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

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