As I write, the US Senate is debating legislation that would make migrant peoples a felonized, legally scapegoated racial and cultural under-caste, a move with deeply dangerous implications for us all.
Maybe it wasn’t such a lie, what the German people said after Hitler — “we didn’t know.”
Certainly the mainstream media isn’t telling you.
But many–Mexicans, Central Americans, and immigrant groups like the Poles and Irish know. As many as 300,000 of them marched together in Chicago recently to oppose these new laws.
20,000 marched in Washington DC.
People in Los Angeles know; over half a million people in LA are expected to march against these anti-migrant laws on March 25th. The march is being promoted on all the Spanish language media.
This essay is both a plea and a demand: you must march with us on the 25th; somehow you must take action…
We won’t need a yellow star.
The color of our skin will mark us as suspects, as felons, as threats to “the homeland.” Any cop will be free to stop us at any time, under any pretext, to check — not for dope — but for our “papers.”
At first it won’t seem like much. Quietly, at first, a few of us will begin to disappear, just like some 60 thousand immigrants of Muslim and Arabic descent have disappeared since the onset of the Patriot Act; without a word. Like them, we will become targets of the so-called “war on terror.”
First it will be dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands.
Mothers will disappear walking to the corner store. Fathers will never come home from work. Children will be left behind, sobbing in apartments empty of food, warmth, money and life. The neighbors will be afraid. The tens of thousands could readily become millions.
The picture painted above is nothing but hard headed realism. Legislation now before the US Senate would make every undocumented person in the US a felon and authorize every police department in the country to arrest people on immigration charges.
The size of the Border Patrol would, in effect, increase by 60 times, from the current 11,000 Migra agents to 663,546 enforcers. If each authorized officer in the US arrested one undocumented migrant once every three months, within five years over 11 million migrants would be gone–an ethnic cleansing without parallel in US history.
This is the future they have planned. Certain neighborhoods — the Gulfton District or the North Side in Houston, Pico Union and Boyle Heights in LA, the San Francisco Mission District — will be targeted. Almost everyone in them will be considered a “felon,” or someone who has aided the “felons.” They won’t be able to be able to tell us apart. “A Mexican is a Mexican,” is what they will say.
In certain neighborhoods concrete barriers will block the streets. Police and La Migra will arrange themselves in hunting parties together. Like clockwork, a police cruiser will turn the corner near your place, once every 60 seconds. No one will breathe. The children will have nightmares.
This isn’t just emotional rhetoric. It’s happened before; in the Gulfton District in Houston in 1990 and OE95, and in Pico Union in LA in 1990. This is how it’s done. The barrio will be besieged, taken over from within.
They want to build detention camps for us. They are debating it now. They want to label us felons, but deny us a trial. They’re debating it now. They want to build a wall — they want us to die, tongue swollen and hallucinating, without water in the desert. They are debating it now.
These are the human impacts of planning already underway. New border fences are an integral part of current legislative initiatives.
On Feb. 6, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that the Fiscal Year 2007 federal budget would allocate over $400 million to add 6,700 additional detention beds for migrants, part of a10-year Homeland Security strategic plan, code-named ENDGAME.
According to a Homeland Security document on the plan, ENDGAME aims to carry out goals “articulated in the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.” Homeland Security is seeking the ability to “remove all removable aliens,” including “illegal economic migrants, aliens who have committed criminal acts, asylum-seekers or potential terrorists.”
Mr. Bush and the Christian fascists in power have found their scapegoat–and it is us. We are the new Jews in a new Germany in a new century. They call it the New American Century, a New World Order, a “unipolar” Reich–a White America over all.
E Pluribus Unum: the many eradicated; reduced to One. White. Nation.
This is the pretext. They call us “invaders.” We represent a “destabilizing factor” for the “nation.” They say we are dirty, just like they said the Jews were dirty — and disease ridden.
They say our neighborhoods and our culture are “cesspools.” They want to keep their culture “pure.” They say we “steal” the jobs that they have in fact shipped overseas, and that are nowhere to be found. And now they’re calling us “terrorists,” just like they called our ancestors “savages.”
After decades the nation’s long-suppressed racism is finding an open voice once more, and they are openly strategizing about how to best appeal to the unconscious racist sentiments just beneath the surface among a broader public.
US Congressman Tom Tancredo warns about us: we (Mexicans and migrant peoples) “need to be found before it is too late. They’re coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren.”
It’s a matter of “spin.” One strategist on the right wing web site RedState.org tells them how to spin it. He says that to deal effectively with us our enemies must “focus on terminology.”
“People who are in this country without proper documentation,” he writes “are foreign infiltrators. These foreign infiltrators operate clandestinely within our country. They are no different than the foreign infiltrators who destroyed the world trade center and attacked the Pentagon. Except that they haven’t done anything yet.”
“Once you have the terminology correct,” he continues, “it is easy to define a solution to discourage foreign infiltration. First, treat any foreign infiltrator as a prisoner of war. Turn them over to the military…No hearings, no public defenders, no backlogged courts, no squandering of American tax dollars protecting the non-existent civil rights of foreign infiltrators.”
The strategizing isn’t empty: these Minutemen fantasies are on the verge of becoming national reality. Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner’s HR 4437, The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, recently passed the US House of Representatives. Its most extreme and punitive provisions are being upheld by the Judiciary Committee of the US Senate.
This legislation would do just what the RedState strategist ordered. Key elements of the Sensenbrenner bill include:
* Making it a felony to be in the U.S. without legal documents. Under current law this is a simple civil violation. Millions of us would be classified as “felons” and subject to immediate detention and deportation, often without so much as a hearing. Access to the courts will be severely restricted if legislation currently under consideration is approved.
How can they tell who’s a felon? The felons will have brown skin. Fifty million of us. All of us will be suspects. What will they stop us for? Anything they please. After all, they already stop us for anything they please.
* Making it a federal crime to “assist” our people who are without documents.
Those who leave water in the desert to save the lives of migrants would become felons. Millions of teachers, doctors, priests, nurses, attorneys and others who give any kind of help or services to undocumented people will also become felons overnight–and could face five years in prison and have their assets seized by the government.
Giving a ride to someone without the proper “papers” could lead to felony charges. It remains unclear if renting an apartment or selling a car to someone without “papers” would become a felony.
Cardinal Mahoney of the 5 million member Los Angeles Diocese of the Catholic Church has declared he will order his priests to defy this law, if it is passed.
* Expanding police powers over immigrants. Police departments would be granted greater power to check legal status, a move that would increase the number of immigration enforcement agents by 60 times the current number. Local law enforcement agencies would be paid for detaining our people and turning us over to federal authorities.
These provisions will turn police into bounty hunters, the moral equivalent of Cazamigrantes, and highlight their role as a modern version of the Night Riders that once terrorized communities of color.
* The construction of five double-layer border fences–totaling 698 miles–in California and Arizona.
Over 4,000 people have died trying to cross the US/ Mexican border since fences
in California forced people to cross at points in the Sonora desert into Arizona.
* Requiring employers to collect Social Security numbers and other data on workers and turn it over to the Department of Homeland Security, which would then verify worker’s “legal status” and store the data. All workers would, in effect, need a government clearance before they could have a job, any job.
* In a related development, the U.S. government announced in February 2006 that it plans to pay Halliburton $385 million to build new “detention centers” to imprison us.
This is a chilling and potentially deadly development in a nation that kidnaps and spirits captives to secret prisons in Europe and which runs torture centers in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo–torture centers which are condemned and denounced the world over.
In concert with the specter of mass deportations, pogroms, and widespread, race-based scapegoating, new “detention centers” strikes a chord eerily close to concentration camp.
As one writer questioned “Just what will happen in these detention centers, built to lock away undocumented people whose legal rights have been disappeared, and who have been cast as “hordes,” “invaders,” and a threat to national security?”
On the ultra-Right, anti-Mexican shock groups such as the National Policy Institute, Minutemen leaders, and others are calling for our mass deportation.
The Minutemen’s Jim Gilchrist has called for the National Guard to be deployed at the Mexican / US border. Gilchrist’s partner and rival in the Minutemen, Chris Simcox, makes the agenda clear, saying, “Oh, Jesus, it is unbelievable. I mean, we need the National Guard to clean out all our cities and round them up. They are hard-core criminals. They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughters and they are evil people.”
While there is no mention of using the National Guard under the federal legislation currently under consideration, clear steps leading toward a police state for people of indigenous descent are being advanced–and the record shows that when the Euro-colonialist leadership of the US chooses to attack us, mass deportation of migrants and Chicanos alike is the weapon of choice.
It can happen here. In fact, it has.
Over 1 million of us were deported during the racist “Operation Wetback” in the year 1954, alone.
Before the mass deportations during the Great Depression a Congressman from Texas testified in formal hearings that a strict quota system should be imposed on Mexicans because we are “germ-carriers, inassimilable, a people who are with us but not of us, and not for us.” We are, he said “incapable of development away from” a condition of “moral and financial pauperism,” and that our influence was causing “the breaking down of [the] social fabric….”
If this rhetoric sounds familiar, it should. It is the unchanging rhetoric of white nationalism.
That such rhetoric is being used again by the highest authorities in the US should be cause for deep alarm, especially in the context of the Patriot Act and other dramatic moves toward legalized fascism in the US.
That the State is acting on this rhetoric to create a felonized, legally scapegoated racial and cultural under-caste calls for uncompromising action aimed at our self defense as a People.
JUAN SANTOS is editor of Mexica Tlahtolli, a Chicano and Native American newspaper in Los Angeles. He can be reached at JuanSantos@Mexica.net