A group of right-wing demonstrators took to the streets on Tuesday, turning away three Border Patrol buses bringing 136 Central American migrant children and families to a Murrieta, California processing center.
So much for the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, which
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
What the nation saw in Southern California yesterday (and last week in Escondido) was nothing short of racism and ignorance covered with a varnish of false patriotism. Right wing extremists have been sowing the seeds for this kind of confrontation for weeks now, stoking fears of disease, crime and economic ruin.
Today we’ll delve into the details of this sad moment in US history.
Here’s how the story was reported in The Hill, a publication aimed at Washington DC’s lawmakers:
More than 100 protesters waived American flags and chanted “USA!” “Impeach Obama!” and “Deport, Deport!” as they waited for the buses to arrive at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in Murrieta, nearly an hour away from San Diego.
Federal authorities tried to steer away from the entrance, according to USA TODAY, but the crowd blocked the street and forced the buses to reroute to a San Diego border facility.
The standoff comes after Mayor Alan Long of Murrieta, Calif., urged residents to fight against a plan to make the community a processing site for the surge of undocumented immigrants entering the country illegally.
Dara Lind at Vox.com described the mood:
This is some extremely ugly behavior: protesters are yelling “Go home!” at a bus full of children, and physically preventing detainees from going to the place they’re supposed to go and forcing the government to send them somewhere else.
Frankly, it’s a kind of personal, in-your-face nativism that wasn’t actually seen during the most recent debate over immigration reform in Congress. And it’s not that these residents are misinformed about who was coming on those buses: at a town hall last night, the mayor told residents, “What we’ve been told is that most of these immigrants are families. These are mothers and young children, or fathers and young children.” That didn’t mollify residents last night, and it didn’t stop protesters from coming out today.
How Ugly Was It?
Here’s a Tweet from a reporter for KESQ in Palm Springs:
Covered immigration issue in #Murrieta. 1 protestor said “go back to China.” 1 supporter told me to “go eat sushi.” Long way to go folks.
— Greg Lee (@gregolee) July 2, 2014
Some people felt motivated to take a stand against the flag waving fools in Murrieta. Here’s one account from Raw Story:
A smaller group of protesters at the Murrieta facility, however, held up signs saying “Americans are immigrants” in support of the group of Central Americans, with some engaging in arguments with the anti-immigrant group.
“If these were Canadian children, we would not be having this interview right now, and that’s a fact,” said Enrique Morones, whose advocacy group, Border Angels, had prepared packages containing donated food and toiletries for the immigrants.
The Los Angeles Times also covered this aspect of the story, interviewing Temecula resident Lupillo Rivera:
A well-known Mexican banda singer who came to the United States at age 4, Rivera said he was driving by when he happened upon the protest at the Border Patrol station. He said somebody shouted that he was an illegal immigrant and should go home. Rivera, who is a U.S. citizen, went home and returned with several of his friends and bandmates to confront the protesters.
“Our people cook your food,” he shouted at them. “We didn’t ask for them to come here,” one protester shot back. Rivera, brother of the late Mexican singer Jenni Rivera, said anybody who would turn away a busload of children was “not human.” “It doesn’t matter where a child is from,” he said. “He deserves respect and help because he’s a child.
Some Demonstrators Are More Equal Than Others
The nativist demonstrators actually blocked the highway leading into the Border Patrol processing facility in Murrieta. Last I heard that’s an arrest-able offense. I’m just about 100% certain that if this had been, for instance, an Occupy demonstration, the protesters would have been lucky to just get away with being arrested. It’s more likely they would have been pepper-sprayed and a few heads would have been bashed in on the way to the jail house.
The difference in this situation is the involvement of law enforcement personnel with the right wing groups. Specifically I’m talking about members of the union representing the Border Patrol agents. They are the source for much of the misinformation being circulated among right-wing groups.
Here’s a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch newsletter:
Shawn Moran is the Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), which represents more than 17,000 border patrol agents and support staff. Last week, he appeared on the Pete Santilli Show, whose host is organizing a protest to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border on July 5th and who previously called for President Obama, Hillary Clinton and the Bush family to be shot and killed.
The NBPC has a conservative stance on immigration, so it’s no surprise that Moran’s name appears regularly in right-wing outlets. But he crossed the line by lending credibility to an extremist like Pete Santilli who wants to shut down the very thing – the border – that he and the people he represents are sworn to protect.
The Right Wing Campaign
The current surge in right-wing propaganda has its origins in photographs made possible by Border Patrol personnel. For the right wingers involved, the border crisis is an opportunity to kill any possibility that moderate Republicans will introduce any reform bill with legalization and to attack Obama’s executive actions in the area of immigration.
Photojournalist David Bacon, writing at CounterPunch.org, explains how this came about:
The story began with a series of photographs, showing young people and children in detention centers all along the U.S./Mexico border. These photos were published on a website, breitbart.com, which has a long history with the Tea Party and extreme right wing causes….
….Any photographer who has taken photographs in a prison, jail or detention center knows that it is difficult, and often impossible, to show the face of an inmate or detainee. Yet these photographs are taken by people with completely free access to show not only faces, but also the entire context of the places in which the children are being held. There is only one group of people who have such unrestricted access: the Border Patrol itself, and the guards who work for private detention corporations like Geo and CCA.
The article brags about being leaked the photos: “Breitbart Texas obtained internal federal government photos depicting the conditions of foreign children warehoused by authorities on U.S. soil on Wednesday night.”
Extremist ‘Balance’ in the Mass Media
Lest you think this campaign is relegated to right wing echo chambers, extremists are using this opportunity to get their messages over the mainstream media.
Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform told City News Service there is no way of knowing “with certainty” the histories of those being brought to the area. Mehlman said some of the “children” who have been showing up and surrendering to federal agents along the border look older than they claim and have been identified as affiliates of criminal syndicates such as the notorious MS-13.
“Before the Obama administration put a gag order on the Border Patrol, agents were saying they recognized some of these so-called `kids’ as gang members,” Mehlman said. “The agents were forced to take them anyway. The last thing any community wants is more gang members running around.”
Ira Mehlman is not your average conservative activist. Nor is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) anywhere close to a sane political group.
In an interview with Janet Mefferd yesterday, Federation for American Immigration (FAIR) spokesman Ira Mehlman, suggested that DREAMers should be forced to “go home” with their families and called Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor a “demagogue” for using the term “undocumented immigrant” rather than “illegal alien.”
The extremism of this group has been the subject of reports by the Anti-Defamation League. As the Southern Poverty Law Center documented back in 2007, FAIR is part of a decades old nativist network that includes NumbersUSA, and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) :
The vast majority of these groups were founded or funded by John Tanton, a major architect of the contemporary nativist movement who, 20 years ago, was already warning of a destructive “Latin onslaught” heading to the United States. Most of these organizations used their vast resources in the days leading up to a vote on the bill to stir up a nativist backlash that ultimately resulted in its death.
At the center of the Tanton web is the nonprofit Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the most important organization fueling the backlash against immigration. Founded by Tanton in 1979, FAIR has long been marked by anti-Latino and anti-Catholic attitudes. It has mixed this bigotry with a fondness for eugenics, the idea of breeding better humans discredited by its Nazi associations. It has accepted $1.2 million from an infamous, racist eugenics foundation. It has employed officials in key positions who are also members of white supremacist groups. Recently, it has promoted racist conspiracy theories about Mexico’s secret designs on the American Southwest and an alternative theory alleging secret plans to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada. Just last February, a senior FAIR official sought “advice” from the leaders of a racist Belgian political party.
NBC7 News gave “conservative activist” Rhonda Deniston (North County Regional Director of Stop Taxing Us) a shot at adding to their coverage:
“We’re putting huge burdens on our Border Patrol, where they cannot effectively secure our borders because they’re dealing with this crisis,” Deniston said.
Deniston’s blog is busy spreading fear about diseases carried by the migrants, with a link to this story prominently displayed:
Carried by this tsunami of illegals are the invisible “travelers” our politicians don’t like to mention: diseases the U.S. had controlled or virtually eradicated: tuberculosis (TB), Chagas disease, dengue fever, hepatitis, malaria, measles, plus more. I have been working on medical projects in Central and South America since 2009, so I am aware of problems these countries face from such diseases.
A public health crisis, the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime, is looming. Hardest hit by exposures to these difficult-to-treat diseases will be elderly, children, immunosuppressed cancer-patients, patients with chronic lung disease or congestive heart failure. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is the most serious risk, but even diseases like measles can cause severe complications and death in older or immunocompromised patients.
I won’t bother sharing the link she tweeted yesterday to her 117 followers leading to a story about how Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is getting close to finding out who is behind forging the President’s birth certificate. Suffice it to say, she’s a whack-a-doodle. Ya gotta love that “balanced” reporting.
The Root Causes of the Crisis
What’s happening at our southern border is not an immigration crisis. It’s a refugee crisis. It’s not just me saying this–the United Nations 2012 Women’s Refugee Commission report says so.
Colorlines.com has a great article about the three primary myths of the unaccompanied minors crisis, those myths being:
- The current refugee crisis is a creation of President Obama’s making.
- Telling parents in Central America to stop sending their children, and quickly deporting the ones who are here, will fix the problem.
- This is an immigration problem.
Journalist Laura Carsen has a story posted at America’s Program entitled “Child Migrants and Media Half-Truths” that speaks to media’s inability to explain the motivations behind those trying to cross our borders from Central America.
Vox.com has an explainer posted about just how bad the street violence in Central America really is. A quote:
Children are uniquely vulnerable to gang violence. The street gangs known as “maras” — M-18 and Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 — target kids for forced recruitment, usually in their early teenage years, but sometimes as young as kindergarten. They also forcibly recruit girls as “girlfriends,” a euphemistic term for a non-consensual relationship that involves rape by one or more gang members.
If children defy the gang’s authority by refusing its demands, the punishment is harsh: rape, kidnapping, and murder are common forms of retaliation. Even attending school can be tremendously dangerous, because gangs often target schools as recruitment sites and children may have to pass through different gangs’ territories, or ride on gang-controlled buses, during their daily commutes.
Oh, and one final thing. Today marks the 50th Anniversary of President Johnson signing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Here’s my favorite Tweet from yesterday.
On This Day: 1937 – American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart disappeared in the Central Pacific during an attempt to fly around the world at the equator. 1947 – An object crashed near Roswell, NM. The U.S. Army Air Force insisted it was a weather balloon, but eyewitness accounts led to speculation that it might have been an alien spacecraft. 1990 – Representatives of the Italian Catholic Church announced that they would attempt to halt Madonna’s concerts in Rome because of her alleged inappropiate use of crucifixes and sacred symbols.
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