Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois people are well versed in the illegal immigration experience

The Otay Detention Center in San Diego, California. Photo by BBC World Service

How Does One Expel 11,4000,000 People?
By Doug George-Kanentiio

We Iroquois are well versed in the illegal immigration experience.

Where once we had active jurisdiction over 12,000,000 hectares of the most beautiful and biologically rich lands in North America by the beginning of the 19th century we were reduced to less than 1 percent of our former lands which, by the year 1800 were illegally occupied by millions of settlers, very few of whom were solicited by us or adhered to our laws.

Now the Republican Party in the United States wants to do what we could not: forcibly arrest, detain and expel an estimated 11.4 million people who have entered the country in violation of federal immigration laws.

For most the decision to abandon their former homes, separate from their families and leave all they have known is neither simple or without apprehension. They must sell all of their physical possessions, place their security in the hands of human smugglers and enter, under heavy penalty if arrested, a country which has become highly sensitive to this issue where they are labelled as social predators.

They come to the North America because they have seen the material wealth and the security. They know that if they can remain invisible they can avoid attention and, in the shadows, take those jobs most Americans will not: heavy manual labor, crop harvesting, house cleaning, farm work. They are prepared to endure exploitation, social humiliation, marginalization and possible arrest because they have a powerful commitment, an almost fanatical determination, to make life easier, more secure for their children.

Why else risk life itself if not for those yet unborn?

Most North Americans have for the most part lost this passion. It has been a few generations since the great wave of immigrants came from Europe, driven by poverty, discrimination and the suffocation of societies defined by strict social castes. We Iroquois were stunned by their obsession with land ownership and their vast numbers against we had little defense.

Where once the ancestors of today's Americans rebelled against a government which did not represent them their descendants have enacted rules which compromise democracy by opening the electoral process to the highest bidders. It seems the Americans are adrift and have identified immigrants as a convenient outlet for their growing sense of panic.

In a nation given to slogans and quick fixes no one has given serious thought as to how millions of undocumented immigrants are to be expelled.

How does one round up these millions? What means will be used to find them? Does not this involve the use of informants and a massive expansion of policing powers? Will it overburden existing courts?

Each person arrested and detained will require formal charges, the right to legal counsel and a trial. They will have to be housed, fed, clothed and confined in such vast numbers no existing county or state facility will be able to hold them. Of necessity large concentration camps will be used or military bases. The US military will become involved with means a further degradation of civil liberties as the inevitable acts of defiance becomes a matter of national security.

Internees and suspects will evade and resist. More arrests will follow leading to more violence. The fury of terror groups across the planet will be unleashed upon American installations and civilians. In exchange for protection more liberties will be surrendered. Due process and trials by jury will be qualified. Those who advocate opposition to these curtailments will be seen as enablers for the terrorists and subjected to persecution.

Entire mass transport systems will be needed to transfer the immigrants to areas of deportation. Families will be torn to shreds as native born children are forcibly separated from their parents. The national economy will tailspin downwards as the financial contributions of the 11 million disappear. Other nations reliant upon the money send back to the mother countries by the immigrants will also be harmed and their own social systems collapse once they are required to accept those who have been forced to return home.

The moral impact on the Americans will be severe as they see their neighbors arrested, their homes confiscated. They will witness heavily armed troops search for those who are in hiding. Americans by the thousands will also be jailed for helping those on the run and Canada will be seen as a place of haven. Since the US will not permit the immigrants to flee across its northern borders increased security will be stationed from British Columbia to New Brunswick.

Native territories will be of particular concern. At Tohono O'odham in Arizona and the Mohawks of Akwesasne will be given special attention as soldiers are ordered to patrol and close what is now considered an "open border." Aboriginal rights and Native sovereignty will not be enough to protect any indigenous community

And what can the Iroquois do when this happens? Appeals will be made, voices will be raised, protests will take place but regardless of their merits nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of American security.

In the wake of the deportations the US will never be the same. The restoration of liberty will be a long time in coming, if at all. Citizens will grow accustomed to living in a police state and may persuade themselves that it is preferable to the myth that illegal aliens somehow created a wave of criminal activity which placed their lives at stake. They will believe this lie just a they demonized the Iroquois in their conquest of the New World then tailored a "civilization" to justify it.

Maybe, in time, cowboys and Indians will be replaced by cowboys and aliens.

Doug George-Kanentiio is an Akwesasne Mohawk currently residing on Oneida Territory with his wife Joanne Shenandoah.

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