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Tag: "immigration"


[ 37 ] March 22, 2017 |


Today, I am participating in an event at my university about supporting immigrants against Trump’s racist and fascist immigration regime. In preparing for it, I thought this piece on the sanctuary movement of the 1980s and its relevance today was quite useful and important.

In Guatemala, the decades-long civil war would eventually claim 200,000 lives, with state forces responsible for 93 percent of the violence, according to a UN report; in El Salvador, 75,000 were killed, with state forces responsible of at least 85 percent of the crimes. The Reagan administration also covertly and illegally armed and supported paramilitary “contra” forces against the Sandinista government, financing this illicit venture through clandestine arms deals with Iran.

As these anti-communist proxy wars ravaged Central America, a massive grassroots response arose in the United States.

This movement, sometimes referred to as the Central America solidarity movement or the Central America peace movement, encompassed a vast and diverse amalgamation of organizations and tactics fighting to halt U.S. support for the wars, defend the revolutionary projects of Central American popular movements, and protect Central American refugees seeking a safe haven in the United States.

As part of the movement, activists traveled to Sandinista Nicaragua under siege from the contras, indigenous communities facing genocidal violence in Guatemala, liberated guerilla territory in El Salvador, and Salvadoran refugee camps in Honduras to witness first-hand the collective organizing for social and economic justice so fiercely opposed by the “Free World” and to gather testimonies on the depredations of U.S. foreign policy. In the United States, they engaged in collective acts of civil disobedience, put their lives on the line in courageous direct actions, waged national political campaigns, provided aid and services for victims of the violence, and organized mass mobilizations.

As an array of forces again raise the mantel of “sanctuary,” it’s important to remember that the sanctuary movement of the 1980s was but one component of a broad-based, cross-border, anti-imperialist liberation struggle. This is the radical heritage that our organized responses to mass deportations, refugee bans, and imperialist wars must claim today.

There are of course critical differences between the sanctuary movement then and now, the most important of which is that the movements of the 80s were closely connected to particularly awful Central American governments. Those governments aren’t that great today, but protecting people from Efrain Rios Montt and Jose Napoleon Duarte gave very concrete targets because of their relationship to Reagan’s horrendous Central American policies that the drug wars don’t. That said, breaking the law to protect people’s rights to stay in this country is going to be absolutely necessary for resisting Trump’s whitening of America. I’m not entirely sure of quite what that should look like of course, but past movements ranging from the Underground Railroad to ACT-UP to the sanctuary movements of the 1980s provide real, concrete examples we can learn from. Because if we care about protecting our immigrant neighbors, that might mean hiding them in our houses, allowing them to stay in our churches, and shuttling them to Canada for their safety.


Sanctuary Cities

[ 6 ] March 10, 2017 |


I suspect I will be writing a lot about immigration going forward. To build on this post and this post, let me point you to this excellent Lauren Carasik piece at Boston Review on all the good that sanctuary cities do.

Jurisdictions have good reasons to adopt sanctuary policies, some political and some pragmatic. Some municipalities do not want local law enforcement to be active participants in mass deportation and have rallied to the defense of their immigrant communities, in part because the failure of immigration reform has made it impossible for people to stay legally and they abhor the idea of tearing communities apart. Others believe immigration enforcement should be reserved for federal authorities. But the objections extend far beyond jurisdictional and political ones. The primary one is that effective policing is predicated on community trust. The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recognized this: “At all levels of government, it is important that laws, policies, and practices not hinder the ability of local law enforcement to build the strong relationships necessary to public safety and community well-being.” The report concludes that “whenever possible, state and local law enforcement should not be involved in immigration enforcement.”

This is particularly important to protect the vulnerable, such as victims of domestic and sexual violence or exploitation. For them, the fear that interaction with law enforcement could lead to deportation bolsters the power of abusers and serves to further isolate and silence them. Last month in Texas, a woman was detained by ICE—which was acting on a tip suspected to have come from her alleged abuser—in the courthouse just after obtaining a protective order against him. Although records later showed that the woman may have had her own criminal history, the message to other victims about the risks of seeking protection is chilling. Similarly, witnesses critical to prosecuting crimes or good Samaritans may be reluctant to come forward without assurances that they do not risk being reported to immigration authorities. Compounding the cost to community trust, using police departments’ resources to assist in federal immigration enforcement can drain local budgets. Facilitating deportation exacts significant social costs as well, by devastating families and losing immigrants’ contributions to community.

Of course, making of these things worse are part and parcel of Republican policy.

Denying Entry to Migrants: Our Racist National Shame

[ 255 ] March 10, 2017 |


The morally bankrupt immigration policy of the United States with its Gestapo-like Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency seeking to round up desperate people flies in the face of what this nation should value. The people crossing the border are escaping really horrible things. And now they aren’t coming because the enormous financial investment and personal risk up to and too often including death isn’t worth it if they are going to be deported. But they have nothing to return to in their home nations. They are coming here for good reasons, after all.

Reiner Ríos Gómez, who is from Honduras’s capital, Tegucigalpa, lifted his shirt last week to expose a scar about 12 inches long in the middle of his back, where he said a machete hit him as he fled the robbers who were trying to steal his pay: 2,800 lempiras, or about $119, for half a month’s work in construction.

To escape that life, he set out for the United States on Jan. 15, making it as far as Sonoyta, Mexico, a city on the Arizona border where roadside stalls sell the camouflage clothes and backpacks that migrants use to cross to the other side. Then he called a cousin in Houston.

“Why are you coming?” he said his cousin asked him. “They’re going to send you back.”

So Mr. Ríos, 33, settled down at a shelter in Sonoyta, unsure of what to do next. “I have nothing to go back to,” he said. “And I don’t know if there’s anything for me on the other side.”

Customs and Border Protection reported this week that the number of people caught trying to enter the United States illegally from Mexico had fallen in February to the lowest level in five years. The Trump administration said the sharp decline was a sign that its promises to hire more enforcement agents, deport more people and wall off the border were discouraging people from even trying to cross.

People are leaving Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, escaping horrific violence. How can we turn them away? Because we are a horrible racist nation, that’s how.

This is the modern equivalent of the 1930s refusal to allow Jewish refugees into the United States, dooming them to death. There is no significant difference between that crime against humanity made in the name of keeping America white and the current crime against humanity in the name of Make America White Again. While I don’t advocate for completely open borders, largely because there are policy implications that can’t be ignored, I certainly advocate for significantly increased levels of immigration. People like Ríos need a chance to live a dignified life. The United States should represent the place where people can do that. But now we are refusing that life to him and to millions of other people in the name of whiteness. It’s disgusting. Future Americans will see this as a national shame. And then they will probably start excluding people once again in the name of whiteness or national identity or whatnot.

The Disappeared

[ 60 ] March 9, 2017 |


Should we compare the people we doom to death for the crime of wanting to come live in our nation to the peoples disappeared by right-wing regimes in recent decades? There’s a compelling case to be made.

Even in 1981, as Amnesty notes in the report, “understanding of ‘disappearances’ is evolving constantly.” Today, in the case of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, border enforcement policies amount to no less than “a campaign of state violence against migrating peoples.” This violence, has resulted in deaths and “disappearances” since dramatic shifts in U.S. border and immigration policing strategy initiated in the mid-1990s.

The main policy shift during this time was known as “prevention through deterrence,” explicitly designed by lawmakers to establish “tactical advantage” over them. By harnessing the “mortal danger” of the “geographically harsher,” more “remote and hazardous border regions” along the U.S.-Mexico boundary—where the “geography would be an ally to us,” in the words of former Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) commissioner Doris Meissner—the predictable consequences for many have been mass death by “deterrence.”

The policy rationale, expressed in a 1994 U.S. Border Patrol planning document, anticipates that by heavily escalating security resources and infrastructure throughout the “traditional entry” points of urban border areas, border crossers “will be deterred, or forced over more hostile terrain, less suited for crossing and more suited for enforcement.” Such conditions have invited mass death and “disappearance.” At least 6,000 human remains have been recovered, but the actual number of death and “disappearance” is surely much greater.

One way to “disappear” in the desert borderlands is due to U.S. Border Patrol’s harsh “chase and scatter” tactics. Using an arsenal of military helicopters and all-terrain vehicles, attack dogs, and blunt force beatings and tackles, U.S. agents inflict psychological and physical injury upon their “targets.” These “commonly result in the disorientation and dispersal of individuals and groups into life-threatening terrain.” Of the 544 cases reported to the Missing Migrants Crisis Line, the Border Patrol’s “chase and scatter” practices account for 84 cases as the causal event of their “disappearance.” According to the authors, in 36.9% of these cases (31 out of 84), death was the result.

There is more than one area that the “disappeared” like José may turn up. “If found,” the report authors say, “the disappeared turn up in detention centers, in morgues, or skeletonized on the desert floor; many human remains are never identified. Thousands more are never located. With each passing day, another father, sister, aunt, brother, partner, or child goes missing while attempting to cross the Southwest border.”

As the report indicates, the growing web of migrant detention facilities is another source of “disappearance.” Institutional knowledge of and responsibility for such “disappearances,” is a matter of policy: in fact, James Pendergraph, the former Executive Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Office of State and Local Coordination, one said to attendees at the 2008 Police Foundation Conference, “If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we [ICE] can make him disappear,” according to a 2009 Amnesty International report.

“Disappearances” also affect those, especially loved ones, who desperately search for the missing. As anthropologist Robin Reineke, co-founder and executive director of Colibri Center for Human Rights, and former coordinator of the Tucson medical examiner’s Project on Missing and Unidentified Migrants, explains: “Families experience what psychologists term ‘Ambiguous Loss,’ which means that the status of a loved one is in question—unresolved. The grief process cannot start because the person is neither dead nor alive. Families often report debilitating fear and inability to focus on daily tasks. At any point in their ‘normal’ day, their loved one could be suffering somewhere without help. The search often becomes all-consuming.”

The horrible crimes that we commit as a nation against migrants are absolutely unconsciousable. This is state-sanctioned violence against desperate people. It’s a national shame. And yet the response by millions and millions of people is to vote to see these people as a threat for the crimes of being brown and speaking Spanish (if not an indigenous language) and thus doom them to death. Even when Democrats are in power, too few Americans care about this.

The Return of a Racist Union Movement

[ 26 ] March 9, 2017 |


The relationship between organized labor and immigration is complicated, to say the least. For many decades, far too long, the labor movement was outright opposed to immigration, partially on the ground of a higher population undermining wages and partly on the grounds of whiteness. In recent decades, that has changed fairly significantly. The United Farm Workers, even if it had very little real impact on the lives of workers in the end, helped start that. The growth of immigrant workers in unions such as UNITE-HERE and SEIU made some of our largest labor organizations also some of our largest immigrant rights organizations. This moved the AFL-CIO into supporting smart, sane, humanitarian immigration policy. But of course the AFL-CIO is a complex maelstrom of a lot of organizations. With the decline of the industrial unions, the building trades have reasserted a lot of authority within the labor movement. And while some of the building trades, especially at the local level in immigrant-heavy places, have embraced a diverse workforce, at the international level and in many, many locals, the old desire to keep America white is still very strong.

This helps us understand why many of the building trades have embraced Trump. It’s not just about pipeline construction. It’s about Make America White Again. One of those unions is the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, long one of the most politically conservative unions in the United States. In fact, it did not endorse a Democrat for the presidency until LBJ and while it was technically non-partisan before that, everyone knew that the Hutcheson dynasty that ruled the UBC for generations openly lobbied for Republicans. The actions of Carpenters leaders in Buffalo concerning immigrant workers are, to say the least, highly disturbing and must be denounced by the rest of the labor movement.

Federal agents are not the only ones trying to remove people from the Buffalo area who have entered the country illegally.

If Bill Bing, a carpenters union official, discovers that undocumented immigrants are working at a local construction project, the union tips off authorities.

That information has led to some raids and arrests, he said, although the detention last month of 32 individuals suspected of being in the country illegally and working at projects was not his tip.

“We were not directly responsible for the information on those two raids,” said Bing, the local representative for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

Bing said he is glad to see the enforcement of immigration laws and makes no apologies for when he or other union members tip off federal and state authorities.
The jobs should go to American citizens and that it is not a union-versus-nonunion issue, he said.

“There are very good local union and nonunion contractors who suffer the fallout from dirty business,” Bing said. “This directly affects area living standards, not to mention the tax dollars New York State, Erie County and the local municipalities don’t and won’t see.”

Other trade unions, he said, tip off authorities, “but they are not as proactive as we are. The carpenters union devotes a lot of money and resources to this.”

But even as the uniond supply tips, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say there have been numerous false reports of federal officers conducting law enforcement actions against immigrants.

“Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible,” said Khaalid H. Walls, an ICE spokesman. “These reports create mass panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger,” Walls said. “Any groups falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support.”

And how do these random Carpenters members in Buffalo know that a worker is undocumented? The don’t, of course. What they see is a brown-skinned person speaking Spanish. What more evidence do they need? How many people here with documentation are also being harassed by our proto-fascist immigration officials because of openly racist union members?

This is why, as I said in this piece for The New Republic, no one on the left is going to care when Trump signs a bill repealing Davis-Bacon. Even other parts of the labor movement aren’t going to care. Why would SEIU go to bat for the Carpenters over an issue that does not affect them when the Carpenters turn workers into ICE, the American Gestapo, for deportation? They won’t. Losing Davis-Bacon will decimate the building trades as so much of their work is contracted through the government. But that won’t get in the way of their whiteness campaign. I know there are good people inside the Carpenters who disagree with these sorts of policies. But until the international comes out and disciplines local leaders who engage in open racism and until the Carpenters commits itself to alliances with other groups who also care about better lives for workers, the whole union has to be held responsible for actions like what is happening in Buffalo. None of this is to say that contractors aren’t using undocumented workers to avoid using union crews. Of course they are. But the response of the Carpenters needs to be organizing these workers and hiring Spanish-speakers to work in those communities, not seeking to get them thrown out of the country.

Kicking the Chinese out of California in 1882 did not lead to a strong union California and kicking the Mexicans out of Buffalo in 2017 won’t lead to a union town either. The problems are much deeper than immigrant competition. Recognizing and acting upon that fact is the first step to an inclusive labor movement.

The American Gestapo and Its Slave Labor Force

[ 15 ] March 6, 2017 |


Oh, just violating the 13th Amendment.

Tens of thousands of immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were forced to work for $1 day, or for nothing at all — a violation of federal anti-slavery laws — a lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit, filed in 2014 against one of the largest private prison companies in the country, reached class-action status this week after a federal judge’s ruling. That means the case could involve as many as 60,000 immigrants who have been detained.

It’s the first time a class-action lawsuit accusing a private U.S. prison company of forced labor has been allowed to move forward.

“That’s obviously a big deal; it’s recognizing the possibility that a government contractor could be engaging in forced labor,” said Nina DiSalvo, executive director of Towards Justice, a Colorado-based nonprofit group that represents low-wage workers, including undocumented immigrants. “Certification of the class is perhaps the only mechanism by which these vulnerable individuals who were dispersed across the country and across the world would ever be able to vindicate their rights.”

At the heart of the dispute is the Denver Contract Detention Facility, a 1,500-bed center in Aurora, Colo., owned and operated by GEO Group under a contract with ICE. The Florida-based corporation runs facilities to house immigrants who are awaiting their turn in court.

The lawsuit, filed against GEO Group on behalf of nine immigrants, initially sought more than $5 million in damages. Attorneys expect the damages to grow substantially given the case’s new class-action status.

Combine a fascist and racist police force with private prisons and a national indifference to anyone caught up in the nation’s injustice system and–VOILA!–you have the perfect conditions for people of color to have to engage in slave labor. I’m sure Steve Bannon and Attorney General Nathan Bedford Forrest are pleased.

Muslim Ban 2

[ 114 ] March 5, 2017 |


It looks like Trump will issue Muslim Ban 2: Racist Boogaloo tomorrow, although of course it’s hard to say exactly when this clownshow will actually do anything. In any case, early reports show it perhaps being basically the same except taking Iraq off the list, which I guess makes it precisely 1/7 less horrifying, as well as exempting green card holders and not explicitly excluding Syrian refugees although still doing so in fact. Of course, we should be clear that this has nothing to do with anything concerning national security and it about Bannon and Miller’s desire to Make America White Again.

Whatever happens tomorrow or whenever this actually comes out, the lawsuits to stop it will instantly begin. The ACLU is ready and so are the teams of lawyers ready to demand access to those unjustly barred from the United States. The legal rationale for this is still extremely shaky and I hope the courts see it that way as well. That the administration has ordered Homeland Security employees to work from home on Monday suggests to me that a) this is going to be a really bad order and b) they are expecting massive protests. We should be ready for those protests. I’ve been a little bit concerned in the last couple of weeks that things seem to be going back to normal for a lot of liberals, who are horrified but moving on with their lives. And of course that’s OK but we also have to be ready to protest and shut down the nation when this happens. I do have a lot of faith in people to do amazing things, such as the JFK protest when the first order came out. I do think people will respond. But I would really encourage you to be personally ready to respond when this goes down. It will require a ton of fury to stop it, as it did a month ago.

Among the problems related to this is the actions of ICE, the American Gestapo, and its sister agency, Customs and Border Protection. These tinpot fascists have total control over the poor individuals with which they come in contact. They already showed themselves indifferent to the courts after the first executive order and they are excited to bar brown people from the United States. It seems pretty clear that ICE and CBP is littered with white supremacists and I imagine they are intentionally getting jobs there to maximize their power, as others have suggested is likely. Whether they are French historians or they are Afghanis who have worked for the U.S. government, permission to enter the United States ultimately resides almost entirely with some racist moron working the immigration desk at a given airport, regardless of whether said nations are on whatever Muslim ban Trump pushes. As many on the left who have worked on these issues for years have noted, there was hardly any attention paid to this thuggery during the Obama administration, but it was very real. Now with Trump having empowered ICE and CBP to do almost literally whatever it wants to, things are even worse. CBP and especially ICE are out of control agencies of the government that nee our full attention. It and its agents are the enemies of everything that liberals and the left should hold dear and until that agency undergoes massive reforms and we force it to take accountability for the racism of its agents, it won’t hardly matter who is president to a lot of the people attempting to come to the United States.

Racist in Chief

[ 107 ] February 28, 2017 |


Donald Trump is showing the leadership one would expect in the aftermath of the racist murder of Indian engineers in Kansas.

At some point, embarrassingly late begins to verge on something more disquieting.

President Donald Trump has silently planted himself in that space.

Nearly a week has passed since two India-born engineers were singled out and shot at an Olathe bar, presumably because they were immigrants, darker in skin tone and possibly viewed by the shooter as unwanted foreigners.

People around the world were immediately and rightfully horrified.

But our president?

Mum. Not a word has been spoken, tweeted or prepped for Trump’s teleprompter.

Trump has offered no words of condolence for the grieving widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who died from his gunshot wounds.

The president has expressed no sympathy for Kuchibhotla’s best friend, Alok Madasani, who continues to recover from bullet wounds and the trauma.

Trump usually loves to celebrate all-American heroes. But he’s passed on commending Ian Grillot, a bystander who leapt to take the gunman down before anyone else was harmed. Grillot was shot, too.

Surely the White House team could have cobbled together a statement of some sort, a response to at least address growing fears that the U.S. is unwelcoming of immigrants, or worse, that the foreign-born need to fear for their lives here. The deadly incident in Olathe has resonated across the country and even around the globe.

During such moments of crisis, people look to the president for strength and guidance.

They need to hear their moral outrage articulated, the condemnation of a possible hate crime and the affirmation that the U.S. values everyone’s contributions, whether you’re an immigrant or native-born. For Trump, this was a crucial opportunity to condemn such hateful acts and to forcefully declare that this is not who we are.

Others grasp that role. On Monday, Hillary Clinton tweeted a Kansas City Star story recounting the plea from Kuchibhotla’s widow for a U.S. response to hate crimes.

Clinton goaded Trump, writing: “With threats & hate crimes on rise, we shouldn’t have to tell @POTUS to do his part. He must step up & speak out.”

On the other hand, EMAILS!!!!!!

But hey, Trump is responding is his own way:

The White House has announced six guests who will sit with the first lady during President Trump’s first address to a joint Congress. They include Megan Crowley — a college sophomore who is the daughter of a health care entrepreneur, Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver — widows of California police officers killed by an undocumented immigrant in 2015, Denisha Merriweather — a woman who was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s widow Maureen McCarthy Scalia, and Jamiel Shaw Sr. — a father whose son was shot by an undocumented immigrant in 2008.

Traditionally, the president and the first lady guests’ are personifications of policy initiatives that that administration wants to focus on from the president’s speech.

The right kind of murders are OK, I guess.

The American Gestapo

[ 99 ] February 23, 2017 |


Above: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents

ICE is the American version of the Gestapo and they should be demonized as such, individually.

An undocumented woman in desperate need of brain surgery has been forcibly removed from a Texas hospital — and her relatives in New York fear she could lose her life, a family representative said early Thursday.

Sara Beltran-Hernandez was detained after trying to migrate to the Big Apple from El Salvador without proper documentation in November 2015, family spokeswoman Melissa Zuniga told the Daily News. Beltran-Hernandez has been held at the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas ever since, as her Queens-based family members have tried to petition for her asylum.

Earlier this month, Beltran-Hernandez, 26, began complaining about severe headaches, nosebleeds and memory loss. Last week, she collapsed and was subsequently taken to a hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with a brain tumor and determined that she needed surgery.

But Zuniga told The News that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents forcibly removed Beltran-Hernandez from the Huguley Hospital in Fort Worth on Wednesday evening.

“They had her tied up from hands and ankles,” Zuniga said. “She was brought in a wheelchair and is not being given treatment even though her nose continues to bleed and she has told them her head is exploding.”

Beltran-Hernandez had been put on a surgery waitlist over the weekend, according to Zuniga. But when Beltran-Hernandez’ relatives called on Wednesday night, the surgery was suddenly off the table.

“ICE was preparing paper work to get her back to the detention center,” Zuniga said.

We need to find out who these terrible human beings and confront them. We need to make working for ICE so shameful for these people that they quit. More directly, we need to take radical action to stop this. Maybe I don’t know what the right path is, but we need to do something. This is horrifying and despicable and we cannot allow it to continue.

Preventing Panic?

[ 139 ] February 21, 2017 |


As the Trump administration seeks to implement precisely what he said he would do and deport every undocumented immigrant in the country (although somehow I think the Irish undocumented immigrants won’t quite be treated the same as those from El Salvador and I wonder why that is….), it tries to claim that it wants to prevent panic while destroying lives and families. OK. Because what it is really doing is Making America White Again.

The new policies represent a sharp break from the final years of the Obama administration and could reverse a reduction in the number of deportations in President Barack Obama’s last years in office.

After deportations reached a record high of 434,000 in 2013, pressure from immigration advocates prompted the Obama administration to implement new guidelines that focused enforcement on hardened criminals. The number of people deported in 2015 was just over 333,000, the lowest number since 2007.

Kelly’s new DHS policies considerably broaden the pool of those who are prioritized for deportations, including undocumented immigrants who have been charged with crimes but not convicted, those who commit acts that constitute a “chargeable criminal offense,” and those who an immigration officer concludes pose “a risk to public safety or national security.”

The Trump administration “is using the specter of crime to create fear . . . in the American community about immigrants in order to create an opening to advance the indiscriminate persecution of immigrants,” said Clarissa Martínez-de-Castro, deputy vice president at the National Council of La Raza. “This administration is saying, ‘Now, everybody is going to be a priority,’ and the devil may care.”

DHS officials emphasized that the guidelines in Kelly’s memos are focused on carrying out Trump’s vision and that they hew closely to the language of the executive orders. And they said the secretary has written the memos to abide by federal immigration laws established by Congress.

It is my feeling that ICE agents should be seen as people committing crimes against humanity. If you choose to deport people for a living, you are a major cog in an unjust machine. These are the active enemies of everything that you should hold dear about this nation. And they deserve to be treated with utter contempt by everyone who knows them. There are plenty of other law enforcement or public safety jobs they could hold. This is the most despicable possible job. Shun them as racist thugs.

Proposal to Militarize Immigration Policy

[ 180 ] February 17, 2017 |

There’s a draft DHS memo floating around today, which proposed using up to 100,000 National Guard troops across eleven states to round up undocumented immigrants. It’s still unclear where this proposal originated, in response to what (though it seems part of the lead-up to the travel ban), and how far its discussion went (Spicer hasn’t denied that the report was discussed). But as Dara Lind makes clear over at Vox,

the fact that it was floated at all is still significant. President Trump arrived in office on the promise of a sweeping crackdown on immigration enforcement, and proceeded to sign executive orders that made substantial changes — but didn’t always provide details.

According to AP, who broke the story,

Staffers in the Department of Homeland Security said the proposal had been discussed as recently as Friday.


A DHS official described the document as a very early draft that was not seriously considered and never brought to the secretary for approval.

As for the details (also from AP):

The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana.

Four states that border on Mexico were included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

The memo was addressed to the then-acting heads of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It would have served as guidance to implement the wide-ranging executive order on immigration and border security that President Donald Trump signed Jan. 25. Such memos are routinely issued to supplement executive orders.

Also dated Jan. 25, the draft memo says participating troops would be authorized “to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension and detention of aliens in the United States.” It describes how the troops would be activated under a revived state-federal partnership program, and states that personnel would be authorized to conduct searches and identify and arrest any unauthorized immigrants.

If implemented, the impact could have been significant. Nearly one-half of the 11.1 million people residing in the U.S. without authorization live in the 11 states, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on 2014 Census data.

Use of National Guard troops would greatly increase the number of immigrants targeted in one of Trump’s executive orders last month, which expanded the definition of who could be considered a criminal and therefore a potential target for deportation. That order also allows immigration agents to prioritize removing anyone who has “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”

According to the draft memo, the militarization effort was to be proactive, specifically empowering Guard troops to solely carry out immigration enforcement, not as an add-on the way local law enforcement is used in the program.

Allowing Guard troops to operate inside non-border states also would go far beyond past deployments.

Now, it bears repeating that there’s still a lot unclear about this memo’s direct relation to policy discussions and decisions. But in a context where policy details have been scant, directives have been rushed and poorly-thought out, and anti-migrant rhetoric is still pouring out from positions of power, that this was even floated should give us pause. Accomplishing the goals of Trump’s continuing campaign against migrants will require draconian methods (even if not in this specific form). Rejecting this particular proposal does not mean that equally troubling methods will not be forthcoming.

Central and North American Border Crossings

[ 11 ] February 17, 2017 |

7032168939_9e2632e063_bI recently discovered that an article—written by Noelle K. Brigden—in the journal that I edit is available for free. I mention this because it’s based on ethnographic work with Central American migrants. In particular, it explores border crossings with a focus on the journey of a Salvadoran boy.

An excerpt:

In Mexico, a country where the ‘mestizo’ of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage represents the dominant racial ideology, profiling renders black migrants most vulnerable to identification. Of course, since it standardizes practice in a dynamic strategic setting, racial profiling may also create opportunities for smuggling. Smugglers sometimes blend high-paying Peruvian clients into travel groups with indigenous Guatemalans, because of their similar phenotype (smuggler, El Salvador, 7/5/10). The Peruvians pass as Guatemalan, and if they are captured, they only need to travel to Central America rather than returning to South America. This minimizes financial risks for the smugglers transporting them. Therefore, racial stereotypes can be harnessed, not only by state authorities, but by migrants and smugglers as well.

Like state authorities, criminals identify potential victims for kidnapping, rape, robbery, and extortion by trying to detect the accent, migrant clothing, and phenotype of Central Americans. In part because of racial profiling, Hondurans, and in particular black Hondurans, are most likely to rely on the dangerous train route where mass kidnappings and muggings occur with frequency, thereby avoiding buses that travel through migration checkpoints. The proportion of migrants reporting Honduran nationality on the registration rolls of the shelters has been the highest of any national group since Hurricane Mitch in 1998, often by a very large margin (Ruíz 2001). One rumor circulating among migrants suggests that organized criminal groups particularly seek out Salvadorans, who are known to be better connected to established families in the United States and thus fetch higher ransoms, than the poverty stricken Hondurans, who throng the migrant shelters and crowd the most desperate routes to the US. Whatever the preference of kidnappers might be, any identifiable Central American nationality invites legal, illegal, and extralegal violence en route.

Social scientists and academics in the humanities should find the piece pretty accessible. Non-academics—well, you can skim the denser academic prose at the top; once you hit the substantive sections, its easier going. Still, it’s not a work of journalism, so be forewarned. Given the rise of Trumpism, and its concurrent devaluation of empathy for immigrants, I thought some readers might be interested.

I’m going to make an effort to call attention to work of interest in my field—from International Studies Quarterly, but also more broadly. Hope that’s okay.

[Image by Peter Haden (CC-2.0)]

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