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21st Century Indian Removal

Fear: It’s What’s Behind Door #2

By Roberto Rodriguez

Column of the Americas

Upon arrival recently from Mexico City, after inspecting my passport,
a U.S. immigration official at the Dallas-Fort Worth International
Airport instructed me to “Please go to door number 2.”

When the same thing first happened to me at DFW several years ago, I
replied: “Did I win a prize?”

This time, it was on the same day that Bollywood Superstar, Shah Rukh
Khan was detained at Newark’s Liberty International Airport.
Officially, Kahn was “not detained” for 66 minutes. His papers were
simply checked and luggage misplaced.

Using that criteria, I have been further screened, but “not detained”
more than a dozen times since 9-11 of 2001.

Both times that I was “not detained” at DFW – the wait at the
secondary inspection lasted a half hour. The officials were not rude,
though I almost missed my flights home.

Might these be incidents of racial profiling?

Admittedly, I am a brown man – who knows first hand the meaning of
driving while brown (My encounters with law enforcement as a youngster
and a young adult number in the many dozens). People of color have
always known this reality. Red-Brown people in particular also have
known the meaning of this when encountering immigration authorities
not just at ports of entry, but also at internal checkpoints. I’ve
long dubbed the work of the migra as “Indian Removal” – because that’s
precisely who they profile – not people who look “Hispanic,” but
rather, people who are red-brown. However, since 9-11 – the entire
nation has gone wild[er], thus the fear-inspired: Department of
Homeland Security. It is this same fear that prevents president Obama
from defanging Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio – the face of racial
profiling. That same fear permits programs such as Operation
Streamline – a Federal Kangaroo Court in Tucson in which 70-80 Mexican
or Central American people are tried, convicted and sentenced in court
daily – all in one hour. Either they are instantly deported or sent to
a private detention center.

Yet, what is happening at airports nowadays continues to be equally
ominous. In my case, someone with my name is on a watch list. After
the first time this happened, I was told that the person they are
looking for is from South America – and about 20 years younger. After
they ascertained that I was not him, they released me.

On at least several other occasions at DFW, without sending me to
secondary, U.S. officials have raised the issue of me being on their
lists. Once it was a rude encounter, treating me as though I should be
thankful that I am permitted to fly U.S. skies.

What’s disconcerting is that despite U.S. officials knowing full well
that I am not the person they are looking for – I remain on their
watch list – or treated as such. This time, the official told me:
“You’ve gone through this before, haven’t you?”

“Yes. This happened to me here at DFW several years ago.”

If they know this, not explained is why they continue with their
intrusive behavior. Outdated computers? At the same time, what do
South American countries have to do with America’s “War on Terror” and
how did someone with a name like Rodriguez get on that list? The myth
continues to be perpetrated – by the likes of CNN’s Lou Dobbs -- that
peoples from the south have something to do with this so-called war.
The vast majority of Arabs, South Asians and Muslims don’t have
anything to do with this war either, but that seems to matter little
for media types and government officials who apparently believe that
all these mostly red-brown peoples “fit the profile.”

By the way, if you would like to know what’s behind door number 2, you
guessed it: people of color.

It is clear that we now have a big brother apparatus unable and
unwilling to purge its massive lists of innocent individuals.
Truthfully, it’s the whole notion of a Homeland – conjured up by the
Bush-Cheney administration, which has permitted these violating
intrusions to be viewed as routine. It is this environment, since
9-11, where and when I have found myself constantly “not detained” at
airports nationwide. One time, I unnecessarily missed a flight. Other
times – even before 9-11 – I was detained at the Hollywood-Burbank
airport (while picking up a passenger), while another time my car was
dismantled at an internal checkpoint in New Mexico.

With President Obama in office, this was supposed to change. Instead,
we continue to move towards a Lou Dobbs vision of the world or the
Arpaio-ization of the nation – a nation free of red-brown peoples.

Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be
reached at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

they also do that to me, but i had some issued with the law.. that is one of the reasons i became a naturalized citizen.. but still everytime i cross the bridge and since i am at a border town it is common for me to go back there and just tell them .. my name and they let me go.. it is just the fact that i have to be looked at .. not that i care, but everyone who moves inside those buildings ..gets targetted as a criminal right away.. by all the other common people.. total..

nut heads honestly .. they need to get off their high .. planes and .. tratar a la gente con respeto.. nada les cuesta..

i figure they do that constantly to keep people under their .. search . .you know like shock theraphy.. scaring you always..

anyways.. much luv