The Archipelago of Detention

No crime means no police. What makes the presence and control of the police tolerable for the population, if not fear of the criminal? This institution of the police, which is so recent and so oppressive, is only justified by that fear. If we accept the presence in our midst of these uninformed men, who have the exclusive right to carry arms, who demand our papers, who come and prowl on our doorsteps, how would any of this be possible if there were no criminals?

-Michael Foucault, Prison Talk

When the immigration question is framed as a matter of law-breaking, the inevitable result is the criminalization of migrant workers and families which feeds into the migrant-prison-industrial complex.

In a recent article published in La Prensa, Ali Noorani-Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum (,– subscribes to the dangerous ‘rule of law’ discourse that criminalizes undocumented workers and their families.  The ‘enforcement-mantra’ of the mainstream DC organizations holds that comprehensive immigration reform is key to holding undocumented workers accountable and ensuring that U.S. security is not compromised:

Only through a controlled legalization of those who meet certain criteria can we hope to isolate those few immigrants hiding under the radar that may wish to do us harm or take unfair advantage of our generosity.
Combining an enforceable immigration system with effective, targeted enforcement is the only way we can achieve an immigration system consistent with American values. We must reestablish the rule of law by fixing our immigration system and then enforcing the heck out of it. This is how we regain control, create an even playing field for all workers in the economy, and ensure that workers and employers who play by the rules will be rewarded rather than undercut.


This ‘rule of law’ discourse is devoid of the fact that many immigrants fell out of status by trying to follow the rules. Moreover, a quick study of the new ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ discourse and agenda citing President Obama in ABC News ( would tell one that it hardly applies to the horror of immigrant detention camps–the Guantonomizing of America ( The  heterosexualized concept of immigrant ‘family unity’ ( stops just outside the immigrant-detention complex.

In a recent report named Jailed Without Justice, Amnesty USA ( found the number of immigrants held in detention camps had tripled from 10,000 in 1996 to 30,000 in 2008, with the numbers likely to increase this year. The ‘rule of law’ discourse somehow forgets that the migrants detained in these archipelagos of detention constitute not only ‘criminal aliens’ but asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, legal permanent residents, and survivors of torture and human trafficking. And they probably would not benefit from any sort of ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’

The gender dynamics of immigrant detention are also unavoidable. See studies by Human Rights Watch and Southwest Institute for Research on Women, that highlight the mistreatment, lack of prenatal care, and other serious medical conditions that migrant women undergo while under detention. And these are women who have committed no crimes nor pose any flight risk.

As this country moves towards reforms via legalization, it is important to pay attention to the gross, inhumane violations of human rights in our immigrant detention facilities. Not engaging in dialogue and action about the creation of these achipelagos of detention would certainly not amount to ‘just and humane’ immigration reform.

The Perpetual War on Immigrant Students

It seems that we have built quite an appetite for war at home and abroad. Our foreign policy mirrors our domestic one and vice-versa–Overseas, we are destroying families, communities, killing innocent children, deferring their dreams permanently through a ‘war against terrorism’ and at home we are killing the spirit and dreams of our undocumented immigrant youth by deporting them while destroying families and local economies in ICE raids. Even the beneficiaries of both wars are a similar prototype: CORPORATIONS. While big oil and security companies stand to gain most from the new spaces of neo-liberal globalization created by waging war against sovereign peoples, corrections and security companies also make big moolah with the creation of new spaces of detention. It is such a fascinating observation. Really, I wonder why we divide it up into a foreign/domestic dichotomy when they are connected, one and the same. It is United States policy.

This morning, no sooner had I come down from the good news about the private bill for Arthur Mkoyan, there was yet another case of deportation coming out of the shadows–Camila Hornung and family are currently in a detention facility facing deportation back to Peru in less than 2 weeks.  Reprieve is next to impossible and it is unlikely to create the hue and cry that Arthur Mkoyan did. And even Arthur’s immigration troubles are far from over–his private bill simply delays deportation proceedings till the bill is defeated.

Sarjina Emy, Tope Awe, Meynardo Garcia, Mario Munoz, Lino Nakwa, Anya Gorlova, Arthur Mkoyan, Camila Hornung are names that we do not want to lose to history. They are victims of a unique system which punishes children for the civil violations of their parents. Thousands of undocumented students find themselves caught in the cross-fire of a battle that they never volunteered to fight — the swords were drawn on each side of the border, with these children and young adults cast in-between, in-limbo, simply yearning to live and breath productive lives.
Does anyone ever stop to think where we are headed with this perpetual war against students?

But for every one of these students whom we have ironically, documented, there are countless others that are undocumented, faceless and nameless–their existence erased from even the margins of history.

Accused of using taxpayer dollars (nevermind the fact that their parents are also taxpayers), accused of criminality (nevermind that ‘illegal presence’ is a mere civic violation), accused of taking the college seats of U.S. citizen children (nevermind that those seats are earned through hard-work and merit, and the percentage of college seats filled by undocumented students is less than one percent-not noteworthy), these students are the latest victims of displaced anger and misguided immigration policies.

Can you prove that your healthcare premium is high due to a DREAM Act student? Can you accuse undocumented students for high gasoline prices and the rate of inflation–a major source of your frustration no doubt? Can you accuse these students for taking away your jobs in agriculture, hotel, retail, construction? Can you show me statistics that say deporting a high-school educated DREAMer saves us money, balances the budget and helps the economy? Can you give me names of students that could not afford school or did not gain admissions in colleges due to undocumented students being more qualified?  Can you even craft a jurido-legal opinion that justifies deporting these students? Probably no to all counts. No, I don’t want to hear that “Illegal is Illegal” — that has already been refuted countless times here, here and here.

Enough with the war on immigrant students. Perpetual war for perpetual peace is an empty promise. I can guarantee you that deporting young immigrant students and their families would not make your life any better. It would probably make your immediate life worse with rocket-high prices of primary products and your retirement worse when the United States needs workers to fund social security for the baby boomers.

Under-reported Immigration News Brief – 1

This is my very first attempt at doing an immigration news round-up of sorts. It’s inspired by the rocking Citizen Orange/American Humanity (woo!) but instead of linking pro-migrant blogs together, I will be digging for immigration news and opinions not reported widely, sometimes more global in perspective (who doesn’t tire of American politics?) and posting them at the end of a weekend. Let me know how I am doing or to just quit. Lol.

Oh, and the new look will stay for a while. Hope everyone likes it.

1. OPINION OF THE WEEK: International Herald Tribune Opinion article on “Facing America’s great immigration panic,” June 4, 2008. This is one of the best opinion pieces I have read in the past few weeks and represents a lot of views on the pro-migrant network.

Someday, the United States will recognize the true cost of its war on illegal immigration. We don’t mean dollars, though those are being squandered by the billions. The true cost is to the national identity: the sense of who we are and what we value. It will hit us once the enforcement fever breaks, when we look at what has been done and no longer recognize the country that did it.

A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in bondage, exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering, condemning its lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully. The evidence is all around that something pragmatic and welcoming at the American core has been eclipsed.

An escalating campaign of raids in homes and workplaces has spread indiscriminate terror among millions of people who pose no threat.

After the largest raid ever last month – at a meat-packing plant in Iowa – hundreds of people were swiftly force-fed through the legal system and sent to prison. Civil-rights lawyers complained, futilely, that workers had been treated more as a presumptive criminal gang than as potentially exploited workers who deserved a fair hearing. The company that harnessed their desperation, like so many others, has faced no charges.

Immigrants in detention languish without lawyers and decent medical care even when they are mortally ill. Lawmakers are struggling to impose standards and oversight on a system deficient in both. Counties and towns with spare jail cells are lining up for federal contracts as prosecutions fill the system to bursting.

This is not about forcing people to go home and come back the right way. Ellis Island is closed. Legal paths are clogged or do not exist.

Some backlogs are so long that they are measured in decades. A bill to fix the system died a year ago this month. The current strategy, embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, is to force millions into fear and poverty.

There are few national figures standing firm against restrictionism. Senator Edward Kennedy has bravely done so for four decades, but his Senate colleagues who are running for president seem by comparison to be in hiding. John McCain supported sensible reform, but whenever he mentions it, his party starts braying and he leaves the room. Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost her voice on this issue more than once. Barack Obama might someday test his vision of a new politics against restrictionist hatred, but he has not yet done so. The public’s moderation on immigration reform, confirmed in poll after poll, begs the candidates to confront the issue with courage and a plan. But they have been vague when they should be forceful and unflinching.

The restrictionist message refuses to recognize that illegality is not an identity; it is a status that can be mended by making reparations and resuming a lawful life. Unless the nation contains its enforcement compulsion, illegal immigrants will remain forever ”Them” and never ”Us.”

Every time America has singled out a group of newly arrived immigrants for unjust punishment, the shame has echoed through history. Think of the Chinese and Irish, Catholics and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Children someday will study the Great Immigration Panic of this century, which hurt countless lives and mocked the nation’s most deeply held values.

2. ICE RAIDS – More to INS raids than reported

[   ] GO45828513.pdf          20-May-2008 08:25   8.4M
[   ] GO45829513.pdf          20-May-2008 08:30  11.1M

These are the two files referred to in the following report. Right click and save target as.

Source: Modesto Bee, June 2

Violations of due process for more than 300 arrested illegal immigrants, who were hustled through detention camps, jails and jury-rigged courts before they could talk to reporters, pale before INS investigators’ allegations of repeated, long-term violations and abuse by company owners, who are reportedly major contributors to the Republican Party. The company was supplying false Social Security numbers and other documentation to workers, then paying them below minimum wage in a conspiracy of silence. Read the full extent of investigators’ findings in the search warrants posted at If it had not been for the tireless pursuit of this story by Jeff Abbas, formerly with KUOP and KRVR radio locally and now managing KPVL in Postville, Iowa, this egregious violation of human rights would not have come to light.

3. DETENTION: On the immigrant detention front, ACLU was able to stop the overcrowding of a San Diego Correctional Facility for immigrant detainees.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2007, addressed the practice of long-term overcrowding at the San Diego facility. When the lawsuit was filed, more than 650 immigration detainees at the facility were living three-to-a-cell – resulting in one of them having to sleep on a plastic slab on the floor by the toilet. Additional detainees slept on bunk beds in the recreation area, driving the population of some housing units to more than 50 percent over design capacity.

After the ACLU appeared in the case, DHS transferred more than 100 immigration detainees out of the facility, resulting in an end to triple-celling.

Today’s agreement, if approved by the court, will help ensure that the population at SDCF will not again exceed capacity by requiring CCA to demonstrate three times between now and January of 2009 that it is keeping the facility’s population within design capacity.

A full copy of the proposed settlement is available online at:

A copy of the complaint, Kiniti v. Wagner is available online at:

Congressional Testimonies on Detainee Medical Care, June 4

Of particular interest was the Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy Director National Immigrant Justice Center. She lays out the problems with proper access to health care for immigrant detainees, their rights under U.S. and International Law and shows how the ICE Detention Standard on Health Care falls far short of these laws. You can read all the testimonies here.

4. POSITIVE IMMIGRATION NEWS: At a time when states in the deep abyss of the South are implementing xenophobic anti-immigration laws, and counties are clamoring to reverse the supposed ‘tide’ or ‘tsunami’ of undocumented migrants, we have a report out of Mercer County, New Jersey that has a welcoming attitude to all immigrants.

Nearly 30 percent of the foreign-born residents living in Mercer County are believed to be in the country illegally, according to a report due to be released Monday.
The undocumented workers cannot obtain New Jersey drivers’ licenses, are far less likely to have access to health care and are often afraid to seek help from police when they are victimized by criminals.
But, rather than sounding an alarm, the report finds the undocumented workers are part of an influx of immigrants who are enhancing the region’s economy and broadening its culture.
The 25-page document, titled “The Faces of Immigration in Mercer County,” points instead to a need for more comprehensive English language instruction and a welcoming attitude in communities…

5. KEEP ON DREAMing – What is up for undocumented students around the United States? As South Carolina shuts its door on undocumented students in higher education, groups are still fighting to prevent NC students from undergoing the same ordeal. Here is an excerpt of a published opinion from Durham Literacy Center in North Carolina, with some useful information and statistics:

First, this is a practical matter for our state; we need as many skilled workers as we can get. The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research recently released a report warning that state community colleges will need to graduate thousands more students by 2016 to stave off a predicted worker shortage. The report, noting that immigrants are playing an increasingly important role in our state’s economy, speculates that immigrants may be the solution to this shortage.

Latinos are already making major contributions to North Carolina’s economy; the Kenan-Flagler Business School reported in January 2006 that Latinos were contributing more than $9 billion annually to the state’s economy through taxes, purchases and labor (the contribution is expected to rise to $18 billion by 2009).

At the moment, only a handful of degree-seeking students at the community colleges are undocumented (112 out of 300,000), and they are helping fund their classmates’ educations by paying out-of-state tuition rates (over $2,000 more than the actual cost of their education).

These students, many brought to the United States as young children, have attended primary and secondary schools in North Carolina for most of their lives and are likely to remain and work in the state. By allowing them to pursue higher education, the state can benefit from students who are bilingual and bicultural, and who will eventually fill crucial gaps in our workforce.

Beyond the tangible benefits for our state, open access to higher education is fundamentally a question of human rights. As The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, everyone has the right to education. Article 26 of the declaration decrees: “Technical and professional education shall be made generally available, and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” We have wonderful public institutions of higher education in our state, and they will only be strengthened by a more diverse student body…

6. FARMWORKER SHORTAGE – Heads-up — EVERYONE who has lost their jobs due to undocumented farm workers in California, we have a severe shortage of seasonal farm-workers and are “on the brink of disaster.” Please consider applying for the position. You can earn $150 in a few days, says the President of Honduras.

Summit organizer Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League, told the Central American visitors that Easton was typical of the small Valley communities that depend on agriculture _ and farmworkers _ for their livelihood.
But Valley growers increasingly have trouble finding enough skilled farmworkers to tend and harvest strawberries, oranges and other labor-intensive crops, Cunha said. Permanent U.S. residents generally won’t do the work because it’s hard and seasonal, he said.
Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya said he’ll do what he can to make it easier for his citizens to get permission to work in Valley fields. But he and others at the Western Agriculture Labor Summit acknowledged that all the countries must work together.
“We know there is a great shortage of farm labor in California and the southern United States,” he said, speaking through a translator. “We really do hope this meeting can contribute to finding a solution to this problem.”
“We are on the brink of disaster,” said David Jackson, owner of Family Tree Farms in Reedley. “Ninety to 95 percent of our workers are undocumented.
The Valley needs 180,000 seasonal workers every year, Cunha said.
Zelaya said Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala each have the potential of supplying 30,000 to 50,000 temporary workers to the United States. What is needed, participants agreed, is a system under which the workers can come to the United States legally, with a minimum of red tape, to work during peak harvest seasons and then return home.”

Hasn’t the Congress rejected proposals for AgJobs over and over? Why are we blaming farms for employing undocumented workers when we won’t implement a program to provide them with workers?

7. MIGRANT-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX – Boeing has received the latest contract to build a virtual border fence…Did I not call this one a while ago?

The U.S. government has decided to award Boeing contracts for the construction of two sections of a high-tech fence to be built along the border with Mexico in Arizona, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Monday.

The two fence sections would be an “operational configuration” of a much-criticized 28-mile (45-km) section of “virtual fence” built by Boeing and tested earlier, Chertoff told a news conference.

He said the fence would include fixed towers, with radar sensors, remote control cameras, ground sensors and software linking border agents to give them a “common operating picture” of the areas they are enforcing.

Chertoff dismissed earlier reports of deep trouble with the test section, which had been delayed by several months due to technical problems, including communications and software glitches and fuzzy video images.

SPEAK out – Immigration Control – Emerging Police State

The progressive media is finally paying more attention to the emerging police state in light of immigration crackdowns in Postville, Iowa and the Washington Post report on the (mis)treatment of immigrant detainees. Joshua Holland provides a good summation in his article of the actions carried out by the enforcers of immigration law, actions that were in violation of worker’s constitutional rights and due process of law:

Enforcement on Steroids: Homeland Security’s Emerging Immigration Police State (Part I)

Some would call it a victory for law and order. But a closer look at the showy example of “getting tough on illegals” offers some insight into what immigration restrictionists are really asking for when they call for more immigration enforcement…some of the detained workers are victims of crimes by Agriprocessors, Inc., which may entitle them to a visa, and accuses the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of arbitrary and indefinite detention and violating the workers’ constitutional rights…in the overwhelming majority of these raids — 98 percent, according to the Washington Post — the only people to pay any penalty are poor people trying to earn a substandard wage working in America’s growing unregulated economy.

The emerging migrant-military complex overshadowed by rampant human rights abuses and disregard for the law offers us a great offensive argument in the fight for migrant rights. Anyone arguing against the rights of undocumented immigrants or the need to legalize them with the “law, order and sovereignty” spill should surrender and admit their faulty rhetoric. We cannot continue to uphold the law SELECTIVELY for workers and employers, immigrants and elected officials. We cannot restore order by inciting chaos and terror in our migrant communities. And our sovereignty is not threatened by immigration–legal or illegal. It is threatened by cultivating a police state to restore legitimacy for otherwise illegitimate actions, while profiting and strengthening the iron fist in the name of upholding ‘THE LAW’ which we continue to break.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller