Weekly Diaspora: Will $600 Million Border Security Bill Target Innocents?

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Anti-immigrant forces have adeptly shaped the ongoing immigration debate into an issue of crime and punishment. Now, the pending passage of a $600 million border security bill could breathe new life into the narrative of the criminal immigrant – despite the increasing safety of our border communities.

The sentiment is familiar, if false: Crime in Mexico fuels migration, which breeds violence on the border, which must then be combated within our cities. The undocumented must be punished for stealing our jobs, stealing our services and ruining our neighborhoods. In Arizona, lawmakers like state senator Russell Pearce (who claims that his ring finger was shot off by a Latino gang member) used just that rhetoric to justify the passage of SB 1070 and other anti-immigrant laws.

The reality is far different. Not only do Mexicans and immigrants experience the worst of drug-related border violence, immigration enforcement programs have shifted their resources from combating trafficking to deporting non-criminal immigrants.

Securing the border against non-criminals

At ColorLines, Julianne Hing reports that a border security bill passed by the Senate last Friday would provide $600 million in funding for unmanned aerial drones, communications equipment and 1,500 new enforcement agents on the U.S.-Mexico border. The sum is in addition to $701 million recently approved by the House for similar militarization efforts at the border.

The Obama administration quickly affirmed its support of the bill, which was re-introduced in the House and will go before the Senate for another vote today. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano reiterated the president’s assurances that the new resources would primarily target “transnational criminal organizations” in an effort to reduce “the illicit trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons.”

Experts argue that this renewed emphasis on border security may encourage Republicans to cooperate in passing comprehensive immigration reform – a suggestion that some lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), have been quick to endorse.

The government’s demonstrated border policing priorities don’t gel with the administration’s assurances that increases in border security will solely focus on organizing crime and trafficking. As the Immigration Policy Institute points out, federal prosecutions of smugglers and drug traffickers have gone down significantly as resources have shifted to the prosecution of non-criminal immigrants crossing the border illegally.

Policing the innocent instead of the criminal

As Elise Foley reports at the Washington Independent, newly released records show that a significant portion of those deported through the Secure Communities program — which requires local law enforcement to share fingerprints with federal authorities — had no criminal records.

That number constitutes one-fourth of deportees nationally, but the proportions are much higher county-to-county. In Maricopa county, Arizona — the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio — 54 percent of deportees were non-criminals, while in Travis county, Texas, the figure was 80 percent.

Immigration advocacy groups argue that the new data defies DHS’s stated commitment to prioritizing dangerous illegal immigrants over non-criminals. “ICE has blatantly misrepresented the program by saying it focuses on high-risk illegal immigrants,” Sarahi Uribe, an organizer with National Day Laborer’s Organizers Network, told Foley.

Given ICE’s admitted lack of resources and the inhumane conditions documented in many detention centers, prioritization of non-criminal immigrants is a troubling reminder that the anti-crime rhetoric of the anti-immigrant Right is nothing more than a ruse.

U.S. border communities are safer than ever

Yet, despite the ugly picture painted by mass deportations and massively-funded border security bills, communities along the U.S.-Mexico border are actually quite safe.

As Elena Shore reports at New America Media, a new poll commissioned by the Border Network for Human Rights found that 87 percent of people living in 10 different U.S. border towns feel safe in their communities— a finding supported by other statistics:

An FBI report obtained by the Associated Press found that the four big U.S. cities with the lowest rates of violent crime are all along the border: San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection report obtained by AP also found that being a Border Patrol agent is much less dangerous than being a street cop in most cities.

No asylum for Mexicans fleeing cartel violence

The relative safety of U.S. border communities stands in stark contrast, however, to that of their Mexican neighbors. While Americans live comfortably on the north side of the border, places like Ciudad Juarez (El Paso’s seedy sister city) are wracked by cartel violence.

At the Texas Observer, Susana Hayward examines the strained relationship between the two cities: one threatened by escalating drug violence, the other a gateway to largest drug market in the world. Chronicling the stories of Mexicans affected by the drug war, Hayward reminds us that while the U.S. repeatedly reaffirms its commitment to combating drug trafficking and to keeping the border safe, it offers no recourse to the scores of Mexicans who seek refuge from the violence.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Oliver Stone's "Border" Shows Fall of South America's Berlin Wall

On April 13, 2002, an event occurred in Venezuela which was as world-historical for South America as the fall of the Berlin Wall was for Eastern Europe: a U.S.-backed coup against the democratically-elected government of Venezuela collapsed. The Bush Administration's efforts to promote the coup failed, in the face of popular resistance in Venezuela, and diplomatic resistance in the region.

The failure of the Bush Administration's effort to overthrow President Chavez was world-historical for South America because it sent a powerful new signal about the limits of the ability of the United States to thwart popular democracy in the region. In the years prior to the reversal of the U.S.-backed coup, popular movements in South America had suffered from a widespread "Allende syndrome": a key legacy of the U.S.-orchestrated overthrow of democracy in Chile in 1973 was the widespread belief that there was a sharp limit to the popular economic reforms that could be achieved through the ballot box, because the United States simply wouldn't allow formal democracy in the region to respond to the economic needs of the majority.

There's more...

Weekly Diaspora: White House Likely to Sue Over Arizona’s Racial Profiling Law

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Hope for a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year has fallen by the wayside, but the Obama administration is rallying for one last hurrah before mid-term elections in November. Late last week, the White House unofficially announced plans to sue the state of Arizona over the now notorious Senate Bill 1070, a state law passed this year to crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

SB 1070 allows Arizona police to check the immigration status of a person if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented, and forces immigrants to carry government papers proving their identify at all times.

Meanwhile, an estimated 15,000 progressives and 1,300 organizations are meeting in Detroit this week to discuss alternative solutions to our broken immigration system at the second U. S. Social Forum (USSF).

US v. Arizona?

As Jessica Pieklo reports at Care2, “After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s nonchalant statement on Ecuadorian television last week that the Department of Justice planned to file suit challenging Arizona immigration law SB 1070, senior administration officials confirmed that such a suit would be forthcoming.”

“Expect a suit to come soon though as the controversial measure is set to take effect in July,” Pieklo writes. “That said, it is only one of many suits already challenging the measure in federal court.  Some of those cases have asked a federal judge to issue an injunction which would halt implementation of the measure while the legal issues get sorted out.”

At the Women’s Media Center, Gloria Steinem and Pramila Jayapal argue that “In the wake of Arizona’s SB 1070—the harsh anti-immigrant law that not only condones but promotes racial profiling that endangers entire groups of the innocent—all sides seem to agree that the Federal government has abdicated its responsibility to institute a fair and just immigration system….”

Eyes on Detroit

In the wake of discriminatory laws like the one in Arizona, many immigration reform activists have come to the USSF, taking place June 22-26, to make their voices heard.

“This is great because it just shows community unity,” Rocio Valerio, an activist with the Worker’s Center immigrant rights group, told GritTV. “Right now the strategy for immigrant voices is being driven by policy groups, and with the social forum we’re saying that decisions can’t be made without us.”

At New America Media, Anthony Advincula interviews Rev. Phil Reller, a coordinator for Phoenix-based Southwest Conference United Church of Christ who is attending the forum. “This is a perfect opportunity to educate people on what’s truly happening in our local communities, not just about the struggles of immigrants in Arizona, but also the momentum of hope among community leaders to repeal SB 1070,” Reller says.

ICE gets a face lift

While activists are trying to find answers in Detroit, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in Washington D.C. is attempting to turn itself into a more attractive bureaucratic juggernaut. As AlterNet explains, “This week, [ICE] announced changes to its management structure, conceived as part of a strategy to ‘re-brand’ the agency to the public.”

The agency has even gone so far as to recruit help from Hollywood, although it’s uncertain where the assistance will be coming from or if ICE agents will be portrayed as the “good guys” in movies. But not even a public relations face lift can cover ICE’s sordid record of terrorizing and deporting undocumented immigrants at a record pace.

The National Radio Project has already reported on numerous abuses in ICE-run immigration prisons. The media outlet notes that the government’s “immigrant detention is the fastest-growing form of incarceration in the U.S., with more than 30-thousand detainees behind bars on any given day.”

Filming América

While immigration problems and discrimination against Latinos continues, Oliver Stone is releasing a new film titled “South of The Border” that traces the history of popular struggles in South America and how they affect the Western Hemisphere.

According to Free Speech TV, the movie, which is set to premiere at the USSF, features interviews from “several South American heads of state, including Evo Morales of Bolivia, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.” Stone was also interviewed about the movie on Democracy Now!

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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