Immigration is a Matter of Rights
No to National Guard on the Border!
President Barack Obama announced May 25 that he will send up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico and further increase spending on law enforcement. It remains unclear if the deployment will be open-ended.
In addition to the soldiers, the White House said it would request $500 million in supplemental funds to pay for more federal agents, prosecutors, investigators and technology at the border. Obama’s budget request already calls for $6 billion more than last year for the Department of Homeland Security. It includes more than $4 billion to fund 20,000 Border Patrol agents and complete the first section of a virtual border fence, part of the border death wall, being erected in Arizona. $1.6 billion is to raise deportations by at least 4 percent.
The separation of families and deportations by Obama’s Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE) are already at record highs, with more than 370,000 people deported in just his first year in office — the large majority guilty of no crime. About 1,000 people are deported daily, about one half of those from Arizona. What is required is for President Obama to Stop the Raids and Deportations NOW! ICE and its actions come under his authority and he can simply order a stop to the deportations until comprehensive immigration reform based on defending rights is passed. Troops serve to further militarize the border and force peoples on both sides of it to submit to the military and federal authorities.
DHS officials said the armed troops would provide support to law enforcement officers already working along the border. DHS says the troops will observe and monitor traffic between official crossing points and analyze trafficking patterns. They performed similar tasks in an earlier deployment along the border from 2006 to 2008, when they also assisted with road and fence construction.
Drug and human trafficking generally did not decrease during that time or since. Mass raids, deportations and attacks on immigrant workers and their families have greatly increased. Deaths of immigrants at the U.S. death wall and especially the desert along the Arizona border have also increased.
It is being reported that Obama is sending troops as a concession to secure Republican votes for immigration reform. However, there has been no indication of Republicans coming forward. It is also the case that the increased militarization is consistent with the Democrats’ proposal for immigration. This proposal, put forward by New York Senator Chuck Schumer and repeatedly backed by Obama, calls for giving the DHS Secretary authority to use the National Guard whenever needed. It speaks in military terms, calling for “full operational control” of the borders north and south, and “Forward Operating Bases.” It calls for civilian “auxiliary” units (read mercenaries) to also patrol the border. It also calls for control of the entire workforce, requiring biometric IDs for new workers and immigrants within 18 months and for all workers within 5 years. Obama appears to be acting to open the way for the bill to be introduced and passed — with troops on the border representative of its content. He is also signaling the broad and growing resistance that his answer for immigration, like it is for wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, is more troops and increased repression of civilians. Just as a massive ICE raid took place in Arizona, just days before Arizona SB 1070 was passed, now the announcement of troops going to the border is being made just days before the May 29 National Day of Action Against SB 1070 and for worker and immigrant rights.
Despite these repressive actions, militarization is being rejected as experience has shown it solves no problem while giving rise to more repression against the peoples both sides of the border. The peoples are standing firm with their demands to Stop the Raids and Deportations and provide Legalization for All! They are also rejecting efforts to divide them, instead affirming that No Human Being is Illegal and An Injury to One is An Injury to All! This stand was expressed by 150,000 people demonstrating in Washington, DC on March 21, by half a million demonstrating across the country on May Day and in many actions since. The May 29 National Day of Action against Arizona Law SB 1070 will be yet another expression that the peoples demand comprehensive immigration reform based on defending worker and immigrant rights.
Below is the statement issued by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) in response to reports of the President's plan to send National Guard troops to the Arizona border. NDLON is a main organizer of May Day actions and the May 29 National Day of Action for immigrant rights and against Arizona SB 1070 in Phoenix Arizona. Pablo Alvarado, director of NDLON stated:
"We are outraged. Instead of addressing a domestic human rights crisis, the president appears to be caving into extremists who are further shattering an already broken immigration system. Any legitimate concerns about border security cannot be resolved until undocumented people are given full equality in our society. If he wants to improve security in Arizona, the first step he should take is to revoke all Department of Homeland Security agreements with local police and sheriffs which have diverted scarce resources, divided the country unnecessarily, and brought terror to the very people required to report crimes to law enforcement agents.
“Republicans continue to poison the immigration debate by implying that immigrant communities constitute a security threat to the country. President Obama must use his office to repudiate, not reinforce, this position. Criminalization and legalization of immigrant communities are mutually exclusive goals, and the President must make his position clear. President Obama must demonstrate leadership and moral courage to modernize immigration laws and make them consistent with cherished national values. In actions and words, he must show that he is up to the challenge. We reiterate our call on the President to use his authority to block SB 1070's implementation immediately."
Whereas, the state of Arizona recently enacted laws legalizing racial profiling by law enforcement [SB 1070], making failure to carry immigration documents a crime, and banning the teaching of ethnic studies [HB 2281] – measures reminiscent of South Africa under apartheid; and
Whereas, by allowing police broad powers to racially profile, harass, prosecute and deport people arrested on mere suspicion of being “illegal” immigrants, Arizona is following in the tradition of police states like Nazi Germany that have publicly branded and stigmatized minorities; and
Whereas, these attacks on the civil and human rights of migrant workers and their families – in practice compromising the rights of all people of color in Arizona – have drawn strong opposition from national leadership of the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, and United Food and Commercial Workers; Phoenix Suns basketball team and Major League Baseball Players Association; mayors of San Francisco, Phoenix and Los Angeles; May Day marches of over half a million people in many cities on May 1, 2010; and a long list of religious and community organizations – including various calls for a boycott of Arizona by the Spanish-language daily La Opinion, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, and the city councils of Oakland, St. Paul, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington DC and San Francisco Board of Supervisors; and
Whereas, AFL-CIO President Trumka and Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, urged Homeland Security to immediately stop cooperating with local law enforcement officials in Arizona under Section 287(g) agreements, which allow state and local police in Arizona to enforce immigration laws. In a letter to President Obama, Trumka and Henderson said: “…More than words are required from the federal government at this time. Unless DHS terminates all 287(g) program agreements in Arizona, the federal government will be complicit in the racial profiling that lies at the heart of the Arizona law. Such a result would place the DHS at odds with this Administration’s stated views on SB 1070, and at odds with basic American values of tolerance and non-discrimination”; and
Whereas, a national boycott of Arizona during the 1980s over that state’s refusal to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday resulted in a loss of $350 million in convention business in Arizona, with the National Football League pulling the superbowl from Arizona – a boycott that was ultimately successful when Arizona approved the King holiday in 1992; and
Whereas, racist laws like the ones recently passed in Arizona are being considered in at least 10 other states, and it is important for labor and community to act decisively now to force Arizona to abandon SB 1070, due to take effect July 28th, before its contagion spreads to other states; and
Whereas, caravans of protesters are converging on Phoenix on May 29, for a national march against these apartheid laws, together with a demonstration on the same day at ATT Park in San Francisco where the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team [owned by a key supporter of similar right-wing initiatives] will be playing the Giants.
Therefore be it Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council join the nationwide movement to denounce SB 1070 and other racist laws recently enacted by Arizona; that we support the nationwide boycott of Arizona; and that we support the May 29th national march in Phoenix as well as the demonstration at the Arizona Diamondbacks game in San Francisco on the same day.
– Resolution adopted at the regular delegates meeting of the Labor Council held in San Francisco, May 24, 2010.
L.A. Labor Organizers Plan Trip To Arizona
Los Angeles labor leaders are planning to go to Arizona in “busloads” July 29 to be present, without identification, when the state's SB1070 is scheduled to take effect. The trip is being organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor along with religious and community leaders. Participants aim to challenge Arizona authorities to respect rights and refuse to arrest them based on their national background, “looking suspicious” or being without documentation. They are highlighting the character of the law as one based on government profiling, especially of Latinos and other poor workers. They are also objecting to Arizona imposing a requirement that anyone visiting the state have a passport or birth certificate in addition to a driver’s license — otherwise Arizona law enforcement will arrest and detain them. The people coming from Los Angeles will challenge this and all the profiling by refusing to have documentation.
Federal Government Must Cut Ties with Arizona Law Enforcement
The AFL-CIO and the nation’s largest civil rights coalition issued a strongly worded call for the Obama administration to sever its ties with law enforcement officials in Arizona or be complicit in the state’s racial-profiling anti-immigrant law, also known as SB 1070.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCR), a coalition of more than 200 organizations, urged the administration to immediately stop cooperating with local law enforcement officials in Arizona.
In the letter, Trumka and Henderson say:
“We write to express our deep concern with the Department of Homeland Security’s continued cooperation with state and local law enforcement in Arizona pursuant to Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“the 287(g) program”) in the aftermath of Arizona’s passage of Senate Bill 1070, and we ask that you immediately rescind all 287(g) program agreements in Arizona.”
Under Section 287(g) agreements, Homeland Security trains members of eight state and local law enforcement agencies in Arizona, including the state police, which allows the officers to enforce immigration laws.
Trumka and Henderson add:
We are grateful that President Obama has spoken out to correctly call the Arizona law “misguided.” However, more than words are required from the federal government at this time. Unless DHS terminates all 287(g) program agreements in Arizona, the federal government will be complicit in the racial profiling that lies at the heart of the Arizona law. Such a result would place the DHS at odds with this Administration’s stated views on SB I070, and at odds with basic American values of tolerance and non-discrimination.
On May 20, 1997, 13 years ago, Esequiel Hernández, Jr., an 18-year-old U.S. citizen, was herding goats 100 yards from his home on the U.S.-Mexican border in Redford, Texas. Hernández carried an old caliber rifle to protect against dogs and rattlesnakes. A group of Marines were encamped outside the small town along the Rio Grande River, hidden by camouflage materials. They were supposed to be conducting drug enforcement. Hernández, was walking home when four Marines, after watering his goats in the river as usual, was walking home. He was shot and killed by the Marines.
Esequel Hernández Jr.'s death resulted from militarization of the border and particularly use of National Guard troops. Drug enforcement was the justification given then, border enforcement is the justification now.
The border death wall and border enforcement has also meant the death of thousands of people coming in search of work. Militarization has brought death and further terrorized and worsened conditions for people on both sides of the border. What is needed is an end to militarization and a stand for worker and immigrant rights.
Documentary explores Texas teen's killing by Marines
Brothers Kieran and Brendan Fitzgerald had never heard of the border shooting death of Texas teenager Esequiel Hernandez until they started working on a movie inspired by his story.
Actor Tommy Lee Jones told them about the 1997 case during the filming of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. After some preliminary research, the Fitzgeralds wanted to make a documentary.
"This is a story of our generation," Brendan Fitzgerald said. "So I could relate to the people involved. This is a piece of recent history that neither of us had ever heard of, and it seemed to me so important that this not be lost and become obsolete and forgotten, and that it receive the kind of attention it deserved."
Hernandez, a high school sophomore in the tiny Texas town of Redford, was tending his family's goats near the Mexican border, where four U.S. Marines were secretly posted to watch for drug traffickers. As he often did, he carried a .22-caliber rifle to protect the goats from predators.
The teen fired two shots in the direction of the camouflaged Marines, who were more than 200 yards away. Within 20 minutes the team leader, Cpl. Clemente Bañuelos, had fatally shot the 18-year-old.
Many officials who investigated the case speculated that Hernandez thought the wild dogs that had been bothering his herd were back when he fired his rifle.
As the Fitzgeralds' documentary, The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez points out, the incident marked the first time since the Kent State University shootings in 1970 that a U.S. citizen had been shot and killed by military personnel on U.S. soil. After the shooting, troops were recalled from the border.
Kieran Fitzgerald, the director, said in an interview that he worked with two goals in mind: to bring attention to the case and to shed light on the use of the military to carry out domestic duties along the southern border. Troops returned to the border in 2006; this time National Guard members were called in to help with immigration patrols.
Kieran Fitzgerald found a critical voice in the man who was the Presidio County judge when the Hernandez shooting occurred there.
"The idea that military men should enforce civil law is insanity," said the former judge, Jake Brisbin. "They are not taught to fire a warning shot. They are not taught to preserve life. They are trained to take it."
Predator Drones to Fly Over
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas reported in May that he expects the federal government plans to deliver unmanned aircraft to watch over the border with Mexico by this fall. Commonly known as predator drones, the one for Texas will add to the government’s use of drones in Arizona, which has three. Florida also has one while North Dakota has two.
The drones add to the 1200 National Guardsmen President Obama is sending, 20,000 Border Patrol agents, about 650 miles of border death wall, virtual wall in Arizona and 41 mobile surveillance systems, according to Customs and Border Protection. While currently the predator drones are to be used for surveillance purposes, it is well known that they can readily be armed for “search and destroy,” operations. The massive killing of civilians in Pakistan shows potential results.
Cuellar invited FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and Alan Bersin, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, to his office on May 20 to make sure an agreement can be reached for deployment in the fall. Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, said the administration is “working as quickly as we can on this.” Cuellar, a Democrat, leads the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, and will play an important role in any immigration legislation passed.
Since 2003, the military has acquired about 7,000 drones that are flying surveillance and combat missions. Customs and Border Protection has said it intends to increase unmanned aircraft systems across the country this year, and it expects a complete network of the predator drones all along the border by 2015. There are also plans to send them into Mexico, supposedly for “drug enforcement.”
People on both sides of the border and anti-war activists are opposing use of the drones, based on the experience of Pakistan. The U.S. also began those missions in the name of “surveillance” and the results of massive civilian casualties and repeated U.S. actions trampling on sovereignty are crystal clear.