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Est. April 5, 2002
Feb 18, 2021 - Issue 853
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Although President Biden ordered a stop to any construction activity along the Mexican-U.S. Frontier to further the former president’s “beautiful wall,” apparently the word didn’t get to bulldozer operators and others who were at work changing the topography in some of the wildest areas on Feb. 16.

On his first day in office, Biden revoked the “national emergency” that was proclaimed by his predecessor, which had made it possible for just about every law, regulation, and restraint to be ignored and money to be illegally taken from other sources (without congressional action) in order to build the wall. The “national emergency” that was proclaimed by Donald Trump was, like most of his acts, done to avoid any discussion of the profound effects on wildlife which does not recognize national borders or to hear any arguments of landowners along the mostly peaceful frontier who wanted no part of the disruption and destruction of their land, their landscape, and their peaceful way of life.

The Center for Biological Diversity told DailyKos earlier this month that not only was the region that was still under devastation by heavy equipment a danger to the few remaining jaguar who move freely between Mexico and the U.S. but that the wall itself would have a negative impact on some 93 other species that are threatened or endangered along the 2,000-mile proposed wall.

None of this made any difference to Trump, whose only interest in his wall was that he had created a great fear among Americans that immigrants, mostly brown and indigenous, would be bringing a great crime wave, pandemic diseases, and they would usurp the meager social services that have been provided by the government despite the best efforts of his Republican Party. The construction of the wall was fear made manifest, so he had to build it at all costs, even though he didn’t even construct more than 40, or so, miles of what could be called new wall ( When Congress refused to give him the money to do his full project, he took the money from any source he could. His promise that Mexico would pay for the wall was nonsense from the beginning, but he made the promise anyway because that’s the way he operated in business, bullying his way over contractors, public servants, and workers. It didn’t work with his wall.

There are those who live in the border region and others who want justice for the landowners whose rights were trampled by Trump’s federal government. They want the damage done restored to its original condition and they want those who did it to pay for it. It’s not just that Trump took some of the private lands and desecrated public lands that were set aside as unique, national monuments and the like, he altered the landscape, taking soil and sand and water where he could get it and used it for his wall. In the matter of water, there is precious little in places like borderland Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas, and the people who live there are careful in their use of life-giving water. It takes a lot of water to make concrete used for the base of the wall and the construction companies that were given the contracts spared no effort in taking water from the ground or elsewhere, leaving that much less for the people and wildlife who depend on those sources.

That’s the way Trump has always operated, both his businesses and his federal administration. His attitude is: “If I want it and someone else has it, I’ll take it, no matter what, and no matter the expense. Nobody will thwart me.” He surrounded himself with people who would never tell him about the ranchers and landowners whose land and environment he was taking and disrupting and whose water he was stealing. Not only did he care nothing for the people he ran over or the wildlife whose life cycles he cut short, he cared nothing for the sacred ground he trampled. He wanted it. He got it.

For the former president, nothing is sacred, if it doesn’t have the possibility of making money for him and his grifting family. He taught them well and they all will go on grifting after the dust-up of his taking over the Republican Party and changing it into a version of one of his properties. As long as it will bring in money to his coffers, he will tolerate it. As long as GOP senators and representatives are subservient to him (fawning before him, really), he will tolerate them.

President Biden is now faced with the problem of righting the wrongs of current immigration policy. He is faced with the problem of excising the cruelty of Trumpism along the frontier and in the detention centers, where immigrants and asylum-seekers are held against regulations and in inhumane conditions, especially the children who have been taken from their families. Many countries face the problems of mass immigration, but for the most part, they are the rich countries, whose very policies have resulted in unbearable conditions in the poor countries, such that immigrants are going to where they believe they will be safe and will be able to support their families.

Historically, the U.S. has stunted the growth of the smaller countries in the Western Hemisphere, to the extent that it ruled several of them, mostly through military might and economic power. For example, the U.S. occupied Haiti from 1915 through 1934, and Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933. There is a long-term price to pay for such occupations and it is usually the peasants and indigenous peoples who pay the biggest price, since they have little to no power to change their lives. The involvement of the U.S. in Honduras goes back before the turn of the last century, to the 1890s, during the start of the banana industry in Central America. Historian Walter LaFeber, in his book, “Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America,” said that companies created a small economy of their own within that small nation, to the extent that, as reported in 2016, the Caribbean coast “became a foreign-controlled enclave that systematically swung the whole of Honduras into a one-crop economy whose wealth was carried off to New Orleans, New York, and later Boston.”

By 1914, noted, “U.S. banana interests owned almost 1 million acres of Honduras’ best land. These holdings grew through the 1920s to such an extent that, as LaFeber asserts, Honduran peasants ‘had no hope of access to their nation’s good soil.’” If it sounds familiar, it is what has happened to black farmers in the U.S. since the Civil War, and the same could be said for most of the countries in the Western Hemisphere, to a greater or lesser degree. Is it any wonder that people from those countries seek refuge in the U.S.? They simply want safety and a way to support their families.

These same simple people are the ones who were vilified and held in contempt by Trump, who in his ignorance had no knowledge of the history or plight of Central and South Americans as subjects of the U.S. President Biden, however, has a different view, but he needs to be taught lessons that his predecessor would not learn and never will learn. Biden is teachable. Walls will not keep people in or out of anywhere. Humans will defeat the purpose of them especially if kinfolk are on the other side or they feel that a better life is possible on the other side.

Biden did the right thing by ordering a halt to building a useless and destructive wall, but the word needs to get to the contractors. The larger task ahead of the new president is convincing the vast number of Americans that there is no need to fear immigrants and asylum-seekers because of the toxic words repeated almost daily by their former president. Most of what they heard was exaggeration and lying. In this new administration, there will be a way to deal with immigration that is humane and just. There are international rules and laws that pertain to migration and, under the Trump regime; they were not honored in the least. In fact, the first thing that Biden must eliminate is the cruelty that underlay nearly everything that the former president did. It not only caused untold suffering of immigrants, but it made America into something grotesque. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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