Friday, December 25, 2009

White Pro-Lifers on Undocumented Mothers: Hypocrisy and Racism

What crime would you assume a woman committed to deserve to be shackled while giving birth, to not be able to hold her child, and to have to bare the pain of the increasing breast milk that would not go to feed her newborn? What if she was not convicted of anything at all?

This is what happened to Alma Chacón in October. It took a while for me to hear about this, surprisingly. But apparently it has happened to another woman in MCSO custody just this past week (update: this was covered January 5 in the New Times).

Chacón was likely a victim of racial profiling, had no driver's license due to being undocumented, and owed some fines. She had not been convicted of anything, and even if she had been convicted of a felony, she certainly did not deserve to be treated like an animal (animals don't deserve to be treated this way either).

According to Pregnant Latina Says She Was Forced to Give Birth in Shackles After One of Arpaio’s Deputies Racially Profiled Her,
"The officer chained me by the feet and the hands to the bed," she said. "And that's how my daughter was born."...

Chacón stared at her daughter as nurses cleaned her. It was a precious eight minutes, she said. But they didn't allow her to hold the baby.

When questioned later about the incident, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said, "I wasn't the one who kept her from holding the baby. Ask the hospital."

Sheriff's Office policy states that jail inmates be restrained for "security reasons in an unsecured facility," said Jack MacIntyre, an MCSO deputy chief. McIntyre said a 12-foot chain link was attached to Chacón's leg.

"Let's assume someone is faking labor — that's a hypothetical — and she then chose to escape and hit or assault the hospital staff," McIntyre said. "She could do that easily because it's an unsecured area."

Sentenced, pregnant state prison inmates are treated better than un-sentenced ones in Maricopa County jails. Arizona Department of Corrections policies state: "A pregnant woman will not be restrained in any manner while in labor, while giving birth, or during the postpartum recovery period."

The treatment of Chacón mirrors the general experiences of people in jails, detention centers, and prisons, but especially exemplifies the degrading treatment of undocumented people.

It also reflects an attitude about immigrant women who have children in the United States, like the derogatory term "anchor babies".

A few weeks ago, I came across an article about US-based doctors advertising in Mexico about their obstetrics services.

This was especially interesting:
Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors strict enforcement of immigration laws, said authorities should crack down on these doctors who are putting greed ahead of the best interests of their own country.
Just publishing the names of the doctors would likely bring the practice to a halt, he said.
This is reminiscent of efforts to repress abortion doctors. But it would seem contradictory that people would want to keep abortion doctors from doing what they're doing, and obstetricians from their work as well.

There were various comments on the article that exemplified the hysteria about Mexicans having children in the US, such as this one:
This Quacks address / office is at 494 N. Carondelet Drive in Tucson.... We need to hold a mass rally and PROTEST this situation!! This is as bad as actually INVITING a foreign pregnant national to come to the USA for childbirth and therfore securing US Citizenship for that baby which will lead to more Mexicans coming in...And so on and so forth!!
There are plenty of examples of people who are both anti-immigration and pro-life. Nearly any conservative politician like Russell Pearce, for example, will have typical conservative stances. What are they trying to conserve? The white race?

Thanks to the Feathered Bastard, I have a bit more evidence that this is the case, at least for some people. Aborting and Importing – Is Immigration the Replacement for Native Born Population? contains the following:
Unlike any culture in history, we are aborting our children. Have we bought into the Self-Hate so much that we are committing a protracted national and cultural suicide?
America can you handle the CHANGE? You’ll have to. Consider once again that we are aborting our native born population and importing their replacements. The numbers speak for themselves...

Why does it matter when the whites become a minority? If we are moving towards a color blind society, it should not. Yet there it was in big headlines on Yahoo.

Please understand, [the author] is not really concerned about daily life in the North American Union much after 2040. For me the point is moot. My hope is to bequeath to posterity an independent, sovereign and color blind United States in which the innocent unborn native population will realize the American Dream. Unchecked immigration is no substitute for a healthy birthrate.
Clearly, the author of "Aborting and Importing" is not quite hiding his concern for the white race. Funny how "native population" seems to imply anything but people indigenous to this continent.

Certainly even if white "pro-lifers" deny any racism, where was/is the outcry when women of color get sterilized in the many many examples in which they have?
During the 1970s, it is estimated that up to 60,000 Native American women and some men were sterilized...Puerto Rican women were also sterilized at astronomical rates by U.S. tax dollars. During the same time, several Mexican American women were sterilized at a County hospital without much explanation or information. A national fertility study conducted by Princeton University found that 20 percent of all married African-American women had been sterilized by 1970. (Source).
What about the violence against communities of color (wars, police violence, environmental racism) and the very high infant mortality rates? Yes, keeping women in general from having abortions would keep all women from having abortions, but for the reasons listed above, and others, I doubt anti-choice efforts are intended to maintain or increase the level of reproduction among people of color.

If all life is truly respected- even if we're talking only about the lives of babies- then we would see a drastically different world: one in which people do not defend their colonialist consumerist patriarchal culture against people with darker skin and different languages.

See also my posts on overpopulation and On "The Terrorists Who Aren't on the News".

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sexual Assault in Detention Centers and CIR-ASAP

As I read through parts of the CIR-ASAP bill, the part on sexual assault in detention seemed to necessitate a bit more attention. This part of the bill actually was taken from H. R. 1215 from earlier this year, or perhaps an even earlier one. Nonetheless, it deserves discussion. I noticed two things: there is no part in the bill that says what happens to the perpetrator if the perpetrator is a guard or officer (likely it is up to each facility to make that call). It also says nothing about a requirement to inform inmates of the laws and of their rights.

It does say, "Detention facilities shall take all necessary measures to prevent sexual abuse of detainees, including sexual assaults, and shall observe the minimum standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003".

"On June 23, 2009, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), which was also created by PREA, released recommended national standards along with a final report documenting the findings from its comprehensive study." Keep in mind, this was signed in 2003. But get this:
In accordance with PREA, Attorney General Eric Holder has until June 23, 2010, to publish a final rule adopting national standards. At that time, the standards will be immediately binding on all federal detention facilities; state officials will have one year to certify their compliance or they will lose 5% of their federal corrections-related funding.

So we don't even know what this will ultimately look like.

Victoria Law, in Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, wrote about PREA:
The act... called for gathering of national statistics about prison rape; the development of guidelines for states on how to address prisoner rape; the creation of a review panel to hold annual hearings; and the provision of grants to states to combat the problem.
More studies and developments of guidelines- very similar to what the CIR-ASAP bill looks like. Do people actually see it as a victory when the government passes laws that just study atrocities, hoping that something will eventually be done to stop those atrocities?

Law continues:
In the first nationwide study conducted under the PREA, 152 male and female prisoners nationwide were interviewed. However, all of the case scenarios focused solely on prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in male prisons. The ensuing report did not even mention the existence of women in prison, much less sexual abuse by staff in female facilities.
Victoria Law goes on to describe instances where intimate consenting relationships between female prisoners (even just hand-holding) are treated as sexual abuse because of PREA. Although the official guidelines have not adopted and passed down to prisons, prisoners have reported an increase in write-ups for "sexual misconduct". A woman actually killed herself after her partner claimed she'd been raped to avoid the consequences of their consensual relationship being called sexual abuse. Both women would have been charged with sexual abuse and had a lifetime sexual offender label.

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but these are examples of why we must not expect real change to come through the government. We should be demanding the closure of detention centers (and prisons), not a somewhat nicer image of them.

Nonetheless, whatever can be done, should be done. With the recent decision to privatize AZ prisons, the discovery of secret ICE detention facilities, and stories like this about a woman who had to give birth shackled to her bed, the urgency is stronger than ever.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Freedom, Not Reform: On the New CIR-ASAP bill

Please don't be fooled. If anything, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 is lip service at best. If you review the bill (the complete bill, not the summary), you will see a glaring lack at anything like a solution to the "crisis" so many speak of. Worse, it maintains that border security (read militarization) is important, includes employment verification, and also leaves out any mention of same-sex couples. It is unlikely to pass as is, or probably not even close, but I am concerned with so many people blindly celebrating this bill.

How about this as a summary for much of CIR-ASAP: review this, analyze that, assess this, study that, examine this, make recommendations, develop and implement a plan. This is the extent to which major questions are addressed: border deaths, costs of border security, human smuggling, Operation Streamline, etc. Certainly this gets nowhere near actually coming up with solutions to, much less acknowledgments regarding the injustices caused by the border and border enforcement. To me, it's nothing but superficial- surprising that they'd be mentioned, but still, just empty words. It doesn't take a genius to know that increased border security means increased deaths. Yet they are developing a study that would include "an analysis of whether physical barriers, technology, and enforcement programs have contributed to the rate of migrant deaths". And who would end up doing these studies? Is there any hope that they would be done objectively? And what then?

Not surprising at all is the callousness, or neglect of the impact on the indigenous communities and others as a result of continued border security. Let us not confuse a lack of a wall with lack of problems due to border security. The bill states, "Subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary shall establish a demonstration program to procure additional unmanned aerial vehicles, cameras, poles, sensors, satellites, radar coverage, and other technologies necessary to enhance operational control of the international borders of the United States." If anything, the bill seems concerned with making border security more efficient, maybe a bit more regulated and supervised.

Border enforcement has divided O'odham folks who live on both sides of and along the border, limiting their ability to participate in traditional ceremonies. Border patrol officers harass indigenous people, check points have been set up on the reservation at which further harassment and abuse occurs on a regular basis. The funnel effect caused by increased security in more urban areas like in El Paso and San Diego, has led to increased deaths on O'odham land (and surrounding border areas), as well as more drug smuggling, which negatively impacts the communities there. These issues have been worse than deprioritized by most people in the immigrants' rights movement. Far too often the colonial nature of the border is not considered, much less the everyday concerns of O'odham like the Loop 202 freeway.

There are some positive acknowledgments and solution-like proposals for how to handle detention. But it all really boils down to bigger cages, longer chains. No one belongs in a detention facility of any sort just for crossing the border illegally! Of course the government is not going to say such a thing. This is why I expect very little of any reform.

There is a large emphasis on consequences for employers who hire undocumented immigrants, but many of us have known for a long time that these measures have the most impact on migrants- the laws are meant to keep migrants from attaining work. It's funny that within the bill, there is a statement about preempting any state or local jurisdiction from "imposing any sanction" on people based on their immigration status. But isn't going after employers indirectly imposing a sanction on people based on their immigration status? A prime example is that in Arizona, an employer sanctions law was passed in January 2008, but has mostly or only negatively impacted workers- not employers. It has, in fact, been the justification for raids by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Some good news is that the authors of the bill oppose the Real ID. The bad news is they support electronic employment verification, which has and will continue to have many flaws.

Some are suggesting that this bill might pass with an addition of a guest worker program. I cringe when I think about the possible support for this, despite the implications of such a program. A guest worker program would only benefit businesses, and would not benefit workers, as has been seen in the past with the Bracero program, and existing programs.

In addition, the bill lacks any acknowledgment of the need for addressing same-sex couples' ability to stay together when one is legal and one is not.

The main failure of this reform is that it does nothing to put to question the idea that the border is legitimate in the first place. But why would it? As I've written before in Freedom, not Reform: If we don’t demand it, it can’t happen,
Illegal immigration is not wrong. What is wrong is the criminalization of people because of their class and countries of origin, and of the actions they have taken as a result of the decimation of economies and human rights by US business interests. What is wrong is that American businesses in and outside of the US have benefited from the cheap labor of Mexicans in particular, and others as well... Clearly no reform can be acceptable [to us] that the US Government, the perpetrator of violence against the people, will allow.
Again, I say, we need to demand Freedom, not reform, because otherwise it's not possible. Down with the Detention Centers! No More Border Security! No More Border! No More NAFTA! and on and on.

Thanks to Alex and Kevin for the information about impacts on O'odham.

Update: Read more about Sexual Assault in Detention Centers and CIR-ASAP

Thursday, December 10, 2009

News Articles on the New AZ Immigration Law

Prop 200, an law passed in 2004 and initiated by Protect Arizona Now, sought to enact some of the changes mentioned below. But due to various obstacles and constraints, including the issue about whether it was unconstitutional, many aspects of the law did not get enforced. More recently, some anti-immigrant legislation was snuck into a budget bill, and here we have it. These are some reports on the status of the new law.

Law requiring AZ workers to report entrants a travesty
Our view: Not only is public ill-served, the most vulnerable — kids — will be hurt
Arizona Daily Star
A new state law requiring public employees to demand immigration documentation before providing services — and to report applicants for services who are illegal migrants to authorities — is already taking hold.
It's going to be a bad deal for Arizona. Worse, it punishes some of the most vulnerable people — children — for government's inability to fix the country's poorly designed immigration system. (Source).

DES says it'll enforce ban on aid to illegal immigrants
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX — The Department of Economic Security issued a policy Thursday instructing its workers to enforce a new ban on providing welfare services to those not in this country legally, including a requirement to report illegal applicants to federal immigration officials.
DES spokesman Steve Meissner said the department was already asking for documents proving citizenship or legal residency, but the policy clarifies any ambiguity about what is required and specifies what documents are acceptable and what programs are covered. (Source).

High court won’t hear suit challenging new immigration law
By Christian Palmer
The Arizona Supreme Court announced on Dec. 2 it will not hear a lawsuit filed by local governments that sought to challenge legislation affecting land development and public benefits for immigrants. (Source).

Four-Year High for Border Deaths

The rate of border deaths are now at a four-year high
Migrant deaths in the Tucson Sector are the highest in four years, and a border activist expects that number to grow next year.

The Border Patrol reported that 208 bodies of suspected illegal immigrants were discovered in the sector in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30; 171 deaths were reported a year earlier.
The Coalicion de Derechos Humanos counted about the same amount, which means the Border Patrol's numbers might be becoming more accurate.
The number was unexpected because all sides agree that fewer illegal immigrants are crossing the border because of the poor economy in the United States.

“All the reports have shown that crossings have dramatically decreased, yet the deaths go against that,” Garcia said. “This tells you we were right all along. An increase of military and police-natured responses lead to more deaths. Even though less people are crossing, more people are dying.” (Source).
A lot of the crossings are taking place in dangerous mountainous areas where the trails are hard to follow, and traveling takes longer because of having to climb and not being able to go directly north. Migrants are traveling these routes because less Border Patrol are in the area, probably because they know that this area is sort of a geographical wall itself.

This is further evidence that a man-made wall will only increase deaths, as people will attempt to cross no matter the obstacles.

The obstacles and dangers have gotten worse because of the funnel-effect- the result of more militarization and security in urban and flatter areas which are safer to cross.

Let us keep in mind that people fighting for Comprehensive Immigration Reform are mostly promoting continued or increased border security. Let the thought of every fallen body be kept in your heart, and let it remind you that border security is not an option. Down with the border!!!

To do something directly on the border, contact No More Deaths.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Race and the Rule of Law in Maricopa County

So many people are thinking it: Arpaio and his collaborators are putting the law into question, especially with the latest lawsuits and the disproportionate ways in which the laws have been enforced. After the stories on the singing protest of Arpaio that caused him to walk out on an interview, a news search for Arpaio will give you these stories: Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas are suing several judges and other county officials, and an MCSO officer recently got jail time for contempt of court for not apologizing for stealing files from a defense lawyers folder (and the resulting chaos involving a walk-out and a bomb threat, and the likelihood that the officer is in Arpaio's fancy jail for his allies).

When you hear statement after statement from the sheriff and county attorney and others that they're enforcing the law- that undocumented people are stopped/jailed because they're breaking the law, and then on top of that they all seem confused about what is actually legal or illegal and law-breaking cops get different treatment, you can't help but find that they are amazingly hypocritical.

What I'm getting at certainly isn't that we should be concerned that the sheriff and county attorney and others are making a mockery of law enforcement or the rule of law in general. The purpose of bringing these things up in relation to immigration is to point out that the rule of law is and always has been used to work in certain people's favor- those in power and with money, and to work against anyone who is a threat to holding onto that power and money. It's not quite as simple as that when you have a local sheriff giving a big middle finger to the federal and local governments- certainly they don't all work together.

Arpaio consistently says he's enforcing the law. Yet, he apparently doesn't even know what law he's talking about, and belongs to the camp that is looking for new ways to change the law to further criminalize migrants. At the same time he says things like, "This is yet another example of my continued promise to enforce all the illegal immigration laws in Maricopa County regardless of the ever changing policies emanating from Washington D.C."

And what about the latest shenanigans with the MCSO officer?
On Wednesday, the morning after a sheriff's detention officer reported to jail to serve a contempt of court sentence, 20 of his colleagues called in sick for work at the Maricopa County Superior Court Buildings in Phoenix.

Those same buildings were evacuated for three hours Wednesday morning when a bomb threat was called in targeting public defenders, the Arizona Republic reported. (Source).
(Gee, they wouldn't have called in a threat to prove a point, would they?)
Arpaio says he's an equal opportunity enforcer of the law. How can you not see the inconsistency?

It's not inconsistent, however, with the way law enforcement has been used to enforce the color line. We can see this with their origins in the slave patrols, the relationship between the klan and the police, to, for example, the death of Fred Hampton forty years ago, other efforts against groups that empower their communities, as well as the drug war, racial profiling, and now the anti-immigrant efforts. As I state in No Borders or Prison Walls,
The war against “illegal” immigration is just one part of institutional racism, except this is an example that makes it all the more clear that crimes have been made out of the actions of people because of who they are. It is clear that the law has been used purposefully to render people powerless and exploitable.
Although the lawsuits against other county officials don't quite fit into this whole concept, it is allowed to happen because the other activities of the MCSO are congruent with the larger purpose of government control (see also, Federal Government will not be Maricopa County's Savior).

In Our Enemies in Blue, Kristian Williams expands on the fact that sometimes the police and the government are at odds, and why this is still acceptable. Talking mainly about police brutality, he says,
The police may violate the law, as long as they do so in the pursuit of ends that people with power generally endorse, and from which such people profit. This idea may become clear if we consider police brutality and other illegal tactics in relations to lawful policing: When the police enforce the law, they do unevenly, in ways that give disproportionate attention to the activities of poor people, people of color and others near the bottom of the social pyramid. And when the police violate the law, these same people are their most frequent victims. This is a coincidence too large to overlook. If we put aside, for the moment, all questions of legality, it must become quite clear that the object of police attention, and the target of police violence, is overwhelmingly the portion of the population that lacks real power. And this is precisely the point: police activities, legal or illegal, violent or non-violent, tend to keep people who currently stand at the bottom of the social hierarchy in their place, where they belong- at the bottom.
I've heard some say that Arpaio isn't racist, he's just a in it for the media and the power. Yet Arpaio (and Andrew Thomas, and Russell Pearce, and ICE, etc.) is participating in the criminalization and the incarceration and terrorization of people of color. Institutionalized racism benefits those in power. Whether or not they are bigoted or not, they participate in it, and they gain from it, at the expense of people's lives and dignity. And if they are okay with that and even celebrate it, how can you not call them racist?

Yet, they maintain that it's all about the law. The law, or the importance of enforcing it, often comes down to what undocumented immigrants are allegedly costing us as citizens (for an example, see Russell Pearce's latest). Yet, how much are all these lawsuits costing us? How about Andrew Thomas’ Battle Against Spanish-Language DUI Probation Has Cost Us a Half-Million Dollars. But Who's Counting? And lawsuits against Arpaio have cost at least $41 million (Source). That's not even counting the cost of the lawsuits he's brought against others. And all the investigations into various opponents of his. And all the sweeps. And his expensive office in the Wells Fargo building costing $650,000 per year in rent when he already has an office in a county building.

We don't even need to ask why it's apparently okay with so many citizens that these officials are wasting our tax dollars but not okay for undocumented immigrants to allegedly cost us so much (which is actually quite doubtful). The money argument is illegitimate and the rule of law crap is bogus. We can see what is behind this. An eminent threat: too many brown people and an undermining of the oppressive order of things. This is why we must challenge white people on their racism. We need to point out the areas that are inconsistent and hypocritical. They themselves might not see it. It's up to us to understand it and to make them understand it. (For a recent discussion of this in context, see The NSM offers nothing for the white working class but more exploitation and misery.) I'll leave you with this quote from senator Russell Pearce.

There is currently a battle raging in this country that will determine whether our nation enforces its immigration laws and secures its borders or becomes victim of its enemies. We are a Nation built upon the “Rule of Law” and either we stand up for the principles that our Founding Fathers gave us to ensure lasting Liberty, enshrined in a Constitution that protects those liberties or we destroy all that is sacred and the end result will be a nation who commits suicide. Illegal immigration is the Trojan Horse and we must secure our borders and enforces our laws.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why We Sang Sheriff Joe off the Stage


"America's Toughest Sheriff"? The cowardly wind bag ran away from a choir! -KB

The notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ was invited to be interviewed by professional journalists as part of an event at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism this last Monday, and was disrupted by protesters singing the "Immigration Rhapsody", to the tune of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.
How do you… just kill a man,
Let him wither on his route,
Criminalized and shut out,
How do you… detain someone,
Because you perceive a threat to your privilege?
NAFTA, ooo,
Caused folks to lose their land
Just so the rich could profit off the outcome
Limit choice, lower pay, as if their lives don’t matter...

Freedom ooo- (any way the migrants flow)
Without walls and jails,
What does it take for freedom to ring for all? Read it all...

Although we did not plan ultimately to stop the event, Arpaio decided to walk off stage with 12 minutes left of the forum. Faced with hard questions, he seemed to be looking for an excuse to leave as he quickly decided to give up because we were not being removed or silenced.

A disruption was expected by many, with various articles reporting on the planned protests, the decision to limit the public event to students, faculty and staff (which excluded some of our singers- but those of us with old IDs got in no problem), and the stationing of uniformed and plain clothes police throughout the building and outside. The protest outside was lively and eventually, due to some anarchists, made its way into the building, occupying it for an impromptu Haymarket Squares show. Inside the event, while the interview was still going on, various protesters held signs and two banners were dropped, eliciting no response from Arpaio, nor police, but were impassioned nonetheless.

Although post-protest press was dominated by expressions of disappointment or disapproval about how the journalists were not allowed to finish asking their difficult questions of the sheriff, ultimately, Arpaio decided to leave. They could've all waited for the song to end (it was maybe 2 1/2 to 3 minutes long) and continued the event- extending it past 8pm (gasp), but that is not what happened. Instead, those of us who sang were blamed for ruining it.

There have been speculations that Arpaio wanted an excuse to take off early.
"I felt that the protesters were really out of place by not allowing the journalists to finish questioning him," said Gabrielle Abrams, a Cronkite student. "In protesting Arpaio, they helped him out by letting him leave 20 minutes early." (Source).
Some felt that the journalists' questions were very important because they dug at some of the issues that make Arpaio so controversial. That might be true, at least from Arpaio's perspective. One must ask, where were the security and the police? There had been at least 4 plain clothes police officers (I'm guessing MCSO, but I don't know) near us, and at least two Phoenix PD community relations officers in the room, but none seemed to be around by the time we started singing. Arpaio certainly expected something, given that he brought a hat (apparently the U of A mascot hat was supposed to offend us) to put on in the case of a disruption. That man is prepared for anything.

Although many might feel the singing was inappropriate, some people have pointed out that Arpaio deserved to be shut down. He shouldn't have even been there in the first place. In addition, he was skirting the questions, not really giving any sort of straight answer to some very important questions. Although I myself was surprised by the blatant accusatory manner of the questions, I was still disappointed by the lack of accountability demanded of Arpaio, who manipulated his excuse for answers to avoid accountability.

From my perspective, though, the event itself was ridiculous. This man is a horrible monster- not worthy of any sort of respect, nor forum. Yet he's on the national news often, on the local news more, able to share his views on "illegals". Just a short list of reasons: tent city, deaths in the jails, horrible jail conditions in general, immigration sweeps, pink underwear, chain gangs, green baloney, etc, etc. To those who care about these issues, it is a joke and it is offensive that anyone would give him the time of day. He deserved to be offended, pissed off, and silenced. Had those of us who sang thought we could've gotten away with singing him off the stage, most or all of us probably would've started earlier with that intention.

Amusingly, I read articles and comments that expressed concern for the journalists and the journalism students, but very few were concerned about the disrespect shown towards Arpaio. Perhaps that'll piss him off a bit more.

We didn't expect to complete the entire song successfully (some people have been arrested by MCSO for clapping at a Board of Supervisors Meeting), so we weren't all that prepared for media questions and getting the message across. We had several copies of the lyrics to hand out to the media, yet very few came looking for us. They mostly went to interview Arpaio as he left through a different exit. We were around outside with the protest for quite a while after the event, available for interviews, and did engage in a handful, mostly with student journalists. The lyrics were up on a State Press article by the time I got home, and were also added to Arizona Indymedia, yet some mainstream articles reported that we sang the "Bohemian Rhapsody". You can hear clearly on the videos (there was a live feed going on) that we were not singing the original lyrics. You'd almost think those reporters didn't give a shit. Or maybe you know they don't.

This goes to show that despite this creative and audacious stunt, it is nearly impossible to get our position out in the mainstream press. Worse, although we know they have to fit a lot of important information into a short period of time, even Democracy Now! was rather cursory about our message (see video below). We weren't just taunting Sheriff Joe, we had a very clear message (well, clear if you saw the lyrics, which were sent to DN! that night, by the way). Even Stephen Lemons seemed to not quite get the point, "What I think many have forgotten in their rush to condemn the impish act of civil disobedience by a few is that there's a certain carny logic at work with any Joe show. That is, if you invite the circus to town, there will be clowns — one big clown, for sure."

We were trying to share a message that addresses issues like NAFTA, the purposeful criminalization of people, the disproportionate access to cross the border based on color/class/origin, etc. (limited by the number of syllables and verses of the original song). These are issues that the media does not want to deal with. The resistance to Sheriff Joe is something we want exposed and promoted, but the immigration issue is so much bigger than him.

It is worth noting that we are not just some random lefty students with a thing for pissing off Arpaio. In fact, at least three of us are no longer students at ASU. Our perspective doesn't represent the student body (I wish). We have a variety of experiences protesting, writing, copwatching. Some of us are anarchists as well. Overall the song was meant to express a radical view on the bigger picture.

People say we could've just protested outside, we could've done it afterwards, blah blah blah. But would that have gotten us the results we got? No (I've been protesting Arpaio for years- we need new tactics). And are the results we got good enough? Mostly no. The lyrics have gotten out to hundreds or maybe even thousands of people. Did they just reach sympathetic people? Maybe. And just people with internet access? Pretty much.

At least this singing is part of the escalating resistance to Sheriff Joe and his policies. It is an example of something creative that caused a ruckus without offending too many people (although we still apparently offended a good number who thought the performance was misplaced). There are many that we will never satisfy, even if they share a distaste for Arpaio. So we must be happy with what we can achieve. Plus it was fun and funny. The reality of the situation migrants face is not at all funny, but sometimes humor and music are good therapy for all the crap going on in the world.

Liberal [sic] Protesters Threaten Very Fabric of Society By Interrupting Sheriff Joe -Weekly Standard

Monday, November 30, 2009

Immigration Rhapsody: Song Interrupts Arpaio

Protesters started singing towards the end of the event at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU on Monday. They sang the following song:

Immigration Rhapsody

Is this legitimate?
Is this atrocity?
Caught up in politics-
No sense of reality-
Open your eyes
Look down to the south and see-
The border stops brown folks, they cannot cross the line.
But its easy come, easy go,
for the rich, n’their cargo.
Anyway the migrants flow, doesn’t really matter to me,
To me

How do you… just kill a man,
Let him wither on his route,
Criminalized and shut out,
How do you… detain someone,
Because you perceive a threat to your privilege?
NAFTA, ooo,
Caused folks to lose their land
Just so the rich could profit off the outcome
Limit choice, lower pay, as if their lives don’t matter.

The hate, minutemen promote,
Sends shivers down my spine-
Heart is aching all the time,
Goodbye to bigotry –you’ve got to go-
Gotta leave this place behind n’reveal the truth-
Freedom ooo- (any way the migrants flow)
Without walls and jails,
What does it take for freedom to ring for all?

I see a little editorial ‘bout some creeps,
Russell Pearce, Russell Pearce could you be more fascistic?
Andrew Thomas presiding -very very frightening me-
Hey Arpaio , Hey Arpaio,
Hey Arpaio Hey Arpaio
Hey Arpaio payaso- payaso-o-o-o -
The border stops brown folks, they cannot cross the line -
Yeah the border stops brown folks, breaks up a family-
Spare all these folks from this monstrosity-
Easy come easy go, will you let them go?
Tent City! no-,they will not let you go-let ‘em go-
Tent City! they will not let you go-let ‘em go
Tent City! they will not let you go-let ‘em go
Will not let them go-let them go
Will not let them go let them go
Hey Arpaio , Hey Arpaio, Hey Arpaio , let them go-
Rising up are the people in the streets, you see, you see, you see -

So you think you can jail me and spit in my eye-
So you think you can hate me and leave me to die-
Oh Arpeeo-cant do this to me Arpeeo-
Just gotta get out-just gotta get out of Tent City-

Media only matters,
Anyone can see,
Attention only matters-, ego only matters to he/me

Update: read Why We Sang Sheriff Joe off the Stage

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Anti-Immigrant Legislation Opposed

In case you haven't heard, Russell Pearce and friends snuck an anti-immigrant policy into the budget bill during a special session. A lawsuit brought by the League of Arizona Cities and towns says that "Wrapping the policy changes into an appropriations bill violates the state Constitution". They're not opposed to the change, per se, but to the way it was passed.

However, there are many who are against it because, although it is already against the law for undocumented migrants to receive state services, this would now make it illegal for state workers to not report violations of this law, and would allow citizens to sue if they thought the state was providing services to undocumented migrants. This would apply to library accounts, among other things.

More later...

No More Deaths Volunteer Rejects Sentence, Charges US with Human Rights Violations

Walt Staton, the No More Deaths volunteer who was recently sentenced for "littering" near the border, has been given a new sentencing hearing after sending a letter to the judge opposing the punishment. His letter stated, "The simple truth is that US border enforcement strategy intentionally leads to the suffering and death of migrants - a clear violation of human rights...."

This past August, Walt received a sentence "consisting of a year of unsupervised probation and community service. He was ordered to complete 300 hours of trash pickup on public lands within a year. He was also banned from the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge during that time (Source)."

This case has received much media attention, and hopefully will continue to do so, with this message of the reality of the security practices having created a tunnel effect by securing areas like San Diego/Tijuana, El Paso/Juarez so that migrants have little choice but to travel across areas of the border that are much more dangerous. In addition, even in these areas with no walls (yet), migrants have to choose trails that keep them more hidden from Border Patrol, and sometimes have to switch routes, which increases the chances of getting lost or worse.

In the time since Walt was charged, and just after thirteen more people got tickets, I was also able to see the area that a lot of the migrants have to travel through, while volunteering myself for No More Deaths. Although we were not on the Buenas Aires Wildlife Refuge, which is where NMD volunteers have been ticketed, I was not too far from there. Some of these areas are so mountainous that they can easily get lost or get hurt, taking days to get just a few miles north- if they make it at all. Although I had assumed that we would be in flat terrain with cactus and the chaparral, we were in rocky areas where trails are hard to follow (imagine a trail leading to the top of a bunch of rocks and you can't see the trail forward and you can't go north- where do you go next?). The heat of the summer made it many times worse. We were told by one group of migrants that their guide had told them it would only be a few hours to get to Phoenix from the southern side of the border. We saw them a couple days into their journey, one a seven year old boy, three of them sick, alternately in the summer desert heat and the drenching rain.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Walt Staton in Splinter Generation about the reasoning behind the tickets.
SG: The fact that they confiscated the water is so upsetting.

WS: It’s such a fundamental thing. When anyone with common sense looks at it says, O.K. whether you agree with immigration policy or not, you have to be a complete crazy wingnut to say I want people to die in the desert. I mean, and it’s a very small minority of people that actually have that stance. You have a federal agency that is now saying our land is going to be a cemetery; we will not allow humanitarians to put water out here; we don’t want to sit down and meet with them; we want people to die. I don’t know, why else. It blows my mind.

SG: I read that patrolling this area is causing more damage than the water bottles ever could.

WS: Oh, border patrol has got all their four-wheel drive trucks, and Hummers, and Jeeps, and they’ve bulldozed all sorts of new roads so they can get into these areas where, supposedly, we’re protecting wildlife. They’ve got ATVs. They’ve got helicopters that are going day and night, that fly real low, and I can only imagine what that does to wildlife. They’ve built the wall right through the wildlife refuge, and nothing bigger than a lizard can get through it. They’re saying we’re trying to protect the wildlife and our refuge, and it’s like ok, show me, because right now you have got border patrol, and helicopters, and walls, and all this stuff all over it. That doesn’t look like a wildlife refuge to me. That looks like a war zone. And it is. It is a war zone.

And my earlier post on the subject: Here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What Happens When Arpaio Serves The Warrants

Because Sheriff Arpaio has been targeting migrants who are just driving, waiting for work, or working, activists have reacted by pointing out that the sheriff has not been serving 40,000 open warrants. Now the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department is serving warrants... in Guadalupe.

As an example of the focus on warrants, a press release from no specific organization but about "Leaders from the civil rights and Latino communities" came out in March 2008 saying,
The people are entitled to have a true lawman for Sheriff, someone who goes after real criminals, not gardeners, cooks, nannies and pregnant mothers. America’s “toughest sheriff” must stop making mothers and fathers disappear in the middle of the night, callously leaving vulnerable, terrorized children at home alone. He can turn a new leaf and start protecting the public by serving the county’s 70,000 arrest warrants that he has allowed to remain outstanding.
If you went to a protest against Arpaio in 2008 or early 2009, you likely would've seen a reference to the warrants on some signs. Often they would be referenced by groups such as the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability. While the warrants have been discussed very little since the Senate hearing on the issue, you will occasionally still hear the warrants brought up.

What I don't understand is the assumption that these warrants are justified- that all the people who have warrants out for their arrest, or perhaps all the people with felony warrants, are hardened criminals who all deserve to go to Tent City. Do you really believe this? Do you think the criminal "justice" system is infallible? Are not undocumented migrants being further criminalized for political/racist/economic reasons? Isn't that fundamental to the criminal "justice" system? There is much evidence that the police are used to keep people in check and to maintain the social hierarchy. In many ways, the police actually perpetuate the crimes of those who do not have access to many of the opportunities that more privilege people have. And as I write in Chaparral: No Borders or Prison Walls:
Many examples exist of ways in which crime-fighting is not, in fact, intended to end the activities which are considered crimes. The government has no interest in ending crime unless it is targeted towards the government itself, the rich or their property. One could list a number of crimes committed by people who get away with it everyday, and a number of acts that should be crimes because they hurt people, other beings, and/or the planet, yet they are not crimes because it is not in the interest of the government to control those actions. Crimes against people who are seen as less valuable are not important to enforce unless it benefits the system in another way... Crimes committed by government, government agents, businesses, are treated differently, with the perpetrators facing much less harsh punishment than their civilian counter-parts face, if any. Often crimes are enabled by involvement with the government such as the drug trafficking done with government vehicles and physical and sexual abuse by police, border patrol, and prison officials, yet the criminals in these cases are treated as a few bad apples.
And why does it not occur to folks that many of those warrants might be for gardeners, cooks, nannies and pregnant mothers who might disappear at night leaving their children terrorized?

And if you agree with nothing else I've said so far about the problems with the rule of law, please realize that you are basically saying that if the sheriff was serving all those warrants, then he would be doing a good job- Tent City, pink underwear, chain gangs, green baloney and all.

Indeed, I have brought up that Arpaio has in fact not been doing as efficient of a job at arresting migrants- other police departments have- yet they don't have this warrants issue hanging over their heads. In fact, they are mostly ignored and in some cases even seen as allies (phoenix pd officers are invited to activist meetings, ex-mesa police chief gascon was celebrated for standing up against arpaio) yet, as i've written in the past, If Phx and Mesa PD are arresting more immigrants, why is focus on Arpaio?
I would say that the myth of the infallibility of law and order is not questioned, for the most part, for to do so would make you vulnerable to attacks by the other side, accusing you of wanting chaos, or whatever else they associate with opposing arrests of so-called criminals. Too many immigrants' advocates are not willing to be outspoken about the racist nature of "criminal justice" and law enforcement, the border, and immigration law in general. The result, therefore, is that law enforcement that can appear reasonable alongside arpaio's media circuses are not to be questioned, but instead even applauded, even if their actual effect is worse than how arpaio's efforts appear.
This past week, the sheriff's department has been bringing a camera crew to stops all over Guadalupe to serve warrants. Guadalupe is a very small town next to Tempe, with a very high number of brown skinned people- mostly Yaquis and Mexican migrants. Arpaio has done a few sweeps there. It is one of a few places in the County that doesn't have it's own police department and pays the MCSO to handle problems. Instead, they've caused many problems. You can read all about it in Guadalupe made it clear that Joe Arpaio’s attacking anyone with brown skin, Joe Arpaio Returns to Guadalupe, with an Army of Deputies to Watch His Back, The MCSO Retaliates Against a Guadalupe Activist.

In fact, this might be retaliation for the copwatching going on in Guadalupe. Whatever the reason, people are being harassed and terrorized by Arpaio serving these warrants. Those who have demanded that the warrants be served are not to be blamed for those warrants being served in Guadalupe (or anywhere) necessarily, but it is necessary to keep all these things in perspective.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On David Bacon's Talk Disappointing

I don't have a lot of time to write at the moment, but I wanted to mention that I was able to hear David Bacon speak the other night. I've been reading his articles on migration for a while, and I have enjoyed his book "Communities Without Borders" as well as the bits of "Illegal People" that I've read so far.

I was disappointed, though, that although he mostly advocated for migrants' rights, he really fell short on challenging white citizens on their racism. He mainly argued that white citizens should not oppose undocumented migrants because migrants can contribute to a stronger political power (we can join with them to get health care), and the economy wouldn't be as great without them. That's why you should care. This bugs me to no end, and it's so common, you hear folks saying it who stand side by side with migrants in their struggles.

Stop buying into those attitudes! Why don't we question why migrants are considered less valuable as people not just as workers, why they're not considered deserving of the same rights and privileges as any other citizen (not that there's anything like equality among citizens). How about we question the legitimacy of the border itself! Seriously, why use the opportunity to speak in front of a big group of people just to talk about how deporting all the migrants will result in us not having so many people to clean the office buildings? Migrants do contribute to social security and pay taxes, and they support our economy, so let's give them a big "bienvenidos"! I really hope David Bacon does not believe in all these things he said.

Okay, I understand that some people will only be open to these arguments, but why validate them? It's almost like a man saying "well, maybe women would give us better blow jobs if we treat them nicer". I just don't understand the willingness to use these arguments.

More later probably...

*Update: This article, Why We Should Defend Undocumented Workers, is very similar to the presentation that David Bacon gave, if you want to read it. It is actually quite good, but again, there were parts that disappointed and frustrated me. Here's a quote, "If everyone went home tomorrow, would there be fruit and vegetables on the shelves at Safeway? Who would cut up the cows and pigs in meatpacking plants? Who would clean the offices of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Chicago?... The vast majority of white people - the descendants of European immigrants - are workers too. We all work. We all need to work to put bread on the table for our families. But without the labor of immigrants, the system would stop."

Neo-Nazi's Hold Anti-Immigrant Rally At Phoenix Capitol

Estimates are that there were about 40 neo-nazis/national socialist movement folks, 200 counter-protesters, mostly anarchists.

Here's a collection of videos from the protest.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beware of "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act"

I mentioned in an earlier post about Arpaio citing a fake law to justify his actions, that the anti-immigrant movement has been citing fake statistics such as the number of "Americans" killed each year (or day) by undocumented immigrants. Then I'm doing reading on Russell Pearce's newish efforts for legislation and see this statistic I discussed in a post long ago (Fake Death Statistics Prompt Anti-Immigrant Event). So the statistic is that 25 Americans are killed each day, and Russell Pearce wrote:
9,000 Americans killed each year, 25 each day, 12 by stabbings and shootings, 13 by DUI and related crimes (Congressional Report; Drawing a Line in the Sand).
I'm going to look further into this, but check out my earlier post for more information on the source of the stat.

Meanwhile, review this. It is very important to know what we're up against...
1. Illegal Sanctuary Policies: Eliminates ALL sanctuary cities in this state and allows legal citizens the right to sue their government for violating this law.

2. Trespass: Makes entering or remaining in Arizona in violation of federal law a state crime and “allows” law enforcement to arrest them on trespass violation or just call ICE to take them and deport them. (law enforcement’s choice). This allows them to hold those that are being investigated for serious crimes and not have deported before the investigation is completed.

3. Employers Sanctions: Tightens up our Fair and Legal Employment Act and gives an additional ability to enforce the Nations Toughest Employers Sanctions Law, with a civil subpoena power for County Attorney and AG with the courts for the proper checks and balances.

4. Day Laborer Enforcement: Makes it illegal for an illegal alien to solicit work (day laborers) and makes a misdemeanor for anyone with a license to do business in Arizona to pick up any day laborer without filling out a employment application. Makes it a state crime to aid, harbor, conceal transport or attempt to aid, harbor, conceal or transport an illegal alien for work with a mandatory impoundment of their vehicle under 28-3511 for 30 days. Also with mandatory $1000 fine per illegal alien being transported.

Closing our borders is a must, however it must be coupled with interior enforcement. Attrition by enforcement. Strict enforcement. It is time to renew our efforts to end ALL sanctuary policies in our states and our nation: Require officials to fully enforce federal immigration laws of the United States. NO MORE TAXPAYER BENEFITS OF ANY KIND, No Amnesty, No retreat, No surrender. We will take back America one state at a time. It starts here!!!!! Read more...)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Racial Profiling Focus is Distraction

I have become convinced that the focus on racial profiling is a distraction to the detriment of migrants' freedom. I am not saying racial profiling is okay, but it implies that what is wrong is that people who are being stopped because of their skin color (or other physical cues) are innocent, implying that those who have broken immigration law are not those worth our concerns. Yet, i would hope that those who claim to be allies or advocates for undocumented immigrants would not allow this idea to be promoted.

Okay get this. Anti-Arpaio folks are so focused on these sweeps and the racial profiling and all that, yet only 6% of the arrests of undocumented immigrants occur out in the community, whereas the other 94% of migrants are identified for deportation when they go through the jails (and the folks in the jails are those arrested by the various police departments in the valley) (Source). (This is partly why DHS is continuing the agreements of 287(g) that involve jail checks.) Other police departments are arresting more migrants than the MCSO without these hyped-up "crime supression sweeps", as i discussed further in If Phx and Mesa PD are arresting more immigrants, why is focus on Arpaio?

Clearly, if we are concerned about migrants, we would be focused on the various police departments' arrests, on the jail checks, and on the legislation Pearce is trying to push, as well as on the federal laws. If it weren't for the federal laws, there wouldn't be arrests and deportations of migrants.

Overall, the lefty migrants' rights movement is unwilling to oppose the federal laws, and is therefore limited to using the available laws to advocate for migrants. When the justice department and the fbi announced their investigations of Arpaio, many activists jumped on the opportunity to bring Arpaio down. Yet they are obviously limited to what is already against the law. "The Civil Rights Division has an open and ongoing investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office into alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures, and on allegations of national origin discrimination. As part of that investigation, we had observers on the ground in Arizona last week." (Source). Ignoring that the federal government is oppressing the migrants just as much, incidents of racial profiling and perhaps other things were reported to the feds.

When we look to the federal government to protect us (or others) from the local government (or anyone), we are confined to the law. If detaining migrants is legal, but racial profiling is illegal, then we document the racial profiling and hand over the videos to the feds, hoping something will come of it. The problem is, much of the injustices against migrants are perfectly legal.

In a lot of ways Arpaio is a clown, a decoy, distracting everyone's attention away from everything else that's going on. (Unfortunately because i'm not an investigative journalist, i rely on what the other media covers and so i end up focusing on these things as well). He's waving his arms, saying "look over here!", creating stunts and various media circus tricks, saying shocking things, and meanwhile his antics are not even accomplishing much at all. That is the funny thing about it. Sure, the sweeps might be terrorizing people, but he's not arresting all that many people, like i mentioned earlier. Meanwhile families are getting torn apart, people are having their dignity, health, and safety ripped away by other police departments, ICE/border patrol, the private detention centers. (I discuss this further in Federal Government Will Not be Maricopa County's Savior).

And so while folks are waiting for the federal government to save the day, they mustn't question the immigration laws or the enforcers themselves. I discussed this back in April in Racial Profiling Discussion Undermines Solidarity with Immigrants when Al Sharpton and a representative of ACORN were on the Lou Dobbs show discussing racial profiling.

The problem is that the way it's being discussed constructs a hierarchy in which people who are not "illegal" are the unintended targets who do not deserve to be stopped, while undocumented migrants are the correct targets of the racial profiling sweeps. Unfortunately, it is difficult to characterize commentators' position on the issue, and to separate media interpretation from advocates' stances. Additionally, racial profiling is often not defined, nor is it explained why it is wrong.

The ACLU defines racial profiling in this way:
"Racial Profiling" refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. Criminal profiling, generally, as practiced by police, is the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with crime. Examples of racial profiling are the use of race to determine which drivers to stop for minor traffic violations (commonly referred to as "driving while black or brown"), or the use of race to determine which pedestrians to search for illegal contraband.
The idea here is that one should not be suspected of a crime because of how they look, but if one has committed a crime, the way they are caught should not be by appearance. However, one could argue that those who are guilty of a crime should be caught no matter the means. Frankly, there are people who would make themselves out to be advocates for migrants when in fact they do not want to question the law, and therefore do not openly oppose the arrests of migrants under any conditions, involving racial profiling or not.

While some may say that this racial profiling is only wrong when it catches legal residents and citizens up in its net, others may say that what is wrong is for officers to investigate someone's citizenship status just because of the way they look- that a person who is undocumented should have the benefit of the doubt like everyone else. Yet the immigration laws themselves are rarely questioned. Some might state that the offense is only a misdemeanor and therefore should not be treated like worse crimes, yet hardly anyone says that movement should not be a crime.

The racial profiling issue is a big one right now, which is why i bring this up again (i discussed it earlier here and here). Stephen Lemons is writing an interesting series in the Phoenix New Times about legal residents and citizens getting arrested by MCSO during the racial profiling (and workplace raids). There was a great video put out called Arpaio's Reign of Terror. And just recently Arpaio has gotten a lot of media coverage for his statements on their ability to continue to enforce immigration law.

Arpaio recently has had to defend his immigration enforcement after having his 287(g) status limited by the feds. He has cited nonexistent laws to justify continuing his targeting of migrants. In addition, he has said that there are ways his officers can identify undocumented immigrants: "There are certain criteria. No identification, looking like they just came from Mexico, and they admit it. So that's enough." (Source).

He also denied and admitted to racial profiling on another show.
SANCHEZ: You just said you detain people who haven’t committed a crime — how do you prove they they’re not illegal?

ARPAIO: It has to do with their conduct, what type of clothes they’re wearing, their speech, they admit it, they may have phony IDs. A lot of variables are involved.

SANCHEZ: You judge people and arrest them based on their speech and the clothes they’re wearing sir?

ARPAIO: No, when they’re in the vehicle with someone who has committed a crime. We have the right to talk to those people. When they admit that they are here illegally we take action…the federal law specifies the speech, the clothes, the environment, the erratic behavior. It’s right in the law.

By the way, the law he is referencing might either be the nonexistent law he cited earlier this week, or an old ICE manual, which is not law and doesn't apply to officers in the field because their jurisdiction under 287(g) has been restricted.

As part of Arpaio's defense, this was included in yesterday's press release:
Some of the indicators listed in the attached ICE training manual are:
(1) does the detainee have a thick accent or not comprehend English;
(2) whether the individual had identification;
(3) is the location of the stop a known illegal alien locale;
(4) is the detainee’s appearance unusual or out of place in the specific locale;
(5) does the detainee appear to be in transit or recently traveling;
(6) did the detainee’s demeanor (i.e., “freeze or take flight” when first spotted by
the officer;
(7) did the vehicle seem overcrowded or ride heavily; and
(8) did the passengers in the vehicle slouch down, slump or attempt to avoid being
detected in the vehicle. (Source).
But as the Feathered Bastard quoted an ACLU lawyer as pointing out, this ICE manual is not law, nor is it relevant to the MCSO's duties on the streets since they no longer have auhtority under 287(g), and this manual is from 2005.

Racial profiling is a problem. And it is positive that shedding light on this blatant injustice shows that Arpaio is a hypocrite.

Okay, so say we stop the racial profiling. What then? Are we done or do we move on to the injustices that are sanctioned by the government? What if we start on those now instead of getting distracted by Arpaio's antics?

Arpaio's New Tool is a Joke

What a joke. Sheriff Arpaio had been hyping a "new tool" that he would use to counter those who document/videotape the stops during the immigration sweeps. Specifically it was said that this new tool would be used by "his deputies to overcome safety and security concerns of deputies being videotaped and interfered with during the course of their duties." (Source.) We were waiting to see what it would be. Something to block the camera? Arrests of observers? What would it be?

Well, the first day of the sweeps last weekend, we found out. MCSO is countering the videotaping by videotaping themselves! Bam! Take that copwatchers!

Seriously, this is really the "new tool". According to their press release that day,
Starting today, Sheriff’s deputies will utilize special teams to video tape deputies’ contact with the public to preserve an accurate account of any incident and to assist deputies during law enforcement operations.
The Sheriff stated that he understands and respects citizen’s first amendment rights. However, he also understands those rights need to be balanced by the possibility of danger to his deputies when they are distracted by these agitators approaching while they are trying to focus on their already difficult duties.

I, along with others I've talked to, suspect that they may have had a different "new tool" but realized it was unconstitutional, and so they came out with this really silly solution to their "safety and security concerns". In what way exactly does having an officer (or posse member?) videotape officers solve their concerns about officers getting videotaped and allegedly interfered with? How does it balance the possibility of danger to deputies when they are distracted by "agitators"?

This partially explains their logic:
"I too will now have people videotaping our deputies," he said. "We won't edit the tape the way they do." (Source).

This seems to be the only specific reason they've given for doing this; that they won't edit the tape. Yeah, the problem is the editing. Because the people who put their footage on youtube (seen here) edited out the parts in which the cops were nice. Right.

This really doesn't address what is implied by their reference of safety and security concerns. In fact, there really were no safety and security concerns in the legal sense. Copwatchers stay a safe distance away, the officers know what we're doing, there is absolutely no interference except when an officer himself chooses to interfere with his own investigation by going to harass the observers. As I have pointed out in the past, the officers themselves cause most of the problems they wish to blame copwatchers for. And I find it interesting that they are putting officers (or posse members) in charge of filming each stop- which means that person filming is not out there arresting people.

Overall, the filming by MCSO of MCSO is good news to copwatchers. We are out there partly to gain footage that can be used to stop the harassment of migrants, the racial profiling, and any other abuses, but mostly to prevent it. It is possible that the additional cameras around will help to accomplish this. We have no illusions that the MCSO would allow any of their footage to be used against them, however. Therefore we will continue to do what we've been doing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

FAIR Lies Blow up in Arpaio's Face

The anti-immigrant movement is known for its lies used to convince the general public that immigrants are a problem. I figured at some point an official of some sort would take one of the lies at face value, such as the made up statistic about how many americans get killed by undocumented immigrants. You gotta love it that this official ended up being Sheriff Arpaio.

Sheriff Joe's bungle reveals that he wants to enforce immigration law- he says its his duty- yet he doesn't even know the law. He has to have someone find some fake law on an anti-immigrant website. Clearly his sense of duty is not what he makes it out to be- it is a political position he has chosen to take.

Arpaio's 287(g) agreement with DHS has expired as of midnight last night. He has said that he still has the authority to do what he has been doing for a couple years: having the trained deputies ask about immigration status during stops and handling suspected undocumented immigrants until they end up in ICE custody. Specifically, his officers do saturated patrols often called "sweeps" in certain areas where many latinos reside, during which people will get pulled over for minor traffic violations or even made-up crimes and asked about their immigration status. As I write this, there is a sweep going on way out in Surprise today- a way of flipping the bird at the federal government and all those hoping that the end of 287(g) would mean the end of these sweeps.

The Feathered Bastard reported on the fake law that Arpaio was citing:
In Joe Arpaio's press conference last week, and since then on several news shows, the sheriff has insisted there is a law in the federal code that allows him to continue his anti-immigrant sweeps without his 287(g) field authority. This is the power stripped from him recently by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, while leaving his jails agreement in limbo.

Indeed, during that press conference, when asked what federal law allowed him to continue the sweeps, he told a reporter, "I'll give you the section, I'll even give you a copy of it, if you want." Reporters were then given handouts with bogus and misleading information, apparently copied -- in part -- from extremist nativist Web sites.
Accompanying the fake law was some additional text, and interpretation of the law that was made to look like part of the law. The Feathered Bastard wrote that "the text seems to be from a document on the Web site of the Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control, a nativist organization in Darien, Connecticut, which refers to an illegal immigration "invasion" and has "Welcome to MexAmerica" on its home page. The online doc itself says it was prepared by another anti-illegal group, Americans for Legal Immigration". The Arizona Republic says that "the interpretation actually originated on the Federation for American Immigration Reform Web site".

Further, they report:
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for FAIR, verified that the language cited in Arpaio's document originated from a legal interpretation the group published in 1999.

The Arpaio document cites a provision of Title 8 of the federal code followed by language that says "state and local law-enforcement officials have the general power to investigate and arrest violators of federal immigration statutes without prior INS knowledge or approval, as long as they are authorized to do so by state law."

It also states that "evasive, nervous, or erratic behavior; dress or speech indicating foreign citizenship; and presence in an area known to contain a concentration of illegal aliens" can be used to constitute reasonable suspicions someone is in the country illegally.
Arpaio discussed this alleged law and the characteristics that indicate that someone might be "illegal" on various national television shows such as the Glenn Beck show (the law is discussed at about 4 minutes in on this video).

Despite the fact that he also continues to insist that he doesn't need the federal law to enable him to make arrests of undocumented immigrants (because he can enforce state law such as the human smuggling law which he also uses to get migrants charged with conspiracy) his press people have acknowledged that the law he was citing was not actually real, and is now saying that a federal harboring law gives him the authority to enforce immigration law. The law enables Arpaio's officers to make arrests in cases in which someone is suspected of harboring undocumented immigrants. This is still pretty limiting and certainly doesn't allow officers to pull people over for cracked windshields to check their immigration status.

The whole thing is pretty funny considering that FAIR has somehow maintained a fairly good reputation and political position as part of the anti-immigrant movement, despite the fact that they have been linked to various hate groups and are in fact called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

This also reminds me of the story i covered in OOPS! Racist AZ politician "accidently" sent out article from National Alliance.

Friday, September 11, 2009

MCSO Seeking Loopholes in Immigration Enforcement: Unpaid Traffic Tickets

MCSO is being sneaky again. They're going after people why have unpaid traffic tickets and fines for not having drivers licenses. Of course a good portion of those who don't have licenses are most likely undocumented immigrants. And a lot of folks who are too afraid to show up for court or interact further with police after a stop are likely to be at risk for deportation as well.

What's messed up about this is that my friend who drove us to one of the big immigrants' rights marches a few years back got a ticket on his car when we got back to it. We were completely legally parked. We took pictures of the car and the signs and everything. I had a feeling that a lot of the cars in the area got ticketed even if they were legally parked. Then the undocumented migrants will either have to go to court and prove their innocence and then risk being found out as undocumented, or they will have to avoid the whole thing and have an unpaid ticket on their record.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio may have a way to bypass possible changes in federal immigration law by arresting illegal immigrants on outstanding charges such as unpaid traffic tickets and fines for not having drivers licenses, according to immigration attorneys and Hispanic activists who monitor the agency’s activities.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Web site lists 30 individuals arrested over the past three days for not paying fines, another 24 had charges that included missing court dates. The information, however, did not specify whether the individuals were undocumented.

The failure to pay fine charge means the MCSO and other police agencies can arrest illegal immigrants without getting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement approval at the time of the arrest. Immigration charges can be added after defendants are booked, said sources, some of whom asked not to be identified.

“If there is an outstanding warrant for failure to pay fines, then MCSO can pick up the person on the warrant itself, regardless of their immigration status and not have to get into that with the person or call ICE — because it will be addressed when the person gets booked in jail,” said Margarita Silva, a Phoenix attorney with the law office of Navidad, Leal & Silva. More...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Harassment of Legal Observers at Sheriff's Sweep

Please view these videos from the last sweep.

We need to continue to observe and document these sweeps (even if doing just that doesn't accomplish much). They clearly don't like us doing it, more so now than ever, it seems. What are they trying to hide?

These officers cannot stop you from filming. They have no expectation of privacy!

Both officers claimed that they can take the video as evidence. If it is true that they can take your camera as evidence because you're filming their investigation, then wouldn't they want that evidence? Hey, free effortless evidence, right? In my years of copwatching, I have only heard this response from a cop once (at the time the cop claimed we couldn't film the other cop reading a suspect his Miranda rights. What kinda bullshit is that?). It is interesting that different MCSO cops in different locations used the same response.

If we were to assume that it is true that one cannot document an active investigation, is a traffic stop an active investigation? And if so, why have folks been able to document millions of traffic stops all over the country? The fact is that the police are public servants (supposedly) and have no expectation of privacy when they are performing their duties.

The next question is, can one film undercover officers? I have heard this response a few times in the past, but it never results in anything. If it is true that one cannot film undercovers then why does one cop say it, drop it, and the other cop doesn't bring it up until later on. Must not be that big of a deal, huh? The way he explains it is that the undercover officers wouldn't want people to take pictures of their face. Is that a legal issue?

Someone filming from across the street is not interfering with a stop or investigation. The police choose to bring their attention to the folks who are documenting, just as they have chosen many times to ignore folks with cameras.

While the filming may not actually stop the racial profiling and harassment of folks with brown skin, it does tend to put the police on the defensive, and often they start treating the "suspects" better when they're on film. It is important that the legal observing continue.

If you plan to document the police locally, please contact Phoenix Copwatch. They can provide you with information to help you observe and film safely and with minimum risk of arrest. phoenix_copwatch [at] yahoo [dot] com

Update: These incidents got some mainstream media coverage. MCSO YouTube Clip Sparks Outcry was rather sympathetic to the folks documenting, or maybe it just seems so because the MCSO representative was so inarticulate. This is one quote: "'The First Amendment, yeah, he does have the right to express and do what he needs to do but when asked by a law enforcement officer as he is conducting an official investigation, then he does cross the line,' said MCSO Detective Aaron Douglas." He's not even making a clear statement here. In addition he suggests that one option to deal with this problem is, as the article reports, "deputies may even start carrying video cameras so they can record incidents where people are videotaping them." What is that!? They'll film back, and that's the solution?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ex-ICE Officer Charged in Drug-Smuggling

Yet another case of law enforcement officials involved in drug smuggling was exposed this week. Richard Padilla Cramer was arrested for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US. Cramer was a former high-ranking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who worked near the border in Arizona. He retired in 2007.

The Associated Press recently published an article about their investigation on corruption among law officers on the border. Unlike any discussion about Mexican citizens or migrants involvement in drug trafficking or other crimes (or US citizens of color involved in drug dealing), this article was very sensitive to the officers' vulnerability to bribery. Nonetheless, they exposed that this isn't just a case of rotten apples. I would take it one step further and argue that this is a systemic problem- that law enforcement is by its very nature corrupt.

It is ridiculous that the supposed attempt to fight the drug war is to get more law enforcement involved. It's no wonder that since the Merida Initiative, aka Plan Mexico, there has been more corruption (I discuss this further in Breaking Down the Mexican Drug War).

From On Border, Agents Struggle with Corruption
As Calderon sent thousands of soldiers to northern Mexico to stop the gruesome cartel violence and clean out corrupt police departments, CBP, the largest U.S. law enforcement agency, boosted its border forces by 44 percent or 6,907 additional officers and agents on the southwest border.

At the same time, CBP saw the number of its officers charged with corruption-related crimes nearly triple, from eight cases in fiscal 2007 to 21 the following year...

In the past 10 months, 20 agents from CBP alone have been charged with a corruption-related crime. At that pace, the organization will set a new record for in-house corruption; 90 employees have been charged with corrupt acts since October 2004. Agency officials expect those cases to continue to climb: There are 63 open criminal investigations - including corruption cases - against CBP employees.

I have been casually keeping track of cases such as this for a few years. I have been particularly interested in the fact that migrants are stereotyped as drug smugglers while law enforcement is not. While obviously nearly everyone has vulnerability to this lucrative business.

Human smuggling, is another lucrative business. Most of these non-drug related corruption charges involve providing "legal" paperwork for folks crossing the border- probably those who have money and are therefore probably involved in the drug trade. So who's to blame for drug traffickers entering the US.

An opinion piece from October 2006, Corrupt officials at home hinder real immigration reform lays out a number of examples of border-area law enforcement corruption, particularly drug trafficking, such as this example: "Border Patrol agent David Duque faces up to 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for legal documents. He sold fake passports, birth certificates and Social Security cards. He even received $5,000 to allow a cocaine shipment through the Texas border."

Surely decriminalizing drugs and migration would solve the problem of corruption. And surely poverty and the perceived need for more and more money by those who already have it are to blame as well. People will always have incentive to do wrong within capitalism. The drugs and migration are not necessarily the problem in and of themselves- it's the abuse of the drugs, and especially the violence that pervades these underground markets, that are the problems.

While watching a video on the Mexican drug trade, I wrote down a quote from a woman who was heavily involved in drug trafficking in Mexico: "You'd have to wipe out the government to wipe out drug trafficking." I'm quite certain she was referring to how corrupt the Mexican government is. But clearly government officials, with their power, access, and impunity (mostly), along with everyone assuming they're innocent because they are part of law enforcement, are not immune from participating in that which they claim to counter, whether in the US or not. So maybe we really would have to get rid of the government to get rid of these crimes.

By the way, since Arpaio was involved with the DEA in Mexico, someone should really look into what he might be hiding...

Arpaio Targets Folks Selling Pirated Movies

This time Arpaio's immigration sweep involves targeting folks who pirate and sell movies and CDs. Yesterday, the MCSO surrounded an outdoor swap meet called the Mercado. There were several undercover officers, in addition to uniformed ones who apparently went into the surrounding area of south Phoenix to serve warrants, and probably to pull people over for cracked windshields and other similar minor offenses.

Some folks went out to document the sweep, as happens at these sorts of events. I heard through the grapevine that the police took someone's camera and erased the footage. I also heard that some others got detained for observing as well.

Six of the 7 who were arrested (I thought i heard more were arrested) were undocumented, and 2 were under 18 years of age.

The "crime sweep" is said to continue today, but I haven't heard anything yet from folks who are out there.

Arpaio finds any way to enforce federal immigration law by using state laws. He has been arresting folks under the human smuggling law, charging them with conspiracy if they admit to paying someone to smuggle them. The MCSO has also gone after corn vendors, and other such folks who might have a harder time maintaining a legal business.

Of course, when you are criminalized in one way, many of the things you end up doing also tend to be against or outside of the law. I believe that many citizens actually believe that there isn't all that much wrong with crossing a border. Therefore the police are forced to portray migrants as criminals in other ways- and in some cases they are, many times due to limited finances and opportunities with the added incentive brought by lucrative underground markets. But while this is a reality, there have been plenty of studies that show that migrants actually participate in much less crime than citizens do, most likely so they can just live their lives whenever possible, by avoiding trouble. Unfortunately, the MCSO and others are intent on targeting migrants, and so they find areas in which being an undocumented migrants overlaps with criminal activity, such as pirating films and CDs.

Now, we all know that the folks with the privilege to pirate films and music in the privacy of their own homes are not treated with quite the same animosity. I've made the point before that illegal downloaders are not called "illegals" while illegal border crossers are. Clearly there is a political intent to paint certain people criminals while others, despite being targeted by law enforcement, are treated more like white collar criminals.

Update:Here is a video of some folks getting detained by MCSO during the sweep: Maricopa County Sheriff Office Deputy Illegally Detains Attorney
Here's another video of someone being harassed for taping: MCSO Harassing Me at Gran Mercado