June 9, 2006

The deployment of troops along the border caused tension in the community

By Luis Alonso Pérez

The deployment of National Guard troops to the Mexico-US border region has received several critics from citizen groups from all over the country, as well as a strong opposition from members of the San Diego Latino community, who gathered near the border last weekend to protest against what they consider a clear act of intimidation from the state and federal government.

“I think this decision is ridiculous” said Ajamu, a community activist from San Diego, and member of the Si se Puede Coalition. “This is just a political move to gain votes during electoral season” he stated.

A group of approximately two hundred opponents gathered on Saturday, June 3 in San Ysidro’s Larsen Field Park, for a peaceful rally, followed by a march towards the border crossing point.

But the pro-immigrant activists weren’t the only ones who wanted to express their opinion. About twenty members of the Minutemen Project counter protested in front of Larsen Field, waving American flags and holding signs with messages in English and Spanish like “No amnesty for illegal aliens”; “No surrender. Secure our borders”; “Si eres ilegal, Fuera”.

Larry Culbertson, member of the Minutemen group considers that the troops sent to the border are not enough and that it was a decision that should have been taken a long time ago. “If we had strong employer sanctions, then that would solve the whole problem.

If employers knew that if they hire illegal aliens they where going to get slapped with a fine and the second time get some jail time, they wouldn’t do it. So if aliens weren’t employed, they wouldn’t have any money to pay rent or buy groceries, so they would self-deport”.

Both groups confronted verbally through their megaphones, exchanging phrases from one side of the street to the other like “No racist, no borders, no Minutemen supporters” and “Racist go home.” On the other side Minutemen responded “Go back to Mexico”.

“Traitors, traitors” yelled D. R. Clark to the protestors on Larsen Field. “We are in a war right now, the war hasn’t ended. We are being invaded by Mexico, it’s what they call la reconquista. Remember the Alamo”.

In the middle of verbal assaults, an individual wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood approached the minutemen, creating even more tension between antagonistic groups. After pushing and shoving from the Minutemen, members of the police department interceded, distanced him from the group and took his KKK hood.

In spite of being a small gathering, numerous public security members where assigned to keep things under control. A group of policemen in motorcycles and another one on horseback assisted the maneuvers of about twenty other cops on foot, who had to stand between the protestors and Minutemen when the march began.

“They were here only to provoke us” said Jazmin Morelos from the Si se Puede Coalition. “Their strategy is to come here and make us angry, so I guess they accomplished what they wanted”.

For Jazmin, the main concern of what she considers a militarization of the border, are the violent incidents that can happen against immigrants.

“Previously, when the military was at the border they caused several deaths, one of the most famous cases was a 18 year-old boy called Eze-quiel” she said, in relation to the 1997 case of Ezequiel Her-nandez, a goat herder who lived near the Texas border region, who was killed from a gunshot that came from the M-16 rifle of a Marine officer assigned to protect the border from drug traffickers. The marine testified that he shot in self defense, after being attacked by Hernandez with a .22 caliber rifle. Forensic reports stated that the victim was showing his back when he received the bullet impact.

As for a solution to the border debate Jazmin Morelos said that there are no short-term solutions, however, she considers vital that free trade agreements should be turned into fair trade agreements.

“That’s one of the reasons thousands of people are risking their lives when crossing the desert. Farmers are getting displaced because their farms are not producing enough, so they have to move to the crowded inner cities in Mexico, Guatemala or El Salvador, but there aren’t any jobs there either, factory jobs are the only ones they can find, which have salaries of four dollars a day, that’s not a living wage, even in Mexico a gallon of milk is three dollars, that’s a day’s work”.

Ruth Sanchez, a community activist said that this situation makes her feel completely attacked. “On one hand I consider this as an attack to my people, and once again I’m here in this park to show my anger. But at the same time I think that we need to continue, and if they want to place troops here, then we should deploy our own troops everywhere, and I’m talking about theses people you see here”.

Return to the Frontpage