Saturday, 13 March 2010

Response to Katey's Blog on Border Action Network

Sorry all. I tried adding this as a comment but was thwarted by blogger's character limit. My dislike of Blogger continues apace......

Really interesting blog Katey. I tried accessing your link to the BAN site but it's not working. I suspect Blogger is to blame but the website was easy to find on Google.

Immigration is a huge subject in the American context but the same kinds of issues/responses manifest in Western Europe too - including our own country as we know. Economics is at the heart of the debate as always. The tide moves firmly from relatively poor toward relatively rich in global terms.

This group is interesting as it is both collectivist (unorthodox in the US context) but also adopts the very American ethos of 'self sufficiency' in order to maintain its 'independence'. The home page states:

'One of the key building blocks of Border Action Network is the principle of self-sufficiency. To ensure self-sufficiency Border Action Network members pay annual membership dues. By paying dues, our members build the organization's ability to grow, and also guarantee that the members of Border Action Network have control of our campaigns and goals, not any outside funding source.'

An anti-collectivist principle which is very 'American' but also suggests that they are positioning themselves outside the political mainstream. Considering their mandate that would seem appropriate as their aims are antithethical to the Constitutional principles which govern US society. The heart of which is the 'US citizen' and his/her relationship to the nation/state/etc.

Having looked at the detail of the organisation and it's stated mandate:

'(BAN) works with immigrant and border communities in southern Arizona to ensure that our rights are respected, our human dignity upheld and that our communities are healthy places to live.'

However, the group's actions and causes are overtly geared toward the protection of cross-border illegal immigrants. I couldn't find contact names on the site (interesting in itself) but all the images are of people of Hispanic ethnicity which suggests that this group is predominantly Hispanic, may be supported actively by 'illegals' as well as legal immigrants and may also fear reprisal if identities were revealed. Note that their current campaign is against a proposed Arizona anti-illegal immigration bill which they summarise as:

'Russell Pearce’s SB1070 (and similar House version HB2632) is the most far-reaching anti-immigrant bill ever introduced in the Arizona Legislature. The bill rolls together seven bills that Pearce has tried to push through the last few years but failed. This year, because of the governor and make-up of the legislature, this bill is likely to become law very quickly. Among other things, the bill:

o Creates an additional state crime of trespassing and gives law enforcement the authority to arrest someone if they have probable cause to believe they are undocumented;
o Ties the hands of local law enforcement by forcing them to prioritize immigration enforcement over other public safety responsibilities;
o Prohibits drivers from attempting to hire day laborers for the purpose of employment;
o Criminalizes transporting, harboring or shielding anyone if the person knows or disregards the fact that they are undocumented;
o Allows law enforcement to use a ruse to entrap a business owner into hiring undocumented immigrants and violating our state employer sanctions law'.

All of which is aimed at controlling illegal entry from Mexico.

The dominant view within the USA is still governed by the cultural interest of the dominant group (white, nativist, Euro, Protestant) but African-Americans are equally anti-immigration for economic and nativist reasons. Although the conservative media scare-monger, the feeling amongst the majority of Americans citizens (including those from other ethnic/racial backgrounds) is firmly against immigration from South America - and particularly from Mexico - for both cultural and economic reasons. Much of this is governed by ignorance of the role such illegals play in the economy and birth-rate of the USA.

The historic justification on which residence rights are claimed for Mexican citizens in Arizona (i.e. Mexican-American War in 1848) may be morally right but such historic justification doesn't go far when matched against the collective view of those who have 'owned' the region for the last 160+ years. These states are recognised by the global community as part of the USA - which is, of course, why economic migrants from Mexico are drawn to them in the first place.

In terms of leftist tradition, this group is difficult to situate. They are small and very particularised in their objectives. Also, those objectives are inconsistent with the impulse of US specificity by virtue of their 'raison d'etre'. They support the cause of non-citizens 'human rights' without claiming any affiliation with the citizenship rights granted specifically by the Constitution. This positions them outside the US political field as the Constitution is very specific in determining who is a citizen. As you say, Amendment 14:

'All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside'.

The same dictionary entry you used is also very specific about what 'naturalized' means in this context. The first definition mentioned is:

'to confer upon (an alien) the rights and privileges of a citizen'.

It doesn't get much more specific than that.

Note that the group avoids mention of the Consitution, I suspect for this reason. Human rights is a global issue and I think this group is a good example for debating how the Consitution works in that context though.

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