A View from the Border with Isabel Garcia
General Assembly 2012 Event 207
Isabel Garcia is a Tucson resident from a family that has been there six generations. She is a migrant rights and border activist, lawyer, and board member of Coalicion Derechos Humanos. She brings clarity to the history and political actions in Arizona and the nation.
SPEAKER 1: Welcome, everybody. I cannot begin to tell you what an honor and a privilege it is for me to introduce our speaker this morning. I've been serving our congregation in Tucson for six years now, which means that I'm the migrant. The Garcia family has roots in Tucson that go back six generations. So what Isabel brings to us today is a perspective that is very much grounded in memory and in history.
So the history of this border land is very much a part of her DNA. It's in her bones. It's in her blood. And in addition to that, her family has a long tradition of activism, working for everything from civil rights for African Americans to labor union organizing in the copper mines. So it's no mistake that Isabel comes to us with that passion of activism. And she also is a lawyer, and just a downright good human being.
So it's, again, my honor and my privilege to introduce to you Isabel Garcia. I hope you will just absorb her wisdom and her charm and her spirit and her passion. And I believe we have one brief announcement before Isabel. But thank you for being here.
Speaker Isabel Garcia
ISABEL GARCIA: Thank you so much.
SPEAKER 2: Good morning. I just have a brief announcement for the Spanish speakers.
[SPEAKING IN SPANISH]
ISABEL GARCIA: Buenos dias. Good morning to all of you. I can't tell you how happy I am to be here. But I have to apologize for a couple of things. I am also at another conference in Tempe related to my work, and I'm the director of my office. I have to be there at noon to give out an award. So I will end at 11:30, hopefully, instead of 11:45, and unfortunately can't be around for questions.
But I know there's so much, so much to cover. And I know this is just a beginning for all of us. I see it as—for all of you and for all of us, we have to see everything as a new beginning. And for us that you come at this historic moment to Phoenix, to the center here in Arizona, is so important. So more than anything I want to thank you. I want to thank you and thank you and thank you for coming. Because we cannot have fair immigration, fair communities without all of us embracing and realizing our full humanity and the reality of immigration.
So today I know there's a lot to say. So I'll get on. Its "A Voice from the Border," it's titled. And in some ways it's way beyond the border, but I'm glad it's titled about the border, because that's in fact our reality. It's a reality that is coming to you, and that's why you're here. The border has come to all of you.
And that's the reality that we as the 99% are waking up. Not the whole 99% have woken up about what the 1% is doing. And certainly, critically involved the 1% are in the whole issue of migration, not just on our borders, Canada and Mexico, but beyond, where Latin America sees us as their northern front. And we are the southern front as we see it. Because as a person in the United States, I have seen that we are the southern front, and we are in fact the laboratory.
To tell you the story about the border, I can't just start where I want to start, which is 1994. There has to be a more historical perspective. And I really believe that our country has to engage in a national dialogue about migration, immigration, and who we are as a country. We tout ourselves as a nation of immigrants, and yet no one knows—pretty much, not everyone—some people know—but no one knows in this country the history of immigration.
And I face up to it every single day where I go to different congregations, different conferences where people have no idea about the history of immigration. When people say to you, how can we have 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country, that's a great question. That's an opportunity for us to engage the public into the reality of immigration.
I don't have time really to talk about everything that needs to be talked about. But you know that these were the Americas. These were indigenous lands. These were Spanish lands, eventually Mexican lands. Tuscon was an actual Mexican town. The United States, in an act of war, took over half of Mexico's land. We had Manifest Destiny.
And when I say these things, then in the blogs I'm accused of and a traitor to my country, that what I'm arguing for is giving this land back to Mexico. And it's ridiculous, because as angry as I am at the United States of American government, I am angry at the governments of Mexico. It is not about aligning with our governments. It's about aligning with ourselves, with each other, with the workers, with the most humble amongst us. Because it is the suffering of the most humble of us where we learn, where we define who we are as individuals and as a nation.
And we have to know this history. After the war—and of course, the border has always been filled with some kind of violence, generally dispossession of lands from the indigenous and from Mexico. That's the history. But moving forward, we see that we don't have so much violence at the border, until we began a strategy that I'll focus in on, in '94, to talk about the border.
But those of us that have that question posed to us, why are 11 million undocumented people here, we should know the answer to say, because that's what our policies wanted. When people say the system is broken, and I hear it a lot about the immigration system being broken, I understand what they're trying to say. But to be even clearer, you have to understand it is not broken. It has been set up this way. We have 11 million undocumented people because we have invited 11 million people to come in an unauthorized fashion.
Two key words—we've invited them without papers. And obviously we know why that is. And this is a reality. After we treated the Chinese immigrants so badly—and we should all know these histories, we should know our history. We have warts and beauty. We should not try to hide and airbrush who we are as a nation.
A Fight in Tucson
We have a fight in Tucson, Arizona. The Mexican American Studies program, which is a great program, to teach young people the history of the Americas, their participation here resulting in graduation rates they've not seen. Going into college has now been declared illegal by these people here—Horne, Huppenthal, Pearce, the whole array of them, because they don't want the truth. And the truth really is what's the most liberating, as we all know.
And in immigration history you must know that we have terrible episodes in the United States. Yes, we have the genocide of the indigenous. We have slavery. And we have immigration history that we must know to understand who we are and the richness that we are, because we are a nation of immigrants.
In the early 1900s we imposed the Chinese Exclusion Act. And we had a head tax. For anybody who wanted to bring in an immigrant there was a tax to be paid. Immigrants at that point in time were under the jurisdiction of the Department of Treasury. Eventually we went under Department of Justice. And in the worst thing that's happened to immigrants, but to all of us here, is that in April of 2003 we were pushed under Department of Homeland Security, with that tent of being a potential threat to Homeland Security.
So back in the early 1900s, allegedly the Chinese worker didn't work. They were laying a track and they were exploited. And they formed a commission, it was industrialist, in DC, Dillingham Commission, to figure out who is going to help us build this nation. And it was easy to see. You turn south, lot of Mexicanos.
And we began in a departmental order of 1916 issued by the Department of Justice, our government. This is our government. People say, oh it's just the corporations that are benefiting. Let's put employer sanctions in. Everything will be fine. No. We have all benefited. Every one of us continue to benefit. My life is enriched by the people who impoverish their lives to make my life better. And it's always been that way.
And in 1916 they issued a waiver to those economic forces to not have to pay a head tax if you brought in a Mexican. And I talk about the waiver because you have to put that into perspective, that beginning at that time we have now created an invitation, in impetus for Mexicanos to come. Many people in this country don't know that their are entire towns and pueblos all over Mexico that generation after generation after generation after generation have sent their young men, towns that you would visit and only the women and children and the elderly there.
This is a long tradition that we started. We even codified it. We codified it through the signing of the Bracero Program. What was that, 1942 to '64. We saw the crossing of almost 4 million migrants, crossings of over 3 million or so people. The war was over. And at the time, mind you, the scholars called those migrants the agricultural and the railroad soldiers of the war effort. And yet when they came back what did they face? Massive discrimination and suffering. I personally have known braceros that have had go to Hermosillo to die, who have suffered a lot.
We have asked migrants to come. When 11 million undocumented immigrants are here, it's not because we have a generous immigration policy. It's not because we give welfare. It's not because the roads are paved with gold and everything's wonderful. We have evidence, and you can look it up in the congressional record and other places, we have records of companies advertising throughout Mexico to come and work in the United States.
People say, what don't you get about illegal? I submit to you that Mexicano immigrants in particular have answered our call. They have been following our rules, the rules of a capitalist system, with supply and demand and all of it. We are addicted to cheap labor as we are addicted to drugs. And then we penalize them, privatize, and look what we have. And I'll talk a little bit more about the drugs.
And so I don't want to talk too much about the history, but in the mid '80s we begin to see the economic forces are changing. Immigration sensibilities are changing, at least on the governmental level. And we begin to see the growth of a different kind of system along the border, a border that is essentially open.
And I don't see that to scare you. I say that to tell you that's been the reality. That has been our reality with Mexico, Mexico who so many people hate. You say Mexico, and you see people cringe. And they think it's violence and drugs and everything, and not really understanding, in my estimation, how fortunate we are to have Mexico as a neighbor.
So we've had good neighbor policies. And in the '80s we begin to see a shift. Lupe Castillo and I started to talk about this militarization of the border. People would roll their eyes at us that we would say such a thing. And what do we have now? President Reagan issued a very, very important speech when he was president, and it really began to bring what we now have. He said, "This country has lost control of its borders, and no country can maintain that position." So I believe it's the beginning of this military political control, using low-intensity warfare strategies that were previously utilized in Central America and others, and citing as their justification immigration, drugs, and then terrorism, which really ratcheted up things in a huge, huge way.
In the mid 1990s we began to see this merging. Now everybody thinks Homeland Security—nobody thinks twice whether it's involved in civil or what area. Is it Department of Defense? Is it military? Is it civil? We began to see this merging with the Department of Justice, INS, and Department of Defense with Joint Task Force 6. That is in El Paso.
I don't know if you recall, but in 1997 a young US citizen, Chicano Esequiel Hernandez, who wanted to be a Marine, 19 years old, was shot and killed by a Marine unit of the Joint Task Force 6. And even Lamar Smith, who is our enemy, had scathing things to say. And so let's move forward. And we know what happened after 9/11, that immediately we had a Patriot Act. We immediately saw in Tucson that they were going to up the money for the Criminal Alien Program, trying to focus on people who had already been deported. And it was hard to get any traction with people. And now we can see the reality.
In April of 2003, like I said, the Department of Homeland Security collapsed like 22 federal agencies, including INS and the Border Patrol. And it's really had the worst impact for all of us. The Border Patrol strategy measures rely exclusively on police, military-type force, incarceration, deportation, criminalization, discrimination, actual militarization of the border as the solutions to the complex issues of migration, trade, human rights, civil rights, and ignore the really destructive impacts to society that we know.
Is migration really a law enforcement issue? Is migration a Homeland Security issue? Why do we have record migration around the world, not just in the United States? Most Americans think that all immigrants come to the United States. We only see a percentage of all migrants in transition. It is worldwide, especially with the changing of basic economic structures, as we've seen through free trade policies and on.
When my father was a union organizer, capital had to have some respect for labor. It was a concession. They organized, and now what do we have? All of these shops have gone abroad. And we don't want that. And people are telling us that we've got to get them to come back. The reality that they don't tell you is we have to agree to $4-an-hour jobs if we want them to come back, or maybe $2. That's what they want to come back. So we began, then, to see the impact.
In 1994, we begin on the border policies called Prevention Through Deterrence. I don't know if you've heard them. Eventually became Operation Blockade in El Paso, and that was too rough of a word. So it was changed to Operation Hold the Line, started by Sylvester Reyes, who was a Border Patrol sector chief, and Johnny Williams who was in California.
They began this policy that has resulted in the death of almost 10,000 people. We don't know how many, but over a 6,000 deaths have been documented along the border because of these policies. We have Operation Gatekeeper, Operation Rio Grande, Operation Hold the Line. And in Arizona, where we see the majority of all the deaths across the country every year, more people die than the entire Berlin Wall experience in one year. And no one knows about it.
And in Arizona we have Operation Safeguard. Safeguard what? We know at the time that we were going to see an influx of migrants. Just as Senator McCain was debating me on national TV, he was saying that NAFTA was going to solve all our immigration problems. That's what they said. Jim Colby said that.
Where is our collective memory not to counter them and say, I thought you said that NAFTA would solve our immigration problems? You know what has happened. According to the United Nation, 6 million people in Mexico, workers, working related to agriculture, have left since NAFTA, crossing unlawfully into the United States, or with another kind of visa and violating the agreements there.
Mexico fed its people badly, but corn and beans—everybody could have corn tortillas and beans. And Mexico exported a multitude of agricultural products. Where is Mexico today? Importing these products. Importing corn, for god's sake. Corn. We are the people of the maize. But their technocrats and their elite do not care about el maize and the corn, not just as a commodity and how they have survived. But it is a sacred part of our culture. And they don't know it.
I had an exchange with their secretary of state when I was in President Fox's committee of 100 people to tell Mexico what the situation was. And when I told him about Mexico doing this shameful thing of allowing Monsanto corn that's destroying native seeds and all in letting the US sell it for a cheaper price and undercutting—and as part of NAFTA they had to change their constitution to do away with the ejido system, which is why the Zapatistas rose up in rebellion, if you will recall.
He said to me before I could even get the words out of my mouth, he said, I think it's good that Mexico can buy cheaper corn from the United States. I was more Mexican being six generations in Arizona, US citizen and proud. I was more Mexican the Secretary of State for Mexico. And then his next breath, because I said, I see a lot of people in [INAUDIBLE] and all their job—it's done away with. They've had to escape.
He said, do you think those people are too stupid to do anything than farm work? So that tells you the mentality of those in the elite. And then he talked about where his daughters would go to college. One wants to go to Paris. One wants to go to San Francisco or New York—in the same conversation where we're talking about migrants risking their lives as we speak this very minute.
So in the mid 1990s we began NAFTA, and we began building walls. Why would we build walls if we really thought the migration problem would be solved, right? They knew that wasn't the situation. They knew that more migrants would become. And the government has become more of gatekeepers for corporations. Let's face it, that's what's going on along the border in many ways.
But we didn't want to stop all migration, because you know what, we need migration. We're not reproducing at the same rate. There's all these things that have been—we need migrants. That's been the other secret. Not only is the border open, but don't tell anybody, but we need migrants.
And so we began to close off the traditional crossing areas for all migrants. And we funneled them through the Arizona border. 52% of all migrants then in the peak coming through Arizona. And now I say at the peak because the migration has plummeted. Plummeted. And yet you're hearing for more calls for more agents, for more security, and all of that. And I'll talk a little bit about that.
So we closed up all the areas and left Arizona open. Why Arizona? I'll tell you this quickly. This is my belief. Arizona's always been very conservative. At the time, for 10 years, 11 years it was the fastest-growing state. It's not the migrants that were coming from the south. It's the migrants that were coming from Minnesota, California, New York retiring generally equating to more conservative.
Number one, conservative state. Number two, and very critical, and you will see now as we speak how important, the border of Arizona could sustain 15 years of funneling people as they wanted. I believe it's all intentional. They could funnel. Why? Because the border is owned by the federal government, state government, the Tohono O'odom Nation, who we buy, we manipulate, we work with sometimes. We treat them as a welfare state sometimes. The Tohono O'odom Nation and handful, just a handful really, of private property owners.
Why is that critical? Look at what happened to Texas, people said to me at the time. No, Texas is really conservative. It's a big state. They could do it through there. Look what happened to Chertoff when he was DHS secretary. He started building a wall and the entire community came after him. They weren't ready yet. They weren't poisoned like we were. They started a campaign against Chertoff, black, brown, white. Law enforcement, officials of every kind, Indian nations, universities did a fight back.
What happens in Arizona? It's owned by the federal government. Why? Because we are the home to some incredible environmental treasures. As hot as it seems outside and that it's desolate, it is beautiful. Our border is absolutely beautiful, home to wildlife areas, Organ Pipe National Monument, San Pedro Rio riparian area, Buenos Aires wilderness area, the entire border.
Did you see what was introduced and passed in the House yesterday? Bishop's bill from Utah that Border Patrol can have full operational access and control for the first 100 miles of the border. That includes Tucson, includes part of Pinal County, and the Canadian border south. 100 miles full in operational control because the claim by the politicians, generally Republican, in DC are that the land managers care too much about the land and not about our security. Where is our security?
So we funneled people. And we had the media as complicit partners, every day announcing the sayings of the vigilantes and all the anti-immigrants. Remember, we're the home to a whole bunch of vigilante groups. I can't even remember all the names. But you will recall—or you should recall—that in April of 2005, the Minutemen formed here at the border, about 100 middle-aged men that came to the border. And we were there.
And I saw hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of media representatives. And we knew that would be bad news, because they would take that message. And soon after that, anti-immigrant packs formed all over your communities in this country, which then was laying the fertilization and foundation for what was then coming in Arizona.
Once we poisoned the narrative against immigrants here in Arizona, we as voters passed four anti-immigrant measures. Actually, the first one in 2004, Prop 200, that attempted to strip immigrants of certain rights that they already didn't have under the law. And then in November of 2006, the voters of Arizona voted for four anti-immigrant measures, two of them amending our Constitution, including the right to bail.
The notion of you're innocent until you're proven guilty is so critical in our system, more than anything else. And now I see it with the growth of the police state is that being free from police detention is absolutely critical. So bail is denied in this state if you're an undocumented immigrant and are simply accused of a felony—simply accused of a felony.
We also amended the Constitution that if I have a roof that caves in on me and I'm undocumented, I can only gain compensatory damages, no punitive damages— even though my lawyer can prove that this company knew this was all defective, they had hurt other people in other states. You're an undocumented immigrant, you cannot get punitive damages.
And of course that was a big sell here. First of all it's, how dare you come into our country unlawfully and then think that we're going to pay you punitive damages. Or how dare you think you're accused of a crime. You should be held without bond—not understanding that we've allowed a foot in the door, first of all for corporations who want to do away with punitive damages.
Many of you know that punitive damages is why some of our products are very safe. Because companies are afraid. And they've been fighting punitive damages. And at the time, who's falling off roofs and getting hurt? Many Mexican immigrants. Do you think they sue? No they don't.
So we were poisoned. And then eventually we elected all the anti-immigrants, the Minutemen in suits. And we elected them, began to churn out anti-immigrant measures one at a time. You wouldn't believe some of the sessions that we passed in the past few years. 2006, 2007, 2008, 49 measures being introduced, all anti-immigrant—nasty anti-immigrant measures that it's unbelievable, some of the things that they want to do, many of them being discussed in hearings, some passing on committees, some not passing the full House.
But you already know that we have passed some of the most anti-immigrant legislation. Did you know that an undocumented worker, many of them utilize a fictitious Social Security number? Do you think they use it to set up a credit card and steal money? No. In fact, a case that I did and we did in 2008, the Panda Express case in 2000, they charged them with aggravated identity theft. So I step beyond myself.
So we, in 2007, enacted legislation to make it a Class IV felony—serious felony—if you use fictitious information or false information of a personal nature. And they even included in parentheses, even of a fictitious person. Even if it's a Joe weird last name that doesn't exist. The Social Security number doesn't match to anybody. Even that is covered under this criminal statute.
And instead of creating a brand new statute to criminalize immigrants who work under a fictitious Social Security, they were genius. What did they do? They added it to the existing statute for aggravated identity theft. In other words, you're charged. And that way the perception is that people are stealing money. In this case that we handled, the auditor of the Social Security suspense fund at that time said, it is over $200 billion. And the vast majority of that money, where did that come from, we asked him. He said, undocumented immigrants who have been paying to the system. So now we charge them with a Class IV felony.
We also enacted, even though we have a federal anti-smuggling statute—and believe me, they prosecute—we enacted a state smuggling statute. Well, we hate smugglers, right? Or so we think we do. Really, was there any difference between the contratistas in [INAUDIBLE], labor contractors as there are to the smugglers of today? It's what people do when people need to come in.
So the smugglers that we all love to hate, we thought, OK, well there's a statute now to penalize them. Well guess who's being charged under the statute here in Phoenix, Arizona by the hundreds? Hundreds have been prosecuted and sentenced and will now have a criminal record and can never come back to the United States, regardless of any of these other policies that are going on. Because now they're being found guilty of being a co-conspirator to their own smuggling.
And the Ninth Circuit has upheld that notion, that you can be found guilty— and the short title to it, if you look at an NCIC list, it says, "smuggling." So you'll always be tagged as a smuggler, even though you are part of a load of 50 people that had been brought to a safehouse here in Phoenix. And they can't ever catch a real smuggler, just like we can never catch a true drug dealer.
I'm a criminal defense attorney. I think I've seen in my lifetime just generally likes three real drug dealers prosecuted and convicted. Yet there's thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands incarcerated. In my office alone, every morning in morning court we have a dozen guys, easily, sent off to prison for having 50 pounds of pot, for bringing in $10 of pot. Whatever it is, they're going to prison.
Yet did you know that last year Wachovia Bank entered into a really cozy deal, a diversion agreement with the US government to pay $111 million fine— which is a little, tiny fraction of their profits in one year—for what? For— this should blow you off your seat—for laundering $378.5 billion for the drug cartels. Are we really against drugs? Are we really against drugs?
They didn't even name them in the diversion agreement. And it's in file in the Southern District in Florida. Wachovia Bank tries to hide it, and so then they were bought out by Wells Fargo. And now isn't it interesting that Wells Fargo has a major investment in the private detention centers. GEO Group—did you know that? There's a wide movement for divestment urging Wells Fargo to divest from the GEO Group, from CCA. Corrections Corporation of America is doing our deportations at a huge profit.
In Tucson, Arizona we have not only the criminalization of the state that I just described to you, and eventually we went to 1070, and I'll talk about that, but what people ignore is that we have a federal site. And it makes it complicated. Obama and his administration and many of our police chiefs and others were against 1070. However, they're happy with the mass not only deportation, mass criminalization of immigrants before they are put in the deportation process.
People are making billions of dollars with the militarization of our border. And where is our security? Again, if you go to Tucson, Arizona—I invite you to go—go to the US District Court. And you look up at this monstrous building that cost over $25 million a month to operate. And you go in there.
And because they've grown so much, I guess it's even more. But now 86% all of the business in the US District Court in Tucson is about what? You wouldn't guess it. Criminal cases against immigrants for what? This is mind-boggling. Illegal entry and entry after you've been deported, which is the worst. That's to two to 20 years. Every day.
Some of the lawyers in the convention we're telling me, yes I'm still doing federal court. And they get really mad at me that they have to do 48 months, just for being found. They were found in Las Vegas in a restaurant, were US citizen children, wife and whatever, and I heard him pleading to the judge, this is—you can't come back here, 48 months.
We pay CCA, Corrections Corporation of America, which is part of our Border Security measures—remember this; this is what it looks like—we pay CCA a check of $17 million-plus, because it's growing every month. 17 million times 12. Per month. Per month we pay them $17 million to incarcerate just those folks, incarce criminalized in our US District Court for the grand crimes of illegal entry and illegal reentry, short term for that. Does that make you feel more secure, too? 17 million to CCA. Is that a good use?
In Tucson, Arizona they are closing out post office that cost $14 million a year to run, employs hundreds of people, provides vital service to us, and is a lifeblood of the small businesses that use the postal services for a cheap flyer kind of system. $14 million a year, and we're closing it down. Our mail is going to all have to come to Phoenix. Yet we can pay $17 million a month just to a private corporation, not to mention the $25 million it cost us to run the court and the millions that they've yet to answer us about the defense cost and the prosecution cost.
If you went to Tucson, Arizona and went to see how we treat the misdemeanors—in other words, people that were only going to get 180 days— but just to see how we're beginning to normalize—remember, immigrants are used to normalize violations for every one of us. The labor unions are attacked because we allowed the attacks on immigrants. Attacks on everybody, a result because we permit the attacks on the LBGT community. So it goes on and on. And so here at this federal court when you're treated as a misdemeanor, now we've normalized this mass, gross simplification and streamline it. They call it Operation Streamline. They don't like it, but it's stuck now, Operation Streamline.
A criminal process has a process. You have an initial appearance. You have certain rights there to bail, to lawyers, and it has a process. All of that is done away with. And when you're in Operation Streamline and you're one of the lucky ones that's just being charged with illegal entry, you get 70 people crammed with chains. Imagine heavy chains on your ankles to your waist and to your wrist. Every single day in Tucson in the court, 70 people chained, and en masse. In one hour they come out a criminal for the grand crime of illegal entry. And in fact, the judge says, you came in here without a criminal record, you now have a criminal record. And you're now going to be deported.
We've already streamlined the deportation arsenal. And it's not people come to me and say, oh my god, Obama's very anti-immigrant, because he's deported more immigrants than anybody else. No. He's not more anti-immigrant. It's that every single administration that I can think of, Democrat or Republican, has continued to finance and resource this monster we have created, the Border Patrol. And now they've got customs and border inspection. We have ICE. We've created this monster.
Do you feel, really, more secure? Security. That's what we're talking about when we talk about the border. Everybody talks, we have to secure the border first. We need to have border security. What does that mean? We can tell you what it means and what it looks like. And this is what it looks like.
We have a federal administration that was against 1070. And right before signing it—she signed it on April the 23rd of 2010—Obama's administration, Janet Napolitano who was a governor here, militarized part of that border, too. But what did they do? They sent 800 federal agents to the state of Arizona on April the 15th of 2010. My mother's neighborhood was surrounded. There was helicopters. There were guys covered up. They did an incredible exercise.
They tried to then later say, we came to do a crackdown on the shuttle buses who are really located right close to my mother. On 12th Avenue there's a lot of shuttle companies. They take people from Nogales to Tucson to Phoenix to Flagstaff. And they focused in on these little mom and pop, what, that are supposed to ask for documents? But nothing ever came. The media let it go.
Yet 800 agents came into our communities and assaulted us. Together, in my opinion, I think they did it as an exercise, a live exercise. Because they brought together every single agency you can imagine, every police agency, DEA, ATF, Customs, Santa Cruz County police, Nogales city police, Tucson, all way through—The Pima Community College campus police, U of A campus police. And they did a massive exercise, with 800 agents, allegedly for 40 people that they wound up arresting. And have we really heard anything what happened to their cases? Absolutely not.
This was the federal government. It's very difficult. Because we have Obama being against 1070. However, the federal government creating this incredible apparatus that is really taking away from real security. Because you and I know what real security is. It's having a house. It's having a job and food, health care, infrastructure, good streets, good education. Do we have that? No. Many of us do not.
Teachers are being fired as we speak, and yet my cousin's son, who's a Border Patrol agent—and now they don't tell me much—but three years ago was earning $83,000 a year. And we start our teachers here at $30,000? And we demand everything from our teachers, and it's $30,000. And now even they are being fired. Do we really love our children?
And yet we can spend this kind of money for things that bring total insecurity. They bring death. Derechos Humanos in Tucson, we're involved in this horrific work that we never imagined ourselves to be involved in— identifying the dead, identifying the missing. We get photos. We get dental records. We have to work with the Office of Medical Examiners. We have to talk to women to say, yes, it is your husband. He died. Or, no it's not. You think it is, but it's not. This horrific work, does this sound like security to you?
People did not die before we began the militarization of this border. And yet they tout it in order to save deaths sometimes. When I was arguing and fighting with Mexico, I saw where they entered into agreements with the United States to build more walls to prevent death, when it's the growth of the military kind of structure along the border that is causing death.
And now not only that, it has become internalized. We are seeing it on the streets. We knew that we would come to a point where local law enforcement would be in total collaboration with the federal government. And that's what this court appears—it appears will be their decision. I believe that they will strike down the portion that makes it a crime. And really, practically speaking, think about it. Of course they're going to do that.
If we permitted 1070 as it is, we would have absolutely no money for anything else. Because there's a mandatory provision that says, the police officer must ask you. And if you don't have your documents, if you're undocumented, you will be charged with a criminal offense of being a person without documents. That's why police chiefs were against it. Our police chief was against it. But he likes secure communities. And he likes 287(g). That's what I'm saying. It's very complicated.
Our sheriff was against 1070, but then on national TV said, we should not make police officers do that. What we should do is check children's status at the schools. So it's complicated. Who are our friends? And what about ourselves?
Wonderful, good people that I know asked me after 1611 was defeated—1611 was the one that was going to do everything else bad that needed to be done to immigrants that we hadn't done before in Arizona, plus the bill that said, you're not a US citizen, we're not going to give you a birth certificate. It was about to be signed. And why wasn't it signed? Because the night before it was going to be signed, 60 CEOs sent an emergency letter to all the Republicans and said, stop. The boycott has hurt our economy. Your antics and the boycott has hurt this state.
That's what stopped—make no mistake about it. I know there's a lot of problems with boycotts and the debate about it. But that's what stopped us from becoming even more anti-immigrant. One of the only tools that our people have, that people have, all people, and that is to boycott—not to spend your money somewhere, to make them hurt, that's what stopped it.
And so now we are in this 1070 limbo. And it looks like they're going to allow the portion that says a police officer can ask you for your documents if—this is this great quote that we've lived under for a long time. We didn't need 1070. This is the law in Tucson. TPD policy is that in the course of stopping you for a broken windshield or whatever it is, you have a reasonable suspicion that the person's in violation of federal immigration laws.
You know how complicated the federal immigration laws are? My professor in tax said the next most complicated set of laws are in the immigration arena, because it's so codified in codes versus just statute. And yet the police all believe—and they've told me to my face. The assistant police chief told me in Tucson, you're either legal or you're not. You have somebody saying, what's reasonable suspicion? Well, he answered, she didn't have a US driver's license. And she spoke Spanish. That's reasonable suspicion? And that's coming from them.
How are we going—and people say, OK, well let's train them properly. What kind of training are we going to do? It is racial profiling. Make no mistake about it. We are about to legalize discrimination. We're about to legalize racial profiling. And I'm telling you, there will be resistance. And you will help us resist. I know you will help us resist.
Young Immigrants Are Our Real Hope
Because we cannot have this. And the youth of today, the young immigrant, the dreamers that they call them, are our real hope. They provide me with the hope that I don't have in other sectors, that I've lost trust in. And immigrant-friendly national organizations that still sometimes make me cringe when they say things that are, well, not the criminals—pitting us between the good immigrant and the bad immigrant. When are we going to stop that, the good human being versus the bad human being kind of thing? And that's what's going on.
And the young people of today are the people that grew up. I know them. I grew up with their 17-year-old older brother deported. Can never come back because he was found smoking a marijuana joint with another friend in a high school. Deported for life. The kids who can't go see their grandmother just across in Nogales Sonora. It's an everyday thing. They cannot join families. We have policies that are so anti-family in the area of immigration that we should be ashamed, the kind of brutality that we do to the family structure.
And it's these young people—they have not grown up with hate. They've grown up with a real road and vision for justice. They really have. Most of them don't even know that they're such leaders. But you give them a mic, and they never hurt another group. When 9/11 happened there were some immigrant groups that said, oh, yeah, we're not the Arabs. We're not the Muslims— hurting each other. And the young people of today don't.
At the border we see the impact first-hand. We've been working with environmental groups for a very long time, and we have some very, very strong people defending immigrant rights because they've been involved. But look at the piece of legislation that was just approved by the House. If you would see the destruction of our fragile ecosystem there, not by immigrants who come through and are made to drop their trash. What they see as trash and ugly, some of us look as—we cry with the garbage that we see. And it's an easy cleanup.
But the kind of damage that's done by the Border Patrol, you would not believe. The Tohono O'odom against the wall have pictures of Camp Grip. They have photographs that document they've been violating federal laws intended to protect our environment. They don't care about flora and fauna. And they scare us into thinking we must use every element to safeguard our borders.
And we have all this violence in Mexico. Why are we having the violence in Mexico? It's because we love drugs. In this country we consume more drugs than anybody else. We love our drugs. We have issues with drugs. We have medical issues. It's a medical issue. It's an education, medical issue. It certainly isn't just a law enforcement issue. And what have we done? We have criminalized it just like we've criminalized people. We've criminalized our addictions. We're addicted to cheap labor, and we're addicted to cheap drugs.
Now, the drug war, how many billions have we spent? Have we even made a dent? Nothing. We have more drugs, cheaper drugs, and purer drugs. And now we have taken our war on drugs into Mexico, and it's cost over 60,000 lives in Mexico.
Javier Sicilia will come through beginning August the 12th throughout the country with his caravan—the poet who lost his son to this drug violence, an innocent bystander who lost his life. He was a Pulitzer Prize poet. And he said, this world deserves no more words, or something. He issued a beautiful poem. And he's done two caravans in Mexico and one that's coming through in the United States.
We are going to also see an influx of migrants fleeing the violence in Mexico. Are we in a national security threat state? No. But we've created Mexico to be in a situation where they are facing a national security threat.
And so when we talk about the border and you go back to your communities, I really urge you to try to give them a picture of what border security measures look like. Because it's their money being spent. It's my money being spent. It's your money being spent. And is there any security that is resulting from any of these policies?
I submit to you it is not. We are growing an apparatus out of control. And it's not just a call for legalization. People say to me, if we just got all legalized. Well, African American youth are citizens and yet are being trampled upon. Is it really papers? Carlos Lamadrid, a young Chicano was killed in Douglas by a Border Patrol agent. Shot three times in the back. They refuse to give us any answers yet.
Bennett Patricio, a Tohono O'odom young man that was run over by Border Patrol agents under some terrible conditions and situations—is that really what we want? Yes, an immigrant will say, yes I want a paper, but why? Our number one demand, whether we're immigrant or not, brown or white, is we want to be left alone from unreasonable searches and seizures, because we are becoming a police state.
And with technology and the increase, we are all subject to it. You will not have a reprieve from these measures. Immigrants are simply utilized to normalize this violation. Oh, I don't care, I'm not an illegal alien. We only have one Constitution, and it protects all of us. We don't have a Constitution for immigrants and one for citizens. It's for all of us.
And so we have to keep that in mind, that if we think of the people dying at the border with the billions being spent, but the love of their families to compel them to cross this hostile border, if we got into their state of mind and that kind of humanity, then I think we will reach a just United States and a just world. And I'm out of time. Thank you very much. I really, really appreciate you.
For more information contact socialjustice @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Friday, August 10, 2012.
- Faithful Witness and Action
- Theological Reflection
- Religious Education
- Immigration as a Moral Issue
- GA Presentations
- 1070 Copycats, Barrio Defense
- Confronting Arizonification
- Rev. Joffrey Black at Tent City Jail
- Arizona Immigration Ministry Witness
- Candlelight Vigil at Tent City Jail
- Ware Lecture by Maria Hinojosa
- Political Crossfires (1)
- Regional Take Home Gatherings
- Migrant & Human Rights Strategies: Effective Advocacy
- Resources for All Ages
- Doctrine of Discovery
- A View from the Border
- Postville Raid
- For-Profit Incarceration
- Common Read, Reflection, Action
- Community Celebration
- Congregational Ministries
- Standing on the Side of Love in Phoenix
- Love Has No Borders
- Welcoming Our Neighbors
- Standing on the Side of Love with Immigrant Families
- Theology of Immigration
- Welcoming the Stranger
- Welcoming the Stranger: A Just Immigration Policy
- Public Witness: Immigration Rights
- Multigenerational Resources
- Immigration Policy
- Congregational Stories