Forget Janet Napolitano; Dismantle DHS

The appointment of Janet Napolitano to the top Homeland Security post has elicited a diverse number of reactions. In a New York Times article, some immigration hardliners are calling it a travesty, NumbersUSA thinks that President-elect Barack Obama could have done worse, while ‘liberals’ think that Napolitano represents a balanced and constructive view, given that she is in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes 12 million undocumented migrants. Conservatives in Arizona are happy that finally power might shift towards them with the election of Jan Brewer to Governorship.

Few are questioning the rise of ‘immigration’ as a matter of national security to the point where debates over the chief post of Homeland Security now include major immigration groups. Is this a failure of the imagination, ignorance or just plain historical amnesia? Discourses surrounding the appointment of Napolitano simply serve as polemical devices to achieve political ends while doing nothing to actually address the epistemological and ontological flaws in the actual nature of the Department of Homeland Security.

Writing for the Washington Post, Edward Alden is one of the few mainstream and liberal commentators who comes close to hitting the nail on the head with this statement in ‘Close Minded on the Border:

Instead of continuing to embrace the massive flow of talent, energy and initiative that the rest of the world has long offered the United States, we launched an expensive, futile experiment to see whether we could seal our borders against the ills of the world, from terrorists to drugs to illegal migrants. This effort has betrayed both our ideals and our interests.

Yet, he notes that Janet Napolitano has a rare opportunity to set the nation back on track—to improve security without sacrificing American values and ideals.

On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Homeland Security Act of 2002 which created the Department of Homeland Security that effectively took over the INS (now CIS). This reorganization blurred the line between immigration policy and terrorism policy to the detriment of many immigrants in the United States – immigration policy became an issue of national security, widening the nexus of security concerns, and hence, granting more policing power to the State.

This incorporation of immigration as national security has far-reaching implications—apart from the fact that immigration is now treated as a security concern rather than an economic and cultural benefit, the dehumanization and scapegoating of undocumented immigrants has proliferated out of control. From local enforcement and state laws to election battles, the unnamed and othered ‘illegal immigrant’ is the big bad bogeyman against whom we need protection.

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Testimony of Maher Arar – Extraordinary Rendition by U.S. Immigration Officials

This is the PITS. It is a gross violation of human rights, a misguided and miscalculated effort at WHO-KNOWS-WHAT?!

Published in the June 17 – Globe and Mail, Canada

On my way home to Canada from a family vacation in September of 2002, I was stopped and interrogated at JFK Airport in New York. Within two weeks, against my will, the U.S. government sent me to Syria, where I was tortured and detained for a year before being released back to Canada without any charge being filed against me.

Following a request by a U.S. congressman shortly after my release, the inspector-general of the Homeland Security Department launched an investigation. Early this month, Richard Skinner released a much-anticipated report on the actions of U.S. immigration officials surrounding the decision to send me to Syria.

Despite the limited scope of the investigation and the refusal by key decision-makers to be interviewed, the heavily redacted public version of the report points to the important fact that the decision to send me to Syria was made at the highest levels of President George W. Bush’s administration. The report found that the decision to send me to Syria was made before, and without regard for, the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s assessment that I would likely be tortured there.

Mr. Skinner’s report clearly establishes that what happened to me was a rendition in disguise. Mr. Skinner found that on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2002, the government prepared the “operations order” to remove me and sent flight clearances to Rome and Amman, so the United States could fly me on a private jet. These actions were taken before my six-hour interview with the INS concerning my fears of being tortured in Syria, before the INS concluded it was likely I would be tortured there and before the INS received supposed ambiguous “assurances” that I would be protected.

In other words, my fate had already been decided – the “immigration process” meant to safeguard me from torture was a sham.

So far, these high-level officials have evaded accountability and public scrutiny of their own wrongdoing by keeping me on their watch list, thereby attempting to keep the focus on me. The U.S. government claims to rely on classified information to keep me on the watch list – information that New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler has seen and called “nonsense,” and that Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has seen and confirmed that it does not justify keeping me on a watch list.

The Canadian government has already apologized and launched a full public inquiry. It is only my hope that the U.S. government follows Ottawa’s example and rights its wrongs by at least conducting an independent investigation examining the actions of all officials who shipped me off to Syria like a parcel without regard for my basic human rights, international law or the U.S. Constitution.

I would like to commend the efforts of the U.S. House of Representatives foreign affairs and judiciary subcommittees trying to get to the bottom of what happened to me. I appreciate their courage in standing up for justice and reminding Mr. Bush’s administration that America is a country of the rule of law. It is my hope that through their persistence and good work, the full truth will eventually come out.

USCIS director answers questions on processing times

Check out the Acting Director of the USCIS (formerly known as INS) making excuses for the slow, inefficient and bureaucratic mess of the immigration system in this country.

And within a couple days, he is again bombarded with hundreds of questions about processing times and dates. Just how many people are waiting in line for naturalization, legalization and to be united with their families?

It is not completely the fault of the USCIS — they do have quotas and rules to follow, but seriously their communication can be improved. Can we talk to a live person regarding our case on the phone or via email? Their 1800 number is absolutely useless. You enter your decade old petition number on the USCIS website and all it says is “petition approved.”

This one is priceless:

Many of you also asked about the processing times displayed at, and why the dates sometimes go backward rather than forward. We estimate those dates based on a formula that calculates, among other things, the number of cases received within a defined period, how many cases we’ve completed during that time period, and how many cases remain in process that our beyond our established processing time goals. Sometimes the flow of cases received and completed changes during a specific period in a way that shifts the date backwards. The processing timeframes shown on our webpage reflect applications just completed. So the page is only a tool for customers to estimate our current processing times.

Perfect, just perfect