Life and Death On the Border - Interview with Poet/ Photographer, Francisco Dominguez
Broadcast on “Sparkplug,” Free Radio KDRT, January 11, 2006, in Davis, CA
D: Francisco Dominguez is an artist, activist, teacher, and documentary photographer as well as a friend. And today he will be talking about the project he's been working on for over a year now called “The US/ Mexico Border: Documenting Life and Death Along the Border.”
I guess I want to start out by asking you, how did you get started on this project?
F: Well, I've been documenting farmworkers here in California since around 1989. Actually, my father came here on the Bracero Program from Mexico City in the late 1940's to work. And the Bracero Program was a program set up by the U.S. Government to bring in workers from Mexico because of the shortage of labor after World War II, for people to work in the agricultural industry here in California. So, my father did farm labor work, and also my mother, who grew up in Abeline, Texas, they used to work in agriculture too. They grew cotton around that area. They used to pick cotton in Abeline in their youth. So then also, growing up in Sacramento we used to, me and my friends, we'd always go work in the pears along the Sacramento River in Cortland every summer. That was our way of making some extra cash, to go work in the pears. Yeah, we were the “Pear Guys.” I've been around, you know, that type of work most of my life. And so, naturally, I had an interest in that. And as a photographer I started documenting the farmworkers. And when you do that you start looking into a lot of labor abuse, pesticide abuse, pesticide poisoning within the workers, racism, sexism, you name it, it's out there, because a lot of the workers are undocumented and so they are basically targets of this type of a behavior because they can't complain to anybody with these types of abuses. They're living in fear. When you don't... when you're not documented you're not going to go to officials and talk about these type of things. So, that's part of my background. And just wanting to uncover some of the things that are happening that are out there. That's always been my goal. Also, for education. And as a photographer, to give a face to the worker, to give a face, a human face to the farmworker to the public. Because that's something we don't see. We go to the store, we see the apples and the cabbage, carrots, walnuts, but we don't see those faces that pick it. So that's been my goal - is to show that.
D: My next question then is, how do you change from documenting farmworkers who were here working in fields to documenting the border?
F: Well, two years ago I was spending some time in Mexico in Oaxaca and I ran into an artist friend of mine, his name is Alejandro Santiago who's one of the major artists of Oaxaca, actually all of Mexico, and he was doing a migrant project, and he was doing ceramic figures of native Oaxacans who are leaving Mexico to go work in the United States. Actually there are whole ghost towns now in southern Mexico, in Oaxaca, where because of NAFTA, because of policies of the Mexican government, people are leaving because they cannot compete with the corporations, the multinationals that are coming in and are setting up farms there. They can't survive as small farmers so there's a massive exodus to the United States of workers. Just since 1994, it's been estimated there's five million workers that have come into the United States from Mexico—undocumented workers. And probably out of those five million at least one million indigenous people from Mexico. So you're seeing huge numbers. And he told me he was going to have some shows. He's going to show these because he shows on the ceramic figures the physical and psychological abuse these people go through to leave their country to go work in a foreign country, dealing with a racist society, the loss of their culture, the acculturation of their kids here to go to school, to be part of the “American” culture. A lot of these people come from tribes, and it's actually very destructive on their own tribal culture, their own ceremonies, because once people come here, once, if they go back they don't really want to be involved in that. So, he's looking at the loss of their culture, the destruction. And so he, uh, well, I showed him some of my farmworker pictures. I'm a photographer, so I had some of my work. He said, “Well, we're going to work together in the future because people need to..., because you're..., what you're doing is the end product of the exodus. What people are doing.” So I started documenting workers here in San Francisco. Because now labor, with Mexican labor, people are doing everything, from roofers, cement workers, bus boys, you name it, nannies, maids, everything. So I started documenting that. And then three years ago I started going, taking trips down to the border. The first trip was down in Douglas, Arizona. Then into Sausabay which is underneath Tucson, and we went down into Altar which is 80 miles from the Mexican border. It's like the main launching point for undocumenteds coming into the country from all over Mexico. It's this little town of 1,500 people but it's the major launching point, so we went down in there. We did some photography, some interviews, volunteered at a migrant center with the Catholic church. Then we came back and actually did a ride-along with the Border Patrol in Douglas. So I got to see that aspect. They took us to the jail. They showed us everything. It was pretty amazing. And then we met with some groups in Tucscon, some from Derechos Humanos group, then some from the Methodist church. And they go out and take barrels of water out to the desert. And they put these flags, these blue flags on them that are about 20 feet tall so that when people are going through the desert they can see those flags and know they can get water. Because the temperature average is over a hundred, you know, 110, 120 out there. It's a brutal heat in the summer, even in the springtime. So what is happening with the situation now, because they're building more fences and beefing up the patrols, so they're going to the most treacherous parts to cross, the most desolate,
and we're seeing an increasing number of people dying. Actually, the number has been going up every year, since, like, ten years now, but this year was the highest. I think it's up to 400 in 2005, I think the number was 485 people they found dead this year. And it's interesting because you would think because they pretty much doubled the amount of Border Patrol agents on the border, put more electronic devices, video cameras, you would think there would be fewer deaths, but actually the number is going up.
D: Now, I don't understand that, because, for me, it makes sense that there would be more deaths. The reason why is that as the border becomes increasingly militarized and these physicals barriers are built, and the walls are raised, people are going into more and more extreme areas in order to evade being caught. So it seems to me that would be a direct cause of an increase in deaths. The other thing I wonder is, how many deaths are actually occurring, because if people are going through more and more desolate areas in order to cross the border, I'm guessing that a lot of these bodies aren't being found.
F: Right. Yeah. Like this number from this year, 480, that's just the bodies they have found. And, because it's in the wilderness a lot of animals get a hold of the bodies and the bones are spread, and the buzzards.... Yeah, it's sad because you have families that crossing, women, you know, that are never found. And then their families are back in Mexico and it's just a mystery on how they died, where they are, and it's a very sad and tragic reality for a lot of people. And this past September I went to the Holtville cemetery in... it's by the border in Calexico, and it's the county cemetery. And at that, they added on to it to bury the undocumenteds they found out in the desert. And a lot of the bodies are found with no IDs because they are just skeletons or whatever reason, they don't have any Ids, so they just..., there are little headstones which are just bricks, they just say “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” and that's it, you know. So it's a very sad thing that is happening. You know, you have the wealthiest country in the world, then you have people dying crossing the border to come here to work. And there's no outreach; or that it's a very hostile environment, very racial. And it's very sad because we have a history in this country of civil rights and you don't hear too many people speaking up about it. And it's not good because even..., I'm going to be giving a talk at College of Marin on February 16th with the Peace Club there and also the Interfaith Council on Latin America from Marin County are sponsoring me, and that group specifically said they want me to come because they said the anti-war people are not making connections to what's happening on the border, people aren't getting involved, and they want people to know what's going on. Which is very sad because we, in this country, what happened here in the 60s and 70s where people were coming together, you know, and I think the Viet Nam war brought a lot of people together interracially, people working together, but now that's not happening anymore. Hopefully, that'll come back, you know.
D: I guess I have a comment and I would like to tie this into issues, and how our, this administration is dealing with issues of terrorism and fear, a lot of people that I've heard have..., who are supporting the increased militarization of the border draw on fear of Arabs coming into the country, other than Mexican, and one of the interesting statistics I was reading today online was just that the US/Mexican border is the most commonly crossed border in the whole world, both in terms of legal and illegal people crossing that border, the largest number of any border in the world that's crossed.
F: Well, if that is true, which I'm not doubting, okay, you are dealing with a First World nation, the wealthiest country in the world that has a border with a Third World country and so that's going to happen. And, you also have a history of migration, of economic migration, throughout the world throughout history where there is a labor shortage and where people go to work. You know, so that's not anything new. As far as that border, dealing with homeland security and that, there has not been one case to this day where Muslims or Arabs have been caught coming into the country from Mexico — there hasn't been one, you know. There hasn't been one. But yet they want to put that out there, that somehow within these Mexican people there are terrorists or, you know. But they, they..., you know, even if you look in the 40s when they were trying to kick Mexicans out of the country, when they had the Zoot Suit riots, they were saying, you know, that all these Mexicans were blood-thirsty Aztecs, you know, practicing human sacrifice. There's always been that type of a racial aspect of dealing with Mexican people, too, so it's a fear. And just in today's paper, in the Sacramento Bee, last week a border agent shot an 18 year old kid there on the border. Basically, there was a confrontation. This kid and his younger brother, and they were caught trying to come across and I guess what the Border Patrol agent said was that one of the kids threw a rock at him, and then they were going back over the fence, back into Mexico. So the Border Patrol agent pulled out his pistol and killed the kid, an 18 year old kid, shot him in the back with a high caliber weapon. And then the kid's brother, who was sixteen, picked him up and carried him into Mexico, to a Red Cross, where he died. You know? Okay, so now because of that this article came out today saying that there's been threats by Mafia in Mexico that they're going to start killing Border Patrol agents. And this was put out by Homeland Security to further beef up the threats and the fear that somehow now our Border Patrol agents are working in hostile situations. When in actuality, they're the ones who executed somebody last week. Yeah.
D: This brings to mind larger issues of racism, and also what we were talking about earlier with the fear of Arabs and Muslims, and people crossing the border, which is actually a racist issue because Muslim and Arab people are not terrorists across the board. It's extremists and Al Qaida, and I think it's important that we show that distinction. And those two issues, of whether or not people from the Middle East are crossing and the entirely different issue of whether or not Al Qaida members are crossing that border, have been mixed in our media. And, the other question I guess I want to bring up is how do you see racism against Mexicans and Mexican Americans tying in on what you've seen on the border? This one example of someone being shot, and now... yeah.
F: Well, the border has its own reality of..., you have towns like Calexico/Mexicali, you have San Diego/ Tijuana, you have Brownsville, El Paso, all these towns along the US/Mexican border where there's huge towns on the other side of the border, Mexico, just as big. So for years and years you've had people who have worked in both towns who have crossed to go to work, crossed to get health care, relatives on both sides of the fence. That's just the reality. So, to close off that type of a border, to close off that type of an exchange, you are separating families and it just creates a lot of hostility because people can't cross as freely anymore; and that's a border situation, people speak Spanish in those towns, freely. I mean that's, for a lot of people who grow up in the United States on those border towns Spanish is the first language still. You know? So, it's a very racial situation on another level, too, because who's to say who is illegal or not? Who has papers? You know? So everybody, at a certain point everybody becomes a suspect if you're brown, or if you're a Latino living in those areas. And also, the, uh, with all the media hype and anti-immigrant sentiment that is being played out in this country, it also has a psychological effect on Latinos and Chicanos in this country, the children of immigrants. It works on people's self-esteem, also. If we look at the high school drop-out rates, the percentage of Latinos in college. Yeah. So, it's not a good picture there either. I mean, on one level, the population is very large, but if you look at percentage-wise, we're not doing very well in school, you know. So this doesn't help add, you know, anything positive to that. And racism, you know, against Mexican people, it's..., you know, when the U.S. Basically took the Southwest from Mexico at gunpoint, you know? Yeah. Basically stole the country, this Southwest, from Mexico at gun-point, that's, that was a defining moment in race relations between the U.S. And Mexico. Because then, at that point, it became, yeah, “You Mexicans.” Yeah.
D: One of my favorite protest signs that I've seen, at a protest I went to in Sacramento that I actually saw you at, against the Minute Men, was “We Didn't Cross the Border, The Border Crossed Us.” Which, I think says, it ties this issue into an historical context really beautifully.
F: Yeah. And if you look at the name of California, it's a Spanish name. New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Utah, Nevada; the names of the towns: Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Mateo, on and on and on and on. Also, to live in that reality, too, you know, knowing that this used to be Mexico, then to have it thrown, you know, through the media, through other forums, that somehow, that, uh, Mexican people are not wanted here, you know? They want the labor, but they don't want to deal with the people, you know? Because America is soaking up the labor. If there were no jobs here people wouldn't come. People are not going to come here and sit around and starve, you know? Just right here in Davis you can go to any restaurant..., yeah. Look who's mowing the lawns, doing the painting, on and on. It's like, people are here — they can't really afford to live in Davis, but they're the ones pushing the brooms and doing all the clean-up. We know that. So, yeah, it's just that, racism is just something that we've had to deal with here since, you know, for a long time; so it's like racism comes in waves dealing with the current political situation. With the war in Iraq a lot of our resources, a lot of our tax dollars are going to fund that war, so all the social programs have been cut. So, when that happens the government basically needs a scapegoat, to blame somebody else for the ills of our society, and basically Mexican people are the targets at this point.
D: I want to ask you more about the groups that you've seen along the border: Who is camped out on the border, apart from whom we normally think of, undocumented migrants and the Border Patrol are the ones I normally see on the news. Who else is there?
F: You mean like the Minute Men?
D: The Minute Men and ....
F: Well, the Minute Men, and there's probably five different Minute Men groups along the US/Mexico border. But recently I heard that they have formed probably 20 different groups now. Because what has happened, specifically in California, there's the Gente Unida, it's a coalition of civil rights groups in San Diego, and they go and monitor the Minute Men, to make sure they are not physically assaulting people, shooting people — just like a border watch to make sure they're not, to make sure no one is being harmed, none of the migrants is being harmed. So, they've disbanded and formed 20 different groups so when they go out, for Gente Unida..., it will be harder for the Gente Unida to go out there and follow all these groups. And they might go out and, uh, like the Minute Men, they'll go out for a few weeks at a time to different cities along the border and they camp out there in their SUVs, they have trailers, and then the Gente Unida people will go out and monitor them. So, they also have protests against them. That's the thing that has happened also. And it's very interesting. There's been a lot of college students that have been going and protesting with the Gente Unida groups. And, a lot of Anglo Americans also, college students, very progressive. You see a lot of hippies out there, you know? They get right in the Minute Men's faces and say, “Racists! Racists go home. We don't want your hatred here.” Which is a very interesting racial dynamic that takes place because the Chicano youth can't do that because there would be immediate violence. But when you have Anglo college kids doing it, those guys don't really know how to react to them, because it's, it's, you know....
D: So for anyone who doesn't know who the Minute Men are, which I think, actually a lot of people aren't familiar with the Minute Men and what exactly they're doing. They're an all-volunteer force that actually comes from people from all over the United States of America that are armed and have formed a militia along the border. And, of course, they claim they are not racists, that they're just supplementing the Border Patrol, and that the U.S. Government is not providing enough military force along the border to satisfy their desires. But, of course the issue is seen very differently by human rights groups.
F: Well, The Minute Men, the majority of them are retired military people, retired police, off-duty police, retired correctional officers or weekender correctional officers, that type. And, you know, there's affiliations with Nazis, with neo-Nazi groups here in this country, Ku Klux Klan members. So, in effect what we're seeing is the rebirth, or the rise of the Ku Kluz Klan again in this country but coming in another face, with another uniform on preaching their brand of racial superiority and racial hatred. And it's very interesting that these groups are funded but no one knows where they're getting their money to do these things. So they are funded. They pretty much get to do whatever they want on the border. The Border Patrol just doesn't do anything to them, you know. They let them do anything they want. And actually when there's the Chicano kids and college kids down there on the border protesting, there's all kinds of Border Patrol watching them, keeping an eye on them. You know? So, it's pretty much known on the border that the Minute Men get to do whatever they want, you know, and actually are not looked down upon by the Border Patrol. Which is really crazy because if you have armed militia patrolling the border, I mean, how long will the government put up with it if a group of Chicanos decided to arm themselves and patrol the border? Groups of African Americans arming themselves and patrolling the border? Groups of Native Americans patrolling their own reservations on their borders? How long do you think that would last? That's my question. You know? And it's just crazy. It's wrong. You know, it's, it's allowing a racial situation to even get worse.
I was having coffee this morning and somebody told me in the coffee shop that the governor of the state of Arizona declared a state of emergency yesterday and called in the National Guard to patrol along the Arizona border. And I still have to confirm that, but this person is pretty knowledgeable. And, so, as we see, the situation is just getting further out of hand. Also, what it does, is by militarizing that border, you have a lot of workers that have come into this country to work in the agricultural industry. Let's say, in the wintertime, when there's nothing to do, they would go back. Now it's harder for people to even go back because they don't know if they can get back in, you know. And you're seeing some farms — there was a report about a month ago, there was a farm in Calexico, they didn't have any workers. Yeah. They didn't have any workers to pick the crop because of the situation there. Usually people, workers would just come over from Mexicali, but now the situation is a lot different. So you have people who are fearful of crossing, fearful of going back, and so you have, now people who aren't crossing as freely; and that's effecting people's families. Yeah.
D: And we often talk about, I know, anti-immigration and right-wing folk I hear on the radio often talk about illegal immigration being costs on our social services, when Mexican workers are here during the summers and able to return to their families in the winter, they're not using any of the social services or food banks that we have in the United States, non-profit resources. But when they're not allowed to cross the border to return to their families it actually — militarizing the border actually increases the costs on our society.
F: Yeah. In terms of incarceration, the beefing up of the Border Patrol, the costs associated with jailing a lot of people, a lot of the workers are charged, you know, or they have their taxes taken out of their checks. They cannot, you know, reap the benefits of that, whether it's through Social Security or county and state tax, you know, so that money is going back into the system and they are not allowed to take advantage of that. So, the economics of the whole thing is ..., it's very economically driven on one level because none of the employers are being put in jail that hire the undocumenteds — and it's big business. You know? So on one level, they're saying, “We gotta stop these guys from coming in, they're taking our jobs. They're messing up our country.” You know? But on another level people are making money off of it and that's why it's allowed to take place, you know. Because if these workers were not here who is going to do the work? In this country, this society, people are just not into manual labor anymore — people, Americans, have moved on from manual labor and they refuse to do it.
You know, a couple of years ago I was documenting the cantaloupe pickers in Dunnigan right up by 5 near Woodland, and I was talking to this labor contractor. And he was telling me in Arizona, he had just come from Arizona and they were working in some cantaloupe fields in Arizona, and this one grower... no, no, actually, it was, they had just come from Arizona and the grower in Dunnigan planted too many cantaloupes and they didn't have enough workers to pick them all. They were ripe. And when those crops are ready they gotta go. So he went to the unemployment office in Yuba City to get a crew, and he got a crew of 20 workers from the unemployment office and brought them out to work. And he asked me, “Francisco, how long do you think those workers lasted out there in that field?” Well, I was thinking to myself, well, maybe one day, you know? He said, “Two hours.” And they all quit. Yeah. Some of that work is very very physically demanding. And, that field we were in, there, it was 100 – 105 degrees that day. They work from about 5:30 in the morning until about 2:00. And it's up and down, up and down all day. You know, so, just some of the work is very physically demanding, and people will just not do that work. You know, so, it's just a very hypocritical situation. And to treat..., for me it's a human rights issue. Every worker deserves rights as a human being. Whether it's to drive a car, whether it's to have fair housing, whether it's to have a workplace where you don't have to deal with racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, uh, yeah. Workers deserve human rights as human beings. Everybody deserves the right to be treated fair in this world. And this situation is just wrong.
D: And I think we should also tie this into rights that people have within our own community, rights to be involved in their city government, and in the schooling of their children — which illegal immigrants don't have those rights, they are not allowed to vote. They're not allowed to be on school boards. And, if violent crime occurs against them, if items are stolen or they're harassed, they have no ability to go to the police and demand those human rights, those protections, that other citizens in our society are allowed.
F: Well, a good example of that is, in December, there was a lawsuit filed by a former member of, uh, an associate of Pete Wilson in San Diego, a Republican politician. He spearheaded a drive to start up a lawsuit against the University of California. And actually, ten UC Davis students are involved in the lawsuit. And they're suing the University of California for allowing undocumented students to go to school and not charge them out-of-state tuition. So, they're not saying they shouldn't be admitted, because there was a bill passed that allows undocumented students entrance into the University of California, that was passed four years ago. Because you have a large amount of undocumented students in the California public school systems, and if you're going to have people in school they're going to want to work hard to go to college, you know. It's a benefit to our society to have an educated work force. But what they're trying to do with this lawsuit is, they're trying to say, “undocumented students have to pay out-of-state tuition even if they were raised here in California.” Yeah. So, so they don't really have to say, “we don't want you here, period.” They're going around another way of doing it, by saying it's unfair that they can pay in-state tuition. You know, to kick them out that way. You know? Because we have undocumented students right here at UC Davis getting an education, doing the right thing: trying to better their lives. You know? And now it's a move to, anybody that's undocumented, it's just, you know, it's pretty crazy.
There was a, a few weeks ago in Arizona, in Douglas, back to Douglas, Arizona, there were two Border Patrol agents, Chicanos, who were turned in by their co-workers for dating undocumented women. And they were both fired, you know, for breaking the law. Okay? Even went to, one guy is being prosecuted because his girlfriend was deported back to Mexico and he went and brought her back. You're talking about love, you know? You're talking about relationships here. So (laughs) he brought his girlfriend back and now he's being charged with felonies, of bringing in people into the country unlawfully. So he lost his job and now he's being prosecuted. You know? So that just takes the situation to a whole other level when you're talking about human beings, romance, people involved, couples, you know? Yeah. And that situation, I'm pretty much sure it was racial, too, because these guys were Chicanos. Yeah. Yeah.
D: I guess I want to ask you one more question — I know you have to leave soon — which is, I want to know a few of the human stories you've seen when you've met people and interviewed them along the border? What are the ..., I know we've talked about some of the side costs, but what are the real life stories that people are dealing with when they make this decision to cross?
F: Well, a couple of stories would be the, uh, there was a whole family I interviewed, all brothers and uncles, that was coming across, and they were going to a poultry farm in Kentucky. And they were basically saying that they can't make it in Mexico anymore, because of the farming. Also, you have that genetically engineered corn that's being grown out there, that just outgrows everything else, you know. And that stuff, actually, is just spread out into people's private farms, and messed up their crops. And they just cannot compete, with the multinationals. So, it's a matter of pack up your bags and go work in the U.S. Or sit there and starve, you know. Or, go into crime. Yeah. So, these guys have left. Think about it, to leave your family, you know. Everybody, the media makes it look like a very cheerful journey here. You know? Just to come work here, people just can't wait. They're leaving their families, you know, the place where they were born, their cities, to go work in a foreign land. Talk about a scary thing. You know? Yeah. Anybody out there listening, yeah, think about that: if you had to leave, pick up your life and go to another country just to work, to live. Yeah. People don't think about that, you know? And that's what these people are doing.
And, uh, another story, there was this woman who got deported from Nebraska, a Guatemalan woman, Indian, native lady, had her two little kids. Deported. They didn't deport her to Guatemala. They dumped her off at the border. Her husband's still in Nebraska, and other kids. She had to find a way to get back. You know? Actually, she asked me to bring her little baby back, because she was afraid of her baby dying in the desert. You know, I told her I couldn't do it, because of my situation. You know? The border is a very different type of place. It's a very..., it's militarized, also, on the Mexican side, you know, because of all the pressure the U.S. Government puts on Mexico. So you have.., I was stopped two or three times by the military in that town of Altar because that's not a tourist town. There's no tourists there at all. And if you come there as a photographer, as a journalist, you kind of stick out, you know? So, so I was asked two or three times, “what are you doing here?” So I couldn't, even if I wanted to bring anybody over I couldn't do it anyway — because I had to tell the lady. So she was there with no money, trying to get back. And, you just have stories like that, you know, of people that are..., who just have it very tough, you know. So, and with the militarization of the border it's just..., we're going to start hearing more stories. You know? Because of the fear — with military, that means more guns, so we're probably going to start looking at more death there on the border.
D: So, for people who care about this issue, and people who are listening to you now saying, “gosh, this is a horrible thing that's happening along our border, I'd like to do something, I don't know how to get involved, how I can be active with an issue this big,” what suggestions do you have? How can people get engaged with this issue and how can they make a difference in this life or death situation?
F: I..., well, um, there's not really an official group here in Davis or Sacramento. There's some groups, there's the Bay Area Coalition Against the Minute Men in San Francisco. There's some border rights groups in San Francisco. I think on a local level, here, start writing letters to politicians, letting people know that you do not like what's going on here, you do not like the use of our tax payers' money to fund this horrific situation there on the border. We want to come up with some kind of sensible solution to this, where people can come here and work with some type of dignity. You know, the labor need is here, okay, let's do something about it. Let's do something that's fair, that's humane. You know, not, just let this situation be some kind of political football in Washington, DC where they end up actually doing nothing, but talking and threatening and bullying. You know? Yeah. Let's come up with something fair here. Not just continue this type of a nightmare. You know? Somebody..., there has to be..., you know, because we can protest and say, this isn't right, but we..., the people that are, you know, trying to do some work, trying to come up with solutions, we have to come up with a solution, you know, to this problem. We just can't let it fester out there, and say it's wrong. We have to come up with our own solutions to this also. Because it's not going to go away. Even with..., well, I mentioned Guatemala. We have.., there's people that come from El Salvador also. You know, across the border. There's people that come from Brazil. So, it's not just Mexico.
And, then, also, if you look at..., there's been a couple of recently elected presidents in Latin America whom are Socialists. You know, so, if you look at the history of the United States with South America, even Central America, it's not a very good history. And so, the situation on the border, I mean, that fence, it's interesting because, you know, eventually they'll probably..., they probably will build the fence (I hope not) all the way across. If things keep going like they are, it's going to be like a Berlin Wall.
D: Or even..., or the Israeli /Palestinian barrier, similar to it, cutting across ecosystems, dividing people, creating a First World nation right next to a Third, and making it a crime to cross between the two.
F: Yeah. Part of this bill that just passed the House in Washington, DC, that the Senate has to look at here in the next few weeks, it's a criminalization of undocumenteds, basically making it a felony to be in this country without documentation. So, you're talking about, if that thing passes, there'll be 10 million undocumented workers become felons. Yeah. And, if you're a felon in this country you can't vote. Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of different ramifications if they pass that thing, to criminalize a whole workforce.
D: And it makes it illegal to ever come across the border again, legally. Because once you're a felon it's illegal to ever immigrate into the United States, it's impossible to ever get a visa, even if, say, you married someone here or you had another way, you had a sponsoring organization, you had a legal way to immigrate.
F: Yes. Exactly. So, there's a lot of bullying, a lot of fear, a lot of finger-pointing out there, and it's shameful that these politicians would even come up with these bills like this, criminalizing..., to criminalize workers, it's just wrong. You know, these are the people who put the food on the table every night, you know, 24/7. Every time we go to the store, you know? Yeah, all that produce, all the other ingredients that's in the food that we eat is picked by Mexican laborers, by Central Americans. Yeah. All that, all the food. They feed this country. Not only this country, all the exports in agriculture that go out to Europe, to Canada, all over the world — the rice that is harvested in this state, California's the biggest rice grower in the world — all done by Mexican labor; the biggest almond grower in the world, all done by Mexican labor; you know, on and on, almonds, right, you know, walnuts, you name it. And, to criminalize is just not right. You know?
So, to..., I think, to finish up the interview..., well, maybe just one more question, but, uh, you know, what we need to do is we need to educate and not hate in this country.
D: I guess my last question, then, is..., we've talked a lot about what is going on with the border and what is wrong about it and what's wrong with our current government's policy towards increasing militarization to deal with this immigration issue, what would a different policy for the border look like? What would a more progressive, more open, solution to this border look like? How..., I feel like this is not really being talked about at all. What is a different approach?
F: Well, a fair worker program where people can come in, here, to this country as, legally, workers. Say, have permits, like for six months, you know, eight months, come here and work. And they can go back to Mexico, come back, you know? Instead of this criminalization. The labor need is here. Why haven't the politicians done the right thing? And created these types of programs where people can come in and work. Instead of this type of criminalization, fear, finger-pointing, “You Mexicans” this, “You Mexicans” that. You know? There has to be some type of a sane policy. You know, because the American business communities are not taking responsibility. The politicians are not taking responsibility. The people are just..., the workers are just being used as a scapegoat. And the situation..., and this has been like his for years. You know? And they just fumble around, you know, fumble around with it like a football in the political arena, and nothing really ever gets done.
And, in this climate that we're in, it's just even worse because now they're saying terrorists are coming in from Mexico, you know? So now, Mexicans are terrorists. You know, I take personal affront to that. It's insulting. You know, Mexican people are good people. Yeah. They're..., we're beautiful people. Yeah, we're a beautiful people. To label us “terrorists” and dope-dealers, and whatever else, is just wrong.
I want to thank you so much for your time. And....
F: Okay. I want to thank KDRT, you know, here in Davis, D-Town, for having me on; I want to thank you for having me on your show, you know. And I'll come back some other time.
And, remember, we have to..., Don't hate, educate. This is one world. We all gotta live together here on this world. The world's becoming a smaller place. Everybody deserves respect. You know. The people that work the earth, the farmworkers, people, you know, they deserve respect. They have a close relationship to the earth. They're the ones who work that dirt. And, to be treated wrong, to be treated hatefully, no one deserves that. You know? And, so, we just have to work to make this world a better place.