Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Climate of Fear on the Border

One of the unspoken tragedies and implicit intentions of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, is the promotion of a climate of fear among certain segments of the population. This fear-mongering strategy has been cooked up by the bill’s leading proponents and most likely beneficiaries: the governor, rightwing state legislators, and an unscrupulous sheriff who shall remain nameless. As the political leadership of a failing state, they should be squarely on the hot seat, but instead they have managed to deflect scrutiny and pass the buck down the ladder to the bottom rung instead.

Here in Arizona, constant talk of murders, beheadings, escalating crime, and a rising tide of violence due to the presence of illegal immigrants has fanned the flames of terror and suspicion. It is empirically false but emotionally persuasive, in the true spirit of propaganda and demagoguery. Reporters’ questions about the propriety of elected officials denigrating their own state can be sidestepped — but now, the chickens may be coming home to roost, as indicated by a recent article in The Daily Beast:

“[T]he fierce debate over Arizona’s new migrant law … has stirred up the ugly underside of immigration — hate groups with nativist and white-supremacist links. Long story short, Arizona’s new immigration law gives ‘racism a place to hide,’ says Roxanne Doty, an Arizona State University professor who has long studied the nexus of white supremacy and immigration policy in Arizona…. ‘My view is you can’t separate white supremacists from what is going on with Arizona immigration,” Professor Doty says. “Even if politicians say they aren’t associated with white supremacists, the ideas behind SB 1070 are very attractive to white supremacists.…'”

There is mounting evidence to support these claims, including the presence of avowed neo-Nazis “wearing camouflage and toting high-powered firearms” while patrolling for — and detaining — illegal aliens on the Arizona-Mexico border. As reported by the Associated Press and reprinted in papers around the state:

“Jason ‘J.T.’ Ready is taking matters into his own hands, declaring war on ‘narco-terrorists’ and keeping an eye out for illegal immigrants…. Ready’s group is heavily armed and identifies with the National Socialist Movement, an organization that believes only non-Jewish, white heterosexuals should be American citizens and that everyone who isn’t white should leave the country ‘peacefully or by force.’ … He and his friends are outfitted with military fatigues, body armor and gas masks, and carry assault rifles. Ready takes offense at the term ‘neo-Nazi,’ but admits he identifies with the National Socialist Movement. ‘These are explicit Nazis,’ said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. ‘These are people who wear swastikas on their sleeves.’ Ready is a reflection of the anger over illegal immigration in Arizona….”

In a series of blogs and articles beginning in 2008, the Phoenix New Times has documented the rising presence of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in the state, and their repeated connections with elected officials including the senatorial sponsor of SB 1070. Some of the more disturbing reports include not only financial and political intertwining, but also a perverse rapport that is juxtaposed with visceral images of extremists shouting “sieg heil” at immigrant rights marchers and wiping imaginary “Mexcrement” (as they called it) on a Mexican flag.

Still, this could all be written off as childish posturing and low-level hijinks. Except for the fact that hate groups are extremely dangerous, not only for what they represent but for the acts committed in their name. Recently in Arizona there have been hate crimes with explicit “white power” fingerprints on them, the murder of a Hispanic man attributed by family members to the tensions created by SB 1070, and a robbery-murder enterprise conducted by apparent vigilantes ostensibly to fund their “border security” operations.

Furthermore, and perhaps most strikingly, there has been a wave of violence AGAINST undocumented people in the past two years that has gone largely unnoticed in the furor over SB 1070, as recently reported by the Nogales International:

“Another undocumented immigrant has been shot in Santa Cruz County. Jose Enedion Acosta-Amaniego, 28, from Culiacan, Sinaloa, was shot in the back by unidentified assailants as he was walking through a canyon area west of Rio Rico on July 2, officials said…. A similar attack occurred on June 11 when five illegal border-crossers were ambushed by two camouflage-clad gunmen near the dead end of Peck Canyon Drive in Rio Rico. One of the men, Manuel Esquer Gomez, 45, was shot in the arm as the group fled. Following that attack, Sheriff Antonio Estrada expressed concern that someone might be targeting undocumented immigrants in the county solely for the purpose of harming them, not to rob them…. According to records kept by the Nogales International, more than 50 incidents of borderland robberies and/or assaults have been reported to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office since April 10, 2008. During these incidents, nearly a dozen people have been shot and at least three have been killed. Their assailants have been described as men carrying semi-automatic weapons and wearing black and/or camouflage who lie in ambush on the U.S. side of the border. Another three cases of sexual assault against undocumented immigrants have been reported to local authorities, but officials and advocates say the incidence of the crime is common and most often goes unreported.”

Fostering an environment of racialized violence is the harsh reality of Arizona’s drive toward legislated intolerance. For those who might feel saturated by the incessant news about immigration, or who wonder “what’s the big deal?” about SB 1070 and the like, this is a reminder of the stakes involved. Will there be a climate of escalating fear, hatred, and violence that takes over, or will this be a tipping point toward social justice and human dignity instead? Politics and legalities aside, this is the basic question that the Arizona dilemma is posing to the nation — mirroring that which was posed by Martin Luther King, Jr. almost half a century ago: “Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

The choice lies squarely ahead. No matter what ensues in the near term, navigating this path will remain our task. In the end, as King observed, it shall remain the case that “right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Time will soon tell.

RANDALL AMSTER, J.D., Ph.D., teaches Peace Studies at Prescott College and serves as the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail