Thursday, May 27, 2010

Secure Communities Starts in June

Somehow Secure Communities has been under the radar locally, even for me, and I've written about it a few times.  I just came across an event which is a picket against ICE in San Francisco.  The event info reads:
About S-Com: “Secure Communities”, beginning on June 1st, 2010, is a new police/ICE collaboration program that will automatically investigate the immigration status of anyone, citizen or non-citizen, who is arrested and fingerprinted for any crime, no matter the severity, by electronically crosschecking their fingerprints against an ICE database, then holding them in jail for ICE to detain them.
Considering this is very complimentary to SB1070, you'd think more people would be aware of it and talking about it.  Basically, SB1070 further criminalizes migrants in AZ, thereby creating more "criminal aliens" to which Secure Communities applies.  According to Border Lines blog:
Central to the mission of Secure Communities is the removal of criminal aliens. It is not commonly understood in the immigration debate that ICE’s definition of criminal aliens includes both legal and illegal immigrants who have on at least one occasion become object of the criminal justice system. Since 2005 ICE has been increasingly charging illegal border crossers with criminal violations that result in sentencing and imprisonment in federal prisons.
 Using the term "criminal" seeks to justify the targeting of the migrants caught up in S-Com.  This is part of the strategy.  For example, during ICE's Operation Return to Sender, they purported to target criminals- the violent criminals, but also those involved in identity theft.  But most of the arrests of people were absent of evidence of any crimes committed. 

END BORDER MILITARIZATION CONTINGENT @ 05.29.10 National Day of Action Against SB1070 in PHX

from O'odham Solidarity Across Borders:
National Day of Action Against SB1070
May 29, 2010

O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective sends you greetings from occupied O'odham lands,

We urge all who support indigenous nations and migrant communities to join us on Saturday May 29th at the National Day of Action Against SB1070 to demand that Border Patrol (BP), Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), their parent entity, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Obama administration end militarization of the border, end the criminalization of immigrant communities, and end their campaign of terror which tear families apart through increasing numbers of raids and deportations.

This contingent is in support of the O'odham elders, and other indigenous elders that will be leading the march. It is a follow-up to last Friday’s (May 21st) Peaceful Occupation of the US Border Patrol Headquarters in Tucson, AZ. We hope to use this formation to voice the end of border militarization and racist, colonial laws that attack not just indigenous communities, but migrant ones too. We hope to project true Indigenous/Migrant solidarity in the face of the state's police oppression, and the immigration reform movement’s suppressive tactics to further marginalize the indigenous voice in border policies and colonial laws that affect us all.

The contingent also calls on the State of Arizona to repeal the racist Senate Bill 1070 that criminalizes immigrant communities on the state level, makes it illegal to transport or harbor an undocumented person regardless of family relationship, requires police agencies to engage in racial profiling, and ultimately is an attempt to ethnically cleanse Arizona of those with brown skin.


Monday, May 24, 2010

This is Bigger than SB 1070

I could spend time writing a whole article on the bigger picture surrounding anti-immigrant efforts in AZ and on a broader scale, but having limited time and having already written a lot on it, here are some things to read:

Freedom Not Reform: Native Struggle from Margin to Center and Reading up on O'odham border struggle

Ending criminalization of people of color must be priority and No Borders or Prison Walls

The Best Immigration Law is No Law at All

Freedom, not Reform: If we don’t demand it, it can’t happen

2007 Retrospective: The Local War on the Undocumented

Racial Profiling Focus is Still a Distraction

Changing the Minds of White Folks Whose Anti-Immigrant Fears have been Manufactured

And of course you can do a search or explore using the tags to see what I've written or posted over the course of the last few years.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Activists Lockdown & Occupy US Border Patrol Headquarters Demanding End to Border Militarization

Video: Occupation & Lockdown of Tucson Border Patrol HQ

Activists Lockdown & Occupy US Border Patrol Headquarters Demanding End to Border Militarization, Protesters Cited and Released (2nd Press Release)

Mainstream Coverage of Tucson Border Patrol Occupation Newslinks.

Photos from Tucson Border Patrol Headquarters Occupation to End Border Militarization


O'odham Solidarity Across Borders blog

Ending criminalization of people of color must be priority

Three separate times, tears welled up as, on the corner of Swan and Golf Links outside the Border Patrol headquarters in Tucson, a Wackenhut bus full of undocumented detainees drove by.  The protest on this corner corresponded to the lockdown of 6 people in the BP office to protest militarization of the border.

The protesters who locked down said that as they were being booked, they saw the people standing, waiting in the "cage" to be processed and then sent off to a detention center or possibly deported, transported on these very buses we saw.  A powerful moment was after the protesters had been released and had joined us on the corner, when a bus drove by and we all raised our fists, gave peace signs, and/or waved, knowing to some extent the fate of the prisoners, and wanting to show our solidarity, though limited by gestures.

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants, like those whose faces I could barely see, are held in detention centers and jails.  SB 1070 has not yet gone into effect.  This has been going on for so long and will only continue to do so as long as activists only insist upon ending racial profiling and stopping SB 1070 or even all racist bills/laws if it stops before calling for an end to the border and criminalization of people of color.  There are so many undocumented immigrants who are living in our cities whose voices are overpowered by those who want to maintain the status quo.  There are so many indigenous people near the border or even throughout this state whose voices are not heard, who are also impacted by the border and will also be impacted by SB1070 and so much more.

While racial profiling seems to be discussed in the media and by certain so-called spokespeople as a problem because it catches innocent/"legal" people up in it, it will be a problem because not only will SB 1070 make it easier and more justifiable to catch undocumented immigrants, it also allows the police to do what they have been doing for so long: treating all people of color as criminals.  What tends to be overlooked is that people of color have been criminalized, in different ways in different contexts.  The criminalization, whose enforcement is steadily increasing in the case of migrants, is used to paint people as law-breakers and justify their imprisonment and/or disenfranchisement (and here I don't just mean voting, but also any sort of means to make changes in their lives).  Not only are certain acts of people of color criminalized or treated as worse crimes (such as the treatment of crack users vs. cocaine users), but the police are given a special position to deem people criminals even if they haven't done anything wrong.

Whiteness has made room for certain people of color to be model citizens (even cops or border patrol agents) to blur the line, but it is clear where the line is.  If we don't question this criminalization, there will always be hundreds of thousands of people of color imprisoned in this country, or in constant fear of being ripped from their everyday life, if not even murdered by the state on occasion (even once is far too often).  Racial profiling is part of this racial criminalization, and to be clear, perhaps we should use the latter term, unless we buy into this idea that those who have been convicted of crimes or those who we know have crossed the border illegally are being justifyably punished.  When you hear or read the arguments for deporting or imprisoning undocumented immigrants it all comes down to the law for them, even though their racism often comes clearly through.  There's no effort to examine the purpose of the (immigration) law among those who seem to have convinced themselves that race plays no part. 

This criminalization not only puts people in jail but attempts to make it more justifiable to treat people of color inhumanely.  The press release for yesterday's Border Patrol protest states, "Indigenous people along the border have been forced by border patrol to carry and provide proof of tribal membership when moving across their traditional lands that have been bisected by this imposed border; a border that has been extremely damaging to the cultural and spiritual practices of these communities. Many people are not able to journey to sacred sites because the communities where people live are on the opposite side of the border from these sites. Since the creation of the current U.S./Mexico border, 45 O’odham villages on or near the border have been completely depopulated."  In addition, they state, "The impacts of border militarization are constantly made invisible in the media, the popular culture of this country and even the mainstream immigrants rights movement which has often pushed for 'reform' that means further militarization of the border, which means increased suffering for our communities."

It is important that we carefully remain critical of the elements of any social movement that are are more embraced by the mainstream media and politicians.  The folks who did this protest did it in such a way as to risk federal charges to get national media attention, which they hardly got.  In the meantime, messages about Comprehensive Immigration Reform and against racial profiling are more successful even when no arrests are involved.  Of course calls to end criminalization of people and to stop border militarization are going to be marginalized!  This is why they must at least be demarginalized within the social justice movements. 

A friend of mine told me that her mother cried when listening to Al Sharpton speak against SB1070.  I wonder if what he's been saying in the media is different from what he said at the public event (see First They Came for the "Illegals" but I only care about Racial Profiling).   Either way, I will remain weary of anyone marginalizes undocumented immigrants to oppose laws that target them.

See also No Borders or Prison Walls for a longer essay on some of these issues.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Changing the Minds of White Folks Whose Anti-Immigrant Fears have been Manufactured

To what extent are the racist ideas about immigration manufactured versus automatic in the average white citizen? How many of their opinions about immigration are formed based on messages in the media which are left unquestioned? How have people's opinions been shaped by changes to law and enforcement?

We know a few things for sure: capitalists and the state benefit from the divisions caused by ideas about outsiders vs. insiders and attitudes about people of color especially when it comes to criminality. We also know that there are blatant racists, many of whom are organized, who intentionally spread misinformation and biased messages, studies, and statistics about immigrants and other people of color. Fear is used to appeal to the loyalties of white people with other whites across class, against people of color.

In fact, it has taken decades of laws and messaging to barely convince enough people that to overstay a visa or traverse a man-made line is a crime worthy of any sort of punishment. For example, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the larger Tanton Network it is part of have put millions of dollars and decades of effort to shape the American public's view of immigration and to change legislation. Much of this is so far from grassroots, it makes you realize that these ideas are manufactured in people. The ideas are not coming from the people- the people are just repeating what they hear on Lou Dobbs. So despite the fact that there are many armed white people convinced they’re being invaded, and so many people are receptive to the fear tactics, I have some hope that with effective counter-messaging, the majority of white citizens can at least be convinced not to join with blatant racists against undocumented immigrants.

One obstacle is that speaking moralistically of wrong and right, or appealing to compassion, is likely to be limited. No matter how many images of families torn apart, bible verses, or “what would you do in a desperate situation?” type questions, there may be little leeway in changing minds. There are certain concepts that are instilled in American citizens that must be overcome. Unfortunately, while our opposition uses simple phrases, the truth and the context of these issues are very complex. It is our responsibility however, to figure out how to convey the ideas in the best way possible.

There are armed, scared, angry people out there ready for a race war. It’s hard to say how many. And although the state might find them to be a threat on some level (a lot of these people are angry about their money going to the rich), they are also used by those in power to promote the divisions between races, insiders and outsiders, etc. These people support the efforts of the police to enforce the color line. The possibility of people uniting across race against the rich (which threatens both capitalism and the state in some ways though perhaps not in others) is a major threat to the social order.

Because of these armed and frightened folks, it is important that we find ways to minimize their power. What matters most is what side people would come down on (or perhaps what side they already come down on) at a time of crisis. There are some interesting ideas about this coming from the Phoenix Class War Council (particularly regarding pointing out contradictions regarding ideology of libertarians) but while their strategy isn't for everyone, we must also consider ways to bring more white people into the opposition to the anti-immigrant fervor. Of course, it is likely not worth debating with those who are coming out to anti-immigrant rallies, but the ones who believe the lies while being less politically active.

There have been various efforts to address the myths/lies about undocumented immigrants. “No, it’s not true that they don’t want to learn English or assimilate” they might say, but why should they have to? There are many ways that dispelling the myths just reinforce the status quo. In addition, some allies of undocumented immigrants fall into the trap of legitimizing the previously existing racial order by calling on the police to catch the "real" criminals, or, without criticizing the laws and the racist context in which they were passed, calling for the police to cease stopping people on the basis of their skin color.

Therefore, in trying to change minds without reinforcing or legitimizing much of the white supremacy, rule of law, and economic order, we need to have a critical analysis or multiple analyses within our messaging. What I feel may be necessary is to address white people who identify as anti-racist already, laying out the critical analyses, at least increasing the numbers of people who can debate with their family, co-workers, etc. Studying the rhetoric of the opposition is extremely useful, such as by listening to right-wing radio or watching the TV shows, but also being acutely aware of the ways that the left-wing does not adequately address the issue. What's left unsaid? What is being supported that shouldn't (such as border security/militarization).

I intend to expand on this more later (and have written on some of this in the past-see this flier or this older flier), but here's a working list of issues to examine with people:
  • The legitimacy of the law that makes immigrants "illegal", and the significance of it in relation to other laws, as well as in relation to other acts that are not against the law (such as crossing state lines)
  • The relationship between race and criminalization (as discussed in No Borders or Prison Walls)
  • The idea that cops and laws prevent crime, as opposed to actually creating dangerous situations (in relation to human trafficking and drug trafficking as the main examples
  • The reality of the economic burden and the bigger picture: capitalism, neo-liberal projects/globalization/NAFTA, etc., as well as the ways in which the government spends so much money to enforce immigration laws
  • The legitimacy of the border, the nation, and white/American entitlement to this land, the supremacy of "our culture" over others, including language
  • That the state, capitalists and white supremacists have a reason to manipulate and lie to the people to maintain and increase their power
  • The reality of "overpopulation"  (see Concerned about Overpopulation?)
And then a few things to address critically to those on the left, such as the anti-racists I mentioned:
  • The federal government's plans for immigration and their position not as an ally against rogue sheriff's and bad laws in AZ, but as a proponent for mass detention and deportations that are already taking place, etc.
  • The blindness to the situation on and near the border, particularly among native communities such as the Tohono O'odham (see this)
  • The misrepresentation by leadership/politicians of the people they claim to represent, and the diluted messages they promote
  • Myopic views that don't include the larger situation of white supremacy, institutionalized racism ( particularly the role of the police), and colonialism
  • The legitimization of the economic order, such as in saying that migrants do the work that "Americans" don't want to do as though it is the migrants rightful place to do shit work.  Is it okay for migrants to be exploited like they have been for decades as long as they aren't getting arrested or harassed?
  • The unwillingness to think big, accepting that we will have to settle for less than what will truly allow for equality and freedom  (see The Best Immigration Law is No Law at All)

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    No Borders or Prison Walls: as it relates to racial profiling focus

    I started writing something that ended up being very similar to what I had written about a year ago, so I figured I'd re-post it since it is still very relevant.

    I've written a number of posts criticizing the focus on racial profiling, since when it is discussed, particularly by various politicians, it implies that the profiling catches innocent people up in it, while the true criminals deserve to be caught. Yet, racial profiling is certainly an important issue and has been occurring since race has existed. In fact in many ways law enforcement is what has shaped race in the first place. I discuss this further in this article.

    What I feel is important to bring into the racial profiling discussion is that most people seem to agree that it is wrong--in fact I believe it is technically illegal. But what has been happening is something that perhaps can be called racial criminalization. The intentional criminalization of people because they are not white. This is exemplified in immigration law where undocumented immigrants (mostly poc) are criminalized because of their situation as migrants who cannot attain legal status. But it's not only that they are automatically "illegal" when they cross the border or when their visa expires, etc., but that people place a significance on that particular crime vs. many other much more serious crimes. Additionally, as we can see with Arizona bill SB1070, the criminalization of these migrants is compounded with more laws that make them criminals- the trespassing part of the bill and the part that criminalizes day laborers. Read on.

    No Borders or Prison Walls: Beyond Immigrants' Rights to Ending Criminalization of All People of Color

    How bad do things have to be for a group of people to be afraid to leave their houses because la migra might pick them up and place their family members in separate detention centers to eventually deport them? Or that people crossing the border not only have to be concerned about the environmental dangers, but also the more recent upsurge of people who kidnap migrants, steal from them, assault them, and hold them for ransom. The police or ICE commit similar atrocities, but masquerading as heroes; “saving” the immigrants from the drop houses. Many citizens believe undocumented immigrants deserve the harm or misfortune inflicted upon them because they are here “illegally”.

    Nearly any debate about “illegal” immigration comes down to one thing: the law is the law. They say illegal people have no legitimate claims in “our” country. Despite the many illegal actions that people take everyday without feeling an ounce of guilt (speeding, downloading music), being in the country “illegally” is seen as a crime against the citizens. Despite the fact that many of us see this law, like so many others, as illegitimate and hypocritical based on its historical roots and the context in which it is enforced, as a means to maintain an exploitable class, as enforcement of the color line, and as a tool of government to control people and quash dissent; we seem quite silent about what we think about it.


    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    OSABC: Mexico: Human Rights Defender? Since when?

    From O'odham Solidarity Across Borders:

    OSABC wanted to share last month's article from the Tohono O'odham Runner about the new restrictions of movement that the Mexican Government made into law in early March. These restrictions now require "U.S." citizens, to have a U.S. passport in order to travel more than 12 miles into Mexico. This was passed with no reason given, other than the spokesperson for the Mexican Consulate stating:
    "We are not doing this to hassle Americans or bother them. It is to have better order, be more organized and provide better services".
    OSABC would like to identify the contradiction in the Mexican Government's need for "paperwork" (U.S. Passport) within "its" boundaries, and its oppositional position in Arizona law SB 1070, which also requires "paperwork" within the state of Arizona. Both policies are a tightened regulation of the free movement of people.



    Below is an introduction from the O'odham Solidarity Across Borders blog to the text of a flier that I participated in writing (which is also below) of which several copies have been distributed in Phoenix in the last couple weeks.

    We just wanted to share a flyer put together by our good comrade Chaparral Respects No Borders, it sums up not just SB1070, but the overall threat that this bill represents. These threats are not new, but now bring to surface the global context of these threats: neo-liberalism. Border security is needed to ensure neo-liberal projects (NAFTA!), and really should be read for what it is: border "regulation/militarization" of indigenous land to ensure capital exportation of people and resources .
    As you have seen, and will continue to see, politicians from both parties and reformist immigration activist organizations, push for "Immigration" Reform" which, directly or indirectly, calls for border "militarization". . As cited in an earlier piece, the "political" solution will bring forced removal and relocation of the many indigenous tribes that span "their" borders by means of a reinforced physical barrier. Regardless of the politics, pseudo-calls for movement unity and Pan-American Indigenous "Perspective" (the use of indigenous themes/imagines/icons of liberation, while ignoring the indigenous of the land they organize on), it must be clear that the immigration struggle is also an indigenous struggle.
    In order for the state to pass immigration reform, it has called for the "securing" of the borders first, in order to manage the flow of migration. This securing includes and is not limited to a physical wall to be made on indigenous land (Tohono O'odham/Lipan Apache to name a few). The state's power to waive pre-existing laws ( such as NEPA, NAGPRA) in the name of security, directly attacks indigenous autonomy/sovereignty. We understand that our voice, the O'odham voice, is greatly undermined by the mainstream media, state/national politicians and sadly, even self proclaimed immigrant/human rights activists. Regardless of their politics, our voice will stay strong in the face of 21st Century marginalization/colonization.
    Our people have survived and kept our him'dag (O'odham way of life) strong through three waves of colonial settlers (Spain, Mexico and United States). OSABC feels, in order to move forward, and attack the State's new wave of colonization, we must understand "where we are at". The very land we all walk on. This has, is and always will be O'odham jewed. If others cannot acknowledge the indigenous people of the land, and call for policies that attack them (O'odham! Yaqui!), such as Berlin Wall-like barrier, in the name of "reform/security", then we will witness the cycles of capitalist imperialism continue long into the 21st Century!

    Migration is a natural thing, while the necessity of obstructions such as border walls are rationalized by those in power to deal with threats to security against a fortress built on the backs of other people. This fortress is the US, taken and secured by force, built up by slavery and attacks on liberation movements throughout its history. The border is therefore illegitimate and we need not and must not regard migrants as helpless victims to justify their crossing. Everyone should have the right to freedom of movement. Of course migration from south of the border has increased due to the economic and political impacts of neo-liberal projects such as NAFTA.
    Homeland Security has nothing to do with making sure we all have homes. Especially when so many people are losing their homes, security should mean shelter, food, health care, safety. The governor is pushing for more National Guard on the border and Comprehensive Immigration Reform will likely include increased militarization. Communities, such as the Tohono O’odham, on the border are already severely impacted by militarization, while many migrants die crossing. This will only get worse. It needs to be opposed at all costs.
    What is the threat? The first border patrol and physical barrier on the border are less than one hundred years old, yet some act like we’re doomed if we’re without a border wall. The billions upon billions of dollars to build a wall, buy border security technology, pay border patrol agents, detain hundreds of thousands of migrants, and deport them is hardly justified by the alleged costly impact migrants have on the economy. The impact of supposed over-population is nothing compared to the impact that big corporations- especially weapons manufactures- have on the planet.

    Why we oppose the latest anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070:

    • It allows all police to enforce federal immigration law, allowing them to arrest someone without a warrant if they believe that the person is in the country illegally

    • Would create the additional crime of trespassing with which any undocumented immigrant could be charged in this state

    • Would penalize all migrants (legal or not) who don’t carry “an alien registration document”

    • Criminalizes day laborers and those who pick them up to hire them

    • Makes it a crime to conceal, harbor, or shield a migrant, including transportation, and also may include renting to migrants
    No to increased border security! No to the created divisions between us and our brothers and sisters based on immigration status! No to continued invasions on native land! No to destroying the environment to build a wall! End NAFTA! We need alternatives to police and jails!

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    First They Came for the "Illegals" But I Only Care about Racial Profiling

    You know that poem that starts off with "THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist." Well, I had always interpreted it as meaning that you should care not because one day it will be you they go after, but you should care because it is happening to someone else who could easily be you. What does it mean if those who make themselves out to be spokespeople for a movement are not fully behind the ones most affected?

    It's inspiring that so many different kinds of people are coming out against Arizona's SB1070 immigration bill, due to go into effect in a few months. However, it may not be obvious to all, but there are major discrepancies between politicians and so-called leadership, and the people. For example, while you have undocumented immigrants and their allies at these demonstrations wearing things like t-shirts or signs that say "I'm an illegal", others are focused on racial profiling. This is particularly telling:
    This is not about immigrants taken out of the streets. This is about who is next,” said Phoenix City Council Member Michael Johnson. The former police officer recently alleged he was the victim of racial profiling. (Source)(My emphasis).
    Michael Johnson has openly supported Arpaio and his law enforcement efforts against undocumented immigrants. How many people coming out against this bill feel this way is unclear, though as I mentioned, Phil Gordon (Phil Gordon: Foe to Undocumented Immigrants) and Kirsten Sinema (Racial Profiling Focus is Still a Distraction) have said that they oppose the racial profiling part of the bill but have not openly opposed the targeting of undocumented immigrants by law enforcement (particularly federal).

    The quote above is from an article about Al Sharpton coming to town to participate in a church service and a march to the capitol. From the same article, this quote exemplifies the presence and position of some undocumented immigrants,
    Despite the increased fear caused by the new law several undocumented immigrants decided to join the march. Among them was Catalina Vargas, 67, a former farm worker.

    “I’m going to fight as much as I can for legalization,” said Vargas, who marched out front holding an American flag.
    About a year ago, Al Sharpton appeared on Lou Dobb's show regarding racial profiling and Arpaio's sweeps, and I discussed his emphasis on racial profiling in Racial Profiling Discussion Undermines Solidarity with Immigrants. Yesterday he made similar statements:
    "There is no way this law could be enforced," said Sharpton, "without profiling people based on whether they are Latino or appear to be Mexican...You can amend it. You can bend it. You can do everything you want to with it.

    "To say that based on reasonable suspicion, state law enforcement can go after people based on Mexican immigration is to say that it is reasonable to look at anyone that appears Latino and subject them to a harassment and a scrutiny that other citizens in Arizona would not be subjected to."
    If you read how right-wingers have vilified Al Sharpton, you might tend to think he's on the correct path. I would argue, however, that his focus on racial profiling is the wrong way to go.

    For example, here is a common argument:
    "Nowhere in the bill does it say (police can stop or question people about their immigration status) because of race. It just says illegal immigrants," said Whitney Pew, 20. (Source).
    Russell Pearce himself has repeated that "Illegal is not a race, it is a crime" (discussed further here). Sharpton, Gordon, Michael Johnson, etc. could easily be saying the same goddamn thing, just in different words. "Illegal is not a race, which is why we're going after illegals but finding every way possible to do it besides based on their race." So many people keep saying that it is the job of the federal government, not local police to enforce immigration. To not oppose the criminalization itself, rather than just the racial consequences of law enforcement of this crime, is no way to be an ally to undocumented immigrants, and perhaps this is the point. Perhaps some folks want to continue to support the rule of law and only oppose what they understand to be racism, instead of seeing how the rule of law in many ways is intertwined with racism.

    This is why so many of us have to pick this up where they leave off. Push the debate further by opposing the criminalization of people. How do we take this resistance to racial profiling which is so popular right now and expand it to address criminalization?

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Phil Gordon: Foe to Undocumented Immigrants

    Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is at it again, trying to make himself out to be the good guy opposing SB 1070. He tried to get the city council to oppose the law and bring a lawsuit against it, but failed. He spoke at one of the big rallies at the capitol talking about how unconstitutional it is.

    It was about two years ago that I was involved in strategizing about how to oppose Phil Gordon's idea to change the immigration policy of the Phoenix Police Department. He initiated a change to Operations Order 1.4.3 which had previously not allowed police to ask about immigration status for serious crimes, but now allows the Phoenix PD to ask anyone arrested. Those stopped for traffic violations would normally not be arrested, and therefore were not asked about status.

    Although this change in policy, again, initiated by Gordon, led to an increased number of undocumented immigrants arrested, the Mayor was able to justify to himself that this was okay because he wasn't as bad as Arpaio, whose officers were asking about immigration status to anyone they stopped--mostly for traffic violations, some of which were bogus.

    SB1070 is different enough from Operations Order 1.4.3, but isn't really all that much worse, especially considering that Pearce claimed that the current policy meant Phoenix was a sanctuary city and that he needed to "take the handcuffs off the police".
    Arizona is not a state seething with hatred, eager to trample the civil rights of its citizens in haphazard pursuit of illegal immigrants. Nor are most Arizonans bigots anxious to drag our state back to the 1980s, when Gov. Evan Mecham’s absurd behavior made our home a national laughingstock.

    Instead, our state, which has become Ground Zero on illegal immigration because of years of lapsed federal border security, is frustrated...
    ...that we cannot rule with a velvet glove, seemingly fair but hiding the injustices brought against people everyday in the form of police brutality, bad working conditions, etc. When bills like this pass with such blatant hatred and targeting of people most do not agree are criminals, it makes it harder for us to keep the people blind and in line.

    This is the kind of thing that these democrats do. The Phoenix Police department has arrested more undocumented immigrants than Arpaio has, yet because of the Mayor's vocal opposition to the extreme actions and publicity show that Arpaio (and now SB1070) are involved in, he makes himself out to be the good guy.

    Let us not be blind to the fact that not only did he initiate the change to Operations Order 1.4.3, he's not exactly being a hypocrite. He is not advocating for the rights of undocumented immigrants. He is only opposing racial profiling (and hate). As discussed in Racial Profiling Focus is Still a Distraction this creates a hierarchy of importance with citizens being more important, and undocumented immigrants not being important. Racial profiling is a legal term which cannot address the unjust situation of the "illegal" person. Therefore, Phil Gordon is a foe, not a friend, of undocumented immigrants.

    See also: Mayor Gordon Criticizes Anti-Immigrant Racists and Phoenix Mayor Supports Change In Phx PD Immigration Policy

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Freedom Not Reform: Native Struggle from Margin to Center

    If I told you that the National Guard and Border Patrol were sent to the Phoenix area to enforce immigration law, that the NG or BP drew their guns on people at check points because they had brown skin, that the NG or BP would show up in the middle of the night in masks to interrogate families about drugs, what do you think would happen? (Okay, well the police might be doing this to some extent already, but what if this was happening on a mass scale in response to illegal immigration?) More copwatch patrols, forums, meetings, protests, boycotts? Or would we step it up?

    This has already been happening along the border to the Tohono O'odham on the reservation.
    As for the border patrol abuse, O’odham have no rights. An elderly couple while under interrogation was forced to show a shopping/groceries list to prove that their travel on the road was justified. The border patrol can drive their vehicle into your yard and hold you at gunpoint and can confiscate your tribal identification card and make a request for further proof of “American citizenship" (Source).
    You didn't know? Well, this is not a time to just feel guilty, but to reconsider your myopic support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (if you indeed support it without hesitation). Have you seen any proposals for Reform that don't include more border security? Border security means (more) militarization.

    Not only are the politicians (Democrats and Republicans alike) proposing more border security, but this is also coming from seemingly grassroots sources. For example, the 1 Million People for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2010! Facebook page, of which over a tenth of my blog's facebook account's friends are fans of lists "Border Security" as one of their positions. Even if we only look at the situation of undocumented immigrants, we must realize that there will still be people considered illegal and will be just as many if not more people dying crossing the border!

    I can hear the argument now: We need to include securing the border because that's the only way we can get so many undocumented immigrants legalized. I wouldn't be surprised if a number of CIR supporters even felt that the border needs to be secured for economic reasons or due to terrorism.

    I also imagine a handful of CIR supporters want the federal government to find a solution to the economic problems in Mexico. Whether or not this is realistic is somewhat beside the point. The reason indigenous struggles and experiences are marginalized is partly because otherwise we would have to question the legitimacy of this nation in the first place. We would have to question our presence (those of us who are immigrants from Europe especially) here, and our sense of entitlement to the resources that the land provides, if we were to consider those who have been impacted by colonization. We have been made to believe that native people are mostly gone or content on their reservations, that they have mostly chosen to assimilate, choosing to believe what we've been taught rather than seeking out the truth about things like Indian Schools and the horrors that accompanied them.

    On the situation of native people on the border, O'odham Solidarity Across Borders says it best:
    The passing of SB1070 leads us to the police state, and does not just affect migrants, it affects us all! SB 1070 like policies already occur on the Tohono O'odham Nation since the mid-90's with the states push for immigration enforcement. Border Enforcement that would be a Berlin-like Wall through our lands to control movement. The current push for immigration reform by politicians and by reformist activists includes the push to secure “their” borders which would be the forced removal and relocations of all indigenous tribes that live in the border region (Yaqui, Lipan Apache, Mohawk to name a few). This dismissal not just shows the colonial attitude that both reformist activists and politicians have, but also the settler privilege that they evoke when constructing border policies.

    We need to be asking the why in all this? Immigration Reform to us, means militarization of our homelands, so we dare to ask the politicians and reformist activists, how can reform for many, be at the expense of the original inhabitants of the land? We need to see it for what it is, and question neo-liberal projects, such as NAFTA, not just put a bandage on policies that affect everybody! We must challenge both the politicians and reformist activists that try to pit indigenous and migrant communities against each other in their “political” solutions! We are in this together, and must start at the root of the problem, in this case from an O'odham perspective. (Read the rest!)

    This is only one of the reasons I have seen for not supporting reform. I can't stress the importance of this. Even people who hear about it seem to sweep the issue aside. Especially if you live in Arizona, this needs to be brought out of the margins of your world. Even if you don't live in AZ, this is clearly happening in different ways to different people whether on the border or not. Forced relocations and control of movement as well as militarization have been used against indigenous people all over.

    Clearly by bringing O'odham and other native struggles with border militarization out from the margins, we put the border itself to question- not just the wall, not just the border patrol. And by questioning the border's legitimacy, we also question the legitimacy of this nation- not just the wars it wages, not just the over-consumption, but even the founding fathers and the constitution.

    What I have been arguing in reference to CIR is that if we do not demand freedom, it can't happen. If we downgrade the fight to reform, we are selling so many people short and continuing to leave people in the margins.

    See also: Reading up on O'odham border struggle,
    Biometrics Still Likely to be Part of Reform
    Freedom, Not Reform: On the New CIR-ASAP bill
    , Freedom Not Reform: If we don't demand it, it can't happen