Friday, February 13, 2009

The New Political Economy of Immigration

By Tom Barry
January/February 2009 Dollars & Sense magazine

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 drastically altered the traditional
political economy of immigration. The millions of undocumented immigrants—those
who crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas—who were living and
working in the United States were no longer simply regarded as a shadow
population or as surplus cheap labor. In the public and policy debate,
immigrants were increasingly defined as threats to the nation’s security.
Categorizing immigrants as national security threats gave the government’s
flailing immigration law-enforcement and border- control operations a new
unifying logic that has propelled the immigrant crackdown forward. [...]

Rather than addressing immigration as the complex socioeconomic issue that
it is, Homeland Security has reduced immigration policy to a system of crime and
punishment. Applying the simplistic law-and-order logic propagated by
restrictionists, DHS regards undocumented immigrants not as workers, community
members, and parents but as criminals. [...]

In the prison industry, bed is a euphemism for a place behind bars. Even
President Bush talked the prison-bed language when discussing immigration
policy. When visiting the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas in 2006 to promote
the immigrant crackdown, the president said: “Beds are our number one

The number of beds for detained immigrants in DHS centers has increased
by more than a third since 2002. There are now 32,000 beds available for the
revolving population of immigrants on the path to deportation, and another 1,000
are scheduled to come on line in 2009. This doesn’t include beds for immigrants
in Homeland Security custody that are provided by county, state, and the federal
Bureau of Prisons.

At the insistence of such immigration restrictionists as Rep. Tom
Tancredo (R-Colo.), the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004
contained an authorization for an additional 40,000 beds to accommodate
immigrants under U.S. government custody.
At the onset of the immigration
crackdown two years ago, ICE dubbed its promise to find a detention center or
prison bed for all arrested immigrants “Operation Reservation Guaranteed.” The
Justice Department has a similar initiative to ensure that the U.S. Marshals
Service has beds available for detainees—about 180,000 a year, of whom more than
30% are held on immigration charges. [...]


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chained Immigrants on Parade: Who Will Stand Up to the Sick Antics of a Racist Sheriff? via AlterNet

Jorge Rivas

Last week in Maricopa County, Ariz., more than 200 Latino immigrants were
chained, dressed in prison stripes and forced to march down a public street from
a county jail to a detainment camp in a desert industrial zone outside

Along the way they were filmed by television news crews and guarded by
at least 50 Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies, wearing body armor
and combat fatigues, armed with shotguns and automatic rifles. At least two
canine units were present; a Sheriff’s Department helicopter hovered


For Russia’s Migrants, Economic Despair Douses Flickers of Hope

Published: February 9, 2009

Marginalized and maligned in the best of times, Russia’s millions of
migrants are facing increasing hardship as the country enters its worst economic
decline since the 1998 ruble collapse. Recruited in droves mostly from former
Soviet republics in Central Asia to build shopping malls, skyscrapers and luxury
homes during Russia’s decade-long economic boom, migrant workers now top 10
million people by some estimates, giving Russia the second largest immigrant
population in the world, trailing only the United States.

Work on construction sites or renovations in private homes, the two
most lucrative migrant professions, are becoming more scarce and employers are
increasingly withholding wages for work already completed, leaving migrants
increasingly desperate. [...]

Russian officials, themselves besieged by the effects of the economic
crisis, are mostly concerned with reining in the number of migrants to preserve
jobs for Russian citizens.
Pressed by the gathering economic crisis, Prime
Minister Vladimir
V. Putin
, while acknowledging Russia’s dependence on migrant labor, has
called for quotas on work permits for migrants to be temporarily cut in half.

Increasing attacks by aggressive nationalists also weigh on their minds, as
jobs grow scarcer and a public backlash against migrant labor gains strength. A
Moscow-based human rights group recently announced that 10 people had been
killed in what were apparently racist attacks just since the start of the year.

On top of these problems, migrants often find themselves at the mercy
of the police, who can confiscate cash and other valuables on seemingly any
pretext, or without reason at all, experts and witnesses said.

In the last few months, police officers have raided the shantytown at
Chelobityevo several times, witnesses said, ostensibly to check for illegal
migrants. As often as not, however, legal status is no guarantee of protection.

“Even when all your documents are in order, they can beat you and take
your money,” Mr. Khamroyev said. “It’s not helpful to be here legally.”


Monday, February 9, 2009

Another Jail Death, and Mounting Questions

Published: January 27, 2009

He lived 42 of his 48 years in the United States, and had the words “Raised American” tattooed on his shoulder. But Guido R. Newbrough was born German, and he died in November as an immigration detainee of a Virginia jail, his heart devastated by an overwhelming bacterial infection.

Accounts of Mr. Newbrough’s last days echo other cases of deaths in
immigration custody, including one at the same jail in December 2006, which
prompted a review by immigration officials that found the medical unit so
lacking that they concluded, “Detainee health care is in jeopardy.”

But Immigration
and Customs Enforcement
never released those findings, even when asked
about allegations of neglect in that death, of Abdoulai Sall, 50, a Guinea-born
mechanic with no criminal record whose kidneys failed over several weeks.
Instead, officials defended care in that case and other deaths as Congress and
the news media questioned medical practices in the patchwork of county jails,
private prisons and federal detention centers under contract to hold noncitizens
while the government tries to deport them.


Immigration Detention Reform Moves to Front Burner

Robert Lovato - Of América
Posted Feb. 2, 2009

“I went through that system. I was there. I could have died too,” says
Velazquez upon hearing of Newbrough’s death. Velazquez, a recently released
immigrant detainee from Oaxaca, Mexico who now lives in Richmond, Virginia, is
looking for action from Washington. “I wish I could speak to Mr. Obama. I would
tell him ‘They (immigration authorities) jail so many people and they don’t know
what they’re doing. They have no right to let people die,’” said

His mobility and work possibilities are limited by the big black ankle
bracelet that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is forcing
him to wear until his hearing in June. He cannot leave his sister’s apartment in
the evenings. But Velazquez does not let his undocumented status limit his

“I want him (Obama) to know that we should be building schools and
hospitals, things that help people, not these prisons,” the very soft-spoken
Velazquez declared in his most strident cadence as he took a break from folding
flyers for a protest to halt the construction of another immigrant detention
center in Farmville, where Newborough died.


Target of Immigrant Raids Shifted

Published: February 3, 2009

The raids on homes around the country were billed as carefully planned
hunts for dangerous immigrant fugitives, and given catchy names like Operation
Return to Sender. [...]

Internal directives by immigration officials in 2006 raised arrest quotas
for each team in the National Fugitive Operations Program, eliminated a
requirement that 75 percent of those arrested be criminals, and then allowed the
teams to include nonfugitives in their count.

In the next year, fugitives with criminal records dropped to 9 percent
of those arrested, and nonfugitives picked up by chance — without a deportation
order — rose to 40 percent. Many were sent to detention centers far from their
homes, and deported.