Archive for May, 2008

Obama on Latin America: “Small Change”, If Any

May 29, 2008

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(this article first appeared in the Black Agenda Report)

by Roberto Lovato

Many of us had great “hope” for the much-vaunted “change” in U.S. policy towards Latin America. But listening to Barack Obama’s “substantive” speech on U.S. Latin America policy last week and reading his “New Partnership with the Americas” policy proposal, it’s pretty clear that Obama will do nothing to alter the basic structure of George W. Bush’s Latin America policy: trade backed by militarism.

Given the painful failure and generalized destruction wrought by the last century of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, the basic outline of “substantive” policy towards America Latina should look something like this

  • Immediate de-escalation of tensions between Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and US ally/surrogate Colombia. One would hope that, in the face of the atrocities in Colombia, Ubama would add a condemnation as loud as those Democrats wield at Cuba, whose violation of sovereignty (condemned by OAS) and human rights record-death squad killings, disappearances, torture of thousands-pales before that of Colombia;

  • Holding up Colombia’s multi-billion dollar military aid package would also indicate some substance;

  • Dismantling NAFTA, CAFTA and other trade and economic policies (ie some IMF and World Bank programs) that destroy livelihoods and communities (nay regions), bust government budgets and further enrich the elites in these countries;

  • Ending the embargo on Cuba. Will Obama stop beating the tattered political pinata of Cuba or simply spin it a little differently, hit it more gently?

  • Ending the low intensity destabilization programs in Venezuela and Bolivia;

  • Re-negotiating Bush’s crop-killing ethanol program;

  • Aborting Plan Mexico, which is already Colombianzing (ie; drug wars, anti-insurgent war, repression against opposition under cover of national security, etc.) a country that, for more than 80 years, has lived without the imposition of military rule. U.S. Presidents from Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan and Carter have paid for the arming of death squads who kidnap and torture jurists, journalists, union members and ordinary citizens as our “Latin American policy”;

  • Placing migration policy within the hemispheric context in which it originates;

  • Closing the School of the Americas and the ILEA training facility in El Salvador, both of which are factories for barbarism under the guise of national security.

With some important exceptions – engaging Venezuela, reconfiguring the World Bank and IMF, environmental agreements- his current approach to Latin America veers only slightly to the left of Bushismo. There is little in his speeches and proposals that is “liberal”, “progressive” or very enlightened in terms of easing the crush of poverty and repression in the region. In fact, Obama’s proposals for continuing and expanding the drug war in the hemisphere will only complete the efforts of the Bush Administration to re-militarize the region under cover of fighting drug wars.

In the search for post-Cold War enemies, the Bush Administration found its new excuse to militarize the region in the drug cartels, who, must be dealt with, but not in the Bush way.

Obama should know better.

The full text of Obama’s Miami speech can be found here.

Barack Obama’s “New Partnership For Latin America” also outlines his Latin America policies, and is located here.

Below are quotes from and brief analyses of these documents.

SUBJECT
WHAT OBAMA’S SPEECH & DOCUMENTS SAY WHAT THEY MEAN
On the brutal 46 year embargo of Cuba I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice…” Traveling to, or doing business in or with Cuba will remain illegal under US law. Academics and artists from Cuba will be denied visas, no cultural exchange permitted.
On US responsibility for deposing President Aristide and imposing the current regime poverty and terror upon Haiti Nothing The policy will not change
On US funding of the brutal war and death squad regime of Colombia When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. We will fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC. We’ll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. ” The policy will not change. The Colombian government has a blank check and a green light to murder and engage in cross-border provocations at will.
On the US continuing low-intensity war against Venezuela In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the people, but his actions just serve his own power. Yet the Bush Administration’s blustery condemnations and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only strengthened his hand.” Destabilization attempts under an Obama administration may be less blustery and clumsy.

Juan Crow Grows More Violent: Latino Activists Face Death Threats in Georgia

May 27, 2008

The forces of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hate have opened up another front in their relentless war: death threats targeting not just immigrants, but the activists who support them.

This story from the Atlanta Latino and translated by New America Media, details recent death threats made against immigrant rights activist Rich Pellegrino. A note was delivered to Pellegrino while his daughters were playing the the yard of his home in Cobb County, an Atlanta suburb.

As I’ve written here, the situation of Latinos in Georgia-and in many parts of the U.S. bears more than a passing resemblance to the situation faced by African Americans under Jim Crow. Especially disconcerting is what appears to be the increasing propensity to violence on the part of the anti-migrant, anti-Latino sectors of U.S. society as a whole. Nowhere is this propensity more clear than in recent FBI hate crimes statistics that show a 35% increase in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2006.

This most recent incident in Georgia joins a series of violent incidents targeting Latinos including

· The 2007 arrest white supremacist group preparing to attack Mexican immigrants near Birmingham, Ala. with grenades, semi-automatic weapons and 2,500 rounds of ammunition.

· The arrest last year of Tyler J. Froatz Jr., a 24 year-old Washington DC area man wielding a gun as he allegedly attacked marchers at a local immigration rally. Police found a 15 guns, a Molotov cocktail, a grenade and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his aparment.

· Thousands of raids, many of which are violent, on homes and workplaces

How much of this has been reported?

And when it is reported, we will see the usual rearguard attempts to wash such crimes away in the muddy waters of white supremacist groups. This will only further endanger us. Nothing less than serious, consistent and concerted local and national actions will suffice, actions targeting the 2 primary promoters of anti-migrant, anti-Latino violence in the United States: the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and high-powered media companies (as opposed to their rabid on-air personalities) and their advertisers. Screaming “stop the raids” or “we are not criminals” or “stop the lies” are important to do, but this approach has proven a patent failure in terms of curtailing in any way the escalation of violence.

And given recent violent developments in places like the Dominican Republic or South Africa, the time to take more radical measures is now, before God knows what will be unleashed in the event a deeper economic downturn predicted this week by Warren Buffet or if and when another attack by militant extremists takes place.

If you want to end these attacks, you have to make it too expensive to profit politicall and economically from verbal, visual and physical violence against immigrants. In words given to a friend by the Reverend Martin Luther King, “When you impact the rich man’s ability to make money, anything is negotiable.”

It’s that simple.

On the Texas Borderline, A Solid, if Invisible, Wall

May 27, 2008

Check out this great essay (full text below) by Michelle Garcia, former writer with the Washington Post. Her personal-is-the-political essay tells the tale of the familial history the U.S. government is trying to cover over with what will be the Tejano version of the Wailing Wall. Best part for me is how she illustrates that the politics behind the wall and the history of plundered land has not extinguished the will to contest and fight. Enjoy.

The Washington Post

The writer visits her family cemetery in Texas. Below, Kenedy Ranch Museum historian Homero Vera.

On the Texas Borderline, A Solid, if Invisible, Wall

By Michelle Garcia
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, May 24, 2008; C01

Under a lavender canopy of jacaranda blossoms within sight of the embattled frontier, Luis Peña imagines an unintended and comical use for the future border wall.

“If anything, it will be a new sport. People will pole-vault,” says the biology student with thick black hair. He kicks up a long leg and shouts, “¡Salto con garacho!” (“a high leap to garacho music”). Cue the Mexican violins!

Laughter erupts from his fellow nature lovers from the Gorgas Science Society. They are here, after all, to chant “Don’t fence us in” in protest of the 60-foot-high wall that will slice straight past their border-side campus — which combines the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College — and right through the Rio Grande Valley borderlands.

I laugh weakly. I’m feeling dejected. Jokes about pole-vaulting, about lizards doomed by the wall, aren’t what I expected when I trucked down to the very tip of my home state. I’d expected indignation about the border wall. I expected people to take it as personally as I did, like a slap at my identity, my South Texas culture, the Mexicanness in my Americanness.

I imagine my ancestors felt the same way oh so long ago, in 1848, after the newly drawn border cut through their lands, marooning them in a netherworld with Mexico on one side, the United States on the other. In the 21st-century version of that alienation, the new border wall may transform once-private lands into a de facto DMZ complete with spotlights and armed patrols.

Land, you see, is everything to us. Our culture is tied to the land. It is passed down as our inheritance, as my father did for me and my siblings, fulfilling his long-held pledge. In these borderlands, the fates of families like mine have hinged on the land. And so my instincts insist this wall is not just about illegal border-crossers, not just about Mexicans. It is, in a deeply historic way, about people like me, people whose identity was forged in generations of struggle over land.

Peña invites me to see a campus monument marking the old war between Mexican and gringo: an old cannon standing erect along the Rio Grande. Check it out, he says. “This might be your last chance before the wall goes up.” The cannon sits on the wrong side of the planned wall.

Peña and I stroll through the campus, with its buildings of somber desert browns and reds and its sky-blue tile domes of Spanish-Moorish influence. This once was Fort Texas (later renamed Fort Brown), erected in 1846 when the United States charged the original southern border at the Nueces River and invaded Mexico to push the frontier 123 miles south to the much-coveted Rio Grande. What once was Mexico suddenly became the United States.

As we walk toward the river, it’s jarring to see the bullet-riddled walls of the campus’s buildings — a reminder of the old border battles. “All of this is battleground,” says Peña, his playfulness quieting to philosophical musing. “These are bloody grounds.”

“They fought for it,” he says of the United States. “But it’s ‘the enemy’ that’s left,” he adds ironically.

First, in that original war of conquest, the Mexican was the enemy. Then, it was the newly minted U.S. citizens, the Texas Mexicans, branded as bandits when they rebelled against colonial subjugation after their families were annexed with the territory.

The war might have ended, but people like us, like Peña and I, still are regarded as the enemy by some.

We are the outsider with a Spanish-infused drawl, with a song of love and valor in our hearts; the pickup-driving, boot-wearing, Stars and Stripes-waving Tejano. But Texans sometimes refer to us as “Mexicans” even now, when you can find a military veteran in nearly every family, and many of our families in these parts are as old as the mesquite tree.

“We have American flags, we recite the national anthem. But what do we have to do to be plugged in?” Antonio N. Zavaleta, a vice president at the university, asks effusively. He is a great-great-grandson of Juan Cortina, who led an armed rebellion in 1859 against Manifest Destiny and the new Anglo social order that aimed to subjugate the Tejano.

“And this border wall,” Zavaleta continues, “is further indication that the world ends from a line from Corpus Christi to Laredo and everything down is a buffer” between the United States and Mexico.

Betwixt and Between

With my pickup truck radio tuned to country and old-school rock, I ride the highways of the South Texas brush country pursuing the roots of the resistance heard now along the borderlands. My journey takes me north on U.S. Highway 281, where I pass fields of sunflowers bowing under a relentless sun like mourning widows. The mesquite and brush rustle under the massive sky and here, gazing across the vast chaparral, I’m overwhelmed by the historic resilience embedded in the terrain unfolding before me.

This was Nuevo Santander to the Spaniards, Tamaulipas to the Mexicans, and Wild Mustang Desert to the Texas ranchers, both Anglo and Tejano.

This was the region where my family — and countless others — defended their land more than 150 years ago and have fought for a place under the new flag hoisted above them.

When I arrive at a family reunion in the San Antonio Hill Country where my paternal grandmother’s clan has gathered at an uncle’s ranch retreat, it is family and land that my elderly tias (aunts) are talking about.

“The rumor was that he had been poisoned,” says one tia, Berta Guerra, retelling the story of the early demise of my great-grandfather, Mauricio Gonzalez, who mysteriously died after attending a political meeting.

“This was my grandfather and my great-grandfather,” Tia Berta croaks into the microphone, standing before picnic tables filled with a young generation of teachers, lawyers and journalists. “They were big-time ranchers,” she says. “They had cattle drives to Kansas, just like a John Wayne movie.”

The Gonzalezes owned massive acreage on both sides of the Rio Grande and did a good job of holding onto it — until they, along with other wealthy Tejanos, bankrolled a coup attempt in 1891 against the Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz. Catarino Garza, my great-great-uncle, a journalist who married into the family, led the would-be revolution.

Anglo Texans branded him a social agitator for stirring up trouble with Mexico, a key trading partner, and for firing off missives to newspapers criticizing Anglo “racists.” United against him, Mexican and U.S. forces put down the rebellion, and Garza fled to Latin America.

But the story does not end there. I follow the Garza paper trail up to the Texas State Archives in Austin, adjacent to the plantation-like state capitol and its assemblage of statues honoring Confederate and Alamo fighters. Sifting through handwritten Ranger reports penned with flourish and suffused with panic, I find this: “Garza was imported to cause race feelings and contests and it may result in a desperate state of affairs, as in a war of races if not stopped in time.”

It was as if the Ranger who penned this 1892 report could not comprehend that Garza gave voice to the growing frustration of Tejano ranchers and cowboys at the land-grabbing Anglos; that they might be just a little sick of being treated like a “mongrel race,” to use a common insult of that era.

‘Border Bandits’

A short walk from the state capitol, at the Hideout Theater, the film “Border Bandits” is upending some of the tall tales from that era of revolution — tales like the looming race war — and replacing them with a bloody history most folks don’t know about. The film centers on the recollections of Rio Grande Valley ranch hand Roland Warnock, who in 1915 witnessed Texas Rangers shoot two unarmed Tejano ranchers — both U.S. citizens — in the back.

During a Ranger-led border crackdown to root out so-called Mexican bandits and suspected sympathizers, meaning anyone with a Spanish surname and two good legs, lawmen and vigilantes killed 5,000; thousands more abandoned their ranches and fled to Mexico. A postcard memorializing the border crackdown flashes across the screen, featuring three mounted Rangers with their lassos tied around dead “Mexicans.”

But were they really “bandits”? About midway back to the border, at a converted ranch house with creaky wood floors that now is the Kenedy Ranch Museum, historian Homero Vera fills me in on the back story for the “Border Bandits” film.

“They were revolutionaries, they had their ideals,” Vera explains. “They called them bandits because they were hostile, because they did kill some Anglos.”

The struggle, of course, was over land. Tejano landowners rebelled against the strong-arm land seizures by Anglos that robbed them of their ranches. Between 1900 and 1910, some 187,000 acres went from Tejano to Anglo hands in just two border counties. Suddenly, Tejano ranchers and proud vaqueros (cowboys) became landless farm laborers.

Inspired in part by this Tejano-Anglo conflict, Tejano rebels launched their Plan de San Diego. The 1915 plot called for the defeat of U.S. rule in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California, the formation of a new republic for Mexicans, blacks and Indians, and the killing of every Anglo male over age 16.

Bands of rebels burned bridges, derailed trains and wreaked havoc throughout the Rio Grande Valley. It was the nightmare scenario Rangers had anticipated. And though 80 years had passed since that seminal border battle, the Ranger crackdown evoked that old battle cry of the Texas Anglo: Remember the Alamo!

Spurred by the film, state Rep. Aaron Peña (D) proposed a bill in 2005 to teach this largely ignored Ranger history in Lone Star schools. The bill died in session. Peña never revived it.

Faced with the outcry over 21st-century Mexican immigrants, Texas, he said, wasn’t ready to look back at injustices committed against Mexican Americans in the distant past. “It’s a less tolerant environment — a xenophobic political environment — that we exist in today because of the immigration debate,” he says.

But the 1915 Ranger campaign wasn’t directed at immigrants, I say. It was directed at Tejanos, meaning: U.S. citizens. Fear, said Peña, made such distinctions irrelevant to Anglos of that era.

A few years ago, as part of a push to get a veterans’ hospital built in the region, Peña joined Rio Grande Valley vets on a march to the Alamo. But theirs was far from a hero’s welcome at that Texas landmark of freedom.

Says Vietnam veteran Max Balmadez, “They said we were trying a Mexican takeover of the Alamo.”

As if they were foreign. As if they didn’t belong.

Roots

I’m preparing to leave Texas, and Homero Vera and his wife, Letty, invite me to dinner at a steakhouse, where Homero hands me a thin book, “El Mesquite,” written by Elena Zamora O’Shea, one of our cousins, in 1935. Narrated by a wise old mesquite tree, it is the story of our ancestral roots in this region and how we came to be marooned in our own country.

“If they were Spaniards when governed by Spain and Mexicans when governed by Mexico, why can they not be Americans now that they are under the American government?” O’Shea wrote.

I’ve experienced what O’Shea describes, like when a border patrol agent once saw me in my pickup and pulled me over. “Are you a citizen?” were the first words out of his mouth. It’s even happened to a couple of Tejano judges who were deemed suspicious and detained.

But I am like the old mesquite tree: My identity has grown from this embattled yet glorious land and the cultures rooted here.

I remember one of my last conversations with my father three years ago, in the quiet of a Corpus Christi night as he lay in his hospital bed. He repeated his sacred promise. “I’m leaving you kids the ranch,” he said quietly. “It’s yours to do with what you want.” And with his passing, he did just that, bequeathing a history that transcends borders.

The land is our birthright in this place now called Texas, and its history contains our Gettysburg, our Trail of Tears, the seeds of our culture. The land proves we’ve been here, we belong here. On these treasured memories, these beloved bones, that dreaded wall will rise.

NPR-Latino USA Commentary: On the Need to Destroy Juan Crow

May 24, 2008

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Latino USA Globe

Thanks to Maria Hinojosa, Mincho Jacob and the folks at NPR’s Latino USA for letting me record this call to action disguised as a commentary:

NPR Latino USA Commentary

In the Bush White House, “Laptop” is Spanish for “WMD”

May 22, 2008

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Another in what smells like the latest media-enabled Bush Administration escalation of tensions with its perceived enemies, in this case the Venezuelan government and Hugo Chavez. The government of U.S. ally Alvaro Uribe, the bloodiest leader in the hemisphere thanks to more than $4 billion in U.S. military aid, is using a recent report by Interpol, the global policing agency, to back its claims that laptops found after the bombing of a Colombian guerrilla camp in Ecuador offer proof of Venezuelan support for the insurgent FARC.

As we look into this latest adventure of the Bush Administration, some of us are reminded of the “evidence” Bush, his “allies” and the U.S. media gave us before dragging us into the abyss of Iraq or the growing tensions with Iran; Those old enough to remember will also be reminded of the many “white papers” put out by the Reagan Administration “proving” subversion and terrorism in El Salvador and Central America and how these papers and other “evidence” were used to justify increased military aid that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, indigenous people and others in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Such Presidential proof usually means the slaughter of more innocents in the name of the National Interest, in this case the U.S. interest in turning the left tide in Latin America. In the words of Uruguayan political analyst, Raul Zibechi, this latest Colombian adventure is


..”part of the strategy of the United States to alter the military balance in the region. In the crosshairs is Venezuelan and Ecuadorian oil; however it also serves as a check on Brazil as an emerging regional power.”

And in what appears to be the elite, bipartisan consensus in Washington, both John McCain and Hillary Clinton support the Bush Administration and death squad President Alvaro Uribe. Even more sadly, it appears that Barack Obama’s “hope” does not extend beyond our southern border as he too ignores the violation of soveriegnty and the human rights atrocities of the Uribe Administration.

For their part, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and most of the MSM have gone well out of their way to tout the Interpol report as corroborating Colombia’s claims about the controversial laptops all the while ignoring statements of concern about the Uribe government’s handling of this “evidence” made by people like Robert Kenneth Noble, the Secretary General of Interpol who stated emphatically that

“The volume of this data (on the laptops) would correspond to 39.5 million pages in Microsoft Word. 39.5 million. It would take more than a thousand years to read all the data if 1 person read 100 pages per day.”

A thousand years?

Either Colombia’s defense department somehow managed to recruit an army of miracle workers who magically compressed a thousand years into the 2 days they held (under questionable circumstances) the laptops or another nasty and quite dangerous escalation of political and military tensions is brewing in the White House. It appears that, in George Bush’s broken lexicon, “latop” is Spanish for “WMD”.

For more information about this important and tense situation, see this interview with my friend Forest Hylton on the Real News.

Why State Violence Displayed in Immigration Raids, Sean Bell Case May Build Black-Latino Unity

May 21, 2008

Just look at those beautiful young people who united for something beyond Benetton. Will the media report that these black and Latino youth were at each other’s throats as they were hauled into the paddy wagon for protesting the violence perpetrated by the criminals who shot Sean Bell 50 times? Look. Look at them and what do you see? What does the press see?

I see how these young people involved in the civil disobedience, marches and other responses to the Sean Bell killing, the immigration raids and the deaths of immigrant detainees are marking a much-needed political and moral response to the very dangerous normalization of official violence on the part of local, state and federal law enforcement officials. The 50 bullets pumped into Shawn Bell by the NYPD and the devastation wrought on the 66 immigrants killed by the neglect and violence of the ICE and it private contractors, make painfully transparent that law enforcement is doing the 3 things it does best in times of profound economic crisis: repress, repress, and repress.

But in the process, the increased violence of local police, ICE agents and other government officials may help us move beyond the myths of “black-latino tensions” manufactured by the media.

Nicole Bell (wife of Sean Bell), Rev. Sharpton and the growing numbers of those taking on the state’s ongoing war on crime should accelerate discussion with those combating the army of interests undertaking -and profiting from-the war on immigrants. Making the connection between these two intersecting wars will do much to bypass the inanities and distractions of the “black-Latino tensions” manufactured by mainstream media as if it were a state-sanctioned propaganda ministry. Who benefits from diverting our attention from these commonalities in the black and Latino communities? Just look at this growing list of commonalities in our communities:

increased and ongoing official violence against unarmed members of our communities

imprisonment of large numbers of youth, men, women and others from poor communities

stock-indexed companies profiting handsomely from the industries that feed off of and plan for the incarceration of generations (ie; the future value of some prison stocks is projected out based on the grades of black and Latino 3rd graders)

rural communities in decline grow addicted to the economy of prisons

politicians reaping votes, campaign contributions and patronage from “get tough” politics targeting blacks and Latinos

Black and Latino elected officials in the Democratic party unwilling to say, much less do ANYTHING about the plague of violence and incarceration for fear of losing elections and appointments

These and other commonalities may, indeed, provide something of a foundation for a more informed and less infantile discussion about blacks and Latinos in the U.S.

Much more to follow on this, including stuff on what is to be done. So, please share your thoughts, plans, ideas and dreams. Now is the time.

Migrants Beaten, Burned and Killed in S. Africa

May 20, 2008

Violence in South Africa

(S. African police trying to aid Zimbabwean man burned by S. African anti-migrant mobs)

S. African mobs armed with machetes, sticks and other weapons beat, burned and killed Zimbabwean migrants in areas in and around Johannesburg. The best reporting on these truly tragic developments can be found in the U.K. Guardian.

These most recent attacks follow escalating anti-migrant violence aimed not just at Zimbabweans, but at Somalis, Mozambicans and other groups in the past couple of years. What is striking about this turn of events is that S. Africa has been and continues to be at the fore of economic and political development in Africa. Adding a painfully ironic twist to this tragedy is the fact that the Ramaphosa squatter community (named for Cyril Ramaphosa, former secretary general of the African National Congress or “ANC) and other sites of recent violence against non-citizens were the site of death squad and other state violence against black S. Africans during the apartheid era. Now men in ANC government uniforms are protecting non-citizens being terrorized by citizens.

The South African violence must be viewed as one of the many noxious effects of the global crisis gripping Africa and the entire planet. Anti-migrant violence worldwide is on the increase in no small part because even some of the once strong economies and polities like those of S. Africa or the U.S. are exhibiting the symptons -and deadly behaviors- of failed states.

Al Ataque: Todos Contra ICE! (Attack: All Against ICE!)

May 19, 2008

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This just in from the Daily News (DN), one of the largest dailies in the U.S. DN Columinst Albor Ruiz’s article reminds us to put our attention where it belongs: on the biggest scandal in ICE’s history. As as he says,

“Shockingly, between January 2004 and November 2007, more detainees have perished while in custody of ICE than in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo combined.”

Just this should be enough to put the forces of the immigrant rights movement on moral and political alert lest they let this largest, most high visibility crisis ICE has faced since its inception pass without a response. But there is more, much more at stake: nothing less than the moral fabric of the entire country. Coming on the same continuum of detention and militarism as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the immigration detention scandal brings the U.S. government’s disrespect for human life within the borders of the country itself. In the words of Ruiz,

“What goes on inside immigration detention centers points to a moral crisis that threatens to shred the nation’s basic values.”

Viewed from this vantage point, It’s pretty clear that last week’s “biggest”, “largest” (according to ICE press releases) raid in Iowa was a diversionary tactic designed to take attention-and pressure- away from the political vulnerability ICE’s violence and neglect in detention centers have opened up, a vulnerability that must exploited if their impunity and corruption are to end. Raids before, during and after marches illustrate how very political ICE is-and acts.

The number of ICE scandal actions -vigils, videos, social networking sites, posts, op-eds, public educational events a, letters, protests and other direct action -will define how truly political-and effective- we are. Responses – and non-responses-to this crisis will tell us, the immigrant community and our powerful adversaries whether we really want to pull out of the defensive, reactive (as in only reacting to raids and other ICE initiatives) politic that we seem all-to-comfortable with.

The great danger right now is that we allow the Democrats and their allies to frame the ICE crisis in a reformist manner, as something simply requiring better management and health care. We must, to the best of our abilities make clear that the crisis is not solely nor primarily about the health conditions that need to be reformed; its about the policies and the institutionalized verbal, visual and physical violence against human beings who happen to be migrants, policies that need to be destroyed. The Democrats have done nothing to stem the tide of institutional intolerance and hate. Nothing. So, they should follow, not lead. Some other local national detention rights groups are planning press events, actions etc in coming weeks.

This crisis at ICE has given us what no violent raid or series of violent raids can give us;the crisis has given us the kind media coverage that started the ball rolling on detention scandals in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo: in-depth, front page reporting in the NYT, Washington Post and 60 minutes. The media did its part in this case. Democrats and other politicos will align along whatever vectors of political -and moral-pressure they are placed in. And ICE and its subcontractors have done their part with their corruption, unconstitutional practices and relentless violence.

So, ICE’s fate really is up to those of us in the fight for migrant rights now. Let us seize the moment.

Al Ataque: Todos Contra ICE! (Attack: All Against ICE!)

Radio Nation Interview: Politics, Economics and Psychology of Exploitation in the U.S. South

May 17, 2008

RADIO NATION with Laura Flanders

Check out this deeper delving into the workings of oppression and social control – and the movement response to- in the deep South. As always, Laura Flanders just shines as she illuminates with her smart line of questioning and discussion. Check it out.

Radio Nation Interview on Juan Crow

Immigrant Detainees Killed by Neglect and by Juan Crow

May 12, 2008

(Guinean immigrant Boubacar Bah in ICE custody before dying in that same bed)

Immigrants held in immigration detention facilities are not just suffering and dying because of the bad management documented so thoroughly in recent stories by the New York Times, the Washington Post and on 60 Minutes; they’re suffering and dying because the situation of undocumented in the U.S. bears more than a passing resemblance to that of African-Americans dehumanized and killed by Jim Crow. Call it Juan Crow: the matrix of laws, social customs, economic institutions and symbolic systems enabling the physical and psychic isolation needed to control and exploit undocumented immigrants.

The death, violence and neglect suffered by immigrants would not be possible without the increasingly radical dehumanization seen daily on television, heard on radio and felt in the almost daily raids on homes and workplaces. And, as reported last week, even schools and childcare facilities are no longer free from the looming presence of heavily armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Given the extremes to which our government is going in its war on immigrants, it should come as no surprise that, since 9-11, more detainees have died in immigration detention than have died in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib combined.

Nowhere is the increasingly tragic plight of immigrants more obvious than in the Georgia. The toll this increasingly oppressive climate has taken on citizen, non-citizen and, especially, undocumented, immigrants is felt powerfully by children. The younger children of the mostly immigrant Latinos in Georgia are learning and internalizing that they are different from white–and black–children not just because they have the wrong skin color but also because many of their parents lack the right papers.

To read more about Juan Crow, go here.

Juan Crow

May 8, 2008
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The Nation.

Juan Crow in Georgia

by Roberto Lovato

This article appeared in the May 26, 2008 edition of The Nation.

May 8, 2008

Justeen Mancha’s dream of becoming a psychologist was born of the tropical heat and exploitation that have shaped farmworker life around Reidsville, Georgia, for centuries. The wiry, freckle-faced 17-year-old high school junior has toiled in drought-dry onion fields to help her mother, Maria Christina Martinez. But early one September morning in 2006, Mancha’s dream was abruptly deferred.

From the living room of the battered trailer she and her mother call home, Mancha described what happened when she came out of the shower that morning. “My mother went out, and I was alone,” she said. “I was getting ready for school, getting dressed, when I heard this noise. I thought it was my mother coming back.” She went on in the Tex-Mex Spanish-inflected Georgia accent now heard throughout Dixie: “Some people were slamming car doors outside the trailer. I heard footsteps and then a loud boom and then somebody screaming, asking if we were ‘illegals,’ ‘Mexicans.’ These big men were standing in my living room holding guns. One man blocked my doorway. Another guy grabbed a gun on his side. I freaked out. ‘Oh, my God!’ I yelled.”As more than twenty Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents surrounded the trailer, said Mancha, agents inside interrogated her. They asked her where her mother was; they wanted to know if her mother was “Mexican” and whether she had “papers” or a green card. They told her they were looking for “illegals.”

After about five minutes of interrogation, the agents–who, according to the women’s lawyer, Mary Bauer of the Southern Poverty Law Center, showed no warrants and had neither probable cause nor consent to enter the home–simply left. They left in all likelihood because Mancha and her mother didn’t fit the profile of the workers at the nearby Crider poultry plant, who had been targeted by the raid in nearby Stilwell. They were the wrong kind of “Mexicans”; they were US citizens.

Though she had experienced discrimination before the raid–in the fields, in the supermarket and in school–Mancha, who testified before Congress in February, never imagined such an incident would befall her, since she and her mother had migrated from Texas to Reidsville. Best known for harvesting poultry and agricultural products, Reidsville, a farm town about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, is also known for harvesting Klan culture behind the walls of the state’s oldest and largest prison. But its most famous former inmate is Jim Crow slayer and dreamer Martin Luther King Jr. His example inspires Mancha’s new dream: lawyering “for the poor.”

The toll this increasingly oppressive climate has taken on Mancha represents but a small part of its effects on noncitizen immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, and other Latinos. Mancha and the younger children of the mostly immigrant Latinos in Georgia are learning and internalizing that they are different from white–and black–children not just because they have the wrong skin color but also because many of their parents lack the right papers. They are growing up in a racial and political climate in which Latinos’ subordinate status in Georgia and in the Deep South bears more than a passing resemblance to that of African-Americans who were living under Jim Crow. Call it Juan Crow: the matrix of laws, social customs, economic institutions and symbolic systems enabling the physical and psychic isolation needed to control and exploit undocumented immigrants. Listening to the effects of Juan Crow on immigrants and citizens like Mancha (“I can’t sleep sometimes because of nightmares,” she says. “My arms still twitch. I see ICE agents and men in uniform, and it still scares me”) reminds me of the trauma I heard among the men, women and children controlled and exploited by state violence in wartime El Salvador. Juan Crow has roots in the US South, but it stirs traumas bred in the hemispheric South.

In fact, the surge in Latino migration (the Southeast is home to the fastest-growing Latino population in the United States) is moving many of the institutions and actors responsible for enforcing Jim Crow to resurrect and reconfigure themselves in line with new demographics. Along with the almost daily arrests, raids and home invasions by federal, state and other authorities, newly resurgent civilian groups like the Ku Klux Klan, in addition to more than 144 new “nativist extremist” groups and 300 anti-immigrant organizations born in the past three years, mostly based in the South, are harassing immigrants as a way to grow their ranks.

Meanwhile, a legal regime of distinctions between the rights of undocumented immigrants and citizens has emerged and is being continually refined and expanded. A 2006 Georgia law denies undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses. Federal laws that allowed local and state authorities to pursue blacks under the Fugitive Slave Act appear to be the model for the Bush Administration’s Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS) program, which allows states to deputize law enforcement officials to chase, detain, arrest and jail the undocumented. Georgia’s lowest-paid workers, the undocumented, now occupy a separate, unequal and clandestine place that has made it increasingly difficult for them to work, rent homes or attend school.

The pre- and post-Reconstruction regional economic system centered on the stately Southern mansions that once graced Atlanta’s storied Peachtree Street has given way to a more global finance-driven system centered on the cold, anonymous skyscrapers that loom over Peachtree today. And in a more hopeful sign, some veterans of the civil rights struggle against Jim Crow are joining Latino immigrants in what will likely be one of the major movements of the twenty-first century.

These and other facets of immigrant life in Georgia, the Deep South and the entire country are but a small part of the labyrinthine institutional and cultural arrangements defining the strange career of Juan Crow.

The immigrant condition in Georgia worsened in the wake of the failed immigration reform proposal last year. The national immigration debate had the effect of further legitimizing and emboldening the most extreme elements of the anti-immigrant movement in places like Georgia. Since the advent of what he terms “Georgiafornia,” for example, D.A. King, a former marine and contributor to the anti-immigrant hate site VDARE, has leapfrogged into the national limelight to become one of the major advocates for deportation and security-only “immigration reform.” Strengthened by the defeat of national reform, King, State Senator Chip Rogers and a growing galaxy of formerly fringe groups succeeded in getting some of the country’s most draconian anti-immigrant laws passed. These new racial codes are disguised by the national security-infused bureaucratic language of laws with names like the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (GSICA).

Their efforts were egged on by the Bush Administration’s implementation of the ACCESS program last August. ACCESS provided new excuses for state and local officials to pursue the undocumented in states like Georgia. In tandem with the federal government, King and Rogers led the push to pass GSICA, which requires law enforcement officers to investigate the citizenship status of anyone charged with a felony or driving under the influence. GSICA and federal efforts laid the foundation on which the other legal and social structures of Juan Crow grow.

Georgia’s estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants must think twice before seeking emergency support at hospitals or clinics because of laws that require them to prove their legal status before receiving many state benefits. “No-match letter” regulations requiring all employers to confirm the Social Security numbers of their employees have been issued by the Social Security Administration and have resulted in firings and growing fear among immigrants. But even without the no-match letters, undocumented immigrants in Georgia have many reasons to fear going to work. If they work at a company with more than 500 employees, for example (and most undocumented immigrants are employed in meatpacking, agricultural, carpet and other industries with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of workers), they must worry about laws that punish employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and mandate that firms with state contracts check the immigration status of their employees. Similar laws denying or restricting housing, education, transportation and other aspects of immigrant life are also being instituted across Georgia.

For a firsthand look at how the interplay of state and federal policies fuels Juan Crow, one need go no further than the immigrant-heavy area surrounding Buford Highway in DeKalb County, near Atlanta. During the weekend of October 18, 2007, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) and other advocacy groups from across the state reported sharp increases in arrests of immigrants in the area. “This weekend alone we received more than 200 phone calls from people telling horrible stories of arrests,” said GLAHR executive director Adelina Nicholls of Mexico City. “There are hundreds of Latinos who’ve been hunted down like animals, taken to jail, and they don’t even know why or whether or not they’ll be released,” said Nicholls more recently.

Nicholls and other advocates are working feverishly in response to the exponential increase in official and extra-official profiling of immigrants. Last year there were forty-four reported armed robberies of DeKalb County-area Latino immigrants in August alone. One especially outrageous incident took place just west of Atlanta, in the rural town of Carrollton, last June. Emelina Ramirez, a Honduran immigrant, called local police to report that her roommates were attacking her, punching and kicking her in the stomach. Ramirez was pregnant. Locals say that when police got to Ramirez’s apartment, officers handcuffed her, took her to jail and then ran her fingerprints through a federal database. After discovering that she was undocumented, they contacted federal authorities as stipulated under ACCESS and GSICA. Ramirez was then deported.

Nicholls says she and GLAHR staff exist in a perpetual state of exhaustion after having to expand their DeKalb County work to deal with cases like Ramirez’s. Adding to their load is the situation in nearby Cobb County, where the local jail has 500 adults captured on streets, at work and in their homes. All of these people, says Nicholls, are awaiting deportation.

Beneath the growing fear and intensifying racial tensions of Georgia lies the new, more globalized economic system that sustains Juan Crow. At the core of the economy in Dixie are the financial dealings taking place in the shiny towers of Peachtree Street, buildings constructed atop the ashes of plantation houses.

Lining Peachtree today are SunTrust, Bank of America and other titans of global finance with major operations in downtown Atlanta. Along with the financial players of Charlotte, North Carolina, the companies occupying the towers on Peachtree are among the prime movers behind the transformation and restructuring of the Georgia economy–and of its race relations. On Peachtree you can find US banks and financial firms investing in companies doing business in post-NAFTA Latin America, where nonunion labor and miserably low wages drive immigration to Georgia and other states. The investment portfolios of many of these companies have grown fat with high-yield investments in the poultry, meatpacking, rug, tourism and other Georgia industries employing undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. The need to keep down the wages of these undocumented workers is fulfilled with the legal, political and psychological discipline of Juan Crow. Along with the most visible legacy of Jim Crow–Georgia’s massive and growing population of black prisoners, housed in Reidsville and other, mostly rural prisons–the Peachtree State’s undocumented immigrants find themselves at the bottom of the South’s new political and economic order.

By keeping down wages of the undocumented and documented workforce, Juan Crow doesn’t just pit undocumented Latino workers against black and white workers. It also makes possible every investor’s dream of merging Third World wages with First World amenities. Promotional brochures put out by the state’s Department of Economic Development, for example, tout Georgia’s “below average” wages and its status as a “right to work” (nonunion) state. Georgia’s infrastructure, its proximity to US markets and its incentives–nonunion labor, low wages, government subsidies, cheap land–allow the state to position itself as an attractive investment opportunity for foreign companies. While the fortunes of Ford, GM and other US companies have declined in the South, the fortunes of foreign automakers here are rising. Companies like Korean car manufacturer Kia, which plans to open a $1.2 billion plant by 2009, see in Georgia and other Southern states a new pool of cheap labor. Of the $5.7 billion of total new investment in Georgia in 2006, more than 36 percent was from international companies–companies that were also responsible for nearly half of the 24,660 jobs created by government-supported foreign ventures that year.

Also critical to the economic strategies formulated in the towers on Peachtree Street is another Latin-centered component: free trade with Latin America. “We are the gateway to the Americas,” boasted Kenneth Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Stewart was among the more than 1,000 people, including three US Cabinet members and finance ministers, trade representatives, investors, corporate executives and politicians from thirty-three countries in the hemisphere, who attended the sold-out Americas Competitiveness Forum at the Marriott on Peachtree Street last June. As an organizer of the event, the gregarious Stewart, like many of the region’s economic leaders, considers hosting the forum a critical part of Atlanta’s bid to become the secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas organization. Local elites support building a $10 million, privately financed FTAA headquarters complex, possibly in the area near Peachtree and the Sweet Auburn neighborhood.

Before being rapidly gentrified by the white-collar employees working in the Peachtree towers, Sweet Auburn, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., was one of the cradles of the African-American freedom struggle. Echoing the connection frequently made here between increased globalization and commerce and improved race relations, Stewart told me that free trade “will benefit citizens of Georgia and the citizens of Mexico and other Latin American countries.” But when I asked him about the increased racial tensions, including the murders of some immigrants in Georgia, and about the growing repression of noncitizen Mexican workers, Stewart abruptly ended the interview.

For her part, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin–among the most recent in a long line of African-American Atlanta mayors that includes former Martin Luther King colleague and Wal-Mart consultant Andrew Young (who has an office in a Peachtree high-rise)–also linked local freedom struggles with global free trade. Before the Americas Competitiveness Forum, she and other regional elites distributed splashy brochures promoting the city’s FTAA bid. Included in the brochure was a picture of the headstone of King’s grave, which bears the inscription Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m Free at last. The brochure promoting “the city too busy to hate” also paints a positive, global Kumbaya picture of the plight of Georgia’s migrants: “With its attractive quality of life and rapidly expanding job market, Metro Atlanta draws thousands of newcomers every year and has growing Latin, Asian and African American communities.”

“This is the home of Dr. King,” said Franklin in her welcome speech at the packed forum. “It is in the spirit of peace, it is in the spirit of collaboration and it is in the spirit of fairness that we attack this issue of [economic] competitiveness,” she told her audience in King-like cadences. But had Franklin taken her foreign visitors on the short stroll from their hotel to Sweet Auburn, they would not have found the racial harmony described in the glossy brochures and spirited speeches.

Documented and undocumented Latinos dealing with the economic and political effects of Juan Crow in Georgia (and across the country) find themselves unwitting actors in a centuries-old racial drama, which they must alter if Juan Crow is to be defeated. The major difference today is that Latinos also find themselves having to navigate a racial and political topography that is no longer black and white. Young Latinos, in particular, attend schools that teach them about Jim Crow while giving them a daily dose of Juan Crow.

High school senior Ernesto Chávez (a pseudonym) does not look forward to becoming one of the few undocumented students in Georgia to go to a university like Kennesaw State, which requires them to carry student IDs with special color coding, or to a college that denies them aid and forces them to pay exorbitant, nearly impossible-to-pay out-of-state tuition. He has already learned enough about Jim Crow–and Juan Crow–in high school.

Chávez, who sports a buzz cut and wears baggy clothes, said that when he studied Jim Crow in school, he identified strongly with the heroic generation of African-American youth who rebelled against it. “They couldn’t ride in the same trains, they couldn’t drink from the same fountains,” he said during an interview in a classroom at Miller Grove High School in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia. “I felt mad when I read about that, even though they weren’t my people,” said the soft-spoken Mexican, who is part of the small but growing minority of Latinos at Miller Grove (African-American students make up about 93 percent of the student body).

Chávez said he came to know the limits of his physical, social and psychic mobility, thanks to the Georgia law that requires people to show proof of citizenship or legal status in order to obtain a driver’s license. “It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be ‘illegal’ here in Georgia. It’s like you can’t move,” he said, his voice cracking slightly. “It feels scary because you know that when you go out to a public place, you might never know if you’re going to come back. I’m really scared because my mother drives without a license. She’s scared too.”

Chávez and other Latino students also expressed their shock and dismay at being discriminated against by some of the descendants of those discriminated against by Jim Crow.

“When I first got here, I was confused. I went to a mostly white school in Gwinnett County and started noticing the fifth-grade kids saying things to me, racial stuff, asking me questions like, ‘Are you illegal?'” said Chávez as he fidgeted nervously in one of those ubiquitous and visibly uncomfortable school desks. “But when I was in seventh grade, I went to Richards Middle School, where it wasn’t the white people saying things, it was black people. They didn’t like Mexican kids. They would call us ‘Mexican border hoppers,’ ‘wetbacks’ and all these things. Every time they’d see me, they yelled at me, threatened to beat me up after school for no reason at all.” Asked how it felt, he said, “It’s like, now since they have rights, they can discriminate [against] others.”

Chávez’s family, along with many immigrant families in Georgia, will be watching closely to see how the state’s justice system deals with the still-pending 2005 case of six Mexican farmworkers killed execution-style in their trailers, which were parked near the cotton and peanut farms they toiled on in Tifton. Pretrial motions began last July in the case, in which prosecutors allege that four African-American men bludgeoned five of the immigrants to death with aluminum baseball bats and shot one in the head while robbing them in their trailer home. Though the face of anti-immigrant racism in the Juan Crow South is still overwhelmingly identified as white by the immigrants I interviewed, some immigrants also see a black face on anti-immigrant hate.

Politically, a growing divide has emerged between pro- and anti-immigrant blacks in Georgia. The African-American face of Juan Crow is embodied by State Senator and probable Democratic Atlanta mayoral candidate Kasim Reed (he’s also considering a gubernatorial bid). Reed proposed a five-year prison sentence for anyone caught trying to secure employment with a false ID. Local Latino and African-American activists have criticized Reed for what Bruce Dixon of the online Black Agenda Report called his “morally bankrupt attempt to outflank Republicans on the right.”

Activists like Janvieve Williams of the US Human Rights Network, based in Atlanta, counter the anti-immigrant tide by elevating the tone of the debate and shifting the terms to human rights. As an Afro-Panamanian immigrant, Williams says she feels discrimination from many whites in Georgia, but she also experiences discrimination from mestizo immigrants. Her perception of anti-immigrant sentiments among African-Americans adds another layer to the complex racial dynamics unleashed by Juan Crow. “I’m caught between African-Americans who don’t want to understand immigration and immigrants and Latinos who use words like ‘moreno,’ ‘negritos,’ ‘los negros’ and other terms that are not good,” says Williams.

But rather than see her Afro-Latino identity and her Latin American political experience as a barrier between communities, Williams–who co-hosts Radio Diaspora, a weekly Afro-Latino program that helped promote the 50,000-plus immigrants’ rights marches in 2006–uses Latin American media and organizing experience to cross linguistic and political borders. “We need to move from civil rights to human rights. We need to start using the language and tools of human rights around the issue of immigration. It’s an international issue that needs an international framework,” says Williams, whose organization co-sponsored the visit to Atlanta last May by the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. Williams’s organization brought together many groups who shared stories of Juan Crow with the special rapporteur, who took his report to the UN General Assembly.

In the same way that the concept of civil rights grew as a response to Jim Crow, the human rights framework advocated by Williams and other immigrants’ rights activists in the South and across the country challenges traditional approaches to race and rights. “Some civil rights leaders here don’t think human rights affects us in the United States,” says Williams. “A lot of the [civil rights] elders of that movement are not linked to the human rights movement, and that also gets in the way of working together.”

Not all of Georgia’s civil rights elders fit thirtysomething Williams’s description. The Rev. Joseph Lowery, the lieutenant to Martin Luther King Jr., says he did not perceive the threat that some whites and African-American Georgians felt from the massive immigrant marches of 2006; instead he sees in the millions marching in Atlanta and across the country “instruments of God’s will to change this country.” Reverend Lowery, who now leads the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, has spoken eloquently and vociferously against what he considers “wicked” immigration policies and has attended pro-immigrant rallies. He believes that massive immigration to the United States came about because of the workings within the tall buildings like those in spitting distance of his office in the historic Atlanta Life building on Auburn Avenue. “We’ve globalized money, we’ve globalized trade and commerce, but we haven’t globalized fairness toward work and labor. The solution to the ‘problem’ of immigration and other problems is globalization of justice,” he said.

Speaking of the relationship between American blacks and Latino immigrants, Lowery said, “There are many differences between our experience and that of immigrant Latinos–but there is a family resemblance between Jim Crow and what is being experienced by immigrants. Both met economic oppression. Both met racial and ethnic hostility.

“But the most important thing to remember,” said Lowery, as if casting out the demons of Juan and Jim Crow, “is that, though we may have come over on different ships, we’re all in the same damn boat now.”

Sharpton, 216 New Yorkers Arrested in Citywide Protests Against Sean Bell Verdict

May 8, 2008

As promised, the Nicole Bell (wife of Sean Bell) Rev. Al Shapton and hundreds of New Yorkers were arrested in citywide protests against the Sean Bell verdict. According this story in the New York Times,

The demonstrations, described by the Rev. Al. Sharpton as “pray-ins,” played out on a bright spring afternoon as boisterous displays of civil disobedience in which people signed up to be arrested, assuring organizers and lawyers that they were carrying proper identification to show to the police.

Once positioned at the intersections, demonstrators dropped to their knees or sat and prayed briefly before hundreds of police officers escorted them to buses and police vehicles.

These protests come at a critical time as local, state and federal elites – including black, Latino and other elites “of color” who constitutionally avoid dealing with police and other state violence- gear up to further ratchet up the already repressive legal and law enforcement structures they see as necessary to maintain order-and profits.

So, saludos to Nicole Bell, Rev. Al Sharpton and the hundreds of activists here in NYC for responding to such injustices with civil disobedience. May more of us follow your example before the increased state violence and repression that looms alongside the economic meltdown.

In the face of growing government violence, civil disobedience is not an option-it’s our duty.

66 Deaths in Immigrant Prisons Signal Need to Shut Down ICE

May 6, 2008

The New York Times

This hugely important story by the New York Time’s Nina Bernstein, hands-down best immigration reporter in the U.S., is a must read. It tells the story of Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who overstayed his tourist visa. According to Bernstein, who secured documents about Bah and 65 other imimgrants who died under questionable circumstances in immigrant prisons run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and its subcontractors, Bah’s family did not know what was happening to until his

“… frantic relatives located him at University Hospital in Newark on Feb. 5, 2007, he was in a coma after emergency surgery for a skull fracture and multiple brain hemorrhages. He died there four months later without ever waking up, leaving family members on two continents trying to find out why.

Bah’s is but one of the 66 stories of individuals who died in immigration custody between January 2004 to November 2007.

66, more than the number of those who died while in custody at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo -combined.

In addition to the tragedy gripping the families of these victims, this report sends an unmistakable signal to the immigrant rights community: the dehumanization of immigrants has reached deadly institutional levels. Such high levels of death among detained migrants prove that the “Stop the raids!” slogans and calls for reform are of limited value.

Some of us need to raise the ante beyond the important but ultimately reformist calls to improve conditions in the jails; Some of us need to call for Congress to shut down the factory of death and dehumanization: the ICE. This latest proof of the damage wrought by the exponential growth of official and extra-official dehumanization of migrants joins the destruction already wrought by the most militarized branch of the federal government besides the Pentagon, ICE: thousands of raids, militarization of immigration policy, hyper-profits wrought by its military-prison industrial subcontractors, thousands of DEAD in the desert (many more than the 1000 conservative estimate reported in the article)

Thousands of dead.

Thousands of dead.

Yes, I said thousands of dead.

Rather than simply allow ICE to continue its big money PR campaigns to “humanize” its image, some might also consider the tactic of starting the ball rolling by temporarily closing ICE offices themselves. As I’ve suggested here and here, you don’t need 400,000 to 1 million marchers to close down an ICE office; As Salvadorans and their supporters proved when they used to close federal buildings and other facilities with a few hundred people in the 1980’s, all you need are enough citizens (no need to put the undocumented at risk and, those are, after all, our tax dollars paying for ICE and its subcontractor’s death factory running.) concerned about death and (tax) dollars. As the campaign to shut down the nefarious Hutto prison shows, taking the political offensive against ICE does have an effect.

The main point is to take the onus off of immigrants and put it where it belongs-on ICE, the agency that divides families, terrorizes entire communities and kills immigrants. Such an dangerous agency doesn’t need reform; It needs to be closed down. In the face of such catastrophic results wrought since the birth of ICE, closing them down marks the beginning of any “immigration reform” agenda.

The Long March from Cinco de Mayo to Cinco de Pentagon

May 5, 2008

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Those of us old enough to remember might recall those halcyon days when celebrating Cinco de Mayo meant many things: closing off a street in what was then known as a “barrio”, listening to sometimes inspired and sometimes less-than-inspired music of long-sideburned Santana wannabees from the local garage bands and eating food infused with the love of the local. And we sort of listened to the bandana’d radical Chicana organizer urging us to become part of the global liberation struggle commemorated on May 5th, when badly-equipped, but inspired Mexican guerrillas defeated the forces of Napoleon III’s French Empire in the 19th century.

Others may recall how, in the 80’s and 90’s, the long lost Decades of the “Hispanic”, many turned local street fairs across the Southwest into the larger, corporate-sponsored, alcohol-drenched festivals whose ghost we can still see today. The proud proclamations of culture and political struggle previously embodied by “Viva el Cinco de Mayo” gave way to the “Hispanic pride” contained in slogans like Budweiser’s “Viva la ReBudlucion!” or Absolut Vodka’s more recent racist -and ultimately failed-attempt to cash in on culture with its ad equating drinking vodka with a fictitious Mexican desire to re-conquer (the dreaded specter of “reconquista” promoted by anti-Latino groups and some media outlets) the Southwest.

Looking back on those days now, it’s clear how Latino children and adults going to Cinco de Mayo celebrations became a “mission critical market” in the clash of corporate empires that define a major part of our lives today. But, as a visit to most of the recent Cinco de Mayo and other Latino-themed celebrations makes clear, Latino events now move to the beat of a new power, that of the U.S. Pentagon.

No longer the small, intimate and largely unknown celebration it was in the 70’s, Cinco de Mayo is now celebrated from San Diego, California to Sunset Park, Brooklyn and beyond. And among the major powers present at such events are the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Ubiquitous at the hundreds of Cinco de Mayo street fairs in towns and cities throughout the country are military recruiters armed with trinkets, video games, loud music and hyper-hip Hummers that draw even more children and families than the colorful (and urine-smelling) playpens McDonald’s still deploys in its Latino outreach efforts.

As African American youth and females of all races continue to reject military recruiters in record numbers, the Pentagon finds itself with no choice but to invest hundreds of millions to capture the hearts and minds of young Latinos. Our children have become “mission critical” to the future of the empire itself. And, so, the U.S. military –and its high powered Hispanic advertising and publicity firms– has brought us a new Latino celebration, the Cinco de Pentagon.

But rather than fight these nefarious designs on our kids (ie; Until recently Chuck E. Cheese included military-themed puppet shows and television shows broadcast in its restaurants) with nostalgia, we should begin by cleaning house within our communities. First on my list would be a call on local and national organizations like LULAC and the National Council of La Raza to stop promoting the military in exchange for Pentagon sponsorship dollars for their events. The recent Pentagon propaganda scandal should not shock anyone who consumes Latino media; Many Latino media outlets are chock full of paid advertising propaganda and they should to stop taking advertising from the various branches of the Armed Forces that’ve turned them into mouthpieces for military recruitment. And, of course, we should approach local organizers of Cinco de Mayo and other events about boycotting the efforts of those who lie to our kids in order to get them to go fight losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to remind them of the powerful anti-militarism traditions rooted deeply in the Chicano, Puerto Rican and other communities.

I live in New York, which is also called “Puebla York” because of the huge number of Mexicans from Puebla that live there. It’s painful to see how Cinco de Mayo has gone from celebrating the liberation politics and heroism of Puebla to celebrating the recruitment of the descendants of Zaragoza and other Poblanos by the very center of U.S. efforts to destroy global liberation, the Pentagon.

But, all is not lost. Latinos and others across the country have ramped up their efforts to stop the recruitment of Latino youth. Efforts like those in Puerto Rico, counter recruiters have fanned out to all 200 high schools to deliver their anti-militarism message to thousands of students. So, whatever your race, background or creed, if you’re opposed to the war in Iraq and to militarism generally, you might consider stopping recruitment among those without whom the future projections of the military will not be realized: Latino youth. And a good place to start might be to stop celebrating the Cinco de Pentagon and replacing it with something resembling the CInco de Mayo celebrations of old.

Scholar, Activist Rudy Acuna Responds to Arizona’s “Big Lie” Law, SB 1108

May 4, 2008

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This just in from Rudy Acuna, author of Occupied America, one of several books identified as “anti-American” by Arizona Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa and other backers of the racist SB 1108 bill. Rudy’s letter to the Tucson Citizen rightly denounces the dangerous tactic of the “Big Lie” inherent in SB 1108. Well made points by an eminent scholar and committed activist, one I have great affection for and admiration of.

Letter to the Editor:

Unlike many of the present day squatters in Arizona, I have deep feelings for Arizona. My mother’s family, the Elíases lived there for centuries.

But recently I have been swimming in a sea of emails alerting me to Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, amendments to Senate Bill 1108 that would permit Arizona to confiscate books, ban Chicano studies and exclude the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Aztlan (MECHA) from Arizona’s campuses.

I am 75-years young and have lived through the McCarthy era and read about similar thought control crusades which history has exposed as idiotic. In the 1920s the words to the pledge of alliance were changed from “my flag” to the “flag of the United States” so aliens would not cross their fingers and salute a foreign flag. The present proposal ranks along side these kinds of idiocies.

If Pearce has his way, Arizona schools would ban courses “denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization” and would teaching practices that “overtly encourage dissent” from those values, including democracy, capitalism, pluralism and religious tolerance. Rep. Pearce who is not the sharpest knife in the box then would bar public schools, community colleges and universities from allowing organizations to operate on campus if it is “based in whole or in part on race-based criteria.” Among the books designated for burning is my book Occupied America: A History of Chicanos which has received the Gustavus Myers Award for an Outstanding Book on Race Relations in North America.

I am personally offended by Pearce’s labeling my book as seditious. Unlike Pearce I served in the armed forces and did not claim deferments. I was a full time student in good standing at the University of Southern California during the Korean War. I volunteered draft. Pearce and many of the thought control cadets took another route. Moreover, many of the statements Pearce attributes to Occupied America were in quotation marks. Having taught well prepared students from the University of Phoenix, I know that Phoenix teaches its students what quotation marks mean. .

For Pearce’s information, history is probative. It builds. That is why the content of U.S. history courses change from elementary through high school. University courses which Pearce should are much more complex.

What I am more concerned about are Pearce’s attempts to smear MECHA. Adolph Hitler was a proponent of the use of the Big Lie as a viable propaganda technique. Hitler said that the bigger the lie the more adapt people were to believe it.

Pearce implies that MECHA excludes other races and promotes racism, which is just not true. For Pearce’s information, MECHA organizations on every campus are chartered by student affairs. In order to be chartered, the organization has to be open to all students regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion. Every campus differs. I have visited hundreds of campuses throughout the country and have found that on some campuses the majority of the members were non-Mexican American.

I entered education because I wanted to give gang kids an alternative – I loved the kids but hated gangs. Many former gang members are today lawyers, medical doctors and teachers because of Chicano studies and MECHA. Indeed, in California 85 to 95 percent of all Latino elected officials are alumni of this organization. Frankly, people like Pearce relish in the portrayal of Mexican Americans as gang members rather than university graduates because they can step on us.

The Big Lie strategy of Pearce and company is effective because most people become paralyzed in the face of the Big Lie. During World War II, most Americans turned a deaf ear to the herding of over 100,000 Japanese Americans into concentration camps. As a Mexican American I am proud of 16-year old Ralph Lazo from Belmont High in Los Angeles who said that this is not right and declared himself of Japanese decent and went to Manzanar with his friends. That is in Occupied America.

Mexican Americans should realize that these attacks are today directed at them because Pearce looks at them as weak. He has not yet taken on the Hillel or the Newman Clubs on college campuses who like MECHA do fine work and incidentally have Jewish Americans and Catholics as their core members.

Hopefully, Arizonians will wake up and people like Pearce will suffer the same fate as the Pete Wilsons did in California. His attacks are race specific and based on the Big Lie. And history will unfortunately judge Arizonians.

Rodolfo F. Acuña, PhD
Chicana/o Studies Department
California State University at Northridge

Still They March: Nationwide Rallies Highlight Failure of War on Immigrants

May 2, 2008

The battle for immigrant rights rages daily in the heart, mind and lanky 10 year-old frame of Chelsea resident and May Day marcher, Norma Canela. Norma’s mother Olivia illegally crossed the borders of Guatemala, Mexico and the U.S. almost eleven years ago from Honduras. Born shortly after her mom came to the U.S., Norma says attending one of the over 200 May Day marches for immigrant rights made her feel “good, like we could help people get their papers!”

Chanting, singing and marching alongside so many others in the Chelsea march, also provided the energetic 4th grader a counterbalance to the crush of loneliness (“I feel like nobody wants to help us”), fear (I’m scared they might take my mom”) and isolation (“Sometimes I feel alone”). If, it achieved nothing else, march organizers say, the May Day mobilizations gave Norma, Olivia and the 12 million undocumented immigrants and their families living in United States a dose of hope in the face of an escalating war on the undocumented.

Yelling “Alto a las redadas! Alto a las deportaciones!”(Stop the Raids! Stop the Deportations!) the tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters marching throughout the country on May Day believe they took crucial steps for a movement trying to defend families like Norma’s from a multibillion dollar war being waged on immigrants. On May Day they hoped they helped align the movement’s agenda, animate its base and flex its power.

Relieved, yet still animated after organizing the largest (30,000 +) of the hundreds of May Day marches in towns and cities throughout the country, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin, a low-wage and immigrant workers center, said that the day’s primary objective had been accomplished. “Almost all immigrant rights groups are now on same page as far as opposing measures that criminalize immigrants and demanding legalization in the first 100 days of the next [President’s] administration” said Ortiz adding “I think across the board most groups are calling on Bush Administration put an immediate end to raids and deportation.”

Prior to today’s marches, the fissures and differences around strategy for immigration reform had split the movement. Some groups supported ‘tradeoffs’ -legalization for even heavier enforcement- like those contained in the now defunct McCain-Kennedy bill while other groups didn’t. May Day march organizers also found themselves on the defensive against what Ortiz calls ” a kind of low-intensity conflict” unleashed on immigrants shortly after the historic May Day marches of 2006: thousands of raids on homes and workplaces conducted by heavily-armed immigration agents, deployment of 6,000 national guard troops to the border, billions of dollars in government contracts to military-industrial companies like Halliburton, Blackwater and Boeing to build the infrastructure to surveill, trail and jail immigrants.

Against the backdrop of the intense escalation of attacks and the fear these attacks engendered after 2006, Ortiz and other organizers like Gladys Vega of the Chelsea Collaborative believe they also succeeded in injecting some “animo” into their movement. “On a daily basis, we have to deal with community members terrorized by raids, facing increased problems in the workplace because of the tighter (employment) regulations” said Vega adding “Here in Chelsea, a city that is 63% immigrant, 350, mostly Latino families had their houses foreclosed on and we can’t just sit by and watch.”

In response to what she considers the very predictable mainstream media stories focused on the decreased size of the May Day marches, Vega said, “When your community and you have to do so much and when there is so much repression against immigrants and their families, the real story is how so many people overcame their fear and marched in 200 cities.”

Now Ortiz is ready to pull out a defensive posture and launch an offensive. “Marching is one critical piece but not the only one” said Ortiz. “Most of us are also involved in the massive push for voter registration, citizenship drives and getting people to vote. May Day was also about sending a message to the Republicans and Democrats, about holding their feet to the fire.”

Norma and Olivia can’t cast a vote this election season. One is too young, the other doesn’t have the papers. But they are still involved in the electoral process. How? “I talk to our family and friends who can vote; I make phone calls, distribute flyers, attend events anything I can do I do it” said Olivia. For her part, future voter Norma, who sometimes joins her mother’s electoral activities, offers up some immigrant rights strategy of her own, “We’re going to march until they (the government/immigration authorities) get bored. Then we can all be safe.”

Mayday Interview With Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

May 2, 2008

Democracy Now!

Check out Amy’s great show on Mayday and migrant’s rights. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, other guests and I also connected the dots between global trade, militarism and migration. Check it out. Full transcript below, complete with lots of “uh’s” during my Q&A. You can find the video of the interview on Democracy Now’s site.

Democracy Now! Mayday Interview

Guests:

Mike Whitehead, Worker at Micro Solutions. He was illegally detained during the Feb. 7 ICE raid.

Christopher Scherer, Staff attorney for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

Roberto Lovato, Writes for New America Media and is a frequent contributor to The Nation Magazine. He blogs at ofamerica.wordpress.com.

Rush Transcript

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AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Los Angeles, California on this historic day, a day for—in the struggle for labor rights and the eight-hour work day, tens of thousands are expected to march across the country today, linking immigrants’ rights to May Day for the third year in a row. The major demands include legal status for undocumented migrant workers and an end to the raids and deportations that have torn families apart. One of the biggest rallies is expected to take place today here in Los Angeles.

As we continue our coverage of these issues, we turn to one of the most controversial immigration topics in this country: workplace raids carried out by armed US agents. If you were in Los Angeles in early February, you might have seen these reports on your local news.

    KTLA-5 NEWS ANCHOR: [ICE] raided a Van Nuys company today. The raid took place at a printer supply manufacturer called Micro Solutions Enterprises. Family and friends rushed over as soon as they heard what was going on.

    REPORTER: From News Copter 13, you can see a toddler who doesn’t quite understand why she can’t be with her mother.

AMY GOODMAN: On February 7th, hundreds of agents from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, raided a Los Angeles company called Micro Solutions. During the raid, US agents arrested 138 immigrant workers. In addition, armed ICE agents detained 114 workers who were US citizens or lawful permanent residents.

The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law has just filed claims on behalf of these workers. It’s believed to be the first time a group of US citizens and lawful residents have brought claims against the government for being illegally detained during an ICE raid. If the claims are successful, this legal strategy could force the Department of Homeland Security to change its policy about workplace raids.

I’m joined here in Los Angeles by two guests. Christopher Scherer is a staff attorney with the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Mike Whitehead also joins us. He’s a worker at Micro Solutions, illegally detained during the February 7th ICE raid. In New York, we’re joined by the journalist Roberto Lovato. He is a writer for New America Media and a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine. He blogs at ofamerica.wordpress.com.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now!

Well, Mike Whitehead, let’s begin with you. What happened on February 7th?

MIKE WHITEHEAD: February 7, we were brought in—a hundred-plus agents were come into the facility and had us detained for a number of hours. I personally was detained for about an hour of that time in a conference room, to begin with. We were hustled into the room and told that we couldn’t move, we couldn’t leave, we had to keep our hands visible, we couldn’t use our cell phones, which was sort of disturbing to me, because I didn’t know what we did wrong. You know, I’m a US citizen. We were shuffled around to another area of the facility and asked to be segregated later at a time that we were later cleared. But we were detained for approximately one hour, me personally.

AMY GOODMAN: And did you know who the armed men were?

MIKE WHITEHEAD: At the beginning, I didn’t, because I didn’t recognize “ICE” on the back of their jackets. I mean, there was a hundred-plus agents, armed, flak vests that said “ICE” on the back of them. I later figured it out. I mean, it was pretty obvious who they were.

AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Scherer, can you talk about the legality of this?

CHRISTOPHER SCHERER: Well, we don’t feel there was any legality to this. It’s a violation of Fourth Amendment rights of citizens of lawful permanent residents. ICE is coming in and detaining an entire factory worth of individuals and holding them under armed guard and allowing them to leave when they decide, when they think it’s appropriate.

AMY GOODMAN: How common is this?

CHRISTOPHER SCHERER: It’s happened all over the country. I mean, it’s happened here in Southern California at Micro Solutions. It happened in Texas, in Iowa, with the Swift raids, where they held literally thousands of American citizens while they were looking for undocumented workers.

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato, can you talk about this?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah. First of all, I want to encourage everybody to get out on the streets today if they feel outraged about what happened to Mike and what’s happening to thousands of citizens and non-citizens in the United States. I really encourage you to go out there and support them and also to get a dose of hope, because that’s what May Day is about, a workers’ and immigrants’ hope.

What happened to Mike is, as I said, not unique. I have traveled the country interviewing citizens and non-citizens who are experiencing these kinds of raids and violence, state violence, with increasing frequency. And I really feel for Mike, because it’s proving a thesis I’ve had for a while now, which is that the immigration raids, the attacks, the increasing militarization of police forces, of the National Guard at the border, are all indicators of how immigrants are being used to normalize having people with guns in our midst. In other words, first it was the people in the yellow outfits detained after 9/11. Now it’s the Mexican and other immigrants. And as we see with the case of Mike, now it’s US citizens and workers who are being subjected to what in another context, in another country, would be called, say, “terrorismo de estado,” state terrorism.

Peoples—Mike, I’m sure, may have dreams about this. His body may shake because of being violated, as if—you know, having his rights and his person violated. And so, it’s an indicator of why we need to get out to protest and assert our rights, because, as I said, immigration is being used to militarize within the borders of the country.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask Mike Whitehead not only about you, but about all the other workers. Can you talk about the reaction when the agents came in? What time of day was it?

MIKE WHITEHEAD: It was about 3:45, close to 4:00. The reaction was that we thought we were under some sort of attack. We didn’t know what was going on. They never disclosed who they were and what they were there for.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what about the immigrants who worked there, whether documented or not?

MIKE WHITEHEAD: Oh, that we have close to 800 employees in our facility, so it was a mass detention. As far as who was undocumented, I have no idea who was undocumented in our facility. We follow our I-9s. I know that we are compliant and have been cooperating with ICE and Homeland Security.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me put this question to Roberto Lovato. The overall policy of immigration right now, and especially here in California and then going down to the border?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, you have a radical transformation of the political and demographic topography of the United States happening right now. It’s concentrated in the Southwest, and it’s because of the growth of Latino and other populations, but especially the Latino population. And you’re seeing it in the streets. It’s altering our political system. And you’re seeing it in our electoral process. And I think that instills a lot of fear in certain powers that be, because it’s no longer kind of the black-white politics and the era of the Southern strategy. We’re watching something take place that nobody really has an idea where it’s going or what’s going to happen. We do know, for—as, for example, as reported in the LA Times, that immigrant voters are going to radically transform not just the Southwestern United States, but the entire United States in the coming years. And this is inevitable, unless there’s some sort of massive tragedy, which I hope not and I would fight with every bone in my body, but—as would others.

But so, we have to look at—it’s just an issue of control. The border is not a fact. The border is an idea, OK? The border is violated every day by the primary criminals that are, in fact, transnational corporations that cause migration in the first place. And so, it’s no coincidence that we’re focusing on, for example, the undocumented worker and not on the employer that hires them, in the debate. They are breaking the law, if anybody’s breaking the law, as much as, if not more than, the undocumented worker. Yet the entire debate is focused on the human being and not the citizen that is the corporation, because to focus on them, we would have to, for example, apply the death penalty to corporations and take away their citizenship, as we do with prisoners. And that’s, I think, what’s at stake here, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to Christopher Scherer, staff attorney for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. What about the responsibility of the employer versus the workers?

CHRISTOPHER SCHERER: Well, I mean, there’s no question that employers are under an obligation to comply with, you know, all the rules and regulations with regard to who they hire and hiring legal—at least checking the status of the people that they hire. But in this situation, all those things have been done. And, you know, if—the employer in the situation may be a subject of fraud, a victim in the situation, and it doesn’t change the fact that ICE is coming into these factories without color of warrant, without exigent circumstance that could justify the types of detentions that are taking place and holding citizens and permanent residents against their will.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the companies, Roberto Lovato, that benefit, that are profiting off of the increased militarization, particularly along the border?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, we’re watching the birth of what some people, like Deepa Fernandez and others, are calling the military-industrial-migration complex, a set of interests, economic, political, that are profiting politically and economically from this new, what I would call a war on immigrants. If, say, the drones at the border or the National Guard at the border or the fact that the ICE, the immigration agency, is in fact the most militarized arm of the federal government besides the Pentagon—a lot of people don’t know this—and so, if you look at that, those are indicators of a war, of an enemy. And so, we know from Iraq that the government acts not just out of what it says it’s going to do, but for other reasons. So why not apply that logic to what’s happening with immigration?

Because I think immigration is about controlling immigrant workers, putting fear in them, and I think it’s about electoral machinations that we’re seeing, especially by the Republicans, and also a lot of Democrats. But it’s also about the crisis of legitimacy in the state itself. I think there’s a crisis afoot. And when there’s a crisis, you want to bring in as many people with guns within. And so, there’s a lot of companies that are benefiting, like Blackwater, like—does this sound familiar?—Halliburton is building immigrant prisons. All these electronic surveillance companies are getting multimillion-, multibillion-dollar contracts, in the case of Boeing, to surveil, jail and harass immigrants. And so, you know, this whole anti-immigrant moment is extremely profitable for the stock portfolios of a lot of companies.

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato, can you talk about the “Three Amigos Summit” that took place in New Orleans, or as it came to be known, President Bush meeting with the heads of state of Canada and Mexico?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah. There was—this is the most recent in a series of meetings that have taken place between the heads of state of Canada, Mexico and the United States. And it’s interesting to look at what their agenda is. It’s primarily about free trade and security. OK, and that’s not a coincidence. It’s not that they just put this together. It’s the fact that in order to implement the free trade policies in Mexico that drive migration, that destroy workers’ rights and the environment and that cause, you know, crisis after crisis, and now to do that in the United States and in Canada, you’re not just going to need to implement new laws, you’re going to have to back up the—yourself up with military force, as you see in the case of the discussions that were had about Plan Mexico.

Plan Mexico is essentially a plan to militarize or what I would call “Colombianize” Mexico. I was in Michoacan last year, and it’s one of the most militarized parts of Mexico, with—a country with no history of a—modern history of a military, of a militarized society like the rest of Latin America. And so, the summits are about fomenting free trade and helping to create excuses for putting, again, more people with guns in our societies, whether it’s in Mexico in Michoacan in the countryside, where they’re knocking on people’s doors and capturing them and causing more people to migrate, or whether it’s in Canada or now here in the United States, where you see the raids.

You look at those images, Amy, that you had of, say, MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. If you took away the LAPD names on those, that would look just like Gaza, if you look at the weaponry, the way they’re dressed, etc. So these are visual, clear indicators of the fact that immigration is not just about immigrants. It’s as much about those of us that are citizens and instilling fear and normalizing the idea that it’s OK to have people with guns and uniforms in times of crisis and meltdown like we have now.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for joining us, Roberto Lovato, speaking to us from New York.

ROBERTO LOVATO: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato writes for New America Media, a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine. And our guests here in studio in Los Angeles, as we continue on the road, Christopher Scherer, staff attorney for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and Mike Whitehead, one of the employees at Micro Solutions who was detained on February 7th during the ICE raid.

Ayer Votamos, Ahorra Marchamos, y Manana No Tememos

May 1, 2008

(Yesterday We Voted, Today We March and Tomorrow We Are Fearless)