Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Green Monster: How the Border Patrol became America’s most out-of-control law enforcement agency

By Garrett M. Graff, Politico
November/December 2014

Gil Kerlikowske was hoping to make it through at least his first week on the job without being awakened in the middle of the night. President Barack Obama’s new head of Customs and Border Protection, Kerlikowske could have used a week of quiet as he began to figure out the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, with its 46,000 gun-carrying Customs officers and Border Patrol agents and massive $12.4 billion annual budget. He didn’t get it. On his sixth night after taking office in March, a Border Patrol agent’s single gunshot 1,500 miles away from Washington interrupted Kerlikowske’s sleep. The gunshot itself wasn’t all that surprising; Border Patrol agents regularly open fire on suspected smugglers, border crossers and people harassing them from across the Mexican line. So often, in fact, that the agency doesn’t even bother to release details on most shooting incidents. But this wasn’t a regular shooting incident.

Early the day before, while Kerlikowske, an affable career cop who had spent five years as Obama’s drug czar, was going about his meetings in CBP’s headquarters at Washington’s cavernous Ronald Reagan Building, three Honduran women had surrendered to a green-uniformed U.S. Border Patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley.

That, too, was a common occurrence. “RGV,” as it’s known in the Border Patrol, has been the epicenter of this year’s “border crisis,” the latest in a long series that stretches back decades—crises that inevitably lead to calls for more money, more agents, more fences. In this year’s iteration, tens of thousands of people fleeing the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have journeyed through Mexico to turn themselves in at the U.S. border seeking asylum. Many of the refugees have been unaccompanied minors (“UACs” to the bureaucracy), a fact that strained the U.S. government response and unleashed critical 24-hour cable media coverage. RGV had been particularly flooded, and so the detention of the three Honduran women—a mother, her 14-year-old daughter and a second teen—around midday on March 12 shouldn’t have been anything other than routine.

Except that they surrendered to Esteban Manzanares.[...]

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Friday, May 29, 2015

How US Private Prisons Profit From Immigrant Detention

By Melanie Diaz and Timothy Keen, Council on Hemispheric Affairs
May 12, 2015

In February 2015, a large-scale prison uprising broke out at the Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, Texas. The detention center has experienced riots like this in the past over several other issues, such as inadequate health services, inhumane conditions, and sexual abuse.[i] However, the grievances that sparked this most recent uprising are representative of a larger and more elusive epidemic. The covert and insidious world of the prison industrial complex (PIC)[1] is witnessing the rise of for-profit prisons largely devoid of oversight and regulatory measures, allowing rampant human rights abuses to persist.[ii] Unfortunately, events that took place in Raymondville are far from isolated incidents under this new paradigm.[iii] Operating in the shadows of U.S. bureaucracy, private prison corporations (PPCs) have garnered an infamous reputation for profiting from the government-subsidized business of immigrant detention. Due to this, for-profit prison corporations lobby extensively and provide exorbitant political contributions so that Congress will appropriate more money into immigration enforcement, fueling the revenue of the PIC.

How It Works

The increased detention rate of undocumented immigrants in the United States is primarily caused by a cyclical process occurring between three main actors: government agencies, private prison corporations (PPCs), and Congress. Each of these entities play their own role in adding to the existing problem, but together they create a cycle that is difficult to break. While Congress passes anti-immigration legislations, government agencies enforce these laws and contract with PPCs to facilitate an increasing number of federally convicted detainees. In return, PPCs, whose profits are dependent on the number of incarcerated individuals, rely on lobbying efforts to influence Congress into passing laws and appropriating spending to increase strict immigration policies.[iv] These efforts allow PPCs to reap better financial deals from contracts with government agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which enforce the anti-immigration laws passed by Congress.[v] These combined factors cause incarceration rates to skyrocket, thus making PPCs the ultimate winner in this deceptive cycle that hinders progressive immigration reforms and the promotion of immigrant rights.[...]

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Something Better" Than Detention for Immigrants?

The success of activists and community leaders in winning release from electronic monitoring underscores the arbitrary nature of the program.... So is this whole exercise designed to prevent people from "absconding," or just to punish and humiliate them?

By Jane Guskin, Truthout
Thursday, 21 May 2015

The New York Times editorial board recently put out a call to "End Immigration Detention." Detention "breeds cruelty and harm, and squanders taxpayer money," violates due process, "shatters families and traumatizes children" and is "immoral," the Times writes.

"Shut the system down, and replace it with something better," the editorial adds. The Times recommends cheaper and "more humane" alternatives including "ankle bracelets and other monitoring technologies."

Even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in a December 2014 op-ed, suggested electronic ankle monitors and release on bond as "effective and more humane alternatives to detention."[...]

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Photo: Cinthya Santos Briones

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

End Immigration Detention

Editorial, New York Times
May 15, 2015

Of all the malfunctioning parts in the country’s broken-down immigration machinery, probably the most indefensible is the detention system.

This is the vast network of jails and prisons where suspected immigration violators are held while awaiting a hearing and possible deportation. Immigrant detainees are not criminal defendants or convicts serving sentences. They are locked up merely because the government wants to make sure they show up in immigration court.

Detention is intended to help enforce the law, but, in practice, the system breeds cruelty and harm, and squanders taxpayer money. It denies its victims due process of law, punishing them far beyond the scale of any offense. It shatters families and traumatizes children. As a system of mass incarceration — particularly of women and children fleeing persecution in Central America — it is immoral.[...]

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scathing report calls for dismantling immigrant detention system

By Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service
May 12, 2015

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A scathing new report on the conditions under which immigrants are detained concludes with the U.S. bishops' recommendation that the current system be dismantled and replaced with less drastic approaches for keeping track of people whose immigration cases are pending.

Drawing on international law, analyses of who is detained, how the mostly for-profit prison industry manages detention and bishops' personal experiences with people in detention, the report called instead for more supervised release, better case management and community support programs to ensure that people show up for court appearances or deportation orders.

The report released May 11, "Unlocking Human Dignity: A Plan to Transform the U.S. Immigrant Detention System," was a joint project of the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Center for Migration Studies, a Catholic migration policy think tank.[...]

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Deported Back to Limbo in Honduras

By Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
Spring 2015

What awaits Honduran children, men and women as they are deported from the United States and Mexico? Latin America Working Group Education Fund and Center for International Policy staff checked out what is happening on the ground. See the full report: Honduras: A Government Failing to Protect Its People.

Honduras-Failing-To-Protect-Its-PeopleDeported migrants from the United States step off the plane in San Pedro Sula and are bused to the nearby Center for Returned Migrants, run by the Scalabrini Sisters and a group of volunteers. Men and women, mostly young, clutch a red string bag provided by U.S. authorities, with their few belongings. Many are wearing shoes with the laces removed that they were issued in U.S. detention centers.

In the small center, they are quickly processed. They meet with a volunteer to fill out a questionnaire about why they migrated and their immediate needs; are given a printed copy of their birth certificate, as many have lost all documentation; receive a quick health screening; and are given bus fare if needed to return home. The returning migrants are treated with respect, but the services offered to them are minimal.[...]

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Apartheid Estilo Estados Unidos/American Apartheid

Apartheid Estilo Estados Unidos
Elvira Arellano, Sanctuary Movement
6 de Mayo, 2015

(English Version follows below)

En Chicago el otoño pasado, logramos juntar a mil jóvenes latinos y afronorteamericanos para un mitin de “libertad del miedo”. Los jóvenes coreaban “¡Manos en el aire! ¡No disparen!, ¡Manos en el aire! ¡No deporten!”. El viernes 1 de mayo de este año yo marchaba con varios miles de personas, mayormente jóvenes, en Milwaukee gritando las mismas consignas de unidad y resistencia.

Durante el decenio pasado han surgido dos gritos de la juventud: “Las vidas afronorteamericanas importan” y “Ningún ser humano es ilegal”. Estos gritos profundos del alma merecen recibir respuestas más allá de las superficialidades de costumbre de los políticos. Se debe reconocer que los Estados Unidos se han convertido en una sociedad tipo “apartheid”.

Ya se sabe muy bien las cifras de encarcelamiento masivo. Un hombre afroamericano de cada tres, en algún punto de su vida, se va a encontrar en una cárcel o penitenciaria. Pasarán sus vidas con antecedentes policiacos que les impedirán absolutamente conseguir empleos decentes. Vivirán todas sus vidas tachados de delincuentes y privados del sufragio. El perfilamiento racial refleja prácticamente una guerra militar de parte de la policía en contra de las comunidades minoritarias.

Crece a diario el número de jóvenes afroamericanos y latinos en las garras de la criminalización. En algunos lugares los latinos constituyen la mayoría de los reos. Además en muchas ciudades se ha alistado el cuerpo policial municipal en la campaña de deportación masiva, lo que ha desatado una avalancha de perfilamiento racial en los vecindarios, calles y autopistas por dondequiera. Una citación de tránsito por razón de una luz trasera descompuesta puede producir el resultado de una deportación y la destrucción de una familia trabajadora.

Inclusive en el mejor resultado posible de cambios en las leyes migratorias, 16 millones de latinos seguirán viviendo privados de los derechos de ciudadanos por lo menos durante 20 años. Muchos seguirán siendo indocumentados sometidos a la cacería todos los días. Otros más tendrán el derecho de trabajar legalmente pero los impuestos que pagan no los dejarán calificar para los servicios de salud y protecciones legales de que gozan los ciudadanos.

Además en ambas comunidades de color, el número de jóvenes menores de 18 años excede por mucho él de la población blanca angloparlante. Hay 15 millones de latinos menores de 18 años. Algunos son ciudadanos, otros soñadores. Creciendo en situaciones sumamente difíciles, estos jóvenes saben más sobre las consecuencias de muchas decisiones, pero no tienen voz en esta sociedad.

Los estudiantes de secundaria que, por unas horas, se apoderaron de las calles de Baltimore la semana pasada, representan mucho más que una respuesta de un solo caso de asesinato por parte de la policía, o hasta un patrón constante de abusos. Fue una rebelión en contra de una sociedad “apartheid”.

También fue una protesta en contra de aquellos que han sacado beneficios de los movimientos de los últimos decenios, pero han hecho lo insuficiente para enfrentar sus realidades.

El mundo se levantó en contra del apartheid en Sudáfrica pero solo después de años de lucha. Una cosa esencial para aquella lucha fue la unidad que el sistema de apartheid había colocado en sus distintas agrupaciones. Por lo tanto el movimiento debe adoptar la tarea de crear espacios democráticos donde todos podemos unirnos, una persona un voto, con o sin papeles, con o sin “records” criminales. Este movimiento no puede y no debe confinar sus actividades a la matriz del sistema bipartidista en los Estados Unidos. Es indispensable un movimiento de megamarchas y no cooperación masiva que utiliza las cortes y las elecciones pero que no se subordina a ellas.

Hay algo más que podemos aprender del movimiento anti apartheid. El movimiento pro derechos civiles en los Estados Unidos derivaba inspiración de la lucha en Sudáfrica en contra del apartheid y a la vez exigía cambios en la política de los Estados Unidos hacia aquel país. Debemos mostrar el mismo compromiso con los pueblos afro descendientes, indígenas y mestizos de América Latina y las Antillas. Somos todos “americanos”.

Desde aquel espacio democrático, debemos exigir mucho más que unos cuantos procesos legales y leyes superficiales. Debemos insistir que se acabe el sistema de “apartheid” de encarcelamientos y deportaciones masivas. ¡Las vidas afronorteamericanos importan! ¡Ningún ser humano es ilegal! ¡Justicia para nuestro pueblo, a todos por igual! ¡Somos todos Mandelistas!

American Apartheid
By Elvira Arellano, Sanctuary Movement
May 6, 2015

Last fall in Chicago, we gathered one thousand young people from the Latino and African American community for a “Freedom from Fear Unity Rally.” The young people chanted “Hands up, Don’t Shoot; Hands Up, Don’t Deport”. On May 1st last week, I marched with several thousand mostly young people in Milwaukee chanting the same themes of unity and resistance.

Two cries have come from the people, especially the youth in the last decade: “Black Lives Matter” and “No Human Being is Illegal.” These deep felt cries deserve more than superficial responses from politicians. They deserve a recognition of what the United States has become: an apartheid society.

The statistics of mass incarceration have now become well known. One out of three African American men will face jail or prison in their lives. They will live with police records that make decent employment almost impossible. In fact, they are disenfranchised, labeled. Racial profiling reflects a virtual militaristic war by police on the neighborhoods where they live.

The numbers of Latino youth caught in the grip of criminalization are growing. In some places, Latinos have become the majority in prisons. In addition, local police in many cities have been enlisted in the efforts of mass deportation, unleashing racial profiling in the neighborhoods and the streets and highways everywhere. A traffic ticket for a broken taillight can end in deportation and the virtual destruction of a hard working family.

Even in the best case with a change in immigration laws, sixteen million Latinos will live without the rights of citizens for at least twenty years. Many will be undocumented, hunted every day. Others will be able to work legally but their taxes will not qualify them for the health care and legal protections which U.S. citizens enjoy.

Moreover in both communities the number of young people under the age of eighteen far exceeds the white population. Already there are over 15 million Latinos under the age of 18. Some are citizens; some are dreamers. Growing up in difficult situations these young people know more about life and the consequences of decisions than many adults – yet they have no voice in this nation – except on the streets

The high school students who took control of Baltimore streets for a few hours last week are more than a response to one case of police murder or even a consistent pattern of police abuse. It was a rebellion against an apartheid society. It was also a protest against those who have benefitted from the movements of the last decades – but have not done enough to confront their realities.

The world rose up in opposition to racial apartheid in South Africa – but only after years of struggle. Essential for that struggle was the unity of those with different apartheid “classifications.” It should be the task of the movement to create the democratic space in which we can unite, one person one vote, with or without papers, with or without criminal records. This movement cannot and should not be contained within the narrow confines of the two party system in the United States. We need a unified movement of marches and mass non-cooperation that utilize the courts and the elections - but does not serve them.

There is something else we can learn from the anti-apartheid movement. The civil rights movement in the United States drew inspiration from the struggle in South Africa and demanded the change in U.S. support for apartheid South Africa. We must show the same commitment to the Brown and Black people of the Americas – all of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. We may not all be citizens of the United States but we are all citizens of the Americas. We are all “Americans.”

From that democratic space we must demand more than a few prosecutions or a few programs or a few superficial laws. We must demand an end to the apartheid of mass incarceration and mass deportation. “Black Lives Matter!” “No Human Being is Illegal!” “Equal justice for all Americans”; “We are all Mandelistas!”

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Price of Nice Nails

Manicurists are routinely underpaid and exploited, and endure ethnic bias and other abuse, The New York Times has found.

By Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times
May 7, 2015

The women begin to arrive just before 8 a.m., every day and without fail, until there are thickets of young Asian and Hispanic women on nearly every street corner along the main roads of Flushing, Queens.

As if on cue, cavalcades of battered Ford Econoline vans grumble to the curbs, and the women jump in. It is the start of another workday for legions of New York City’s manicurists, who are hurtled to nail salons across three states. They will not return until late at night, after working 10- to 12-hour shifts, hunched over fingers and toes.

On a morning last May, Jing Ren, a 20-year-old who had recently arrived from China, stood among them for the first time, headed to a job at a salon in a Long Island strip mall. Her hair neat and glasses perpetually askew, she clutched her lunch and a packet of nail tools that manicurists must bring from job to job.

Tucked in her pocket was $100 in carefully folded bills for another expense: the fee the salon owner charges each new employee for her job. The deal was the same as it is for beginning manicurists in almost any salon in the New York area. She would work for no wages, subsisting on meager tips, until her boss decided she was skillful enough to merit a wage.[...]

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NYC, 5/13/15: "The Right to Stay Home"

The Joseph S. Murphy Institute and the Center for the Study of Culture,
Technology and Work at the Graduate Center,
City University of New York
invite you to
"The Right to Stay Home: Justice for Migrants & Sending Communities"
An illustrated presentation about immigration and the labor movement by David Bacon

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
CUNY Graduate Center
Room C201/202
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016

David Bacon, well-known chronicler of globalization and its impact on working people, including most recently Illegal People and The Right to Stay Home, examines the impact of trade agreements and market liberalization on immigrant workers and the movements they have organized to defend their rights. He looks at what the influx of unaccompanied children from Central America has taught us about how our system functions, and argues that the U.S. labor movement is an invaluable ally, given its own experience of the impact of the global economy, labor migration and trade policy.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

With help from Mexico, number of child migrants crossing U.S. border falls

By Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Jens Manuel Krogstad, Pew Research Center
April 28, 2015

Mexico Deportations Trim Flow of Child Migrants to U.S.
The Mexican government has deported a record number of Central American children traveling without a guardian since last fall, which President Obama and other U.S. officials say has contributed to a significant drop in children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexico’s 3,819 deportations of unaccompanied minors from Central America during the first five months of the fiscal year represent a 56% increase over the same period a year earlier, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Mexican and U.S. government data. The stepped up security was a result of a plan by Mexican officials to address the record surge in child migrants last year.

Overall, U.S. officials apprehended 12,509 unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border in the first five months of the fiscal year that began in October, down from 21,403 over the same time period a year ago. (Most children apprehended during this fiscal year — 7,771 — came from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, with nearly all of the rest coming from Mexico.)

Guatemalan Share of Child Migrants Grows
The Mexican data also show changes in terms of where the unaccompanied children are traveling from this year compared with last. Guatemalan children now comprise a higher share of deportations, as their numbers have doubled in the first five months of this fiscal year compared with the same period a year ago. In addition, the number of Salvadoran children deported has increased by 49% over the same time period, while the number of Honduran children is similar to the previous year. [...]

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

These Things Can Change

By David Bacon, Dollars and Sense
March/April 2015

In 2013, Rosario Ventura and her husband Isidro Silva were strikers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington, Wash. In the course of three months over 250 workers walked out of the fields several times, as their anger grew over the wages and the conditions in the labor camp where they lived.

Every year the company hires 7-800 people to pick strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. During World War Two the Sakumas were interned because of their Japanese ancestry, and would have lost their land, as many Japanese farmers did, had it not been held in trust for them by another local rancher until the war ended. Today the business has grown far beyond its immigrant roots, and is one of the largest berry growers in Washington, where berries are big business. It has annual sales of $6.1 million, and big corporate customers like Haagen Dazs ice cream. It owns a retail outlet, a freezer and processing plant, and a chain of nurseries in California that grow rootstock.[...]

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Friday, May 8, 2015

UCLA-USC Report Underscores Negative Effects on American Children of Undocumented Immigrant Parents

Joint report provides abundant evidence supporting President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

By Kathy Wyer, Ampersand
April 7, 2015

A joint report from the University of Southern California and UCLA, documenting the damage done to American children who live in the shadow of a parent’s unauthorized immigration status, provides systematic evidence for a new effort to turn back court challenges to President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

The report, “Removing Insecurity: How American Children Will Benefit From President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration,” is being released today in conjunction with the filing of an amicus brief by educational organizations and children’s rights advocates that support the administration’s position in litigation over the President’s plans to shield millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Citing the report as evidence, the brief filed today with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit argues for immediate implementation of the President’s programs in order to alleviate ongoing and serious harm to more than five million American children, most of them native-born U.S. citizens.

“This research shows how children pay the price for our broken immigration system,” said Wendy Cervantes, vice president of immigration and child rights policy at First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy. First Focus and the American Federation of Teachers were the lead signatories of the amicus brief.[...]

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