Neo-Con Logic at the Border

At first, I wasn’t sure whether Gov. Schwarzenegger was caught winging it when he praised border vigilantes as good citizens patching up bad government. But as he repeated the account in Sunday’s interview with Chris Wallace, I began to suspect that all these signs are beginning to take the appearance of a coherent political strategy.

Between all the lines of nonsense posted by xenophobic dupes of the neo-con regime, there are two suggestions that crop up in internet discussion which hint at broad policy objectives: send the national guard to the border and get a work permit system going.

Since the national guard suggestion is often accompanied by anti-terrorist rhetoric, the logical model feels like neo-cons coming home to roost. Militarize the borderland in the name of national security (with infrastructure projects outsourced to buddy contractors?). And capture the cheap labor coming North in a regime of temp workers who will be thoroughly fingerprinted and photographed. Just as prisoners are often the ones made to build prisons, I have visions of Mexican workers building their own Northern wall.

Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but this whipped up border crisis when viewed in light of “spontaneous” suggestions coming from “concerned citizens” is beginning to look like a PR pincer, easing us all in the direction of a militarized and “secure” (get the word right Arnold!) interface between USA and global South. Not only do we have Bracero on steroids for Mexicans, but we also get new reasons to draft Yankees into military defense.

A November review of immigration politics written by David Bacon connects dots of a steady political drive toward the “guest worker” idea. It is the policy most favored by corporate players, and they have worked for five years at getting the program ready for Congress to approve.

Paradoxically, says Bacon, the experience of immigrants suggests that a Bracero program of guest permits would actually disempower migrants by making them more exploitable than even today’s undocumented workers. Yet critics who argue that illegal immigration serves corporate interests don’t go on to say that legalizing this immigration through a system of guest permits would be even better for the corporate interests involved.

Under a work-permit program, immigrants would be attached to designated corporate sponsors and not be allowed to place their labor into competition with other employers. A troublesome worker under Bracero supervision is not only fired, but deported. And with corporate power unified over work permits, the rogue companies who try to freelance with undocumented workers will be more likely to face eager immigration raids.

Yet the logic of the anti-terrorism rhetoric that we find growing up around the border issue in the aftermath of the Minuteman Project finds its satisfaction in a completely permitted and identified workforce. “At least we will know who they are and where they are going,” is the typical line.

Note how the anti-terror justification for vigilante action is more recently highlighted in key quotes concerning Minuteman plans to patrol the Canadian border. Up North, the scattershot racism of the anti-Mexican rhetoric will not interfere so much with the needed anti-terrorist justification. Minutemen standing at the Northern border of the USA can catch nationalities with which the Canadians play a little too freely. Here we have the pinpoint racism of the War on Terrorism Regime.

In a word, if we just look at the public logics that are playing out, it appears that national opinion in the USA is being corralled toward a work permit scheme with accompanying militarization of the border:

WALLACE: But there are thousands of miles.

SCHWARZENEGGER: So what? That’s what you do when you have a huge country. If you have thousands of miles and thousands of cities in America and they all have to be patrolled.

We have the money to do it. It’s not a lack of money. When we can afford the war in Iraq, we can afford to control our own borders.”

If there is still time to hit a switch on this juggernaut, the first thing to do is speak of the paradoxical intensification of corporate power over labor that will result from a work permit program. Yes, corporations benefit from illegal immigration, but why do they still prefer Braceros?

After that, Bacon’s November analysis points to developments in international law that should address the rights of an increasingly mobile workforce around the world. If the relationship between labor and employers is to be centered for rational strategy, then human rights of Mexican labor in the USA must be a vanguard struggle.

Therefore Bacon’s address to developing nations in the following paragraph should be taken to heart by progressive activists in the USA:

Developing countries do, however, have an alternative framework for protecting the rights and status of this migrant population. The UN’s International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families proposes an alternative framework for dealing with migration. It supports the right of family reunification, establishes equality of treatment with citizens of the host country, and prohibits collective deportation. Both sending and receiving countries are responsible for protecting migrants, and retain the right to determine who is admitted to their territories, and who has the right to work. The Convention recognizes the global scale and permanence of migration, and starts by protecting the rights of migrants themselves.

In the end, the lesson is old as dirt. If we do not insist on treating migrating workers as free companions who deserve human rights, then soon enough the corporations will have made Braceros of us all. Deportee or draftee? Never say you didn’t have a choice.

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net















More articles by:

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front