mission is to establish "operational control," a term defined by Congress as the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries.

This year, Border Patrol claimed success along 894 miles of boundary, less than half of the Mexican line, or about one-tenth of the nation's land and sea perimeter. Even in sectors that are supposedly under control, Border Patrol records show, smugglers and illegal immigrants get through by the thousands.

Some anti-illegal-immigration groups acknowledge that fully securing the border is a pipe dream.

"I couldn't, if you held a gun to my head, tell you it could ever be done 100 percent," said Bill Davis, director of Cochise County Militia, a group of armed civilians who patrol Arizona's southern flank. "If you can cut it down from 100,000 (illegal entries) to two people, great."

Davis, who advocates a doubling of manpower and technology, said a border is controlled when agents monitoring surveillance cameras and sensors receive no more than one alert per night.

Appealing to fear

No matter how many federal troops and agents are on patrol, no matter how many sensors, cameras and fences are employed, many will try to sneak across the border, and some will succeed.

Each time that happens, opponents of immigration reform will be able to declare that the line is not defended, that America is not safe.

They appeal to patriotism, asking why the world's most powerful nation cannot protect its sovereign boundaries.

They appeal to fear, suggesting that terrorists potentially could mix in with the daily swarm of Hispanics heading north for opportunity.

Public passion is so high, said the Transborder Project's Barry, that no one does a cost-benefit analysis of border enforce- ment.

"Everybody is jumping on the border-security bandwagon, including moderate Democrats," Barry said. "It's not driven by anything real on the grid, not by violence or invasions of illegal immigrants . . . not based on any real assessment of threats to the nation."

The rhetoric is magnified by fears that Mexico's explosive cartel violence may bleed over the international line. In fact, FBI and Arizona records show crime is dramatically down statewide and along the border. Murders in Arizona decreased by one-fifth last year; aggravated assaults dropped nearly 9 percent.

Those numbers provide little consolation to southern Arizona residents weary of undocumented immigrants and armed drug couriers traipsing across their properties. Still, the statistics contradict claims of a cri- sis.

"I hear politicians on TV saying the border has gotten worse," said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. "Well, the fact of the matter is, the border has never been more secure."

Calls for reform

At the Washington, D.C.-based Federation for Ameri- can Immigration Reform, press secretary Bob Dane described border enforcement without reform as "a fool's para- dise."

FAIR presses Congress to impose rigid immigration limits, opposing an amnesty program or an increase in the number of work visas.

Dane said most of the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants came to America for work, so there is a simple policy change that would force them out: Require employee verification and crack down on businesses that hire undocumented workers.

"Simply declaring the border is secure without workplace enforcement is like putting locks on the door with a sign that says, 'The jewels are all yours if you can find a way in,' " Dane said. "The jobs magnet is the reason folks come and the reason they stay."

Susan Ginsburg, senior policy adviser for an international nonprofit known as Borderpol, which works to make international borders safer, said it is a mistake to require border control as a prerequisite for changing U.S. policies because the existing system created a broken border in the first place.

"Comprehensive immigration reform will help because it will make the border more manageable," she said.

Michele Wucker, executive director of the World Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said border incursions happen wherever two countries have unequal economies or black-market trade.

Wucker, author of "Lockout: Why America Keeps Getting Immigration Wrong," said those who demand a sort of iron curtain prior to policy change are obstructionists: "It means don't ever come up with a workable system."

Arizona has the most to gain from a new policy paradigm, Wucker argued, because the status quo made the state a thoroughfare for smuggling. Yet the state's political leaders, caught up in a wave of public opinion, no longer press for reform.

"When I see John McCain saying, 'Build the dang fence,' I'm very sad," Wucker said. "Arizona would benefit more than any other state from immigration reform at a national level. They're really cutting off their nose to spite their face."



Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2010/06/20/20100620border-security-arizona.html#ixzz0rpl53ZJs

ATIONAL MAYORS GROUP CONDEMNS 'UN-AMERICAN' ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW

Good news. -Angela

NATIONAL MAYORS GROUP CONDEMNS 'UN-AMERICAN' ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW

Published June 14, 2010

| FOXNews.com


America's mayors on Monday went on record in opposition to
Arizona's immigration law, voting for a pair of resolutions
that would amount to one of the broadest condemnations to
date of the policy.

The resolutions approved by voice vote from Los Angeles Mayor
Antonio Villaraigosa and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon were among
dozens considered at the annual meeting of the U.S.
Conference of Mayors in Oklahoma City.

Villaraigosa's resolution condemns the Arizona law as
"unconstitutional and un-American" and calls for its
immediate repeal. The other puts the Conference of Mayors in
support of lawsuits challenging the policy and in opposition
to the enactment of any laws "similar" to Arizona's. Both
measures call on Washington to pass comprehensive immigration
reform.

Gordon told FoxNews.com after the vote that it was important
to get the organization on record so that the conference as a
whole can advocate for these positions. He said the
conference would push for immigration reform in Washington
but also actively oppose any effort to pass a "copycat"
Arizona law in other states.

"That's not only a powerful message, but it's a powerful
lobbying group now," Gordon said. He said big-city mayors
like Michael Bloomberg in New York and Richard M. Daley in
Chicago were supportive of his resolution.

Elena Temple, spokeswoman for the Conference of Mayors, said
the statements would become the "official policy" of the
organization.

Close to 200 mayors were in attendance to vote on the
measures brought by Villaraigosa and Gordon, two of the
Arizona law's toughest critics. Temple said only a handful of
mayors spoke out against the nonbinding measures.

The law has drawn a sharply divided response from
jurisdictions across the country. In Arizona alone, several
cities have signed onto a federal lawsuit -- which Gov. Jan
Brewer has sought to dismiss -- challenging the policy. Los
Angeles and a number of other cities have also imposed
economic "boycotts" on Arizona to register their disapproval
of the law, though the Conference of Mayors resolutions
provide a more unified statement.

But lawmakers in other states have drawn inspiration from the
law, pursuing legislation that mirrors the controversial
policy for their constituents.

Texas Republicans at their state convention over the weekend
made pushing for a law like Arizona's part of their official
party agenda.

The Arizona law would make illegal immigration a state crime.
It requires local law enforcement to try to determine the
immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal
immigrant provided they don't stop and question them for that
reason alone.

The law is scheduled to take effect July 29.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Killing of Sergio Hernandez Guereca

June 23, 2010

The Killing of Sergio Hernandez Guereca

Lethal Force on the Border

By LAURA CARL
SEN

Sergio Hernandez Guereca's short life revolved around the U.S.-Mexico border that ultimately led to his death. On June 7, at approximately 6:30 p.m., a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot the 15-year-old Hernandez in the face in Mexican territory between Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas.

Most of the facts are not in dispute. A cell-phone video aired on Univision shows four people crossing into U.S. territory over the dried-up riverbed of the Rio Grande. When one is captured by a Border Patrol agent, the others begin to run back to the Mexico side. The Border Patrol agent opens fire across the border.

Sergio fell dead under a bridge. The Chihuahua medical examiner's autopsy revealed that he died from a gunshot wound to the head. Witnesses stated that the boys threw rocks at the agents, and the Border Patrol agent let loose with at least three direct shots.

Initial U.S. Defensiveness

Reactions came swiftly from both sides. The U.S. government responded defensively, even before the facts were known. An FBI statement released June 8, entitled "Assault on Federal Officer Investigated," announced an investigation into the "assault," although there were no reports of any injuries to U.S. agents. The statement asserts that the agents responded to "a group of suspected illegal aliens being smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico." It further states that "the subjects surrounded the agent" — a contention in no way borne out by the video.

In an almost offhand manner, it adds in paragraph three: "The agent then fired his service weapon several times, striking one subject who later died."

In an interview with CNN, FBI Special Agents Andrea Simmons noted that she did not know the Border Patrol's policy on use of deadly force, which was not in any case the FBI's concern. She dismissed the relevance of the boy's murder, stating, "This is not a civil rights investigation." Simmons then went so far as to spin out a purely hypothetical situation in which the immigrants "could potentially overpower him (the agent) and take his gun and shoot him," a situation that was not even remotely the case.

The next day the State Department responded to a question saying only that "an agent discharged his firearm, killing one of the suspects" and affirming that the only investigation ordered pertained to the assault on the federal agent. The U.S. government has to date refused to identify the agent, stating that he is currently placed on paid leave.

But as anger in Mexico rose over the latest border shooting, the Obama administration realized that it had a situation on its hands and the FBI and Border Patrol justifications of the boy's death wouldn't wash. National Security Council Spokesperson Mike Hammer issued a statement promising a "thorough investigation," saying that "the U.S. government takes such incidents very seriously" while honoring the service of the "men and women who secure our border" and offering no condolences to Mexico or the family.

Attorney General Eric Holder called the killing "extremely regrettable" and ordered a full investigation into the Hernandez Guereca case, along with a similar case of a Mexican citizen murdered by Border Patrol agents just a week earlier. Anastasio Hernández Rojas died after being beaten and attacked with a stun gun by Border Patrol agents on May 28, at the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego. The San Diego County coroner´s office ruled his death a homicide.

If investigators find that in the latest incident the Border Patrol agent fired at Hernandez Guereca without justification, according to AP reports, "he could be found to have violated Hernandez's civil rights, which is a crime. The fate of the agent could range from being cleared of all wrongdoing to a charge of homicide."

Outrage from Mexico

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) said the deadly shooting Monday would not affect relations between the United States and Mexico. But Reyes was soon proven wrong.

The Mexican government has filed a diplomatic note of protest, and stories of the killing have filled the media for days. President Felipe Calderon came under attack for jetting off to the World Cup in the aftermath of the shooting and in the midst of the worst drug-related violence on record in the country. Nevertheless, the president issued a statement expressing grave concern because "Sergio Adrian Hernandez was a minor, and he was killed by gunfire while on Mexican territory, in Juárez." He also related the event to a "surge of violence against Mexicans, which is also associated with the recent rise of anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican expressions in the United States," alluding to Arizona law 1070 that he openly criticized in his recent visit to Washington.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said it "energetically condemns" the shooting and demands "an expeditious and transparent investigation of the facts and, if applicable, punishment of the guilty." The department continued: "Mexico is aware of the existing risks in the region, but, according to international standards, lethal force must be used only when the lives of people are in immediate danger and not as a dissuasive measure."

The Chihuahua state authorities originally took on the case, but the Federal Attorney General's office quickly decided to head up the investigation. Attorney General Fernando Gomez Mont told Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano that the "unjustified use of force against our population is unacceptable to the Mexican government." Some Mexican authorities have called for the extradition of the Border Patrol agent.

The head of the Mexican delegation to the 49th U.S.-Mexico Inter-Parliamentary Group on June 11 opened the meeting addressing his U.S. counterparts: "The Mexican people are terribly offended by these deeds and I know that you are offended and hurt too by the death of the two Mexicans." The U.S. delegation expressed "its profound condolences" the deaths, but the meeting was tense. Legislators dedicated a moment of silence to the two victims.

Border and international human rights groups have joined the demands for a full investigation and prosecution of the murderers. The London-based Amnesty International stated, "This shooting across the border appears to have been a grossly disproportionate response and flies in the face of international standards that compel police to use firearms only as a last resort, in response to an immediate, deadly threat that cannot be contained through lesser means."

A Rock-Solid Defense?

Under investigation for two murders in as many weeks, the Border Patrol defense rests on the alleged lethal character of rocks. T.J. Bonner, president of the union representing Border Patrol agents, said Border Patrol agents face frequent rock-tossing attacks that are capable of causing serious injury.

"It is a deadly force encounter, one that justifies the use of deadly force," Bonner said. Rep. Reyes, an ex-Border Patrol chief and promoter of border militarization, says he used to keep a rock on his desk to illustrate the risk of "rockings."

But when it comes to real-life death and injury, statistics show that — as in the days of Spanish conquest — stone-hurling simply can't compete with firepower. Mexico's Foreign Relations Ministry states that the number of Mexicans killed or wounded by U.S. immigration authorities rose from five in 2008, to 12 in 2009, to 17 just in the first half of 2010. A recent investigation by AP showed that the Border Patrol is one of the safest assignments in the United States — only 3 percent of Border Patrol agents were assaulted last year, mostly by rocks, compared to 11 percent of police and sheriffs deputies, mostly by guns and knives.

By all accounts no protocol for the use of force on the border exists, and agents receive no clear instructions. Yet according to Border Patrol spokesperson Ramiro Cordero, "Every agent is issued a .40-caliber pistol, and available to us is a series of long arms and that includes shotguns and machine guns, and on top of that pepper spray and Tasers."

Statements on instructions to BP agents in light of the murders are as vague as they are disconcerting. Randy Hill, chief of the Border Patrol in the El Paso sector, "instructed his agents to exercise appropriate restraint without compromising personal safety or national security to avoid another incident," according to a statement released by El Paso mayor John Cook. If this is as far as the protocol goes, the chances of avoiding another incident appear remote.

The United States and Mexico must develop specific commitments on the use of force. Impunity for brutal and senseless murders of Mexican citizens would be the worst possible message the U.S. government can send to Mexico and the world.

Whose Jurisdiction?

The U.S. government asserts that the killer was on the U.S. side — an assertion that no one disputes. But the bullet flew into Mexico to find its target. Legal experts say that according to U.S. domestic law, Mexico, where the victim was struck, had jurisdiction, but Mexico is not seeking extradition. The case could go to the International Court of Justice, but since 1986 the U.S. government doesn't recognize compulsory jurisdiction there so could simply opt out of a trial.

"There are serious implications in international law when weapons are fired across boundaries, no matter the provocation, Texas lawyer Ouisa Davis writes in the El Paso Times. These considerations are heightened when stone-throwing from Mexico is countered with deadly force from the U.S. side. We are confronted with a situation where the clash between enforcement policies and our common border dwelling have created a confrontational and violent result — the loss of human life — raising important questions for all border dwellers."

The family of the slain youth has vowed to pursue a civil lawsuit. But if the wheels of justice don't turn within the U.S. system, Sergio's mother, Maria Guadalupe Guereca, probably has it right: "May God forgive them because I know nothing will happen," she told the Associated Press.

The murders of Sergio Hernandez and Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas must be investigated and prosecuted to send a clear message that undocumented border-crossing is not a capital offence in this country, nor does it cancel out universal human rights and homicide law.

Anti-Immigrant Policies

Policies not only reflect public opinion, they create it. President Obama has decided to spend another $500 million on border security. The message of this policy, which has no relationship to the evidence, is that our border with Mexico is one of the most insecure areas of the country. The subtext is that undocumented immigrants are the reason.

Few people have bothered to break down that false narrative, and many have worked hard to bolster it. Obama's border plan reportedly channels money toward reducing illegal drug and gun-running. On May 26, two days before Anastasio was Tasered to death, Mexico issued a communiqué to register its concern the additional 1,200 armed National Guard and other beefed-up security measures target immigrants:

"Mexico is confident that the personnel of the National Guard will strengthen the operations to combat transnational organized crime that exists on both sides of the border and… not undertake activities directly connected to the application of migratory laws," said Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley felt compelled to reply the next day that the border build-up "doesn't have to do with immigration," and reiterated the commitment to immigration reform.

Despite stated intentions, things tend to look different on the ground. Recent studies by the UC Berkeley Law School and others show that, alongside the border build-up, drug prosecutions dropped 20 percent in 2003-2008 and immigration prosecutions — mainly of first-time entries — accounted for over half of federal prosecutions. The Immigration Policy Center concludes, "Disentangling the role of immigration from these serious crimes is important, not only because we have limited resources but because confusing the issues helps to ensure that neither set of problems are solved."

The growing criminalization and dehumanization of Mexican undocumented immigrants has fomented a legal limbo where human rights, including the right to life itself, fall prey to ill-defined national security concerns. It has fostered a political climate where security forces and vigilantes argue openly that fatal attacks on citizens from other countries in a non-war context are justified simply because they lack a visa. Such governance without respect for basic human rights is nothing but a dangerous lie.

Laura Carlsen is director of the Americas Policy Program in Mexico City and a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus. She can be reached at: (lcarlsen(a)ciponline.org).

Political rhetoric ignores: 'Secure first' calls ignore facts, undermine reform

Political rhetoric ignores border reality: 'Secure first' calls ignore facts, undermine reform
by Dennis Wagner - Jun. 20, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic


Amid a growing national angst about illegal immigration, Americans keep hearing a chorus: Secure the border first. Then talk about immigration reform.

The idea appeals to public sentiment, and it seems like a simple demand.


But what do pundits and politicians mean?

Is a border secure only when no one crosses illegally and when no contraband slips through?

If some permeability is acceptable, what is the tolerable amount?

Political leaders mostly dodge those questions, and for good reason: Anyone with a minimal knowledge or understanding about the nearly 2,000-mile swath of land between Mexico and the United States realizes that requiring a secure border establishes an impossible standard.

One reason: There is no way to conclude success because authorities have no idea how many undocumented immigrants are getting through. Authorities can count only the number of unauthorized intruders captured. Such unavoidable uncertainty prevents any absolute assurances that no one is sneaking over, making declarations of victory impossible.

Another reason: The motivation and creativity of those trying to get across.

Impoverished Mexicans, willing to gamble their lives and savings to reach America, subject themselves to desert heat and extortion or torture by coyotes. Drug runners risk being caught and imprisoned or getting killed by competitors.

So the smugglers dig tunnels, create false compartments, bribe border guards, fly ultralight planes and use every means imaginable to get over, under or across the line. The more security there is, the higher the smuggling price and the greater the profit incentive.

Here is another way to consider the problem: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a leader in the anti-immigration movement and acclaimed as America's toughest sheriff, cannot secure his own jails. Every year, despite armed guards, electronic locks and video monitors, inmates smuggle drugs in from the outside and sometimes even escape.

No one would blame Arpaio. All penal institutions, regardless of security measures, have breaches. Yet imagine if America adopted a position that no new laws could be passed regarding prison reform "until the nation's jails are secure."

Tom Barry, director of the Transborder Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., said the demand for a completely secure border is a ploy by those opposed to immigration reform to prevent new policies.

"No matter how much enforcement you have, there will always be people coming through," he said. "Since that is true, opponents to immigration reform will always be able to say the border is still not secure . . . and therefore we cannot pass immigration reform."

At some point, the question becomes: How much border enforcement is necessary? Or enough?

David Shirk, director of the Transborder Institute at the University of San Diego, said the United States has more federal agents deployed along the Mexican line than at any time in the past century.

"It seems to me the argument can be made that we've gone as far as is reasonable," he said. "The border will never be secure enough for some people. . . . Politicians are using the idea of the border as a phantom menace and establishing an unreachable goal."

Border enforcement rises

For the past decade, critics have complained that the U.S. government does little or nothing to stem the flow of undocumented intruders.

"Our nation's border security efforts are a litany of failure," Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., wrote in a recent commentary for the congressional newspaper The Hill. "Ultimately, Congress must fix our broken immigration laws. . . . But we cannot address that difficult task until we, as a nation, control our own borders."

While the success of America's border enforcement may be questioned, historical data reflect an escalation of effort:

• Today, there are 22,800 U.S. Border Patrol agents, five times the number in 1993. About 17,000 agents work along the Southwest corridor, double the number from seven years ago. They are supported by National Guard troops, local police and thousands of port officers using everything from drug-sniffing dogs to gamma-ray machines.

• In Arizona, the primary smuggling corridor on the U.S.-Mexico line, there are now more than 3,600 Border Patrol agents, about 10 for every mile of boundary with Mexico.

• The budget this fiscal year for Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency charged with guarding U.S. borders, is about $17 billion, double what was spent in 2003.

• The number of illegal immigrants arrested by Border Patrol has plummeted by almost two-thirds in just five years, a combined result, authorities say, of fewer people trying to cross because of the economy and increased security.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the Southwest border is "as secure now as it has ever been." Challenging the sincerity of lawmakers who demand security, she asked, "Will it ever be reached as far as Congress is concerned, or will that goal post continue to be moved?"

Still, amid a decade of record spending on enforcement - increases that began under Republican President George W. Bush, who twice tried and failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform - America's estimated illegal-immigrant population increased from 8.5 million to 11. 9 million. The vast majority of the immigrants came from Mexico.

'Operational control'

Apprehensions of illegal crossers in the desert began to decline only in the past few years, as the nation's economy and job market collapsed. In 2009, Border Patrol agents arrested 550,000 undocumented immigrants on the Southwestern border, though that is considered a fraction of the total slipping through. Drug seizures continue to increase, though it is unclear how much of that reflects increased trafficking and how much is a result of improved enforcement.

Amid the ebb and flow of statistics, the calls for tighter border security continue.

But public understanding is stymied by simplistic notions of border dynamics and geography.

Those unfamiliar with the vast border zone have little sense of its challenges or the creativity of trespassers. Many ignore the value of the millions of legal crossings each year, the vital importance of legitimate trade and the fact that border crime is a two-way street.

According to Alonzo Peña, deputy assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, each year $19 billion to $29 billion from illegal-drug and human trafficking is smuggled from the United States into Mexico, where it is used by drug cartels to finance their violent operations. Only $200 million gets seized. As part of controlling the border, the southward flow of cash and arms also must be stopped.

Gustavo Mohar, Mexico's intelligence chief, shakes his head at the idea of securing such a huge swath, an area exceeding 100,000 square miles.

"The correct word is 'managing' a border," he said. "You cannot close it."

Even the U.S. Border Patrol does not set its sights on complete security. Instead, its mission is to establish "operational control," a term defined by Congress as the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries.

This year, Border Patrol claimed success along 894 miles of boundary, less than half of the Mexican line, or about one-tenth of the nation's land and sea perimeter. Even in sectors that are supposedly under control, Border Patrol records show, smugglers and illegal immigrants get through by the thousands.

Some anti-illegal-immigration groups acknowledge that fully securing the border is a pipe dream.

"I couldn't, if you held a gun to my head, tell you it could ever be done 100 percent," said Bill Davis, director of Cochise County Militia, a group of armed civilians who patrol Arizona's southern flank. "If you can cut it down from 100,000 (illegal entries) to two people, great."

Davis, who advocates a doubling of manpower and technology, said a border is controlled when agents monitoring surveillance cameras and sensors receive no more than one alert per night.

Appealing to fear

No matter how many federal troops and agents are on patrol, no matter how many sensors, cameras and fences are employed, many will try to sneak across the border, and some will succeed.

Each time that happens, opponents of immigration reform will be able to declare that the line is not defended, that America is not safe.

They appeal to patriotism, asking why the world's most powerful nation cannot protect its sovereign boundaries.

They appeal to fear, suggesting that terrorists potentially could mix in with the daily swarm of Hispanics heading north for opportunity.

Public passion is so high, said the Transborder Project's Barry, that no one does a cost-benefit analysis of border enforce- ment.

"Everybody is jumping on the border-security bandwagon, including moderate Democrats," Barry said. "It's not driven by anything real on the grid, not by violence or invasions of illegal immigrants . . . not based on any real assessment of threats to the nation."

The rhetoric is magnified by fears that Mexico's explosive cartel violence may bleed over the international line. In fact, FBI and Arizona records show crime is dramatically down statewide and along the border. Murders in Arizona decreased by one-fifth last year; aggravated assaults dropped nearly 9 percent.

Those numbers provide little consolation to southern Arizona residents weary of undocumented immigrants and armed drug couriers traipsing across their properties. Still, the statistics contradict claims of a cri- sis.

"I hear politicians on TV saying the border has gotten worse," said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. "Well, the fact of the matter is, the border has never been more secure."

Calls for reform

At the Washington, D.C.-based Federation for Ameri- can Immigration Reform, press secretary Bob Dane described border enforcement without reform as "a fool's para- dise."

FAIR presses Congress to impose rigid immigration limits, opposing an amnesty program or an increase in the number of work visas.

Dane said most of the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants came to America for work, so there is a simple policy change that would force them out: Require employee verification and crack down on businesses that hire undocumented workers.

"Simply declaring the border is secure without workplace enforcement is like putting locks on the door with a sign that says, 'The jewels are all yours if you can find a way in,' " Dane said. "The jobs magnet is the reason folks come and the reason they stay."

Susan Ginsburg, senior policy adviser for an international nonprofit known as Borderpol, which works to make international borders safer, said it is a mistake to require border control as a prerequisite for changing U.S. policies because the existing system created a broken border in the first place.

"Comprehensive immigration reform will help because it will make the border more manageable," she said.

Michele Wucker, executive director of the World Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said border incursions happen wherever two countries have unequal economies or black-market trade.

Wucker, author of "Lockout: Why America Keeps Getting Immigration Wrong," said those who demand a sort of iron curtain prior to policy change are obstructionists: "It means don't ever come up with a workable system."

Arizona has the most to gain from a new policy paradigm, Wucker argued, because the status quo made the state a thoroughfare for smuggling. Yet the state's political leaders, caught up in a wave of public opinion, no longer press for reform.

"When I see John McCain saying, 'Build the dang fence,' I'm very sad," Wucker said. "Arizona would benefit more than any other state from immigration reform at a national level. They're really cutting off their nose to spite their face."



Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2010/06/20/20100620border-security-arizona.html#ixzz0rjlVOs7M