Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Police Brutality and Immigration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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