Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Welfare for the Rich: Criminalized Migrants

I'm interested in this birth right issue: the anti-immigrant folks want to change the interpretation of the 14th amendment to keep children of undocumented immigrants from becoming citizens.  There are some interesting parallels and overlaps with the rallying cries around overpopulation and welfare abuse.  Much attention is put on immigrants' reproduction and the "jackpot" they would receive.  (While reading Russell Pearce's website, I learned that another derogatory name for those called "anchor babies" is "jackpot babies").

While I don't believe that as many people are taking advantage of welfare as many claim are, I believe it is currently necessary to people's survival.  That said, I don't believe it is the answer to the root problems (and was designed to avoid dealing with root problems), and so I look to other answers other than to fight for access to welfare, especially since, if I understand correctly, welfare isn't intended for or available to undocumented immigrants even if the democrats had more sway.

In the course of my reading and thinking about this issue- the counter-argument to the anti-immigrant folks' that welfare is an incentive for migrants to have children in this country, I realized that the criminalization of migrants (which costs money in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches) is, in effect, welfare, hand-outs, or subsidization for the wealthier classes so they can make even more money.  Criminalized migrants (those who automatically break the law by not being in the country through the mostly unattainable official/legal channels) are immensely exploitable.  Because of the threat of arrest and/or deportation, they can be coerced into working in dangerous, low-paying jobs, with long hours and limited breaks, no overtime pay, kept from organizing for better conditions and wages, and in many cases, even held against their will to labor.

While racists are crying that too many women of color are having babies and living off welfare, many mostly-white upper middle class and rich women have undocumented women taking care of their kids for them, at very low costs.  In the book Disposable Domestics, Grace Chang discusses how white women have been unwilling to organize with others for fair wages for household workers (maids, nannies, etc.), because if they did, they and their constituents would have a harder time being able to afford their own help so they can continue to be liberated working women.  Such are the limitations of mainstream feminism.

In effect, the government subsidizes reproductive labor (other than actual childbirth) for the wealthier classes, while withholding it from many women of color (despite what many say, in reality even citizens have a hard time getting adequate welfare), especially undocumented women.  This subsidy, which could be called welfare, applies to nearly any situation in which an undocumented migrant is working, since they are rarely paid and treated adequately.  It is a little silly to call it "welfare" because these folks don't have to worry about their personal welfare, but because of the rhetoric surrounding welfare as hand-outs, as socialism in some ways, the rich certainly get welfare in different forms.  For example, the book Take the Rich Off Welfare, sites a number of subsidies, tax breaks, and more.  As far as I recall, the book does not discuss criminalized migrants as welfare, although I think it covers prison labor, which is very much related, as is the slave labor of the past.

Criminalizing migrants is tricky, since the consequence to the migrants is supposed to be that they would be arrested, deported, and/or they would choose to leave- thereby leaving no exploitable labor for the businesses.  The businesses (as well as private entities) don't like that!  This is an interesting clash between the racists and those who employ migrants (not that the two are mutually exclusive).  I believe that SB1070, although motivated by racism, is not totally meant to render Arizona free of undocumented workers.  Overall, criminalization functions to render them exploitable, not absent.  Remember the Sensenbrenner bill?  I don't know where Sensenbrenner stood as far as his personal dislike for undocumented immigrants, but he was behind a very harsh federal immigration reform and it turns out he profits off the criminalization of migrants.  Russell Pearce, the legislator who pushed the bill, and Kris Kobach, the lawyer who actually wrote the bill, seem to mostly be motivated by racism.

I believe that racism is spread in the interest of keeping workers divided so that businesses can continue to exploit them all (some more so).  I don't think racists like Pearce are conscious actors in this scheme, so he probably won't give up until Arizona is truly free of undocumented immigrants (and their kids).  Nevertheless, in the meantime (and hopefully he won't be successful), the criminalization of migrants continues to benefit businesses overall.  Let's keep in mind here too, that we as average people also benefit from the cheap labor that keeps the cost down on most of the items we buy.  If those items are imported, it's usually cheaper again because the labor has somehow been coerced through criminalization or threat of criminalization.

Billions of dollars are being spent on immigration enforcement.  The border wall alone will cost billions.  Locally SB1070 will cost so much money, yet somehow it is justified too keep down the cost that immigrants supposedly have on society.  While many of us understand that this is just a way to maintain the US as a mostly white country that can exploit the labor of all workers (white or not) by dividing and criminalizing many of them, it does not occur even to most of us that this criminalization is not just an act of hate or politics, but is subsidizing US business.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Don't need to write so much when others are

Lately I haven't felt like I need to be writing as much because many great things are being said (and done) by others.  Although I may not completely agree with every word, here are some excerpts of the more radical things being written.  Please do click on the title to read the whole text of each piece.

Statement of those arrested at Border Patrol Headquarters at Davis-Monthan Air Force Bace in Tucson, Arizona

The development of the border wall has lead to desecration of our ancestors graves, it has divided our communities and prevents us from accessing sacred places.

Troops and paramilitary law enforcement, detention camps, check points, and citizenship verification are not a solution to migration. We have existed here long before these imposed borders, my elders inform us that we always honored freedom of movement. Why are our communities and the daily deaths at the border ignored? The impacts of border militarization are constantly made invisible in the media, the popular culture of this country and even the mainstream immigrants rights movement which has often pushed for “reform” that means further militarization of the border, which means increased suffering for our communities.
Indigenous communities such as the O’odham, the Pascua Yaqui, Laipan Apache, Kickapoo, and Cocopah along the US/Mexico border have been terrorized with laws and practices like SB1070 for decades. Indigenous people along the border have been forced by border patrol to carry and provide proof of tribal membership when moving across their traditional lands that have been bisected by this imposed border; a border that has been extremely damaging to the cultural and spiritual practices of these communities. Many people are not able to journey to sacred sites because the communities where people live are on the opposite side of the border from these sites. Since the creation of the current U.S./Mexico border, 45 O’odham villages on or near the border have been completely depopulated.<

On this day people who are indigenous to Arizona join with migrants who are indigenous to other parts of the Western Hemisphere in demanding a return to traditional indigenous value of freedom of movement for all people. Prior to the colonization by European nations (spaniards, english, french) and the establishment of the european settler state known as the United States and the artificial borders it and other european inspired nation states have imposed; indigenous people migrated, traveled and traded with each other without regard to artificial black lines drawn on maps. U.S. immigration policies dehumanize and criminalize people simply because which side of these artificial lines they were born on. White settlers whose ancestors have only been here at most for a few hundred years have imposed these policies of terror and death on “immigrants” whose ancestors have lived in this hemisphere for tens of thousands of years, for time immemorial.

In addition, the migration that the U.S. government is attempting to stop is driven more than anything else by the economic policies of the U.S. Free trade agreements such as NAFTA have severely reduced the ability of Mexicans and others from the global south to sustain themselves by permitting corporations to extract huge amounts of wealth and resources from these countries into the U.S. This has led to millions of people risking the terror and death that so many face to cross into the U.S. looking for ways to better support their families. Thousand of women, men, children and elders have died crossing just in the last decade. If the U.S. really wants to reduce migration it should end its policies of exploitation and wealth extraction targeted at the global south and instead pursue policies of economic, environmental and social justice for all human beings on the planet, thus reducing the drive to immigrate.

The protestors are demanding:

-An end to border militarization
-The immediate repeal of SB1070 and 287g
-An end to all racial profiling and the criminalization of our communities
-No ethnic cleansing or cultural genocide
-No border patrol encroachment/sweeps on sovereign native land
-No Deportations
-No Raids
-No ID-verification
-No Checkpoints

-Yes to immediate and unconditional regularization (“legalization”) of all people
-Yes to human rights
-Yes to dignity
-Yes to respect
Yes to respecting Indigenous Peoples inherent right of migration

Raúl: A Call to Dream; a Call to Action and Rebellion

This is at a time when our community is the most radicalized and militant it has ever been, yet the most visible/radical element getting all the attention in the mainstream media is the DREAM Movement?! Dang. This begs the question: What’s wrong with the Left? What are we doing wrong? Instead of just critiquing the DREAM, why don’t we ask ourselves why we are allowing this NIGHTMARE called Amerikkka to continue unchallenged? Why are we allowing Border Patrol Pigs to taser, torture, terrorize and assassinate our people? How could it be that we idly sit by continuing our everyday lives uninterrupted as 7 year-old Brisenia Flores and her father are shot to death by White supremacists in Arizona or 14 year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez is shot in the head by an agent in El Paso, Texas??? Why do we allow Arizona to be ground zero for police brutality against Latinos and the site of a quiet GENOCIDE against thousands of our sisters and brothers that have lost their lives crossing the desert—year after year after year??? How could we let this government get away with genocide and terrorism? What’s going on with our movement? Our strategy? Our tactics? Why are we letting this once in a lifetime opportunity to push our revolutionary visions to the forefront of the movement slip through our fingers? Where have our clenched fists gone? Why are we hiding behind our comfort? Where’s our dignity? Where’s our courage? Where is our commitment to our families and our visions of freedom? Whether it’s the DREAM Act or Immigration Reform, WE CANNOT depend or place our hopes on politicians of either party to be persuaded to side with justice or morality. If this is our strategy we will be waiting for a very long time and have lost from the very beginning.

Have we forgotten about the legacies of Harriet Tubman? Ricardo Flores Magon? Reies Lopez Tijerina? Assata Shakur? Robert F. Williams? Malcolm X? The Black Panther Party? Loilta Lebron? Silvia Rivera? Comandanta Ramona? If there was ever a moment to build on their legacies, it is now. Lobbying, voter registration drives, vigils and marches are obviously not gonna get us anywhere except backwards… nonviolent civil disobedience actions must continue, but that ain’t gonna get us much further either; not in violent Nazi-zona, not in violent Amerikkka.


We stand for the empowerment of our communities, and our ability to protect ourselves. We stand against racist legislation, including SB 1070. We condemn the attack on ethnic studies, I.C.E. raids, violence against womyn and queer people, the expansion of the prisons, the border wall, and the militarization of our everyday lives.

Border militarization and the expansion of law enforcement destroy the earth, harm indigenous communities and create a terror campaign against migrants and communities of color in Arizona and beyond. The new legislation is part of a racist campaign that aims to create a terrorized and criminalized class that is more vulnerable to exploitation. Migrants are blamed for crime, unemployment, and the current economic crisis in order to distract the U.S. public from seeing what is really to blame for this crisis: capitalism—the system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

SB 1070 is a direct attack on our families, friends, neighbors, schools and communities.

SB 1070 is part of a history of colonial occupation. We live in a country founded on slavery, genocide and exploitation. The U.S. took over Native land and, in 1846, waged war against Mexico, established borders and imposed itself over the entire Southwest. SB 1070 comes from this legacy of colonial occupation.

SB 1070 is a symptom of white supremacy. SB 1070 is only the latest attack on people of color that makes Arizona an apartheid police state, where brown-skinned people are politically, legally and economically discriminated against and segregated.

SB 1070 does nothing to address the root causes of migration. U.S. economic policies and wars have displaced and impoverished millions of people all over the world. Money-driven policies, such as NAFTA, create poverty. Not only do they consume and exploit land, water, petroleum, and laborers (i.e., human beings), but they also displace us from our homes, forcing us to migrate in order to survive. If policymakers were serious about stopping “illegal immigration,” they would end capitalist exploitation and stop their military “interventions” abroad.

SB 1070 is the product of a system that oppresses people not only for being undocumented or non-white, but also for being poor, young, womyn, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer...



The Calm Before the Storm….An Anarchist Perspective on Challenging the Violence of SB 1070.

Addressing the militarization of the O’odham border has become one of Arizona Anarchists main focuses this year. From the forming of the Diné, O’odham, anarchist/anti-authoritarian Bloc, to the recent Border Patrol lock-down we refuse to allow the invisibleness of Indigenous issue to continue. As you read this you can know for sure that there is a BP officer on the Tohono O’odham reservation looking for someone or something to target. The Tohono O’odham often have their houses raided by masked BP and homeland security agents. BP harasses elders travelling to sacred ceremonies and school children going to class; they steal the O’odhams horses and have even recently killed an O’odham youth. One of the most appalling facts that cease to see the light of day is how the building of the border literally dug up the bodies of O’odham ancestors. All this recent colonization comes on the back of 500+ years of Indigenous people being under attack. We say fuck that! It’s time to attack.

Reflecting on the Zapatistas struggle to the south of us we see one of the most obvious places to attack; that being any of the larger systems of infrastructure. Everyday, the results of NAFTA and “Free” Trade are felt in the bones of the people affected most by those policies.

The Non-Profit Industrial Complex Eats Reform and Spits Out DREAMs

The Non-Profit Industrial Complex is like the Prison Industrial Complex in that despite the name, it is a capitalist model based in struggling for money. While private prisons fight amongst themselves for contracts with the Federal government and cut corners that usually equal abuses against those housed behind concrete and barbed wire, non-profits fight amongst themselves for money given out by corporate tax shelters and cut corners by watering down what should be revolution for reform and the end result is abuse against those whom orgs claim to represent and help in their mission statements. And just like private prisons would rather have rival gangs attack each other and distract from the bigger picture, non-profit organizations, whether on purpose or by default, also engage in divide and conquer politics that serve to dilute struggles rather than strengthen them. Need an example? Just look at the latest beef between some orgs in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform movement and the DREAM Act students...

Every day it becomes clearer that the Democratic machine is no more friendly to immigrants and their demands than the Republican party, as under the Obama administration there has been an increase in deportations and detentions. “Common sense reform” has been killed by enforcement first which has become essentially enforcement only and none of the organizations have had the guts to admit that for now, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, in the form we were all expected to accept it, a bill, is dead. Admitting as much could very well mean that the reason for their organizations and budgets (which, full disclosure have paid for advertising here even), is also dead.

Group attacks border fence in protest of border patrol shooting

Protesters chain themselves at Santa Ana federal building to protest Arizona law

Anarchists attack ICE facility in Loveland, Colorado

6 people cited after protest at Border Patrol Headquarters




Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Police Brutality and Immigration

More law enforcement violence against migrants:
In San Diego, a Mexican immigrant has died after customs officers repeatedly struck him with batons and shocked him with a stun gun as they deported him to Mexico. The victim, Anastacio Hernández-Rojas, had been detained after crossing over from Mexico last week. Family members say Hernández-Rojas has lived in the United States since he was fourteen and is the father of five US-born children. Customs officials say officers struck and tasered him after he began resisting his deportation. Witnesses reported seeing the officers kick and beat Hernández-Rojas. The San Diego Police Department says it’s investigating. (Source).

I've been thinking a lot about the inconsistency surrounding the participation of people with an awareness of police violence and terror with groups and individuals who work with the police.  There are countless examples of excusing and reinforcing the role of the police in the context of the immigrants' rights movement.  Calls for the sheriff to serve warrants, having cops in meetings, etc. despite the stories of police brutality (such as the one above and this local story from the winter), and the enthusiasm many cops- not just Arpaio and his deputies- have for ridding our cities of "illegals'.  I could speak more on harassment, lies, and more surrounding the police involvement with activists, but it's not appropriate for blogging. 

Anyway, here are some bits from INCITE! that I think should shed some provide some context for consideration of willingness to work with cops or groups that work with cops.  Of course women and trans people are not the only ones who affected by brutality, but the particular situations are often overlooked.  Also, this is a point where feminists must stand up against racist violence, whereas feminism has been mostly white-dominated and sometimes racist.  When white feminists come to take part in the movements of people of color, they/we must not blindly follow the most prominent leaders of color, but at least be critical with the knowledge that we can gain from radical women of color.

Excerpts from INCITE! (Women of Color Against Violence) Law Enforcement Violence Against Women of Color and Trans People of Color Toolkit:

While anti-immigrant forces have focused on alleged rapes by fellow migrants and “coyotes” as justification for stirring up racist anti-immigrant sentiment and calling for enhanced border enforcement and militarization, they have been notably silent on rapes by Border Patrol and other law enforcement agents, as well as the increased vulnerability to sexual abuse created by intensified anti-immigrant measures forcing migrant women into more desperate and desolate border crossings.

In addition, the federal government has begun to enter into “memorandums of understanding” with local police offices, deputizing local law enforcement agencies to act as immigration agents. In 2008, President Bush’s immigration budget called for $4.8 billion for interior enforcement of immigration law, which included funds to train state and local law enforcement officials in immigration enforcement.15 The increasing presence of immigration enforcement in the interior leads women of color to see law enforcement agents and the criminal legal system as further threats to their safety.

Haime Flores was stopped at a checkpoint and taken to a Border Patrol station. After it was determined that her documents were valid, the agents went on to detain her for six hours and order a search, during which a female agent inserted her finger into Flores’ vagina while three male officers laughed and joked. No contraband was found.  Since 1996, the U.S. government has engaged in what it views as a “comprehensive interior enforcement strategy.”

The objective: to “protect” communities by identifying and deporting individuals in violation of immigration laws in non-border areas. Immigration law enforcement officials have conducted raids at schools, shopping centers, and workplaces, sweeping the area for undocumented immigrants.

In February 2007 ICE agents stormed into Nelly Amaya’s home. When she asked to see a warrant -- which the agents did not have -- they roughed her up, injuring her arm, as they frisked and arrested her, and took her away in her pajamas. While in detention she suffered an asthma attack, but was denied treatment.
She was released 10 hours later in her pajamas with no money in the dead of winter.

INS officer James Riley was arrested in May 1990, after conducting an unauthorized immigration “one-man raid at gunpoint at a Van Nuys bar.” Riley abducted and raped a 24-year-old woman from the bar after telling her that she was under arrest for lacking legal documents to be in the United States. One month later,
over seventeen women had filed charges against him, recounting similar abuse.
Saida Uzmanzor’s nursing nine-month old daughter was removed from her by ICE agents and placed in foster care after she was detained during a raid.
In December 2007, Miriam Aviles was pulled over by Tucson police and asked for identification. The officer called Border Patrol, and then induced labor in Ms. Aviles by physically forcing her into the Border Patrol vehicle. Ms. Aviles spent the night in immigration detention, and was not taken to a clinic until the following day, where she was badgered by a Border Patrol agent to “hurry up” and have her baby.

In 1996, Congress passed immigration reform legislation that led to the explosion of the immigration detention system. It is now the fastest-growing incarceration program in the country, leading the rapid expansion of the prison industrial complex in the U.S. In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security detained 237,667 individuals: an average of 19,619 per day.

Victoria Arellano, an undocumented transgender woman with HIV, died in an ICE detention facility in California after being denied necessary medication to prevent opportunistic infections, despite organizing efforts by fellow detainees to obtain medical treatment for her.

Excerpts from INCITE! (Women of Color Against Violence) Police Brutality Against Women of Color and Trans People of Color Brochure:
Since the arrival of European colonists on this continent and the creation of slave patrols— the first state-sponsored law enforcement agencies in the U.S. — Native, Black, Latina, Asian, and Arab women and girls have been and continue to be harassed, profiled, strip searched, body cavity searched, raped, beaten, and murdered by agents of the state on a systematic basis. Also, as TransJustice asserts, “Gender policing, like race-based policing, has always been part of this nation’s bloody history.”

However, law enforcement violence against women of color and trans people of color is largely invisible in discussions about police brutality. Similarly, discussions about “violence against women” rarely if ever meaningfully address violence perpetrated by law enforcement officers. As a result, police brutality against women of color and trans people of color is often unacknowledged, leaving our voices largely unheard and our experiences unaddressed.

Invisibility occurs in part because government data on racial profiling and the use of “excessive force” by police is not broken down by gender and race and does not include information about sexual violence perpetrated by law enforcement officers. This conceals the fact that women and trans people of color experience racial profiling and police brutality in many of the same ways as men of color, and that sexual violence perpetrated by police is a silent yet systemic problem. For instance: Two studies of law enforcement license revocations in Missouri and Florida found that sexual misconduct was the basis for revocations in almost 25% of cases.

Police brutality against women of color and transgender people of color reveals a critical intersection of sexual and racial violence perpetrated by members of ALL sectors of law enforcement, including local and state police, immigration enforcement (such as ICE, Border Patrol, and Customs), Drug Enforcement Agents, the FBI, private security forces, and military forces. These stories are NOT isolated incidents, but are examples of a widespread and systemic problem of sexual, gender, & racial violence perpetrated by law enforcement. They deserve to be heard. Centering the experiences of women of color and trans people of color will create pathways to strengthening all of our movements against police brutality, domestic and sexual violence, gender violence, poverty, incarceration, and militarization.