Saturday, May 30, 2009

If Phx and Mesa PD are arresting more immigrants, why is focus on Arpaio?

It's one thing after another hitting arpaio these days (such as this lawsuit). But today i came upon another example of why focusing on Arpaio is not the best strategy for immigrants' rights. This came in a guest column in the East Valley Tribune, by the title, The numbers don’t match Arpaio’s hype. The retired police officer who wrote the article blasts arpaio, but not exactly for the reasons you'd imagine. This is an excerpt:

Then the hearing turned into the usual good-old-boy, back-slapping, fanny-kissing festival with an endless stream of platitudes of how Arpaio is leading the charge against illegal immigration and crime...

Arpaio gratuitously thanked Pearce and the Legislature for the $1.6 million he was just given for his immigration sweeps. Arpaio has been given millions by the state for immigration operations, all while the state crime lab is cash strapped and performing poorly...

Even with our millions of dollars and 160 federally certified 287(g) immigration enforcement deputies, Arpaio doesn’t lead the county in immigration arrests. Phoenix police Chief Jack Harris does. Phoenix police arrested more than 7,300 illegal immigrants during 2008. Second place belongs to Mesa police Chief George Gascón, whose officers arrested more than 1,200 illegal immigrants and investigated 60 drop houses last year. Phoenix and Mesa made more than 8,500 immigration arrests during routine policing operations by following well-formulated city policies, state and federal laws, and without legislative meddling.

And Arpaio? According to the sheriff’s office, since April 2006, deputies have arrested a little more than 3,000 illegal immigrants...

So are we to applaud the Phoenix PD and the Mesa PD instead for their high numbers of arrests of immigrants? Not much of a surprise coming from a retired cop. Most Arpaio opposition actually applauds the PPD and MPD for not arresting a bunch of immigrants, so why the disparity?

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.

Sure, arpaio is feeding off of, but more importantly, feeding the anti-immigrant hysteria, which the other police departments do not seem to seek to do. His actions are highly politically-motivated and self-interested, rather than being the run of the mill everyday activities of police officials. But since we think it is wrong for him to go out and arrest undocumented immigrants, why is it okay that other police departments are doing the same thing (only "better")?

I am all to aware that a lot of immigrants rights advocates are not, in fact willing to outright oppose these arrests (i've commented on it a number of times). Instead it is made about the racial profiling: the sweeps might catch legal immigrants or citizens in its net (see this blog post). Or it is made about not going after "real criminals", nor serving warrants, despite the fact that most of us would acknowledge that the "criminal justice" system is inherently racist. The federal government is called on to save us from arpaio. I believe that if they do anything, it will only fit within its plans to focus on "criminal aliens" and streamlining its law enforcement abilities by introducing a program called "secure communities" (see this blog post and this older one).

The mindset that doesn't question these issues will only allow injustices to continue. Since most undocumented immigrants are too vulnerable to speak out, those of us who fight on their behalf must concern ourselves most with what's best for them. A friend of mine has said something to the effect of "they've spoken with their feet," in that they have made it clear what they think of the border and immigration laws. Those things are illegitimate and unjust, and should be treated as such.

I am concerned that when federal immigration reform comes up again, the compromise between liberal and conservative opinions will go unquestioned. Likely to benefit business but not people, and to appease a few, immigration reform will not involve solutions to the problems that bring people here in the first place, nor will it address the problems they face here.

There need to be strong voices that oppose anything less than true freedom- because how else are we going to get it?

See also: No Borders or Prison Walls: Beyond Immigrants' Rights to Ending Criminalization of All People of Color,
Release them all! Stop jailing migrants!,
Cop vs. Cop: Sheriff and Mesa Chief spar over sweeps
and The Immigrants Rights/Police Brutality Disconnect

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Overpopulation Codeword in Concerns Over Hunger, Environment

I happened to pick up a free slightly out-dated copy of Scientific American and started reading the article called "Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?" during which, i realized that there was a diagram with the article that basically pinned overpopulation as the cause for food shortages and environmental destruction. However, the article itself focused more on the facts that raising animals for their meat requires a lot of grain, as well as the shift to producing ethanol to fuel american cars. I actually didn't read the whole article (yet). Frankly i don't care too much if food shortages are civilization's downfall- i care more about the people and the earth. What i found interesting was how this diagram ended up showing overpopulation as the main culprit of these problems when that wasn't exactly being said in the article. I suppose overpopulation leads to more people eating meat and more people driving cars, plus more people who need to just eat whatever they can afford. Nonetheless, overpopulation tends to be codeword for "too many brown people," but the article clearly showed that it was mostly the people who are driving around a bunch and demanding their meat that are causing these problems.

Because overpopulation tends to be a codeword that scapegoats poor brown people, i had hoped that the author of the article would clarify a bit more that it is the relatively rich people who are actually causing this problem. I suppose i couldn't really hope for the kinds of things found in chapter 3 of andrea smiths book Conquest, such as those excerpts i put in a flier and posted here. Here's one example of a good point: "Rather than being caused by overpopulation, significant environmental damage is actually caused by the environmentally destructive Western development projects, such as hydroelectric dams, uranium development, militarism, and livestock production. These projects ultimately benefit the wealthy living in industrialized countries, which are responsible for producing over 75 percent of the world's pollution. Development projects also cause unparalleled environmental damage, such as damming programs that flood entire biosystems or projects that rely on massive deforestation."

Today i was interested to read about this: Billionaire club in bid to curb overpopulation: America's richest people meet to discuss ways of tackling a 'disastrous' environmental, social and industrial threat. Interestingly, overpopulation seems to be used in the racist context here since the focus is on third world countries. When will it also address the people who are in the U.S. from third world countries. Anti-immigrant folks are apparently working on drawing in more people from the left by using the environmental and maybe even philanthropic angle to draw people in. We need to blame brown people for their own problems and then save them from their own problems by oppressing them! Or that seems to be the message.

Let's get this clear: rich people will never admit their role in the destruction of the earth, much less in the inequity that destroys the lives of the poor. The solutions that rich people come up with will never be real solutions. Real solutions would mean no one could no longer be rich. Even middle class people don't want to give up their privileges that destroy the earth and its inhabitants, for the most part.

Let's also get this clear: the racist anti-immigrant folks will use any reason they can to blame and terrorize immigrants. We have to expose them for what they're doing and keep them from being able to bring more people into their ranks.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rape, Racism, and Recent Protests

The blog post i pasted below shows a lot of the hypocrisy surrounding anti-immigrant folks' focus on crime/rape by undocumented immigrants. This is not an isolated situation out of Oregon. I have seen various anti-immigrant groups and individuals shouting about rape and molestation and i know those people only want to scapegoat immigrants and not actually solve/prevent those crimes. In fact, as the author mentions below, some of these people are actually perpetrators of these types of crimes. They are perpetrators and/or promoters of violence towards undocumented immigrants or anyone who they think might be undocumented as well.

Guest Commentary: Tabatha on Rape, Racism, and Recent Protests
On May 15th, a racist, anti-immigrant group going under the name Oregonian's For Immigration Reform (OFIR) hosted a demonstration outside a Wendy's restaurant in Milwaukee, Oregon. In response to media reports of the rape of one worker at the hands of another at the restaurant, OFIR seized on the immigration status of the accused rapist as the defining factor, protesting the alleged failure of the restaurant to investigate the immigration status of their employees. Do OFIR's calls actually have anything to do with an interest in women's rights, worker safety, or justice?

The woman's mother reported that she was previously abused by her attacker, but didn't report it.

This brings the spotlight to an often ignored issue (violence against women), framing it in well within a long history veiling racist attacks in the guise of defending white women. This is bad for women and immigrants, pulling focus off the real issues at hand, and pitting oppressed people against each other.

Why would a woman feel that she couldn't report her previous sexual assault, even to her mother? Our society is harsh towards rape survivors. After experiencing these terrible crimes, a woman's life becomes scrutinized under a magnifying glass. The "justice system" is very unresponsive to most rape and sexual assault, often only prosecuting cases on behalf of women who meet very strict standards of what it means to be a "good" woman (white, thin, virginal or married--mother, modestly dressed, and straight, and assaulted by a stranger). Any deviation and a woman is perceived to hold some blame. Rape survivors are shamed, often in the media, as people from right-wing pundits to self-proclaimed feminists question their accountability if they have been drinking, flirting, wearing a short-skirt, or any other "dangerous" activity. If the rapist is an acquaintance, every interaction is questioned. Did she lead him on?

In fact, women are more likely to be assaulted by someone we know (coworker, partner, friend, family member). By portraying rapists as unknown and undocumented menaces, OFIR is "othering" rapists. This allows us to be free from questioning the culture that supports rape, and our role in perpetuating this. We don't have to question consent, patriarchy, misogyny or sexism. "Othering" rapists supports these systems. Women need to be protected from these "Illegal Aliens"; we need to be protected by the state and by men. Women are framed weaker, which falls right into the hand of the patriarchy. Protecting women's "virtue" from other men then becomes vital to our society. Whipping up a media-fueled panic encourages us to concede rights for protection. In doing so, we lose autonomy.

Historically, rape (and the casting of people of color as "primal", '"animalistic" or "hypersexual") has actually perpetuated the culture and systems of violence either through lynch mob "justice" in the South or, more recently, at the hands of the judicial system. The recent media, state, and even progressive demonization of Lovell Mixon in Oakland is a useful metric of this. Further, men of color are less likely to receive fair treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system. They are jailed at higher rates and more likely to receive longer sentences than their white counterparts. Women of color sometimes find themselves unwilling to turn their abusers into a system that they know to be racist, as they don't want to cause more injustice from their experiences. Pitting men of color against white women in such a context invokes racist stereotypes from the early history of American racism, without acknowledging the realities of rape.

This obsession with rape and sexualized violence by white supremacists deserves investigation. Thomas Wenning, whose anti-immigrant protests at Portland's Day Labor Center, has been a speaker at OFIR meetings, and his protests have been supported and promoted via OFIR's mobilization infrastructure. By his own public admission, Wenning was convicted of rape in the early 70's. In December of 2007, another member of OFIR was arrested and charged on five counts of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct, two counts of sex abuse and two counts of hindering prosecution for acts alleged to have occurred in his small town barbershop. There is obviously no fair argument that OFIR members (or white men for that matter), are more inclined to rape than any other demographic. It does, however, point to the hypocrisy of OFIR's stance on the Wendy's assault by reflecting the realities of rape. Rape is prevalent, it is common, it is under reported, and it is typically perpetuated between people who know each other and in relationships of relative social power.

Rape is always egregious. Our culture supports rape no matter the social strata, but poor women are more at risk. At their workplaces, they have less power and are more unlikely to risk their jobs relying on a justice system that doesn't support them. The most vulnerable are undocumented women workers. These women have more sexual harassment, assault, and rape at the hands of their coworkers and bosses than their documented counterparts, and they face fear of reporting and deportation in reporting to hospitals, police, and other authorities. This is a common story that the news doesn't report. If they did in accordance with its frequency, you'd see on every channel every day. It would be on the morning news programs, breaking news at noon, at five, again at six, and before the late shows. But it doesn't support our power structures, so you won't see it, unless you look for it.

Our class system is reliant on sexism and racism to divide us. By offering racism to white women and sexism to men, capitalists exploit us all while we are busy caught up fighting each other. The "other" noted above are the enemy, and whatever structures need to be put into place to protect us from them we will welcome. At our own peril, we hand sole power to arbitrate violence within our communities in the form of increased policing and increased incarceration in institutional systems entirely rooted in often sexualized violence (note popular conceptions of prison rape).

Not only does our fear control us, but we've failed to posit solutions outside of handing power and hope for justice to the same state responsible for mass violence, terror, and the enforcement of color and class lines in our communities. For rape survivors, justice is often at the expense of dignity, when seldom won.

The question worth asking, then, is what is OFIR's real goal? And what CAN we do, short of appeals to a flawed, racist, and violent criminal "justice" system, to create safety, justice, and accountability for all victims of sexual violence in our society?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

CAROB flier for Border Security Expo

This flier was passed out by CAROB and associates nearby the Border Security Expo that took place in Phoenix recently. It was handed to passersby- mostly baseball fans, others coming from the light rail station, a few people from the expo itself, and whoever else happened to be walking by...

The same mindset that has brought us freeway cameras is behind a Border Security Expo being held this Tuesday through Thursday at the Phoenix Convention Center. The event is sponsored by Raytheon, a company that manufactured a missile that killed 62 civilians in a Baghdad market in 2003*. Some of these technology companies are raking in millions, even billions of dollars to “secure the homeland”. But where does that leave us?

What does it mean that Homeland Security has nothing to do with making sure we all have homes?

Especially when so many people are losing their homes, security should mean shelter, food, health care, safety… Not more creepy biometrics devices. The government clearly is more concerned about fortifying the military and helping big business than it is about us.

Why are we allowing the government to manufacture enemies so it can award contracts to private companies? We know that private companies are making loads of money off of being part of one war or security effort or another. We know that lots of people profited from the lies that led to the US involvement in Iraq. The same companies (Boeing, Halliburton, Blackwater) are profiting or looking to profit from the continued militarization of the US-Mexico border.

The information communicated through the media about immigration is often created or distorted by white nationalists and others such as business owners who have an interest in the migrants being scape-goated. They would like us to blame the desperate and vulnerable migrants for our economic problems, rather than those who are profiting from those problems. They want workers to not get along, based on a silly concept like race, so they can continue taking advantage of us all, but especially immigrants.

What is the threat? Let us keep in mind that the first border patrol and physical barrier on the border are less than one hundred years old, yet some act like we’re doomed if we’re without a border wall. The billions upon billions of dollars to build a wall, buy border security technology, pay border patrol agents, detain hundreds of thousands of migrants, and deport them is hardly justified by the alleged costly impact migrants have on the economy. The impact of supposed over-population is nothing compared to the impact that big corporations- especially weapons manufactures- have on the planet.

And now the big deal is the drug cartels? The criminalization of drugs and people have created the unsafe conditions related to drug and human smuggling. Even though studies show that drug treatment is far more effective than enforcement, the government wants to perpetuate the violence at the border by increasing militarization.

How can we expect people to not migrate here if we are not willing to correct the damage we benefit from? Rich guys from the US who have investments in Mexico, such as car-parts factories, have an interest in and the power (with the participation of rich powerful Mexicans and cooperation of other US-based forces) to maintain the poor economic conditions in Mexico that ensure a cheap labor pool. US citizens benefit from the cheap products from Mexico, turning a blind eye to our participation in maintaining a situation in which people from Mexico need to seek better opportunities.

Do you think the increase in technology on the border will not affect you? What about the pastor from Tempe who got tased and beat up by DPS officers after refusing to open his trunk for the border patrol? How long till the border patrol check points are as maddening as going through security at the airport?

No to increased border security! No to the created divisions between us and our brothers and sisters based on immigration status! No to continued invasions on Indian land to supposedly secure the homeland! No to destroying the environment to build a wall!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Release them all! Stop jailing migrants!

The following is text i wrote that was printed on a flier that was distributed during the rally at the end of the march to sheriff joe's jails. The other part of the flier is Blood on the Line: Resistance, Empire and Repression at the Border.

We've heard the stories: Undocumented immigrants are getting kidnapped and held for ransom, and perhaps found in drop houses if the police get a tip. The migrants are vulnerable targets because they have been criminalized by the state. Something we don't hear too much about is that the biggest armed gang in the country is kidnapping migrants and holding them against their will. They're not holding them in drop houses; these uniformed kidnappers are handcuffing the migrants and incarcerating them in jails and detention centers.

If we feel that it is tragic when traffickers do it, why do we let the police get away with it? Whether they are "rescued" from traffickers, stopped while driving in one of Arpaio's sweeps, or confronted with the ridiculous charge of conspiracy to smuggle themselves, migrants get caught up in the US prison system for no other reason but crossing a man-made line in the sand.

Arpaio, taking pleasure in humiliating brown-skinned people and getting cheers from racists, stands out as the villain of Maricopa County. But the other police departments are acting in similar, more quiet ways. While migrants and activists wait to hear what the federal government will do to save us from Sheriff Joe, the Department of Homeland Security is holding hundreds of thousands of people- triple the number of people in detention just ten years ago- in detention centers. If they end 287g they will only replace it with something more tasteful; something called "Secure Communities" which will target our "criminal alien" population. Meanwhile our legislature is coming up with new ways to criminalize migrants.

Migrants have been criminalized for who they are and where they are from- not for doing harm. If anything is harmful, it's punishing people for trying to survive the results of colonialism, capitalism, and globalization (which most US citizens enjoy the benefits of). When it is nearly impossible to make a living and nearly impossible to migrate legally, anyone would travel to where they have more opportunities. Why then would advocates for immigrants' rights legitimize the arrests of undocumented immigrants by complaining only about the "legal" people who get caught up in the racial profiling sweeps? We mustn't buy into the efforts to divide us! We need to bring down the walls between us, as well as the physical walls- the border walls, the jail walls, and the walls of the detention centers.

It should be a crime to imprison people for trying to survive!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Arpaio: Judged by the Company he Keeps- video

Arpaio: Judged by the Company he Keeps- video

Maricopa County Jail Inmates on Hunger Strike

It's always good news when inmates are organizing. This latest hunger strike in Sheriff Joe's jails is the 2nd or 3rd i've heard of in the last few years. So far i think things have only gotten worse, but somehow i feel that the people have more power lately.

It would be interesting to see how much the march to the jails last weekend had to do with this hunger strike, besides what Reza says, quoted below, about how the inmates were not allowed to bathe, etc. while on lockdown because of the march.

What is unclear is how much this hunger stike has to do with Arpaio's immigration enforcement. I had thought it would be a good idea, back when Arpaio was going to start charging for food, that people make the connection to the inmates, some of which are undocumented but many of which are not, that he has to charge for food because of how much he's spending on immigration enforcement. I had since learned that the food charges did not go into effect, although i'm not sure about that.

Anyway, Reza is quoted below as saying that they were going to the board of supervisors' meeting, but referenced the immigration enforcement instead of the jail conditions. The two are related, but again, it's unclear to what extent the hunger strike is related to the immigration enforcement.

Now that the news has come out, i hope that other inmates join the strike and that there are more solidarity actions in the coming days.

Hunger Strike in Joe Arpaio's Jails: 500 Reportedly Refusing to Eat Because of Bad Food
By Stephen Lemons in Feathered Bastard
Tuesday, May. 5 2009 @ 10:17PM

Phoenix civil rights activist Salvador Reza and Univision Channel 33 are reporting that there is a hunger strike on in Joe's jails, with about 500 prisoners joining in the action to protest the atrocious food served in Arpaio's incarceration complex.

Reza, who led a march of thousands on Joe's jails on May 2, explained that he heard about the protest from a family member of one of those hunger striking in Durango Jail. Reza issued a press release earlier today stating the following:

"A relative of a prisoner in Durango Jail communicated today that up to 500 prisoners declared an indefinite hunger strike until the conditions within MCSO jails change. They are protesting the food conditions, the mistreatment, and the arrogance, and the human rights abuses. They are especially incensed at the treatment given to them by Sheriff Joe. During the May 2, 2009 March for Respect prisoners were not allowed to bathe, leave their cells, they were not even allowed to speak to anyone."

I confirmed the report of 500 hunger strikers in the jails through a county employee, but Univision Channel 33 beat me to the punch, interviewing a family member who described paint chips in the food and worms in oranges. The strikers vow to hold out for as long as their bodies can stand it, or till they are provided with better food.

Univision also scored an interview with Arpaio, where he played off the potential crisis.
"That's their problem," he told the Spanish-language channel. "If they're trying to send me a message, it's not going to work."

Reza vowed to support the strikers at Wednesday morning's Maricopa County Board of Supervisor's meeting.

"We will talk to the Board of Supervisors," said Reza, "a family member of one of the strikers will talk to the Board of Supervisors. And we will ask them to stop funding Arpaio's immigration sweeps and to unanimously ask [Homeland Security chief] Janet Napolitano to revoke his 287(g) agreement."

Reza also stated that he will hold a press conference on the issue Wednesday at 11 a.m. outside the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. District Court building. He will encourage family members of those being held in MCSO facilities to join a candlelight vigil for the hunger strikers at 7 p.m. the same day.

Joe often boasts of how poor the food is in his facilities, and that he feeds the canines in his kennels better than his prisoners. Recently, he started charging inmates money from their prison accounts for the two meals they receive daily.

Maricopa County's citizens have endorsed Joe's cruelty time and time again, despite the fact that 70 percent of those in Joe's custody are awaiting trial. Nor does this barbarism improve recidivism rates, though it does get Joe plenty of media, and votes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Immigrant Detainees on Hunger Strike in South Texas ICE Facility


Immigrant Detainees on Hunger Strike in South Texas ICE Facility

By Greg Rodriguez,

Rio Grande Valley, South Texas --It is known that nearly one-hundred of the immigrants being detained at the Department of Homeland Security(DHS)/Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s(ICE) Port Isabel Detention Center (PIDC) have been on a hunger strike since April 22, 2009. PIDC is a prison used to detain immigrants arrested by the United States government. It is located in an extremely isolated area of the remote South Texas town called Los Fresnos.

The detainees have resorted to this form of non-violent direct action after months of demanding adequate medical attention and an end to abuses by guards; to no avail.

The responsible parties are DHS, ICE and more specifically, Field Director for ICE - Michael J. Pitts - who has been trying to break up the hunger strike by planning the isolation of participants, pressuring them to eat, and calling for the speedy deportation of detainees engaging in the strike – tactics which will not solve the problems, but instead deny justice to the struggling detainees. Dora Schriro, Special Advisor on ICE and Detention/Removal to DHS, is also among the responsible heads for her failure to report to the public on the conditions at PIDC.


Racist Sheriff Joe Supporters

Please view this video which shows who these Sheriff Joe supporters really are. This video is from yesterday, May 2nd at the march against Sheriff Joe. It started at the Well's Fargo building, where the sheriff has his expensive office, to the area where the jails, including tent city, are. The video shows some footage of the marchers, but mostly the counter-protesters. You can see J.T. Ready, who has claimed he's not racist, doing the sieg heil thing.