I was called out not long ago by a local Indigenous organizer I respect a lot. He was concerned about my uncritical support for the PUENTE hunger strikers, and my failure to really dig into how the larger "immigrant rights movement" had co-opted the actions of the hunger strikers and twisted it to fit their own agenda - which was to throw every criminalized immigrant under the bus while calling for "NOT1MORE Deportation!" (translated: No more "unnecessary deportations", that is, of the "good immigrants" only). The National Council of LaRaza, anyway, thinks it's still okay to deport every criminalized immigrant ICE finds - which includes the prisoners that PUENTE families have been trying to free from detention.
Along those same lines, The NCLR as well as a lot of other immigrant organizations are clamoring for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) to be passed...this CIR. It's disastrous not only for immigrants, who are being tricked into thinking this "path to citizenship" will someday apply to most of them and their loved ones, but also to the Indigenous people most affected by border militarization - the Tohono O'odham, whose territory covers much of this part of the country. And despite how the current CIR plan on the table - S 722 - promises massive military buildup at the border and guarantees that they will pack more immigrants into private detention centers to enrich the evil people profiting from those places, I have indeed neglected the issues; my head has been kind of stuck in the AZ DOC and MCSO jails of late.
So, I'm taking a more thoughtful look around at the world again. I still support families and prisoners who take their fate into their own hands and launch direct actions instead of waiting for others to rescue them - it's not in their control what the rest of the movement does, if their efforts are exploited or objectives distorted by others. That said, however, I do owe folks here a more thorough look at the issues involved in CIR, border militarization, and how the movement of people and goods across international borders interacts with the Prison Industrial Complex. Feel free to check me too, if I'm missing something.
For now, check out this interview with Alex Soto and Klee Benally, both committed activists and talented musicians. You can find Shining Soul's website here and their music here- it's pretty potent. Klee's music is here, and his organization is here. I know both men from their work in the community resisting the brutalization and militarization of their land, exploitation of their resources, harassment of their people, and the desecration of their sacred sites.
Transcript follows the video.
President Obama has deployed thousands of new U.S. Border Patrol agents to the southern border of Arizona, a state known for its controversial crackdown on immigrants. Caught in the middle of the border militarization are about 28,000 members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Their federally recognized reservation is about the size of the state of Connecticut, and for a 76-mile stretch it spans both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Broadcasting from Flagstaff, we speak with both Klee Benally, a Diné (Navajo) activist, and Alex Soto, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and organizer with O’odham Solidarity Across Borders. He is also a member of the hip-hop duo, Shining Soul. "The Tohono O’odham people, which translates to desert people, are caught in the midst of colonial policies that are now militarizing our lands, from just the amount of Border Patrol agents, to checkpoints, to drones, to just the overall surveillance of our community," Soto says.
Well, caught in the middle of this are about 28,000 members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Their federally recognized reservation is about the size of the state of Connecticut. And for a 76-mile stretch, it spans both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Many O’odham must now pass through checkpoints when traveling through their land, and some members living in Mexico are almost completely cut off from their tribe.
Our next guest was part of a protest in 2010 where demonstrators opposed to border militarization and checkpoints occupied the U.S. Border Patrol offices at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Alex Soto is a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and organizer with O’odham Solidarity Across Borders. He’s also a member of the hip-hop duo, Shining Soul.
Staying with us, Klee Benally, Diné, Navajo, activist.
ALEX SOTO: Hello.