5 statements from the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign – September 2010
These statements were distributed during the Freedom Ride, a 3-day, 100+ mile bike ride around the suburban perimter of Chicago.
Immigrants are not the root cause of our current social, political and economic problems
Immigration did not cause the bursting of the financial bubble that pushed millions of people out of their homes, nor the environmental disaster in the Gulf; it did not cause soaring unemployment, nor did it bankrupt state budgets. Immigration is not the reason why schools are underfunded or why health insurance costs are on the rise. Immigration is not the reason why $171 billion of our tax money was spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year a alone, instead of being used to give relief to families in need, struggling small businesses, or to fund health and educations programs, unemployment benefits, support to ailing veterans. Immigration is not the reason why aging Americans take the bus to Canada to buy medication and seek health care, nor did it cause the long lines in thousands of soup kitchens around the country. More and more people feel insecure and abandoned by the American dream: but the economic and political mess we are in was not caused by immigration.
In times of financial meltdown, there is always a scapegoat
The history of blaming and criminalizing immigrants is a long one. In the 1800’s the southern European immigrants were disenfranchised because of their supposed inferior intelligence; in the early 1900’s it was the Italians and Eastern Europeans; by 1920 it was Jews, Chinese, Germans and Japanese who were the threat to American purity and the danger to its economic, political and cultural stability. And so on. Throughout this history, the same “arguments” were used: they are criminals; they are lazy; they are threatening our culture; they are not assimilating; they do not speak English; they are not as good as us; they are taking away our jobs, our resources. These are the talking points of the myth of the dangerous aliens. And all the while, immigration is part and parcel of American corporations pursuing economic interests at home and abroad: after all, you cannot expect to globalize capital without also dealing with the globalization of labor.
Stepping up enforcement will not make us safer
If the root cause of our social, economic and political problems is not immigration, then solution cannot lie in the realm of prisons, detention centers, militarized borders, increased surveillance, mass criminalization, racial profiling and monoculture. This approach is a dangerous and expensive distraction.
“Secure Communities” is a danger to our democracy
A broad strategy called “Secure Communities” is quickly and quietly being implemented around the country, promising the efficient, hi-tech integration of surveillance and policing between local authorities and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It goes something like this: at any point during your time in the custody of local law enforcement — at a traffic stop, being booked, formally charged, awaiting trial, or serving a sentence — local authorities are to pass your identification information to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. This is true even in situations of wrongful arrest, when no charges are filed or when charges are subsequently dropped. This is a continuation of previous policies known as 287(g) agreements. But 287 (g) required ratification at the local level, where it was often met with strong opposition from community organizations, local legislators and often even local law enforcement. In contrast, no formal vote or other process of public debate is necessary for Secure Communities to be implemented locally, not even an official decree: it masks itself as merely a procedural improvement via augmented technological capabilities and systems integration. All that is required by County officials is signing a letter of intent to follow the Standard Operating Procedures set forth by ICE. As a result, Secure Communities has been rolled out at incredible speed and away from public oversight. Furthermore, ICE has been deliberately misleading in calling it an “optional” program: several jurisdictions have made efforts to “opt out” of the program only to have their requests mired in a confusing bureaucratic process.
Targeting immigrants makes us all targets
Even though President Obama campaigned on calling out the immigration system as broken, as not realistically addressing the issues of migration in a globalized economy, his administration has stepped up its enforcement to unprecedented levels. Scapegoating immigrants is now a national strategy, with Republicans and Democrats seemingly trying to outdo each other. Homeland Security reports recently boast that no administration in US history has ever forcefully removed more people from this country. But this does not only effect millions of immigrants and their families. Let us remember: immigrants do not live in a vacuum. In fact, immigrants have a high rate of participation in local communal support networks (including reciprocal relations like watching each other’s children, carpooling, local barter and exchange networks, community gardens, church programs and so on) which help make neighborhoods more resilient, and help people cope in times of crisis; when immigrant families are torn apart, larger community networks are disrupted, which further destabilizes our neighborhoods.
Several police chiefs and legislators have reported that Secure Communities makes it less likely for people to call on the police and report crimes, making neighborhoods less safe. Additionally, in the context of increased xenophobia, we are witnessing the proliferation of policies that virtually incentivize abusive detentions without probable cause. This is a fundamental erosion of due process and as such affects us all. And when local police become de facto border police, our neighborhoods become de facto border zones: characterized by insecurity, intolerance, and fear. These policies use the language of “security” and “community” but actually create insecurity, further destabilize the conditions of people’s lives, increase conflict and aggression, undermine and destroy communal support systems and attack our neighborhoods.