In a move that has sparked both criticism and constitutional concerns, Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed two bills, SB 3 and SB 4, aimed at further strengthening the southern border’s defenses. These bills not only represent a significant and potentially unconstitutional expansion of police power but also signal a disturbing continuation of America’s long history of using border control as a tool for racial and labor control.
SB 3 allocates a hefty $1.5 billion for additional wall construction and intensifies law enforcement in immigrant communities, like Houston’s Colony Ridge. SB 4 grants local police unprecedented authority in immigration enforcement, enabling them to arrest individuals for lacking proper citizenship documentation and deport people to Mexico, irrespective of their actual country of origin.
These laws echo a dark chapter in U.S. history, where border controls have often been deployed to stir racial resentment and control labor, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The roots of such policies can be traced back to the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Immigration Act of 1924, which created the U.S. Border Patrol. This patrol initially focused on unauthorized Mexican immigration, often employing racially charged and brutal tactics against migrants.
The role of the Border Patrol shifted during World War II with the Bracero Program, which aimed to regulate migrant farm work but often resulted in substandard working conditions and wages. The infamous “Operation Wetback” of 1954 further highlights the racial undertones of U.S. border enforcement, with over a million people deported in a bid to push employers towards the Bracero Program.
These historical practices of border control have always been about perpetuating racial divisions and sustaining economic inequality. Even today, the Border Patrol’s use of racial profiling, sanctioned by the Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Brignoni-Ponce, perpetuates these injustices.
The involvement of local police in border enforcement, as stipulated by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, only exacerbates the issue. It has led to increased racial profiling, family separations, and the criminalization of low-level offenses due to heightened police interactions with poor communities. Furthermore, local involvement in border enforcement risks corruption, as seen with the misuse of Operation Stonegarden funds.
Despite the historical and ongoing issues with border enforcement, there is an alternative path. Instead of doubling down on border policing, the U.S. could focus on developing poorer areas in both the United States and Mexico, similar to the European Union’s approach with its internal borders. By investing in development and opening borders, we could create more economic and social stability, reducing migration pressures.
Abbott’s approach, fixated on building a border wall, is not only impractical but also diverts attention from the real issues. The billions spent on border policing could be better utilized for developmental purposes. Our focus should be on changing the neoliberal capitalist system that allows corporations and the rich to evade their fair share of taxes and wages, contributing to widespread economic disparity.
In conclusion, Governor Abbott’s border wall initiative is a misguided effort that neglects the root causes of migration and perpetuates a system of racial and economic inequality. It’s high time we recognize that a more open and fair approach to immigration can not only benefit migrants but also contribute positively to our economic and social fabric.