Border summer of discontent
by Frontera NorteSur, Las Cruces NM
EL PASO -- It's as if all the contradictions of the U.S. War on Terror, immigration reform, U.S.-Mexico relations, free trade, and sagging economies on both sides of the border have burst at the seams, and at the same time. As the record hot summer of 2007 crawls to a close, the political barometer in Arizona and all along the U.S.-Mexico border is tipping red. Barely a day goes by without hunger strikes, human chains, border crossing demonstrations, marches, and calls for economic boycotts.
In a press conference this week, Carlos Marentes, director of the El Paso-based Border Agricultural Workers Project, said "neo-liberal" economic policies exemplified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are sparking a growing crisis in the borderlands and beyond. He contended that U.S. immigration laws and policies are shrouded in a veil of "hypocrisy" that views immigrant workers as an indispensable, cheap labor pool but then turns them into convenient political scapegoats. "We want to stop them, but we also need them," Marentes said.
While border protests are hardly new, what's striking about the latest manifestations of discontent is how they are cutting across the political spectrum and even incorporating centrist and conservative forces that are increasingly frustrated by a status quo dictated in Washington and Mexico City.
In the wake of the U.S. Congress' failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year, several developments are rekindling citizen activism. Among the most important are the construction of new border walls, long waits at border crossings, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) crackdown on undocumented workers, the deaths of detained immigrants while in U.S. custody, Border Patrol shootings, and the Aug. 19 deportation of activist Elvira Arellano.
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- adapted from Frontera NorteSur (FNS) on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news, Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.