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El Paso Redux…

Fully 27% of the federal prison population are aliens—mostly Hispanic.  Some proponents of the recent Arizona round-up law make the claim that illegal aliens are engaged in rampant crime—especially sexual predation. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quoted as reporting that the undocumented population of Arizona has indeed grown since the year 2000 some 70%, and the national rate at 37%.  However, contrary to the anti-immigrant pundits, the crime rate for both property and violent crimes has significantly gone down to its lowest rate since 1968!  Especially in those Southwestern states!

The federal gov’t is filing its own legal actions in opposition as I write this article.   Mexico and a number of other Latin American nations have also filed against Arizona in US Federal Court.  Nine states, led by Michigan’s candidate for governor, Mike Cox, have joined with Arizona in its defense.

As the Yogi once said, deja vu all over again…we been there before.  In fact, as an immigrant nation, the problem is cyclical.   As prisoners, we have a stake in this sordid game.  America now has the largest  criminalized prison population on the planet–the vast majority of it due to race, immigration, and drugs.

What’s really going on?  Maybe history can give us a clue.  Back during the 1910-20 period of the Mexican Revolution, masses of immigrants flooded across the Southwest borders.  Racist and nativist hysteria followed that earlier wave of immigration.   But it didn’t occur in a vacuum.

William Randolph Hearst, who had an especial antipathy for Latins, given the Spanish-American War and America’s resulting forays into colonialism,  found common cause with others and launched a campaign to criminalize marijuana, opium and cocaine by associating blacks, and Latin and Asian immigrants with their drugs of choice and the sexual enslavement of white girls.  Race-baiting and sexual context was certainly a time-honored tradition.

We see where that has led for many of us.  What was all perfectly legal in America during my grandparents’ time, has become the greatest witchhunt since:  Drug prohibition and the demonification of those who use them.

Radley Balko of the libertarian CATO Institute points out that even the extreme rise in paramilitary policing in America is directly attributable to drug prohibition.   Prohibition can defitely kill you.  Of course, given a highly popular commodity, once you enact prohibition of it, you create the profit foundation for all the associated crime.  Then you create a huge criminal justice system to deal with it employing easily the largest single sector of employment in America.

Then the nuts fall out of the trees…  Daryl Gates, former police chief of Los Angeles, the originator of modern SWAT teams in virtually every police community in America, believed “that casual drug use amounts to ‘treason,’ and that offenders should be ‘taken out and shot.'”  Edward Bennett, the former Drug Czar under George Bush Sr, Balko reported, that drug dealers be publicly beheaded.  Ad Nauseam.

The late William Buckley, Jr., former Secretary of State George Shultz, and the Hoover’s Institute Thomas Sowell, among many others on the right, left, and otherwise, have persistently called for the end of the drug war.

Despite all this hysteria and criminalization, recreational drugs are today the richest and one of the most popular pasttimes in America.  Reminds me of the Salem Witch Trials and the War in Vietnam.  There came a point when it had spread so far and wide that any original intent was buried.  Many of those in authority finally threw up their hands, declared victory, and went home.

We have a saying in prison:  The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole?  Stop digging!

               Dr. Publico

Category: Immigration
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2 Responses
  1. […] While this site has written before on the subject, the genesis of marijuana prohibition can be historically traced to the Spanish America War and the […]

  2. […]      (In part, this site has addressed this question in previous articles concerning a former cellmate, Peter MacDonald, former chief of the Navajo Nation, and in “El Paso Redux.” )      […]

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