FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fighting for Migrant Justice in the Desert

by ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ

“Arizona resembles the Deep South of the pre-civil rights era,” attorney Isabel Garcia asserts. “Here, Mexicanos cannot get fair trials.”

“I’m not just talking about immigrants,” she adds. “I’m talking about Mexicanos, regardless of their legal status.” The climate, she notes, which fosters vigilantism, is continually stoked by politicians and media types that seek to blame all of society’s ills upon hard-working migrants.

Garcia, Pima County’s Legal Defender, speaks with a passion that conjures up a bygone era, yet she insists that in Arizona, there is no bygone era. It is not uncommon for Mexicans to be shot and killed here by U.S. agents and not be held accountable. She brings up the case of Border Patrol agent, Nicholas Corbett who shot Francisco Ramirez at close range on Jan. 12, 2007 – purportedly for threatening the agent with a rock. Today Corbett walks free. Two juries could not agree to convict. And there are countless more cases, she notes, though truthfully, this form of “frontier justice” has always been true for the entire U.S./Mexico border region.

Garcia recently invited me to witness firsthand “Operation Streamline.” What I witnessed bore no similarity to anything that can be remotely called a judicial proceeding. It was more “show trials” in which 70 migrants were paraded before a judge and in less than one hour, virtually all were found guilty (3 cases were dismissed) of illegally entering the country. They were actually also charged with felonies, but were dismissed to ensure conviction of the lesser charge. In years past, taxpayer money was not wasted in such proceedings – proceedings that resemble a 21st century version of “Indian Removal.”

Every day, out of 1,000 migrants apprehended by immigration agents – 70 are randomly selected and processed like cattle through the federal court system. The objective is to criminalize these migrants and to have them spend time in the private Correction Corporation of America (CCA), thereby serving as a disincentive for other would-be migrants. The eventual goal is to eliminate the policy of “voluntary departure.”

It’s a sweet deal for the CCA, which receives $11 million per month. It’s actually a for-profit scam because it is a process that does nothing to address the actual problems associated with Mexico/U.S. migration.

The sham trials are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In the past few years, Arizona voters have passed several draconian propositions that primarily restrict the human and due process rights of migrants, particularly students. It’s a dehumanizing climate. But even these efforts pale in comparison with the human toll.

Since the mid-1990s, Derechos Humanos – a human rights organization (co-founded by Garcia) that monitors human rights abuses – has tallied more than 5,000 deaths along the U.S./Mexico border attributable to death from exhaustion, dehydration or drowning. The deaths were preventable as the various militarized border operations and walls have been designed by immigration authorities with the intent of funneling migrants into the inhospitable Arizona desert.

Some are hoping that with Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano heading the Department of Homeland Security, things should be better along the border. Nationally, Napolitano has cultivated an image of moderation, yet, Garcia notes that such image is pure public relations. During her tenure, Napolitano did not veto the 2006 draconian “employers sanctions law” and was quick to call the National Guard to the border.

Yet, Napolitano’s departure may indeed see things turn for the worse because the state will now be firmly in control of the Republican party – a party that in Arizona is synonymous with anti-immigration – a party that also completely embraces the media antics of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The sheriff – who has resorted to high-profile, racial profiling (anti-immigrant measures aimed at the Mexican-Latino community) recently tried to get Garcia fired for an incident involving a piñata resembling the sheriff. Rather than getting fired, Garcia recently received the Cultural Freedom Award, along with $150,000 – given to her by the Lannan Foundation.

For those who understand immigration to be an economic and human rights issue, a humane solution may be forthcoming from Obama’s Labor Department, slated to be headed by California Congresswoman Hilda Solis. It is not a guarantee, but it should be a radical departure from the current administration’s sham policies.

Perhaps justice may indeed be coming to the desert.

Epilogue: Several days after President Barack Obama was inaugurated, I returned to the courtroom… and expectedly, nothing has changed. The sham or show trials continue.

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com

 

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail