The “Border Beat” (June 4, 2008)

Well, all good things must come to an end.  Late May brings with it the end of another academic year for me, a chance to say goodbye and good luck to another set of graduating seniors as well as work my way out from under an avalanche of final papers.  Early June brings with it the end of my end-of-the-academic-year vacation, a chance to recuperate after a long academic year.  But the news never ends, now does it?

The “Border Beat” is back!

  • It’s called “Operation Streamline” and its deporting you right now! (Washington Post)
  • The Bush Administration is deporting Mexicans like its an election year and Chicanos are getting pissed off (Houston Chronicle)
  • HispanicBusiness.com asks: “Can a fence be built without immigrants?”
  • Juan Gonzalez wraps up the recent Puerto Rican Primary (Democracy Now!)
  • Scholarly proof Lou Dobbs is a racist (Media Matters)
  • Judge rules immigrant rental ban in Farmers Branch, TX is unconstitutional, but turns out they knew that already (Los Angeles Times)

Our final story for the day is sad reminder of the state of racial politics in the U.S., in particular those relating to Latinos.  Farmers Branch, a suburb of less than 30,000 people located in the greater Dallas metropolitan sphere of influence, and formerly known most prominently as the home of “Southfork” (the ranch owned by the Ewings clan of the 80’s nighttime soap opera Dallas), joined the world of xenophobic legislation in November 2006 with the passage of a municipal ordinance making it illegal to rent a dwelling to an “illegal immigrant.”  As they well knew at the time, such measures are (and have been repeatedly ruled) unconstitutional, since they violate the principles providing for the federal government (and only the federal government) to regulate immigration.  To put it simply, at the State or municipal level, there is no such thing as an “immigrant,” legal or otherwise.

But such harsh realities didn’t bother Farmers Branch, as they didn’t phase the scores of other cities across the U.S. who passed similar measures during 2006 and 2007.  You see, Farmers Branch doesn’t have to care about what’s legal if they can appease their community of (mostly white) residents who believe the government isn’t doing a thing to stop the invasion of Mexicans from across the border.  Yes!  Farmers Branch took a stand!  And tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and other costs, we end up right where we started.

The larger battle is a racially motivated one as well.  Farmers Branch–like other formerly all-white parts of the suburban Southwest–are increasingly becoming, well, not so all-white.  Over 30% of the residents of the city are Latino, a number which has been steadily increasing.  This isn’t a problem of “illegals” as much as it is a “problem” of internal changes in demography, both class and racial.  But to Farmers Branch, its just a bunch of brown folks ruining their precious, peaceful, and racially exclusive way of life.

The wise city fathers and mothers of Farmers Branch have now moved on from their xenophobia of the past.  Heck, they even repealed the old ordinance in question.  They’ve replaced it with a new piece of xenophobic legislation: a rule requiring all renters to provide “residential occupancy license” where they sign, under legal enforcement, that they are a “legal” citizen.  They city will then spend more of their time and money checking that with federal authorities.

We’ll see what the courts say about that…

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