Thursday, September 02, 2010

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Record Year of Repression

For those claiming that the immigration system is "broken" and needs "CIR," comprehensive immigration reform, think again and ask someone who has had a loved one, a co-worker or a family member taken away by the police, jailed and deported. Short of any reform, relief can be provided by taking a few commonsense and humanitarian steps. For example, the U.S. must fully restore civil rights and due process for all persons, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. The abuses immigrants are subjected to in detention and deportation have to be investigated and prosecute those accountable.

This has been a signature year for the U.S. government, notable for the runaway repression of immigrant families, workers and communities. This is nothing to brag about:
  • The U.S. is reporting that the number of people coming in without authorization, or who may have overstayed a visa and have also become "undocumented," has decreased.
  • At the same time the U.S. is deporting record numbers of immigrants,; expected to surpass 400,000 by the end of the fiscal year ending in September.
  • And, worse for immigrant families, workers and communities, a record number of migrant dead have been recovered on the U.S. side of the Mexico border.
These are the results of U.S. laws, practices, measures and policies that have criminalized immigration status, militarized immigration control and border communities, and that do not address the root causes of migration that forces a person to risk their life to survive. On top of all this, immigrant workers face additional hurdles to employment with living wages -- and immigrant workers are scapegoated for the other record, record unemployment. Nothing or little is said about protecting labor rights, ensuring an income or a job and other remedies. U.S. immigration laws and policies fuel the banner year of scapegoating and anti-immigrant hate violence, another record this year.

Are more coming with authorization? Nope. The U.S. could drastically reduce the number of unauthorized entrants by decriminalizing status, issuing sufficient visas for family reunification and ending the backlog. And by regularizing the status of those already here.
    Is repression the hallmark of "21st century law enforcement," as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) touts itself? The U.S. continues investing billions in expanding immigration controls, extending immigration-police collaboration programs, building jail bed space exclusively for immigrants and continuing the deadly strategy of militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. border security deliberately funnels migrants into the desert and mountains of Arizona and parts of New Mexico and Texas where thousands have perished or disappeared since this strategy, called "prevention through deterrence," was implemented in 1994.

    System of Repression

    The U.S. economy is still in a tailspin; unemployment is deep and jobs are shriveling up. Instead of protecting the labor rights of ALL workers, native and foreign-born, the U.S. has increased immigration policing in the workplace by creating a new generation of employer sanctions using E-verify. The GAO studied and found that employer sanctions cause new forms of racial discrimination in employment, housing and services. While this is old news, employer sanctions continues being expanded and in all its forms gives almost warlord status and power to employers. With E-verify and employer sanction in hand workers, employers believe they can and fire workers who assert their rights or organize unions. Employers violate wage laws and safety protections with impunity because they believe that the immigration status of an employee determines if they have to obey labor and other laws.

    The old adage of "When the U.S. gets a cold, Mexico gets pneumonia" is more true than ever. When U.S. workers, especially white workers, face such dire times, immigrant workers, whether Mexican, South Asian, African, Haitian or of any nationality that does not pass as white, are literally thrown onto the street corners and are at the mercy of the the wolves of exploitation.

    The U.S. government's treatment of immigrants is nothing to be proud about. Official policies have unleashed waves of scapegoating along with a proliferation of repressive legislation by state, county and local officials targeting immigrants -- or anyone perceived to be born outside the country. SB1070, the controversial Arizona law that gives local law enforcement additional powers to check a person's immigration status, is the tip of the iceberg of anti-immigrant repression.

    Over twenty states are considering SB1070 copycat laws. The Obama Administration has implemented "Secure Communities" and other federal immigration-police collaboration programs in over 500 jurisdictions; final the goal is to extend Secure Communities to every county by 2012.

    Get ready for more record years of repression.

    We will need to all "Dream, Rise, Organize" with fierce human determination to rollback and reverse the climate, much less get socially just immigration reforms any time soon.

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