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We Are All Illegal

28 Mar
Image from obeygiant.com.  Print designed by Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena.

Image from obeygiant.com. Print designed by Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena.

 

My Jewish great-grandparents left Germany and Eastern Europe 100 years ago in search of a better life, which makes me no more “American” than people who leave Mexico today in search of a better life. 

A front page story in Sunday’s New York Times, reports that 300 immigrants are now held in solitary confinement—for infractions such allegedly arguing with a guard or because they were gay—at the 50 largest detention facilities overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

“Detainees in solitary are routinely kept alone for 22 to 23 hours per day sometimes in windowless 6-foot-by-13-foot cells… Solitary confinement is widely viewed as the most dangerous way to detain people, and roughly half of prison suicides occur when people are segregated in this way,” reports the Times

For those that are proponents of immigrant rights, this news is sickening although not surprising; anti-immigrant officials like Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio have been making brutal human rights violations against immigrants for years.

What is surprising is how little Obama supporters seem to care that deportations have increased at record numbers under his administration, and that immigration detention is up 85% since 2005—or that there are more than six million people under correctional supervision in the United States, including more black men than were in slavery in 1850. 

Why do we remain silent as the prison population grows exponentially in the interest of corporate profit, and while ICE tortures immigrants?  What does that say about us as a country?  If ICE were running the Ellis Island “border crossing” these days, I’d be sitting in a 6-foot cage or getting deported back to Eastern Europe, lost from my family. 

Why do we look the other way when someone who is undocumented is mistreated, why do we ignore their human rights, as if holding a piece a paper that says you’re from the United States of America—which basically means you are a citizen of a land that annihilated a civilization of native people to make you a citizen—makes you anymore “American,” or gives you any more human rights than someone to who came to this land to make a better life for themselves and their family, and is cooking your ass dinner in the back of a restaurant in Washington, New York, San Francisco, or Phoenix?

The anti-immigrant supporters in Congress and ICE officials and Department of Homeland Security officials are all just as immigrant, just as undocumented, just as illegal, just as different, just as crazy, just as solitary confineable as I am, or you are, or the rest of us are.  

Human rights are human rights.  There is no difference between us and them.  So get them, get us, out of confinement. 

-Smiley Poswolsky

Justice Please: Reject Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Law

28 Apr

The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on Wednesday in Arizona v. United States, regarding the Justice Department’s challenge to the controversial anti-immigration law in Arizona, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, otherwise known as Arizona SB 1070, or the “Papers please” law.  To provide some background on the racist roots of this legislation:  SB 1070 was sponsored by former Republican Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, and signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010.   Pearce received assistance from Kris Kobach and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in drafting the legislation—FAIR has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has connections on its board of directors to the eugenics movement and other White Nationalist organizations— and much of the language of SB 1070 was drafted at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), alongside officials of the Corrections Corporation of America.  In 2010, NPR published a story on the relationship between Pearce’s bill and private prison companies.

SB 1070 is being challenged by the Obama administration, which argues that measures that provide for arrests and penalties under the so-called “reasonable suspicion” of being an undocumented immigrant amount to racial profiling and are unconstitutional.

While the final vote will not come until June, according to the Washington Post, Supreme Court justices strongly suggested Wednesday that they were skeptical of the administration’s case against SB 1070 and ready to allow Arizona to allow police officers to check the immigration status of people they “think” are in the country illegally.  If this law holds, it will set the precedent for states circumventing federal immigration policies and enacting their own (racist and unconstitutional) anti-immigrant policies, as we’ve already seen take place (to the detriment of human rights and economic well-being) in GeorgiaUtah, and Alabama.  That these laws have made parents remove their (U.S. citizen) children from elementary schools and farmers leave the farms they are working on out of fear of deportation, shows just how hateful and powerful the anti-immigrant movement in America has become.     

We should protect the human rights of people who come to this country to work hard, educate their children, and make a better life for themselves and their families.  We should remove racist anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and other states, as well as end the Obama administration’s record-setting deportation practices, which tear families and communities apart.  According to figures released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Obama administration deported nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants last fiscal year, setting a shameful record high for deportations for the third straight year (including deporting 46,686 parents who had at least one U.S. citizen child in the first half of 2011 alone). 

If the Supreme Court’s decision in this case in June comes out in favor of states being able to promote racial profiling, hatred, and the criminalization of immigrants, few will be surprised, as it would reflect an “American dream” in which liberty and justice for some has prevailed.  However, if the Supreme Court stands against racism, and rejects Arizona SB 1070, it may provide the momentum necessary for future comprehensive federal immigration reform that actually protects liberty and justice for all people in this country. 

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