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War on Immigrants
A s the controversy over undocumented immigration mounted after the House of Representatives passed the immigration “reform” bill HR 4437 on December 16, 2005, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids escalated (though the bill stalled in the Senate). During the months from October 2005 to September 2006, ICE tripled the number of its operating teams and set a new record of over 186,600 “alien removals.”
In the first half of 2006 the raids initially focused on employers hiring undocumented workers, such as the ICE arrests of IFCO Systems managers in New York and other states on April 19. But by the second half of that year, the emphasis had shifted back to arresting workers, such as at the six Swift & Company meatpacking plants raided on December 12. The result has been widespread disappearances in the current offensive labelled “Operation Return to Sender.”
Unlike in the past, when deportation proceedings could take months while federal immigration courts reviewed individual cases, many of the undocumented immigrants detained today are being intimidated from seeking access to courts by federal agents who ask them to sign papers for immediate deportation to avoid prolonged detention and trial. After being terrorized by a surprise ICE raid, and without a lawyer, many sign out of fear. Most are given little opportunity to pack up their lives and make arrangements with remaining family members who are either legal residents or in hiding. To make matters worse, more and more immigration detainees are being transported to distant locations or out of state for detention and processing.
It’s all part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Border Initiative (SBI), a multi-year plan to “secure” America’s borders and reduce illegal migration.
According to an ICE press release of April 20, 2006: “The first phase of the SBI remains focused on gaining operational control of the nation’s borders through additional personnel and technology while also re-engineering the detention and removal system to ensure that illegal aliens are removed from this country quickly and efficiently.” It calls for measures that “target and remove aliens that pose criminal/national security threats.” Despite this, less than 0.5 percent of immigrants arrested in 2006 were subsequently charged with crimes.
Not only does the war on immigrants terrorize an entire community, it completely fails to address the underlying economic factors that cause undocumented immigration. These problems stem, in part, from the inability of the globalized economy to provide jobs in Mexico and Central America.
C onsidering the government's war on terror and the heightened concern over the soaring numbers of undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. in recent years, one might think that immigration inspections at all points of entry would have been universally tightened.
On a recent trip to Mexico, I returned to the United States by car through the border crossing at Tecate, Mexico and Baja, California, some 30 miles southeast of San Diego. It was around 10:00 PM. There was no queue. The immigration officer greeted me and I handed him a stack of U.S. passports. He asked me how many people were in the minivan. I said, “Six.” He asked me to open the rear sliding door. In the darkness, although he could not see faces, somehow he could make out that the minivan was not packed with Mexican workers. After only a glimpse he said, “Okay, you may close it.” He never really looked at the photos on the passports or attempted to match passports to the faces of the passengers.
The immigration officer slid each passport through a computerized scanner, verifying that the passports were valid and logging the entry of each passenger into the country. Within minutes, he handed the stack of passports back to me and allowed me to go.
So, while there is so much fuss over controlling the country’s borders and preventing potential alleged terrorists and undocumented immigrants from entering the country, there remain gigantic loopoles. Perhaps the fuss is not entirely about controlling borders, blocking terrorists, and preventing “illegal” immigration. For example, if it were really about stopping undocumented immigrants, then why build more double-layered fences in the middle of inhospitable desert while failing to identify who actually enters at border crossings? Why terrorize people who are already working in the country and have families here, rather than positively identify those coming across the border?
War for Control over People
I f it is not really about stopping terrorism and undocumented immigration, then what is it really about? There is a clear parallel between the public fear that was created after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the public fear being falsely created about “illegal” immigrants taking away jobs and causing violent crimes. Both fears enable the federal government to intimidate the population, launching secret dragnets to round up thousands of people.
After September 11, over 3,000 people (those are just the ones we know about), mostly Muslims of Middle Eastern descent, disappeared simply because the Bush administration “suspected” that they might have terrorist ties. An organization called the Blue Triangle Network managed (with difficulty) to collect names of these disappeared. Most were never charged, were not allowed to contact their families, and were systematically denied access to court hearings. Nearly all were rounded up on the basis of racial or religious profiling.
A similar pattern has emerged in Iraq where U.S. troops break into houses in the middle of the night, rounding up “suspected” insurgents. The men and boys who are taken away are often not heard from for many days, weeks, or months. Most Iraqis seized in these “pacification” or “cleansing” operations are never charged, never given access to courts, and never informed of their rights. Some disappear in custody. A few who may be classified as “enemy combatants” are flown via “extraordinary rendition” flights to secret CIA prisons in other countries where they may be tortured during aggressive interrogation. Many are rounded up for being from a community that backs any of a plethora of insurgent groups. By the way, if, in the process of searching for insurgents, a U.S. soldier violates Iraqi laws, the U.S. occupation of Iraq has granted all Americans immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts.
Recently U.S. troops began seizing Iranians in Iraq, including diplomats, on the pretext that they support Iraqi insurgents. The Iranians have no recourse to the courts because the U.S. occupation forces have legal immunity in Iraq. Like the others, they are being rounded up on the basis of an ethnic profile—of being Iranian. As the Bush administration escalates its threats against Iran and positions its aircraft carrier strike groups and missiles for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and strategic infrastructure, the war on Iran is becoming more and more real.
The war on immigrants, war on terror, and war on Iraq are elements of the same state terrorism against human beings. It is a war for control over people and resources, one war with many fronts at home and abroad. Increasingly, human rights, immigrant rights, and peace and justice groups around the world are recognizing this common thread and calling for money for human needs, not war. Their response in the streets and on the Internet is a common struggle for justice and human dignity.
Sharat G. Lin writes on the global political economy, migrant labor, the Middle East, India, and the environment.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.