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Commentary: Immigrant Movements, Xenophobia, Racism
by DCBG (darwin [at] riseup.net)
Wednesday Mar 29th, 2006 12:00 PM
The legislation, entitled the “Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005” lumps different reactionary symbols together creating a powerfully xenophobic, racist, and militaristic trope. All at once it evokes themes of threatening terrorist who seek to destroy America with swift and violent action, alongside the threat of a racial other who will destroy America slowly via a silent invasion.
March and April are not normally very warm or dry months in Northern California. Storms come in off the ocean brining rain that can last for several days at a time. Today is no different. It’s cold and wet in Santa Cruz. Pacific Street, the downtown’s main thoroughfare, has only a few pedestrians walking quickly to avoid the gails of rain and wind. It’s usually crowded. Homeless men and women are huddled under the eves of theaters and storefronts. And yet, marching, hundreds strong through the center of the city, a mass of high school students powers its way toward the clock tower chanting, “Si se puede! Si se Puede!”

Santa Cruz is known far and wide for its leftist political culture. Marches and rallies are old hat in this city. But there’s something unprecedented in this march. It’s energy is higher than most that make their way down Pacific Street, almost in spite of the rain. And its leaders are quite unlike the regular rabble-rousers one sees here; UC students, anti-war activists, marijuana law reformers, and other well-known militants. Leading the march are young Latino students waving the U.S. and Mexican flags, leading a spirited chant. Students of different backgrounds have joined them. It may or may not be the first mass march they’ve ever organized, but it’s more powerful than anything I’ve seen in many years in this city. It’s passion and power, not dampened in the least by the foul weather is indicative of the marches sweeping through countless other schools in California and beyond.

In the past week there have been walkouts at almost every high school in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. It’s the same all up and down the State. On the 27th and 28th students walked out of Watsonville high taking their message to the streets. Although the city’s police department responded with dozens of officers, some clad in riot gear, the students marched anyway. On both days student rallies have been confronted by an aggressive police force. Several students have been detained during the marches. Press reports describe many of the marches as descending into violence and chaos. The militarized police response to student marches is all too much like the overall atmosphere of xenophobia and racism overtaking the political discourse on immigration nationwide.

In Salinas thousands of students walked off campuses on Tuesday the 28th until city police and the highway patrol clamped down on the rights of students to move. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that “police prevented Pajaro Valley High School students from leaving campus around noon.” Many police departments have now been mobilized to clamp down on the political rights of students. Claims that the students have initiated violence by throwing rocks, or have abused their rights by littering and obstructing traffic are now being used by officials as an excuse for further repression.

And yet the marches continue. Not all responses for authorities have been repressive. In San Jose city councilors have passed a resolution condemning House Resolution 4437. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has spoken out against it, as have many elected officials in California and across the nation. The legislation, entitled the “Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005” lumps different reactionary symbols together creating a powerfully xenophobic, racist, and militaristic trope. All at once it evokes themes of threatening terrorist who seek to destroy America with swift and violent action, alongside the threat of a racial other who will destroy America slowly via a silent invasion. Conceptually, HR 4437 is the product of movements and intellectuals like the Minutemen, Samuel Huntington, and Richard Pearl. It’s “border protection” theme calls for a militarization of the border a la the weekend warrior toting guns and US flags in pickup trucks who have been patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border like modern day Texas Rangers. It’s emphasis on antiterrorism is Pearl-esque. Its proposed immigration controls point toward the kind of polity that thinkers like Samuel Huntington have been calling for over the past decade or so. We are a white, anglo-saxon, protestant nation, they tell us. Latinos threaten the national culture, heritage, and, one can logically conclude from writings like these, our racial vitality.

It’s clear what the passage of HR 4437 would do to the United States. If it were enforced to the letter it would hurt millions of American families by criminalizing them, and denying them rights that should, indeed must be afforded to all, regardless of one’s legal status. It would sap states of funds and create a massive atmosphere of policing to capture, criminalize, and deport undocumented immigrants. The impact this could have on the U.S. economy is far reaching. If carried out it could paralyze industries such as agriculture, construction, food services, and domestic care. It would also lead to the needless deaths of innumerable migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border everyday.

This most recent immigrant’s movement, kicked off with surprising force in Chicago on March 10th, is likely to continue and build as it opposes racist legislation such as HR 4437. Whether it can succeed against a Republican controlled government and its xenophobic and terrorized base of voters and political activists is another question altogether.


LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
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a larger protest was in Mexico City last yearwatcha talking aboutThursday Mar 30th, 2006 7:47 PM
where are the marches ?wonderingThursday Mar 30th, 2006 7:40 PM
Commentary: Immigrant Movements, Xenophobia, RacismtadaWednesday Mar 29th, 2006 11:53 PM
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