Avoiding a border war

Rape in Brookline
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  August 26, 2009

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It's a matter of moments before the likes of Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly scapegoat the believed-to-be-illegal-immigrant suspects in last week's Brookline rape case for every problem in America. Consider that border conservatives called for mass deportation when one alien caused a motor-vehicle accident that took the lives of two women and a boy at a Colorado Baskin-Robbins last year; they'll likely use this pair of reprehensible sex offenders as national poster boys to reiterate their case in bolder terms.

The Brookline incident occurred at approximately 2 am on August 18, when Mexican national Ismael Martinez, of Waltham, and Guatemalan national Jose Arita, of Brighton, allegedly kidnapped a female victim on Harvard Street in Coolidge Corner. According to Brookline police, the men struck the woman in the head, forced her into a red 1997 Ford F-150 pick-up truck, drove to an undisclosed parking lot, and proceeded to sexually assault her.

Brookline Police Lieutenant Phillip Harrington appears to be conducting a transparent investigation. His department released a surveillance photo of the suspected vehicle, which nearby Boston police officers recognized from a recent traffic stop. Information was shared, and subsequent arrests were made. By Monday, both suspects had been arraigned in Brighton district court, and DNA testing is under way.

Regardless of the case's outcome, concerned immigrant advocates say it's important that rape remains the central issue; the violation, no matter how heinous, should not be extrapolated into a referendum on all non-citizens.

"There is no question that we condemn the criminal acts [of the Brookline incident]," says Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) Director Eva A. Millona. "But we know of no evidence that proves immigrants pose more of a danger than any other segment of the population. Anti-immigration legislation and the failure of immigration reform strengthened the hand for groups that now feel there is room for their hatred. Unfortunately, the media is where the biggest anti-immigrant fervor can be found."

Before using the Brookline rape case to condemn all immigrants, right-wing pols and pundits should read the 2006 Migration Policy Institute analysis showing that the incarceration rate of US-born citizens is four times that of peoples born beyond our borders. Reactionaries should also consider such Texas cities as El Paso and Laredo, which are among the safest in America despite having more than 75 percent foreign-born residents.

As for agitators who insist that illegals are given carte blanche to commit crimes, they might want to acknowledge that nearly 360,000 aliens were deported last year — and that about 27 percent of them were convicted criminals. Of course, that's unlikely.

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