From: Weekly News Update [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, February 04, 2006 11:46 PM
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Subject: Blindman's Buff #106, 2/4/06
John Ross's BLINDMAN'S BUFF incorporates and expands on his weekly
report from Mexico, MEXICO BARBARO, focusing in on global hotspots
from Bolivia to Baghdad. Copyright 2006 by John Ross.
Please do not reproduce before end of period in head.
US Draws First Blood in Border War 2006; 11 Million Undocumented
Workers Declared Felons; Israeli Hand Seen in Border Wall
Period: Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2006, #106
MEXICO CITY (Jan. 24)--The United States drew first blood in the
2006 border war with Mexico when 18-year-old Guillermo Martinez
was gunned down by a Border Patrol ("Migra") officer
on the Tijuana line Dec. 30. Headed for Fresno California to pack
fruit, Guillermo and his brother Augustin were trapped between
the double fences up at the rugged Zapata canyon in that city's
Colonia Libertad. According to eyewitnesses, Guillermo was shot
once in the back with an expanding hollow-point "dumdum" bullet
fired by agent Faustino Campos as the two brothers ran towards
Augustin was able to pull his grievously wounded brother through the rusting
border wall and get him to the Red Cross hospital, where he died on New Year's
Eve. Guillermo Martinez was the sixth victim of Border Patrol (now part of
Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, or CBP,
bureau) violence in the past 15 months. In one incident, the Migra reportedly
forced a family of three back into the Rio Bravo in Eagle Pass, Texas, where
they drowned in the swift current. A seventh victim, Ismael Mendez, 23, was
shot and killed by Texas Highway Patrol officers during a high-speed chase
on the border in Roma, Texas, Jan. 17. More than 2,000 Mexicans and Central
Americans have died trying to cross the border into the US during the administrations
of George W. Bush.
According to San Diego sector Border Patrol spokesperson Todd Fraser, the Martinez
brothers were taunting and throwing stones at a Migra patrol stationed near
the Canon Zapata. Fraser cited a total of 218 stone-throwing incidents in the
sector in fiscal 2005, almost double that of 2004, but when asked for the number
of undocumented workers who died from Border Patrol violence during that same
time frame, the spokesperson could produce no numbers.
"So far as I know, Israel is the only nation where throwing stones is a
capital crime," remarked Tijuana congressional representative Jaime Martinez
Later, yet another Border Patrol spokesperson, Raul Martinez, would claim that
Guillermo was a guia who guided indocumentados across the line for the people-smuggling
gangs and that he had been detained by the Migra on 11 separate occasions.
Although his family denied the allegation (none of the detentions was for trafficking),
it should be noted that up until now, guiding undocumented workers across the
border has not been punishable by death under US law.
Touring the San Diego sector Jan. 5, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff
refused to discuss the incident, which has triggered anti-US rage all over
Mexico, instead issuing "zero tolerance" guidelines in situations
where an agent feels threatened--"zero tolerance" is tantamount to
shoot-to-kill orders in the tense ambiance on the border these days.
Since its creation after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington
in 2001, Homeland Security has managed to turn the US-Mexican border into a
war zone where every undocumented worker is adjudged a potential terrorist.
The latest War-on-Terror wrinkle: the use of drones, unpersoned aircraft, to
track and dissuade would-be border jumpers. The US uses Predator drones in
both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israeli Defense Force deploys the technology
to carry out "selective assassinations" of Palestinian militants.
The Martinez killing was an inauspicious kick-off to Border War 2006 and the
first death of a migrant worker since a draconian immigration "reform" bill
(HR 4437) passed the US House of Representatives by a wide margin in December--all
sides of the aisle concur that the bill is the most drastic immigration reform
initiative since the immigrant exclusion acts of the 19th century.
The measure, guided through the House by a triumvirate of nativist Republicans--Tom
Tancredo (Colorado), Duncan Hunter (San Diego), and the senior House member
from Wisconsin, James Sensenbrenner--makes it a felony crime to be within the
borders of the United States of North America without US government- approved
documentation, a condition that affects an estimated 11 million current US
residents. In addition, HR 4437 deputizes local, state and federal law enforcement
officers to enforce immigration laws and detain all undocumented workers pending
imprisonment and/or deportation.
Other provisions of HR 4437 expand the definition of people smuggling to include
multi-year sentences for any individual or group convicted of so much as offering
a glass of water to an undocumented immigrant. Shanti Sells and Daniel Strauss,
members of a church-sponsored border rescue team, are currently on trial in
Arizona for violating state laws after they were intercepted by the Migra while
driving three dangerously dehydrated indocumentados to a Tucson hospital. The
two face up to 15 years in prison.
But the key feature of HR 4437 is the construction of 700 miles of border wall
(the border runs 1,964 miles from east to
west) with the intent of discouraging a yearly average of 400,000 Mexicans
and Central Americans from advancing into the US.
Stripped from the measure at the last minute was a proposal to eliminate immigrant
birthright for the children of undocumented parents born in the US. Tancredo,
the provision's sponsor, has vowed to attach the anti-birthright rider to every
bill that comes to the House floor until it passes. In the past, the Colorado
nativist has sought the deportation of an undocumented university scholarship
candidate and tried to cut off funds for public libraries that have Spanish-language
reading rooms because undocumented immigrants could be using them.
HR 4437 also raises the number of Border Patrol agents from 12,500 to 15,000
and obligates all government contractors to manufacture BP uniforms in the
US. Since 2003, the Justice Department has contracted VF Solutions of Nashville,
Tennessee, to supply both the Border Patrol and the Customs Service with uniforms.
As is standard in the industry, VF Solutions (Vanity Fair, Wrangler brands)
went bottom line and subcontracted assembly of the uniforms to a Chihuahua
maquiladora. How many US Border Patrol uniforms were sold out the back door
to narcos and terrorists has not been determined.
When, in late November, President George Bush toured the border to talk tough
about "keeping child molesters and terrorists out of America" (sic),
he was much photographed in a green Migra windbreaker with a "Made-in
Mexico" tag on the label.
The security gaffe has proven an embarrassing one for Homeland Security's Chertoff
and provoked complaints from his agents. "It's shocking enough that I'm
guarding the United States border in a uniform that was made in Mexico, but
the darn thing doesn't even fit right," J.T. Bonner, a 37-year veteran
of the Migra and president of the National Association of Border Patrolmen,
told the French news agency AFP.
But, of course, the Wall is the real star of the 4437 show.
Although the border wall is often compared here to the Berlin Wall, the allusion
is "personally offensive" to US ambassador and Bush crony Tony Garza. "The
Berlin Wall was constructed by an authoritarian regime to confine its people.
The United States has a democratically elected government. The proposed border
wall will keep our citizens safe. We have a right to protect our borders," Garza
wrote in a diplomatic protest to Mexican foreign minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.
Perhaps a better comparison is between the border wall and the nearly 700-kilometer,
20-foot-high Separation Wall that Israel has been building along the West Bank
to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel--the "apartheid" wall,
as it is called on its other side, has absorbed 12% of Palestinian land and
prevents farmers from tilling their fields.
Given the close ties between the US and Israel, "it wouldn't surprise
me if Israeli engineers built the wall" along the Mexican border, Martinez
Veloz predicts. Costs of the new border wall run as high as $3 billion, but
even that astronomical estimate may be conservative. Fifteen years ago when
a pilot- project 14 miles of wall--really Desert Storm helicopter landing pads
soldered together and stood upright--was built in the San Diego sector, the
New York Times investigated costs for a wall that would run the almost 2,000-mile
length of the border.
Reporter Sam Howe Vercovac came up with two different sets of
specs: $851 million for a standard 10-foot prison chain link fence topped by
razor wire--for another $362 million, the fence could be electrified. A more
upscale 12-foot tall, two-foot-thick concrete wall painted on both sides would
run a modest $2 billion--although a half billion could be sliced off the cost
if the wall was only painted on one side. Much more could be saved, the reporter
did not fail to point out, if undocumented workers were hired to build it.
The Senate is expected to take up HR 4437 in the first months of 2006, and
the popular wisdom is that the more egregious features of 4437 will be toned
down by the sober solons of the upper house. Nonetheless, Bush himself favors
construction of the border wall, which, emulating his almost-brain-dead partner
in crime, Ariel Sharon, the president euphemistically terms a mere "fence."
The Senate will most probably keep the tough provisions of HR 4437 intact and
attach a guest worker provision to temper the impact on Mexico. "Let them
work here temporarily at jobs Americans don't want and then go home to their
country," the president told a Louisville, Kentucky, town meeting in January
in lobbying for a six-year program that would bar the workers from obtaining
legal status in the US. A proposal by Democrat lawmakers that would grant "earned
citizenship" is also in the hopper, and both initiatives are backed by
the hotel, restaurant, and meat packing industries which cannot survive without
cheap Mexican labor.
But given the anti-immigration malaise that plagues Washington, a guest worker
program is unlikely, particularly in a congressional election year. An alarmed
US Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donahue told reporters in Washington
that a cut- off of undocumented workers would sink the economy. "I don't
know what they're smoking over there [in the House]," Donahue laughed, "but
it smells suspicious."
Last year, a record 454 Mexicans and Central Americans died trying to cross
the border to take a job no North American will work. Given increased resistance
by undocumented workers to hard new legislation and a trigger-happy Migra that
acts with impunity, the number of victims of the 2006 border war could come
close to the 700 Americans who each year lose their lives in Iraq.
[John Ross is prowling North America for the next month. These dispatches will
be issued at 10-day intervals until he returns to Mexico City. Ross's Making
Another World Possible--Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006 will be published by
Nationbooks this autumn.] =======================================================================
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