By David Martinez
The communities near the already militarized South Texas border have seen intensified, repressive social control measures as authorities respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. This includes an increase in police checkpoints as well as implementing curfews. In Laredo, the city passed an ordinance threatening to fine residents $1,000 for not wearing a mask in public.
On the mask ordinance, the bourgeois local news quoted Laredo City Councilman George Altgelt saying, “I’d rather bury them in debt than bury them in a coffin.” This bourgeois politician sees no irony in celebrating economic burdens that will lead healthy people to the same potentially fatal end if they cannot afford to survive under the mounting repression tied to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the town of Edcouch, multiple checkpoints were set up to stop vehicles, with local police asking invasive questions about the occupants’ trips. City Manager Victor Hugo De La Cruz mockingly joked that, “some of the officers did get a little happy with the citations.” The city has also imposed a 10PM curfew, reflecting the irrationality of many bourgeois health measures, as the coronavirus is no more contagious during the night.
The small towns of Palmview and Peñitas also implemented their own checkpoints. Peñitas Police Chief Roel Bermea told local news that those they stopped would need to, “prove to us that they have business.” Police in Port Isabel, the entry point to the popular beach destination of South Padre Island, announced they would stop all vehicles coming and going during the Easter weekend and possibly beyond those dates.
Over the past two decades, billions upon billons of dollars have been funneled into immigration enforcement along the US-Mexico border, especially in Texas, in order to hire more border patrol agents, purchase technologically advanced weaponry, build immigrant detention centers etc., while social and economic investment in the communities and the people is purposefully neglected.
The Rio Grande Valley is one the poorest parts of the US per capita, and is home to a large majority population of Chicano people and Mexican immigrants. US imperialism strictly monitors and controls these communities, and authorities are well-versed in setting up checkpoints, which are permanently found in all directions emanating from the border.
US imperialism treats the border as a lockdown zone regardless of the excuse of a pandemic, while the people suffer from deep economic exploitation and stratification. One in three residents of the predominantly Chicano population of South Texas suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, reflecting a total lack of adequate healthcare which, if invested in, would better prevent the spread of Coronavirus than the authorities’ fascistic measures.