Crossing the Line: Bordering on Revolution

A hostile Supreme Court. A feckless Obama administration. America's war on Mexicans has gone too far.

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this month on legislation that forces police to scrutinize Latinos, both immigrants and citizens. President Barack Obama has deported 1.5 million people. And 41 states are attempting to limit the voting rights of young people and minorities.

In “Crossing the Line,” Village Voice Media offers a short collection of viewpoints and artwork to honor the passing of the American dream.

SLIDESHOW: Xico Artists Featured in "Crossing the Line"
VIDEO: The War On Mexicans Has To Stop
SIDEBAR: Crossing The Line: Days of Rage
SIDEBAR: Crossing the Line: Welcome Back, Jim Crow
SIDEBAR: Crossing the Line: Love the Beans, Hate the Beaner"

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wasn't merely skeptical; he appeared contemptuous of the Justice Department's argument trying to stop Arizona's cops from deporting undocumented Mexicans.

Not everyone in Arizona is in favor of the state law that calls for police officers to ascertain a person's ­immigration status whenever they stop someone.
William Westfall
Not everyone in Arizona is in favor of the state law that calls for police officers to ascertain a person's ­immigration status whenever they stop someone.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signs SB 1070 into law.
Stephen Lemons
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signs SB 1070 into law.

"But if, in fact, somebody who does not belong in this country is in Arizona, Arizona has no power?" asked the incredulous Scalia. "...Are you objecting to harassing the — the people who have no business being here? Surely you're not concerned about harassing them?"

God forbid.

Nor did Scalia suffer cara de culo alone.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts concluded an observation by noting, "It seems to me that the federal government just doesn't want to know who's here illegally or not."

With these comments the United States Supreme Court signaled that its expected ruling this month will, in significant part, validate Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.

If that happens, being brown will permit cops across America to ask: Which brown are you?

A journalist I work with, Monica Alonzo, grew up on the hardscrabble west side of Phoenix with brown skin.

Although she was an American, something as simple as stopping to fill her gas tank could prompt a cruel refrain: "Go back to Mexico."

She remembers the white school board members who voted themselves out of paying taxes to support the mostly Latino school in the town of El Mirage. Her cousin was routinely pulled over if he ventured into a neighboring white community.

But these are memories, not complaints. This treatment did not stop Monica Alonzo. She made herself into an award-winning investigative reporter.

Today, she buys gas where she chooses.

She put the petty meanness behind her and made something of herself.

But SB 1070 changed everything.

In Arizona, brown people, citizen and immigrant, must now prove their papers are in order. We sic badges and dogs on people of color. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's men wear ski masks and arm themselves with automatic weapons to stop Mexicans with cracked windshields. Families are separated, with parents deported and children left to fend for themselves. Those who remain are terrorized.

After one Arpaio sweep through the town of Guadalupe, children were too frightened to attend their Catholic confirmation lest relatives be arrested.

Like the pre-Civil War era of free and slave states, America is about to divide along color lines.

Six states already have a version of Arizona's bill and are awaiting the ruling for implementation. In all, 16 states filed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to support SB 1070.

Where once we depended upon the federal government to protect minorities from firehoses and segregated schoolhouses named Booker T. Washington or George Washington Carver, this month the Supreme Court is poised to tell us how far local cops can go to detain brown people.

As if the federal government hadn't gone far enough.

In fact, President Obama has deported 1.5 million Latinos, more than any other president. Such a massive displacement of humanity does not come without brutality.

In the first six months of 2011, 46,000 mothers and fathers were shipped back to Mexico and left their children in America. And more than 20,000 other parents were ordered out but have yet to depart. Roughly 22 percent of all deportees were forced to abandon children — children who are American citizens.

What SB 1070 does is criminalize the undocumented. The law forces all police officers to ascertain a person's immigration status whenever a cop interacts with a brown person. Lights on a license plate too dim? A call about domestic violence? If an officer harbors any suspicion, he or she must ask for proof of citizenship. And if a cop doesn't do that, any citizen can sue the cop for not taking deportation seriously. To protect against lawsuits, the cautious cop must question all Latinos.

The stated purpose of SB 1070 is "attrition through enforcement," a chillingly efficient phrase.

How does the cop on the beat tell a Mexican from a Mexican-American?

And so, the 74 percent of all Latinos in America who are, in reality, U.S. citizens must be harassed about their origins. Unlike everyone else, they must carry papers.


Obama sells the roundup of brown people through a program called Secure Communities. The alternative is clear enough.

Have we forgotten that the Irish, Italians, Jews and Cubans generated almost as many mug shots as American dreams?

Polls show that SB 1070 and similar laws in other states are supported by voters at rates between 60 and 70 percent nationally.

In states that have passed laws allowing local law enforcement to hunt the undocumented, the financial impact has been devastating.

Last August, Monica Alonzo examined labor shortages in the farm economy, where an estimated 80 percent of the workforce is undocumented.

She learned that efforts to recruit Americans to pick crops have failed abysmally.

In the late 1990s, Alonzo reported, "California launched a 'welfare to farmwork' program in the Central Valley at a time when regional unemployment was as high as 20 percent...A massive campaign addressed training, transportation and other obstacles to getting workers in the fields. Though there were more than 100,000 potential workers, only three jobs were filled."

Things weren't any easier in Washington State. There, "a labor shortage for the 2006 cherry harvest prompted an advertising blitz to recruit about 1,700 needed workers, particularly for the much larger apple harvest that was just around the corner. Only 40 people took jobs."

According to Alonzo's research, things were even worse in the East. "The following year, in North Carolina," she wrote, "farm officials set up a statewide hotline to fill crop and livestock jobs. Two calls were received."

Things have only gotten worse with anti-immigrant legislation.

In 2007 more than 90,000 migrants fled Oklahoma, causing a loss of $1.9 billion to the state's economy. Since passage of SB 1070, Arizona has shed 200,000 migrants, who fled to friendlier states.

Agriculture is the largest sector in Georgia's economy, yet lawmakers passed stiff anti-immigrant legislation projected to cost the state $391 million in lost crops. The governor suggested that farmers hire ex-cons to work the fields. The ex-cons refused. More than 70 percent of Georgia's restaurants had labor shortages and lost, on average, $21,000 per eating establishment.

Last year Alabama one-upped Arizona and passed a tougher, meaner anti-immigrant measure.

Research at the University of Alabama said the state could lose up to $10.8 billion and 140,000 jobs.

The governor demanded that the statehouse reconsider. Alabama legislators responded by making the law tougher.

Why, in the middle of a recession, would statehouses vote to cripple their economies by driving Mexicans to flee?

Why, with President Obama deporting more Latinos than at any other time in the nation's history, would legislators demand local cops inspect citizenship papers?

The inescapable answer: Race!

The guiding proponent of these statutes is Kris W. Kobach, who helped author SB 1070.

At the time, Kobach was senior counsel to the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

In 1986, John Tanton, FAIR's founder, wrote: "As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?"

Not surprisingly, the Southern Poverty Law Center called FAIR a racially driven organization.

Alabama's copycat legislation was penned by State Senator Scott Beason, who has called blacks "aborigines" and declared that when it came to immigration, folks ought to "empty the clip."

In Arizona the bill drafted by Kobach was sponsored by then-State Senator Russell Pearce.

In 2006 Pearce forwarded to his followers a screed he'd read entitled, "Who Rules America." The essay took exception to race mixing and a "world in which every voice proclaims the equality of races, the inerrant nature of the Jewish 'Holocaust' tale, the wickedness of attempting to halt the flood of non-White aliens pouring across our borders..."

The essay, which originated from a neo-Nazi newsletter, went on to ask: "And who are these all-powerful masters of the media?"

The answer was obvious: "As we shall see, to a very large extent they are Jews."

Eerily, the message Pearce forwarded to political supporters in 2006 foreshadowed coming bloodshed.

"On the other hand, a White racist — that is, any racially conscious White person who looks askance at miscegenation or at the rapidly darkening racial situation in America — is portrayed, at best, as a despicable bigot who is reviled by the other characters, or, at worst, as a dangerous psychopath who is fascinated by firearms and is a menace to all law abiding citizens..." read Pearce's send-along.

Last month Pearce acolyte J.T. Ready slaughtered his girlfriend, her daughter and boyfriend and a six-month-old infant before turning the gun on himself.

Ready was a neo-Nazi who was photographed at white supremacist rallies in full National Socialist regalia. Following the passage of SB 1070, Ready formed an armed militia that hunted Mexicans in southern Arizona.

After the multiple homicides, Pearce tried to distance himself from Ready. This sleight of hand was complicated for Pearce: He'd endorsed Ready's failed run for the Mesa City Council, and, in fact, had ordained Ready into the priesthood of the Mormon faith and attended his baptism.

These, then, are the miscreants who have stirred this nation's darkest prejudices.

None of this was grist in the Supreme Court. The Obama administration opted to argue only the narrowest of issues: State immigration laws trampled federal domain. With an election looming, the president chose not to confront nativist anxiety.

Latino groups and civil rights organizations have filed lawsuits that challenge what Obama ducked. These suits recount what happens on American streets when brown people are detained, when Mexicans and Central Americans are crowded into detention centers, when families are ripped apart.

When law enforcement cordons off brown communities, the law, as applied, is apartheid.

Perhaps you can understand, after a wave of hateful legislation and a galling discussion by justices and attorneys in the country's highest court, that there are those not content with jurisprudence.

You see, all this legal eloquence comes after generations of families picked crops on their way to citizenship, only to encounter lawyers and lawmakers who are worse than any field boss.

Monica Alonzo's father crossed the border from Mexico. His family worked in the cotton fields. They earned less, picked more and kept their mouths shut. Kids in school were slapped if they were overheard speaking Spanish.

"They mistreated the Mexicans the worst in El Mirage," says Alonzo. "Mexicans went straight to jail or were roughed up for minor offenses."

"They were made to feel like worthless people," recalls Alonzo. "Many Mexicans instilled in their children the importance of speaking only English. Not in my house. For my father, the treatment created a lot of resentment towards whites. We weren't allowed to speak English at home for some time. We would get in trouble if he knew we were mixing with the Anglos."

There was a common warning in her home: "Beware of the blue-eyes."

Alonzo says her family and their friends feared deportation, even after they were living here legally.

"They didn't want to draw attention to themselves."

That's done and gone.

In Arizona thousands have taken to the street in protest against SB 1070. Abuelas are joined by kids without papers. Together they commit civil disobedience and force arrests.

The Supreme Court doesn't grasp that its decision is not the final word on the subject.

Media everywhere erupted with the recent news that whites now account for a minority of births in America for the first time. Latinos have the highest fertility rate and are already the largest minority.

"If (reform) doesn't happen as part of a revolution," says Alonzo, "the sheer numbers will eventually force change."

See that little roly-poly, hija rock 'n' rolly, wearing pull-ups, sporting earrings and sitting on her mama's lap?

She is your future.

Michael Lacey is the executive editor of Village Voice Media.

Show Pages
My Voice Nation Help

Some Traditional American values aren't uniquely American but are shared by many cultures and nations. That said, some traditional American values that come to mind (you might want to review a document commonly known as The Bill of Rights for some of these): 1. English as our national language for all social activities. A common language helps binds us together. 2. Respect for property rights. 3. The rule of law. 4. Free speech. 5. The willingness of Americans to sacrifice lives and resources to oppose oppression and aggression. 6. The real possibility to better one's self and family by prospering in a relatively free market economy and its concurrent desire that your children and grandchildren have a better life than you've had. 7. The right to keep and bear arms. 8. A civilian life free from military intervention, real or threatened. 9. Fair and open elections. 10. American art, literature, film and folklore.

Sunny Antares1000101
Sunny Antares1000101

The liberal slat of this article renders it meaningless. "What SB1070 does is criminalize the undocumented." THIS IS A GOOD THING! Ask the Native Americans what happens when you have uncontrolled illegal immigration from "undocumented" aliens. Space to Comment is inadequate to deconstruct this pitiful article, so just a few points: 1. This is written as an apology, not as a fact driven article. 2. Since the author's advo-cratic point of view can't be justified by logic, it appeals to emotion. 3. All Nations have a self-evident right to protect their borders. 4. Calling someone who knowingly enters this country illegally an "undocumented" person is like calling a meth lab worker an undocumented pharmacist. 5. Both major political parties have failed the citizens by lacking the political will to end illegal immigration. 6. The USA & South Korea can protect the border between North & South Korea, why not between the USA & Mexico? The only reason I can think of is lack of political will and/or treason.


"Latinos have the highest fertility rate and are already the largest minority." Hmm. Wonder why. This same article then also makes it sound like we are starving for illegal migrant workers, as if we ought to be sending busses down to Mexico to pick up illegals because no one here will work. Go figure. Take some of the government subsidies the farmers get, and pay wages that citizens will work for, to get the ball rolling in weaning us off illegal labor. Eventually, the artificial wage deflation caused by workers from outside our economy will dissappear, and the economy will absorb the higher costs of farm products as more people work.


Hey Crazy Horse H_e_x, your ancestors raped America when they came over from SIberia. INDIANS NEED TO GO BACK TO SIBERIA, where you were comfortable not inventing the wheel, and enslaving your captives. Or here's another thought - lets give Manhattan back to the Indians, starting with a little strip of land on the east side of First Avenue between 42nd St and 46th St...


I suggest putting ads in Mexican newspapers looking for bilingual journalists who want to work in the VV and the HP. Qualifications are: Hate traditional values America as much the VV and HP writers do; Be fluent in English; And be willing to work for 50% of what the HP and VV pay their Anglo (i.e., imperialist) writers, which would still be more than they make in Mexico.


If im a gun running drug trafficking Mexican who undoubtedly is rich by my profession WHY THE FUCK WOULD I WANT TO LIVE IN THE U.S.A ? the thing is that if you yourself a proclaimed "emigrant" see that the whole reason you ever migrated here was to carve a "better" life for yourself, so where is the connection ? turn your fucking t.v. off an dont repeat bullshit you see on it enrich yourself with knowledge of other people and their culture before you open your shit box.

Nightmare on Bagby
Nightmare on Bagby

Amen, Hex. Personally, I've got a long long list of Anglos- especially in Texas - that I'd like to deport (to the moon, if possible) to make room for more of the hard-working, religious, family values browns (some of whome have been in Tejas since the 1600s, some since 0800) I've known and worked with. Never forget that the core of racism is fear of misegination. If you study the US civil rights movement you will see that around 1955 the view that "if we desegregate the schools it will lead to inter-racial dating" was considered mainstream and reasonable. The trolls who haunt the Chron and the Press with their rants about illegal criminals are scared shitless that their daughters/ grandaughters will fall in love with a landscaper or prep chef that looks like Antonio Banderas.

Trial by Fury
Trial by Fury

Don't you mean to answer, "Yes, I am being obtuse on purpose."?


Even by the standards of the village Voice, this article is Yellow Journalism at its finest. Not one word about the drug and gun running, murder and other crimes comitted by illegals, strain on the healthcare systems, wasteful spending on bi-lingual education, the fact that just by being here illegals are breaking the sovereign laws of the USA... Why bother, the obvious answer is that it is all due to White racism. Same old crap, as long as you have a scapegoat, and can demonize the other side of an argument, half the battle is won.

Trial by Fury
Trial by Fury

Are you being obtuse on purpose? "Brown" people are harassed because they are "brown", pulled over simply because they are "brown"? Phooey, and you know it. How do we know it? La Raza is waiting to find the right story to splash all over the media, a story that properly advances their victim/oppression narrative... Too bad it doesn't play so well in Texas, huh? Where Latinos and Anglos have a history of working together? How many names on police badges end with a "z" around here? Quite a few. You have a manufactured, and wholly unfounded concern. Run along.


There is no war on Mexicans or any other ethnicity. We don't want people coming here illegally. Keyword there: illegal. No mention of race or religion or anything. Illegal immigrant, as opposed to legal. No matter where they are from, illegal is illegal. We love Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, etc. - all hispanics. No problem, they are all welcome here - if they come here legally. I just don't understand where illegal=race issue. Tell you what, enter Mexico illegally. While you're at it, check out the fence on their southern border. Yeah, uh's fine for them to have one, but we're "racists" if we put one up!? That's hypocrisy in any language. But also, enter say, Cuba, or Brazil, Afghanistan, Israel, China, North Korea, illegally. Go ahead. You'll likely be shot. But enter the US illegally, and get a free income, free housing, free transportation, free health care, food, money, an education... War on Mexicans my butt! War on Americans is more like it. Go whine somewhere where people give a damn.


Well, maybe that's why El Paso has lower violent crime than, say, Houston. It's predominantly Hispanic, not so much white trash around.


The problem is there is no diversity in Rio Grande and El Paso. They live the way they like, they don't care USA. Opposite side of border in El Paso, they are beheading and killing the people. May be in El Paso too,we don't know that because including authorties everybody Hispanic in El Paso and Rio grande.You must know that the people coming from non-hispanic countries don't want and work with Hispanic people because of their corrupted way of life... %10 Hispanic well enough for this country..more than that will cause chaos,tears,anarchy,fear ,crime,disorder,bribery,kidnapping and end of USA. If they give an amnesty They won't find emigrants from developing nations becuase USA will be less desirable,secure place for living and starting a family. Moreover ,even if they give out an amnesty minimum 3 million people,thanks to chain immigration they will be at least 15 million within next 20 years...This is not acceptable...if they give an amnesty, l ll gladly leave this country without any regret...because l emigrated to USA and her values not a Hispanic country.


The problem is there is no DIVERSITY in Rio Grande Valley and El Paso. They live the way you like...opposite border El Paso they are beheading the people..may be in El Paso too but we don't know that becuase including authorities everybody HISPANIC in El Paso and Rio Grande Valley....The people don't want to live and work together with Hispanic people because of their corrupted culture.


FREEDOM is not accross the border ILLEGALLY ! Hispnaic people must respect the LAWS of the USA like evry other immigrants. This country(USA)is not the amazon forest. These paid Hispanic writers tries the people defending the existing laws as extremists like themselves.


FREEDOM is not accross the border ILLEGALLY ! Hispanic people respect the LAWS of the USA like every other immigrants, This country (USA) is not the amazon forest.

Houston Concert Tickets