“This is the time to confront white supremacy in our government and throughout our history,” the organizers of the march wrote. (Photo: Baynard Woods/Twitter)
The 118-mile March to Confront White Supremacy arrived in Washington, D.C. Wednesday after ten days of walking from Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of white supremacist violence that left one woman dead and many more injured. The march was organized to both denounce systemic racism and demand justice.
“We are marching from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate our commitment to confronting white supremacy wherever it is found. It’s clear that we can no longer wait for Donald Trump or any elected official to face reality and lead,” the organizers wrote on their website ahead of the march. “This is the time for us to stand up for justice and equality. This is the time to confront white supremacy in our government and throughout our history.” Continue reading →
Following reports that President Donald Trump would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as early as Friday, immigrant rights activists and supporters of the program reacted with immediate outrage and promises to oppose the president if he makes such a move.
The end of #DACA would rip apart families, instill fear in communities, make our nation less safe, and hurt our economy.
The O’Odham nation lives on both sides of the US-Mexican border, and for that they are persecuted.
By Ophelia Rivas and Neil Howard. Published 8-28-2017 by openDemocracy
My name is Ophelia Rivas, but my family knows me as Ilya. You know, the place where I come from is beautiful land. We’ve lived there for centuries and we have a way of life that we’ve followed for all those years. We continue parts of it right now, but the political effects that are imposed on our people because of these borders are greatly impacting our people.
After 9/11 the world discovered that there was the O’Odham nation, which is the second largest reservation in the United States after the Navajo. These reservations are considered concentration camps of the indigenous people in the United States. Our traditional lands are divided into different political boundaries. Less than one-third of our lands are now cordoned off, like a concentration camp. Continue reading →
CBP and ICE suspended border patrol operations during two recent hurricane evacuations, but they have not been given orders to do so as Hurricane Harvey approaches Southeast Texas. (Photo: Jonathan McIntosh/Flickr/cc)
As residents of Southeast Texas evacuate under strict orders in preparation for the rapidly-approaching Hurricane Harvey,members of the area’s immigrant community are being left with an impossible choice on Friday: face the potentially life-threatening storm or follow evacuation orders and risk being detained and even deported.
Border Patrol officials said late Thursday they were not planning to close roadside immigration checkpoints north of the affected area as tens of thousands made their way out of several coastal counties, where Harvey was expected to make landfall by early Saturday. Continue reading →
by Kiah Collier, Texas Tribune, and T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, July 28, 2017, 1:55 p.m.
The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Hidalgo Co. in South Texas. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin constructing the first segment of President Trump’s border wall in November through a national wildlife refuge, using money it’s already received from Congress.
That’s what a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official recently told a nonprofit group that raises money to support two national wildlife refuges in South Texas, according to the group’s vice president.
For the past six months, CBP has been quietly preparing a site to build a nearly 3-mile border barrier through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, according to The Texas Observer. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also has reportedly begun drilling and soil testing in California and New Mexico.
But construction on the wall was not expected to begin until January because Congress has yet to approve CBP’s budget. On Thursday, the House approved a spending bill that contained $1.6 billion to build segments of the wall in Texas and California. Its fate in the Senate is uncertain.
However, CBP recently told a senior Fish and Wildlife Service official in Texas that the agency would shift funds to pay for the new segment out of its current budget. The official passed on the news to Chapman’s group this week.
The Fish and Wildlife Service official confirmed the remarks, but asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job.
Customs and Border Protection spokesman Carlos Diaz said it “would be premature to speak about specific locations.” The only South Texas projects authorized under the current budget are the installation of 35 gates at gaps the agency left in the existing border fence, he said.
The 2,088-acre Santa Ana refuge, located along the Rio Grande south of McAllen, Texas, is considered one of the nation’s top bird-watching sites, with more than 400 species of birds. The refuge is also home to two endangered wildcats — the ocelot and jaguarundi — and some of the last surviving stands of sabal palm trees in South Texas.
A wall cutting through the refuge could do serious environmental damage, Chapman said, undermining the reason Congress appropriated money to buy the land in the first place. But under a 2005 law, the Department of Homeland Security can waive any environmental regulations that would normally impede construction in a sensitive wildlife area.
Chapman said his group is now counting on Democrats to halt expansion of the project.
“The Democrats in Congress up to now have been very unified as far as not appropriating money for the wall,” Chapman said.
Trump made construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico the signature promise of his political campaign and told supporters it would be solid concrete, 30 feet high and would stretch the length of the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump estimated it would cost perhaps $10 billion to $12 billion — and he vowed the Mexican government would pay the bill. Five days after his inauguration, he signed an executive order to begin the process.
Since then, the wall has faded from the headlines amid other controversies. But Trump has never ceased pursuing its construction, even as he has backed off the most bombastic of his demands.
In February, the CBP launched a bidding contest to build models for the new wall. Both solid concrete and alternative designs were allowed. The project is months behind schedule. CBP officials recently said the winners will be announced in November.
Earlier in July, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that the wall should be see-through. Border patrol agents needed to be able to spot threats on the other side and avoid any “large sacks of drugs” thrown over the top. He also said he favors a wall with solar panels to generate energy and reduce the building cost.
He also opined that only 700 to 900 miles of wall may be needed. About 650 miles of the 2,000-mile long border already has some type of physical barrier. The remaining miles will be guarded by topography, the president said.
“You have mountains. You have some rivers that are violent and vicious. You have some areas that are so far away that you don’t really have people crossing,” he said.
It remains far from clear, however, whether Trump will be able to achieve even his scaled-down version of the wall. The current border fence, a far more modest project built mostly under President Obama, cost between $2.8 million to $3.9 million on average per mile, according to the Government Accountability Office. CBP previously announced that the agency has $20 million on hand for the current fiscal year.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have balked at paying for the wall, which the Department of Homeland Security estimates would cost around $20 billion. Mexican officials have vigorously rejected any proposition of financing construction.
Trump, however, has already taken credit for beginning to fulfill his campaign promise.
“In a true sense, we’ve already started the wall,” he told the reporters.
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Federal investigators’ use of Stingrays to hunt for an undocumented immigration marks “the latest sign of mission creep in domestic deployment of battlefield-strength surveillance technology,” said EFF’s Adam Schwartz. (Photo: Håkan Dahlström/flickr/cc)
As the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans continue to push for a harsher immigration crackdown, new reporting reveals that FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents employed a controversial surveillance technology known as Stingrays to hunt down undocumented immigrants.
According to Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Adam Schwartz, the The Detroit News report, based on a federal search warrant affidavit, marks “the latest sign of mission creep in domestic deployment of battlefield-strength surveillance technology.” Continue reading →
It was not always a crime to enter the United States without authorization.
In fact, for most of American history, immigrants could enter the United States without official permission and not fear criminal prosecution by the federal government.
That changed in 1929. On its surface, Congress’ new prohibitions on informal border crossings simply modernized the U.S. immigration system by compelling all immigrants to apply for entry. However, in my new book “City of Inmates,” I detail how Congress outlawed border crossings with the specific intent of criminalizing, prosecuting and imprisoning Mexican immigrants.
Knowing this history is important now. On April 11, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his plan to step up prosecutions of unlawful entries, saying it’s time to “restore a lawful system of immigration.” This may read like a colorblind commitment to law and order. But the law Sessions has vowed to enforce was designed with racist intent.
The Mexican immigration debate
The criminalization of informal border crossings occurred amid an immigration boom from Mexico.
In 1900, about 100,000 Mexican immigrants resided in the United States.
By 1930, nearly 1.5 million Mexican immigrants lived north of the border.
As Mexican immigration surged, many in Congress were trying to restrict nonwhite immigration. By 1924, Congress had largely adopted a “whites only” immigration system, banning all Asian immigration and cutting the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States from anywhere other than Northern and Western Europe. But whenever Congress tried to cap the number of Mexicans allowed to enter the United States each year, southwestern employers fiercely objected.
U.S. employers had eagerly stoked the era’s Mexican immigration boom by recruiting Mexican workers to their southwestern farms, ranches and railroads, as well as their homes and mines. By the 1920s, western farmers were completely dependent on Mexican workers.
However, they also believed that Mexican immigrants would never permanently settle in the United States. As agribusiness lobbyist S. Parker Frisselle explained to Congress in 1926, “The Mexican is a ‘homer.’ Like the pigeon he goes home to roost.” On Frisselle’s promise that Mexicans were “not immigrants” but, rather, “birds of passage,” western employers successfully defeated proposals to cap Mexican immigration to the United States during the 1920s.
The idea that Mexican immigrants often returned to Mexico contained some truth. Many Mexican immigrants engaged in cyclical migrations between their homes in Mexico and work in the United States. Yet, by the close of the 1920s, Mexicans were settling in large numbers across the Southwest. They bought homes and started newspapers, churches and businesses. And many Mexican immigrants in the United States started families, raising a new generation of Mexican-American children.
Monitoring the rise of Mexican-American communities in southwestern states, the advocates of a whites-only immigration system charged western employers with recklessly courting Anglo-America’s racial doom. As the work of historian Natalia Molina details, they believed Mexicans were racially unfit to be U.S. citizens.
Western employers agreed that Mexicans should not be allowed to become U.S. citizens. “We, in California, would greatly prefer some set up in which our peak labor demands might be met and upon the completion of our harvest these laborers returned to their country,” Friselle told Congress. But western employers also wanted unfettered access to an unlimited number of Mexican laborers. “We need the labor,” they roared back at those who wanted to cap the number of Mexican immigrants allowed to enter the United States each year.
Amid the escalating conflict between employers in the West and advocates of restriction in Congress, a senator from Dixie proposed a compromise.
Senator Coleman Livingston Blease hailed from the hills of South Carolina. In 1925, he entered Congress committed, above all else, to protecting white supremacy. In 1929, as restrictionists and employers tussled over the future of Mexican immigration, Blease proposed a way forward.
According to U.S. immigration officials, Mexicans made nearly one million official border crossings into the United States during the 1920s. They arrived at a port of entry, paid an entry fee and submitted to any required tests, such as literacy and health.
However, as U.S. immigration authorities reported, many other Mexican immigrants did not register for legal entry. Entry fees were prohibitively high for many Mexican workers. Moreover, U.S. authorities subjected Mexican immigrants, in particular, to kerosene baths and humiliating delousing procedures because they believed Mexican immigrants carried disease and filth on their bodies. Instead of traveling to a port of entry, many Mexicans informally crossed the border at will, as both U.S. and Mexican citizens had done for decades.
When the debate stalled over how many Mexicans to allow in each year, Blease shifted attention to stopping the large number of border crossings that took place outside ports of entry. He suggested criminalizing unmonitored entry.
According to Blease’s bill, “unlawfully entering the country” would be a misdemeanor, while unlawfully returning to the United States after deportation would be a felony. The idea was to force Mexican immigrants into an authorized and monitored stream that could be turned on and turned off at will at ports of entry. Any immigrant who entered the United States outside the bounds of this stream would be a criminal subject to fines, imprisonment and ultimately deportation. But it was a crime designed to impact Mexican immigrants, in particular.
Neither the western agricultural businessmen nor the restrictionists registered any objections. Congress passed Blease’s bill, the Immigration Act of March 4, 1929, and dramatically altered the story of crime and punishment in the United States.
With stunning precision, the criminalization of unauthorized entry caged thousands of Mexico’s “birds of passage.” By the end of 1930, the U.S. attorney general reported prosecuting 7,001 cases of unlawful entry. By the end of the decade, U.S. attorneys had prosecuted more than 44,000 cases.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the vast majority of immigrants imprisoned for breaking Blease’s law were Mexicans. Throughout the 1930s, Mexicans never comprised fewer than 85 percent of all immigration prisoners. Some years, that number rose to 99 percent. By the end of the decade, tens of thousands of Mexicans had been convicted of unlawfully entering or reentering the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons built three new prisons in the U.S.-Mexico border region: La Tuna Prison in El Paso, Prison Camp #10 in Tucson and Terminal Island in Los Angeles.
Only the outbreak of World War II halted the Mexican immigrant prison boom of the 1930s. The war turned the attention of U.S. attorneys elsewhere, and Mexicans workers were desperately needed north of the border.
With few exceptions, prosecutions for unlawful entry and reentry remained low until 2005. As a measure of the war on terror, the George W. Bush administration directed U.S. attorneys to adopt an “enforcement with consequences” strategy. In 2009, U.S. attorneys prosecuted more than 50,000 cases of unlawful entry or reentry. The Obama administration continued the surge, betting that aggressive border enforcement would help bring a recalcitrant Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform. It did not.
By 2015, prosecutions for unlawful entry and reentry accounted for 49 percent of all federal prosecutions and the federal government had spent at least US$7 billion to lock up unlawful border crossers.
Throughout this most recent surge, the disparate impact of criminalizing unlawful entry and reentry has endured. Today, Latinos, led by Mexicans and Central Americans, make up 92 percent of all immigrants imprisoned for unlawful entry and reentry.
Attorney General Sessions still wants more. Traveling to southern Arizona to announce his plan to even more aggressively prosecute unlawful entry, he signaled that, in the years to come, most prosecutions will happen on the U.S.-Mexico border and will target Mexicans and Central Americans.
When the number of Mexicans as well as Central Americans imprisoned on immigration charges soon booms, there will be nothing unwitting or colorblind about it. Congress first invented the crimes of unlawful entry and reentry with the purpose of criminalizing and imprisoning Mexican immigrants and it has delivered on that intent since 1929. The Sessions plan will bear a similar result and, in the process, discharge the racist design of Blease’s law.
May Day strikes are planned nationwide, from rural communities to major cities. (Image: Design Action Collective)
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and allies are expected to strike and protest on Monday, taking part in what organizers are hoping will be the largest national strike since the May Day demonstrations of 2006.
“I definitely think this is going to be one of the biggest May Day marches,” Kent Wong, executive director of the UCLA Labor Center, toldThe Nation, which noted that “[t]he turbulent Trump era and draconian attacks on immigrant communities all but guarantee a bigger and more passionate turnout than usual this year.” Continue reading →
“Instead of funding President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, we are seeking additional funding for our nation’s public schools.” (Photo: doug turetsky/flickr/cc)
More than 150 advocacy groups sent a letter (pdf) to Congress on Thursday urging lawmakers to reject President Donald Trump’s proposal to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall and spend the money on education instead.
Trump’s “targeting of Muslims, refugees, and undocumented immigrants…are eroding the trust built by educators, parents, law enforcement, and communities over decades,” the letter states.
Its signatories include the Center for Popular Democracy, SEIU, and the National Immigration Law Center, among other community groups and labor unions. Continue reading →
Protecting immigrants is vital work, but what happens when the police arrive at your door?
By Christopher Zumski Finke. Published 3-17-2017 by YES! Magazine
Police monitoring the crowds at the Minnesota Women’s March. Credit: Fibonacci Blue / Flickr
In 1982, a man by the pseudonym René Hurtado found himself living in a suburban church in Minnesota. He had fled El Salvador, his home country, after participating in a U.S.-backed military unit during a civil war. After coming to the United States, he spoke out about the terrible things he had done—torturing prisoners with electrocution and needles, for example—as a member of the CIA-trained Salvadoran military. El Salvador wanted him back, and the U.S. government wanted him deported. Instead, Hurtado hunkered down at St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Hennepin County, Minnesota, while his case played out in the national media and in immigration courts.
Hurtado still lives in Minnesota more than 30 years later. Today, his story has new relevance as Minnesota’s churches again embrace their role as sanctuary spaces, this time in response to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and aggressive deportation policies. Continue reading →