This morning the SOAWatch delegation met with Isabel Garcia, Coalicion de Dereche Humanas (Coalition of Human Rights) and attorney here in Tucson. This is a summary of her talk.
THere is a broader view of what is happening here on the border and across the US than the need for immigration reform. The Gang of 8 who presented an immigration bill in congress is counting on the American people’s ignorance of their own history with Mexico which is a long and engaged history. There are three things that are facing us regarding immigration reform:
3) Arrogance– there is a white supremacy attached to Americans that even people of color attach themselves to as Americans that places them against their own interests.
In the center of Tucson there is an altar/ a shrine where for thirteen years every Thursday evening people gather to remember thedeaths of immigrants who died in the deserts. It is estimated that since 1999 over 10 Thousand deaths; 6 thousand documented have occured by people desparate to find a new life. The Medical Examiner has stated based on climate that it can take as short a period of time as 2 weeks for a body to be skeletized. There was a fourteen year old deported with no one knowing who was identified by the ring on her skeletal finger. The father said this could not be because she was only missing for less than 3 weeks but her ring found on her skeletal finger told the story otherwise.
This is a story that begins in the early 1900’s with the mistreatment of the Chinese. To find workers, industry and the government have encouraged Mexicans to enter unlawfully and the businesses wanted them. Around 1916/1918, There was a head tax place on employers hiring foriegn workers. If a company wanted to hire a foreigner to work there was a head tax placed. THis arrangement was with the Department of Treasury. By departmental order this head tax was waived for Mexican workers.
In the 1930’s the “Mexican repatriation” occurrred with over 500K Mexicans deported. But at the start of World War II the need for Mexican agricultural workers were needed. This was later codified into the Bracero program. There was instituionalized into our labor department a pattern of repulsion and attraction. When ever the population began asking questions like, ‘ Why am I losing my job? Why am I losing my home? The answer was immediately it is the immigrant.
It was said that the Bracero Program provided the railroad and aggricultural soldiers of the war effort. Come to the US we have jobs here… now leave we are done with you here. So there is in the United States a pattern of repulsion and attraction when it comes to labor south of the border.
In the 1990’s there was a promise that NAFTA (North American Fair Trade Aggreement) was going to end the need of migration. With NAFTA was the beginning of the building of a military type border for the first time. But NAFTA did not end the need of migration instead there were over 6 million jobs have been lost throughout Latin America because of US businesses under cutting costs of Mexican and other Central American countries businesses.
As has been predicted by human rights organizations in the 1990’s everything done to immigrants is being extended to the rest of the population with increased use of drones and surveillance. Private Military contractors are here at the border. These for profit contractors were the ones that were in Afghanistan and Iraq. So they provide lots of technical expertise.
The Correction Corporation of America (CCA) in Tucson, the for proift prison received $17 million per month to simply incarcerate the immigrants who are sentenced through the courts Operation Streamline. There have been 2 suicides in a CCA facility a month ago. These detention camps are a form of Torture. Operation Streamline began here in July 2008. Who benefits from those who are criminalized? Up to 70 people are processed a day. The immigration bill proposed in Congress will increase the ability to process up to 200 a day. THe process in quick fashion is initial appearance, waiver of constitutional rights, and guilty charge. THis takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the judge. The immigrants facing deportation are all chained en masse at the ankles and waists. The fastest growing felony is being found guilty of re-entry after the initial deportation. In 2009 it cost taxpayers $22 million a month to run the streamline court.
Contrast these two costs with the closure of the Pima County Post Office because of lack of funds. THe post office which ensures that people in rural Pima County have access to medications by mail, have the ability to receive and send packages and costs $14 million a year to run. The state is cutting education because of lack of funds. Yet $39 million dollars a month is required to build an economic system around incarceration of immigrants. A new Chicano middleclass is being created by the Border Patrol Industry offering as of 2009 salaries at $83K. Operation Stone Garden increases funds to local enforcement thereby increasing buy in by the community. THere are currently 4200 Border Patrol Agents and the number of those crossing the border is down drastically. What happens if there is no need for their jobs?
To secure the new economy, individual risk assessments are being done which increases the process to maintain those in detention. There is an avatar that has been created by a University to detect lying. THere are 15 bio metric systems the avatar checks for and there is only the human capacity to control three of them. THis is currently being used on US visitors for background checks and border crossing visas. Check points are in violation of the 4th ammendment. THe Supreme court upheld this but they are wrong in doing so.
The Immigration bill as proposed will remove the family basis preference for immigration in favor of a merit basis. If a brother or siser is a US citizen there will still be the possibility of citizenship but the wait is an automatic 12 years. Currently, If you enter the country lawfully but your visa lapses for six months you are banned from applying for citizenship for 3 years. If you entered the country lawfully but your visa lapsed for a year or more the ban is automatically 10 years. The immigration bill will increase more check points, increase surveilence, and extend the militarized border 100 miles in from the border. There are 37 federal laws that will be violated by this act.
The proposed immigration bill is very limited. It includes 100% surveilence and it conditions it on E-verify. It will require a bio-metric card. All DMV records will be accessible by Homeland Security. It will not be fully implemented unless there is a 90% success rate of apprehensions at the border, the house version requires 95% success. How does one measure success of an unknown?
This is not about having papers, the fight for immigrant rights is about being free from harassment by Law Enforcement. It is not about Papers!!!