Thursday, September 15, 2011

Former Border Patrol Agent Calls for Protest

On Wednesday, September 7, nearly 200 demonstrators gathered near a community college in Charlotte, NC to protest the deportation of undocumented students in this country. At the rally, at least 10 young undocumented individuals publicly announced that they were living in this country illegally, all of whom were later arrested. To many, the bold tactics of this group of protesters may have seemed exceptionally risky. However, to former Border Patrol agent turned migrant activist John Randolph, this act represents an opening step towards what he hopes will become a more widespread effort among undocumented individuals in this country to step out of the shadows and fight for reform of this country’s immigration system.
Speaking to the risk the Charlotte students took in publicly announcing their undocumented status, Randolph argues, “I don’t think the Dream Act kids are going to put up with the government again making promises and doing nothing. . . They know they can not wait twenty or thirty years until something is actually done.” And Randolph has a plan that he argues could help push the U.S. government to actually make the necessary reforms it has continuously put off making.
John Randolph worked for twenty-six years as a Border Patrol agent in the city of El Cajon, Calif., just east of San Diego. After a career spent witnessing Border Patrol colleagues as well as their undocumented targets frequently injured and sometimes killed as a result of the agency’s pursuits, Randolph retired in frustration in 2005. Today he uses his sad, stressful, yet enlightening experiences working at the border to spread awareness of immigrant issues and the need for dramatic U.S. policy reform.
“In my mind, frustration was a big part of what we were being paid to do and accept. That was the job,” Randolph says about his work with the Border Patrol. He assumes that his colleagues in the agency largely shared this sense of frustration, but he says that they did not spend a great deal of time discussing it. “I think that we focused upon what we were doing in the moment and did not worry about the big picture,” he says. For him, if Border Patrol agents were to look too deeply at the job they were doing, their frustration would make doing the job impossible.
For Randolph, the exasperation he felt working for the Border Patrol came from what he saw as the failure of both the U.S. and Mexican governments to effectively protect their citizens. Time and again, the two countries have failed to curb Mexican immigration into the U.S. or to tackle the violence that is raging at the border. For Randolph, this failure is calculated, as both the Mexican government, overpowered by influential criminal syndicates, as well as the U.S. government, overpowered by corporate elites, profit off of this situation at the expense of human life. U.S. corporations need the cheap labor they get through undocumented migration into this country, while Mexican drug cartels profit off of drug and human trafficking .Neither of these two powerful groups stands to benefit from effectively closing off this border or attacking the criminal activity that pervades it.
Randolph argues, therefore, that it would be foolhardy to wait for either of these two countries’ governments to solve the problems at the border. For him, it is crucial that Mexican and U.S. citizens take matters into their own hands and come together to fight for change.

This is part 1 of a two part interview with John Randolph. Read part 2

This is the second part in a two part interview with John Randolph. Read part 1 here.
Randolph says that the only way to put the otherwise unmotivated U.S. and Mexican governments in a position to do the right thing is for the populaces of these two nations to come together in a massive peaceful protest. He advocates for a movement in which undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. simultaneously come together to claim asylum due to the drug-related violence raging on in Mexico. On a given day, hoards of undocumented individuals, their families and supporters would gather at U.S. ports of entry, immigration offices and border patrol offices, overwhelming the asylum system and drawing international attention to these countries’ unwillingness to protect their citizens. In short, by shining the spotlight on this volatile issue, the U.S. and Mexican governments will be forced to respond.
According to Randolph, the only reason that the U.S. people have not yet risen up against a government that only serves the country’s elite is that the citizens have thus far been brainwashed by anti-illegal immigration rhetoric and distracting voter initiatives. A massive asylum protest like the one he proposes would wake up the average U.S.-American taxpayer and lead to a more widespread commitment for true immigration reform.
For many reasons, the current moment may be the perfect one for a mass Mexican drug exodus and asylum protest. Randolph argues that such a protest is dependent on the widespread dissemination and availability of factual information on immigration and border violence, and the potential for informing the public has never been greater than it is now. The Internet, Facebook and other social media outlets today make possible a large scale call to action.
In addition, President Obama’s recent announcement regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s change in deportation policy may somewhat lessen the risk that Mexican immigrants would face in coming forward to publicly announce their undocumented status. Randolph admits that his protest proposal could potentially put some individuals at risk for arrest, imprisonment and deportation, but if the protesters are largely made up of the so-called “low priority cases,” he does not anticipate this will be the case. If huge numbers of individuals were to come together to claim asylum, the cost of detaining these immigrants, let alone prosecuting and deporting them would be tremendous. He expects that the protestors will be released from custody pending review of their petitions for asylum.
For non-immigrants who argue that this protest does not include them, Randolph argues that all U.S. citizens have a stake in fixing this problem. Besides simply doing the right thing and protecting this country’s southern neighbors who are being torn apart by violence, the U.S. populace needs to come forward to protest a policy that is directly contributing to this country being torn apart itself by a failed war against drug trafficking. For Randolph, this protest will only succeed if there is binational participation on a widespread level. The critical question, he asks, “Can both sides look beyond their fears [in order to ensure] a better future for all?”
So how would Randolph convince undocumented immigrants who might be on the fence about participating in his asylum protest to come out of the shadows? “What are their choices,” he asks, “Do they wait around to see reform while at the same time wait to be caught? Or do they take their victimization out of the equation. . . and stand up for their human and moral rights?” For him, if these individuals ask themselves this simple question, most would make the decision to come out and protest. His conclusion: “They will have to do what their hearts lead them to do.”

To read more about former Border Patrol agent turned immigration activist John Randolph, visit his blog, here.

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