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Home#policestateComprehensive Immigration Reform is Anti-Immigrant & Anti-Indigenous

Comprehensive Immigration Reform is Anti-Immigrant & Anti-Indigenous

Comprehensive Immigration Reform is Anti-Immigrant & Anti-Indigenous


By Franco Habre and Mari Garza | Download the PDF zine here.

Originally posted here. Contact: and

Comprehensive Immigration Reform is inherently anti-immigrant.  It is presented as a “path to citizenship” and as a temporary solution to halting the incarceration/deportation of some migrants, but it is actually an attack in disguise.  The reform package known as Senate Bill S.744 is a blatant plot to further immobilize, mold, and reduce the lives of migrants.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform, otherwise known as “CIR”, is not about restoring the dignity and human rights of migrants.  It is, however, an opportunity to reinforce white supremacy, the rule of law; racist/imperial borders; free trade and exploitable labor from the global south, and will further invisibilize the existence of Indigenous/First Nations peoples living in and around the so-called US/Mexico border, which at the time of its creation, bisected the homelands of four Indigenous tribes.

The title of Senate Bill S.744 is, “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act”.  The title makes it easy to infer the priority of the bill–border security. The policing/surveillance of the 1,933-mile colonial boundary called the US/Mexico border has grown exponentially in the last decade.  Communities along this border have experienced the unrelenting infestation of increasingly abusive Border Patrol agents, aerial drones, in-land weaponized checkpoints during daily routines in their own neighborhoods, and increased freight traffic.  In addition, despite the increased border security, people still die in the deserts of the border region, those migrating north from Mexico and Central America to flee economic and/or political injustice.  This bill will continue to limit the freedom of movement for Indigenous peoples as the bill contains provisions for increased militarization of their homelands, and will thus continue shifting border crossers through the perilous deserts of  Lipan Apache, Kickapoo, Tohono O’odham, and Yaqui homelands.

S.744 amplifies this deadly reality by calling for a “border surge” that will nearly double the number of Border Patrol agents from 21,000 to 40,000.   Currently more than half of Border Patrol agents are raza, and with the call to double the number of agents, what does this do for solidarity in our communities other than further divide us? This “border surge” also calls for the completion of 700 miles of fencing on the border, putting the 96 miles of the Berlin Wall to shame.  Additional amendments include a $3.2 billion high-tech border surveillance plan–including unmanned attack drones; infrared ground sensors; long-range thermal imaging cameras; an electronic employment verification program for all employers; and a visa entry/exit system at all air and seaports, in order to limit immigrants who overstay their visas.  This is big business, massive federal contracts for defense firms and surveillance technology firms.  Does this sound like the “path to citizenship” reform you’ve been hearing about?

S.744 is an attack that is playing out in covert ways with age-old divide and conquer tactics.  The bill arbitrarily grants “a pathway to citizenship” with very little promise of actually acquiring citizenship due to a ridiculously long and arduous process of bureaucratic hoops that will be required for folks to jump through.  This laborious process will actually force folks to out themselves as undocumented, which will in turn make it easier for the government to incarcerate and deport them rather than actually granting residency.  It is a Catch-22 that the drafters of this bill surely had in mind, because when really have politicians ever had our gente’s liberation at heart?  How can we push for integration into a system that already considers us disposable?  Peep this; S.744 is designed to weed out those who the system views as undesirable migrants (those with trumped-up charges from the police state now labeled “criminals”, and day laborers) and to incorporate migrants they consider more desirable like academic scholars and others considered “highly skilled workers”.  This bill is being sold as relief to all undocumented peoples, when in fact it will only help the few who have been deemed worthy by a mostly white legislative body.  This creates a division amongst folks vying for citizenship and further divides our community, thus reinforcing white supremacy.  

So why are folks endorsing CIR when it does more harm than good?  Money.  Many would stand to make a large profit from this bill.  Besides defense firms and surveillance tech firms, the for-profit private prison industry has been making a killing off deportations of our gente since its establishment in the 1980s, with billion dollar profits reported annually.  The private prison industry has been lobbying Congress and the Senate hard by making huge campaign donations to key representatives (who should be targeted in our demands) to continue their cash flow from deportations.  It is no wonder that provisions in S. 744 make it extremely difficult for people to qualify for the Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status, which will lead to more gente incarcerated in private prisons as a condition of having surrendered their undocumented status to the government.

S. 744 also has the requirement that “Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy is deployed and operational” before even one person who has achieved RPI status can then apply to become a lawful permanent citizen.  As noted earlier, the increase in border militarization feeds into the for-profit prison industry, so increased BP deployment will mean increased incarceration.  S.744 also includes the provision that 90% of immigrants who have overstayed their visas be detained in order for anyone to begin the permanent resident process, which could ultimately lead to a “snitch” program to out folks who are considered in violation.  All these measures will continue to increase the population of undocumented folks locked up.  Does this sound like the great political citizenship compromise you’ve been hearing about?

How can we as a movement expect victories when year after year, the same unchanging organizing tactics (marches co-organized with police, symbolic protests for the love from social media, and pleading to authoritarian white powers) are deployed?  Our community has seen the same ineffective results for several years, in particular, within the migrant rights struggle.  The current demand for immigration reform will inevitably result in more border militarization, and more migrant deaths.  CIR will continue to displace Indigenous peoples coming from the global south and the Indigenous people whose only “violation” is existing in their homelands along the border.  We need to recognize that the immigration struggle is also a global Indigenous struggle.

This is a time to stop pleading for human rights and to start demanding justice.  We need to identify and attack the root causes of the oppressions (US/Mexico binational trade policies, for one) we face that continue to divide us internally as a movement, and to identify those vendido politicians that breed more (racist) laws and more human imprisonment.  We need to say a lot more about the international trade policies that continue to uproot people from their homes.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform is clearly not a people’s solution.  Profiting off our demise as a gente and converting Indigenous territories to paramilitary police states is big business for government officials and corporations promoting these reforms.  We need to be in the business of asking critical questions to be a stronger, united force in responding to this attack and fight back!

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  • You need to check your privilege. As a US citizen with nothing to lose, you can accept nothing over a compromise. The so-called “undocumented”, who yes would have to deal with bureaucratic nightmares, would expressly rather fill out paperwork for 10 years than have to live their lives in fear. It’s a shitty piece of public policy, but by rejecting its flaws and ignoring its benefits, your speak as a privileged citizen.

    May 4, 2014
    • BL, you know NOTHING about living on a reservation occupied by the border patrol and the trauma that goes along with it. You haven’t experienced it nor have you heard the countless stories of people being held at gunpoint, shot, harassed, run over, and treated less than a human being for being brown and existing. “Check your privilege.” Seriously? Your comment is enraging. It is incredibly ignorant and foolish. You dismiss thousands upon thousands of incidences of abuse and trauma before you’ve even heard them.

      Many of us growing up along the border have encountered dead and dying migrants. The CIR you are promoting will encourage more deaths. Therefore, by promoting CIR, you are promoting the killing of your own people. In addition, CIR does not stop deportations. Actually, if you read it, it encourages the mass deportation of criminalized immigrants at an expedited process.

      I’d be willing to share more stories on the abuse, but you aren’t even listening. Can you imagine how many others there who have been severely abused but can’t share these stories because of people like you? And what makes you think this piece is unsympathetic to migrants? Why does militarization even have to be included in CIR? You have such a white supremacist, colonial way of thinking. Indigenous peoples didn’t cause this problem, yet for some reason you think they should get the worst of it on top of everything else.

      I saw this a while back, and it still pisses me off. I would really love to have a face to face confrontation with this BL person.

      April 17, 2015
    • I don’t think you make a good case that it would hurt indigenous people more than help undocumented. Absolutely, it brings more violence into their communities, but that violence is targeted at Latino populations first and foremost. Please cite cases in which indigenous communities were targeted by the border patrol to an extent that the pain and suffering of undocumented communities should not be relieved.

      You should be attacking groups like National Council of La Raza and United We Dream if you truly feel this way. They made the choice to accept the flawed bill because they know nothing else is possible while Republicans control much of the government. They decided that the big downsides of a bigger border patrol and givaways to big agriculture were worth it for a pathway to citizenship and a better immigration process. And they’re not in it for the money.

      May 6, 2014
  • what about this piece, that i co-wrote with my brown homie, reveals my citizen status in the united snakes? You assume I/we have papers..Out of the shadows and into the.. (what?). Into the main stream? This integration via reform a is pretty violent process. Remind me, What are the benefits again? for who? and for how long? and on the backs of who’s communities?

    May 4, 2014
    • You question my assumption but do not refute it. I’ve interacted with many undocumented peoples who expressly said that some sort of recognition would make their lives easier. Maybe you have no desire to be a part of the mainstream, but they do. Don’t pretend to speak for those who prefer safety and stability to uncompromising intransigence.

      I suspect your questions are rhetorical, but will answer them anyway because I reject the nasty concept of making points by pretending to ask a question. The benefits are for the 10 million undocumented immigrants. It’s for the Dreamers who want to go to college on in-state tutition. It’s for the men and women who want to get jobs but can’t because of the laws forbidding them to do so and employers from hiring them. And for them? It’s for their whole lives. Absolutely some communities will be hurt. Communities are hurt by every action and inaction everywhere. But the suffering caused by this legislation is smaller than the suffering believed.

      May 6, 2014
      • Really, what I want to make clear is that if you two had written a well thought out piece that showed CIR is not reflective of the needs of indigenous people and in fact hurts them, I would totally agree. You instead wrote an unfocused piece that dismisses any possible value of CIR to immigrant communities.

        May 6, 2014
  • I think the demands of the Border Patrol 6 (the six people composed of Tohono O’odham, Dine, Mexican@, and anarchist who locked down and were arrested for challenging border militarization at the Tucson sector Border Patrol station in 2010) are a good place to start. Unlike the backers of CIR, and the non-profit immigration groups which remain silent on CIR, the BP6’s demands didn’t throw any impacted group under the bus, they sketched out a list of demands which should have been the playbook for the immigrant movement.

    – Immediately withdraw National Guard Troops from the US/Mexico border

    – Immediately halt development of the border wall

    – Immediately remove drones and checkpoints

    – Decommission all detention camps and release all presently held undocumented migrants

    – Immediately honor Indigenous Peoples rights of self-determination

    – Fully comply with the recently signed UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    – Respect Indigenous People’s inherent right of migration

    – End NAFTA, FTAA and other trade agreements

    – Immediately end all CANAMEX/NAFTA Highway projects (such as the South Mountain Freeway)

    – Immediately repeal SB1070 and 287g

    – End all racial profiling

    – No BP encroachment/sweeps on sovereign Native land

    – No raids and deportations

    – Immediate and unconditional regularization (“legalization”) of all people

    – Uphold human freedom and rights

    – Uphold the rights of ALL Indigenous People – repeal HB 2281, support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

    – Support dignity and respect

    – Support and ensure freedom of movement for all people

    For more info on the BP6, check these links out:

    May 6, 2014

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