Category Archives: Immigration/Immigrants

A Lack of Migrant Labor is Forcing Farmers in the US to Stop Growing Crops

The immigration policies of the U.S. government are once again igniting opposition. This time from members of the agriculture industry who say that blocking immigrants from entering the country is doing more harm than good.

U.S. farmers who depend on migrants as “guest workers” for their harvest are facing considerable financial losses. It’s the result of migrants being detained and deported at the U.S. – Mexican border.

One of the nation’s largest sources of agriculture is Southern California.

And as Correspondent Mike Kirsch reports, farmers in that region have been particularly hard-hit.

The worker shortage has caused many farmers to raise the pay for workers – often more than doubling their salaries. And some U.S. farmers have even relocated their production down to Latin America.

Bodies on The Ground And The Rise And Rise Of The Economic Elite

The US is less of a nation than a collective, psychotic episode.

Within day to day life in the nation, a cultural aura exists that shifts, mingles, and merges between a sense of nervous agitation and displaced rage, in combination with a sense of weightlessness. The fragmented quality of daily life imparts an insubstantial, unreal quality wherein the citizenry of the capitalist/consumer empire of hungry ghosts drift through a nadascape comprised of ad hoc, fast-buck-driven, suburban/exburban architecture and the ersatz eros of constant, consumer come-ons.

Yet beneath the nebulous dread and nettling angst of it all, there exists the primal human imperative for connection and social communion; i.e., authentic eros. The most lost among the lost in the ghostsphere of the collective mind attempt to animate the realm of shades with libations of blood. The gods of the capitalist death cult demand no less.

Where does an impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fit into the scheme of things? A firearm’s heft, for one. The weapon feel substantial when held and hoisted thus serves, provisionally, to mitigate a psychical sense of weightlessness. The act of engagement eases nervous agitation. Guns reality is antithetically to the weightless content of media reality. Focus is achieved when one aligns the weapon’s site to a target. Nebulous dread transforms into adamantine purpose. The presence of an Angel Of Death will focus the mind. The ground, for the moment, feels solid beneath one’s feet. Hence, there arrives a craving, in the sense of addiction, to hoard the object that provides relief; in addition, massive quantities of ammunition must be stored as emotional ballast. The mystifying, rankling, uncontrollable criteria of this weightless Age and the white noise of uncertainty seem to yield to the clear and decisive crack of a rifle shot. Relief is imagined in the concomitant carnage. Rebecca West captures the phenomenon in prose:

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.

― Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, 1941

Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, choose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half will live out the latter on a collective basis. During the blood lust on display at Trump rallies, the mob finds a collective comfort zone in catastrophic longings. The domestic landscape of paranoia works in behalf of the profiteers of perpetual war, perpetrators of the U.S.-created deathscapes overseas, and vice versa, in a self-resonating feedback loop of carnage.

In our era, in which the US empire is in decline, as a consequence the White supremacist order no longer seems inevitable, Trump’s frightened legions have personalised the decline. In their gut, they feel as if their identity is under siege. Seal off the nation’s borders. Construct an unscalable wall. Create a cordon sanitaire to protect and preserve racial purity. A strong authority figure is craved in order to set the world back in order. The phenomenon could be termed, Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) — a pathology manifested in personality types who have been traumatized by the authoritarianism of the US socio-political milieu but who seek to assuage their hurt and humiliation by identification with the very forces responsible for their torment.. The stuff of a cultural nervous breakdown.

To that end, according to its own laws, the nation’s citizenry, sufferers of mental distress, should be restricted from purchasing a gun. Yet without a doubt, the most disturbed of all are the nation’s political class, those responsible for gun legislation. There is compelling evidence that they present a clear and present danger to themselves and others. The political class is a menace to society; they make decisions, more often than not, based on delusional thinking, that are responsible for harm on a massive scale. Thus they should be subject to institutional-style restraint, within the confines of the most heavily secure, lockdown ward in an asylum for the criminally insane.

Although the so-called mentally ill, as a rule, are not any more inclined to commit violent crimes than are the general population of capitalist dystopias. The US nation was founded in genocidal violence and the fortunes of its ruling class are protected by the state sanctioned violence of the police and are bloated by the violence inherent to imperialist shakedown operations.

It comes down to this: In our emotionally brutal era, those deemed mentally ill are suffering from capitalism. The pummelling stress and boot-in-the-face, hierarchy-inflicted humiliations inherent to the system inflict trauma on large swathes of the citizenry.

Epidemic levels of middle age, US citizens are dying with needles in their arms. The inherent and internalised White supremacy of the societal order has been exacerbated by Trump’s self-serving, reckless agitprop and acts in a drug-like manner causing dopamine levels to rise in those experiencing emotional torment due to humiliation-caused despair. Demagogues such as Trump are aware and exploit the manner despair can be palliatively mitigated by the emotional displacement of rage.

Fascist insignias rise when the hopes and aspirations of the working class lay shattered across a capitalist economic wasteland. Hoisted torches provide the illusion that dark despair has been banished. The fascist mob becomes possessed by a belief that they, en masse, can ascend into the precincts of heaven by scaling a mountain of corpses comprised of outsider groups.

Fascism not only acts as anaesthetic to the wounds delivered by capitalism, it is a psychoactive drug because incantatory rhetoric and imagist psychical material get those susceptible to its crude allure high.

Capitalism is borne on manic wings. The economic elite move from corporate skyscrapers and high rise rooftops in order to travel by helicopter, where upon landing, they board private, luxury jets, then, whereupon landing again, they are transported by helicopter to corporate skyscrapers and high rise rooftops. Touching the earth is a fleeting experience. The ruling class have lost touch with ground level verities. In a classical sense, such displays of hubris were understood as the progenitor of madness. The gods first elevate those they drive mad.

And, yes, race-based fears and animus are in play. Racism engendered mass murder has been coming to pass since armed Europeans trudged ashore in the Americas, with their blood-sodden religion and their murderous craving for gold and land. Of course, the racist demagoguery of the Bloated Orange Tub Of Nazi Goo oozing into and agitating the limbic systems of violent cretins during homegrown Nuremberg Rallies and his compulsion to blitzkrieg the pixel-sphere with Der Stürmer tweets is fomenting racist mayhem that includes bacchanals of blood. US mythos is rancid with the reek of the corpses of the innocent slaughtered by White men brandishing firearms. Mass murderers have been and continue to be enshrined as heroes, from Wounded Knee to Afghanistan.

The nation was established by gun-enabled genocide and the intimidation of African slaves held at gunpoint on capitalist plantations. The truth has never been faced; e.g., the suppression of the Nixon tape in which Ronald Reagan displayed his racist mindset.

The US citizenry thanks the soldiers of its racist wars of aggression for their “service.” Perpetual shooting sprees origins can be traced to the heart of darkness of the nation and its concomitant White supremacist creed. The killings happened long before the rise and election of the Tangerine Tweet Führer. Of course, the racist shit-heel Trump has exacerbated the situation. He deserves all scorn cast his way. It is obvious his capacity for malice does not possess a governor’s switch.

Trump is a two-legged emblem of the hypertrophy at play in late US imperium. Gun-inflicted violence is steeped into the blood-stained fabric of the US (sham) republic. Withal, Trump is not an anomaly; he is an emblem. Gun-strokers are no more going to shed their mythos than liberals and progressives are going to shed theirs that the US is a democratic republic, governed by the rule of law, and progressive reforms will be implemented by its High Dollar owned and controlled political class that will serve to turn around the trajectory of the blood-built and maintained US empire.

The Retainer Solution: The European Union, Libya and Irregular Migration

There is a venom in international refugee policy that refuses to go away: officials charged with their tasks, passing on their labours to those who might see the UN Refugee Convention as empty wording, rather than strict injunction carved upon stone.  They have all become manifest in the policy of deferral: humanitarian problems are for others to solve.  We will simply supply monetary assistance, the machinery, the means; the recipients, like time honoured servants, will do the rest.

The European Union, and some of its members, have their own idea of a glorified servant minding their business in North Africa.  The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is the pot of gold; the recipient is Libya, an important “transit country for migrants heading to Europe.”  Such a status makes Libya the main point of outsourced obligations associated with human traffic.  Using Libya supposedly achieves the objectives of the Joint Communication ‘Managing flows, saving lives’ (never pass up the chance to use weasel words) and the Malta Declaration.

In responding to the regional refugee crisis, the EU mires itself in the wording of bureaucracy, machine language meant to be inoffensive.  The first phase of the “Support to Integrated border and migration management in Libya” sounds like an allocation of mild tasks, a simple case of proper filing.  In summary, it “aims to strengthen the capacity of relevant Libyan authorities in the areas of border and migration management, including border control and surveillance, addressing smuggling and trafficking of human beings, search and rescue at sea and in the desert.”  A casual takeaway from this is that the EU is not merely being responsible but caring, assisting a country to, in turn assist migrants and refugees from making rash decisions, saving them when needed, and protecting them when required.

According to its unconvincing brief, “the EUTF for Africa pays particular attention to protection and assistance to migrants and their host communities in the country in order to increase their resilience.”  In arid language, there is lip-service paid to “support a migrant management and asylum in Libya that is consistent with the main international standards and human rights.”

Such documents conceal the appallingly dire situation of Libya as the sponsored defender of Europe against irregular arrivals.  Money sent is not necessarily money well spent.  Detention centres have become concentrations of corrupted desperation, its residents exploited, tormented and kidnapped.

Accounts of torture in such camps have made their way to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.  In July 2018, Human Rights Watch paid a visit to four detention centres in Tripoli, Misrata and Zuwara.  The organisation found “inhumane conditions that included severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, poor quality food and water that has led to malnutrition, lack of adequate healthcare, and disturbing accounts of violence by guards, including beatings, whippings, and the use of electric shocks.”

The EUTF for Africa lacks human context; dull, bloodless policy accounts make little mention of cutthroat militias jousting for authority and the absence of coherent, stable governance.  In May, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson Charlie Yaxley claimed that the UNHCR was “in a race against time to urgently move refugees and migrants out of detention centres to safety, and we urge the international community to come forward with offers of evacuation.”

Such races have tended to be lost, and rather badly at that.  The militias are on the move, and one war lord eager to make an impression is Khalifa Haftar.  On July 3, some fifty people perished in an airstrike when two missiles hit a detention centre in Tripoli hosting 610 individuals.  The finger pointing, even as the centre continued to burn, was quick, with blame duly allocated: Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini, and Libya’s UN-recognised and misnamed Government of National Accord (GNA) saw the hand of Haftar’s Libyan National Army.  The intended target, according to LNP general Khaled el-Mahjoub, had been the militia camp located in the Tajoura neighbourhood.

Salvini, for good measure, also saw another culprit in the undergrowth of responsibility. While the rest of the EU could not shy away from this “criminal attack”, France would prove an exception, given their “economic and commercial reasons” for supporting “an attack on civilian targets.”  Salvini is right, up to a point: France has an interest in supporting Haftar, given its interest in the eastern Libyan oilfields which he controls.  The EU continues to speak in harshly different voices, none of them particularly humanitarian.

The UN special envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé suggested that the strike “clearly could constitute a war crime” having killed people “whose dire conditions forced them to be in that shelter.”  The envoy’s formulation was striking: it was not the fault of GNA authorities who had detained migrants near a military depot; nor did the EU harbour any responsibility for having ensured the conditions of “managed” traffic flow that had led to the creation of detention centres.

The debate that followed was all a matter of logistical semantics; the camps proved to be, yet again, areas of mortal danger and hardly up to the modest standards of the EU’s refugee policy. To add to the prospects of future butchery, 95 more people have been added to the Tajoura centre.  The cruel business has resumed.

Never Again: What about the Palestinians?

concentration camp: a guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents, etc., especially any of the camps established by the Nazis prior to and during World War II for the confinement and persecution of prisoners.1

The people seeking a new life in the United States are mainly an ethnic group commonly referred to as Latinos. Many of these migrants/asylum seekers are being fenced in detention centers with decidedly spartan conditions. Ergo, the affixation of the term concentration camp to the ICE detention centers seems unassailable according to dictionary definition. As to why Dictionary.com would inexplicably state “especially” Nazi camps is puzzling given that the Brits set up concentration camps during the Boer War at the end of the 19th century and the United States broke treaties and interred Indigenous peoples. In fact, many countries, Canada included, operated concentration camps contemporaneously with or prior to Nazi Germany.

To argue about which camps are/were concentration camps and which camps are/were most horrible is nugatory. To be explicit, all concentration camps are an abomination, including the ICE detention centers filled with outside-the-US arrivals.

On 18 July, the Real News’s Mark Steiner interviewed Molly Amster of Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) about “Jews across the country” organizing and protesting the detention of the people entering the US.

That is commendable. Equally commendable are the other people who identify just as people and not a particular religious, gender, ethnic affiliation and who demonstrate and speak out against injustices.

A fundamental principle of respect for human rights must be freedom of movement. National borders impinge on such a right. Everyone is a human being. For a nation to deny other human beings2 onto what it claims is its territory is fundamentally a rejection of the humanity of the Other; but more fundamentally, at its core, it is an overt denial of the rejecting nation’s own adherence to humanitarian principles.

This video, though, hints at a possible wider ethnocentrism. One might wonder why identify as “Jews United for Justice” and not “People United for Justice” or on a national level as “Americans United for Justice”?

At first blink, people concerned about the hideous treatment of those held in ICE detention centers will praise these Jews for their courage to protest. Because as one JUFJ protestor exhorts his cohort in the TRNN video, “We are calling on our people to put their bodies on the line to stop ICE.” (emphasis added)

Our people? Does that mean other people, non-Jews, are not invited to join and “put their bodies on the line”? JUFJ informed me by email that non-Jews are welcome to join their organization.

Never Again

Absolutely, never again should one group of humans treat another group of humans inhumanely. Hence, anyone who identifies as a human and who believes in human rights should stand up for human rights applied to all humans.

On the homepage of Jews United for Justice is a slogan: “THINK JEWISHLY. ACT LOCALLY.” What does “Think Jewishly” mean? Do Zionist Jews think Jewishly? Do the rabbis think Jewishly? Does Benjamin Netanyahu think Jewishly? Does Noam Chomsky think Jewishly? Why not “Think humanely?” It is quite clear in its meaning: think like a human by showing compassion for other humans.

Rebecca Ennen of JUFJ replied:

For us, ‘Think Jewishly’ means that we’re driven, individually and organizationally, by a variety of Jewish traditions, identities, values, and commitments, as diverse as the range of people in our community. We draw on those traditions and values to motivate our local action and we show up proudly as Jews and a Jewish community. Obviously, ‘thinking Jewishly’ means different things to different people and we welcome the creativity and vitality this brings. For some (non-exhaustive!) examples of the Jewish that motivate our community, see pages 5-6 of our 2018 strategic plan (https://jufj.org/strategic-plan/), co-created by our leaders.

There is nothing inherently wrong with identifying with a group as long as the group one affiliates with does not discriminate against or denigrate out-group people, and as long as the in-group acts according to moral principles. The principles laid out in the strategic plan of JUFJ come across as well-intentioned.

So JUFJ acts on principle by demonstrating against the ICE detentions of non-Americans.

What about the Palestinians?

I asked, “I know your slogan is ‘Think Jewishly. Act Locally,’ but has Jews United for Justice a stated position regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine, especially in light of the ‘Never again’ (which I agree with) spoken at the demos against ICE detentions? If not, shouldn’t Jews United for Justice press the US government on this issue because it is deeply an American issue as well?”

Ennen replied:

JUFJ works at the local and state level in DC and Maryland on issues of racial, economic, and social justice. People in our community have a very wide range of views on the issues of Palestine and Israel, and many of our community members also take part in a wide range of other organizations that work on those issues.

For me, Ennen completely skirted the occupation of Palestine issue. Among the Jewish Values listed on page 5 of the strategic plan is “Emancipation from Oppression.” The occupation of historical Palestine is rooted in racism towards the indigenous people of Palestine. Professor Noam Chomsky wrote, “Contempt for the Arab population is deeply rooted in Zionist thought.”3 Chomsky is also clear that one should above all agitate against the violence of one’s own state.4 However, JUFJ identify overtly as Jews and not as Americans. Acting locally seems to provide an out for JUFJ. But at the local level, the JUFJ could, for example, pledge support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, or oppose the US government’s embassy move to Jerusalem in violation of UNGA 181, or oppose the US billions of dollars going to support an apartheid state.

Similar things happening

Molly Amster of JUFJ seems unaware of the atrocities being committed against Palestinians by Jews. Amster said of the ICE raids, “But to see these things happening that we actually really never thought would happen again to another group of people, and seeing it be so similar — the messages of other, the messages of, you know, these are not only other, but not human.” (emphasis added)

How can an otherwise informed Jew be unaware of state-sanctioned Jewish settler encroachment upon more and more Palestinian territory, destroying Palestinian agriculture, poisoning the water, etc.? About the illegal separation wall, much of it built on the Palestinian land? About the tens of thousands of Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel since 1967?5 About the intentional, indiscriminate killing of Palestinians?

Conclusion

These similar things have been happening ever since the drive to form a Jewish state in historical Palestine. By all means stand up and speak up for the humans arriving at the US border. But when Jews are mute about war crimes committed by a group that also identify as Jews, by a people living in the Jewish state, then it appears as if the good deeds performed under the same group affiliation serves as propagandistic and as a distraction from the occupation and horrific oppression heaped on the Other.

If you are opposed to oppression, then the principled stand is to oppose all oppression; especially, one has a duty to oppose oppression carried out in the name of a group one chooses to affiliate with.

  1. Dictionary.com
  2. There are certainly grounds for keeping certain individuals outside a society such as a record of having committed dangerous crimes.
  3. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Pluto Press, 1999): 481.
  4. “My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences.” In Noam Chomsky, On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures (South End Press, 1987).
  5. “Israel is the only government in the entire world that detains children through military courts with a near 100 percent conviction rate.” See Whitney Webb, “50,000 Palestinian Children Imprisoned by Israeli Kangaroo Courts Since 1967,” Mint Press News, 29 April 2019.

Manus, Nauru and an Australian Detention Legacy

It could be called a gulag mentality, though it finds form in different ways.  In the defunct Soviet Union, it was definitive of life: millions incarcerated, garrisons of forced labour, instruments of the proletarian paradise fouled.  Gulag literature suggested another society, estranged and removed from civilian life, channelled into an absent universe.  Titles suggested as much: Gustaw Herling’s work was titled A World Apart; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago likewise suggested societies marooned from the broader social project.  But these were intrinsic to the bricks and mortar, in many cases quite literally, of the Soviet state.

In the case of countries supposedly priding themselves in the lotteries of exaggerated freedom, the influence of this carceral mentality is less obvious but still significant.  In Australia, where offshore processing of naval arrivals and its own offerings of gulag culture were made, six years has passed since Nauru and Manus Island became outposts of indefinite detention.

During the years, legislation has been passed encasing these outposts in capsules of secrecy, superficially protected by island sovereignty.  Whistleblowing has been criminalised; concerned doctors have been expelled; suicides, sexual assault and psychological mutilations have been normalised in the patchwork monstrosity that involves compromised local officials, private security firms and funding from the Australian tax payer.

A most obvious consequence of this is the cultivation of a thuggish lack of accountability.  Australian politicians keen to visit the handiwork of their government have been rebuffed.  Greens Senator Nick McKim had been trying to splash out some publicity on the anniversary, paying a visit to Manus Island.  He noted a deterioration in conditions since his 2017 visit.

On Thursday, he was approached by two immigration officials who informed him that he would be deported.  He had been attempting to see East Lorengau camp, was denied entry, and his passport confiscated.  To SBS News, he expressed his disappointment “that they are threatening to deport me because I am here to expose the truth about the treatment of refugees, to lift the veil of secrecy that’s been draped over Australia’s offshore detention regime.”

A mistake is made in assuming clear dates of commencement in terms of a distinct Australian approach.  Australia was, after all, itself a penal colony, an experiment in distant punishment and obsessive control.  It made, in turn, prisoners of the indigenous population.  Brutally, its various authorities relocated individuals to missions, camps and compounds.  A paternal mentality, one that has never left, took hold: we know what is best for you, be it the Bible or the dog tag. Infantilism, exploitation and dispossession thrived as mentalities.

Despite being an active participant in the post-war movement to establish an international refugee regime protecting human rights, Australian approaches have remained, as immigration law specialist Mary Crock puts it, “controlled and highly selective.”  For decades, Australian administrators and decision makers remained unperturbed by jurisprudence relevant to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951.  The country’s isolation, its continental expanse, and not sharing land borders, have offered governments an unparalleled luxury: “the ability to achieve near perfect control of immigration.”

During the 1960s, Manus Island was set up to take refugees from West Papua.  Salasia Camp, located near the current Lombrom detention centre, was established to isolate a certain number of West Papuan notables who had irked the Indonesian state’s efforts in claiming the former Dutch New Guinea colony.  Australia, not wanting to aggravate their Indonesian counterparts in providing safe havens for West Irian rebels, kept matters quiet, sometimes turning back refugees while offering “permissive residence” visas to others.

Not that the officials of Papua New Guinea were thrilled: thousands of West Papuans who made their way fleeing conflict between the rebels of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (West Papua Freedom Movement) and the Indonesian military were left without PNG citizenship for five decades.

The arrival of Vietnamese “boat people” fleeing in the aftermath of the country’s re-unification in the 1970s saw Australian officials flirt with variants of offshore processing.  The 1978 system established in response to these arrivals ensured a monopoly on the part of the immigration minister to determine the refugee status of arrivals. Lawyers and advisors were given a distant second billing in the role.  In the words of Professor Crock, “The regional processing regime established right across Southeast Asia was predicated on an offshore processing-type idea; stopping asylum seekers where they are, processing them there, and distributing them in an orderly fashion.”

There was the Tampa-Pacific solution orchestrated by Prime Minister John Howard in 2001; there was the re-commencement in fits and starts under dysfunctional, catty Labor governments: the Gillard administration reinstated offshore processing in 2012, while Kevin Rudd added his icing by insisting that no asylum seeker arriving by boat would ever be settled in Australia.  But the earth had already been disturbed, the mind oriented, towards cruelty in the name of necessity.

While refugees tend to be the fodder of periodic periods of demonization, there are many reminders about a condition that Australia has made its own.  Some of this features in the talismanic, urgently desperate writing of the Iranian-Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani.  In 2018, Hoda Afshar snapped a picture showing Boochani as a Christ-like figure, seemingly awaiting crucifixion.  Her subject chose to see it differently.  “I only see a refugee, someone whose identity has been taken from him.  Just bare life, standing beyond the borders of Australia, waiting and staring.”

The Australian Book Review has offered a Behrouz Boochani Fellowship worth $10,000, funded by lawyer and philanthropist Peter McMullin.  In of itself, it suggests the absurd condition that is offshore processing, a state of mind that now draws funding for analysis, for commitment, for understanding.  Having become as ordinary as the insufferably ugly Australian Hills Hoist, or bountiful cask wine, it will not be leaving any time too soon, itself a disfigurement rendered natural.

Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis

History never truly retires. Every event of the past, however inconsequential, reverberates throughout and, to an extent, shapes our present, and our future as well

The haunting image of the bodies of Salvadoran father, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, who were washed ashore at a riverbank on the Mexico-US border cannot be understood separately from El Salvador’s painful past.

Valeria’s arms were still wrapped around her father’s neck, even as both lay, face down, dead on the Mexican side of the river, ushering the end of their desperate and, ultimately, failed attempt at reaching the US. The little girl was only 23-months-old.

Following the release of the photo, media and political debates in the US focused partly on Donald Trump’s administration’s inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants. For Democrats, it was a chance at scoring points against Trump, prior to the start of presidential election campaigning. Republicans, naturally, went on the defensive.

Aside from a few alternative media sources, little has been said about the US role in Oscar and Valeria’s deaths, starting with its funding of El Salvador’s “dirty war” in the 1980s. The outcome of that war continues to shape the present, thus the future of that poor South American nation.

Oscar and Valeria were merely escaping ‘violence’ and the drug wars in El Salvador, many US media sources reported, but little was said of the US government’s support of El Salvador’s brutal regimes in the past as they battled Marxist guerrillas. Massive amounts of US military aid was poured into a country that was in urgent need for true democracy, basic human rights and sustainable economic infrastructure.

Back then, the US “went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human-rights abuses in El Salvador,” wrote Raymond Bonner in the Nation. “The State Department and White House often sought to cover up the brutality, to protect the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes.”

These crimes, included the butchering of 700 innocent people, many of them children, by the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion in the village of El Mozote, in the northeastern part of the country. Leaving El Salvador teetering between organized criminal violence and the status of a failed state, the US continued to use the country as a vassal for its misguided foreign policy to this day. Top US diplomats, like Elliott Abraham, who channeled support to the Salvadoran regime in the 1980s carried on with a successful political career, unhindered.

To understand the tragic death of Oscar and Valeria in any other way would be a dishonest interpretation of a historical tragedy.

The dominant discourse on the growing refugee crisis around the world has been shaped by this deception. Instead of honestly examining the roots of the global refugee crisis, many of us often oscillate between self-gratifying humanitarianism, jingoism or utter indifference. It is as if the story of Oscar and Valeria began the moment they decided to cross a river between Mexico and the US, not decades earlier. Every possible context before that decision is conveniently dropped.

The politics of many countries around the world have been shaped by the debate on refugees, as if basic human rights should be subject to discussion. In Italy, the ever-opportunistic Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has successfully shaped a whole national conversation around refugees.

Like other far-right European politicians, Salvini continues to blatantly manipulate collective Italian fear and discontent regarding the state of their economy by framing all of the country’s troubles around the subject of African migrants and refugees. 52% of Italians believe that migrants and refugees are a burden to their country, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

Those who subscribe to Salvini’s self-serving logic are blinded by far-right rhetoric and outright ignorance. To demonstrate this assertion, one only needs to examine the reality of Italian intervention in Libya, as part of the NATO war on that country in March 2011.

Without a doubt, the war on Libya, justified on the basis of a flawed interpretation of United Nations Resolution 1973, was the main reason behind the surge of refugees and migrants to Italy, en-route to Europe.

According to the Migration Policy Center, prior to the 2011 war, “outward migration was not an issue for the Libyan population.” This changed, following the lethal NATO war on Libya, which pushed the country squarely into the status of failed states.

Between the start of the war on March 19 and June 8, 2011, 422,912 Libyans and 768,372 foreign nationals fled the country, according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM). Many of those refugees sought asylum in Europe. Salvini’s virulent anti-refugee discourse is bereft of any reference to that shameful, self-indicting reality.

In fact, Salvini’s own Lega party was a member of the Italian coalition which took part in NATO’s war on Libya. Not only is Salvini refusing to acknowledge his country’s role in fostering the current refugee crisis, but he is designating as an ‘enemy‘ humanitarian GOs that are active in rescuing stranded refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the UN refugee agency (UNHRC), an estimated 2,275 people drowned while attempting to cross to Europe in 2018 alone. Thousands of precious lives, like those of Oscar and Valeria, would have been spared, had NATO not intervened on the pretext of wanting to save lives in Libya in 2011.

According to UNHRC, as of June 19, 2019, there are 70.8 million forcibly displaced people worldwide; of them, 41.3 million are internally displaced people, while 25.9 million are refugees who crossed international borders.

Yet, despite the massive influx of refugees, and the obvious logic between political meddling (as in El Salvador) and military intervention (as in Libya), no western government is yet to accept any moral – let alone legal – accountability for the massive human suffering underway.

Italy, France, Britain, and other NATO members who took part in bombing Libya in 2013 are guilty of fueling today’s refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea. Similarly, the supposedly random ‘violence’ and drug wars in El Salvador must be seen within the political context of misguided American interventionism. Were it not for such violent interventions, Oscar, Valeria and millions of innocent people would have still been alive today.

Trump’s Attack against Immigrants Meets Resistance

Photo Credit:  Bill Hackwell

Nearly 800 events took place this weekend across the United States organized by grassroots organizations including religious sectors, community groups, students, labor and many individuals who had had enough of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids taking place in working and poor communities against immigrants and Trump’s concentration camps on the border with Mexico.

The protests feel different this time and seem broader; going beyond activists and progressive people to include folks who feel Trump’s actions embarrass the US in front of the world and thousands upon thousands who feel compelled to come out to express their disgust and outrage at the basic inhumanity and injustice of it all. Most of the signs were homemade and many of the signs in the protests referenced previous dark periods in US history where groups of people were put in concentration camps just for their ethnicity and origin including Japanese Americans during World War II, former slaves after the civil war and Native Americans as part of a long campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The recent visit to the camps by a group of democrat congresswomen who finally spoke out about what they saw with their own eyes prompted the corporate media to have to cover the issue and the degree of suffering of thousands of poor immigrants fleeing conditions created by neoliberal policies that originated in the US.

The images seen in recent days have settled into the minds of anyone with any level of consciousness and compassion living in the United States. Children separated from their parents, bodies floating in the Rio Grande trying to reach the North and the openly announced raids by Trump this weekend as a way of terrorizing the immigrant community has motivated hundreds of thousands to protest in a variety of ways.

This movement has created a problem for Trump so on the eve of the ICE raids in cities across the US he sent his equally reactionary Vice President, Mike Pence to the border to assure everyone, through the compliant corporate media, that the conditions at the camps were good while he patted the guards of these concentration camps on the back for a job well done.

Meanwhile, Pro Publica is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is investigating a disgusting racist and anti-immigrant Facebook page made up of 9,500 current and former border agents. And as if that was not bad enough the Department of Health and Human Services is investigating thousands of allegations of sexual assault on minors who were abused by the very guards in the camps Pence visited.

The hollow words coming from the Trump administration has back-fired and has only served to encourage this weekend’s demonstrations. More actions are planned for next week and are a testimony that from now on people will continue to resist the Trump administration’s racist and anti-human policies toward the immigrant community. Painted as evil, immigrants come to this country to work primarily in the most dangerous and menial jobs to try and give a dignified life to their loved ones. Even if the American Dream is more like a nightmare they will continue to come not because they want to leave their homeland but because their countries have been looted by the U.S.

Breaking the Spiral of Hate and Intolerance

Valeria Martinez Ramirez was 23 months old when she drowned in the Rio Grande with her father Oscar in June this year. They had made the long journey from Salvador to the US border with her mother and brother. The image of Valeria, her arm round her father’s neck as they lay face down on the riverbank, shocked and moved all who saw it. They were the latest casualties of the US government’s immigration offensive.

Like the image of three-year-old Alan Kudi from Syria, who drowned (September 2015) off the Greek island of Kos, the photograph of Valeria and her father is an icon of pain; individual tragedy triggering collective sadness.

An unprecedented number

In the last decade huge numbers of people have been driven from their homes by war, or have migrated in search of a better life. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimate that there are now 70.8 million displaced people in the world, ‘an unprecedented number’. 41.3 million are internally displaced, 25.9 million asylum seekers (over half are under 18) and 3.5 million refugees; i.e., people acknowledged to be fleeing persecution of some kind. Those on the move head for countries that are peaceful (comparatively), economically healthy and offer opportunities for a new beginning.

The decision to leave home is, for the vast majority, taken reluctantly, the journey into a new life undertaken with trepidation; criminal gangs run the migrant routes, exploitation is commonplace and for many of those who successfully traverse the dangers, exclusion, prejudice and hardship often await them.

Immigrants epitomize the notion of the ‘other’, encompassing a number of key areas of difference; the way they look, pray and speak. To those poisoned by hate and the ideology of tribal nationalism, immigrants are the perfect targets of prejudice.

In the last five years or so hate crime in its varied forms, all vile and pernicious, has been increasing in virtually every developed country; migrants are increasingly the victims. In Britain incidents of reported hate crime have doubled in the last five years. It’s a similar story elsewhere in Europe, Italy and Germany, for example; in Hungary, which has a far right government and intolerance is policy, hate crime is five times the level it was in 2013. In America, where African-Americans and Jews are the most commonly targeted groups, hate crime has increased year on year for the past five years.

The increase in violent acts against people who are different in some way has occurred in tandem with the rise of right wing and extreme right wing groups, political and non-political and so-called populism of all shades. Politicians, weak and lacking vision, refuse to address the systemic causes, retreat into ideology, construct regressive arguments to curry favor with a disheartened and angry populace.

Dogmatic opinions, judgmental attitudes and an absence of tolerance have created a putrid atmosphere of division. Moving within this Paradigm of Fear policies of division are enacted, further strengthening intolerance, fuelling prejudice. A rabid spiral of hate and distrust is created; palpable, we live within its narrow boundaries and omnipresent threat.

Exclusion as policy

Instead of dealing with the underlying impulses of migration (many of which lie at the door of the countries migrants are seeking entry to), and setting up properly run processing centers, governments have tried to deter people by inhumane policies and methods. Such an approach removes choice and forces people to take risks, sometimes life-threatening risks.

In Europe, where a coordinated, compassionate immigration policy has been shamefully lacking, tens of thousands of desperate people have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unseaworthy vessels since 2010. Inhumane immigration policies establish division between the One – the Hallowed State and, the Migrant – the ‘Other’. Once this division has been set up a space is created in which all manner of abuse can take place – by the State and by those conditioned by the poisonous ideology of Tribal Nationalism.

Under the presidency of Donald Trump, immigrants are seen as a threat, thieves who want what Americans have for themselves, enemies of the State. Exclusion and isolationism have become government policy – the Policy of Hate. Into this Crucible of Intolerance walked Valeria Martinez Ramirez and her 25-year-old father Oscar. They drowned in the currents of the Rio Grande; their entwined bodies were discovered on 24th June. So, the proponents of the Policy of Hate will argue, it was an accident, tragic certainly, but nobody’s fault.

Óscar Martínez Ramírez decided to try to enter the US by crossing the river with his family because the US authorities would not deal with their claim for asylum. In his frustration and desperation he waded into the water with his daughter, watched by his wife and son. The interconnected strands of cause and effect are complex, often indirect; certainly they died as a consequence of US government policy.

Such policies are feeding intolerance and agitating hate, polluting the collective atmosphere in which we live. Violence is sanctioned, self-restraint abandoned, fear and hate fermented. To dispel this suffocating fog compassion, tolerance and understanding are called for; as Martin Luther King said, “returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Why are Anti-Migrant Arguments in the E.U., U.S. Pure Hypocrisy?

Almost every day we read about the latest outbursts in Europe, targeting pro-immigration policies. There are protests, even riots. Right-wing governments get voted in, allegedly, because the Europeans “have had enough of relaxed immigration regulations”.

That is what we are told. That’s what we are supposed to understand, and even sympathize with. Anti-immigration sentiments are even pitched to the world as something synonymous with the desire of Europeans “to gain independence from Brussels and the elites”. The right-wing, often racist, spoiled and selfish proletariat is portrayed by many as a long-suffering, hard-working group of people, with progressive aspirations.

If seen from a distance, such arguments are outrageous and even insulting; at least to the billions of those who have already lost their lives, throughout history; victims of the European and North American expansionist genocides. And to those individuals who have, until this day, had their motherlands ruined, livelihoods destroyed, political will violated, and in the end, free and unconditional entry denied; entry into those very countries that keep violating all international laws, while spreading terror and devastation to virtually all corners of the world.

*****

In this essay, let us be as concrete as possible. Let us be brief.

I declare from the start, that every African person, every Asian, every citizen of the Middle East and every Latin American (how perverse this very name “Latin” and “America” is, anyway) should be able to freely enter both Europe and North America. Furthermore, he or she should be then allowed to stay for as long as desired, enjoying the free benefits and all those goodies that are being relished by Westerners.

To back this statement, here are several (but not all) basic moral and logical arguments:

First of all, Europe and North America do not belong to their people. They belong to the people from all corners of the globe. In order to build the so-called West, close to one billion (cumulatively, according to my friends, the UN statisticians) had to die, throughout modern and the not so modern history. Virtually everything, from theatres, schools, hospitals, parks, railroads, factories and museums, have been built, literally, on the bones and blood of the conquered peoples. And nothing much has really changed to these days. Europe and later North America invaded almost the entire planet; they looted, killed, enslaved and tortured. They robbed the world of everything, and gave back nothing, except religion and a servile and toxic bunch of ‘elites’, who are continuously plundering their countries, on behalf of the West. Therefore, Europe and North America were built on credit, and now this credit is due.

Secondly, the Western culture, without any competition, is the most violent civilization on earth. I repeat, without any competition. It cannot be defeated militarily, without further losses; losses which could be easily counted in billions of human lives. Therefore, the only possibility of how to reduce the scale of further global tragedies is to ‘dilute’ the West and its fundamentalist culture of racial and cultural superiority. The fact that Westerners are now in minority in such cities like London or New York, has not fully stopped the U.K. and U.S.A. from committing monstrous crimes, attacking and pillaging foreign countries. But were Europe and North America still homogeneous, there would hardly be any free, independent country left anywhere in the world. Migration to the West is helping, at least to some extent, to save the world. Migrants, from the first and oldest generations, demand that the voices of non-westerners, would be listened to, at least some extent.

Furthermore, and this is, of course, a well-known argument: the only reason why people from previously wealthy countries like Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Iran or Syria are forced to emigrate, is because their nations were either bombed back to the Stone Age, or destroyed through sadistic sanctions. Why? So, there would be change of the government, and instead of local citizens, the profits from natural resources would benefit Western corporations. Also, of course, in order to prevent the “Domino Effect”. The West hates the idea of the “Domino Effect”: read, the regional or global influence of Communist, socialist or progressive governments which would be determined to improve the lives of their people. West needs obedient, frightened slaves, not great heroes and bright thinkers! To stop the “Domino Effect”, millions had to die in the 1965 coup in Indonesia, in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, to name just a few unfortunate nations. If you come to a rich, socially-balanced nation, rob it of everything, overthrow its government, and reduce it to a ‘failed state’, in order for your own nation and people to prosper, would you be shocked if some of its people were to decide to try to follow the resources that you have stolen; meaning, moving to your own country?

The reason why people in the West do not follow this train of logic is simply because they are thoroughly ignorant; trying extremely hard, for decades and centuries, to remain blind. If they claim ignorance, they don’t have to act. They can just enjoy the loot, without paying the price. It is simple, isn’t it?

*****

Are those right-wing voters in the U.K., in Hungary, in Greece, France and Italy, as well as in other EU countries, really so blind, or so morally corrupt, that they do not see the reality?

Do they expect to have a ‘free ride’ for another century or two?

Do they teach history in European schools? I wonder. And if they do, what kind of history? I was shocked to realize that even some of my Spanish friends who are working for the United Nations, have absolutely no clue about the barbarity their country had committed in Central and South America. Or Portugal, in what is now Brazil or Cape Verde.

Now, the Italians with their Northern League (oh yes, “anti-establishment”, they love to say) firmly in government, are criminalizing people who are helping the ‘boat people’ sailing from Libya and other devastated African countries (mainly ruined by France and other EU nations) to reach Italian shores. Good ‘working people’ would rather if the refugees sank in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, as hundreds and thousands already have. And this anti-immigration rhetoric is actually being glorified as ‘brave’ and ‘anti-establishment’. How beastly, how low, the European culture continues to be. It was always ultra-violent and aggressive, but now it is also shallow, illogical and fanatic. It is not racist anymore. It is far beyond that. It is turbo-racist, monstrously selfish. I often describe it as ‘fundamentalist’, not unlike what one encounters in the so-called ‘logic’ of movements such as ISIS and al Nusra.

In the U.S.A., the situation is not much better. Wall on the Mexican border? Study your history! The United States robbed half of Mexico, through expansionist wars. Most of migrants who are crossing the border illegally, are actually not Mexicans (Mexico is, with all its social problems, an OECD country), but from impoverished Central American nations. And why are these nations impoverished? Every time they democratically elect their progressive governments which would be ready to work on behalf of the people, the U.S. immediately applies its fascist dictatorial “Monroe Doctrine”, overthrows the government, injects right-wing death-squads, forces privatization, and strips the country of everything, like a locust. Don’t the people from Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras or Dominican Republic, have the full right to follow the loot, too, and settle near it, in the United States?

*****

The Western doctrine is simple and at the same time, absolutely irrational. It is not defined, but if it were, it would read like this: “We can attack, rob, migrate wherever we choose to. Because we are white, Christian people with a superior culture and much better weapons than everyone else. No other reason, but this should suffice. Other people have to stay away, far away. Or else! If they disobey, they will be sunk by the Italians, beaten with rubber hoses on the open seas by the Greeks. Walls will be built, and people concentrated in repulsive camps, like what is being done if refugees try to cross from the south to North America.”

Oh, North America, where predominately first but also second and other generations of Europeans hunted down local native people like animals. Where the great majority of the First Nation died horrible deaths. Where the native people, in the U.S.A. and Canada, are often forced to live, to this day, in total destitution. North America, but also Australia – the same culture, same pattern, same ‘logic’.

And after murdering native people, what came next? Millions of Africans, in chains, brought as slaves by the Europeans, to build “the new world”. Men tortured and robbed of their dignity. Women tied in the fields and raped, day after day, by white plantation owners. Democracy. Freedom. Western-style.

Does such a ‘nation’, like the United States, have any moral right to decide who should cross its borders, and who to settle on its territory?

I don’t think so. Do you?

*****

Things can be very different. Look at Russia during the Soviet Union. It never occupied the Central Asian republics. They joined voluntarily, and if you talk to people in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, a great majority would happily join Russia, again; almost all feel nostalgic about the Soviet Union.

During the USSR, Moscow made sure that the standards of living in Tajikistan or Kirgizstan were almost the same as in Russia.  Instead of plundering, Russia provided great subsidies and internationalist support.

And then, after the Soviet Union was destroyed by external forces, (the arms race with the West and by Western propaganda), the country broke into several independent states. And the flow of migrants began.

Russia never closed its borders. Travel from Central Asia (destabilized by Washington) to now rich Russia is easy. Millions of people from the former Soviet republics are happily working all over the Russian Federation. And there is no ‘moral obligation’ that the Russian state has towards them. All this is actually just common sense, respect for shared history and values, and normal human kindness.

*****

Some will say, what the West did, it all happened long time ago. But no, it did not. It is still happening now, right now.

Of course, if you are frying your brains in some pub or club in London, or if you are sitting in a posh café in Paris, you would never think so. All you want is to be left alone, and to live your suave European life. A life built on the bones and blood of hundreds of millions of victims.

Huge and super-rich Europe cannot accommodate even one million of people flowing from the ruined Middle East? Seriously? Tiny Lebanon managed to survive an influx of 2 million refugees at the height of so-called “Syrian crises”. Crime rate did not skyrocket, country did not collapse. You know why? Because Lebanese people have heart and decency. While the West has nothing of that nature.

If your family became rich because it was robbing and murdering, would you want to return the booty? Would you open the doors to those whom your parents and brothers tortured and pillaged? Some would. After opening their eyes, they would. But not the West. It only takes. It never gives. It hates those who give. It smears, even attacks all decent nations.

The horrors are still happening right now, in devastated Afghanistan, a country reduced to ashes, after being designated as a training base for the fundamentalists ready to infiltrate and damage China, Russia, former Soviet Central Asia republics, Iran and Pakistan. I work there, I know. Or Syria. I work there too. Or Venezuela, one of my favorite countries on earth. And the list goes on and on.

I cannot anymore read those self-righteous, hypocritical outbursts, coming from the British, French, Italian, North American and Greek voters who only want benefits, while choosing to remain blind to the global genocides their regime is committing all over the world.

These people could not care less about who pays for their welfare, or how many millions die supplying them with their privileges.

They want more. They always complain “how poor and exploited they are”. They do not want to stop neo-colonialism. They only desire more money and better living conditions for themselves. “We are all humans”, they say. “We are all victims”. And then they vote in the extreme right-wing, and demand that the “refugees” be kept out.

They have blood on their hands. And most of them are not victims, but victimizers. They are not internationalists. Just mini-imperialists, selfish products of their culture of colonialism.

The West has to open the doors to the world which has been devastated during the long centuries.

Some people ‘outside’ have been literally turned into beggars, so the West could thrive.

‘Political correctness’ in London or New York lies, saying how wonderful the world outside is. No! It is not. Much of it is poor, gangrenous, horrid! Disgusting. Because it was made like that. Because it was beaten, violated, and robbed for centuries.

These people, the true victims, are demanding only two things: to be left alone and to be allowed to build their own nations, without Western military interventions, without self-serving NGO’s and Western-controlled U.N. agencies. That’s one.

Two, to go when they want to go, where their stolen riches are!

Either they will be let in, compensated and asked for forgiveness, or they will do what is their right: break the gates!

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Stop Immigrant Arrests, Close The Camps, Transform Immigration Policy

Protesters stand up to Trump’s attacks on immigrants in Los Angeles (Molly Adams|flickr).

Public awareness of the brutal repression against immigrants seeking entry to the United States, the reasons for their migration, and terrorism against immigrants living in the US are reaching levels that make them hard to ignore. The current immigration crisis is self-created and bi-partisan. Although the Trump administration’s rhetoric is extreme, it reflects policies that have developed over a long period of time.

Under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a person has “the right to leave any country, including his or her own, and to return to his or her country at any time.” Until the twentieth century, immigrants were welcomed into the United States. Immigrant and slave labor built many of the institutions and much of the infrastructure in the US.

It was after World War I, when migration to the US increased, that the government began to use quotas and exert more control over immigration. That control has become increasingly excessive, especially from the 1990’s until today. The US’ borders are highly militarized, which has adverse impacts on border communities, and immigrants have been criminalized, which has lead to raids, detention and deportations that rip families and communities apart. This crisis will only be corrected if people demand new policies based on human rights and respect for the self-determination of all peoples

Cartoon by Canadian Michael de Adder, for which he was fired.

The Immediate Crisis

People are fleeing Central America in large part due to US policies that have installed violent, repressive governments as well as corporate trade agreements that benefit US transnational corporations while exploiting workers. People are fleeing north for survival. Subjected to abuse at home, migrants are met at the border with more abuse.

The abuse includes people seeking asylum being held in detention camps while they await trial. It includes children being separated from their parents and sometimes held in cages, often without basic necessities and with young children taking care of even younger children. Corporations are profiting from child detention while children die, like this seven-year-old girl, or this eight-year-old on Christmas DayHomeland Security’s own Inspector General has issued a report decrying the overcrowding and other poor conditions of immigrant detention facilities including feeding people rotten, foul-smelling and spoiled food.

Some have described these detention camps as concentration camps. While these are not the mass death camps of Hitler’s Germany, they meet the definition of concentration camps: a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities. Immigrants call the caged areas “dog kennels” and the cold rooms where they stay “iceboxes.”

These camps are run by government officials who have been caught making racist and vile comments on a private Facebook group with about 9,500 members. They “joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility” and posted a photo of a father and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down in the Rio Grande saying, “I HAVE NEVER SEEN FLOATERS LIKE THIS.”

The US has a long history of concentration camps domestically and as part of imperial wars. It is a shameful history and some deny that the immigrant detention prisons are concentration camps. Those of us who can see the reality must face-up to another truth: our responsibility. Many have wondered how the concentration camps in Nazi Germany were able to exist in a modern, developed nation. Now we must ask ourselves two questions: How can these camps exist in the United States? What can we do to close them and liberate those being imprisoned?

We know from the history of concentration camps in the US and around the world that we must act to close these camps. We cannot be complicit by not taking action. This is not merely about the 2020 election and removing Trump from office, it is about rapidly building a national consensus that these are unacceptable and people mobilizing to do all they can to close the camps.

This week, President Trump is taking his racist, anti-immigrant policy from the border to raids against immigrants across the country. Trump announced these raids two weeks ago, then delayed implementing the mass arrests. Communities across the nation have organized to protect their friends, neighbors and family members who are threatened by this attack. We applaud sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE, churches that will house people threatened by immigration raids and people offering legal services to those who are arrested.

Listen to our interview with immigration lawyer Heather Benno on Clearing the FOG about what people need to know to plan for and resist ICE raids. It will be available Monday morning.

Bill Clinton announces his “tough on crime” agenda during the 1992 presidential campaign at the state prison at Stone Mountain, Georgia, the spiritual home and 1915 birthplace of the second Ku Klux Klan.

The Long-Term Reality Of Abusive Immigration Policies

The concept of the “illegal immigrant” comes from a 1929  law that made it illegal to enter the United States. The law made border crossings a criminal offense that became felonies with subsequent violations. The law was based in racism, authored by a segregationist Democratic Senator from South Carolina, Coleman Blease who opposed the education of Black people, advocated lynching, and criticized First Lady Lou Hoover when she invited Jessie De Priest, the wife of Chicago congressman, to the traditional tea by new administrations for congressional wives. Her husband, Oscar De Priest, was the first Black person elected to Congress since Reconstruction.

On the Senate floor, Blease said the First Lady should remember it is the “White” House. He then read the racist poem “N****** in the White House.”  The poem was excised from the Congressional Record by unanimous agreement due to protests from Republican senators. Blease also sought to make marriage between people of different races a federal crime. The roots of today’s immigration policies originated with white supremacists like Blease.

President Bill Clinton made this racist law much worse in 1996. Clinton, a southern corporate Democrat, signed the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996. These laws increased the severity of immigration violations by expanding the list of crimes that could increase jail sentences and fast-tracked deportations.

The Clinton laws laid the foundation for mass deportations under subsequent presidents. Bush, the Compassionate Conservative, more than tripled federal immigration prosecutions to 15,424 by 2003. In 2005, he incarcerated immigrants in federal jails when detention bed space in state facilities had become overcrowded. Illegal crossings declined significantly by 2008 but still, half the federal criminal docket was of immigrants crossing the border. The Bush administration intertwined local police with federal immigration enforcement by making more than 70 agreements allowing local police to enforce immigration laws. This is a continuing problem that results in immigrants not reporting crimes to the police.

President Obama remains the “Deporter-In-Chief” as he doubled the number of federal immigration prosecutions despite the fact that border crossings dropped by roughly half from 2009 to 2016. The result, the first Black president has the legacy of locking up more people of color on federal criminal charges than any other president in history. Immigration prosecutions topped 91,000 in 2013―28 times the number of such prosecutions in 1993. The Obama administration deported over 1.2 million people, the most of any president in US history. President Trump has come nowhere near the number of annual arrests and deportations of the Obama era.

The biggest difference with the Trump administration is the open cruelty of Trump and other administration officials in justifying their “zero tolerance” and family separation policies. The separation of young children from their parents is government-sponsored child abuse. The inhumane conditions in the migrant detention camps are violations of international human rights laws.

A member of the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) and a family after they crossed the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico in Fronton, Texas, October 18, 2018 (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Stopping the Abuse of Immigrants and the Deportation Machine

People are organizing to confront this crisis, such as blocking access to immigrant prisons or mobilizing to stop their construction. Below are some examples of actions people are taking. We hope it spurs you and the people in your community to act because this crisis must be confronted with direct action.

There were nationwide Close the Camps protests across the country on July 2. Workers have walked off of jobs of employers providing services to the camps. People are also trying to donate diapers and toys to camps where children are held, but are being rejected.  On Friday, July 12, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps will bring thousands of people to locations worldwide to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants.

There have been interfaith protests at ICE offices and people risking arrest at the borders. People are blockading immigrant detention centers not just along the border but around the country, and are facing jail sentences for doing so. Youth are protesting local governments who have agreements to work with ICE. Students are marching to protest the detention of fellow students.

Immigrants who are held in the camps are fighting back by engaging in hunger strikes sometimes resulting in forced feeding through nasal tubes. Immigrants who are targeted build community and defense committees to fight back against ICE.

Others are working to help migrants survive. The group “No More Deaths” is providing food and water to people crossing the border. This week, federal prosecutors announced they will retry Scott Warren, a border-aid worker accused of providing water to migrants, on three felony charges. In a prior prosecution, the jury was deadlocked and refused to convict him.

Also this week, 240 civil rights and immigrant rights groups wrote the leadership of the House of Representatives to decriminalize border crossings, roll-back the Clinton-era laws, stop entangling local police in immigration prosecutions and end detention without bail. The letter lays out some of the problems. The demands will not be won by negotiation with the power structure but by building power so the political elites have no choice but to end this crisis.

Organizations like RAICES are on the front lines providing free and low-cost legal and social services to immigrant children, families, and refugEes. Lawyers are fighting for the due process rights of immigrants, rights that are often denied. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee RightS has developed a list of national, state and local Immigration Hotlines to report raids, seek help if being detained or at risk of being deported and report missing migrants. Download a PDF of IMMIGRATION HOTLINES here. There is also the National Immigration Detention Hotline created and managed by Freedom for Immigrants.

While we work to confront the current crisis, we also must build a national consensus for systemic change in immigration policy. This includes ending criminalization and militarization of the borders and replacing them with open borders modeled after the EU to uphold the basic human right of freedom of movement. Open borders would be an economic benefit as they would add $78 trillion to the world economy. Migration is also a benefit to the US economy.

The US must end its regime change operations in Latin America, as well as trade policies designed for corporate profits, and institute a Latin American Marshall Plan. US neo-colonial, imperialist interventions and corporate trade policies are root causes of desperate mass migration. We can end the self-created border crisis and replace it with policies based on respect for human rights and self-determination and cooperation to build an economy that works for all.