Terrorizing Immigrants – by Stephen Lendman
On April 20, Reuters headlined, “Arizona passes tough illegal immigration law,” saying:
State lawmakers “passed a controversial immigration bill on Monday (April 19) requiring police in the state (to) determine if people are in the United States illegally, a measure critics say is open to racial profiling.”
Called “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act,” the Arizona House and Senate passed it, sending it to Governor Jan Brewer who signed it on April 23 to make it Arizona law.
The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) works for “a just immigration and refugee policy in the United States (for) all immigrants, regardless of immigration status….advocating for their full labor, environmental, civil and human rights.”
“We are ALL Arizona,” it said before the bill became law. “Stop the Criminalization of Immigrants, End Racial Profiling! Tell AZ Governor to Veto (this) Anti-Immigrant Bill,” saying:
“The Arizona State Legislature just passed a law (SB 1070) that legalizes unchecked racial profiling by police of anyone they ‘suspect’ is undocumented. It would criminalize all undocumented immigrants as ‘trespassers’ and subject them to misdemeanor or, in some cases, felony charges for a new ‘trespass’ crime.”
In a letter to Governor Brewer urging her veto, NNIIR said:
“If you sign SB 1070 into law, you will make Arizona a police state unprecedented in modern US history.
By vetoing SB 1070, you will help to safeguard the health and safety of immigrants and people of color in the state of Arizona. Your veto will be a resounding NO to unbridled racial profiling by police of anyone they ‘suspect’ (by skin color, spoken language, or other characteristics) is undocumented. Your veto will say NO to the criminalization of immigrants and YES to respecting (the) constitutional rights of all persons, regardless of their immigration status or citizenship.
Don’t take Arizona backwards to a police state where racial discrimination is legalized. Please stand up for our human and civil rights.
VETO SB 1070 today.”
Brewer, however, signed it into law giving police authority to stop anyone for any reason, question their residency legitimacy, and demand proof of legal entry or citizenship, without which anyone may be arrested, fined, jailed, and/or deported without cause.
On April 19 in his article headlined, “Immigration Bill Reflects a Firebrand’s Impact,” New York Times writer Randal C. Archibold said Senator Russell Pearce who wrote the bill once “appeared in a widely (2007) circulated photograph with a man who was a featured speaker at a neo-Nazi conference.”
In 2006, he was criticized “for speaking admirably of a 1950s federal deportation program called Operation Wetback, and for sending an e-mail message to supporters that included an attachment – inadvertently, he said – from a white supremacist group.”
SB 1070 requires immigrants to carry authorization papers. Failing to do so is a crime. Pearce said he’s on a mission to rid the state of undocumented immigrants and discourage others from coming.
At issue is will other states and Washington enact similar measures, clear police state constitutional violations if they do. If so, no one will be safe from illegal searches and seizures – on streets, in their vehicles, at work, in stores, at school, places of worship, or at home at any hour, day or night, if authorities demand papers on threat of arrest, fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation, without habeas or due process rights.
Since 2005, state legislators throughout the country gave immigration issues increasing attention, enacting 1,305 related laws in 2008 alone. They affect employment and right to a driver’s license. Others call for punitive measures, ones violating civil liberties.
Other AZ 1070 provisions include:
— “A law enforcement officer, ‘without a warrant,’ may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States;”
— anyone may be confronted to prove “any claim of residence or domicile” as well as their identity;
— “if the person is an alien,” they must prove they’re in the country legally;
— “trespassers” may be arrested, jailed, fined, and/or deported;
— anyone providing “means of transportation, procurement of transportation or use of property (or knows) the person or persons transported (aren’t documented) citizens, permanent resident aliens or persons otherwise lawfully in this state (is) in violation of the law;”
— “moving, concealing, harboring or shielding of unlawful aliens” is unlawful; and among other provisions,
— “an employer shall not knowingly employ an unauthorized alien;” doing so is a crime.
In September 2009, NNIRR published a report titled, “Guilty by Immigration Status” on violations of immigrant family, worker, and community rights in 2008. Worrisome is that anti-immigrant police state measures may be used against anyone authorities target. As a result, no one is safe or legally protected, even law abiding residents and citizens.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division violates the constitutional rights of targeted persons questioned, detained, jailed, and/or deported, solely for their suspected immigration status.
According to an Amnesty International report titled, “Jailed Without Justice,” immigration detentions in the last decade tripled – from 10,000 to 30,000 daily through 2008. Over 300,000 men, women and children are detained annually, and the numbers are rising. They include asylum seekers, torture survivors, victims of human trafficking, lawful residents, parents of lawful children, and suspected undocumented immigrants.
Hundreds of facilities around the country detain them, pending criminal and/or deportation proceedings. According to James Pendergraph, former ICE executive director of State and Local Coordination (on August 21, 2008):
“If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we (ICE) can make him disappear.”
In her December 16, 2009 Nation magazine article titled, “America’s Secret ICE Castles,” Jacqueline Stevens explained that besides publicly known detention sites:
“ICE is also confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants – nary a sign, a marked car or even a US flag” – a blatantly illegal act, given that persons in them have “disappeared,” their constitutional rights with them.
Facilities have no beds, mattresses, showers, drinking water, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, mail, legal information, or the ability to contact an attorney. The Obama administration stonewalls attempts for information and won’t address complaints – policies common in police states; Obama more ruthless as Bush.
In its second annual report, NNIRR deals only with immigrants, based on 141 documented accounts of human rights abuses, including testimonies of immigrant workers, families, and community members directly affected in 2008.
A troubling pattern emerges of systemic abuse, including due process violations, and no accountability or oversight in immigration enforcement and services. As a result, draconian forms of “social, economic and political control (are pervasive) from the womb to the workplace.”
Targeted persons include anyone suspected of being foreign. The result is clear racial, ethnic and religious profiling and criminalization, many thousands daily affected. The report “underscores that ICE immigration raids, (roundups, and) enforcement operations are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ ” – a small percent of the overall arrests and detentions, “representing less than 2% of all persons detained and deported in 2008.”
As as result, communities are destabilized. Immigrants live in fear, never knowing where or when they may be next, in some cases affecting citizens and permanent residents rounded up in illegal sweeps. The administration, Congress, states and local authorities are involved. And states like Arizona went further, literally taking the law into its own hands in violation of constitutional protections.
— ICE “intimidate(s) and destabilize(s) communities;” the toll is severe;
— lawless workplace abuses and labor violations are committed;
— the numbers of suspected immigration violators are at an all-time high and rising;
— arrests, detentions, and “deportations separate and devastate families, traumatize communities, (and) trample and violate due process rights;”
— inter-agency and local collaboration undermine community safety and leave anyone vulnerable to abuse; through November 2008, over 840 local, county, and state police officers were trained and certified under ICE’s 287(g) program, authorizing the DHS secretary:
“to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of sworn US (ICE) officers.”
— militarized immigration enforcement violates constitutional rights and causes deaths; and
— federal, state and local xenophobia promotes and condones extremist laws and hate violence.
In addition, repressive tactics are increasing at an alarming rate, including:
— federal, state and local authorities targeting non-white immigrants, permanent residents, and citizens for their color, race, ethnicity, and/or religion;
— funding and detention facilities (including secret ones) for immigrants are expanding rapidly;
— “Fugitive Operation” teams seek “criminal aliens” through Operations “Community Shield” and “Secure Communities” in greater than ever numbers; the result is growing numbers of criminal prosecutions;
— programs like the “Secure Border Initiative” patrol borders and other points of entry, operating repressively; “Operation Streamline” practices “zero tolerance border enforcement,” including filing criminal charges against suspected immigration violators;
— in FY 2008, 6,000 new Border Patrol agents were hired, doubling their numbers since 2002;
— high-profile immigration raids, roundups, detentions, prosecutions, and/or deportations have exponentially increased the number of people affected and their families; in 2009, over 400,000 persons were jailed; from 2005 – 2008, detention space for immigrants increased by 78%; the Obama administration institutionalized the trend; suspected immigration violators comprise the fastest growing prison population in the country;
— discriminatory immigrant profiling is rampant; ICE and local authorities are emboldened to crack down hard;
— since 2001, immigration laws are used “to detain persons under the guise of criminal investigation and even for routine traffic violations;”
— conditions in detention are horrific, and include physical and sexual assaults and over 104 deaths since 2003, including persons seeking asylum; and
— “Operation Endgame.”
It aims to detain and deport all “removable aliens” and suspected terrorists by 2012. It criminalizes immigration status, militarizes border and interior control, and merges immigration services and enforcement in the interest of “national security.” Its four pillars include:
(1) Criminalizing immigration status, using new forms of racial, ethnic, and religious profiling. Suspected undocumented immigrants may be arrested, detained, and/or deported for minor offenses like traffic and other violations. A nationwide system of public, private, and secret jails are in place and are being constructed. Anyone looking or sounding foreign is at risk. Without warrants, those arrested are denied bail and legal counsel, and face unreasonable searches and seizures. Repressive and at times deadly force is used, followed by abuse under inhumane detention conditions.
(2) Immigrant and border communities have been militarized. Harsh “prevention through deterrence” is practiced.
(3) Immigration services and enforcement is part of “securitizing” the homeland.
(4) Neoliberal trade and other policies are the root cause of international migration, creating a migrant worker population being exploited as cheap labor or persecuted for their status.
Other Study Findings
— ICE enforcement intimidates and destabilizes communities and harms local economies; agents conduct raids clad in black clothes, wearing bulletproof vests and ski masks, and carrying high-powered rifles and side arms;
— high-profile workplace raids are used to instill fear;
— ICE enforcement is extremely costly; for example, the May 12, 2008 Postville, Iowa raid jailing of 389 workers (using 800 agents) at the AgriProcessors plant cost $5.2 million or an average of $13,368 per worker;
— Warrantless ICE raids arrest permanent residents and citizens along with undocumented immigrants, calling them “collateral” arrests, and use excessive force doing it, including illegal entry into homes;
— quotas, or enforcement by the numbers, is policy to ensure greater congressional funding;
— unaccompanied children, as young as 12 or younger, are deported on their own;
— unscrupulous employers take advantage, subjecting vulnerable immigrants to harassment, sub-standard wages (at times withheld), unpaid overtime, no benefits, uncertain employment, and unsafe working conditions;
— immigrants believe government is the enemy to be feared and avoided; and
— hate violence against immigrants has increased, including racist murders.
Crisis at the Border
“US immigration and border control is causing a humanitarian crisis in migrant deaths and rights violations (by) funneling migrants through the most isolated desert and mountain regions of the US-Mexico border.”
As a result, thousands have perished, disappeared or suffered irreparable damage to their health and well-being. Those reaching America face “a gauntlet of social, economic and political exclusion, criminalization,” and jail if caught.
Border wall, virtual fencing, and other impediments make entry hard, and affect the civil liberties of US citizens along border areas, including landowners forced to give up property for planned construction – at a cost of up to $8 billion when completed.
For example, in November 2007, DHS notified the South Texas Lipan Apache community and others that their lands would be confiscated despite broad opposition by environmentalists.
Even the US-Canadian border is affected in states like New York, Michigan, Washington and others with Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities. Discriminatory racial, ethnic and religious profiling intensified. Roving and fixed checkpoints interdict passenger and commercial vehicles for identity checks and physical inspections. Immigrant populations are targeted, arrests and deportations then made.
The Asian Law Caucus, Muslim Advocates and similar organizations have documented a systematic pattern of abuse, including intrusive questioning and detentions on grounds of religious affiliation and inquiries made about foreign travel. Over 20,000 Border Patrol agents perpetuate these practices on northern and southern borders.
America’s homeland is repressively militarized and unsafe. Habeas rights, judicial fairness and other constitutional protections are ignored. Lawlessness prevails. Everyone is vulnerable. Freedom is at risk. Police state repression is deepening. Knowing the dangers is a wake-up call for action. Latino immigrants, people of color, Muslims, and anyone called a threat to national security are most vulnerable.
Ahead, expect stepped up militarized harshness, extinguished civil and human rights, and intensified crackdowns. Streets will be patrolled. Privilege will be protected from beneficial social change, the kind fast disappearing in a nation disengaged from its soul, always one more in name than fact, now a memory. As a result, complacency and indifference no longer are options. Activism is the antidote for change.
In Washington on March 21, 2010, over 200,000 people rallied for immigration rights. At issue was legalization, not planned bogus reform, for people who say they earned it. Attendees were largely Latinos, African Americans, Koreans, Filipinos, Muslim immigrants, and their families.
In New York on May 1 (May Day), another rally is planned for immigrant rights, jobs, high quality public education, and against war and repression. The May Day 2010 Unity Coalition urges a “powerful and massive united fight-back” for immigrant rights and against war and economic injustice. It asks working communities to take a:
“courageous stand against the massive layoffs, loss of homes, health insurance, and the deepening erosion of our rights to organize and bargain collectively for livable wages and just work conditions. This May Day must once again demand legalization for all workers and declare that we will not allow our origin of birth to divide us from another.”
Nor can we tolerate imperial wars, banker bailouts, or lost jobs, freedoms, and personal well-being. But wishing won’t make it so. Realizing equity and justice takes commitment. The alternative is too grim to imagine.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.