By Christine Boswell
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked for an additional $300 million in border security and “five hundred extra ‘troopers’ along the Border,” according to an articlewritten in the Austin American Statesman. He also equates corruption in South Texas to "…third world country practices that erode the social fabric of our communities and destroy Texans' trust and confidence in government" Abbott goes on to say, "We must do more to protect our border going beyond sporadic surges. I'll add more boots on the ground, more assets in the air and on the water, and deploy more technology and tools for added surveillance" (Burnt Orange Report). Here is my concern: Abbott’s war-cry rhetoric for more militarization along the border, or what is now referred to as “Low Intensity Conflict (LIC)” status, will exacerbate the dangers immigrant women already face along our Texas border, particularly in South Texas.
First, let me explain what “Low Intensity Conflict” means and how it affects collective thinking. Developed during the Reagan Administration, and rooted in “counterinsurgency” term after the Cuban Revolution, the doctrine of the “LIC” was created to “Employ force in a global crusade against Third World revolutionary movements and governments.” (Klare and Kornbluh, Low Intensity Warfare: The New Interventionism). According to sociologist, Timothy Dunn, this meant that the United States could use “subtle forms of militarization” to invade Third World counties, such as Central American countries in order to fight against their guerilla forces and “targeted civilian populations” in an attempt to prevent, what the doctrine states, as some form of Soviet-style, creeping communism or revolutions deemed harmful to the United States. However, this concept of fighting Third World regimes is creeping into the minds of our Texas leaders, especially when it is their own state they are defending against. Dunn draws similarities between the “wars” fought in other countries, to the supposed “war” along the border.
Domestically, it started with the “War on Drugs” which morphed to the “War on Terror,” only to marry and produce a “war” along the U.S. Mexico Border against, what the GOP believes, are ‘insurgent’ immigrants. Some say the practice is already here especially since the INS (renamed “US Citizenship and Immigration Services”) has been classified, first under the Department of Justice from the Department of Labor, in 1940, to the Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003. According to a 2006 article, “What the War on Terror Has Done to Texas,”
In 1986, President Reagan issued a directive designating illegal drug traffic as a threat to U.S. "national security," which permitted the Department of Defense to enter a range of "anti-drug" activity, including on the border. Even before that, in 1981 Congress passed amendments that diluted the strength of the 100-year-old Posse Comitatus Act, which had strictly prohibited deputizing military to carry out domestic law enforcement. The Pentagon's Center for the Study of Low Intensity Conflict helped design the Border Patrol's "Strategic Plan: 1994 and Beyond," devoted almost entirely to immigration control.Also, in the 1990’s, the definition of “national security” was extended to include, “domestic political concerns and perceived threats to culture, social stability, environmental degradation, and population growth” (Falcón, INCITE!).
According to political scientist and researcher, Tony Payan:
In a new study, The Three U.S.-Mexico Border Wars: Drugs, Immigration, and Homeland Security, Payan suggests that the "real failure" of 9/11 was the lack of intelligence coordination to detect and apprehend potential terrorists entering anywhere. Mexican border security became a special focus, with law enforcement redefined as a matter of national security. The focus carries hostility not only to crossers but those who live in the area, "an escalation that has not paid off" because workers and drugs are coming at the same rate as five years ago. What has changed toward undocumented workers since 9/11, as Payan puts it, is "the perception of intentionality," that "this is not someone coming to take a job, but someone who will harm America."(http://www.alternet.org/... )
Dr. Jamal Assad, of MPAC, the Houston Chapter of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, also had concerns:
This is a little bit scary here. If this act [is] adopted completely by INS the problem is going to be another military institute. What I mean by that is, if somebody for example violated his or her visa one or two days, instead of deporting him, they are going to handcuff him or her and put them in jail maybe one or two or three years under the so-called secret evidence and he or she may be completely innocent just because of visa violation. Leave the criminal behavior for the FBI, for the military, for the CIA and leave INS alone. (http://kpft.igc.org/...)
This means that Congress strengthened future militarization of the border, based on the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” (post 9/11), which evolved into the mindset that the enemy is the Mexican immigrant.
So now we get to the issue here: what does this mean for documented and undocumented women from Mexico trying to come to the United States? Especially, now, since they are viewed as criminals simply for coming into the country? Sylvanna Falcón has researched this topic. In her essay titled, “National Security and the Violation of Women.” A “weapon of war” used against women is rape. The tactic is meant to “dominate women and psychologically debilitate people viewed as the enemy.” More specifically, the term is “national security rape” or “militarized border rape” (Falcón, INCITE!). Because of their illegal status, perceived or real, they are assaulted due to their lack of being recognized by the state as a person who belongs here. They are viewed as a security risk and a criminal and therefore, the male mentality shifts to forms of subduing, controlling and punishing this “enemy.”
Acts of sexual violence have been occurring along the U.S.-Mexico border since colonialism imposed itself there in 1848. This is a human rights violation that has continued since. As if it was not horrific enough undocumented women deal with the inevitable situation of rape so much they use birth control before their journey. Or that they are raped as a price for passage and the evidence of the crime is left behind in the form of “rape trees.” Now they face an even greater danger of being assaulted on “this side” of the border, thanks to Abbott’s idea that South Texas is somehow a war-torn, “third-world country” because of one case of corruption (I guess Governor Christie’s New Jersey should be invaded with nuclear weapons, according to his logic). It is a real phenomenon. Women are already reporting being victimized, but reports are rare due to the “code of silence” amongst the perpetrators who commit these acts. Because of the code of silence culture, where men seldom report on other men for crimes they commit, rapes continue. Women from Mexico are primary targets on the U.S. side because they have the most to lose: their papers, their job from which they send money home, the fear of being deported and the lack of reporting the crime for fear of the charges not holding up. “The nonexistence of a standardized complaints form and appeals process are systematic and structural shortcomings that allow the INS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) to minimize the situation at the border” (Falcón, INCITE!). This means women haven’t anyone to turn to when this happens to them. “Dr. Falcón explains one possible reason this systematic abuse of women has gone unchecked for so long, ‘Our society takes rape seriously, but it doesn’t take this type of rape seriously. In all of our national discourse around securing our borders, rarely, if ever, do you hear about any kind of protection for people who might be crossing. Largely, that’s because the discussion has been framed around protecting us—protecting the U.S.—and once you get into that framework, what happens to the other person is not even on the radar.’” (http://usopenborders.com/...) They are left, in what I can only surmise as, in shambles, broken, with no help. And now with the lack of much needed women’s abortion healthcare gone along the Texas border, where are these women to go when they turn up pregnant? Or who is going to pay for essential birth control in order to prevent pregnancy?
In every instance where war and conquest have taken place, it has been the women who pay the “rape-price” during these conflicts. With Abbot using dog-whistle verbiage like “boots on the ground” and “surges” relating to the border, mixed in with the key LIC “third world” phrase, imagination is not something that I am running wild with when I say his intentions are clear: to more heavily militarize southern Texas as if it were enemy territory. This militarization of the border is specific to the U.S-Mexico line (as I do not see major militarization effort cluttered along the U.S. border to stop people from Toronto invading New York, using Lake Ontario). The problem with his comments is the hurt it represents and triggers for members of the border community and those familiar with these ongoing struggles. The rhetoric perpetuates the idea that the war isn’t to protect but to harm. Mexican immigrant women are the silent victims in this battle of words and it is imperative that it stop.
Works Cited:Christine Boswell is a native of South Texas and is Double-Majoring in Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies and Political Science from Oregon State University
Falcon, S. (2006). National security and the violation of women: Militarized border rape at the U.S. Mexico border. In The color of violence: INCITE! anthology (pp. 119-129). Cambridge, MA: South End Press.
(All other works cited in the essay or with hyperlinks)