Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Erecting a Wall of Shame

The Senate has agreed to build The Great Wall of America.

On the border fence, the Senate by an 83-16 vote backed fences on 370 miles of the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border, focusing on areas where there is a high volume of illegal crossings. About 70 miles already exist, although some of the fence is in disrepair, and the Department of Homeland Security already has plans to build the rest.

The fence amendment by Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions would also require vehicle barriers to be placed along 500 miles of the southwest border.

Senators Sessions and Durbin had an exchange today that made me stop and re-realize the difference of worldview that exists between myself and many of my fellow Americans.

Construction of the barrier would send "a signal that open-border days are over. ... Good fences make good neighbors, fences don't make bad neighbors," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (news, bio, voting record), R-Ala. He said border areas where barriers already exist have experienced economic improvement and reduced crime.

"What we have here has become a symbol for the right wing in American politics," countered Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. He said if the proposal passed, "our relationship with Mexico would come down to a barrier between our two countries."


For someone like Senator Sessions, his stability is hinged on the notion that anyone that differs from him in any way has a clear line of boundary. It is a worldview that denounces diversity as the watering down of his identity rather than an enrichment. He tolerates the existence of Others (barely) but you better make damn sure the neighborhood knows that there are two separate yards.

I would argue that Senator Sessions' viewpoint is in the mainstream, especially nowadays in the political climate engineered by Karl Rove and other Bush government officials. Feelings of distrust and hostility abound in plentitude. There is a sizeable crowd of Americans that still have a healthy dose of adrenaline flowing in their veins from the 9/11 attacks and will do anything it takes to "protect the homeland". They are kept in a state of outrage and alertness by groups such as Let Freedom Ring, Inc. who ran television ads last year that used the imagery of the World Trade Center attacks to incite fear and xenophobia, calling for the building of the wall that was approved today by the U.S. Senate.

The problem with the National Security argument is this: if it was really about terrorism and security then why the focus on the southern border? had this to say regarding the message of the commercials:
The ad “Easy Cover” says that “illegal immigration from Mexico provides easy cover for terrorists” while showing video of a hijacked plane slamming into the second World Trade Center tower on September 11, 2001. The narrator says “we need to secure the border.” Viewers are directed to a website promoting the building of a 2000-mile security barrier similar to those built by Israel: 50 yards wide and including a ditch, coils of barbed wire, two tall wire fences, and sensors to warn of any incursion, at an estimated cost of between $4 billion and $8 billion.

But, according to the 9/11 Commission, none of the 9/11 hijackers entered the United States by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and all of them had visas issued by the US State Department. According to a staff report from the commission, some of the 19 hijackers entered the US several times, always through US airports. The report said, on pages 7 and 8, that the first hijacker flew in through Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 15, 2000." All others entered through 8 airports on the East Coast, including 11 entries through New York area airports and 12 through Florida airports." One would-be hijacker, Mohamed al Kahtani, tried to fly in through Orlando but was turned away when he aroused suspicions of an alert Immigration official and later became hostile and gave evasive answers when interrogated.

In summary, the best evidence available, as well as the evidence cited by the sponsors of the ad, makes a better case for building a fence at the Canadian border than it does at the Mexican border – that is, if Let Freedom Ring's object is truly to stop illegal immigration from Muslim countries rather than from Mexico and Central America.
So there's the skinny, it really is about keeping certain groups out of the United States. The media moguls who control the national dialogue perpetuate this message of racism and xenophobia. It's obvious who the targets are when you have Anderson Cooper, Larry King and Lou Dobbs of CNN broadcasting from the Mexican border.; Fox News....well, their tactics of division are legendary; and from MSNBC, I was appalled to hear Chris Matthews make these remarks on Monday night after primetime speechifying by Bush.

Keith, I think a lot of Americans are aware of this issue. They find the boring, for the reason that they don‘t think there‘ll ever really be a real tightening of the screws on this border. They‘ve heard it since they were born. They‘re going to turn to the other channel tonight. A lot of them, you talked bout this—those who are intensely interested are obviously Hispanic people, people who have come to the country illegally, as well as their relatives who came here centuries before. They care about it, because it is in fact an ethnic issue to a lot of Americans.

On the other side you have people who live in the southwest or in communities which are changing culturally from Anglo to Hispanic rather quickly, who don‘t like this cultural shock who are going to be watching tonight. But we‘ll see. I don‘t think this is as exciting as say, the war in Iraq or gas prices or security or the NSA story or even the CIA story. I think people are very concerned right now about this country‘s security. I‘m not sure they‘re on the top of their game when it comes to interest in ethnicity, and I think that‘s what this issue is about.

Changing culturally from Anglo to Hispanic?!?

It's that type of ignorance of the history of the American Southwest that galls me to no end. I would think it would be obvious to the American public that places like El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula (Los Angeles), San Diego, San Ysidro, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Escondido, San Francisco, Temecula, El Centro, Las Vegas, Yuma, Casa Grande, Mesa, Tucson, San Manuel, San Luis, Sierra Vista, Nogales, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Alamogordo, Socorro, Santa Rosa, Tucumcari, Española, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, San Antonio, Amarillo, Odessa, Seminole, Presidio and El Paso were not cities sprouted from the roots of the New England pilgrims.

The news that the Senate has decided to "get tough" on border enforcement will cause a lot of cheering and back-slapping in many American homes tonight, most of them too far from la frontera to realize the impact the Great Wall will actually have in the areas where it will be built. This latest move by the American government is a defiling of our history as a nation of immigrants as well as a further deepening of the divide between our country and the rest of the world. The only difference is, this time the walls will be real.

Crossposted at BooMan Tribune

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