By Jordan Geriane
In my first post, particular historical ideas and events, such as Herrenvolk Democracy, westward expansion, and manifest destiny, all come together to mold into the nightmare of white supremacy. Today, we see much of that in ways we live through society. We see it in the unjustified murders of Black and brown bodies, the mass deportation and mistreatment of people at the US-Mexican border, and we see it in institutions that are meant to protect us.
One of the biggest examples of institutional violence can be found in racist paramilitary groups such as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the police force. These two forces are legalized manifestations of Herrenvolk Democracy. As Beltrán explains in the second chapter of her Cruelty as Citizenship, after the U.S. war with Mexico, there was indeed a “desire for land, but not people.” During this post-war period, we see the emergence of the Texas Rangers, the precursors to ICE and the border patrol. The history of this Texas Rangers and how their tyranny became such a force under the guise of white supremacy and racism, laid the foundation for our country’s future men and women in blue, as well as ICE agents at the US-Mexican border.
Because of Herrenvolk democracy and its radical themes, Anglo-settlers believed that it was their God-given right to colonize and settle on any land they set foot on. They believed they were the first and rightful owners of Southwestern/Western land. Due to this grossly believed god-complex they attained, white settlers defined any nonwhite inhabitants as inferior and a danger to their ways of life. They disallowed them citizenship, they drove them out of their homes, or they captured them and exploited labor. These sentiments increased violence against Mexicans across the west, leading to massive violence against Mexican-origin people.
With these discriminatory sentiments in mind, Texas Rangers, according to Beltrán, provided cover for Anglo-settlers to “treat Mexicans with impunity” under the guise of enforcing the law. It was a source of white power and vigilantism that ignored any distinctions between those who were citizens and those who were not by imposing racial terror and ignoring state laws against violence. While creating the Rangers as a group to protect their property and their people, these white settlers became Rangers not to enforce or protect, but to oppress and terrorize nonwhite people. It makes sense when historians attest that Texas Rangers, over time, transformed into police officers and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
It should be known that most Texas Ranger positions were held on a volunteer basis. Beyond such a chivalrous act, white citizens who stepped forward to volunteer revisit practices of white superiority and racialized hierarchies, so their intentions to “serve and protect” their people were rooted in whiteness and racism.
According to Ryan Reft in The Legacy of Texas Rangers, it is unsurprising that local legal and law enforcement traditions have shaped what we see at the US-Mexican Border. The ICE agents’ technique on or off the US-Mexican border mimic Texas Rangers. Just like our modern-day police, Texas rangers can be compared to the modern-day police, perhaps with leniency. Texas Rangers took the laws into their hands, upholding the logics of white supremacy and Herrenvolk democracy throughout the land.
As scholars Dévora González and Azadeh Shahshahani explain, in Constructive Engagement of Conflict for the United World Colleges movement, early ICE agents were members of the Ku Klux Klan, Texas Rangers, or from border town police departments. The group was created in response to migration in the United States by controlling bodies through a quota system that discriminated against any migrant not of Western European descent and committed violence in the name of “border protection” has been the “modus operandi for Border Patrol.” Essentially, their methods and habits of working is violence for the sake of “border protection.” Such violence toward Latinx and Native American people living near the US-Mexican border is blatant racism.
Since 2010, hundreds of people have died at the hands of this racist paramilitary group. Hundreds of children have yet to be reunited with their parents, and thousands of people have disappeared. No Border Patrol agent has ever been held accountable for their negligence or recklessness. It is a method for border agents to practice inhumanity: Water is unavailable, food is scarce and makes them sick, they are thrown into cold and overcrowded cages, medical care is unattainable and insufficient to the point where children die in their custody. . .it’s a game of survival to live a good life in the US, and it is so racist and unfair. Their systems of operations thrive entirely on their cruel culture against Latinx people at the border. They neglect the benefits of Latinx migrants, culture, and bodies by keeping them detained at high levels of impunity.
In conclusion, the history of these paramilitary groups has been built upon a solid foundation of white supremacy and racism and this is clear when examining our history through the concepts of Herrenvolk Democracy, westward expansion, and manifest destiny.
Herrenvolk Democracy → Manifest Destiny → Westward Expansion → Xenophobia/Racism/White Power → Texas Rangers → Police Officers → ICE → Border Patrol → Impunity → Biased Education System → Erasure of Latinx Experiences