A story on Al Jazeera today about Mexican migrant workers–economic refugees if you will–who die on the U.S.-Mexican border. The story is a small one, but it is a reminder of a larger issue that that combines the history of U.S. expansionism–better known as Manifest Destiny–with policies like NAFTA that have been a disaster and have created more of a demand for working people, or people looking for work. Here is the clip:
But this clip doesn’t do the issue justice as it was merely a segment on the evening news. However, a longer program on Al Jazeera’s “Inside USA” gives us a larger context about the issues on the U.S.-Mexican border:
The program brings up some key points that connect the U.S. Mexican border to the prison industrial complex to the military industrial complex. Of particular importance is the way in which the use of private contractors–those familiar with the illegal occupation of Iraq will recognize the names of KBR and Blackwater–are profiting off of patrolling the border and imprisoning those who cross. As Avi Lewis reports in the show, Mexican immigrants who cross the border and who are caught now find themselves in private prisons for up to six months. The Corrections Corporation of America earns $50-$60 per person per day, a figure that has made their stock prices quadruple since 2002. The program also shows the racist vigilante group, the Minute Men, and its patrolling on the border, though there is not enough of a critique of their ideology and practices in this program.
In Arizona, among other places, incarceration fits into a Blood-and-Soil subculture: anti-immigrant, anti-minority and neo-fascist. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for example, delights in humiliating inmates, making them wear pink and sleep in tents in 100 degree weather. Arpaio even reduced inmate food intake to sub-human levels:
Arpaio makes inmates pay for their meals, which some say are worse than those for the guard dogs. Canines eat $1.10 worth of food a day, the inmate 90 cents, the sheriff says. “I’m very proud of that too.”
Arpaio, as America’s Uber-Jailer, even puts women in chain gangs and then boasts about obtaining “free labor” for the State. Stalin would have been proud. Instead of being jailed for human rights abuses, Arpaio enjoys high approval rates in the Phoenix area.
Interestingly, there are other things left out of this show, which is curious given that when one watches Lewis’ programs it clear that much of the stories he follows come from the research his wife Noami Klein produced for her book The Shock Doctrine. Here is what Klein has to say about private companies and the U.S.-Mexican border:
In April 2007, special immigration agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, working along the Mexican border, went through an intensive eight-day training course put on by the Golan Group. The Golan Group was founded by ex-Israeli Special Forces officers and boasts more than 3,500 employees in seven countries. “Essentially we put an Israeli security spin on our procedures,” Thomas Pearson, the company’s head of operations, explained of the training course, which covered everything from hand-to-hand combat to target practice to “getting proactive with their SUV.” The Golan Group, now based in Florida but still marketing its Israeli advantage, also produces X-ray machines, metal detectors, and rifles. In addition to many governments and celebrities, its clients include ExxonMobil, Shell, Texaco, Levi’s, Sony, Citigroup, and Pizza Hut….
When Boeing begins building the planned $2.5 billion “virtual fences” on the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada—complete with electronic sensors, unmanned aircraft, surveillance cameras and eighteen hundred towers–one of its main partners will be Elbit. Elbit is the other Israeli firm most involved in building Israel’s hugely controversial wall, which is “the largest construction project in Israel’s history” and has also cost $2.5 billion. (438)
Yes, the same companies that have militarized the 1967 border–albeit one that is about a tremendous land grab–are producing the same effects along the U.S.-Mexican border. This parallel is important because the American southwest is land that used to belong to Mexico. As with Palestine, there are families separated by the construction of an artificial border. There are layers of colonialism, expansionism, imperialism in both places. And there are layers of militarism, corporate profits, and racism here too.
Is it an accident that the U.S. conquered Mexico precisely 100 years before Zionists conquered Palestine?