Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

"Animals" – just another day in the Trumpian Hellscape

In a meeting with California officials to discuss Sanctuary Cities, Trump uttered the following: “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”

News outlets tended to cover this in “Trump calls immigrants animals” fashion. I’m a fan of the mainstream media and the Deep State, but as the National Review rightly points out, Trump’s use of the word “animal” was in direct response to a question about MS-13 asked by the Sheriff of Fresno County, where MS-13 gang members have been convicted of murder and gun charges.

Fine, context is important.

But the context doesn’t really make it better. Recently, one of our contributors wrote a piece on MS-13 and the cycle of dehumanization that leads to violence. (I’ll give you a minute to read it before I continue…ready?)

One could argue that the press is in the wrong here because calling Trump out for dehumanizing immigrants (which he does regularly) without specifying which particular group of immigrants he happens to be dehumanizing today actually does his work for him – contributing to the lumping together of undocumented immigrants with the small percentage of those who have committed violent crimes.

In any case, calling a particular group of people “animals” is simply an explicit articulation of his dehumanizing policies on immigration, which have a much more concrete and immediate impact on people’s daily lives. For example:

  • Stripping people of TPS and shipping them back to their “shithole countries” (which actually contributes to gang violence, thus increasing the number of people seeking asylum).
  • Dehumanizing children by treating that as contraband to be confiscated at the border and storing them in military installations (distorting a law, that, whatever you think of it, was originally intended to protect children from human trafficking – and turning them into mere leverage) and referring to bringing one’s own child across the border as “smuggling.”
  • Dehumanizing the youth who get caught up in gang violence – “they’re not people” – by taking a lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach to a criminal justice that essentially does throw away the key (storing inmates in solitary confinement for years at a time, for example).
  • Doing the same in federal detention centers filled not only with undocumented immigrants who have committed no other crime than existing within the borders of the United States without the right paperwork – but also with asylum seekers who have committed no crimes whatsoever (since it’s not illegal to enter the country if you’re seeking asylum).
  • Forcing detainees to work for $1 a day and then requiring them to use that little bit of money to purchase food, linens, and phone calls to family, friends, lawyers – threatening them with criminal prosecution or “the sensory and psychological deprivation of their humanity resulting from solitary confinement” if they refuse (incidentally, this is pretty much the definition of human trafficking, hence SPLC’s lawsuit against CoreCivic).

When corporations become “persons,” there is a financial incentive for treating people like animals and animals like machines. If we can start to think of criminals as “animals,” the next step is to criminalize whomever we perceive as undesirable or inconvenient so that we can hand them over to the private prison industry and store them away like so much clutter. Hence the criminalization of immigration, poverty, compassion, and so on.

Justice must be re-humanized.

 

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Trump Unhinged

Over the last few days Trump has been tweeting and fuming over a caravan of migrants crossing through Mexico. Some, not all, may try to gain access to the United States, seeking asylum from economic marginalization and political violence in Central America. Nearly 80% of the 1,200 caravan participants are from Honduras.

Caravans have been common in recent years, as people travel in larger groups to avoid trouble with gangs in Central America and Mexico. Until this year, these caravans gained little notice in the United States. But Trump is in trouble with scandals and desperate for a legislative victory. In this environment, he seems to be turning to what got him to the White House: Exaggerate, mislead, and outright lie about some facet of immigration law, or immigrants themselves, to rally support. Referencing the caravan, Trump is renewing calls for border wall funding, and has declared there will be no deal on DACA. In a tweet Sunday, Trump declared:

Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!

Yesterday, Trump went even further, declaring that the U.S. would begin using the military to police the border. Quoted in the New York Times, Trump said:

We have very bad laws for our border, and we are going to be doing some things — I’ve been speaking with General Mattis — we’re going to be doing things militarily…Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step. We really haven’t done that before, or certainly not very much before.

Trump’s latest tirade is political theater of the sort we’ve come to expect. Bombastic declarations that clutter the political space for compromise, all with the aim of getting a “deal.”  Withdrawing the U.S. from NAFTA, sending troops to the border, and refusing to bargain on DACA – when it was just a few weeks ago he encouraged such a bargain in exchange for funding for the wall and other reductions in immigration – are all on the surface losing propositions. Clearly he is trying to shake things up to force the hands of congress, while giving red meat to his Fox-News-watching supporters.

Along the southern border, crossings are at a near 40 year low. The last four administrations have built a legal framework on immigration that has granted enormous authority to ICE to arrest, detain, and deport millions of people. Far from being hamstrung, ICE has been given near free rein along the border. Federal prosecutors and judges are now forced to spend half of their caseloads prosecuting illegal entry and reentry violations, in an unnecessary dragnet that violates the most basic tenets of due process.

The only crisis in immigration right now is the inhumane treatment being meted out against people fleeing violence and economic collapse. While Trump’s rhetoric is theatrical, the results of his ongoing war on migrants is very real. We are facing a human rights crisis in this country of enormous proportions. Trump wants to make it worse. Congress will likely go along in some measure. We need to stop them.

 

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Farmworker Awareness Week, Day Five: Support Community, Student Action with Farmworkers

“I’m away from my family for eight months to come work in this country. Work here is very hard because we have to work ten to twelve hours a day. The work helps me support my family, but I am happy because I’m reaching my goal of having a house of my own.”

Farmworker Awareness Week is an effort to educate people about the conditions under which farmworkers labor and the economic forces that lead so many to do this work away from family members. In supporting this year’s Farmworker Awareness Week we have been taking the lead from Student Action with Farmworkers. Student Action posts daily actions for the week, with quotes like the one above from farmworkers to offer reflection. Student Action offers the following explanation for why they do the work:

Farmworkers feed the world– 85% of our fruits and vegetables are handpicked. There are an estimated 2-3 million men, women, and children work in the fields in the United States. Farms are in every state, including yours, yet farmworkers remain largely invisible and continue to live and work in horrific conditions.  We demand dignity for farmworkers!

Farm work is the third most dangerous job in the United States. The people who plant and harvest our fruits and vegetables suffer from the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any other workers in the nation and have higher incidences of heat stress, dermatitis, urinary tract infections, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis than other wage-earners.  We demand safe working conditions for farmworkers!

Farmworkers are treated differently under the law. Overtime, unemployment insurance, and even protection when joining a union are not guaranteed under federal law. Farmworkers were excluded from almost all major federal laws passed in the 1930s. The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1978 to mandate minimum wage for farmworkers on large farms only and it still has not made provisions for overtime.  We demand just living and working conditions for farmworkers and an end to unfair treatment under the law.

The actvity Student Action with Farmworkers encourage today is to get out into the community and support Latinx restaurants and other businesses. We would encourage this, as well as support for organizations doing the work of raising awareness, like Student Action with Farmworkers. Get involved! Get Connected! Make a difference.

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Forced Labor, Big Profits: One Dollar a Day in Detention Facilities

Last year people held at at a private immigration detention facility in Aurora, Colorado filed suit against the owner, The GEO Group, claiming that the company required them to work in the facility “Volunteer Work Program” and threatened solitary confinement to those who refused. The GEO Group receives contracts from the federal government to construct, manage, and/or provide other services related to the incarceration of people in federal prisons and immigrant detention facilities. Approximately 70% of migrant detainees are held in private run or owned facilities. Two companies, the GEO Group and CoreCivic, receive the lion’s share of these contracts – in 2015 housing nearly 80% of those detained in private facilities.

Under Federal Law, people held in immigrant detention may work to help maintain the facility and earn a small remuneration. The current rate was set in 1978 at a maximum of $1.00 a day (the Federal minimum wage in 1978 was $2.60 an hour). At the time, the daily average number of migrants held in detention was less than 4,000 people and none were housed in private facilities (CoreCivic – then known as the Corrections Corporation of America – received the first contract for a private detention facility in 1983, the Houston Processing Center).  Times have changed, but not the pay rate.

The GEO Corp, CoreCivic and other private companies use detainee labor to keep facilities clean, do maintenance and provide other services. By using detainee labor at the 1978 pay rate, the companies pad their profit margin significantly. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez told Daily Beast, “the volunteer work program at immigration facilities as well as the wage rates and standards associated with the program are set by the Federal government.” The company argues, they are not required to pay more – indeed Federal contracts only reimburse work done through the Voluntary Work Program at the $1.00 a day rate; if they pay more they lose money. If they have to bring in cleaning services, paying at least the federal minimum wage, they would lose significantly more. That a maximum daily wage of $1.00, paid to people held behind bars who were threatened into “volunteering,” is basically slave labor is beside the point – shareholders come first.

In the current environment nothing is more surprising than members of Congress defending forced labor in the name of corporate profit (pitched as tax savings). On March 7th of this year, eighteen Republican members of Congress wrote to the offices of the Attorney General and Secretaries of the Department of Labor and Immigrant and Custom Enforcement encouraging them to submit amicus briefs in defense of The GEO Group and other private prison companies. The letter is illuminating concerning the values animating federal immigration enforcement:

It would provide an unnecessary windfall to the detainees, and drain the federal government of limited taxpayer resources, to require contractors to pay these detainees anywhere between 800% – 1500% above what is currently required by law. These costs will simply be passed on to the taxpayers either through a required higher rate of contractual reimbursement or through increased detention costs generally.

It is worth parsing this section. “800%-1,500%” more than current law, means remuneration of $8 to $15 dollars A DAY. One wonders how a company cannot afford such wages, or the Federal government for that matter, to keep a facility clean!?!? Arguing that people in detention – who, it bears repeating, are in most cases simply waiting decisions on their status – would see one dollar an hour as a “windfall,” indeed such a windfall that they would want to stay in detention, is absurd.

If Federal immigrant enforcement measures are draining “limited taxpayer resources,” it is because the Federal government has chosen to adopt draconian measures that are unnecessary, and in some cases illegal, in order to expand detention to the current rate of 41,000 people a night, at a cost of $134 a day per detainee. This detention budget came to $2.6 billion in 2017, a large portion paid out to private companies. Trump wants the capacity expanded to 50,000 a night – a 25% increase. The GEO Group and CoreCivic gave Trump’s inauguration committee $250,000 each. The return on this investment promises to be huge.

In April of 2017, The GEO Group posted in BusinessWire:

GEO expects to design, finance, build, and operate the company-owned Facility [in Conroe, Texas] under a ten-year contract with ICE, inclusive of renewal option periods. The 1,000-bed Facility is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2018 and is expected to generate approximately $44 million in annualized revenues and returns on investment consistent with GEO’s company-owned facilities.

The press release went on to add: “We are very appreciative of the continued confidence placed in our company by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said George C. Zoley, GEO’s Chairman and CEO.

Very appreciative indeed. Trading in the lives of human beings makes these companies a lot of money. And with members of Congress trying to shield them from having to actually pay some of the people who labor in these facilities, profits are booming.

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Fear as Strategy: Trump Administration Using Cruelty as Deterrence

Several articles in the past week have focused on the ways the Trump administration is employing fear tactics as means to punish migrants. To some degree deterrence has always been a part of U.S. policies aimed at limiting migration. Yet, the current administration seems intent on reaching a new level of cruelty that is both immoral—and illegal. By targeting asylum seekers, separating children and families, and using enforcement in a campaign to silence dissent among immigration activists, Trump’s team is reaching new lows.

Julianne Hing, writing for the Nation, underscores the ways Trump is using the exagerated threat of gang violence from Central America to justify crackdowns:

Without needing to change any laws, the White House has used the threat of gang violence and the need to protect national security as pretexts for draconian immigration policies. Yet the real aim has always been something else: to inflict maximum suffering as a means of pushing out unwanted newcomers as well as those whose extended presence in the country may threaten white supremacy.

She also notes the escalating attacks on immigrant rights activists:

In addition to ICE agents staking out courthouses, school drop-off corners, and even hospitals—violating the agency’s own guidelines about not making arrests in “sensitive locations”—agents have also arrested or deported at least four outspoken immigrant-rights leaders in what activists call a calculated stroke of political retaliation. Recently, ICE arrested another, activist Alejandra Pablos, at a regular Tucson, Arizona, check-in on March 7.

John Burnett of NPR has also covered the increasing arrests of activists:

Activists across the country say they are being targeted by federal immigration authorities for speaking out at protests and accusing the government of heavy-handed tactics. The Trump administration has warned that anyone in the country illegally could be arrested and deported under tough new enforcement rules. And federal officials deny allegations of retaliation. But the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups say they have documented two dozen cases of immigrant activists and volunteers who say they have been arrested or face fines for their work. They say many of the activists who are undocumented don’t have criminal records and only came to the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement because of their activism.

The ACLU, Human Rights First, and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies have filed a suit against the Department of Homeland Security regarding the Administration’s use of a deterrence strategy targeting asylum seekers and other. The practices violate U.S. law. From their filing on deterrence strategy:

Detaining asylum seekers to deter others, without even considering whether individuals are flight risks or dangers to the community, violates the Parole Directive (which generally bars the detention of asylum seekers who pose neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community), the Immigration and Naturalization Act (“INA”), regulations promulgated thereunder, and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Indeed, even if DHS’s current parole policy were not based on deterrence, it would be unlawful for DHS to engage in virtually blanket detention of asylum seekers without individualized determinations of flight risk or danger to the community. The fact that the Policy is based on general deterrence—which cannot be a basis for civil detention—makes it even clearer that the Policy is unlawful. See R.I.L-R., 80 F. Supp. at 189.

Read the full articles:

Julienne Hing, “For Trump, Cruelty is the Point” The Nation, March 15, 2018

John Burnett, “Immigration Advocates Warn ICE is Retaliating for Activism”, NPR, March 16, 2018

Class Action Suit Against DHS filed by the ACLU, Human Rights First, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

You can also read our recent blog, Torture by Another Name: Immigrant Detention in the United States evaluating abusive tactics employed by the administration in violation of international human rights.

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The Cycle of Criminalization in U.S. Immigration Policy

Last week, visitors from the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) joined us at the Quixote Center for a conversation on migrant detention and the prison-industrial complex. We discussed the brutality of ICE, the injustice of Operation Streamline, and the expansion of private prisons. But there was one topic we kept coming back to: the cycle of criminalization.

The narrative we have heard from the current administration portrays Central American immigrants as violent gang members who bring crime to our country and must be deported. In his State of the Union address, Trump called on Congress “to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13 and other criminal gangs to break into our country.” His scare tactics are designed to stoke racist, anti-immigrant sentiment. His claims are also wildly misleading.

MS-13 is not a foreign threat and it is not a major danger to the United States. The gang began in Los Angeles in the 1980s, with the early group of teenagers looking for community, not violence. Many of them were the children of immigrants from El Salvador, a country that had been rocked by unrest and a civil war heavily funded by the U.S. government. But the Los Angeles police force launched massive “anti-gang” operations during that time that put many of these teens into the prison system.

As The Washington Post put it, “those sweeps, part of a militaristic zero-tolerance response to the nation’s social problems, failed to acknowledge that such problems were the direct result of underfunded social programs and systemic marginalization. Instead of serving as a deterrent, they further weakened social ties and increased exclusion, and thus facilitated the transformation and consolidation of MS-13 into a serious criminal enterprise.”

The situation was worsened by the Clinton administration, whose immigration policy deported thousands and sent the gang members back to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Once there, they faced similarly harsh policing and few opportunities outside of their gang. Their violence now drives many to the U.S. as a means of escape and the cycle continues.

MS-13 was not just formed in the United States, it exists precisely because of the United States. A U.S. funded war gave rise to their displacement. A militarized police force branded them criminals. The prison system gave them few options. Deportation gave them fewer.

But this story of criminalization is not limited to MS-13 members. Our current system treats all but a certain elite category of immigrants as criminals. ICE sends undocumented people to detention centers where they can be held indefinitely in high-security facilities. When they are deported back to their country of origin, stigma often follows. Many assume that detention and deportation in the U.S. are indicative of criminal behavior. It may be harder for the deported person to get a job or regain community trust when they have been seen as a criminal, so they may end up in prison again.

By criminalizing immigration, we are not just being inhumane, we are also participating in a cycle where the most severe consequences fall outside our borders. Despite political rhetoric, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the U.S. born population. Meanwhile, violence increases in the Northern Triangle, with El Salvador becoming the world’s most violent country not at war. Our prison-industrial complex is not just a failed response to crime, it is a breeding ground for it. When immigrant populations flee violence that we helped to create it is our duty to provide sanctuary, not jail cells. But the path we walk now is an endless loop of violence. 

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Country Highlights: Somalia & South Sudan

Part VI of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

The Trump Administration is proving ruthless in their mission to limit immigration to the United States. Within the last two months, the Department of Homeland Security has ended TPS for two out of the 10 TPS-designated countries. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the remaining countries; DHS extended TPS for Sudan in September, showing some leniency and willingness to continue the program.

Between Somalia and South Sudan, 320 individuals are in the U.S. under the protection of TPS due to civil war and extreme violence in both countries. Though there are few TPS recipients from Somalia and South Sudan, compared to other TPS designated countries, we must remember they had a long and likely treacherous journey to reach the United States, and the number of recipients is no measure of their relative importance or the gravity of the conditions they left behind.

 

South Sudan

South Sudan received a freedom in the world score of 5/100 from Freedom House due to a lack of political rights, an inoperative government, an absence of civil liberties, and ineffective rule of law. South Sudan gained independence in 2011, and it has been at civil war since 2013, after President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) fired Vice President Riek Machar (a Nuer), deepening the division between the ethnic groups.

Violence was centered in Juba, the capital, but has since spread throughout the country. The UN and the African Union have reported government forces and armed ethnic militias directly targeting civilians, for murder, rape and torture. As of 2016, 1.9 million South Sudanese were internally displaced; there were 1.5 million refugees in neighboring countries; death toll estimates were in the tens of thousands; and ethnic cleansing was underway in parts of the country.

 

Somalia

This year Somalia received a 5/100 freedom in the world score from Freedom House due to grave human rights abuses, a lack of a free or stable government, and judiciary rife with impunity, among other things. The country is divided between three major actors: the internationally-supported national government, the separatist government, and al-Shabaab – all of which are fighting for legitimacy, power, and territory. This infighting has resulted in the loss of thousands of civilian lives, internally displaced persons, and loss of infrastructure.

According to reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as of 2016, 1.1 million Somalis were internally displaced; an additional 1.1 million Somalis refugees were in other countries; and over 50,000 civilians had been killed. Al-Shabaab routinely carries out guerilla-style assaults, public beheadings, bombings, and targeted attacks against civilians and civilian structures, such as schools and hotels. Al-Shabaab is not the only group responsible for violence against civilians. Reports from the UN confirm that both the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) are responsible for human rights and international law violations, including rape and indiscriminately killing citizens.

It is feared that the return of Somalis and South Sudanese from abroad will further exacerbate the crisis in both countries. The sheer amount of violence alone has made the return of citizens from abroad impossible. Coupled with the lack of economic opportunity and sustainable infrastructure, the return of South Sudanese and Somalis migrants appears unfathomable.

Please continue to call and write your legislators to fight for the renewal of TPS and to support the SECURE Act, which would create a pathway to permanent residency for TPS holders.

 

Up Next:

Country Highlights: Yemen and Syria – coming December 15th

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Country Highlights: Somalia & South Sudan

Part VI of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

The Trump Administration is proving ruthless in their mission to limit immigration to the United States. Within the last two months, the Department of Homeland Security has ended TPS for two out of the 10 TPS-designated countries. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the remaining countries; DHS extended TPS for Sudan in September, showing some leniency and willingness to continue the program.

Between Somalia and South Sudan, 320 individuals are in the U.S. under the protection of TPS due to civil war and extreme violence in both countries. Though there are few TPS recipients from Somalia and South Sudan, compared to other TPS designated countries, we must remember they had a long and likely treacherous journey to reach the United States, and the number of recipients is no measure of their relative importance or the gravity of the conditions they left behind.

 

South Sudan

South Sudan received a freedom in the world score of 5/100 from Freedom House due to a lack of political rights, an inoperative government, an absence of civil liberties, and ineffective rule of law. South Sudan gained independence in 2011, and it has been at civil war since 2013, after President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) fired Vice President Riek Machar (a Nuer), deepening the division between the ethnic groups.

Violence was centered in Juba, the capital, but has since spread throughout the country. The UN and the African Union have reported government forces and armed ethnic militias directly targeting civilians, for murder, rape and torture. As of 2016, 1.9 million South Sudanese were internally displaced; there were 1.5 million refugees in neighboring countries; death toll estimates were in the tens of thousands; and ethnic cleansing was underway in parts of the country.

 

Somalia

This year Somalia received a 5/100 freedom in the world score from Freedom House due to grave human rights abuses, a lack of a free or stable government, and judiciary rife with impunity, among other things. The country is divided between three major actors: the internationally-supported national government, the separatist government, and al-Shabaab – all of which are fighting for legitimacy, power, and territory. This infighting has resulted in the loss of thousands of civilian lives, internally displaced persons, and loss of infrastructure.

According to reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as of 2016, 1.1 million Somalis were internally displaced; an additional 1.1 million Somalis refugees were in other countries; and over 50,000 civilians had been killed. Al-Shabaab routinely carries out guerilla-style assaults, public beheadings, bombings, and targeted attacks against civilians and civilian structures, such as schools and hotels. Al-Shabaab is not the only group responsible for violence against civilians. Reports from the UN confirm that both the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) are responsible for human rights and international law violations, including rape and indiscriminately killing citizens.

It is feared that the return of Somalis and South Sudanese from abroad will further exacerbate the crisis in both countries. The sheer amount of violence alone has made the return of citizens from abroad impossible. Coupled with the lack of economic opportunity and sustainable infrastructure, the return of South Sudanese and Somalis migrants appears unfathomable.

Please continue to call and write your legislators to fight for the renewal of TPS and to support the SECURE Act, which would create a pathway to permanent residency for TPS holders.

 

Up Next:

Country Highlights: Yemen and Syria – coming December 15th

Continue Reading

Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)