On February 17th, local police officers enforcing racist law SB 1070 called border patrol and took a father of six into custody in Tucson, Arizona. Witnessing a family separation unfolding, I spontaneously ran up to the Border Patrol vehicle and crawled beneath it to prevent his detention.
I did this to protest the Arizona police state and to impede a family separation from taking place due to unjust state and immigration laws
Metaphorically, I am still underneath that vehicle of injustice because I continue to resist the detention and deportation regime.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted 13-5 this week in favor of advancing the Immigration Reform proposal (Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013). It will now head to the Senate floor.
The proposal is moving along because it is essentially anti-migrant, anti-worker, racist, and homophobic. This legislation contains the toughest border immigration enforcement measures seen in U.S. history. How could such a bill be supported?
The following are but a few highlights:
·$6.5 billion will be funneled to fund the militarization of the Mexico-US border with more surveillance technology, border patrol agents, customs and border protection officers, drones, double and triple-layer fencing, checkpoints, border patrol stations, and national guard troops.
·Migration will be criminalized like never before since the bill will authorize and fund border crossing prosecutions and related court costs in the Tucson Sector at a level sufficient to increase the average number of prosecutions from 70 a day to 210 a day ($50 million from the $3 billion Border Security Fund).
·Creates a new status called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI), where undocumented individuals may apply to adjust their status. RPI status promises small benefits, but does not guarantee rights and can be revoked at any time. People with previous felonies or misdemeanors are excluded. RPI is falsely advertised as a “pathway to citizenship,” yet, applying for legal permanent resident status is only possible if the government decides border enforcement “trigger” goals are met.
·Anti-worker components of the proposal include requiring universal E-verify system be where employers basically become immigration agents that verify immigration status of employees. This increases workplace discrimination and employer abuse. (To be implemented within 10 years of bill’s enactment).
·The surveillance apparatus will increase with exit system to stop visa overstays: visa exit system must be implemented at all international airports & seaports (within 10 years of bill’s enactment).
·“Guest” worker programs will expand, which create the conditions for modern-day slave labor—as we saw with the Bracero Program. Workers will be at the will of corrupt employers and vulnerable to exploitation.
·Homophobia drove the conversation of adding an amendment which would have given LGBTQ citizens the same right as everyone else to sponsor foreign-born spouses for green cards. The proposed amendment was eventually withdrawn. The bill essentially reinforces definitions of “family” that specifically exclude same-sex couples.
Now the truth sinks in.
This bill will aid, abet, and escalate the genocide of migrants at the Mexico-US border. Border deaths will increase with further militarization because US policies will continue to force migrants through the riskiest sectors.
This bill will funnel billions of dollars so that the US government can increase its technology, weaponry, and artillery to continue waging low-intensity warfare against migrant and indigenous communities across the border.
This bill will increasingly position immigration in the sphere of terrorism (as the bill reinforces a narrative that includes language like “high-risk sectors”, “national security”, “aliens” and deploying national guard troops and bringing more drones and technology from the department of defense to the border).
This bill further criminalizes migration and work. The bill launches the dawn of a new obsession: the merging between the immigration and the criminal (in)justice systems. Through this bill, migrants will increasingly be sentenced criminally for months or years and the for-profit prison industry (companies such as the Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group) will stand to continue raking in billions more.
This bill has no regard for the environment, the earth, or the indigenous communities across the border region.
Moreover, the Mexico-US border was violently imposed through war, bloodshed, and displacement. This bill reinforces and perpetuates colonial borders, genocide, criminalization, persecution, white supremacy, capitalism, and hetero-patriarchy.
Is this how we define a just and humane immigration reform? Is that what we have been fighting for? Are we willing to turn a blind-eye to the monster in the room for a half-ways, exclusive “legalization” crumb that may not even come, (since it is contingent on government-defined triggers?) Are we willing to sell certain groups, such as people crossing the desert, indigenous border communities, LGBTQ people, and migrants with “criminal”records?
We want legalization, but at what cost, and at whose expense?
Is it easier for me to take this position because I have paper privilege? Perhaps. I have also talked to many undocumented day labor workers of Tucson, Arizona and for the most part they philosophically don’tsupport this bill with the militarization component. One worker declared, “This is a war against us, and I can’t have it in my conscience that I get legalized as a result of me turning my back on my brothers and sisters crossing the desert tomorrow.”
Metaphorically, I will get out from beneath the Border Patrol vehicle once an immigration reform bill demilitarizes the border, breaks down border walls, stops the deportations, decriminalizes migration and work, recognizes LGBTQ families, ends US economic and military intervention in Latin America and other regions, and abolishes every immigration detention center.
Until then, we continue building and resisting—staying true to our people’s dignity and dreams of liberation.