krys méndez ramírez

Posts Tagged ‘prison industrial complex’

Reasons To Oppose the Latest Immigration Reform

In Class Politics, Geography/ Spatial Justice, History, Identity Politics, Latin@ Politics, Racial Politics on July 7, 2013 at 8:40 PM

WHY BORDER (IN)SECURITY IS A THREAT TO ALL OF US

Border_Patrol

We can expect increased border militarization to result in more deaths, incidents of violence, racial profilings, and a “locking in” of the Surveillance State.

As with many people on the so-called Left in this country, I am against the further militarization of our borders and what would inevitably amount to more violence, death, and destruction in and around our southern borderlands. This criticism, however, has been mollified by arguments in favor of the bill, with many groups hesitating to reject it outright and choosing to simply acknowledge that there are both good and bad provisions.

In a nutshell, I want to argue that such a concession is unacceptable: the bill is egregiously flawed in all respects, including, but not limited to, its failure to go far enough in its “good” provisions, its jeopardization of the security and lives of current and future immigrants, and its hazardous implications in locking in the surveillance state. Indeed, whether or not you are undocumented, an immigrant, a person of color, or simply a resident in fortress America, this bill—if ever enacted—has dangerous implications for all of us.

The bill of which I speak, of course, is the one that was passed with bipartisan approval in the Senate last month—S. 744, or the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (what I’ll dub the ‘Border (in)Security Act” for short). We are told, most especially by the Democratic Party establishment, that the militarization provisions of the Corker-Hoeven amendments were necessary if we were to at all have amnesty in the foreseeable future. We are told, explicitly or implicitly (by such liberal organizations such as the National Council of La Raza or the National Immigrant Justice Center), that although increased border enforcement is a shame, the much-sought immigration reform makes it ultimately worthwhile. And, indeed, the liberal arguments in favor of adopting the bill (warts and all) are compelling:

  • it ensures that many people will no longer live underground, in terror, or under the most heinous exploitative conditions
  • it ensures that many children won’t be heart-wrenchingly ripped away from their parents
  • it promises much-needed relief to undocumented students who face harsh difficulties in applying to colleges and jobs
  • and, if issues regarding the federal deficit matter to you, then it might please you that the Congressional Budget Office predicts that the bill will actually reduce it by a sizeable $56 billion between 2014 and 2018 (and $197 billion between 2014 and 2023). (2)

I am deeply in favor of many of these things. In fact, people’s livelihoods depend on it. But if we are to work towards liberation, towards a world not wagered on the lives of future generations, we also need to think strategically, being mindful of longer-term consequences and global ramifications. For even if this bill doesn’t move forward (as many analysts doubt its approval in the House), what we have here is nonetheless a perfect example of how the sheer illusion of bipartisan consensus can insidiously manufacture consent in favor of state violence. It is not so much about this particular bill as it is about its implications for any future legislation, and the real consequences for the people of this country (u.s.), of Mexico, and throughout the globe.

Proposed immigration bill

A widely-circulated meme from Culturestrike & Presente.org.

What We Can Expect From S. 744 [the Border (in)Security Act]:

More Death and Physical Violence

–          We can count on more deaths. If there is any reason whatsoever to reject the concessionary attempts to further militarize the Mexico-u.s. border, it is this. If you are wondering what mechanisms will allow this, read on:

–          Walls force migrants to travel through difficult terrains. Every year hundreds, if not thousands, of people die in attempting to cross the border—often because checkpoints and doubly-fortified walls necessitate alternative routes through the desert, which many people traverse on foot. Others face dangers in being smuggled inside cramped trucks, vans, and shipping containers (7). The increased security measures will make it easier for coyotes, black market merchants, and unscrupulous employers to exploit the fears of the undocumented—often with physical or lethal repercussions.

–          More Border Patrol killings. The enforcement-first policies of recent years have already considerably increased the power of the Border Patrol, which has been documented to kill innocent people with little, if any, prosecution (19). Doubling the agency—especially under time constraints that will ensure hasty employment practices—could likely worsen the situation.

–          Barriers to life-saving services. Currently, draconian state laws and local policies create barriers to immigrants trying to access basic human services, such as health care. While some claim that more Border Patrol agents may help deal with any issues that may arise (such as instances of injury, abuse, or sexual/physical assault), there is little precedent to support this. Victims to crimes of human trafficking, domestic violence, bias crimes, and even physical abuse at the hands of Border Patrol agents will likely be left in the lurch.

–          The federal government has a dismal human rights record. Amnesty International (7) recently chastised the united states for its poor track record of abiding by international human rights laws, including ensuring the safety of migrants and the right to due process. Given this fact—true under the current regulations—what would make us think that S. 744 will improve the situation for (im)migrants who do not qualify under the amnesty regulations?

Image

From the Alliance for Global Justice. Contrary to what amerikkans are often taught, violence at the man-made “border” is a recent, largely state-initiated, phenomenon.


The Pros Aren’t As Great As They Might Seem

–          The route to citizenship will take 13 years. The bill currently calls for the creation of a registered provisional immigrant (RPI) program, which is essentially a work authorization program that is not equivalent to a green card.  Under a best case scenario, undocumented immigrants will have to wait 10 years to become lawful permanent residents, and an additional 3 to apply for citizenship. (5, 14)

–          Documentation for 8 million, not 11. Rather than the much publicized 11 million, the bill is likely only to aid in the documentation of 8 – 8.5 million people. (20, 2)

–          There will be heavy prohibitive fees. In order to apply for RPI status, immigrants will have to pay $500 penalty fee, any unpaid taxes, and application fees. As such, the program will be inaccessible to the poorest undocumented immigrants.

–          “Little dreamers” will not benefit.  While the long-fought war for the DREAM Act will be passed with this legislation, it does not confer similar protections for younger siblings who do not turn 18 within 5 years of enactment.  Instead of the “fast track” to legal permanent residency given to DREAMers, they’ll be forced to take the longer route of waiting a minimum of 10 years.


Expansion of the Military-Security-Industrial Complex

–          The bill will double the number of Border Patrol agents in less than a decade.  It’s hard to imagine the enormity of such accelerated increase—from approximately 20,000 agents today to 40,000 within less than a decade (by 2021).  (4, 5, 9, 11).

–          Financially, this bill is extremely costly. The militarization aspects of the bill are expected to cost $30 billion—on top of the $18 billion annually already spent on border enforcement. This is more than any other federal law enforcement agency (4, 15).

–          Expect the worst and newest military technologies. This includes 24/7 surveillance systems, unattended ground sensors, infrared scopes, Predator drones and Blackhawk helicopters.

–          Requires that at least 90% of border crossers are apprehended in “high risk border sectors.” [Section 3(a)(3), p.9]

–          The DREAM Act provision encourages youth enlistment. Under Section 2103 (p.110), DREAMers will be able to apply for documentation status if they spend four or more years in the Armed Forces. Such an option perversely incentivizes involvement with the u.s. war machine while exploiting students unable to attend/afford college.


Racial Discrimination and the Persecution of Indigenous, Immigrant, and Latin@ Communities

–          There will be increased racial profiling. This one is a no-brainer: having more armed, federal military agents in the borderlands will exacerbate an already documented trend that terrorizes non-whites (7). One can expect more unjustified stops and detentions—not only of the undocumented, but of immigrants with federal status, Latin@s, Natives, and other communities of color.

–          Draconian state laws will prevent access to basic services. There’s every reason to believe that the terror and intimidation posed by S. 744 will force many undocumented immigrants further into the shadows—and thus, prevent them from accessing services that are sometimes completely legal (such as seeking health care or Food Stamps for U.S.-born citizen children). The potential law also legitimizes the growth of local military-police states borderlands that will heighten the structural and physical violence perpetrated against Latin@ and indigenous communities.

–          The English requirement is for mere documentation status, not citizenship. While the English requirement has been enforced in the citizenship exam, this could become the first time the English requirement is necessary for a federal legalization status that does not confer voting rights. Added by the Latin@ Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), this requirement is meant also enforces the sort of “assimilation” Rubio sees as necessary. In making no separate provision to include funding for adult education/ESOL courses, this requirement will negatively impact English language learners who are poor, ability-varied, and/or time constrained. (p.103, 1; 20)

–          S. 744 threatens indigenous sovereignty.  Amnesty International’s report, In Hostile Terrain (2012), devotes its third chapter to abuses against Native Americans. Although there are over 26 First Nations in the areas around the Mexico-u.s. border, the wall has already gravely threatened the rights and livelihood of inhabitants who have proper claim to the land. In addition to cutting through Native lands, many Native residents have been repeatedly accosted by Border Patrol agents while trying to access areas of their community. This is in direct violation of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1853), wherein the united states and Mexico both affirmed the rights of indigenous people.


Prison Expansions and the Criminalization of Immigrants

–          Amnesty excludes immigrants with convictions, including misdemeanors. Undocumented immigrants with prior felonies would be ineligible for RPI status, as are folks convicted of three or more misdemeanors, and those caught voting unlawfully.

–          Expect more detentions, prosecutions, and prisons. Under Operation Streamline, a program implemented in 2005 to boost federal prosecution of unauthorized migrants along the Texas-Mexico border, we have seen a record number of detentions and arrests. In fact, in 2011, unlawful entry and unlawful re-entry were the two most prosecuted crimes in the federal judicial system—with a concomitant expenditure running in the billions of dollars.  We can only expect more such prosecutions and expenditures under this bill. According to its estimates, the Congressional Budget Office predicts the cost of this extra criminalization to be around $3.1 billion from 2012 to 2023. (2; 18)

–          Increased profits for the private prison industry.  Private prison companies like the GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America have received extremely lucrative contracts from the federal government to house detained immigrants. In essence, record profits are being made on the backs of immigrants—and is likely one of the sources fueling the militarization debacle. (17, 18)


Expansion of the Surveillance State

–          The creation and expansion of a federal employment verification program. Whereas now the existing verification program, E-Verify, is online and optional for many businesses, the program that would replace it would be mandatory for all businesses over a few years (p. 424). The CBO predicts an implementation cost of $1.4 billion over five years. Unclear, however, is what information (such as fingerprints) will be collected by the federal government. (2)

–          More funding for non-stop surveillance technologies. The border will be flooded with 24/7 surveillance, and a biometric exit system will be put in place in the 10 busiest airports within two years of the bill’s enactment. (9)

–          Expect more surveillance justified under the aegis of “national security.” Immigration was officially made a national security under the Bush Administration, with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security. Increased funding for border militarization could easily extend into resources being devoted to a heightened criminalization of people of color and immigrants. Similarly, increased surveillance funding and equipment could fortify the Surveillance State for everyone residing here.


Considerable Costs at the Expense of Social Welfare & the Environment

–          Underlines a tragedy of government priorities. All sorts of reasoning are given to justify the country’s considerable defense spending. As it stands, the united states spends the most of any country on its military, and is responsible for 42% of total global military expenditures. Additionally, 20% of the FY13 federal budget was on defense (second only to Social Security), and about half of “discretionary” funds were allocated to this sector. These very same funds—instead of being allocated for killing and harassing people—could be used to build up our underfunded educational system, create new public housing, or develop scientific research. In the end, the costs of immigration enforcement and border violence benefit no one but the super-rich. (21, 22, 23, 24)

–          Poses irreversible threats to endangered species and fragile ecosystems. The bill’s threat to the environment is one of the most glaring examples of how the consequences can become irreparable. The construction of the current wall, in conjunction with the vast deployment of military vehicles and equipment, has already occurred at a severe cost to wildlife and endangered species—and all in shameless violation of numerous environmental protection laws. The lack of federal oversight has already resulted in significant landscape changes, such as when DHS filled in Smuggler’s Gulch (south of San Diego) using earth captured through mountaintop removal. We can only assume that this same trend will multiply under the proposed changes. (4, 8)

As if all of these cold facts aren’t enough, there are also the implications that come with accepting a bill that solidifies the power of an imperial nation-state—all while failing to deal with the root causes of oppression.

Sources:
1)      http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s744is/pdf/BILLS-113s744is.pdf
2)      http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/s744.pdf
3)      http://www.natlawreview.com/article/border-security-economic-opportunity-and-immigration-modernization-act-2013

4)      http://www.nomoredeaths.org/Updates-and-Announcements/no-more-deaths-calls-on-congress-to-start-over-on-immigration-solutions.html
5)   http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/06/senate_passes_border_militarization_amendment_with_bipartisan_support.html
6)      http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/6-23-13%20Immigration%20Release%20Final.pdf
7)      http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/usa-in-hostile-terrain-human-rights-violations-in-immigration-enforcement-in-the-us-southwest
8)      http://www.no-border-wall.com/environmental-impacts.php
9)      http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/2013/S_744_Summary.pdf
10)  http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/SouthwestBorderSecurityOperations.pdf
11)  http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net/2013/06/derechos-opposes-hoeven-corker-amendment-new-immigration-bill-is-a-step-backward-for-border-communities-and-many-immigrant-families/
12)  http://www.presente.org/press/releases/2013/6/27/moveon-credo-presenteorg-18-million-rising-stmt
13)  http://www.presente.org/press/releases/2013/6/24/largest-online-latino-advocacy-group-opposes-immig
14)  http://www.immigrantjustice.org/immigrationreform/s744analysis#.UdeOFPmsim4
15)  http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/06/20/democrats-let-gop-name-their-price-on-immigration/
16)  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/us/politics/2-gop-senators-reach-deal-on-border-security-plan.html?hp&_r=1&
17)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/27/private-prisons-immigration_n_1917636.html
18)      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-libal/immigration-reform-must-end_b_2537547.html
19)      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/us/shootings-by-agents-increase-border-tensions.html
20)      http://prospect.org/article/broken-english-requirements
21) http://armscontrolcenter.org/issues/securityspending/articles/2012_topline_global_defense_spending/
22)    http://useconomy.about.com/od/usfederalbudget/p/military_budget.htm
23)    http://www.cfr.org/defense-budget/trends-us-military-spending/p28855
24)    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/07/everything-chuck-hagel-needs-to-know-about-the-defense-budget-in-charts/

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