Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Record That Should Never Be Broken

I know it's a constant drumbeat around here, but I refuse to let their deaths go unnoticed.
The number of illegal immigrants who have died trying to get into the United States is higher than ever this summer.

In the past few days, five bodies were found in remote crossing areas near Tucson, bringing border deaths for the year to 155, said Dr. Bruce Parks, chief medical examiner for Pima County. That is a 22 percent increase over the 127 people found dead as of July 30 last year in the area.

United States-born Americans need to understand they and their government are responsible for this deadly situation. Most will refuse to see their connection to it, but all it takes is a little googling and common-sense thinking to see it.

Let's go back to 1994 with Operation Gatekeeper:
The San Diego Sector is one of nine Border Patrol sectors along the United States/Mexico border. It is responsible for patrolling the first 66 miles of the United States/Mexico border starting from the Pacific Ocean, and covers approximately 7,000 square miles of southwest California. The Sector is located directly north of Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico, cities with a combined population of two million people. The San Ysidro Port of Entry - the westernmost entry point between the United States and Mexico - is the busiest land crossing in the country. There is no natural barrier between the United States and Mexico in the San Diego Sector. It is strictly a land border, currently well-marked near the urban areas with a steel fence but poorly marked in some remote mountainous areas where vehicle access is difficult or impossible.
If you've ever visited San Diego, you will undoubtedly feel the presence of Mexico within the city. Tijuana peers from its hillsides with a smirk of adulation and a tinge of incredulity. In reality, they are one metropolitan area with synergistic cultures, but at the top of the power structure on this side of the fortified walls - indignation - and with it a policy of militarization along la frontera; or as I like to refer to it: a band-aid to treat a severed limb.

Operation Gatekeeper had several political goals for Southern California in mind:
Although the Border Patrol internally recognized that obtaining control over any portion of the Sector would take time, its statements to the public suggested that it expected quick success. Gatekeeper was launched with an extensive media campaign that soon began reporting the results of the operation. The media campaign was driven by a host of factors, including the Border Patrol's desire to (1) inform potential crossers that easy entry at Imperial Beach was no longer available, so they should not attempt entry at this location; (2) inform citizens that action was being taken to address the overwhelming problems of illegal traffic in their neighborhoods; (3) respond to political charges - most notably those of Governor Pete Wilson in his gubernatorial campaign - that the Clinton Administration was ignoring California and its serious illegal immigration problems; and (4) to show Congress that the Border Patrol was wisely using the new resources it had received.
So. What happened after Gatekeeper was launched? This:

The graph comes from an extremely important policy brief and study (.pdf warning), authored by Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith, M. Melissa McCormick, Daniel Martinez & Inez Magdalena Duarte, through the University of Arizona's Binational Migration Institute. In it, they state state the obvious for anyone that has ears open enough to hear the hard truths of the situation along the border:
Professor Wayne Cornelius, a leading scholar of immigration issues at the University of California, San Diego, estimates that the bodies of 2,978 unauthorized border crossers were recovered on U.S. soil from 1995-2004.7 Cornelius describes the body count in these terms: “To put this death toll in perspective, the fortified US border with Mexico has been more than 10 times deadlier to migrants from Mexico during the past nine years than the Berlin Wall was to East Germans throughout its 28-year existence.”8 And there is no indication that the massive amount of suffering and death along the U.S.-Mexico border will come to an end any time soon. According to the GAO, for instance, there were more deaths along the border in the first 9 months of 2006 (291) than in the first 9 months of 2005 (241).9
As you recall from the first link, 2007 is continuing this deadly trend. Militarization does not work. What needs to be explored by policy makers are the effects of trade agreements with all of Latin America.

So why did I mention the culpability of the U.S.-born American people in this situation? Well, for one, we have yet to hold elected leaders accountable for their votes against the working people. The NAFTA and CAFTA atrocities affected the livelihood of people in all regions of this part of the world. Additionally, some remain captivated by the false saber-rattling of the Border Patrol, even though it has been admitted repeatedly that they rely on propaganda and media manipulation to retain their support. The main reason, though, is that we (this includes me) continue to feed the obese corporate beast with our lifestyles.

And therein lies the catch.

Our exceptionalist and imperial attitudes as a collective people will take a lot of sacrifice and amputation to remove the havoc wreaked on the world; but we're just not there yet. It's too painful to look in the mirror and see that we are responsible for so much death and poverty. The band-aid looks much more attractive. Plus, we can sleep better at night without having to disrupt our beautiful minds.

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