We continue our discussion with Congressmember Greg Casar of Texas about U.S. policy in Latin America by looking at one of its long-term effects: migration to the U.S. As people flee instability in their home countries brought about by U.S. trade and military policy, U.S. border authorities have implemented increasingly dangerous measures to stop migrants from traveling safely, including a deadly floating barrier of circular saw blades in the Rio Grande. This is all fueled by racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric spouted by right-wing extremists and politicians, whom Casar characterizes as “the arsonists trying to blame the firefighters for the flames.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Congressman, you’re joining us from your home state of Texas. I wanted to ask you about the latest news from the border. On Monday, the Texas Military Department confirmed that a member of the Texas Army National Guard had discharged his weapon over the weekend during a border-related incident and had struck a person on the Mexican side of the Bridge of the Americas. Could you talk about the situation along the border now, especially with all the high-profile actions of your governor there, Governor Abbott?
REP. GREG CASAR: Governor Abbott continues to pull dangerous stunts that have gotten innocent people killed in the river and on the border. I want to be really clear: What he’s doing is diverting millions and billions of dollars away from Texas schools, away from healthcare for pregnant moms here in Texas. He is moving those dollars towards a horrible political stunt on the border. He’s making it try to be as broken as possible, basically, for the Fox News cameras, risking the lives of people, violating people’s basic rights, all to try to create a crisis rather than set up and support a legal, orderly and safe system for people who are fleeing for their lives and fleeing from disaster.
And this latest news is an example of that, where these National Guardsmen are supposed to be providing, supposedly, some level of logistical support, but instead there are bullets flying. And that is certainly not allowed and shouldn’t be a part of this. That’s why I think the Department of Justice should be doing an independent investigation of this — we can’t have the state of Texas investigating itself — so that we know the details both of this incident, but, most importantly, about what’s going on in general. Right? You have these orange buoys being put in the shallow parts of the river so that people have to go and swim in the deepest part, where people can drown. We have this horrible barbed wire along the border. They are trying to militarize our border. That’s trying to scare people, rather than do what we should be doing, which is having a legal, orderly and safe system rather than a broken one.
But this is another example of right-wing extremists and anti-immigrant politicians lighting the house on fire, being the arsonists, and then going and trying to point the finger at those of us who are trying to care for immigrants. So it’s the arsonists trying to blame the firefighters for the flames. And we just can’t have that. We know in Texas that immigrants are a core part of our state, core part of our economy. They’re our neighbors. And this continued attempt at blaming them is just trying to distract from Governor Abbott’s failures on healthcare, on education and on inequality in the state.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you, quickly, Congressmember Casar. You were the youngest member of the Austin City Council. You were a labor organizer. Now you’ve come to Congress. But the Republicans are in charge, and the agenda of the Republicans right now, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, says they’re moving on to try to lead an impeachment effort against President Biden. Another committee, led by the Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, says they are going after Fani Willis, the Fulton County DA, who has charged President Trump and 18 others for RICO conspiracy. That’s their agenda. As a minority member of Congress, how do you lead issues like these, whether you’re talking about immigration, healthcare, U.S. policy towards Latin America? What difference can you make?
REP. GREG CASAR: That is such an important question, and I’m glad we’re linking it back to this trip in Latin America. There’s two things I think we really need to do. One is, I think we need to deliver not just a negative message, but also a positive vision for the country, an economic message and a message that shows that there are lawmakers that are different, that actually want to solve these problems.
And the way I link it back to this trip in Latin America is that in Chile there was actually a referendum to overthrow the dictatorship and get rid of Pinochet. “Yes,” the “yes” vote, meant, “yes, keep the dictatorship,” and the “no” vote was to get rid of the dictatorship. And many people who organized around the “no” vote did not just talk about the horrors of the dictatorship, but about what economic equality could look like, what racial justice could look like, what a fully inclusive democracy could look like. The slogan was ”alegría ya viene,” meaning “happiness will come.”
And I think that we face a similar challenge here, where we have to talk about, of course, the militarization of the border, rampant inequality, CEOs ripping everybody off, but also a vision of actually solving the problem; talking about not just a safe and orderly system at the border, but how it is that we can address the root causes of migration; show people we are serious and that there are lawmakers that want to solve that problem; rail not just against these needless impeachments and attacks on things, on people like the Fulton County DA, but talk about a criminal justice system that can treat people fairly; talk about how if we have actually economically progressive policies in this country, we can guarantee everybody healthcare and negotiate prices, not just down for 10 drugs but for all drugs. I think we have to have that kind of vision.
And even if it can feel a little hopeless right now — and I know that’s how it feels for many people in places like Texas — thinking of people in Chile overcoming dictatorship, overcoming odds even greater than these, having a referendum where people were scared that if they were working on getting rid of the dictatorship, that their families could be disappeared, that they themselves could be hurt, but they overcame that, I believe that we can overcome this. And just like this Texas Capitol behind me didn’t used to always be filled with right-wing trolls, it used to have leaders that were the people who actually brought Roe v. Wade as law of the land to this entire country. Texas — right next door to the studio I’m sitting in used to be the studio and offices of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act and undid so much of the segregation and right-wing control of the South. So, I think, in moments just like this one, people have overcome even steeper obstacles, but we have to have that positive vision.
AMY GOODMAN: Texas Congressmember Greg Casar, speaking to us from his state capital of Austin, thanks so much for being with us.
Coming up, we go to the Dominican Republic to look at the dire living conditions for Haitian migrant workers on sugar plantations. Back in 30 seconds.