By TODD MILLER Published: August 17, 2013 169 Comments
THREE generations of Loews have worked the family’s 63 acres in Amado, Ariz. In the last 20 years, the Loew family harvested thousands of pounds of onions, garlic and pumpkins without incident. So Stewart Loew, 44, who was born and raised on the farm, was surprised when he went to irrigate his fields one night and found himself surrounded by federal agents.
Pointing to the fires about 200 feet away that Mr. Loew lit to keep warm while he irrigated his fields, one of the agents slogged out of the ankle deep water in the irrigation ditch and asked Mr. Loew what he was doing.
“I’m irrigating, dude,” said Mr. Loew, who was in his pajamas. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t ‘dude’ me, I’m a federal officer,” the Border Patrol agent said, and demanded Mr. Loew’s identification.
Since Mr. Loew did not carry his wallet in his pajama pocket, the agents followed him into his house; a local police officer, who knew the Loew family, had already arrived, vouched for Mr. Loew’s identity and assured the federal agents that Mr. Loew posed no threat to the homeland or national security, and the agents left without comment or apology.
This kind of brush with law enforcement would have been unthinkable to previous generations of farmers here. But these run-ins have become increasingly common in the rugged, hilly desert stretch along the southern borderlands where, in the post-9/11 world, everyone — even farmers in pajamas — is a potential threat. Read more
by Ted Robbins, NPR Morning Edition, September 12, 2012
The United States’ southern border bristles with technology and manpower designed to catch illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. Since 1986, the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on fences, aircraft, detention centers and agents.
But even as federal budgets shrink and illegal immigration ebbs, experts say that there’s no end in sight for the growth of the border-industrial complex. Read more
The Stop The Checkpoints group will rally at 9:30 am September 14th, outside the “by invitation only” official ribbon-cutting ceremony, to protest the opening of the $11.9 million Port Angeles Border Patrol headquarters, calling it a symbol of:
- the increasing militarization and surveillance of our communities along the borders, which violates civil liberties,
- the inherent racial profiling and harassment of people of color by excessive numbers of agents with no constructive work to do,
- the detentions, deportations and deaths of neighbors, friends, family members and co-workers who are only trying to support their families and are a contributing part of the community,
- and the horrendous misuse of tax dollars in building an $11.9 million headquarters for 50 agents in an area with only water borders when this money is so desperately needed for funding jobs in public services, infrastructure maintenance, and education.
“The property purchase for $2.1 million and the $9.8 million in construction costs are only the beginning of this taxpayer rip-off,” according to David Cowan. “Operating costs for salaries, benefits, SUV’s and fuel, a fitness center, and equipment for 50 agents will cost tens of millions more in the future, while only two people have been caught coming across the water border in the past several years.”
There are currently at least two lawsuits against the local Border Patrol based on bogus traffic stops and unnecessary translation assistance which turned into immigration status checks. The U.S. Forest Service on the Olympic Peninsula has officially been found to have violated civil rights by calling in the Border Patrol for assistance and must now post notices to that effect and undergo more training.
According to Marilyn Harbaugh, “Border Patrol agents follow local law enforcement dispatch calls and show up uninvited to police stops and investigations to question immigration status of those involved. With little “real” work to do, I’m concerned that their increased presence will once again be misdirected toward investigating the local populace. The freedom to dissent may be forcibly suppressed.”
Four other new stations are being built on the Washington and Idaho state borders with Canada and scores more across the northern US border costing upwards of $20 million each, some with equestrian training centers and fleets of snowmobiles and off road vehicles.
“Our government’s response to the 9-11 attacks has been to throw billions of dollars into militarizing our northern and southern borders,” said Harbaugh. “All the while we are still waging drone-warfare overseas, killing and maiming thousands of civilians. For every innocent person killed or wounded by US military action abroad, their family members are primed to seek revenge. What a huge and horrible waste of lives and money, when we should be building international bridges, not barriers!”
Lois Danks, Coordinator of Stop The Checkpoints, voiced her alarm that “Right wing pundits are casting immigrants as ‘terrorists’ and fanning flames of racism by proclaiming that immigrants bring drugs and terrorist violence, take our jobs, and bankrupt our social services. In actual fact immigrants commit less crime, create more jobs through entrepreneurship, and pay millions into programs from which they cannot benefit unless documented. States like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama face economic crisis because of implementing anti-immigrant laws! All of this while migration to and from Latin America has slowed to a net zero!”
Stop The Checkpoints is a grassroots united front which was founded in September of 2008 over outrage at blanket traffic stops on US Highway 101 on both sides of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. They have organized peninsula-wide rallies and marches, union-immigrant solidarity events, protested the increase in Border Patrol agents, held educational forums and worked for release of detainees.
Working with other immigrant rights and civil liberties organizations, Stop the Checkpoints has made headway on their goals: Highway checkpoints have been stopped; bus boardings have ceased; and some detainees have been released. But the group is says their work is not done.
Stop The Checkpoints’s current action agenda includes:
1. An end to for-profit private prisons and detention centers
2. Open the borders to reunite families and allow workers to move freely
3. No guestworker programs – workers must be free to change jobs, protest working conditions, bring their families, and not be intimidated by deportation threats.
4. Access to education programs, social services, scholarships, healthcare and other benefits which are available to others living and working in the U.S.
5. Amnesty for those already living in the U.S. without documents.
# # #