Nel's New Day

January 22, 2019

Sue Hardesty: Wall–‘Have We No Shame?’

Day 32 of government shutdown: Last Saturday, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) offered to sell Democrats a small part of what he took last year in exchange for $5.6 billion to build wall and reopen the country. In a TV speech, he offered DACA recipients a bit of relief for three years—unless he changed his mind—before they again lose their rights. People outraged with DDT’s weak offer may be angrier with other parts of DDT’s bill:

Remove eligibility for asylum from Central American minors. All these asylum seekers, who must have a parent or guardian in the U.S., would have to stay in their home countries and go through State Department processing centers there. DDT’s bill restricts the number of qualifying children to 15,000.

Eliminate all African countries and predominantly Muslim countries such as Syria and Yemen from the ten countries offered temporary protected status because of violence of damage by natural disasters. This change leaves only El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua out of the list of ten.

Restrict temporary protections to immigrants already legally in the U.S. Almost people in this category would lose their eligibility.

Create stricter penalties for Dreamers wanting a status change. The crime of making “any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements” would also allow prosecution for minor errors, even ones that the applicants unwittingly made.

Extend temporary DACA protections for those currently covered and who renew their applications. No new applications will be accepted, renewal application fees would be doubled, and income requirements would be added.

Add penalties for wrong information in applications to asylum applicants and limit applicants’ abilities to defend themselves. Applicants with fraudulent documents because of corruption in their home countries would suffer from these penalties.

Require that asylum applications be “consistent with the national interest.”

Meanwhile, 800,000 federal workers have missed their second paycheck. Many are on the same infamous “breadlines” common during the Great Depression. One of these soup kitchens are free meals (below) provided by chef José Andrés and his nonprofit group that served millions of free meals to needy people after natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires. Conservatives are fond of saying that people need this kind of charity because they aren’t willing to work. These people—almost half of them still on the job—have employment, but conservatives deny them their paychecks. 

On her Facebook page, Sue Hardesty has published this piece on DDT’s wall:

I have to take one deviation from my fun writings on Yaquina Bay and surrounding areas to do a bit of a rant. To be honest, it’s really a big rant, so those of you who are fed up with hearing about Trump’s wall, delete me. I swore to myself I would stay out of politics on Facebook, and I do know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. I just need to say it.

I grew up and spent most of my adult years close enough to the Arizona/Mexico border. I have crossed it in many places many times and have observed the damage the present walls have done in polluted lands, decreased water equality, loss of business in small towns on both sides of the border. When the border wall of the town of Boquillas del Carmen (Texas) was closed in 2001, the town was economically devastated and abandoned. Millions of dollars in border trade has been lost which will only get worse. The environment of more than one hundred species of wild animals will continue to be catastrophically damaged, and animals along 650 miles of the Rio Grande will be blocked from life-sustaining water.

Winston Churchill once said he believed in democracy until he spent five minutes talking to a voter. I have often been ignorant about politics having little energy left over after a long workday to think on our national crises. I figured that was what the guy I did vote for was supposed to do. And I don’t have a problem with that either unless those in power are as ignorant as the average voter and intend to stay that way. Seems to me anyone thinking about completing the wall on our Mexico/U.S. border would at least check out the historical successes or failures of walls, especially when millions of lives and billions of dollars are at stake. How long would that take?

So I decided to find out. Starting with the Great Wall of China I learned it was over 5,000 miles long and was built to stop inner Asia nomads from entering China. It did not. Then there was Hadrian’s Wall built across northern England to stop barbarians. It did not. Oh, and let’s not forget our modern-day Berlin Wall, built originally to stop invaders from the west but ended up attempting to stop deflectors from the East. It did not. The presently successful Israel/Egypt wall is Trump’s model. This “apartheid wall” or “anti-terrorist wall,” depending whose side you’re on, is 152 miles long and costs Israel $260 million per year for maintenance. Walls, like fences, help us feel safe. But that’s about all they do.

Trump himself once said, “Is there a brick wall getting in your way? Fine. That happens. But you have a choice. You can walk away from the wall. You can go over the wall. You can go under the wall. You can go around the wall. You can also obliterate the wall. In other words, don’t let anything get in your way.” As Jane Loeffler, architectural historian who studied fortifications of U.S. embassies, said, “A wall is so primitive. You can dig under it, go over it, catapult yourself over it. A wall is more symbolic than a real defense. A wall is fear in three dimensions.” In truth, what really happens? The first and last lines in Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” reads “Good fences make good neighbors,” ironically depict how walls separate people and describes his wall-building neighbor as unthinking, “like an old-stone savage armed.”

As to the illogical argument we are overcrowded now, 39.8% of the land in the U.S. is privately owned with 1.14 million miles in farmland, mostly unpopulated as is most of the 60% publicly owned land. The U.S. is a very big place. If you think we don’t have jobs for all these undocumented, that is also not true. During the 1990’s the U.S. Congress provided the H-2A work visa to stop criminals from entering the U.S. and prevent farmers from hiring immigrants if a U.S. resident could do the work. The loss of so many workers with the passing of this act was devastating to many businesses in most of the states.

Some states such as Georgia passed even more highly restrictive laws against immigrants. As a result, an estimated 40 percent of Georgia state’s agricultural workforce disappeared, and $140 million worth of crops were lost. It was a lesson no one learned. Desperate for workers, Alabama founder/CEO of Grow Alabama, Jerry Spencer, decided to train local white workers in a month-long experiment. At the end, all but three workers were gone. I understand why it failed. As a kid, I decided to earn money by chopping weeds in my brothers’ cotton fields. I lasted four hours: I had no idea how much bending, kneeling, chopping, pulling, and bleeding it took. I was lucky I could get an education and move on.*

But the most tragic result of wall building is that when we began hunting each other we turn the hunter and hunted alike into animals as violent as any criminal. We teach each other there are undesirables among us, resulting in refuge seekers and innocent indigenous people getting beat up and left lying in the hot sun in their own blood and vomit, wives and daughters raped, and homes savaged.

The opportunity to openly hunt with little repercussion along the 1954-mile border has already attracted self-appointed groups like the American Border Patrol who call themselves a watch group, the Civil Homeland Defense, Tea Baggers, white supremacist vigilantes, Minute Men, National Socialists, and Ranch Rescue. And my favorite, Joe Arpaio copycat Walking Tallers. In the middle of this crazy mix are the cartel, Coyotes, drug traffickers, undocumented workers, and on the Mexican side, the Federales. On the American side we have our own Border Patrol with its Forward Operating Camps.

When we do run down the undocumented, we throw them into cages, separating parents from their children, and don’t even pretend to care what happens to them. The old adage, “violence never resolves who’s right. Only who’s left,” has never been more frightening. I cannot help but ask what happened to our humanity. Have we no shame?

Sources:

https://talkpoverty.org/2019/01/03/already-border-wall-environmental-disaster/

https://www.newsweek.com/what-history-tells-us-about-building-wall-solve-problem-381875

https://www.summitpost.org/public-and-private-land-percentages-by-us-states/186111

https://www.Wikipedia

https://www.america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/3/12/visual-activism

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/world/middleeast/

*The situation was worse in Georgia and Alabama than Hardesty described. After an anti-immigrant law caused 11,000 Latino farm workers to leave, farmers tried to hire others looking for jobs. In Georgia, the new non-immigrant “workers” picking cucumbers had one-sixth of the output that migrant workers did because of less effort, longer breaks, and quitting early. Throughout the states with these punitive laws, farmers retired or switched from growing food to planting trees. When Alabama potato farmer Keith Smith lost his immigrant workers, most of the new employees not only displayed the same problems as listed in Georgia but also showed up late with some quitting after less than a day. These problems existed in 2011 with a higher unemployment rate. In 2019, far fewer workers are willing to endure the backbreaking work.

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