The “Border Beat” (January 5, 2009)

The first “Border Beat” of the new year has a little something for everybody: averted political scandal; drug smuggling; religion; labor importation; and blood.

• “WWII guest workers from Mexico apply for back pay” (Arizona Republic)
During WWII, in order to combat an increasing labor shortage, the U.S. and Mexico entered into an agreement called the Emergency Labor Program. For two decades, some version of the “temporary” program existed to provide affordable labor to (mostly) Western agricultural interests. Sadly, these workers were never given the full pay promised to them. In the late 1990s, a decades-old quest of surviving workers to get their back pay entered the courts. It seems their struggle may be over; it also seems, for most, justice will never be served.

• “Obama faces Mexican drug war” (Washington Times)
The drug-related violence in Mexico and the U.S. is one of many issues the next President inherits which is both a growing catastrophe and a complex of few easy answers, politically that is. The nature of this context of violence is exceedingly reflective of the kinds transnational connections which bind us as a globe: government funding here, death there; and drug demand here, drug supply there. But they are also a reflection of the collapsing of divisions that have provided an illusion of our distance.

• “U.S. dioceses recruit foreign priests” (SF Chronicle)
This is a delightfully in-depth article relating the the inability of the U.S. Catholic Church to meet its own “labor” needs. At the same time, the Church is reflecting a kind of U.S. cultural arrogance which views its needs as more pressing than those of the rest of the (Catholic) world. For those interested in the intersections of immigration, religion, and culture, this is a must-read.

• “Tijuana’s bloodiest year” (San Diego Union-Tribune)
This is a more Mexico-centered detail of the drug violence at the border. The human cost of the current situation is tragic to a degree possessing a sense of urgency. In addition to the numbers, I was equally drawn to the description of the killers:

Mexican authorities say that the killers are typically between 18 and 25, members of broken families lured by easy money into a life of crime, recruited in Tijuana and other parts of Mexico. They belong to a new generation of criminals operating with fewers (sic) controls as drug cartels evolve from traditional hierarchies to networks of smaller, semi-independent cells.

• “U.S. smooths away an illegal border crossing wrinkle” (LA Times)
The border initiatives of the United States literally alter the earth. They’ve filled “Smuggler’s Gulch”:

The canyon has been all but wiped off the landscape, its steep walls carved into gentle slopes, its depths filled with 35,000 truckloads of dirt as the federal government nears completion of an extensive border reinforcement project at the southwesternmost point of the United States.

• “California Supreme Court to take on state law granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants” (LA Times)
It looks like California’s monumental educational access measure AB 540–which allowed undocumented students who had been long-term residents to pay in-state tuition at state universities and colleges–will face judicial review.

And, finally…

• “Richardson Won’t Pursue Cabinet Post” (NY Times)
Bill Richardson has withdrawn his nomination to head the Commerce Department. That leaves only two Obama cabinet appointments who are Latino. We’ll see who he names in Richardson’s place.

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