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Archive for the ‘Class Politics’ Category

The Overwhelming Present: On Having Too Much To Write About

In Chronic Pain, Class Politics, Creative Writing, Crip Politics / Disability Politics, Identity Politics, Intersectionality on May 26, 2014 at 12:55 PM
"It burns the thing inside it. And that thing screams." - "An Agony. As Now." by Amiri Baraka

“Cold air blown through narrow blind eyes. Flesh,
white hot metal. Glows as the day with its sun.
It is a human love, I live inside. A bony skeleton
you recognize as words or simple feeling.”
– “An Agony. As Now.” by Amiri Baraka

 

Over the past year I’ve come to realize that my constant hesitation to write emanates not so much from anxiety or deep-seated insecurity, but from an overwhelming sense that there’s way too much shit to write about. If you’ve ever had to make a list of all the possible topics you could speak, write, or blog about, then you might have a sense of what I mean here.

Just the other day, heading back home from work in an hour-long trek from one part of Brooklyn (Bushwick) to another (Sunset Park), I was engaged in my most common activity: sitting, thinking, dwelling on issues that seem insurmountable. Even indescribable. Just the thought of putting these experiences and thoughts into writing was exhausting.

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For me, there’s an almost-insurmountable catatonia that comes with writing about the struggles of the everyday. Where to begin? After all, the elusive present is hard to understand without an acknowledgment of history. Do I cherry-pick old historical events, like the wave of destruction that swept over the Arawaks of the Bahamas when Columbus landed his avaricious gold-seeking feet? Do I speed through Manifest Destiny and slavery-fueled industrialization? Or the reproduction of urban savagery a lá Robert Moses and red-lining and… Or do I begin with what I’m seeing right now in 2014: the drastic efflux of white (with the ever-so-often black, brown, and yellow-hipster) faces walking past me at the subway stop near my job.

Goddamn. In a mere six years, the social landscape of this neighborhood has changed at a terrifying pace.

A view of Bushwick (foreground) and a violet-lit Empire State Building (background). Neoliberal urban colonization (aka gentrification) has a surreality to it that is hard to capture solely with words.

A view of Bushwick (foreground) and a violet-lit Empire State Building (background). The multi-story condo to the left was opened just a few years ago and already suggests near-full occupation. Indeed, neoliberal urban colonization (aka gentrification) has a surreality to it that is hard to capture solely with words.

 

In a world with too many wars to fight, to many colonnades to dismantle, reality is jarring. And at the end of the day, here I am…sitting inside a train. Zig-zagging my way out of Brooklyn, then back again. Joining up again where the political meets the personal.

I still have to deal with soul-crushing limitations. Trying to live like a revolutionary in a neoliberal age, my mind slumped after a night of teaching in impossible circumstances. And as much as I wanted to scream, a bourgeois sentiment in me also wanted to make demands and compelling critiques. But the number of topics I could potentially write about (that were also personally embroiled) were staggering:

  • I can write about gentrification, urbanization, and settler-colonialism in the United States. Using the example of Bushwick or Sunset Park to demonstrate how gentrification—a term that has been popularized in the left and right to the point of losing considerable political valence—is really just another iteration of white supremacist, urban colonization. Even in cases where the gentrifiers and the gentrified come from similar ethnoracial backgrounds, a similar logic of invasion, plunder, and proselytization operates, often with indirect repercussions to communities of color.
  • I can write about the linkages between police brutality, mass incarceration, and the reciprocal relationship between carceral regimes and capitalist development (including criminalization and its association with gentrification in Brooklyn).
  • I can write about the struggles of adult education programs, or the constant struggles and physical and cultural violence experienced by my transnational, multi-status immigrant students. The unique, indescribable experience of being a teacher at the crossroads.
  • I can write about the insidiousness of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), its ableist romanticization of long hours, commitment, and passion. Its coercive management of dissent. The funneling of revolutionary momentum into the rat race of data-driven bureaucracy.
  • Then there’s the fact that I often feel like I’m being ping-ponged between the NPIC and the (bio)medical-industrial complex. As if I wasn’t already drowning in paperwork and numbers, I also have to keep track of my co-pays, premiums, medications, and insurance policies. I have to manage a deeply crippling, mysterious condition (chronic pain) layered upon another (multiple sclerosis). I have to deal with doctors’ racisms, insensitivities, and general misunderstanding. I have to deal with pharmacists and insurance reps and union reps and social workers and disability lawyers. More days than I can count, I am filled to the brim with sadness and fury and hopelessness.
  • I can write endlessly about what it’s like to live with pain, all forms of spiritual, existential, psychological, physical, collective, or intergenerational pain. And the wisdom that pain provides.
  • I can also join the graduate student-blogger bandwagon and write about my detachment from academia (here comes another industrial complex: the academic IC). I can write about my alienation as an economically precarious “millennial,” or write about intersectionality and identity through the lens of a crippled, queer cisgender working-class man of color.

For me, it feels like the possibilities are endless. I can write substantially about any and all of these things—not simply because they seem fascinating, but because they are integral to my everyday material experience. But unlike those who have the luxury of waging war in one or two battlefronts, I’m living in sheer and utter political cacophony, living with the threat of debt, hunger, and detonations of pain. I’m forced to deal with an amalgam of interrelated injustices, not simply an isolated cause or issue of the moment.

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Fact is, no one embodies single-issue politics; but for some, the layering of oppressions is too adamant, too imperious, to conveniently omit in any writing of personal experiences. For how have I become the sort of subject, the sort of human that I am today were it not for a constellation of experiences that is simply more than the sum of its parts? While disembodied scholarship coercively tempts us into partitioning our lives like specimens under a microscope, life teaches us how beautifully, sometimes agonizingly, complex and unpredictable the world must be.

Glancing back at this list, I am reminded of how overwhelming it all is. It is overwhelming to be alive today—and most of us ignore the telltale signs (sometimes out of necessity). Living through the tyrannies of a globalized capitalist order, sensing that the orderliness of modern civilization, urbanization, and economic development is actually more mythology than a worthwhile endeavor. Putting our bodies through cruel regimens of poorly cooked, chemical-ridden foods and substances while working until we literally drop. Or resorting to a jaw-dropping level of consumption of entertainment, drugs, and alcohol to deal with the pain of isolation. Or lest we forget the weight of ruptured, dismembered, or even annihilated communities and histories.

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Reflecting on the obstacles to produce through writing, I recognize how frighteningly obvious some of the “internal” ones are. With my eyes looking straight ahead to an impending life in grad school, I’m reminded of what Andrea Smith has written about with respect to the academic industrial complex:

“A phenomenon that results from academia’s myth of meritocracy is that scholars feel an undue burden to prove their brilliance. They can never take short cuts. They cannot publish anything unless it is perfect. Consequently, it takes many scholars an inordinate amount of time to finish their work because they suffer from excessive anxiety attacks as to whether or not their contributions are going to be sufficiently brilliant to warrant their publication.”

This resonates: I can be a perfectionist and hesitate to print or publish anything that doesn’t conform to a standard I’ve created for myself. I am also fearful of being “too public” with my thoughts, emotions, and experiences, and fear their resultant social repercussions. I fear being stigmatized, or analyzed, or romanticized and co-opted by well-meaning liberals. I also fear not articulating myself in a way that reflects how I truly think or feel—something that becomes particularly salient in my life with chronic fatigue. Even as I write this, I am constantly redacting my statements, cognizant of the critiques (feeling more surveilled than an object of the Panopticon state)….

Of course, the joint effect of these fears is to avoid writing altogether, with only an inkling that perhaps one day I can do so at a difficult convergence of free time, good health, good energy, and “feeling inspired.”

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So, to what extent are these barriers psychological/individual vs. systemic? And to what extent are these barriers that I have agency over? I don’t think I’ll ever develop a satisfying response to those questions, but I’m very much aware of how I’ve come full circle since my very first blog post on overcoming writing paralysis.

I still believe in the importance of writing, and speaking out against all forms of violence. I even see the importance of writing within political projects, even if those projects cannot be reduced solely to an ideological exercise.

But it’s fucking hard to put all the pieces together, to synthesize an amalgam of experiences that often feel too disjointed and irregular and incredibly messy. Sometimes it’s too much work to synthesize and create a story that fictionalizes a union of the world’s haphazard parts.

And while it’s generally hard for most people to find the time and space to write, the challenges are exponentially worse when you have to struggle with pain, fatigue, and brain fog.

Yet, none of that is to render invisible a more basic conundrum: There is too much shit going on in the world. There is too much shit going on in my life. There are too many fucking things to write about.

Yes, there is way too much shit. 

View of Chinatown from the Manhattan Bridge.  What life in the city feels like to me, all at once: ever-moving, exciting, imprisoning, chaotic, indecipherable.

View of Chinatown from the Manhattan Bridge.
What life in the city feels like to me, all at once: ever-moving, exciting, imprisoning, chaotic, indecipherable.

Lest We Forget: Why I Still Can’t Support Obama

In Class Politics, Decolonization, Identity Politics, Racial Politics, The Revolution on July 26, 2013 at 8:30 AM

obama_souls_earching_bombing

In the aftermath of the Zimmerman acquittal, the several rallies and marches in cities across the country , and even an unexpected speech by President Obama that has gotten much praise by a liberal Left, many perspectives have arisen regarding the state of racial politics in today’s Amerikkka. Is it striking that the trial of a murdered, unarmed black teenager should cause such bitter reflection of the country’s dismal history? While I’m sure many argue to the contrary, I’m actually of the opinion that we haven’t done anywhere near enough to counter racial violence in this country.

Forget the rhetoric that things are at least ‘better’ than they used to be—such talk, even among liberals, simply minimizes the ever-present urgency faced by people of color, particularly black and indigenous communities, a half-century after the so-called civil rights era (nee black liberation struggle). Implicit in these optimistic conclusions of “betterment” is a subtextual belief in a linear historicity and movement towards “progress.” This allusion towards an improved prognosis for the country’s ills is remarkably resilient given the financial collapse in 2007-8 and the globe’s estimated movement towards climate catastrophe. It is, after all, optimism that helped propel Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, to victory when he used public relations slogans of “Hope.”

To be clear, none of this is meant to suggest that room for optimism is impossible. Rather, it is meant to add to a minority throng of voices calling for imminent change—or else, suffer the consequences that threaten our species’ very livelihood. But I am skeptical. Very much so. It is definitely not a skepticism against those of us who have taken to the streets, who are doing what we must do in order to survive. It is, however, a skepticism pertaining to the prospect of true change before empire crumbles. It is a skepticism that emanates from seeing a liberal agenda being commodified and perverted under an accomodationist regime, purporting to be democratic while still calling undocumented immigrants “aliens” and corporations “citizens.”

It is a skepticism that emanates from listening to a Commander-in-Chief with a Nobel Peace Prize who’s green-lighted mass surveillance and drone warfare on innocent civilians. A skepticism of an African-descended leader who has failed to acknowledge the violence of “free trade” and militarized policing on people from indigenous communities and the global South. It is a skepticism, not a nihilism, that responds to this capitalist usurpation of Chicana activist Dolores Huertas’ “Sí Se Puede” with a “No, We Can’t”* (*that is, not unless we topple the corporatocracy that deforms our schools, poisons our food, profits from prisons, and raises our rents).

That a white-Latino vigilante with a gun could walk away, a free man, after shooting an unarmed black youth is testament to the state of our racialized world. Fact is, recent events notwithstanding, race has always been a part of the united states of amerikkka. Have we forgotten how race was/is a fiction imported by European colonizers, fortified under independent statehood, and used to legitimize inestimable genocides and atrocities that continue today? Undoubtedly, race today is a social reality that defines lived experience in Amerikkka, a factor that shapes and re-shapes how one is conditioned to see the world and sense of self. It is absolutely heart-wrenching to see black youth feeling threatened by the Zimmerman acquittal, knowing full well the implications of a ruling made by five white women and one presumed Latina in Florida: black lives don’t mean shit.

Obamashit

After hearing Obama’s impromptu speech to the nation last week, I was perturbed, not so much by the content of his speech, but by the popular response to it. Almost immediately the world of online social media was inundated with liberal cries of adulation for a president who, not too long ago, has been made culpable for such atrocities as: prolonging never-ending wars begun by Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan; the authorization of indefinite detention (NDAA) as well as the prolonged torture of prisoners in Guantanamo; and an inaction with respect to the criminalization of bankers and taking steps to end the troublesome trade liberalization policies wrecking global south economies. So although I see the significance of having a u.s. president acknowledge, at long last, the existence of racism and the limited opportunities faced by  youth of color, in effect criticizing the Zimmerman acquittal, any enthusiasm for this was tempered by an acknowledgment of the ongoing devastations throughout the globe for which he is directly complicit. In other words, I cannot be silent while racialized bodies elsewhere in the globe are being tortured, surveilled, and bombed. (I also can’t help but wonder: where are the “Never Forget” chants now?)

When it comes to the state of affairs for people of color on the streets and various communities across the country domestically, there has been no substantive change—with the possible exception of a somewhat more radicalized public. But I’m not holding my breath. After all, even while activists marched for Trayvon these past weeks (myself included), we’ve continued to see the same discourses of race repeat themselves—albeit with new examples, in a new year. Instead of Emmett Till, Rodney King,  Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, or Oscar Grant (not to mention the various black and POC trans- and cis- women and men we have not heard of), we have Trayvon as our martyr in what is a seemingly endless war against our colonizers. And the same, shamelessly naked expressions of racism online (facilitated by our anonymizing communications technologies) makes it certain that our challenges ahead will be Sisyphean in nature.

So as we grapple with how to “reform” racist laws in this country (as opposed to revolt), we will need to also confront an ever-growing threat that is impregnably tied to white supremacy. That is, what we’re witnessing is a configuration of violent institutions (the military, prison, and security-industrial complexes; academic institutions; popular media; and “food” manufacturers) merging in what is unmistakably the synthesis of a neoliberal imperial project. We are seeing an unprecedented level of market-driven mastery over human life, not to mention all forms of organic and ecological things, that has prompted ominous transformations in our climate. (Note: it is the united states of amerikkka that is at the forefront of this “progress.”)

And within this mastery lies an ideology of white supremacy that is internalized, largely unvoiced, complicit in an incredible tyranny of racialized bodies. And, as many have noted for far too long, (colorblind) racism in Amerikkka has evolved in sinister ways, becoming especially fine-tuned and strategic, invisible to the untrained eye, and like a tiny scalpel that has replaced a wooden bludgeon. As such, it is much deadlier.

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Just two months ago, Obama was heckled by an anti-war activist from CodePink, in opposition to his prolonged extension of Gitmo (and the ongoing torture of detainees) at Guantanomo Bay. This Democracy Now! clip also mentions his use of unmanned drones, I would take special note his concessionary language.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/3FaIMropdOM]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FaIMropdOM

Obama_yeswecan

Study: High-Stakes Testing Increases Incarceration Rate

In Class Politics, Educational Justice, Racial Politics, The Revolution on July 16, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Diane Ravitch's blog

A new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that high-stakes testing leads to an increase in the incarceration rate.

Olesya Baker and Kevin Lang conclude that the use of high-stakes tests as a graduation requirement leads to a lower graduation rate and a higher incarceration rate.

Anthony Cody has an excellent column about this study here. As he puts it, “exit exams boost the school to prison pipeline.”

The recent NAEP Long Term Trend report showed almost no test score gains from 2008-2012, the era in which high-stakes tests were ubiquitous.

Please, someone, remind me why Congress and Secretary Duncan and President Obama and every governor and legislature is obsessed with testing. Is it confusion, incoherence, indifference, ignorance, or something else?

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Survivors of Solitary Confinement

In Class Politics, Identity Politics, Racial Politics, The Revolution on July 13, 2013 at 4:47 PM

Survivors of Solitary Confinement

The above graphic, from Mother Jones, conveys how widely such torture is executed in our nation’s prisons. But to understand the harshness of solitary, one need only listen to the stories of survivors (from the National Radio Project):

[audio http://www.radioproject.org/sound/2013/MakingCon_130710_Ax.mp3]

To learn more about the prison strike that’s making national news:
Strike the Prisons
Prison Strike
Critical Resistance
Solitary Watch

Reasons To Oppose the Latest Immigration Reform

In Class Politics, Geography/ Spatial Justice, History, Identity Politics, Latin@ Politics, Racial Politics on July 7, 2013 at 8:40 PM

WHY BORDER (IN)SECURITY IS A THREAT TO ALL OF US

Border_Patrol

We can expect increased border militarization to result in more deaths, incidents of violence, racial profilings, and a “locking in” of the Surveillance State.

As with many people on the so-called Left in this country, I am against the further militarization of our borders and what would inevitably amount to more violence, death, and destruction in and around our southern borderlands. This criticism, however, has been mollified by arguments in favor of the bill, with many groups hesitating to reject it outright and choosing to simply acknowledge that there are both good and bad provisions.

In a nutshell, I want to argue that such a concession is unacceptable: the bill is egregiously flawed in all respects, including, but not limited to, its failure to go far enough in its “good” provisions, its jeopardization of the security and lives of current and future immigrants, and its hazardous implications in locking in the surveillance state. Indeed, whether or not you are undocumented, an immigrant, a person of color, or a resident in Amerikka, this bill—if ever enacted—has dangerous implications for all of us.

The bill of which I speak, of course, is the one that was passed with bipartisan approval in the Senate last month—S. 744, or the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (what I’ll dub the ‘Border (in)Security Act” for short). We are told, most especially by the Democratic Party establishment, that the militarization provisions of the Corker-Hoeven amendments were necessary if we were to at all have amnesty in the foreseeable future. We are told, explicitly or implicitly (by such liberal organizations such as the National Council of La Raza or the National Immigrant Justice Center), that although increased border enforcement is a shame, the much-sought immigration reform makes it ultimately worthwhile. And, indeed, the liberal arguments in favor of adopting the bill (warts and all) are compelling:

  • it ensures that many people will no longer live underground, in terror, or under the most heinous exploitative conditions
  • it ensures that many children won’t be heart-wrenchingly ripped away from their parents
  • it promises much-needed relief to undocumented students who face harsh difficulties in applying to colleges and jobs
  • and, if issues regarding the federal deficit matter to you, then it might please you that the Congressional Budget Office predicts that the bill will actually reduce it by a sizeable $56 billion between 2014 and 2018 (and $197 billion between 2014 and 2023). (2)

I am deeply in favor of many of these things. In fact, people’s livelihoods depend on it. But if we are to work towards liberation, towards a world not wagered on the lives of future generations, we also need to think strategically, being mindful of longer-term consequences and global ramifications. For even if this bill doesn’t move forward (as many analysts doubt its approval in the House), what we have here is nonetheless a perfect example of how the sheer illusion of bipartisan consensus can insidiously manufacture consent in favor of state violence. It is not so much about this particular bill as it is about its implications for any future legislation, and the real consequences for the people of this country (u.s.), of Mexico, and throughout the globe.

Proposed immigration bill

A widely-circulated meme from Culturestrike & Presente.org.

What We Can Expect From S. 744 [the Border (in)Security Act]:

More Death and Physical Violence

–          We can count on more deaths. If there is any reason whatsoever to reject the concessionary attempts to further militarize the Mexico-u.s. border, it is this. If you are wondering what mechanisms will allow this, read on:

–          Walls force migrants to travel through difficult terrains. Every year hundreds, if not thousands, of people die in attempting to cross the border—often because checkpoints and doubly-fortified walls necessitate alternative routes through the desert, which many people traverse on foot. Others face dangers in being smuggled inside cramped trucks, vans, and shipping containers (7). The increased security measures will make it easier for coyotes, black market merchants, and unscrupulous employers to exploit the fears of the undocumented—often with physical or lethal repercussions.

–          More Border Patrol killings. The enforcement-first policies of recent years have already considerably increased the power of the Border Patrol, which has been documented to kill innocent people with little, if any, prosecution (19). Doubling the agency—especially under time constraints that will ensure hasty employment practices—could likely worsen the situation.

–          Barriers to life-saving services. Currently, draconian state laws and local policies create barriers to immigrants trying to access basic human services, such as health care. While some claim that more Border Patrol agents may help deal with any issues that may arise (such as instances of injury, abuse, or sexual/physical assault), there is little precedent to support this. Victims to crimes of human trafficking, domestic violence, bias crimes, and even physical abuse at the hands of Border Patrol agents will likely be left in the lurch.

–          The federal government has a dismal human rights record. Amnesty International (7) recently chastised the united states for its poor track record of abiding by international human rights laws, including ensuring the safety of migrants and the right to due process. Given this fact—true under the current regulations—what would make us think that S. 744 will improve the situation for (im)migrants who do not qualify under the amnesty regulations?

Image

From the Alliance for Global Justice. Contrary to what amerikkans are often taught, violence at the man-made “border” is a recent, largely state-initiated, phenomenon.


The Pros Aren’t As Great As They Might Seem

–          The route to citizenship will take 13 years. The bill currently calls for the creation of a registered provisional immigrant (RPI) program, which is essentially a work authorization program that is not equivalent to a green card.  Under a best case scenario, undocumented immigrants will have to wait 10 years to become lawful permanent residents, and an additional 3 to apply for citizenship. (5, 14)

–          Documentation for 8 million, not 11. Rather than the much publicized 11 million, the bill is likely only to aid in the documentation of 8 – 8.5 million people. (20, 2)

–          There will be heavy prohibitive fees. In order to apply for RPI status, immigrants will have to pay $500 penalty fee, any unpaid taxes, and application fees. As such, the program will be inaccessible to the poorest undocumented immigrants.

–          “Little dreamers” will not benefit.  While the long-fought war for the DREAM Act will be passed with this legislation, it does not confer similar protections for younger siblings who do not turn 18 within 5 years of enactment.  Instead of the “fast track” to legal permanent residency given to DREAMers, they’ll be forced to take the longer route of waiting a minimum of 10 years.


Expansion of the Military-Security-Industrial Complex

–          The bill will double the number of Border Patrol agents in less than a decade.  It’s hard to imagine the enormity of such accelerated increase—from approximately 20,000 agents today to 40,000 within less than a decade (by 2021).  (4, 5, 9, 11).

–          Financially, this bill is extremely costly. The militarization aspects of the bill are expected to cost $30 billion—on top of the $18 billion annually already spent on border enforcement. This is more than any other federal law enforcement agency (4, 15).

–          Expect the worst and newest military technologies. This includes 24/7 surveillance systems, unattended ground sensors, infrared scopes, Predator drones and Blackhawk helicopters.

–          Requires that at least 90% of border crossers are apprehended in “high risk border sectors.” [Section 3(a)(3), p.9]

–          The DREAM Act provision encourages youth enlistment. Under Section 2103 (p.110), DREAMers will be able to apply for documentation status if they spend four or more years in the Armed Forces. Such an option perversely incentivizes involvement with the u.s. war machine while exploiting students unable to attend/afford college.


Racial Discrimination and the Persecution of Indigenous, Immigrant, and Latin@ Communities

–          There will be increased racial profiling. This one is a no-brainer: having more armed, federal military agents in the borderlands will exacerbate an already documented trend that terrorizes non-whites (7). One can expect more unjustified stops and detentions—not only of the undocumented, but of immigrants with federal status, Latin@s, Natives, and other communities of color.

–          Draconian state laws will prevent access to basic services. There’s every reason to believe that the terror and intimidation posed by S. 744 will force many undocumented immigrants further into the shadows—and thus, prevent them from accessing services that are sometimes completely legal (such as seeking health care or Food Stamps for U.S.-born citizen children). The potential law also legitimizes the growth of local military-police states borderlands that will heighten the structural and physical violence perpetrated against Latin@ and indigenous communities.

–          The English requirement is for mere documentation status, not citizenship. While the English requirement has been enforced in the citizenship exam, this could become the first time the English requirement is necessary for a federal legalization status that does not confer voting rights. Added by the Latin@ Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), this requirement is meant also enforces the sort of “assimilation” Rubio sees as necessary. In making no separate provision to include funding for adult education/ESOL courses, this requirement will negatively impact English language learners who are poor, ability-varied, and/or time constrained. (p.103, 1; 20)

–          S. 744 threatens indigenous sovereignty.  Amnesty International’s report, In Hostile Terrain (2012), devotes its third chapter to abuses against Native Americans. Although there are over 26 First Nations in the areas around the Mexico-u.s. border, the wall has already gravely threatened the rights and livelihood of inhabitants who have proper claim to the land. In addition to cutting through Native lands, many Native residents have been repeatedly accosted by Border Patrol agents while trying to access areas of their community. This is in direct violation of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1853), wherein the united states and Mexico both affirmed the rights of indigenous people.


Prison Expansions and the Criminalization of Immigrants

–          Amnesty excludes immigrants with convictions, including misdemeanors. Undocumented immigrants with prior felonies would be ineligible for RPI status, as are folks convicted of three or more misdemeanors, and those caught voting unlawfully.

–          Expect more detentions, prosecutions, and prisons. Under Operation Streamline, a program implemented in 2005 to boost federal prosecution of unauthorized migrants along the Texas-Mexico border, we have seen a record number of detentions and arrests. In fact, in 2011, unlawful entry and unlawful re-entry were the two most prosecuted crimes in the federal judicial system—with a concomitant expenditure running in the billions of dollars.  We can only expect more such prosecutions and expenditures under this bill. According to its estimates, the Congressional Budget Office predicts the cost of this extra criminalization to be around $3.1 billion from 2012 to 2023. (2; 18)

–          Increased profits for the private prison industry.  Private prison companies like the GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America have received extremely lucrative contracts from the federal government to house detained immigrants. In essence, record profits are being made on the backs of immigrants—and is likely one of the sources fueling the militarization debacle. (17, 18)


Expansion of the Surveillance State

–          The creation and expansion of a federal employment verification program. Whereas now the existing verification program, E-Verify, is online and optional for many businesses, the program that would replace it would be mandatory for all businesses over a few years (p. 424). The CBO predicts an implementation cost of $1.4 billion over five years. Unclear, however, is what information (such as fingerprints) will be collected by the federal government. (2)

–          More funding for non-stop surveillance technologies. The border will be flooded with 24/7 surveillance, and a biometric exit system will be put in place in the 10 busiest airports within two years of the bill’s enactment. (9)

–          Expect more surveillance justified under the aegis of “national security.” Immigration was officially made a national security under the Bush Administration, with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security. Increased funding for border militarization could easily extend into resources being devoted to a heightened criminalization of people of color and immigrants. Similarly, increased surveillance funding and equipment could fortify the Surveillance State for everyone residing here.


Considerable Costs at the Expense of Social Welfare & the Environment

–          Underlines a tragedy of government priorities. All sorts of reasoning are given to justify the country’s considerable defense spending. As it stands, the united states spends the most of any country on its military, and is responsible for 42% of total global military expenditures. Additionally, 20% of the FY13 federal budget was on defense (second only to Social Security), and about half of “discretionary” funds were allocated to this sector. These very same funds—instead of being allocated for killing and harassing people—could be used to build up our underfunded educational system, create new public housing, or develop scientific research. In the end, the costs of immigration enforcement and border violence benefit no one but the super-rich. (21, 22, 23, 24)

–          Poses irreversible threats to endangered species and fragile ecosystems. The bill’s threat to the environment is one of the most glaring examples of how the consequences can become irreparable. The construction of the current wall, in conjunction with the vast deployment of military vehicles and equipment, has already occurred at a severe cost to wildlife and endangered species—and all in shameless violation of numerous environmental protection laws. The lack of federal oversight has already resulted in significant landscape changes, such as when DHS filled in Smuggler’s Gulch (south of San Diego) using earth captured through mountaintop removal. We can only assume that this same trend will multiply under the proposed changes. (4, 8)

As if all of these cold facts aren’t enough, there are also the implications that come with accepting a bill that solidifies the power of an imperial nation-state—all while failing to deal with the root causes of oppression.

Sources:
1)      http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s744is/pdf/BILLS-113s744is.pdf
2)      http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/s744.pdf
3)      http://www.natlawreview.com/article/border-security-economic-opportunity-and-immigration-modernization-act-2013

4)      http://www.nomoredeaths.org/Updates-and-Announcements/no-more-deaths-calls-on-congress-to-start-over-on-immigration-solutions.html
5)   http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/06/senate_passes_border_militarization_amendment_with_bipartisan_support.html
6)      http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/6-23-13%20Immigration%20Release%20Final.pdf
7)      http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/usa-in-hostile-terrain-human-rights-violations-in-immigration-enforcement-in-the-us-southwest
8)      http://www.no-border-wall.com/environmental-impacts.php
9)      http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/2013/S_744_Summary.pdf
10)  http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/SouthwestBorderSecurityOperations.pdf
11)  http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net/2013/06/derechos-opposes-hoeven-corker-amendment-new-immigration-bill-is-a-step-backward-for-border-communities-and-many-immigrant-families/
12)  http://www.presente.org/press/releases/2013/6/27/moveon-credo-presenteorg-18-million-rising-stmt
13)  http://www.presente.org/press/releases/2013/6/24/largest-online-latino-advocacy-group-opposes-immig
14)  http://www.immigrantjustice.org/immigrationreform/s744analysis#.UdeOFPmsim4
15)  http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/06/20/democrats-let-gop-name-their-price-on-immigration/
16)  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/us/politics/2-gop-senators-reach-deal-on-border-security-plan.html?hp&_r=1&
17)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/27/private-prisons-immigration_n_1917636.html
18)      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-libal/immigration-reform-must-end_b_2537547.html
19)      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/us/shootings-by-agents-increase-border-tensions.html
20)      http://prospect.org/article/broken-english-requirements
21) http://armscontrolcenter.org/issues/securityspending/articles/2012_topline_global_defense_spending/
22)    http://useconomy.about.com/od/usfederalbudget/p/military_budget.htm
23)    http://www.cfr.org/defense-budget/trends-us-military-spending/p28855
24)    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/07/everything-chuck-hagel-needs-to-know-about-the-defense-budget-in-charts/

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