When people the world over think of Arizona nowadays, they generally think of Governor Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio or state representative Russell Pearce – the poster children of the state’s move toward legalized discrimination and racial profiling. If they are closely following the politics of the Sun State, they also think of state superintendent of schools, Tom Horne, the architect of the state’s move to abolish Ethnic/Raza Studies.
Here, we think of the vast human toll of the policies promoted by these powerful few.
Combined, these Arizona measures are becoming the modern version of Indian Removal and the colonial policy of “reducciones” – a policy aimed at civilizing the “savages.”
To those outside of this insane asylum, this state is being described as the New South. It may indeed be just that, not least because it is providing a laboratory for setting the stage for apartheid governance in a part of the country that is browning every day. Politically, this is all about the clash of civilizations; one civilization indigenous to this continent, the other seemingly hell-bent on continuing the policies of manifest destiny.
Yet there is something more taking place here. To gain more understanding of some of the key aspects of Arizona’s political climate, read “Brown Tide Rising” by Otto Santa Ana. In it, the author poignantly observes that, in this society: “Only humans have human rights.” There can be no doubt that the red-brown peoples of this state are being treated as less than human.
Better yet, read “A Decade of Betrayal” by Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez. In it, they write about this nation’s obsession with targeting Mexicans during times of economic crises, going back to the period between 1910 and 1920. And yet, what the Balderrama and Rodriguez point out is that some of the numerous campaigns that deported hundreds of thousands and even millions of Mexicans, including US citizens, were not indiscriminate (particularly the one conducted in the 1930s). The deportations were targeted, and the individuals singled out for deporting were not criminals – they were those whose roles embodied anything resembling the roles of leaders, especially community, educational, and labor organizers.
In Arizona there are numerous policies and programs in place (such as Operation Streamline) to criminalize migrants – policies that, not coincidentally, line the pockets of the private prison industry. What’s more, an array of law enforcement agencies continue to become extensions of the US Border Patrol – operating as though SB 1070 were already the law of the land.
In Tucson, these draconian measures have now begun to affect the parents of our top students and student organizers. This summer, the father of a young high school activist DREAM student was picked up by a sheriff’s deputy while riding in a truck as a passenger. Even though SB 1070 was not in effect, as happens regularly he was handed over to the Border Patrol. This happened in the middle of the annual Raza Studies Transformative Education Conference this summer. As a community, we rallied to the support of the family, successfully getting him out on bail. I’ve written about his daughter previously, as she has publicly identified herself long before several DREAM students occupied the offices of Senator John McCain this past summer. As a proud community organizer, she publicly identifies herself, but I don’t – in fact, I don’t even identify her school because I still feel that the government has the potential to target her family and those of the other activists who protested in McCain’s offices.
For example, this past weekend, the father of one of our top students at the University of Arizona, Michelle Rascon – who is an incredible poet, a Raza Studies alumni, a US citizen and a prospective law student – was picked up at his own home in what appears to have been an elaborate ruse by the FBI. After luring Jesus Gilberto Rascon outside, they proceeded to call the US Border Patrol. As we speak, he is undergoing deportation proceedings that may keep him incarcerated for at least several months – until his final disposition. Of course, there are legal details involved which will be addressed in court, but suffice it to say that cases such as these point to the absurdity of what the government is doing to divide families. Neither Gilberto Rascon or the DREAM student’s father are criminals in any sense of the word.
The federal government claims to have ceased targeting students or their families and asserts that its policies are designed instead to primarily go after criminal aliens. The draconian enforcement measures seen around the country, especially in Arizona, belie this so-called policy. If the nation criminalizes nonviolent aliens through its various operations and 287(g) agreements – including Secure Communities – these people become criminal aliens and, thus, primary targets. Circular logic at its best.
We appear to be in the midst of another decade of betrayal.
Michelle Rascon can be reached at: [email protected]