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Border State Detention Coops

Obama’s Immigration Policy Comes Home to Roost

by MATEO PIMENTEL

A series of photos have recently surfaced from Texas. They depict an array of Latin American youths crammed into Texas immigration holding tanks far too small to contain them all. The unaccompanied minors in question were intercepted in Texas after having crossed the Mexican-US border. The images show the unaccompanied minors standing like packed sardines, or stretched out across one another in their collective attempt to sleep. Immediately following the photo leak, immigration officials busied themselves with transporting hundreds of these minors across border states. They ended up in Nogales, Arizona, sister city to Nogales, Mexico, just on the other side of the fence. The government made its moves exactly a week ago to-date.

The motivating force behind shipping the minors off to Arizona is simple. It has everything to do with the political embarrassment that the newly surfaced photos portend for Obama, but perhaps nothing to do with the inhumane treatment that the minors themselves experience under the current auspices of US immigration. Of course, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer seized the opportunity to publically balk at the recent transportation of the minors from Texas to her state. Brewer did not, however, complain about the negative effects of Obama’s immigration agenda over the last six years, which immigrants within US borders have suffered and continue to suffer. Nor did she call into question his mismanagement of the border and immigration in order to condemn how it currently affects the human beings being packed like chattel into small rooms in numbers well beyond fire code regulation or maximum occupancy.

When it comes to the border, censuring the federal government is Brewer’s best attempt to gain distance from the White House. It also serves as a readymade platform from which she can pander yet again to Arizona’s racist and xenophobic voting demographic that elected her governor a few years ago. In her toothless attempt to further demonize Washington’s inability to “deal with illegal immigration,” Brewer bemoaned big government and complained about the strain placed on Arizona, as it must now accommodate the newly arrived minors. She has been on a tear ever since hundreds of undocumented families were recently released at bus stations around the cities like Phoenix and Tucson. This time, her outrage involves the 1,100-plus young people that were moved from Texas to their new holding pens in southernmost Arizona.

As Brewer’s complaining evinces, border states neighboring Mexico have a strange penchant for blaming the federal government when it comes to the nation’s failed immigration system. Governors and politicians that lurk in the borderland complain that the system never gets retooled, condemned to forever limp along at the expense of state budgets and resources. But this customarily deceptive ploy has essentially nothing to do with immigration per se, just as Obama’s recent relocation of unaccompanied minors has in all likelihood nothing to do with their wellbeing but everything to do with his own political regard. In fact, the defiance of state politicians along the border is little more than hackneyed jingoism; they want to rule their own little republics without too much oversight from their federal sugar daddy on Capitol Hill, politically insulating themselves and their cronies in the process. As for Jan Brewer, political statements apropos an immigration-neutered White House are simply sentences that some pawn half her age and twice her intelligence quotient forced her to parrot for syndicated television. This recalcitrant border subterfuge has practically nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with the state’s freedom to accept federal funding with as little accountability as possible. It is a political rodeo of the first degree, and clowns like Brewer serve their purpose by stealing as much attention away from immigrants—human beings who might otherwise be critically evaluated as the victims they are, rather than some law-breaking scourge that many political yahoos paint them to be for the sake of furthering their careers in “public service.”

Upon seeing the recent photos, one immediate reaction might be a cathartic embarrassment for the Obama regime. Indeed, many assessed that the latest egg on the president’s face was a natural comeuppance for more than six years of the draconian border policy that he ensconced in order to maintain the formal—or regulated—economy’s hegemony during the Great Recession. The fact remains that immigration to the United States through the Mexican-US border begets manifold terrible situations, many of which result in the deaths of thousands of human beings each year. The recent fiasco surrounding these unaccompanied minors shipped from Texas to Arizona is nothing but more sour fruit from the Obama administration’s policy on immigration come home to roost in makeshift border state immigrant coops. And yet, far from being inactive or broken, the immigration system does exactly what it is supposed to do, exactly as it was designed to do it: It helped Obama decrease joblessness and unemployment by creating tens of thousands of new homeland security positions along the border. In fact, under Obama, Border Patrol staff, equipment/technology and infrastructure have exploded at a clip never before witnessed in the history of American borders. Obama’s border policy rightfully seems to be that if it’s broke, don’t fix it! Rather, simply capitalize on its brokenness.

One Texas-based activist and organizer, Tom Power, writes of the gravity surrounding the urgent need for much more perspicacious executive action. Power argues that never before has there been “a better time for the Obama administration to act and call for a deportation moratorium.” Additionally, Power allows that ‘repatriating’ immigrant minors “represents the ignorance that has become so emblematic of the Obama administration; skyrocketing numbers of deportations with very little critical analysis of why individuals are coming or what it would mean to send them back to their home countries.” Indeed, moving kids from one state to the next, and other such actions, do nothing to address the issues that force these minors across the border in the first place. Moreover, these actions have no prepossessing root in policy that would steer the current system from deeper waters.

As the head of the executive branch of government, if Obama’s action regarding immigration looks like nothing more than deportation and relocation, then the untold thousands of soon-to-be immigrants predestined by decades of US political and economic coups in their home countries—as well as the neoliberal economic indentures that nullifies economic prosperity in their home countries—are certainly preordained to face a desperate and uncaring situation upon capture. “As the US-Mexico border becomes more militarized,” notes Power, “any increased number of individuals crossing through the dense brush in South Texas in the summer months means dehydration, starvation, and disorientation in the vast ranches that populate South Texas.” The same is ultimately true for the other three border states. Stumbling upon ranches in Arizona has led to the shootings of numerous immigrants. Power also broaches that the looming death toll is “most worrisome aspect of this surge…sure to reach proportions not yet seen before—murders that can be directly attributed to failed policy along the US-Mexico border.” He adds that the “nation’s most accomplished serial killers combined have not dealt a death blow as fatal as our current immigration policy.”

Obama’s White House calls the current situation regarding the border, and its effects on immigrant minors in particular, a “humanitarian crisis.” No doubt; it is a humanitarian crisis, but not because they say so. It is a humanitarian crisis because Obama has dipped his hand in the same deportation policy cup as Bush Younger and Bill Clinton and made it so. Incredibly, the White House commented on Obama’s behalf, saying that he was prepared to take “executive action.” Understood in another manner, it is hard to stomach the thought of the border or immigration benefiting from the same species of Obama’s executive action (or inaction) that has already and purposefully exacerbated and aggravated border problems during his tenure. Or could Obama’s White House have meant to say that the federal government’s trafficking of undocumented minors from one sorry facility in Texas to a doubtless worse one in Arizona does not fully encompass or epitomize the extent of Obama’s simmering border remedy? It is hard to surmise, especially given that Obama has not done much else other than detain and deport.

Remember George W. Bush and his murderous cabinet of human rights violators who have yet to be put on trial for their war crimes and sundry other crimes against humanity? Compare their actions apropos immigration with those of Barack Obama. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reports that Obama has deported more people than any other president, averaging 800,000 annually. In total, Obama has deported some 2 million immigrants in little more than one presidential term. It took George Bush eight years to deport as many people. Even Ronald Regan, in his remarkable reign of international terror as president, deported only 170,000 immigrants—a fraction of Obama’s numbers. This of course is not to say that Bush or Reagan are lesser criminals than Obama; the numbers simply call into question the gripes of Jan Brewer and her fellow Republican luddites who bemoan the president’s ineffectual job of being “tough on immigration.” By the numbers, he has been the nastiest!

Shamelessly, the Obama regime scapegoats Central American countries for recent immigration blow-ups. Republicans have also weighed-in, calling the newest developments surrounding the Obama regime’s fiasco “administration-made.” The Obama apology is lame and the Republican agenda is indubitably political. Nevertheless, Obama did delay reviewing executive action at the end of May, effectively stifling any chance of making deportations “more humane” under his reign. Nor did Obama assuage the unprecedented level of deportations in 2012, as was expected in another review of executive action regarding immigration at the time. Many yet look for the silver lining in Obama’s miserable mismanagement of immigration reform, contesting that if Obama had acted alone, any chance at immigration reform would have died in its tracks. This raises the question as to whether or not Obama’s head of homeland security, and other immigration authorities for that matter, were ever in fact held accountable to him while all those millions of people were being deported under him, and while he was apparently helpless to employ any means other than the detention and deportation of millions of immigrants as head of the executive branch of government.

Power reasons that the recent photos that surfaced in Texas provide an aperture into the conditions that current immigrants face in detention centers. “They are disgusting, embarrassing and downright sickening,” he says, “but for immigrant advocates along the border, they are nowhere near shocking or surprising.” Powers warns that there is indeed “no reactionary step” that Obama’s administration might take that would surprise him. He further proffers advice on where the country needs to look first in order to address the situation in earnest hope of developing and planning a solution. He summons the fact that from their inception, “immigration detention centers specializing in caging non-criminal Latinos have been a humanitarian nightmare. There has been no better time to critically examine their existence.” It may just be now or never.

Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border, writing for many alternative political newsletters and Web sites.