Monday, May 5, 2008

"The Latino Trail of Tears"

This title from from Dee over at Immigration Talk with a Mexican American helps to give context to what is happening at US immigrant detention centers. Follow the link to read Dee's look at today's New York Times report of 66 deaths in holding pens for immigrants. Be sure to read the mocking comment she received.

Of these, 13 reportedly were suicides.

Private, for-profit centers, which hold 19% of these detainees, reported 32% of the deaths.

The Times notes numerous inconsistences in the lists, including unexplained deaths.

Some things to keep in mind:

Illegal entry into the US is a misdemeanor.

Some detainees have been incarcerated for two years or more.

Conditions in these detention centers are harsh.

The vast majority are here to work and came here (a) because US free trade/Chicago School of Ecomomics/Shock Doctrine policy made survival impossible at home, and (b) because American companies are still, even now in the midst of Arpaio-style crackdowns, soliciting them to come.

You'd come too, in their shoes.

They are here to work as hard as necessary, at whatever is available, in "the pursuit of happiness." Last I heard, our Constitution calls that "an unalienable right granted to all [people] by our Creator."

Even birds migrate to survive.

Privatized prisons like those operated by Corrections (sic) Corporation of America and Wackenhutt generally operate on a per capita reimbursement basis. The government (state or other) reimburses the agency on a per person, per day rate. What do you suppose the natural incentive for profit maximization would be?

Not once, in all the years I've lived in central Phoenix and sought the help of a day laborer have I seen an Anglo, an African American, or an Asian of any age queued up in front of Home Depot praying for a back-breaking, low-wage job. So exactly whose jobs are being taken?

As I've noted elsewhere, this is the tip of the iceberg. It doesn't include hideous death by dehydration in the desert, or being shot by helpful minutemen, or being disappeared in police, ICE, or others' custody, or cases of missing and unaccounted for migrant workers. It certainly doesn't include slavery-like conditions in which many undocumented workers end up, or the myriad cases of abusive indentured service and wage-theft by corporate thieves in, say, the construction industry.

However, as Dee rightly notes, it does point up a pattern in ethnic relations in US history. If I were a nativist, I'd be careful about claiming that this is a "Christian" country. People might get the wrong idea.