Archive | May 28th, 2017

Trump’s “Victims of Immigration Crime” Hotline Is as American as It Gets


By Natascha Uhlmann

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in Calexico, Calif., March 21, 2005. From Neighborhood Watch programs to crime hotlines, the US justifies profiling by creating an army of snitches. (Photo: Ann Johansson / The New York Times)

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in Calexico, California, March 21, 2005. From “Neighborhood Watch” programs to crime hotlines, the US justifies profiling by creating an army of snitches. (Photo: Ann Johansson / The New York Times)

This April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the launch of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE). The central feature is a hotline built to “assist victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens” by providing updates on immigrants’ removal from the US. The office is transparent in its intent to bolster an atmosphere of anti-immigrant paranoia, and the community response has been laudable — within hours, the line was rendered unusable as prank callers flooded it with false testimonies. But this hotline is nothing out of the ordinary. A dedicated tip line for reporting migrants already exists, and it predates the Trump Administration by a decade: ICE has maintained a hotline since its inception in 2003. The surveillance of non-white populations is a practice that is etched deeply into US institutions, as is the delegation of this effort to private citizens whenever possible — with devastating impacts on accountability.

Founded in the aftermath of 9/11, ICE’s reliance on rabid anti-immigrant sentiment is no accident — it’s a foundational tenet. The Homeland Security Act, which first authorized the program, earmarked $170 million toward racialized screening programs in its first year alone. It further sanctioned the registration and monitoring of “aliens from certain designated countries.” The list of countries subject to scrutiny was not finite but could be amended at will as specified in recurring notices published in the Federal Register, leaving noncitizens subject to the changing and arbitrary whims of racist hysteria. Amidst an immobilizing climate of fear, the act was soon after amended with extended protections for citizen patrols under the See Something, Say Something Act of 2011. Cloaked in innocuous language around safety, the act granted immunity to individuals reporting suspicious activity, regardless of the veracity of their claims.

It is a terrifyingly effective strategy.

By outsourcing this surveillance through the mantra of “See Something, Say Something,” the DHS is turning Americans into snitches for the police state and shielding itself from accountability. By creating an army of snitches, DHS and other “protectors of justice” can truthfully declare that they were not profiling a particular group but merely following up on intelligence provided by “our fellow citizens.” This radical expansion of policing is thereby accomplished at a fractional cost, and as the scope of surveillance increases, the paranoia that underlies it inevitably does too.

The widespread adoption of Neighborhood Watch programs laid the cultural foundation for citizen policing. These programs centered subjects as the “eyes and ears” of the police, encouraging watchers to patrol and report suspicious behavior to the proper authorities. Gaining prominence in the era of America’s “War on Crime” — though similar, less developed projects date back to colonial North America — the patrols were part of a concerted effort toward making the public responsible for patrolling itself, and over time, surveillance came to be effectively portrayed as a civic duty. As these programs expanded, so did inquiries around how to most effectively cement social control through community monitoring. The Hartford experiment, a 1973 study funded by the Department of Justice, grappled with this very question: How could geographic impediments to surveillance (the tendency for subjects to stay indoors and thus out of sight) be mitigated through urban planning? What followed was a radical restructuring of public space that created subtle avenues for increased surveillance.

The Hartford researchers took an environmental tack to criminality. In making purposeful changes to public spaces, they sought to control the actions of those who lived among them. Still, the program set out not strictly to reduce crime but largely to reroute it within the public eye. A self-assessment one year into the program touted its success in making it “more difficult for crimes to occur unobserved and unreported.” The practice has grown to encompass an entire field of academic study, with a bizarre array of supporters: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) studies are funded by institutions as diverse as the Heart FoundationDisney and the Tiger Woods Foundation. As the scope of policing increases, what was once public space is reduced to a site of pre-criminality.

The rapid growth of the Minutemen border militia speaks to the widespread internalization of racialized surveillance norms. Dating back to 2004, the group advocates for more stringent immigration enforcement along the US-Mexico border, a project they’ve taken into their own hands by patrolling the region in search of undocumented migrants to report to border patrol.

The organization first gained notoriety for threatening immigrant activists and interfering with life-saving water distribution to migrants (as Border Patrol ramps up its commitment to “Prevention Through Deterrence,” by re-routing migrant paths through arid and hostile terrain, water distribution quite literally becomes a matter of life and death). The Minutemen employ a combination of hyper-militarized vigilante tactics and are routinely recruited by white supremacist groups. Despite their nativist agenda and committed paramilitary structure, the group has largely been granted legitimacy through a flurry of positive media coverage across mainstream channels. So the surveillance continues. “Border watches” are organized alongside “internal vigilance measures” focused on monitoring work sites that tend to hire undocumented migrants. Over time, a sophisticated private surveillance apparatus has emerged, with designated roles for each member and no trace of accountability in view.

A recent spate of retaliatory deportation proceedings too attests to the dangers of “See Something, Say Something” culture. Just last week, an undocumented Honduran national, Jose Flores, was detained by ICE officials after filing a workers compensation claim. Flores’ employer, Tara Construction, reported him to immigration officials in response to the claim. After a workplace injury left him incapable of providing for his family, Flores was advised by lawyers that he was well within his rights to apply for compensation despite his immigration status. After Flores vocalized his intent to do so, his employer arranged a meeting with him at which immigration officials lay in wait.

Tragically, the trap laid for Flores was not an isolated case: The Trump administration has emboldened ICE agents and those who call upon them to pursue personal vendettas and target those who pose any inconvenience. Numerous instances have been documented of deportation proceedings targeting community organizers and immigrant activists, with little attempt to hide their punitive nature. The culture of “See Something, Say Something” allows citizens to utilize ICE and the vast policing apparatus as personal enforcers.

The danger of this cultural shift goes far beyond the attack on our public spaces. The culture of “See Something, Say Something” upholds and legitimates the carceral state, while subjecting certain populations to radically differing forms of scrutiny. Though the language around the campaign is on a surface level neutral, race inevitably determines who is surveilling and who is surveilled. And while police have killed more US citizens than have been killed by terrorists in the past two decades, there remains no avenue to meaningfully say something about these abuses.

Through concerted efforts by the state spanning generations, our neighbors and communities are rendered suspect and public space, which was once an oasis, becomes stifling. As surveillance becomes the backdrop to everyday life, embodying anti-racist solidarity becomes more urgent than ever.

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“Horrific” Increase in Worldwide Displacement

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Over 30 million people were newly internally displaced in 2016 by conflict and disasters, according to a new report.

In examining trends around the world for its annual Global Report on Internal Displacement, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) found “horrific” and high levels of new displacement.

“Since we started this conversation, hundreds of families have been or are in the process of being displaced today,” said Secretary-General of NRC and former Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Jan Egeland during a press briefing.

In 125 countries, a total of 31.1 million new displacements were recorded, representing an increase of over 3 million from 2015 and translating to one person displaced every second.

“When a family is pushed out of their home, often for years, it is a sign that something is horrifically wrong in a nation, in a locality, and also in international relations,” Egeland added.

Of the total, nearly 7 million were newly displaced by conflict alone in 2016. To everyone’s surprise, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) surpassed Syria and Iraq in having the most new internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world.

“Our eyes and our focus were very much on the Middle East,” IDMC’s Director Alexandra Bilak told IPS.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has been consistently affected by internal displacement over the years, but we just weren’t expecting that spike in the DRC and we certainly weren’t expecting higher numbers there than in Syria,” she continued.

DRC has been marred by insecurity since the 1990s when the Rwandan genocide and an influx of refugees plunged the country into the deadliest conflict in African history, killing almost 5 million civilians.

Though the country declared peace in 2003, there has been a resurgence in violence between armed groups which has led to more than 900,000 new displacements over the course of 2016.

Egeland recalled his experience working in the DRC as Under-Secretary-General between 2003 and 2006, stating, “We were supposed to end that [conflict] a decade ago.”

He noted that DRC saw dwindling humanitarian resources over the years and fading attention.

“It fell off the top of the agenda and that was dangerous — that was a major mistake,” Egeland continued.

Bilak told IPS that the displacement figures found for the DRC in the report are “clearly an underestimate” as over 1 million have been newly displaced in the Central African country since the beginning of 2017.

The organizations also found that disasters displaced three times more people than conflict, documenting over 24 million new displacements in 118 countries.

Over 68 percent of all new disaster-related displacement took place in East Asia and the Pacific, including China and the Philippines, which saw the highest numbers of displacements due to heavy floods and typhoons. The effects of climate change on the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will only further increase such displacement, the report noted.

And it is vulnerable small island states that will and continue to suffer disproportionately, Bilak said.

Haiti, which is still reeling from the impacts of the 2010 earthquake and most recently Hurricane Matthew, is among the top countries with the largest per capita disaster displacements. The Caribbean nation not only faces a high risk of disasters, but also a low capacity to respond and cope.

“This is another sad demonstration of the recurrent shocks to the system that these types of events represent and how difficult it is for certain countries to recover from them,” Bilak stated.

However, despite the fact that IDPs outnumber all refugees by two to one, much of the world’s attention and concern has been focused on refugees and migrants rather than the issue of internal displacement. For instance, more money was spent resettling refugees in donor countries than on the crises in countries of origin that forced people to flee in the first place.

“By only looking at refugees and migrants, you are essentially only really looking at the endpoint of a crisis — you are looking at the tip of the iceberg,” Bilak told IPS.

“It’s incredibly short-sighted and unstrategic to focus all political and financial attention on the symptoms of the problem rather than on the causes,” she continued.

Egeland echoed similar sentiments, stating that though there are high numbers of refugees in the world today, it is a “total myth” that people are “overflooding” Europe.

There are some links between IDPs and refugees as unresolved internal displacement can sometimes lead to cross-border movements. Countries that often have high numbers of IDPs also tend to produce many of the world’s refugees such as South Sudan and Syria.

However, it is necessary to look at the full migration and displacement picture and to acknowledge that internal displacement is an integral part of that picture, Bilak said.

Understanding patterns of displacement and movements allow for efficient and effective work on prevention, preparedness, and response efforts.

Both Bilak and Egeland called on renewed and redirected political and financial investments in this often overshadowed issue.

“The report is a tool for policymakers to help them prioritize where they should allocate their resources, both political resources and their financial resources,” Bilak told IPS.

This includes an increase in development assistance in order to reduce existing vulnerabilities and future risk, helping mitigate the long-term impacts of internal displacement and preventing cyclical crises from continuing in the future.

“Until the structural drivers of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment are addressed, conflict and human rights violations will continue to cause displacement and impede solutions,” the report concludes.

Visit IPS news for fresh perspectives on development and globalization.

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The US and Israel Share a History of Ethnic Cleansing


By Mark Karlin, Truthout 

Hundreds march through Melbourne in solidarity with Palestine on July 12, 2014.

Hundreds march through Melbourne in solidarity with Palestine on July 12, 2014. (Photo: Corey Oakley / Flickr)

Steven Salaita, a Palestinian and an academic, makes the case for internationalism in initiating new societal and political structures that create a more just world. He focuses in his book Inter/Nationalism on the common bonds between Indigenous Americans and Palestinians in synergistically working together on decolonization. Truthout recently interviewed Salaita.

Mark Karlin: How do the current decolonization efforts of Palestinians and the Indigenous population in the United States share characteristics?

Steven Salaita: Those efforts are increasingly in conversation with one another, so they share both practical and philosophical connections. At a practical level, activists and scholars can cite Israel’s participation in genocide against Indigenous peoples in Central America as a way to understand that the state isn’t an abstraction or a distant concern. Israel also courts Native nations through a pretext of shared agricultural technology, something that has caught the attention of numerous Native activists. The role of the US in Israeli colonization is perfectly obvious to everybody. At a philosophical level, there’s a lot to unpack around the notion of “shared values” between the US and Israel, especially as the phrase lionizes a nearly identical version of Manifest Destiny, one that requires the erasure of native populations.

Steven Salaita. (Photo: University of Minnesota Press)

Steven Salaita. (Photo: University of Minnesota Press)

Is it fair to say that there is an Israeli Exceptionalism in relation to Palestinians that is comparable to an American Exceptionalism in relation to Indians?

They are comparable but not identical. American exceptionalism is steeped in contradistinction to Blackness in addition to Indigeneity, and so it has intersecting histories that look a bit different than the landscapes Zionist settlers encountered (though anti-Blackness is fundamental to Zionism, as well). Where the two versions of exceptionalism really congeal, as I discuss in my chapter on Andrew Jackson and Vladimir Jabotinsky, is around the notion that the new nation, the benighted project, has no room for the Native except perhaps as a source of cheap labor. US and Israeli settlement are both particular about who can properly inhabit the nation and they both conceptualize themselves as agents of predestination.

Why should American Indian Studies be relevant to Palestinian solidarity?

Because, first of all, it should be relevant to anybody who cares about the well-being of the world. Beyond this general answer, when I pose this question in the book, I’m thinking mainly of the Palestine solidarity community in North America. Those of us who work to decolonize Palestine while in the US or Canada should be aware that we ourselves exist on colonized ground. With that awareness comes a need to be in solidarity with the Indigenous nations of North America. On a pragmatic level, our political vision in North America will always be limited if we don’t engage settler colonization and its aftereffects. I see this problem all the time in leftist analysis that either treats Natives as objects of the past or reproduces, if only tacitly, the conceits of modernity.

How can the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel become an “articulation” of Native nationalism?

By continuing to develop its focus on international sites of oppression. Palestine will always be the heart and soul of BDS, of course. But those of us somehow involved in it, or sympathetic to it, can produce all sorts of interesting analysis about its relationship to other activist movements. Inversely, BDS isn’t limited to Palestinians. People from around the world can and do participate, centrally in many cases. For example, BDS can become an articulation of Native nationalism because plenty of Natives are involved in it at the level of conception and strategy. In fact, I would argue that Indigenous peoples have been central to the success of BDS in its short existence. Their devotion to the movement has reinvigorated their commitment to the liberation of their own communities. Activism has a wonderful way of putting us in different parts of the globe only to evoke an even greater understanding of home. I’ve seen that play out with BDS among some of my Native friends and colleagues.

Historically, what are some examples of the US and Israel sharing a history of ethnic cleansing against Indians and Palestinians, respectively?


Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and PalestineWhat will liberation look like for Indigenous America and Palestine?

Click here now to get the book!

The US has given Israel billions of dollars and offers verbal, military and economic support to every Israeli war and invasion. The US is a central player in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Israel’s role in the colonization and ethnic cleansing of Natives isn’t as severe or obvious. Israel certainly aided Central American dictators in their violence against Indigenous peoples, as I noted above, but much of the horrible work of North American colonization occurred before Israel came into existence. Now the two states are so intertwined that they share complicity in a wide range of global injustices. If the US government asked (or ordered) Israel to invade Hawaii, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] would be on the islands in less than a day.

What are some key areas that Indians and Palestinians can engage in decolonizing Inter/Nationalism in solidarity?

Through the work already occurring on the ground, mainly. There have been huge protests recently in Lakota/Dakota country, at Standing Rock and elsewhere. There’s a vibrant movement for Hawaiian liberation. Anybody residing in Canada or the US is likely within a hundred miles of an active site of Native politics. And, of course, Palestine solidarity activism is everywhere these days. It’s important to explore these spaces, to turn up and listen, and learn and do the work required of allies to national liberation movements. That work will vary according to circumstance, but there’s always room in any of these spaces for eager and honest folks. We can also facilitate conversations and joint actions across national boundaries. We can continue to theorize international (and inter/national) forms of opposition to capitalism, racism, colonialism and so forth. The possibilities are endless, really. The more important thing, in my opinion, is to make ourselves available with humility and determination and to grow into these movements rather than demanding that they conform to our preferences.

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