As usual one’s politics in the U.S., especially on college campuses, forces one to constantly react rather than be proactive. The Boise State University’s College Republicans in collaboration with a fascist right-wing organization known as the Young America’s Foundation will be bringing Chris Simcox to campus tomorrow night whose claim to fame is the founding of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. The Minuteman’s Orwellian name (alluding to the Minutemen of Massachusetts a militia during the American Revolution fighting for independence, albeit on the expense of the indigenous population ethnically cleansed from the Americas). The group is far from a “defense” organization; it is a violent militia that detains, harasses, and shoots at Mexicans crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, a border that arbitrarily separates people from their families, tribes, land. Sound familiar? Yes, Simcox is also involved in building a “fence” along the border (though he is under investigation for embezzlement for the funds he raised for this endeavor). The “fence,” however, is not the same one the U.S., with the help of Israel, is building along the U.S.-Mexico border:
the Wall proposed in the Security Fence Act 2006 signed by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2006. Since 2002, Israel has been building a 400 mile long Wall that is preventing tens of thousands of Palestinians from reaching their places of work, school, health services, land for farming and sometimes even family members, usurping large tracts of land from the Occupied West Bank in Palestine. The Secure Fence Act signed by Bush authorizes the building of 700 miles of double-layer border wall between the United States and Mexico. Elbit Systems, Ltd., an Israeli company building and profiting from the Wall in occupied Palestine, has been awarded a contract to help build the US wall. The proposed multi-billion dollar U.S. wall will further separate border communities, break apart families, and increase the number of deaths on the border as immigrant workers are pushed deeper into the desert.
There have been over 10,000 deaths since October 1994 as a result of Mexicans crossing the U.S. border, and that number has increased dramatically since Simcox and his ilk created their vigilante groups. They die not only from shootings, but also as a result of crossing under more extreme conditions trying to avoid these militias. Dehydration, starvation, and deaths related to the harsh weather conditions are all factors in these deaths. Simcox claims that he hands out water to people crossing the border, but there is evidence that he poisons that water.
Why do people cross this border given these circumstances? Some people visit family. Many cross because they are in search of the abundance of low-wage employment that is still better than they can find south of the border (much of this is a direct result of U.S. policies such as NAFTA). Most of the people doing the labor that no one else wants to do in the U.S.–food preparation, construction, farm work, domestic work, transportation–is done by many of these migrant workers. And although many of them are undocumented it is estimated that in 2003 alone their contributions to social security reached $50 billion. Documented or undocumented, these laborers help the American economy not only because of their hard work, work that is often invisible to most Americans, but also because they pay income tax, social security, gas tax, highway tax, and sales tax all of which amounts to a substantive amount given that there are an estimated 7 million undocumented workers.
But Simcox doesn’t seem to care about any of that. He doesn’t seem to care about the fact that much of the work we count on getting done each day in the U.S. would not get done if there were no workers traveling across the border, traveling across a border to perform work on land that used to be theirs. Again, sound familiar? Instead, he is interested in violently attacking innocent civilians with his border militia. Although it seems that he is prone to violence more generally as two of his wives have filed restraining orders against him for sexually abusing his daughter in his first marriage and for beating up his son in his second marriage.
I never ceased to be outraged by all that goes on in this country. That a university would somehow find it acceptable to invite such a person to campus. A university is a place where intellectual and artistic speakers are invited. Of course, my university almost never gives money to such people; instead they invite bigots who intimidate the most marginalized students on campus. The College Republicans are responsible for much of this–they are also responsible for inviting anti-Muslim speakers. This is quite amazing given the fact that Boise State adopted a new aspect of the Student Code of Conduct that specifically addresses civility on campus. Is it civil to invite people who spend their lives violently attacking others?
On Flashpoints last week Cristina Lopez, an American Latina activist with Barrio Unido, who recently returned from a tour in occupied Palestine connects the struggles of indigenous peoples on both continents for those who want to hear an eyewitness account of these parallels.
For those who wish to learn more and do more there are three main organizations working on this issue of documenting and protecting the rights of Mexicans crossing the border:
And, for those of you who want to hear Chris Simcox in action, there is an interesting interview with Maria Hinojosa on You Tube: