Here's my op-ed at America's Voice:
Back in the days when he was a media darling appearing on every network – before everything would collapse in an appalling heap of criminality – Chris Simcox would promote his border-watching “Minuteman” movement as an essential component of national security because of the ominous threat that terrorists might cross over the border into the USA from Mexico.Of course, we're still hearing the same excuses from the right:
“It is frightening to think that just one terrorist hiding among thousands of illegal immigrants who come across the border each day could easily carry chemical, biological or even nuclear materials into the U.S.,” Simcox told a reporter in 2005. “At this point, it’s not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when.’”
Naturally, this was the entire purpose of his organization. “While officials are talking, Minutemen are acting,” said Simcox pronounced. “They need to put our money where their mouth is, and start doing something about our borders.”
Simcox also had something of a paranoid streak about the borders: “Take heed of our weapons because we’re going to defend our borders by any means necessary,” he told an audience in 2003. “There’s something very fishy going on at the border. The Mexican army is driving American vehicles — but carrying Chinese weapons. I have personally seen what I can only believe to be Chinese troops.”
For Simcox and the Minutemen, the rubric of reason for the “citizen border watches” they organized all revolved around “national security” – at least when the TV cameras were on. When they were off, it was a different story: Minutemen border watchers were fond of explaining in private to people they thought were fellow participants that the best solution to stopping “the invasion” (as they liked to call it) of Latino immigrants they hoped to catch in the act was to start shooting one or two of them.
One of them even explained it on camera once: “No, we ought to be able to shoot the Mexicans on sight, and that would end the problem,” he told a reporter. “After two or three Mexicans are shot, they’ll stop crossing the border. And they’ll take their cows home, too.”
“Border security” was just a verbal rubric pasted over the real source of these nativists’ anxieties. It was a coded phrase for the underlying intention: “Keep out the brown people.”Go here to read it all.
Seven years down the road, that reality hasn’t changed a bit. What has changed instead is an electoral landscape where it’s becoming increasingly clear that the need for comprehensive immigration reform has become inescapable, but when faced with legislation to achieve it, those same nativists and their Tea-Partying cohorts in Congress continue to revert to the same old saw: “We need to secure the border before we can pass reform.” And it still means the same old thing.
What, exactly, do they mean by “border security”? It’s hard to pin down the exact definition of a “secure border” – reflective of the fact that it is a coded phrase – but in the hands of various Congressional Republicans, what emerges is a fantasy portrait of a militarized fortress-style border with Mexico secured by a towering fence and the constant buzz of manpower patrolling it. In the immigration-reform bill passed by the Senate (but still bottled up in the House), the legislation requires construction of 700 miles of new double-walled border fence and 20,000 more Border Patrol agents to man it.
Notably, these proposals all envision such a facility along the 1,954 miles of border the United States shares with Mexico. No such fence is envisioned for 5,525 miles of border that we share with Canada – even though, when it comes to national security, we already know which border terrorists are likely to cross. And it’s not the southern one. Of course, building a second fence two and half times as long as that proposed for the Mexico border would be outrageously expensive – especially when the latter already fits that description.