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Tag: "immigration"

“You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

[ 309 ] April 7, 2017 |


I know we are surrounded by low information voters and said voters are not too bright or interested. Alas, such is the majority of the population. But this story of a woman who voted for Trump despite being married to an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and whose husband has now been deported is just so beyond anything I can handle right now. What does one even do with this story?


More About America’s Last True Liberal President (TM)

[ 39 ] March 27, 2017 |


Let’s learn more about the Last Real Liberal President Unlike Neoliberal Sellout Barack Obama!

Richard Nixon was the first U.S. president who made a promise to close the U.S-Mexican border to illegal drugs and unwanted people part of an election-winning strategy. Speaking on the campaign trail from Anaheim, California, in 1968, Candidate Nixon promised to deal with the “marijuana problem” protested by parents of California’s youth by intercepting Mexican drugs at the border. Then, on September 21, 1969, just eight months after his inauguration, President Nixon’s Treasury and Justice Departments launched Operation Intercept along the almost 2,000 miles of southern border in a supposed attempt to enforce federal narcotics laws.

Spending $30 million USD, Intercept staffed the border with thousands of federal law enforcement agents who were charged with executing intense, time-consuming customs inspections. Nixon’s bottlenecks at the international bridges disrupted life and business on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. They also provoked resistance. The Mexican Chamber of Commerce led a brief U.S.-travel boycott on behalf of merchants who had lost trade in Mexican border communities, including Ciudad Juárez. Then Mexican president Gustavo Díaz Ordaz said Intercept “raised a wall of suspicion” between the two countries. Indeed, for almost three weeks, Intercept created a “wall effect” as the U.S. government turned a fluid border into an obstacle course.

Although the U.S. government officially ceased the operation of the program in October 1969, Intercept’s principles have guided border policy for every president since Nixon. In the late 1970s, Kent State University political scientist R. B. Craig called Intercept “a benchmark in United States-Mexico narcotics policy.” In 1999, U.S. Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) remembered Intercept because it “initiated new approaches to a problem of national magnitude.” Reyes would know. Prior to Congress, he was the El Paso sector Border Patrol chief, and in 1993, he designed and executed Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line, placing agents at roughly 50-yard intervals along the urban border between El Paso and Juárez to stop smuggling and unauthorized immigration. Reyes immediately followed Hold-the-Line with an attempt to build a fence on the western outskirts of Juárez/El Paso. Similarly, law-and-order politicians, like former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, fondly remember Intercept. As the New Yorker’s William Finnegan reported in 2009, Arpaio, who worked on Intercept with erstwhile Nixon operative G. Gordon Liddy, said the operation “nearly closed the border with Mexico.” The no-exceptions customs inspections became permanent after September 11, 2001.

Today, Donald Trump’s threatened U.S.-Mexico border wall—like Nixon he wants to keep unwanted elements from Mexico out of the U.S.—comes straight from Nixon’s playbook. As Grace Slick of the rock band Jefferson Airplane sang in 1970 in response to the dearth of marijuana in the U.S. for the months after Intercept, “Mexico is under the thumb of a man we call Richard.” As with Nixon, so too with Trump. And now, perhaps more than ever, Mexico must beware of the United States’ longstanding inclination for unilateral action on the two nations’ shared border. After all, Trump won’t so much build the wall as complete it: at present, a fence 18 feet tall lines 650 miles of the southern border.

Who was put in charge of this lovely program?

G. Gordon Liddy—the infamous Watergate burglar—was Intercept’s foreman and Joe Arpaio his henchman. Lieutenants in Nixon’s Justice and Treasury Departments, Richard Kleindienst and Eugene Rossides, sent then Special Agent to the Treasury Liddy to towns along the border in the summer of 1969 to lay out the border operation. Bob Ybarra, a reporter for the El Paso Herald-Post remembered Liddy’s visit to El Paso in an oral history interview in 1994. “This is the way we are going to do business from now on,” Ybarra recalled Liddy saying, referring to how Intercept changed border inspections to a no-exceptions-to-inspections regime. Prior to Intercept, the New York Times reported, customs officers “took less than a minute to process a vehicle and its passengers. Only one car in twenty was given the present three-minute treatment, including thorough scrutiny of the trunk and engine areas, under seats and behind cushions and door panels.” According to Ybarra, it was Intercept that brought “the phenomenon of long lines [to the border].”

G. Gordon Liddy AND Joe Arapio! What a pair! But Nixon showed tremendous bravery in signing environmental legislation that passed the House 405-3! What a great liberal!!!

The whole article is really fantastic.

The Sessions Press Conference

[ 49 ] March 27, 2017 |


Above: Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III struck today.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at the White House press briefing Monday afternoon to urge sanctuary cities to change their policies, noting that the Department of Justice plans to deny them funding if they do not begin following federal immigration laws.

“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities ad counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to our citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to rethink these policies,” Sessions said.

So-called “sanctuary cities” offer safe harbor to undocumented immigrants who might otherwise be deported by federal law enforcement officials. The United States has more than 140 sanctuary jurisdictions, either cities or counties, including 37 cities. Among the sanctuary cities are San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

But the Trump administration has argued that sanctuary cities also offer safety from deportation for undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

“When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said. “Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.”

Sessions’ comments follow approximately two months after President Trump’s executive order allowing the attorney general and homeland security secretary to decide whether sanctuary cities would be eligible for federal grants. The order was one of the first Mr. Trump signed after taking office.

This is of course entirely expected with a racist white nationalists in the Oval Office naming an open neo-Confederate as Attorney General. The Slave Power lives. The extent to which cities fight back will be very interesting. The key is that they do not cave. If one or two cave, a bunch will. This will take grassroots activism to demand mayors do the right thing, even if it costs money. This is an ethnic cleansing moment and as I have said before, if you want to know what you would have done if you lived under a fascist power in the past, well, now you know based upon what you do today.

Why did this happen today? David Kurtz speculates, convincingly.

Perhaps the White House had planned all along for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make an appearance at today’s press briefing to rail against sanctuary cities. But the timing is consistent with what I’ve long feared will be the impulse for the Trump administration: When the going gets rough (failed Obamacare repeal, low poll numbers, etc), it will fall back on appeals to racism and xenophobia to regain political footing.

With so much incompetence taking root, it’s not difficult to envision a scenario where those base appeals must become more amped up, extreme, and scurrilous to be “effective.” It threatens to turn into a vicious cycle the likes of which we’ve never seen in this country.

Obviously we can’t know this. But doesn’t shifting from a defeat by fanning the flames of racism sound exactly like something Steve Bannon would do?

The Official Presidency of Domestic Abusers and Rapists

[ 23 ] March 25, 2017 |


I too am shocked that President Pussy Grabbing Fascist would create fascist policies that facilitate the crimes of domestic abusers and rapists.

Latinos in Los Angeles are making dramatically fewer reports of rape and domestic violence amid a climate of fear over increased immigration enforcement, according to the city’s Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Since the beginning of 2017, reports of rape among the city’s Latino population have declined by 25 percent, compared to the same period last year. Domestic violence reports have dropped nearly 10 percent. According to statistics provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, no other ethnic group experienced a comparable decrease.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Beck said there was a “strong correlation” between the Trump administration’s new immigration rules, which empower federal agents to more aggressively deport those without documentation regardless of whether they’ve committed a serious crime, and the deflated numbers.

“Imagine a young woman—imagine your daughter, sister, mother, your friend—not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart,” he said during an appearance with Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The Pew Research Center estimates that the Los Angeles metro area has one million undocumented immigrants, more than any other area in the country except New York. In a press release, the LAPD cautioned that while “there is no direct evidence that the decline is related to concerns within the Hispanic community regarding immigration, the department believes deportation fears may be preventing Hispanic members of the community from reporting when they are victimized.”

And hey, when the fascist shock force known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement starts arresting women at their domestic violence hearings, turns out it will stop women from protecting themselves through the legal system. I wonder how many women Trump will kill because of this. A feature, not a bug, no doubt.

This Day in Labor History: March 24, 1934

[ 25 ] March 24, 2017 |


On March 24, 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Tydings-McDuffie Act. Better known as the Philippine Independence Act, Tydings-McDuffie initially sounds like a victory for anti-colonialist forces. However, a look at the history of law demonstrates that it actually came out of the deep anti-Asian racism of the West Coast who saw Asian populations both as competition for white labor and competition for white women.

From the beginning of Anglo-American occupation in California, white workers defined the state as a white man’s republic. This was basically repeated in Oregon and Washington. And yet from the very beginning, the polyglot population of the region challenged those assumptions. The arrival of Mexicans and Chinese along with whites into California freaked out the white population, which quickly sought to take over the diggings. The Chinese were pushed into menial labor, as well as the most difficult and dangerous labor, such as railroad building. White workers saw these workers as a direct threat, committed murderous violence against them, and lobbied for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first major legislative victory for unions in American history. But California employers continued their search for cheap labor, turning to the Japanese. But the same anti-Asian sentiment rose up against the Japanese, especially as these workers began organizing as well, and the Gentlemen’s Agreement cut that labor off in 1907. But western employers now had a new source of labor: Filipinos. This was much more difficult for anti-Asian zealots to organize against, for Filipinos had the right to immigrate as colonial subjects of the United States since the 1898-1902 war of subjugation.

By the 1920s, Filipino immigration to California expanded rapidly, with over 24,000 coming between 1925 and 1929, mostly young men to work in the fields. In response, the San Francisco Chronicle editorialized, “There is a serious immigration problem involved in the introduction of large numbers of person who are unassimilable yet who are given a statue little short of full citizenship.” They lived in the same terrible camps that other workers suffered through in the fields, with housing that was basically chicken coops. The growers liked them because they worked hard and made little trouble on the farms. But the new arrival of non-whites infuriated many Californians. To make it worse for white Californians, many Filipino men, and men made up 94% of the migrants, ended up having sexual relationships with white women. This was not what their cheap, exploitable labor was supposed to do. Said Fred Hart, a farmer from Salinas, “The Filipinos will not leave our white girls alone…Frequently they intermarry.” That these new workers had status as Americans made their brazenness even more outrageous for white California.

So whites did what whites do so frequently in American history–they turned to violence against the people who color who dared stand up for human rights and labor rights. On January 21, 1930, about two hundred white Californians tried to raid a Filipino-owned club near Monterey where nine white women worked as entertainers. The mob expanded to about 500 people and the next night they started attacking Filipinos they found on the streets and in the orchards. On January 23, the mob killed a farmworker named Fermin Tobera, who had come to California in 1928 to work in the fields and send money back to his impoverished family. The bunkhouse in which he slept on the Murphy Ranch near Watsonville was set upon by whites who started firing into it. Tobera was shot in the head. This outraged the Filipino community working for the rights of their people in Washington, as well as Filipinos in Manila. Other violent incidents popped up around California over the next couple of days, leading to beating and a stabbing. On January 29, someone blew up the Stockton headquarters of the Filipino Federation of America. Although several people were sleeping inside, no one was killed. Given the trans-Pacific anger this violence caused, California law enforcement had to do something. Eight men pleaded guilty for incitement to riot; four of them served thirty days in prison and the rest of the sentences for all of them were suspended.

This violence is the context in which the U.S. considered granting the Filipinos their independence. Both supporters and opponents of Filipino migration to the U.S. thought independence was probably the best solution by the early 1930s. The Watsonville Evening Pajaronian editorialized that it hoped the Philippines would get their independence so Japan would invade them and turn them into a new Korea. Given the rapidly growing availability of white labor as the Great Depression deepened, the California growers wouldn’t struggle to find a new labor force either.

The law itself granted the Philippines independence after ten years. In exchange, Filipinos would have to abide by the racist immigration quota system of the 1924 Immigration Act immediately. A whopping 50 immigrants from the Philippines a year were allowed into the United States. They were also denied citizenship rights. A 1946 law, the same year that the Philippines actually received independence, doubled the quota to a whole 100 immigrants and restored the ability of Filipinos to become citizens. A year after Tydings-McDuffie, Congress passed the Filipino Repatriation Act that provided free transportation for Filipinos who wanted to return to the islands but could not afford to do so. The nation didn’t quite get to the point of rounding up these workers, but they can awfully close.

In conclusion, the United States was actually too racist and too concerned about interracial sex to remain a colonial power.

Of course, Filipino labor did not disappear from the United States after Tydings-McDuffie, even as new immigration did. These workers would play a critical role in the early farmworker movements that eventually led to the United Farm Workers, even as Latino workers supplanted the Filipinos in the movement.

I borrowed from Dorothy B. Fujita-Rony, “Empire and the Moving Body: Fermin Tobera, Military California, and Rural Space,” in Bender and Lipman, Making the Empire Work: Labor and United States Imperialism in the writing of this post.

This is the 212th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.


[ 39 ] 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.

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