Tag Archives: border

The Bush-Chertoff Coup at the Mexican Border

When Congress enacted the Real ID Act in 2005, few people appreciated just how radical a piece of legislation this was. Yes, it introduced a drivers’ license data base that many folks astutely compare to a national ID card.  It also threatens to create havoc on the roadways by denying undocumented immigrant drivers a chance to get a drivers license and insurance which comes in handy in case of a car wreck.  Real ID also incongruously included provisions that would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over immigration matters, which creates a damning tilt toward unfettered executive powers over immigrants.  

I thought all this qualified Real ID as one whopping, dangerous piece of law.  But just today,  additional horrors of Real ID were revealed: a coup at the border.

It was announced that section 102 of the Real ID Act provides the justification DHS Secry Chertoff says he needs for DHS to waive about 36 existing (mostly environmental and land management) laws enacted by Congress that pertain to DHS efforts to construct a border fence (18 foot steel and concrete) along the US-Mexico border from California to Texas.

As of today, the rule of law, and separation of powers no longer apply to the DHS’s SBInet efforts to construct a border industrial complex.  The rule of law would take too long, Chertoff suggested today,  and would slow efforts to stop “illegal immigration,” an occurrence ongoing since the 1848 Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo, and regulated since the 1924 creation of the US border patrol.  According to Chertoff, “Criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation.”

As reported in the Earth Times, Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife laments:

“Thanks to this action by the Bush administration, the border is in a sense more lawless now than when Americans first started moving west….”Laws ensuring clean water for us and our children — dismissed. Laws protecting wildlife, land, rivers, streams and places of cultural significance — just a bother to the Bush administration. Laws giving American citizens a voice in the process — gone. Clearly this is out of control.” 

How to make sense of the border coup?  I suggest considering the following: 1) the clock is ticking on an Administration whose border control policies have sucked as much as its other failed neo-con policies . 2) Abiding the rule of law is time consuming.  3) Bush’s unitary executive power theory suggests he need not so limit himself to the rule of law;  4) Bush business cronies at Boeing, the recipient of the $67 million contract to build the failure of a virtual fence project, also provides the steel for the physical fence, and along with several other SBInet firms, Boeing manages, oversees (itself a shameless contradiction) and consults on the construction of the physical border fence and other SBInet activities.  Getting the fence in the ground before the next Administration takes over is the surest way to avoid cancellation of this projected $49 billion fence boondoggle.

Who wins?   Boeing and other Bush corporate cronies (SBInet firms) and remaining neo-cons who still wrongly insist 9/11 hijackers crossed the border. 

Who loses?  all law abiding citizens; all people who believe in the constitution; all border residents, particularly land owners of mostly modest means; all immigrants

In addition to all adherents of the rule of law, the most immediate losers here include all the American people who collectively are proprietors of the national and state park lands, and wildlife preserves (including the San Pedro River in Arizona) that are going to be destroyed by the fence. In addition,  DHS is forcibly removing individual middle class and poor families who own property along the targeted path of the coming fence.  The govt. has already sued more than 50 property owners in South Texas to gain access to the land.  Now, DHS no longer need wait out such nuisances as damage assessments, court hearings and other due process entanglements.  

Anti-Immigrant/ Latino Hatred Spreads

In 1994, I conducted a study at the US-Mexico border,sponsored by the Poverty Race Research Action Council (PRRAC, and available at the U. Arizona Mexican-American Studies Center), that found widespread abuse by federal immigration authorities against Latino immigrants and citizens along the border. The key finding, aside from the pervasiveness of abuse, was that the abuse was motivated by ethnicity–not immigration status–.

The just released report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, discussed below, highlights the dramatic increase in hate groups and crimes against Latinos. A key finding is that abuse is motivated by ethnicity– not immigration status.

In big structural ways, not much has changed, but here is what has changed since 1994.
The proliferation of hate crimes and hate groups is due, in large part, to a post-911 narrative that has been submerged within mainstream media. In addition, the narrative has helped inspire a terrific build-up in the infrastructure and resources of right wing anti-immigrant think tanks and organizations such as FAIR.

A post-911 master narrative that drives the immigration debate has shifted the debate to one about terrorism, national and homeland security. This narrative inflames the message that immigrant=terrorist. This content has proliferated with 24/7 right-wing media talking heads, billion dollar contracts to Boeing and Accenture to help make border control insidiusly invisible and for profit, and vigilante hate crimes (verbal and physical abuse against Latino immigrant and non-immigrant alike). In other words, state tentacles of abuse against Latino people of color has mestasticized from the Border Patrol and Customs into the media and public sphere, and has done so with a great deal of moneys spent to organize the effort.

Not to say there is anything new about the existence of vigilante anti-immigrant hate groups. As has occurred during times of economic and social distress in the past, we are facing an unfortunate rise in hate crimes against immigrants. But, not since early 20th century periods of nativism, has civic antipathy been so intertwined with the State, evidenced by the militarization and privatization of the border, physical and virtual walls at the border, and an incredible amount of local and state anti-immigrant ordinances. Further, 9/11 changed to narrative so as to heighten the perceived risk of immigration.

the Bush response to 9/11 fanned the technologies of hate, facilitated the spread of hate messages and crimes, abnd basically made it okay to hate immigrants again.

According to Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups have increased by 48% since 2000, to 888 hate groups in the US. The SPLC also reports that FBI stats suggest a 35% rise in hate crimes against latinos between 2003-2006.

According to today’s Report by the Southern Poverty Law Center,

Hate groups continue to successfully exploit the immigration debate to their advantage, even though the immigration issue has largely disappeared from the presidential debate,” said Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, an investigative journal that monitors the radical right. “The fact is that they’ve been aided and abetted by mainstream pundits and politicians who give these haters a platform for their propaganda.

Consider the mainstream status that the media and Congress has given to the anti-immigrant group FAIR (documented by SPLC), Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage (sorry Dan), O’Reiley and Rush, and other talking heads who gained currency during the Bush Administration. These folks are treated as celebrities rather than as hate mongerers. Consider last Sunday’s newspaper feature of Michelle Malkin, touting her blogging celebrity and saying nothing about the hate-filled content to be found in her blogs.

The problem of anti-immigrant hatred goes well beyond discrete numbers of crimes and groups. The message has seeped into the mainstream, and this rightwing frame of immigration will be much more difficult to counter.

Moreover, few progressive alternatives to FAIR exist that can counter the hate message with hard facts, stories and a reframed narrative that suggests persuasively that immigrants are human beings and economic and social anchor.

Blackwater leaves Potrero Plans in Dust, but Blackwaterization to Continue

The San Diego Union Tribune reports today that Blackwater has decided to pull its plans to set up a base camp in Potrero, near San Diego. News that Blackwater may not set up shop on this former chicken camp, does not mean Blackwater is not coming to the border. All it means is that Blackwater didn’t expect all the negative publicity and local resistance that awaited it in Potrero. Next time beware a much more clandestine operation.

Nothing has changed about Blackwater’s plan to expand its private security forces in the US. And nothing has changed about its plans to bring its private “war on terror” home to the U.S., and intertwine it with immigration control, five years after Paul Wolfowitz first positioned the “home-front” as the first defense against terrorism.

It still makes sense that the private war that followed the troops to Iraq is now establishing a paramilitary infrastructure on domestic turf. Author Jeremy Scahill notes that Blackwater is “looking for a lucrative domestic opportunity,” and San Diego Congressman Bob Filner’s recent comment to the Salon article that Blackwater is positioning itself to move into the border security business, remains on point. Keep in mind Jeremy Scahill found that Blackwater made an application in early 2005 “to serve as a force to deal with immigration and border security.”

Blackwater remains symbolic of a much larger immigration industrial complex, privatizing decades of border militarization and low intensity conflict that as author Tim Dunn has documented, has been waged against border crossers and residents since the 1970s. I would also contend that Blackwater remains part of a post-9/11 neo-liberal regime that is designed to re-territorialize and privatize the war on terror on the domestic front. The immigration industrial complex, with Blackwater quickly taking the lead, figures prominently in what Naomi Klein refers to as neo-liberal shock therapy, which is undemocratic to its core.

Testing Obama on Boeing’s Border Folly

How quick will it take the next administration to undo the doctrinaire free market ideology of Bush & Co.?
Under a McCain administration, it is likely to take 100 years, at least.

Under Obama? A good question. During last week’s debate in Austin, his responses (along with Clinton’s) to the immigration questions seemed unsettlingly sympathetic to using technology as a palliative for border control woes.

The problem is that border control technologies– such as the virtual fence–are a product of military contractors who are privatizing the border just as they have privatized war in iraq.

Further, a post by Jeremy Scahill in the Nation suggests Obama is not opposed to continuing the sort of private security force that Blackwater is angling to provide at the border, perhaps headquartered near San Diego.

And, today’s headline in the Washington Post about delaying the border’s “virtual fence,” provides an opportunity for Obama to think more about border contol issues.

The virtual fence folly is a prime example of free market ideology run amuck.

Today’s Washington Post reports that the “virtual fence” will be delayed 3 years because it “did not work as planned.” WaPo reports that DHS cites technical problems for its decision to remove control over Project 28 from Boeing, which requires the project to be redesigned.

Keeping in mind the corruption and fraud that has seeped into many privatized DHS projects lately, things must really be bad down there with Project 28, just south of Tucson, for DHS to reassert its control over Boeing.

For some background, consider a Wall Street Journal report last August:

Boeing Co. has changed the management of an electronic-surveillance project along the U.S.-Mexican border after falling more than two months behind schedule, marking the complications involved in setting up a new generation of border security.

The project, part of a larger Department of Homeland Security program called SBInet, is a critical link in the plan to use technology to monitor the borders for illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and possible terrorists. Towers set up along a stretch of the border near Nogales, Ariz., are supposed to use motion sensors, cameras and radar to keep track of wide areas. According to the government, Boeing has had trouble getting the different components to work together without glitches.

The government’s plans for monitoring as much as 6,000 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders hinge on towers such as these working properly. If they prove ineffective, officials could be forced to spend billions of dollars for more traditional security measures, such as fences and more officers. The Homeland Security Department currently estimates that the virtual fence will cost about $8 billion through 2013, although the agency’s inspector general wrote last November that the cost could balloon to $30 billion.

This is the second delay for a relatively new project (the first was announced last June), launched after Boeing was awarded the government contract, September 2006. To et the contract, Boeing was supposed to have answered questions about the very real problems it has faced since the day after the ontract was awarded.

Project 28 (the pilot project), now delayed 3 years, was initially supposed to have been completed by mid June ’07. A spring ’07 GAO report on the virtual fence predicted the delays, reporting both expected and unexpected problems with implementing the virtual fence. According to the GAO, “virtual fence” cameras can’t tell the difference between immigrants and the rain, and couldn’t detect anything more than 5 kms away, which violates the Boeing contract.

Problems for border security and the taxpayer, nonetheless amount to a boondoggle for Boeing, particularly given Boeing’s “indefinite delivery” contract. Tax revenues fuel an over-bloated DHS budget, which then outsources its government responsibilities for homeland security, to such military contractors as Boeing. Delays and (temporary) loss of control over Project 28 don’t interfere with the Boeing award.

No such thing as failure in this privatized system. Consider the following investigation by Joseph Richey of the Nation Institute,

Since Boeing won the contract last year, the estimated cost of securing the southwest border has gone from $2.5 billion to an estimated $8 billion just a few months later. When Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter asked SBInet Director Giddens for the real costs at a February 2007 hearing of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Giddens replied: “I wish I could answer that with greater clarity.”

At the same Congressional hearings, Boeing vice president and SBInet program manager, Jerry McElwee, took heat from Congressman William Lacy Clay who demanded information about the ballooning costs and the extension of the contract period. “You bid on these contracts and then you come back and say, ‘Oh we need more time. It costs more than twice as much.’ Are you gaming the taxpayers here? Or gaming DHS?” the Missouri Democrat asked.

DHS’s own inspector general, Richard Skinner, says that the Boeing contract is in the “high-risk” category for waste and abuse because of its scope, its dollar value, and “the vulnerabilities stemming from the lack of acquisition management capacity.”

Indeed, nothing could be better for business at Boeing than a 3 year delay. More government revenues and profits, rather than more oversight and accountability. And as Richey, shows, Congress, sadly, was aware of and did nothing about the fleecing, which goes to show how privatization ideologies are shared by Democrats as well as Republicans.

So, the question for Obama, assuming he becomes the nominee, regarding his commitment to deprivatize America, is whether he would terminate the Boeing contract, and other similar ones that now frame immigration control policy. Further, as president, would he overhaul the hollowed out DHS that seems to favor tis way of conducting business?

“Yes We Can” presumes the unprivatizing of America, which ought to start at our borders with the virtual fence.


Washington Post, “Virtual Fence’ Along Border To Be Delayed”