Archive for category: Immigration
The post Stephen Miller’s Second-Term Immigration Agenda Is Worse Than He Wants People to Know appeared first on The Nation.
The hardline adviser is said to be ready to unleash executive orders deemed too extreme for a president seeking re-election
The architect of Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policy, senior adviser Stephen Miller, is said to have a drawer full of executive orders ready to be signed in “shock and awe” style if Trump is re-elected.
The former homeland security department chief of staff, Miles Taylor, said this wishlist was reserved for the second term because it included policies that were too unpopular for a president seeking re-election.
In the lead up to Election Day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is trumpeting its raids of undocumented immigrants, expediting deportations, and putting up “wanted” billboard ads of “criminal aliens” across Pennsylvania. Rights advocates say these tactics appear aimed at boosting President Donald Trump’s reelection chances by intimidating immigrants, Latinos and other Black and Brown voters, who are more likely to favor Democratic candidates.
“We are walking a fine line,” says Philip Wolgin, managing director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a think tank that is influential with the leadership of the Democratic Party. “We want to make sure that people are aware of what’s going on and how to be prepared, particularly local officials who have the onus of protecting elections, while also not causing fear in immigrant communities and ending up doing the type of voter suppression that we think the DHS and the government are trying to do right now.”
As voter participation sets record numbers, DHS may be seeking to dampen this enthusiasm, critics say. On October 21, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE)—a DHS agency in charge of combating “unauthorized” immigration—announced the implementation of its expedited removal policy, whereby it can arrest individuals anywhere in the country and deport them in a matter of days without a court hearing if individuals cannot prove, to the satisfaction of the officials, that they have resided in the United States for at least two years. The timing of the announcement of this policy, suggests Wolgin, could dampen voter participation.
“Most U.S. citizens probably do not carry on them documents that show that they’ve been in the country for two years. I personally do not carry my passport with me at all times,” says Wolgin. “So, there’s a real concern that, given the long history of racial profiling and using immigration to go after Black and Brown people, we could end up with ICE detaining some folks based on this provision. That’s not out of the realm of possibility.”
False rumors have amplified this possibility. According to an October report by the Brennan Center for Justice—a nonpartisan law and policy institute at the New York University School of Law—groups that are intentionally trying to suppress the vote among people of color have spread the falsehood that ICE agents will surely patrol the vicinity of polling places. “Some of these rumors appear to have come from groups that are intentionally trying to suppress the vote among Latinos and other people of color,” states the report. “These rumors create real fear in communities ICE has targeted with increasingly aggressive tactics.”
On top of expedited removals, DHS appears to be publicly championing its crackdown on immigrants. Earlier in October, the Acting DHS secretary, Chad Wolf, touted in two press releases the arrests of almost 300 immigrants after week-long operations in six cities and the whole state of California. The operations, however, did not mark a shift in course but were consistent with the Trump administration’s high arrest rates.
Rights advocates say the timing of these public statements about DHS arrests is no coincidence. “The DHS is doing everything it can to promote these political stunts two weeks before the presidential election,” says Salvador Sarmiento, national campaign director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), a grassroots organization that promotes immigrant workers’ rights. Sarmiento adds that the Trump administration’s objective is to instill fear in immigrants and people of color, who out of caution may be discouraged from interacting with any kind of officials, including at the polling stations.
NDLON has denounced a prominent DHS initiative to criminalize undocumented immigrants. In early October, ICE started putting up in Pennsylvania six billboards with “wanted” ads showing the pictures of “criminal aliens”—all of them people of color. ICE claims the individuals pose a “safety threat,” even though five of them have not been convicted. According to a memo by the Center for American Progress, the “wanted” ads represent a new gambit. “Such race-baiting may especially lead to escalated risks for Black and Brown citizens seeking to cast their vote, which in turn could have a chilling effect on their ability to participate fully in the election,” states the document.
New tactics are paired with the old myth that undocumented immigrants do vote and sway elections. With no proof whatsoever, Trump himself repeated as recently as 2018 that millions of undocumented immigrants voted in California in the 2016 election. He set up an investigative commission led by Vice President Mike Pence and then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, which failed to find any evidence of voter fraud.
Despite the commission’s failure, ICE did manage to announce in August 2018 charges against 19 foreign individuals for voting illegally in North Carolina in 2016, although in similar cases elsewhere people were just confused about their eligibility to vote. Those votes were negligible considered the 4.8 millions votes cast in 2016 in North Carolina. These stunts could contribute to mobilizations across battleground states for the “Army for Trump’s election security,” which was convened by Donald Trump Jr. and aims to establish a 50,000-strong army of “observers.”
Climate of intimidation
There is already reason to be concerned that this climate is encouraging vigilante intimidation of voters. As of October 23, there have been at least four documented instances of voter intimidation during the early voting processes. In September, a group of Trump supporters waving campaign flags in Fairfax, Virginia, stood in the way of voters attempting to reach the polling station. In Florida, a police officer in uniform was photographed outside a voting site wearing a pro-Trump mask and a holstered firearm. In Philadelphia, the Trump campaign videotaped citizens depositing their mail-in-ballots, which local authorities considered improper conduct. And in St. Petersburg, Florida, two armed security guards at a polling station prompted officials to station deputies at five voting sites.
There have been initiatives to prevent further voter intimidation. In Minnesota, the Council on American-Islamic Relations sued the private security company Atlas Aegis for recruiting ex-U.S. military special operations soldiers to deploy to polling places, calling it a breach of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In Michigan, the Secretary of State ordered a ban on the open carrying of firearms within 100 feet of polling places.
In this atmosphere, rights advocates worry that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP)—part of the DHS—could deploy its paramilitary unit Bortac (Border Patrol Tactical Unit) as it did in July during the protests against police brutality in Portland, Oregon, where the the force kidnapped protesters and threw them into unmarked vans. In the midterm elections of 2018, CBP planned to conduct a “crowd control exercise” near at least one polling location. Those plans were scrapped after an uproar.
“Our big fear is that we see a reprise of Portland, with ICE and CBP being used to intimidate voters on election day or around election day, whether by sending agents directly into the polls as members of the government have said or just by deploying them around cities,” says Wolgin.
Although polling station disruptions could happen on November 3, they should not be overstated, says Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of voting rights and elections at the Brennan Center for Justice. Deploying armed forces in polling sites is illegal. Amplifying this possibility could in itself dissuade people from voting. At the same time, acknowledging that voter intimidation attempts are real allows local officials and activists to strategize on how to offset them.
“I do have some concerns that one of these incidents would get out of hand. Similarly, I worry that the police may be too quick to engage, or that some jurisdictions would be too quick to call law enforcement sort of preemptively because of these fears,” says Morales-Doyle. “I worry that people are going to respond in these moments of heightened tension by escalating rather than by de-escalating.”
This election will be less protected against voter intimidation than the previous one. During the 1981 New Jersey’s gubernatorial race, aggressive intimidation tactics by off-duty law enforcement agents were so blatant that a decree adopted a year later sharply limited the Republican National Committee’s poll monitoring activities. That decree expired in 2017.
“This would be the first presidential election where there has not been a federal judicial consent decree in place that prevents the Republican Party from engaging in certain types of ballot security operations and polling intimidation efforts,” warns Morales-Doyle. With fewer legal protections, several initiatives are planning to ward off any endeavors to tamper with the voting process.
The Voter Protection Program, for example, was formed by litigators with state and federal government experience in both Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as national experts on voting rights and election protection, and communications professionals. It also includes a bipartisan board of former governors, attorneys general, and local, state and federal law enforcement leaders.
Advocates, meanwhile, say the voters targeted by the intimidation tactics have a vital role to play in this election—and their participation is sorely needed. “Immigrants across the country have demonstrated the greatest examples of courage that we can be inspired by when they show up to work in the middle of the pandemic or when they walk thousands of miles to give their children a better life,” says Sarmiento. “We are all called today to show that same courage.”
As a 501©3 nonprofit publication, In These Times does not oppose or endorse candidates for political office.
On the heels of the last presidential debate—in which Trump flippantly dismissed his administration’s cruel and inhumane decision to separate immigrant children from their parents for the crime of being non-white and seeking asylum in America—there are now reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)…
Immigrant woman and children walk across a field as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Enforcement and Removal Operations hosts a media tour at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases on Friday, Aug 23, 2019 in Dilley, Texas. (Photo credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Reproductive violence is constitutive of rather than an exception to the values of the United States of America. For those of us whose communities are deliberately targeted by the eugenicist American state, Dawn Wooten’s charges of mass sterilizations at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia come as a reminder that our reproductive lives have always been a threat to this country’s very foundations. Indigenous, Black, and Brown people pose a problem for a nation invested in white racial purity. These ICE abuses are only the latest and most visible in an ongoing U.S. project of genocidal extermination. Wooten, a licensed practical nurse who worked at the ICE facility until she was abruptly demoted in July, recently filed a complaint detailing forced hysterectomies of detained migrant women.
In the complaint published by Project South, an Atlanta-based advocacy organization, Wooten identifies a gynecologist she calls “the uterus collector,” who removes the uterus or fallopian tubes of practically “everybody he sees.” In her statement, the nurse details the confusion and dread experienced by detained women, who neither consented to hysterectomies nor understood what was happening to their bodies due to intentional, violent language barriers. A migrant woman confessed to Project South, “When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.” She’s not alone in identifying the conditions inside migrant detention centers as concentration camps, which by definition are a form of population control—a practice that extends to the origins of the settler colonial U.S. state.
Indigenous women in particular have long been targeted for genocidal violence, including experimentation and extermination. As climate disaster and civil conflict ravages Central American countries, more and more Indigenous people are migrating North (anthropologist Shannon Speed’s 2019 book, Incarcerated Stories: Indigenous Women Migrants and Violence in the Settler-Capitalist State, is a helpful introduction to the unique violences faced by Indigenous women in migrant detention centers). Their mobility poses a threat to the eugenicist state now, as it did in the 18th and 19th centuries. And so they are policed, surveilled, sterilized, and imprisoned—all techniques of reprocide. Loretta Ross—a Black feminist activist and survivor of sterilization abuse—coined the term “reprocide” to specifically describe genocide as primarily committed through reproductive control.
In the 2017 anthology Radical Reproductive Justice, Ross insists that reprocide extends to the political origins of the United States and that it happens not only through sterilization abuse, but also through mass incarceration, environmental racism, and the promotion of long-term contraceptives that providers refuse to remove or that carry prohibitive removal costs. The current forced sterilization of migrant women is not an aberration or anomaly in the history of this country; it’s an extension of the reprocide that created it. Indigenous scholars like Leanne Betasamosake Simpson teach us that Indigenous women are especially threatening because they have the potential to reproduce the next generation of people who can resist colonization. Brianna Theobald’s standout 2019 book Reproduction on the Reservation explains how the U.S. government has historically attempted to control and contain Indigenous women’s reproductive lives: Through assimilationist residential schools, the forced removal of Indigenous children into the white foster care system, and government efforts to move childbirth from the home to hospitals, the federal government surveilled where women gave birth, with whom they gave birth, and how their children were raised.
While Theobald highlights how Indigenous people lied to field nurses and concealed their pregnancies to practice reproductive self-determination, doctors in the United States began formally sterilizing Indigenous women in the 1930s. This practice ballooned in the 1970s when Congress passed the Family Planning Services Act, which subsidized sterilizations for Medicaid and Indian Health Service patients. As a result, an estimated 25 percent of Indigenous women of childbearing age underwent hysterectomies. The enslavement of Africans and their descendants was also undeniably marked by reprocide: Chattel slavery relied on enslaved Black women to produce as many children as possible; many were sold as breeders and routinely sexually assaulted to produce more enslaved people, but as scholars note, enslaved women used birth control and abortion as a means to resist this reproductive control.
Yet, enslaved women were still routinely subject to medical experimentation. James Marion Sims, also known as the “father of modern gynecology,” performed many reproductive surgeries on enslaved Black women and elected to do so without anesthesia. He also invented the modern speculum by experimenting on enslaved women. Other doctors perfected c-sections by performing surgeries on Black women without consent. During Jim Crow, some Black women were denied medical care or termination of welfare benefits if they didn’t submit to sterilization and others—including civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer—underwent “Mississippi appendectomies” as practice for medical students at teaching hospitals in the South. Today’s immigration detention centers are designed as reprocide machines—controlling who enters and is born into the country.
As a system of population control, detention centers confine and contain unwanted, undesirable populations. And while this long history of reprocide spans various—if not all—administrations, it’s clear that Trump is using migrant women’s bodies as a battleground in the struggle for white racial purity. In 2018, the Trump administration ended a previous policy mandating that ICE release pregnant women from detention—placing women outside the reach of adequate medical care and even ripping their children away at birth, as Tina Vasquez (who has contributed to Bitch) reported for Rewire. Women in detention centers are denied control over their bodies and their reproductive choices, refused access to abortion care, and the government has gone as far as to track incarcerated women’s periods to refuse abortion access.
When their children are born, many are sent to Bethany Christian Services, an organization that has received substantial donations from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And, most recently, Trump granted visa officers the power to deny entry to pregnant women, calling their migration “birth tourism.” This rhetoric is an extension of eugenicist anxieties about “anchor babies” and poor, third world “over breeders” who take advantage of loose borders to invade the United States and interrupt the nation’s racial purity. Immigration enforcement is a mode of population control—period. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—the first immigration law to banned an entire racial group—to the creation of Border Patrol in 1924, which drew on racist ideas of health and cleanliness to exclude “diseased” Brown migrants, borders and immigration bans are a way of keeping out the unwanted. Today, ICE commits reprocide when they separate families and divide them along an arbitrary border. The agency commits reprocide when it deports people to countries facing climate disaster—a phenomenon that increases poverty, threatens quality of life, and limits food supply.
Mass sterilizations are one aspect of a state-sponsored project of controlling women of color’s reproductive lives and eliminating unwanted populations. In this way, the call to abolish ICE is a call for reproductive justice because ICE agents and guards are trained and empowered to violate the reproductive agency of migrant women. In 1994, a caucus of Black feminists at a pro-choice conference coined the term “reproductive justice” to signal not only a woman’s right not to have a child, but also their right to have children and to raise them with dignity in safe and healthy environments. This framework repositions reproductive rights in an intersectional context that centers race, gender, and class oppressions. Abolishing ICE is a practice of reproductive justice and is ultimately a move toward creating safer communities where children and families are free from surveillance and immigration enforcement.
Wooten refused to stay quiet, and even as nuanced reporting from Vasquez complicates an earlier romanticized image we had of the nurse, it’s undeniable that she has helped pave the way for a more abolitionist future. Wooten refused to reproduce a system that controls women’s bodily autonomy. In denouncing “the uterus collector,” Wooten extends a legacy of Black feminists like Loretta Ross who understand that reproductive justice is not only about abortion rights but also about having and raising children with dignity. In calling out reprocidal conditions at Irwin County Detention Center, she continues the advocacy of Hamer and others who understood the bodies of Indigenous, Black, and Brown women as sacred and worthy of protection. ICE is committing reprocide, but like Wooten, we can refuse to be complicit.
Arresting and deporting undocumented people has become lucrative because their biological, biometric data can be mined, harvested, and used to generate profit.