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

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