Post-ing on Immigration

The Washington Post provides two interesting articles on immigration today, one an editorial from two of the authors of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and the other a profile of the Tohono O'odham, the American Indian nation in Arizona that has become the grass the elephants trample in the immigration stampede.

In the IRCA piece, former Rep. Romano L. Mazzoli (D-Ken.) and Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) of course laud their work, explaining the tenets of their bill, its continued relevancy, and the results of the failures to fully enact it. Along the way, they repudiate the House bills passed last year and this and show support for the more comprehensive Senate legislation. IRCA makes the news these days only as an example of the failure of "amnesty" on the enforcement-only side, but the bill contained several provisions that have arisen today as the harsher measures promoted by enforcement folks -- border fencing, increased surveillance technology, better law-enforcement training, and penalties for employers of undocumented people. It also included a new guest-worker visa and a path to legalization for some migrants.

Mazzoli and Simpson blame subsequent administrations for the failure of their "comprehensive" bill -- for which they say they led a bipartisan effort to research and debate immigration through commissions, field hearings, and expert recommendations. But the current state of "reform" -- particularly on the side of the House -- seems blind to this legislation of just 20 years ago. If our lawmakers can't see that far back, how can we expect them to consider the full history of immigration issues in the USA? It doesn't look good.

One of the main rallying cries of the enforcement camp -- including groups from the House to FAIR to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps -- is that the government has failed to enforce laws already on the books. By this they mean only the enforcement measures and willfully ignore the path to legalization and guest-worker provisions included in the same law. That should throw a strong shadow of doubt on their true motives: They want the "rule of law" only when it applies the restrictive elements they endorse. If they were honest, they would admit that rather than the "rule of law" they simply want to apply the law they think is right. Just like their opponents, they think some laws just and some unjust. So, let's toss out this already ridiculous "rule of law" stipulation -- which is merely a smokescreen that increases criminalization mindset and hatred of immigrants -- and get down to examining the real nature of immigration and determining what needs be done.

The Tohono O'odham story shows just how adversely some U.S. policies -- especially our creation of rather arbitrary national borders -- and poor cultural training of law enforcement have given rise to very un-American results. Border Patrol's kicking down doors of family homes in the middle of the night to demand the nationality of the people inside? Setting up militarized outposts on private property without any sort of permission?

Border Patrol has had little authority on the reservation, as the tribe invoked its sovereignty to keep out discriminating forces. In recent years, the tribe has let federal agencies have a greater presence on their land, to help deal with the increased flow of drug trafficking forced onto tribal territory by the militarization of the border in other areas.

But the feds continuously, it seems, have trouble respecting the laws and people inside the borders of the reservation. So, we have people crossing borders in violation of any respect for people or laws there, in order to stop other people from crossing borders in violation of any respect for people or laws.

The tribe has allowed the federal government more leeway to help protect them from the negative effects of drug smuggling, mostly, and migrant traffic. But it seems the Border Patrol have turned a lot of their energy towards policing the Tohono O'odham, as the Post article makes clear.

Complicating matters is the fact that the invading foreign hordes of yesteryear -- the settlers of the USA -- drew their southern border so that it divided the traditional home of the native citizens of the land, and now Tohono O'odham live on each side of the U.S.-Mexican border.

This passage from the Post article strikes me as particularly emblematic of our generally patronizing attitude towards native peoples of this hemisphere:

"The tribe is home to the Shadow Wolves, a storied, largely Indian unit of U.S. Customs and Border Protection that uses ancient tracking techniques to chase down drug smugglers. But after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Border Patrol has run the Shadow Wolves and has shifted their focus away from drugs and toward immigrant smuggling, prompting several senior officers to quit."

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