President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he would be deploying 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border to beef up security along the Río Bravo. This surprise move has garnered criticism from immigrant rights supporters, who argue that it will dehumanize and endanger immigrant and Latino communities.
Julianne Hing at RaceWire offers more details on the plan, reporting that an extra $500 million has also been allocated to law enforcement along the border.
“Obama is reportedly asking for these troop increases in anticipation of Republicans’ demands on a war spending bill this week,” Hing writes. “But Obama’s already outpaced his predecessors in spending on border security and military presence at the border.”
With the militarization of the border there is a heightened sense of danger not only for immigrants, but also for residents. It’s happened before. Esequiel Hernández, a US citizen and high school student, was wrongfully killed by Marines 13 years ago, near the border in Texas after increased militarization.
The deportation race
Even more disheartening, John Morton, Assistant Secretary for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, boasted that deportations of undocumented immigrants had already increased by 40 percent this year alone, and were sure to surpass last year’s total of 400,000, according to Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones.
“At the same time, a breakdown of the deportation numbers makes it clear that it’s not just criminal immigrants that federal immigration officials are targeting,” Khimm writes. “There’s been a small decrease in the number of non-criminal immigrants who’ve been deported, but they still make up a large majority of deportations.”
A storm of civil disobedience
In response to inaction on immigration reform and the increased enforcement, a civil disobedience campaign to pressure ICE and the White House to stop deportations continues. At the Real News Network, Jesse Freeston documents the growing civil disobedience relating to immigration reform, which at the beginning of the month included 35 protesters sitting down “in front of the White House fence, where they were eventually arrested. This included [Democratic] Congressman Luis Gutiérrez of Chicago, who has been heavily critical of the president’s inaction on these issues.”
Immigrant rights advocates in New York City demonstrated outside of Federal Plaza this week, with more than 35 people peacefully arrested. These demonstrations follow arrests in Washington DC, Seattle and Arizona for similar actions.
AlterNet notes that those arrested in New York included state assembly member Adriano Espaillat, City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, and dozens of other reform allies with unions, churches and community groups.
Consequences looming large
Make no mistake — there are political consequences for states like Arizona, where ultra right-wing politicians have passed new laws targeting undocumented immigrants. As Steve Benen writes in the Washington Monthly, Latino voters in Colorado and Arizona are quickly moving to support Democratic candidates.
Benen reports that a new “NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll shows a similar trend at the national level, where ‘Latinos, once a semi-swing group of voters, now have swung overwhelmingly for President Obama and the Democratic Party, and younger Hispanics are moving to the Democrats in even greater numbers.’”
‘Skin heads and Nazis’
On a different front, former Colorado Congressman and anti-immigrant polemic Tom Tancredo is apparently too radical for many anti-immigrant groups. Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), a national right-wing group that has linked Latinos and immigrants to rapists and murders on its website, parted ways with the ex-lawmaker.
ALIPAC has pulled out of June 5 anti-immigration rally in Phoenix, citing Tancredo’s supposed connections to white power groups, according to John Tomasic at The Colorado Independent.
Tomasic writes that “[ALIPAC director] William Gheen, who has battled accusations of racist associations in the past, explained that he had raised concerns with Tancredo about event organizer Dan Smeriglio, an activist with long unabashed ties to ‘skin heads and Nazis,’ as Gheen put it.”
Great power, many responsibilities
In light of increased enforcement, The Uptake has video of Obama explaining his position on immigration reform. “Government has a responsibility to secure the border and enforce laws,” Obama said. “Washington has an obligation to set clear, common-sense rules, including rules that no longer punish and divide families that are doing the right thing and following the law.”
But Yes! Magazine columnist Kety Esquivel cites different responsibilities. “If history has taught us anything, it is that once human rights are eroded — once we allow ourselves to overlook the humanity of certain groups of people — we have stepped onto a slippery slope,” she writes. “If no one stands up to the injustice, the erosion of human rights continues.”
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