By MIKE SCHWARTZ
Mario Castillo and Raymundo Berreda were two of the 14 immigrant workers who were found dead in the Arizona desert in late May. Every day thousands of people leave Mexico with the hope of finding a decent paying job in the United States. This situation arises out of the massive poverty that exists in Mexico due largely to the super-exploitation carried out first by the Spanish colonizers and now by U.S. corporations.
Though most of the immigrants who flee Mexico do make it across the border, their dreams of a better life are almost always shattered. They find themselves working backbreaking minimum-wage jobs with no benefits. And although they earn more in the United States than in Mexico, they find out that things cost more in this country as well.
There’s a famous quote by an immigrant who said, “They told me that in America the streets were paved with gold, but when I got here I found out there was no gold, the streets weren’t paved, and they expected me to pave them.”
Some immigrants are captured at the border and deported. Some are put into U.S. federal prisons for the crime of immigration. Others like Mario and Raymundo die just trying to get here.
The government has always flip flopped on the issue of immigration. At times it encourages immigrants to come by the tens of thousands so companies can exploit their labor. But when the economy goes sour, immigrants are always the first people blamed. That’s when programs like Operation Wetback are created, a program enforced in the early 1950s when hundreds of thousands of immigrants were forcibly deported whether or not they had documents.
The early 1990s were another period in which immigrants became scapegoats for everything from the recession to failing schools. The result of this sentiment was Operation Gatekeeper. The number of dead immigrants has been steadily increasing since former President Bill Clinton instituted Operation Gatekeeper in 1994.
Operation Gatekeeper greatly increased the amount of money and agents used by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), now one of the largest armed forces in the United States. It also allowed for military equipment to be used in order to stop immigrants from crossing the border.
What this did was push immigrants away from the cities and force them into much deadlier areas, such as canals of swift flowing water, snowy mountains, and burning hot deserts. Mario and Raymundo were just two of the latest victims.
To say that the trip is deadly is actually an understatement. Let’s put it into perspective. For years, the U.S. government pointed to the Berlin Wall as a symbol of “socialist” repression. “Look how many people have died trying to get from East Germany to West Germany,” the media and the politicians shouted.
Of course, the Berlin Wall had nothing to do with socialism; it was a tool the Stalinist bureaucrats of East Germany used to oppress the workers who lived there. But, the heavily fortified U.S.-Mexico border has everything to do with capitalism, and is definitely a symbol of oppression.
In fact, in the past two years, over 800 people have died trying to cross the border. The Mexican government claims 491 deaths last year alone. Some of these people were actually killed by the INS. These were people who just wanted to find a job to earn a living for themselves and their families.
These numbers show that more people have died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the past two years than those who died in the entire 28-year history of the Berlin Wall.
The politicians and the business owners have no problem with the free flow of their money across borders, but they are willing to let people die by the hundreds in their attempt to cross the border.
The fact of the matter is that workers on both sides of the border have everything in common with each other and nothing in common with their employers. The bosses want us to fight against each other so we cannot join forces and fight the people who exploit us.
Workers in the United States must realize that these are our brothers and sisters dying by the hundreds right at our doorstep. We need to fight against those who want us to look at immigrants as our enemies (“stealing our jobs”) and want us to turn a blind eye to the deaths of our fellow workers.
The blood of Mario, Raymundo and the thousands of people who have died along the border is on the hands of the U.S. big business owners and the politicians who represent their interests. We must not forget it.