Originally Published November 15, 2013
By Cindy Gomez-Schempp
It might seem counter intuitive to tell all Mexicans not to serve in the U.S. Border Patrol. But frankly, given the growing numbers of Mexicans entering policing jobs including with U.S. border patrol, it appears that it must be said. So, I’m going to say it.
Mexicans: Don’t join the U.S. Border Patrol service! Doing so goes against your own self interest and that of your fellow Mexicans. The U.S. Border Patrol service is an institution that is rooted in white supremacy.
Now, some people might say, ‘Hey! That’s unpatriotic!’. Some might even say it’s ‘reverse racism’. But, it doesn’t matter how upsetting it is for people to hear it. It’s still the truth. Mexicans should never participate in or support white supremacy, whatever form it takes. And, believe me, the U.S. Border Patrol is a function of white supremacy in the United States. It has been used to further white supremacy and to reinforce stereotypes that demonize and target Mexicans (even those who are American citizens and/or legal permanent residents), subjecting us all to discrimination, hate crimes, and death in ever growing numbers.
Perhaps these statements are mind boggling. But, for many out there, you know exactly what I am talking about. The level of hate Mexicans are being subjected to these days is out of control and we can’t afford to allow our own people to be duped into doing the dirty work for our oppressors.
First, however, let me say that I do not think Mexicans should be hating on other Mexicans who are in the U.S. Border Patrol. I can totally understand why Mexicans (especially those born and raised in the U.S.A.) would be drawn to these positions. They pay well. They offer civil servant pensions (which hardly any jobs have nowadays) and – – the most important factor attracting Mexicans to the U.S. Border Patrol – – is that it is one of the few places where Mexicans are being actively recruited. Law enforcement and military jobs are at a premium and they don’t mind a little brown in their ranks. But, Mexicans should be asking themselves why?
The answer to that question is this: Because white people need Mexicans to do “all the jobs regular Americans don’t want to do” (or can’t do, I would add). We all know this is true. That’s why all the agricultural workers, construction jobs, hotel rooms and kitchens are filled with Mexicans.
But, you don’t see all the areas of law enforcement filled with Mexicans do you? Well, in Border Patrol there is high recruitment of Mexican-American, especially bilingual border patrol agents. More and more these days the people being rounded up and packed into the backs of white vans look and sound like those who are yelling “Alto” and putting on the plastic restraint handcuffs. As Mexicans this should alarm us. It should make us question why the gringo wants us to do this job for him and why they don’t want to do it themselves.
To understand why this is not a job for Mexicans we first need to take a look at the racist history of Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), or ICE as it is now called. The original intent of U.S. Immigration policy was not to distinguish between workers and citizens so all people who came here to work were automatically granted the right to permanent residency upon entry, and/or the right to be naturalized as citizens. There was no lengthy expensive process with quotas and restrictions. In the beginning, there were basically no restrictions. What changed?
U.S. territory was expanded through appropriation of lands (essentially theft), or what history books like to call “Manifest Destiny”, New Spain (Mexico) and the territories held by the Spanish Conquistadores came into play.
It goes without saying that Mexican citizens remember what happened during the settlement of Texas, which was then part of Mexico, and the turmoil occurring in the U.S. at the time over slavery which culminated with Texas being “taken” in battle from Mexico and brought into the American union as a “slave” state. The booty from this unprovoked Mexican-American war also included California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, part of Wyoming, and Colorado. Spain also ceded Florida to the U.S. And all of these states had (mostly) indigenous people of the northern nations and a small percentage of Mexican citizens (Spanish or European settlers) living in them. This is the moment in history where white supremacy and border enforcement met and married.
You have to remember that this nation was founded on the principles of white supremacy, or “manifest destiny”, or however you want to call it. Essentially, this premise operated on the theft of Indian lands and the genocide of Indigenous peoples in order to dispossess them of their land and resources and/or turn them into slaves or exterminate them. The Constitution and the newly formed nation-state (what we think of as the U.S.A) never intended to protect the rights of these conquered individuals and it did not consider them human. The list of non-humans included African slaves, Indians, and Mexicans. None of these humans were ever considered when the constitution was written, nor was this country ever intended to include representatives/advocates for people of color.
In 1848 during his speech to congress, Senator John C. Calhoun stated that his opposition to the Mexican-American war was mainly due to the implications of dealing with a bunch of “indians” on territories ceded to the U.S. after the war was won and why they were not equal to whites. He said:
“We have conquered many of the neighboring tribes of Indians, but we have never thought of holding them in subjection—never of incorporating them into our Union. They have either been left as an independent people amongst us, or been driven into the forests.
I know further, sir, that we have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race—the free white race. To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of the kind of incorporating an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race. The greatest misfortunes of Spanish America are to be traced to the fatal error of placing these colored races on an equality with the white race. That error destroyed the social arrangement which formed the basis of society.” (emphasis added)
Given this premise, it is easy to understand why Mexicans in the ceded territories – – be they Indians, Mestizos (mixed-blood indians) or Spaniards – – never stood a chance. After the war, the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was supposed to guarantee all the people already living in California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, part of Wyoming, and Colorado the right to be citizens and to keep their lands. But, ruthless homesteaders, bandits, and vigilantes knew there would be no protection for the Mexicans. A feeding frenzy ensued and land and people displaced.
During the gold rush (which happened only weeks after the ratification of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo) many “Californios” had to flee with whatever they could carry as prospectors threatened, killed, and stole property and land from them with impunity. In 1850 for instance, white supremacist, set fire to the Mexican town of Sonora, looting, lynching and shooting survivors. The authorities – – whether police, military, or special forces like the Texas Rangers – – were not expected to bring whites to justice for theft, brutality, or murders of Mexicans, but instead to enforce white supremacy. To read more about California’s history, click here.
It is a little known fact in America that Mexicans were lynched in the Southwest, in particularly these, newly acquired territories, following the Mexican-American war; and that they were lynched on par with lynchings of African-Americans in proportion to their numbers. But beatings, whippings, brandings, and burnings were even more common. Both of these crimes went virtually unreported, unpunished, and undocumented. To find out more read The Law of the Noose: A History of Latino Lunching or read more here.
Texas Rangers are infamous in Mexican history for their brutal treatment of Mexicans (both undocumented Mexicans as well as Mexican-American citizens). In Texas, documentary movies like “Border Bandits”, highlight the terror waged on Mexican Tejanos by the Texas Rangers. In a New York Times article on the history of the Texas Rangers journalist Ralph Blumenthal wrote:
“A recent book by an assistant history professor at Southern Methodist and other accounts exploiting archives on both sides of the border, including a damning but little-known Texas legislative investigation of 1919, link the Rangers to the “evaporations” (read: kidnappings and murders) of up to 5,000 Mexican insurgents (read: those opposed to the theft of their land) and Tejanos – Texans of Mexican origin – whose lands in the Rio Grande Valley were coveted by Anglo settlers.”
“People are still coming across skeletons,” said the professor, Benjamin Heber Johnson, 32, whose book, ‘Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans Into Americans,’ published late 2013 year by Yale University Press, offers one of the fullest accounts to date of the violence.”
In an article by Cristobal Cavazos titled ‘Violence against Mexicans a neglected part of our history’, he recounts this history of violence faced by Mexicans:
“With no political power or social standing in the new nation, the Mexicans whom the border “crossed over” had no recourse or protection as the wrecking ball of corrupt individuals and institutions of the new nation waged class and race warfare with impunity. Suggests Luis Angel Toro of the University of Dayton, “The Anglos who poured into Texas and the rest of the Southwest brought their apparatus of racial terror, developed to hold the African American people in bondage, to the newly conquered territories. Mexicans became frequent victims of beatings and lynching.” Records indicate the disturbing statistic that between 1848 and 1870, 473 out of every 100,000 Mexicans in the Southwest died from lynchings.”
“In 1884 Mexicans around Fort Davis, Texas, fled daily lynchings as area Anglos, spurred on by the racist Texas Rangers (“los Pinches Rinches”), voiced the opinion that the lynchings should continue until the Southwest was rid of Mexicans.”
The Rangers executed Mexicans throughout Texas assisting Anglo prospectors in taking 90 plus percent of Mexican ranchers’ land holdings in Texas. “Border Bandits” movie trailer:
But, ironically, it was hatred of Chinese people, not Mexicans, that brought on the passage of one of the most racist and reprehensible laws ever passed in American history, The Chinese Exclusion Act – – which codified America’s white supremacy into law. This was the first law placing a quota on non-white immigrants in history. Prior to the Civil War the U.S. needed and welcomed Chinese and other foreign workers because it desperately needed cheap labor.
After the civil war, when free blacks entered the labor market, whites formed labor “unions” that would allow them to exclude blacks and other people of color from the choicest and best paying jobs. Those jobs coveted by whites were reserved for whites through the formation and exclusion of people of color. Later, it was this fight between organized unions and agriculture lobbyists– this crucible of a society steeped in white supremacy–that birthed the immigration laws we have today.
President Lincoln, the man who signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law, had argued
even before the Civil War that freeing the blacks would not encroach upon white supremacy promising frighted white voters that: “[w]ith deportation, even to a limited extent enhanced wages to white labor is mathematically certain. Labor is like any other commodity in the market —increase the demand for it, and you increase the price of it. Reduce the supply of black labor, by colonizing the black laborer out of the country, and, by precisely so much, you increase the demand for, and wages of, white labor.” The point of the Exclusion Act was similar to the labor union in its function: to keep people of color out. As a side note, when president
Lincoln refers to ‘colonizing the black laborer out of the country’ he’s referring to black deportation of ex-slaves to Liberia and other locations, which our government did eventually do. So, you see, the ‘liberator’ of black slaves himself, never really intended the liberations of blacks to encroach on white supremacy even if it meant deporting blacks out of the country.
Immigration “law”,(if it can be called that since it is in violation of the constitution. But more on that later.) is based on these “exclusionary” (read white supremacist) laws. Our country’s history is littered with the consequences of enacting “laws” that violate the Constitution like the forcible removal and ‘internal deportation’ of Indians and their detention on reservations, the internment of Japanese in camps and, deportations under Operation Wetback (including tens of thousands of Mexican-American citizens) and the Chinese Exclusion Act. All of these resulted in violations of human rights, theft of property, torture, and death. And the constitutional guarantees under the 4th and 5th Amendments are for all “people” within the U.S. (not just citizens) and states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized,” and that no one can be prosecuted without “due process of law”.
To circumvent the law, immigration procedures and undocumented status are considered “civil” procedures — not criminal ones. By claiming that in essence, being undocumented isn’t a “crime”, and that the methods and procedures used (INS/ICE/deportations/detentions) fall under civil procedure; Border Patrol raids, detentions and deportations can’t be considered a “punishment”. This allows the government to surveil, question, arrest, imprison, rape, torture, kill, and deport men, women and children without due process and without warrants. It allows the cruel and unusual punishment of deportation, arrest, and imprisonment without due process of the law or recourse because under civil law detainees don’t get any rights, or access to a lawyer. Yet, despite this loophole that conveniently decriminalizes undocumented cases for the benefit of authorities, the propaganda used by individuals in INS/ICE/Border Patrol criminalizes the image of Mexicans, legal or ‘illegal’. Which goes to show, laws can be manipulated for good or evil.
In upholding the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Supreme Court put forth dogma as law upholding the exclusion because of their “inherent power of sovereignty” as a nation-state. But, in his dissenting opinion, Justice Brewer countered the other justices’ ideology with logic stating, “Deportation is punishment. Everyone knows that to be forcibly taken from home, friends, and business and property, and sent across the ocean to a distant land, is punishment; and that oftentimes most severe and cruel.” This being the case, immigrants should enjoy all the guarantees of the constitution under its 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments. (emphasis added).
Therefore, the U.S. Border Patrol, as a function of white supremacy in America, cannot function without the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court all flouting the supreme law: the constitution. The state governments also have to be given wide berth to create anti-immigrant policies that profile people of color in general and violate the rights of all people in America, except, of course, (for the most part) whites. The discretion and authority handed down to the INS/ICE authorities allows them to detain, question, and search any person “believed to be an alien as to his right to be in the United States.” When conducting searches or raids for undocumented individuals agents of the Border Patrol claim the right to question “anyone who looks like an alien”. To agents this means anyone who looks Mexican, speaks Spanish (or English with a Spanish accent), wears Mexican looking clothing, or “looks nervous”.
But it is difficult for any person of Mexican descent to avoid looking Mexican, or for that matter to avoid looking nervous when confronted with the historical agents for terrorizing Mexicans, whatever their present incarnations may be: police, military, INS/ICE agents, Minutemen and other similar vigilante border patrol groups, or the Klu Klux Klan. And, if it seems odd to include the KKK or the Minutemen in this group that is only because their connections to each other and to history are largely hidden from the public. Consider these facts about the history of these groups and the history of INS/ICE and the Border Patrol:
INS enacted “Operation Wetback” (note the use of a racial slur in this campaign) which was sanctioned by the U.S. government and which forcibly removed over a quarter of a million people thousands of whom were American citizens of Mexican descent. The INS and Border Patrol later enacted a policy of referring to all their Mexican detainees “wetbacks”.
Past INS directors, like the infamous Gen. Leonard Chapman, deliberately created anti-immigrant hysteria through propaganda and lies. His lies were echoed and spurred on by similar fear mongering propaganda being circulated by the worker’s union, the AFL-CIO and other exclusionary groups. Their goal? To portray Mexicans as disease ridden vermin who are criminal, steal jobs, and drain the resources of America. This tactic, despite overwhelming evidence showing the contrary was true, has permanently stained the image of Mexicans in America, even today.
Brutality and Racism have been a hallmark of the Border Patrolman in history and today. They have historically threatened, beaten, raped and murdered “suspected aliens”. Furthermore, it has been the policy of the Border Patrol to bring their victims up on false charges of “assault”, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary simply to “protect” agents from personal lawsuits for human rights violations. That is because most victims of agents are deported before they can sue in court or appeal their cases for “assault”. In his statement to the El Paso Times Sector Chief for the El Paso Border Patrol, Dale Swancutt, told the daily that it was standard procedure to charge undocumented immigrants with assault when they were injured by agents saying, “Once it’s established that the officer was assaulted, it affords the officer protection (from being sued). Most federal agencies will do that. Otherwise the agent would be naked.” (emphasis added).
Since 1970 the Courts have ruled that Border Patrol agents have no right to question U.S. citizens about their citizenship or to force them to rovide documents proving such. What that means is that in continuing to perform their jobs, as they perform them today and have performed them since the inception of the Border Patrol, they are violating the civil rights of citizens and making themselves subject to lawsuits for false imprisonment every time an agent questions and detains a citizen. The only reason the courts are not flooded with these cases is the poverty of the victims, the fear of retaliation, and the distance they face after being deported.
In 1977 the leader of the KKK, Grand Dragon, David Duke famously declared the KKK would be “assisting” the Border Patrol and federal government by carrying out armed patrols of the border and detaining undocumented people. Duke in lock step with the racist rhetoric of Gen. Chapman, head of INS, helped him fan the flame of racial hatred against Mexicans with this collaboration. And, although the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Patrick J. Lucy, made public statements to Mexico City’s leading newspaper Excelsior that the U.S. government would not tolerate the KKK intimidation of Mexicans, meanwhile back in the good ‘ole U.S.A (1) David Duke held private meetings with INS District Director, James O’Keefe and Alan Clayton, a local office head; (2) demonstrations against the KKK’s actions in San Diego were met with brutal police repression and arrests of Chicanos; (3) a U.S. District Court Judge denied the request for an injunction to stop the KKK from performing its patrols — even after a cross burning and the defacement of a Black city councilmembers home were reported — and (4) signs and leaflets were distributed along border towns reading: TO ILLEGAL ALIENS AND OFFICIALS OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT. THIS BORDER SUBJECT TO RANDOM PATROLS BY THE KU KLUX KLAN”, all of which left Mexicans with the clear feeling that if not implicitly working together, the U.S. government was in league with the views of the KKK and secretly pleased by the KKK’s actions.
Minutemen and other vigilante groups have been linked to or had members who have participated in human rights violations on Mexican immigrants, thefts, and murders. The record of their racist rhetoric and criminal vigilante behavior is easy to find. Just google “Minutemen hate crimes” and you’ll see what I mean. Recent examples include:
1) Minutemen protest showing the racist rhetoric employed by its supporters:
6) U.S. Shawna Fode, who has ties to the Tea Party (she maintained a blog), was a member of Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and spokesperson/representative of Federation for American Immigration Reform (an anti-immigrant think tank and lobbying group) was convicted sentenced to death row for the double murders of nine year old Brisena Flores and her father during a botched theft attempt. Fode and a group of her vigilante friends had been robbing people they suspected of being illegal because they were more certain their crimes would not be reported.
Today, the recruitment by police, military and Border Patrol of Mexicans is growing. And the ways in which law enforcement has abused the trust and rights of Mexicans is alarming. The rate of deportation is higher than any time in the history of this country, and most of those affected are Mexicans. It is estimated that over 4 million of those being detained or deported have one or more American citizen relatives (children, wives, parents) living in and working in the U.S.A. We are violating the rights of American citizen children, who have a basic human right to be raised by both of their birth parents, just because their last name is Gonzales or Gomez. That is racist and it seems no different than the tactics used in the past to remove Mexican and Indian children from their parents and give them to boarding schools or white families to be assimilated. The abuses of border patrol continue to mount and have been increasingly documented by news agencies and human rights organizations.
A story from May 5, 2014, in the Idaho Statesman reported on the rising complaints and lawsuits against Border Patrol citing that “[C]ritics say the lawsuits, all three filed by U.S. citizens, are part of a pattern that’s become endemic to the nation’s efforts to secure its southern border. They come in addition to complaints that U.S. Border Patrol agents have used deadly force when their lives were not at risk – agents have killed 21 people since the beginning of 2010, most of them unarmed migrants.”
“Violent confrontations are only part of the picture. U.S. citizens who live along the border say that U.S. agents have become a virtual interior police force – disrespecting private property, looking for pretexts to search vehicles and detaining residents for hours at checkpoints.
‘In the last three years, the Border Patrol has caused me more damage than the illegals,’ said John Ladd, whose family has operated a ranch in southeast Arizona for the past 118 years. ‘They’ve abused private property rights immensely.’”
“Fueling the problems, critics say, has been the agencies’ rapid expansion, which has led to poor hiring and training and an institutional unwillingness to acknowledge agents’ mistakes that encourages the frequent use of physical violence. One lawyer who deals with the agencies accuses them of nurturing “an overly aggressive, bullying culture.”
Read more here.
Here are some additional resources:
Video on Culture of Cruelty by Border Patrol agents:
Today, more than any time in history, the policies meant to eradicate Mexicans are funneling thousands of desperate people everyday into the hottest and most dangerous parts of the desert to cross the Mexican-American border, leading to hundreds if not thousands of deaths each year. Families continue to be shattered as hard working undocumented Mexicans are rounded up and separated from their wives and children never to be reunited. Thousands of Dreamers, many of whom do not speak Spanish or know anything about Mexico, who have spent their entire lives growing up in America are being deported.
Much like police, military and other authorities, the border patrol is an institution that investigates complaints of abuse from within, usually exonerate their officers, do not have to notify the public of their actions, and can act with impunity. So too has the history of theft, threats, rape, torture and murder plagued these institutions of authority in American history, the border patrol included.
Today, the stories of murders are even videotaped abuses by border patrol agents make their way around the internet and the news and still there is no change in the accountability of border patrol agents. There seems to be no end in sight, especially with the expansion of privatized prisons across the country, to the number of detentions and deportations or to the rise in racist U.S. immigration policies and state laws. Time has not been able to eradicate the white supremacist agenda from American immigration history and today the border patrol remains a powerful arm of the white racist agenda in this country. These violations of human rights, masquerading as ‘law and order’ are reprehensible, inhumane, and downright disgusting.
That is what makes these jobs so dangerous not just to the Mexican mind but also to the Mexican body. These jobs and what they stand for are a threat and a danger to all Mexican people, and all people of color, be they undocumented or not because they promote a culture of exclusion, hatred, and death. And that is why Mexicans should not be participants.