April 29, 2010

Another Brick in the Wall

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“Aquellos que cederían la libertad esencial para adquirir una pequeña seguridad temporal, no merecen ni libertad ni seguridad.” Benjamin Franklin, founding father and leader of a revolution, believed that one must not betray essential liberties in exchange for illusions of security in the face of fear and doubt. Once Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) lifted the pen that signed Arizona’s SB 1070, she took a shameful stance, and by actually signing an explicitly oppressive bill that vilifies the humanity of all Latinos, she signaled to the world that American’s have let their guard down, and that through tactful agenda-driven manipulation, fear can conquer American policy.

Immigration policy in America has historically been driven by racism and discrimination, but if we think the past is difficult, the present is indeed daunting. Gov. Brewer has endorsed a policy of persecution, one which dehumanizes undocumented immigrants and sanctions an already under-represented group to become fodder to peace officer harassment, abuse and brutality. SB 1070 is a bill that is bound to worsen poverty and incite further violence that targets the Latino communities of Arizona and across America. By going after the foundations of day labor — the ease of accessibility to pickup willing and able-bodied worker —  Brewer has efficiently taken the bread and milk from Latino children all across Arizona whose parents, which include residents, citizens and the undocumented, survive on the income from day to day employment. Thus Brewer, with one stroke, positioned the Latino community as this decade’s scapegoat.

Brewer shares the State of Arizona with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose recent advocacy for Arizonan apartheid exemplifies the volatility of moral stances in American politics. McCain completely back-peddled from his signature bipartisan stance on immigration. During his 2008 presidential campaign, he ran in opposition to conservatives when advocating for the proposition of an amnesty bill. Today the same bipartisan block who worked with McCain promoting amnesty have declared the Arizona state law as one derived from intolerance and a recipe for racial and ethnic profiling. But the pursuit of a senate seat outweighs McCain’s morals and beliefs. McCain, who in 2007 condemned the rhetoric that was being used by the media as hate speech directed at tarnishing the Latino community, now, in 2010, had this gem to add in opposition of his previous stance: “This bill is to address drivers in cars with illegals in them that are intentionally causing accidents on freeways.” His theory of suicide drivers playing bumper cars on Route 66 because they were undocumented people wasn’t substantiated any further.  McCain rationalizes that the bill was a commentary on the frustration of the state legislature, and Brewer also grasps on the same line of argumentation, that it was frustration with border security that caused such extreme action.

Policy shouldn’t be written out of frustrations. It is exactly during the time of disorder and misunderstanding that you must gather patience and data in order to prepare the best legislation. Brewer seems rather ignorant to basic principles put forth by John Rawls on the idea of justice as fairness. Rawls says that to insure impartiality of judgment, one should place themselves in a veil of ignorance, where you are deprived of all knowledge of your personal characteristics. Thus by not knowing which social or ethnic class one belongs to, for fear of exploiting oneself, fairness is used to promote justice.

The news media has also failed the people of Arizona, and America as a whole. The media’s mishandling of sensitive statistics, such as marrying immigration with crime, and interchangeably speaking of how acts of murder are unique to illegal aliens, is irresponsible and predatory. The rhetoric in the media regarding immigration has been poisoning public opinion. A lack of tact and class with the diction chosen by news pundits, who used a palette that included dehumanizing metaphors — unlawful, illegal, alien — has allowed for a rather racist tone to color the immigration debate. Allowing xenophobic feelings of otherizing has triggered the subconscious of Americans to abandon logic for visceral ethnocentric reactions that positions “them” as opponents to “us.”

The media is doing a further disservice to the American public, and an injustice to the Mexican families, as pundits skew the root of the problem, claiming that the issue of illegal immigration is derived from failed border control. The proper discourse regarding the history of U.S. immigration policy and the push and pull factors of U.S. economic policy in Mexico are strategically being brushed aside.

The Green Revolution of the 1970s brought about technological advances to the agricultural sectors which caused a massive growth in crop production. There was a scarcity of American’s willing to work crouched down using the torturous short hoe to weed crops, all while the sweltering sun is beating down unrelentingly during the entirety of the 10 hour work days. Thus American ranchers, cotton farmers and other agricultural sectors in Arizona and across the U.S. rolled out far-reaching recruiting campaigns  up-and-down Mexican border towns. American agriculture was saved by being able to tap into the Mexican and Central American labor pool. This massive demand for workers, because of the shortage of labor, is one of the main pull factors of Mexican immigration, and the introduction of foreign free trade policy in the ’90s  brought about the push factors.

Enter NAFTA in 1993; it was meant to provide prosperity to the three most northern nations of the Americas, but behind the cloak of increased Mexican exports, Mexico’s GDP growth after NAFTA was suffering all-time lows. And as tariffs were further removed in the name of free trade, the harms from NAFTA decimated subsistence farmers all throughout Mexico. Poor farmers could no longer bring their crops to market because of their inability to compete against heavily subsidized American grain and maize which was pouring into Mexico. The dumping of cheap corn and rice collapsed the earning ability of hundreds of thousands of Mexican families. With labor opportunities looking bleak in their rural villages, the men of countless households left their children and spouses with heavy hearts in search of opportunity to earn and provide for their homes.

It is these stories of Mexican households being broken down by American economic and foreign policies that show the humanity within immigration. The narratives of the journeys of fellow men that are driven only by their altruistic responsibility to familial bonds, these genuine attempts of sacrifice to provide for a family are universal and resonate with all American families. It is the media’s role to position immigration in a sympathetic light, for immigration has been the greatest strength of this nation.

Border security talking points are the same red herring tactics that were used during the Bush era to begin the multibillion dollar funding for the wall across the Mexican border. That wall is a barrier that must be torn down; a world power cannot hide behind 2,000 miles of fence which has little utility as a deterrent but behaves rather as a symbol of fear, hatred and oppression. The political machine where corporate blocks and lobbies press their own agendas onto immigration policy must also be dissolved.

A nation that was born and forged on the backs of immigrants must stand to gain the hearts and minds of all its people. To do this its actions through policy must be righteous — if you’re going to vastly affect a certain economic sector in a neighboring country, either create a new market, or allow it to be fair. The United States should allow for Mexican subsistence farmers to take over certain agricultural sections (i.e. the organic market). Where there is will, there are just solutions. The people of Mexico belong to a resilient and vibrant community, and until this law is struck down, they will prevail.

Original Author: Vicente Gonzalez