Mass shootings are nothing new in the United States of America. They focus on children, black and brown skinned people, religious groups, etc., and reflect the violent intolerance, bigotry and racism that is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche. One of the latest mass murders occurred at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, United States, on the 3 August 2019. El Paso’s residents are listed as being roughly 83% Hispanic or Latino in racial make-up by the US Census Bureau.
One gunman opened fire killing 22 people and injuring 24 more. Patrick Crusius, in a signed affidavit, admits to being “the shooter” and claims he chose the location for his crime the better to “target Mexicans.” Apparently, Crusius had posted a file online on the messaging board ‘8chan’ roughly 20 minutes before the shooting, that police claim was “filled with hatred of immigrants and Latinos” and it is further claimed that he had stated online that he wanted to stop the "Hispanic invasion" of Texas. The specifics of this crime are freely available online and we don’t propose to repeat all the gory details here but this act is relevant in trying to understand why the USA, which was basically built by immigrants, has such a deep dislike of those that they now term immigrants.
What passes for the left in the US eagerly tell us that it is President Trump’s ‘hate’ speeches and tweets that are to blame, and we are sure that they don’t help matters, but, even the most cursory of glances at American history tells us that these crimes haven’t been waiting for Donald Trump to become president.
In response to this mass killing, the social-media outlets on the internet went wild with outraged users calling for gun controls, better mental health care, ending video games, the impeachment of the president for incitement to murder, etc., but, as has been calculated and reported in US media circles, this post-shooting internet activity lasts around ten days before subsiding totally, proving that social media also have their very non-progressive side – allowing everyone to let off steam in the comfort of their own home before forgetting the incident that so offended them and moving on to find the next offensive thing. According to USA Today, however, even though online conversations about gun control do stop ten days or so after a mass shooting, the number of such conversations has risen some 6,000% over the last four years. Readers may make of that what they will.
Anyway, there were also a lot of calls for President Trump to go to El Paso to express grief and declare solidarity with victims and their families, which he eventually did. However, that was also the day (7 August) that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents hit on seven agricultural processing plants across Mississippi. The raids concentrated around the town of Forest, among others, in Scott County, Mississippi, leading to the arrest of almost 700 Latino workers in various low-pay big agricultural factories and plants in and around the towns.
The confusion and horror among the large Latino community in Forest was overwhelming as members of that community, whether classed as illegals or not, went underground in fear of more ICE capture squads being on the streets. This left local workplaces at a standstill and the shops that could open devoid of customers. On the day of the ICE raids, absolute chaos reigned in local schools and daycare centres as uninformed education authorities were literally left holding the baby when parents were not showing up to collect their children. Telephones were buzzing everywhere as family members were sought by schools, etc., to take care of bewildered and crying children, and food and temporary lodgings were being hastily organised by local Child Protective Services (CPS) who also only found out about the raids after they had happened.
Some of the older children obviously slipped through the CPS net and ended up having to fend for themselves in empty homes or on the streets. The New York Times reported that a spokesperson for Mississippi’s CPS told them at the time: “We have no idea what the number of children is, or where they are.” ICE spokespersons were at pains to tell anyone who would listen that all the children of those arrested were safe and being cared for, but Jackson TV station, WJTV, news reporter, Alex Love, stated on air that many of the children were indeed left behind by the ICE agents who arrested their parents, and many had nowhere to go.
By the evening many of those who had been arrested ‘in error’, were released, some with tags to trace their movements, and others just set free. All the other arrested persons were taken to a detention centre in Louisiana for continued questioning. A spokesman for ICE told a local paper that about “300 of those arrested had since been released because they had no reason to be held.” Of those who have been tagged it is unlikely that any of them will return to work in the short term for fear of re-arrest and deportation, which throws into doubt the future well-being of themselves and any dependants that they have.
The superintendent of public education for Scott County, Mr Tony McGee, has complained bitterly about the ICE tactics and points to the economic damage done to the area – not just to the workers arrested and publicly dragged out of their places of work who along with their families will now suffer deprivation – but to the companies that employed them, to other companies that transported the goods, to others that supply raw materials and livestock to the companies some of which are big and well known. Mr McGee also pointed out that the main problem for the schools in the affected areas will be getting children back to school and the huge counselling job that will be need to cope with the trauma that some of these children will have experienced with the disappearance of parents and the crash in family budgets and eventually the possible loss of homes.
One of the stranger knock-on effects of the El Paso shooting on the people of Forest is that the local Walmart store replaced its greeter (a person that stands outside US supermarkets say hello and offering help) with an armed guard in a bid to make the customers feel at ease. After the ICE raids, the rumour spread that the guard was an ICE agent who was surreptitiously checking customers’ immigration status and so nobody would use the shop.
The White House has defended both the raid and the tactics used, but a spokesman has said that the timing was a little unfortunate so soon after the El Paso murders.
CNN have reported that the White House has ordered ICE agents to identify more targets across the country, just like those in Mississippi. The raids would again be specifically aimed at workplaces, say CNN.
The 2020 Presidential election campaign in the USA is well and truly under way and the incumbent has chosen four of his most useful subjects from last time to campaign around in regard to the millions of humans living south of the Rio Grande and the countries they now live in. These are Immigration, drugs, trade and the existence of two socialist orientated states south of the border.
Immigration – This is an easy target when seeking the support of working class people who often fall for the argument that immigrants take their jobs. In reality, however, it is imperialist interests that are to blame, not immigrants. The political system of the USA demands the greatest profit possible from investment of capital. The greatest profits come from systems like robotics that cut the workforce down dramatically or exporting the American jobs to low wage, low state-interference countries. Most immigrants are taken in to perform the low wage jobs that white American workers will not do and, as is always the case, illegal immigrants are by far the cheapest workers as they cannot complain about anything. The majority of applications for entry into the United States are from the countries to the south of its border and so the Latino/Hispanic worker is depicted as lazy, stupid, sly and totally without morals. In truth the immigrant’s intelligence, knowledge of work systems, eagerness to work/learn and morality is as diverse as that of any other peoples, but it must be recognised that most of those who either apply for US citizenship or try to cross the border illegally are doing so directly or indirectly because of the foreign policy of the USA which is causing social upheaval or extreme price rises at home (the only exception to this would be a natural disaster).
Drugs – Narcotics are not the first choice of crop for most farmers and it is only the demand coming from the US that gives the drug lords the impetus to mobilise local farmers in countries such as Colombia to grow crops that can be transformed into the various drugs coming across the US/Mexican border or sailed/flown to US sea and air ports. If the US cannot stop the demand, how, without huge assistance, can poorer countries be expected to stop the supply? It must also be remembered that the US has used drug sales to its own people to promote and finance civil wars in other countries against popular governments that it wants overthrown. Nicaragua is a prime example of this in the 1970s.
Trade – The trade that the US deals in with the southern half of the American continent is heavily weighted in the USA’s favour and helps towards the impoverishment of those southern countries. The agreements, poor as they are, are better than nothing, though, and they are always in danger of being snatched away to ensure total conformity with the political will of the USA. The present administration in Washington has treated Mexico as a political scapegoat, particularly on immigration and trade, and a radical policy shift on both of these two issues has been promised by President Trump. The Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has bent over backwards in his efforts to accommodate Trump, efforts which included working out an updated NAFTA agreement and following the orders of the US, allowing the refugees from all over Central America to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are being considered by the US authorities.
President Trump has threatened recently to cut off congressionally appropriated funding to countries south of the border in retaliation for the latter allowing ‘immigrants and drugs to pass through their countries towards the US’. This has left some governments there wondering just what they are supposed to do. Governments such as those of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have been perfect puppets of US imperialism and have tried to do everything possible to accommodate the United States on all fronts, even publicly discussing and considering moving their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem!
Venezuela and Cuba – Talking tough on Cuba and funding coup attempts by the Venezuelan elite are policies directed more at bolstering votes in South Florida than anywhere else, but these are policies fraught with possibilities of aggressive military activity. Donald Trump is the President and must take full responsibility for these dangerous policies but it is not difficult to see the hand of his national security adviser, John Bolton, in the background.
To return to the problems of the Latino/Hispanic communities inside the USA, the present number of this group is approximately some 19-20 million and growing fast. There is a myth in the US that this is because of super-increased immigration but that would be a silly mistake to make. It takes no account whatsoever of the many Mexicans who were swallowed up by the United States when 55% of Mexico was grabbed By the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 This treaty marked the end of the Mexican-American War which saw Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California forcibly taken from Mexico at the point of a sword, with the treaty being nothing more than the legal ratification of this massive land theft. The stolen land was not, of course, empty and the huge population that was in occupation of it was too big to slaughter so they had to be put in their place. After stealing this massive chunk of Mexico it was only a small matter to steal individual ranches and farms, and there were plenty of white settlers ready to perform the necessary deeds. Likewise, the American-Mexicans suffered the same regular lynchings of ‘uppity’ members of their communities as the black ex slaves were suffering further north. In just the same way as the black workers, these American Mexicans were denied property as much as possible, kept to mainly working the land and denied voting rights or the possibility of organising or representing themselves. Unlike the black workers who had been stolen from their land and brought to America as slaves, these American Mexicans were stolen as a cheap labour force along with their land and both were brought into the USA.
As industrialisation shot through the US, more Mexican workers were recruited to satisfy the chronic but temporary labour shortages during the late 19th and early to mid-20th century. The border at this point remained mostly porous and there was even a guest worker programme in force between 1942 and 1964 that gave the Mexican worker no rights except to seek employment in the US.
The Latino/Hispanic workers within the US today have won some rights for themselves in the same way that black workers have, but both groups still suffer the same racist indifference to their plight and the aspirations of their children that so often turns into excessive violence against them for the imagined crimes of being feckless, cheeky and lazy criminals without human decency. This turning intended victims of violence into less than human, sub-human or ‘speaking beasts’ is the same excuse that was used to commit the greatest holocaust that the world has known, the near complete extinction of the indigenous North American peoples.
The documented thinking of the ‘great Americans’ from history reveals much: for instance, not quite 10 years after drafting that lauded document of fraternity and democracy, the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson suggested that the United States should snatch Latin America “piece by piece.” John Adams declared that taking South America “would be agreeable,” but added that he didn’t want anything to do with “a people more ignorant, more bigoted, more superstitious, more implicitly credulous in the sanctity of royalty, more blindly devoted to their priests . . . than any people in Europe, even in Spain.” Later still, President William Taft would say of the American continent: “the whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally.”
When looked at in this way, through the history of the country (and believe us, we have left so much out), it can be seen why the ancestors of these white immigrants/settlers mainly from Europe who now place themselves at the head of the USA as the ruling class have sponsored such a low opinion of those that they now consider ‘outsiders’. Through the teaching of the ruling class, this skewed view has become lodged in the collective mindset of the majority. Of course, not every white American personally agrees with or accepts this racist agenda, but its legacy exists not only in US history but also in the present American state and its laws and policies.
So, before we all jump on the ‘blame everything on Trump’ bandwagon, let us consider that there were record high deportations of undocumented Latino immigrants under the Obama administration, along with the introduction of a militarised border, and a stronger beefed-up interior immigration enforcement. That is not to excuse Trump. His part in the suppression of brown and black people (all workers in fact) is no less despicable than that every other US president, but all US presidents are pawns of the class that they truly represent and the political system that we know as imperialism and it is this last group and system which must be seen as the real demons and which will only be defeated when we stand together as workers regardless of colour or birthplace or language spoken and are prepared to unflinchingly raise an unstoppable hammer to the whole rotten edifice!