Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Letter to the DREAM Movement: My Painful Withdrawal of Support for the DREAM Act

Letter to the DREAM Movement:

My Painful Withdrawal of Support for the DREAM Act

by Raúl Al-qaraz Ochoa

17 September 2010

I have supported the DREAM Act, despite my critiques and concerns over the military service component. In fact, I was one of the arrestees at the sit-in at John McCain’s office in Tucson, AZ; an act of civil disobedience where four brave undocumented students risked deportation and put the DREAM Movement back in the national political stage. I made peace with my participation because I felt I was supporting the self-determination of a movement led by undocumented youth and I felt we could subvert the component that was to feed undocumented youth into the military pipeline if we developed a plan to support youth to the college pathway.

First, let me say that I applaud and admire the tireless work you have all done for the past 10 years. Your commitment and dedication parallels giant student movements of the Civil Rights era. Your persistence in organizing even when the world turned their back on you is inspiring; your creativity in tactics, visuals and media strategy is amazing. Your movement gives hope to hundreds of students I have come across here in Arizona and beyond. It is because of your grassroots efforts—not the politicians’ nor the national Hispanic organizations’—that the Dream is still alive and has come this far. As an organizer with permanent resident status privilege, let me assert that your cause for access to college and path to legalization is just. No one can tell you that what you are fighting for is wrong.

With that said, I want to share how I am deeply appalled and outraged at how Washington politics are manipulating and co-opting the dream. I understand that some folks may say, “we just want the DREAM Act to pass regardless”, but it is critical to examine the political context surrounding DREAM in its current state. It is disturbing to see how Democrats are attaching our community’s dreams for education/legalization to a defense appropriations bill. This is grotesque in a number of ways:

1) Democrats are using the DREAM Act as a political stunt to appeal to Latino voters for the November elections because it is seen as “less” threatening than a broad immigration reform. The Democrats have the political will to recently unite and pass a border militarization bill in a matter of hours ($600 million!), yet they won’t pass a broader immigration reform? And now they are up for the DREAM Act? I’m glad they feel the pressure of the Latino voting bloc, but they obviously do not care about our lives, they only seek to secure their seats in November—which by the way look very jeopardized if they don’t move quickly to energize their “base”. They are also seeking to secure the gay vote with the gradual repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as part of this same defense bill. All in all, insincere, token political gestures only serve to stall real justice.

2) Democrats are telling me that if I support access to education for all my people, I must also support the U.S. war machine with $670 billion for the Pentagon? Does this mean I have to support the military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan? By supporting the DREAM Act, does this mean I automatically give a green light for U.S. forces to continue invading, killing and raping innocent people all over the world? This is really unfair. Here in Arizona I struggle with a climate of fear and terror. Yet even though I am so far away, I hear the cries of Arab mothers who are losing their children in U.S. sponsored bombings and massacres. There’s a knot in my throat because victims of U.S. aggression abroad look just like us… victims of U.S. aggression at home. This ugly and twisted political system is dividing us and coercing us into supporting the funding of more bloodshed and more destruction if we want the DREAM Act to pass. Does this mean that our dreams will rest upon the nightmares of people that suffer globally? Obviously, students that call their Senators are supporting their future NOT bloodshed abroad, but we have to be responsible to the larger political implications of this.

3) Democrats are vilifying and criminalizing our parents. A really insulting argument prominently used for passing the DREAM Act that I keep hearing over and over is that because undocumented students “didn’t choose to come to the U.S. to break the laws of this country” you shouldn’t have to pay for the “sins” or “illegal behavior” of your parents. Are they serious?!? It is not okay to allow legislation to pass that will stand on and disrespect the struggle, sacrifice and dignity of our parents. What about blaming U.S. led capitalist and imperialist policies as the reasons that create our “refugee” populations. Our parents’ struggle is not for sale. We must not fall for or feed into the rhetoric that criminalizes us or our parents. We all want justice, but is it true justice if we have to sell out our own family members along the way?

Again, I support this fight–it’s part of a larger community struggle. It’s personal to all of us. Passage of the DREAM Act would definitely be a step forward in the struggle for Migrant Justice. Yet the politicians in Washington have hijacked this struggle from its original essence and turned dreams into ugly political nightmares. I refuse to be a part of anything that turns us into political pawns of dirty Washington politics. I want my people to be “legalized” but at what cost? We all want it bad. I hear it. I’ve lived it. but I think it’s a matter of how much we’re willing to compromise in order to win victories or crumbs.

This again proves how it is problematic to lobby the state and put all our efforts in legislation to pass. We should know that this political route is always filled with racism, opportunism, betrayals and nightmares. History repeats itself once again.

So if I support the DREAM Act, does this mean I am okay with our people being used as political pawns? Does this mean that my hands will be smeared with the same bloodshed the U.S. spills all over the world? Does this mean I am okay with blaming my mother and my father for migrating “illegally” to the U.S.? Am I willing to surrender to all that in exchange for a benefit? Maybe it’s easier for me to say that ”I can” because I have papers, right? I’d like to think that it’s because my political principles will not allow me to do so, regardless of my citizenship status or personal benefit at stake. Strong movements that achieve greater victories are those that stand in solidarity with all oppressed people of the world and never gain access to rights at the expense of other oppressed groups.

I have come to a deeply painful decision: I can no longer in good political conscience support the DREAM Act because the essence of a beautiful dream has been detained by a colonial nightmare seeking to fund and fuel the U.S. empire machine.

I am so sorry and so enraged that this larger political context has deferred those dreams of justice and equality that we all share.

In tears, rage, love and sorrow,


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Study: 100,000 Hispanics left Arizona after SB1070

A new study suggests there may be 100,000 fewer Hispanics in Arizona than there were before the debate over the state's tough new immigration law earlier this year.

BBVA Bancomer Research, which did the study, worked with figures from the U.S. Current Population Survey. The study says the decline could be due to the law known as SB1070, which partly entered into effect in July, or to Arizona's difficult economic situation.

The study released Wednesday also cites Mexican government figures as saying that 23,380 Mexicans returned from Arizona to Mexico between June and September.

U.S. census figures from 2008 say about 30 percent of people living in Arizona are Hispanic, or about 1.9 million.

The state is appealing a ruling that put on hold parts of the law, which would have allowed police to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.

Immigrants are heavily employed in Arizona's construction industry, which has suffered _ along with the rest of the state's economy _ in the economic downturn.

In that and other studies released at the Global Forum on Migration and Development in the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta, BBVA Bancomer Research _ part of the financial group of the same name _ estimated that probably about 720,000 Mexican migrants were unemployed in the United States when the study concluded in late October.

The study also predicts that remittances _ the money sent home by migrants working abroad _ won't recover their peak value of about $26 billion until 2012 or 2013.

Remittances fell in 2008 and 2009, largely because of the U.S. slowdown.

Remittances are Mexico's second-largest source of foreign income after oil exports. Nearly all of the money comes from the U.S., where nearly 12 million Mexicans live.

The research center also estimated that remittances were dwarfed by the amount of money Mexican migrants paid in taxes in the United States _ about $53 billion in 2008.

The Fascists Already Have the Keys and the Handcuffs


I've heard that even with the success of protesters holding up the nazis for over an hour from starting their rally last weekend, some folks still insist that they should just be ignored. True, they wouldn't have had an audience and perhaps no media coverage had no one showed up to oppose them. While I'm interested in what the opposition may have accomplished as far as the NSM's enthusiasm or ability to organize in this city goes, I am also interested in some differences in media coverage and what that might mean.

Last year, observations were made that at least one TV channel's coverage simply characterized the NSM rally as an anti-immigrant rally (well, that probably wasn't their wording). They showed the seig heils and uniforms and such, but they made no reference to their extremist politics. I thought this was good in a way- blurring the lines between swastika-wearing NSM extremists and the extremists who wear suits or police uniforms and deny their racism is probably a good thing. Especially since most of those who oppose the NSM tend to ignore the other anti-immigrant rallies and tea-party rallies (much of which overlap). On the other hand, it is important for people to know that there are actual nazis in town (okay, a lot of the ones who actually organize are from out of town, fortunately) and that nazis LOVE SB 1070. The resistance against the NSM march and rally brought this out into the limelight.

Not so long ago, NSM members JT Ready (not in NSM anymore but affiliated is what we hear) and Harry Hughes (both attended this last NSM rally), called on others to patrol areas of Pinal County to for migrants. Phoenix Insurgent writes in reference to Stephen Lemons' column, "one of the things I picked up on was Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's failure to denounce the Nazi composition of the patrols. Sure, he says that he doesn't think the patrols would be helpful, but it seems as if Babeu, like the local media (with the exception of Lemons), has opted to treat Ready's little Nazi crew as legitimate, giving him a pass on his white supremacist beliefs and his many violent threats. Consider the fact the two media headlines about the event identify the NSM in the title only as a 'militia', not as Nazis or even a 'Nazi militia'. A more honest characterization would surely change the way people view the action" (Source). The Feathered Bastard has also pointed out how newscasters are hesitant to call Nazis what they are.

This weekend, however, the media is being much more clear about who was being opposed. "Neo-Nazi march met by protesters in Phoenix" was Channel 3's headline. "Police Arrest 2 In Clash With Neo-Nazis" was Channel 5's. Channel 10: "Neo-Nazis Protest in Downtown Phoenix".

In some ways it is useful that they are being identified as neo-nazis. In other ways, we mustn't fall into the tendency of seeing the nazis as separate from the other anti-immigrant folks. Within the anti-immigrant movement, they are the fanatics making the others look more legitimate, more reasonable. If we only focus on them, we lose sight of the bigger picture, just as focusing on Arpaio draws opposition away from the other police who make even more arrests but without making a show of it. This comparison also brings up the other point about separating white supremacists from institutional white supremacy/racism, which I brought up in my last post. As pointed out by a sign in a photo on the Prison Abolitionist blog, "The Fascists already have the Keys".

We should consider the ways in which focusing on the fascists legitimizes the other forms of white supremacy- those with more power. This is not to imply that the folks resisting the nazis otherwise ignore these other forms--in fact the protest was in many ways just as much against the police as the nazis. The relationship between the two is explained at the Fires Never Extinguished blog as well, but of course the issue with the police is not only their protection of and participation with nazis, but their role being mostly to enforce the color line such as through police brutality and murder as we saw in the case of Oscar Grant earlier this year.

I hope to see the kind of enthusiasm that surrounds protesting nazis also shown in cases of police brutality and prison issues in the future. There is something to say about how resistance affects the general population's view of things, not to mention the ability of those systems and people to function in the first place.

Arizonans take the streets against fascism, 2 arrested

A few hundred Arizonans showed up ready to hold it down on Saturday, November 13 against the neo-nazi National Socialist Movement. Downtown Phoenix became pretty heated after a large number of people in black bloc attire took the street directly in front of nazis and their protectors the Phoenix Police Department. With a few different banners to help create a blockade people seemingly unaffiliated took space directly in front of the black bloc at times, showing that a lot of people are more than willing to stand up to both the cops and nazis.
There is already plenty of news and videos out there so I won't go on other than to say that police used pepper spray about ten times only to see demonstrators come right back to face them. They also fired pepper balls into the crowd over tops of shields without even aiming, hitting some in the face. After all the action was basically done two people were arrested. One of them from Tucson. Here's something from supporters:
Saturday, November 13th, 2010 the National Socialist Movement gathered in downtown Phoenix, Arizona as a part of their humorously titled “Reclaim the Southwest 2” tour. Politicians in Arizona who draft and sponsor racist legislation, such as Russell Pearce who sponsored SB1070, have been exposed for their connections to leaders of this movement and furthermore the NSM consider themselves to be on the forefront of the push toward more draconian, discriminatory, and racist laws. This year the neo-nazis came to spread their racist ideology and protest the injunctions made to SB 1070 but were met in the streets by a large, diverse crowd of folks who were there to shut them down and send the message that their hate isn’t welcome in Arizona.
The Phoenix Police Department marched and collaborated with the NSM to attack protesters with brute force and weapons such as pepper bullets and pepper spray. If there was ever any doubt in one’s mind of the veracity of claims that the PPD is a racist institution, they can be laid to rest. Minutes before the NSM's permit would have expired the PPD executed their attack on demonstrators and then extended the permit later into the afternoon wasting time, energy, and resources to protect neo-nazis. Police indiscriminately used pepper spray and pepper bullets, causing injury to demonstrators and innocent bystanders alike. Multiple people were shot in the face with pepper bullets as well. The racist PPD, who actually deport more people than the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio, sent undercover officers/antagonists into the crowd of hundreds and into the black bloc working from both sides to target individuals. Photos and written accounts of the day reveal that police officers directed the NSM the entire time and worked alongside them giving orders of where to go, when to tighten up, allowing them to wrap their flags into clubs and move through the police line to instigate and then further their violently racist march.
Two individuals were arbitrarily targeted and arrested at the end of the day to be scapegoats for alleged “assaults.” One of them, Dane Rossman is currently facing 5 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon/dangerous instrument and 1 count of rioting. Dane has done extensive work in numerous communities to resist racism and to create a world that is based on mutual aid. He has been working with No More Deaths since 2007 to do migrant solidarity and humanitarian aid on the US/Mexico border and most recently has been organizing with the Tucson Childcare Collective and Migrapatrol Copwatch to resist the current attacks on Latino communities in Tucson. Dane had a bail of $7,500 that was paid for on November 13th, 2010 through a loan and needs assistance in paying this back and in raising additional legal funds. We are thankful for all the support already received and appreciate your involvement in the fight against fascism!

If you want to help please contact us here and we can put you in touch with the right people.


More video and music from Saturday's confrontation with the NSM

Many folks from Az have probably seen this video but I thought I'd repost it here for our many readers from out of state. It was shot by local videographer Dennis Gilman who was right in the thick of the action. He got some good footage. I still haven't seen any footage of the Nazis choking when that smoke bomb exploded right in the middle of them. I'd sure like to see some responsibly edited footage of that.

Below Gilman's video you'll find the latest local anti-Nazi jam burning up the charts like a cop on fire. I love the increasing creation of music around anarchist actions in town. Keep it coming, the more ways we build our oppositional culture and celebrate and spread the stories of our resistance, the stronger and more broadly understood our resistance will become.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Sneak Preview: The Inglourious Basterds Bloc returns this November 13!

Let's be honest, most sequels suck. With the obvious exception of a Terminator 2, or Empire Strikes Back, sequels rarely reach the creative apex of the source material, just ask anyone who sat through the follow ups to the Matrix. Still, I'd sit through another atrocious Ace Ventura before ever wanting to see one of those nazi goons from the National Socialist Movement (NSM) march in my town again.

Exactly a year ago, we at PCWC put out our first call for a demonstration, The Inglourious Basterds bloc, a tip of the hat to Tarantino's fantastic alt-history film about a group of Nazi hunters who take out Hitler and massacre the leadership of the Third Reich! We like the idea of creating our own mythology around our movement's successful struggles and actions, naturally we were quite taken by incorporating the mythology of the Basterds' victory into our anti-nazi bloc. Yeah, it was a bit meta, but it worked and it lent a good deal of enthusiasm to mobilizing a few hundred people to confront a white supremacist march, and shut it down an hour before their city march permit ended.

The NSM will be back in town to continue their "reclaim the southwest tour", a recruitment effort of theirs in which NSM activists from Texas to California amass in major cities in the southwest for NSM anti-immigrant rallies. They've been counting on their inflated numbers (fifty to seventy people) to give them the look of a growing fascist working class movement that has an actual base of support, so that when the mainstream media uncritically covers a white supremacist anti-immigrant rally, they neglect to mention that the majority of those attending the rally are racist agitators from outside of Arizona. It's in the spirit of last year's Inglourious Basterds Bloc, that we once again invite anti-racists and anti-authoritarians from across the state to converge in Phoenix in a mere two weeks to run these nazis back outta town!

Most movie sequels are just an excuse for studios to tap into the a successful concept and to milk it for every last dollar, and so in calling for a second mobilization against the NSM we were uneasy going "back to the well," to conceptualize the next manifestation of resistance to these damn racists. It got me to thinking, like any good sequel aren't there some "plot threads" left unresolved from the last year that beg for some resolution this time around?

Will the liberal and leftist organizers, who denounced the successful counter protest last year as a bunch of "crazies", come protest the NSM this time, or will they denounce us again? Can we provide the NSM a more disastrous exit this time than their car accident last year while fleeing the anti-nazi mob? Will we once again be standing alongside libertarians, constitutionalists, and veterans, who broke with the rightwing last year to oppose a fascist anti-immigrant rally? Can we bring out more people from across the state this time around and shut down this nazi shindig before it even kicks off?

There will also be a change in venue this time around, last year the NSM rallied at the state capitol, this time around they'll be rallying in support of the anti-immigrant law SB 1070 at the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. District court building in downtown Phoenix. The exact details are below.

The anti-nazi contingent will be gathering at Noon on Saturday, November 13 at the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. District court building located at 401 W. Washington St. in downtown Phoenix. According to their own web page, the NSM plan on marching at 1 PM, arriving at the courthouse by 2 PM for an hour of permitted speeches, before they leave at 3 PM, so plan on spending a few hours in downtown that Saturday.

Spread the word far and wide!

Against all borders, against white supremacy! See you in the streets!

And check out this trailer our comrades made!

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

Glenn Nichols, city manager of Benson, Ariz.
Glenn Nichols, city manager of Benson, Ariz., says two men came to the city last year "talking about building a facility to hold women and children that were illegals."

Laura Sullivan

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

"The gentleman that's the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger," Nichols said. "He's a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman."

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

"They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community," Nichols said, "the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate."

But Nichols wasn't buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

"They talked like they didn't have any doubt they could fill it," Nichols said.

That's because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona's immigration law.

Behind-The-Scenes Effort To Draft, Pass The Law

The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it's upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, pictured here at Tea Party rally on Oct. 22, was instrumental in drafting the state's immigration law. He also sits on a American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) task force, a group that helped shape the law.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, pictured here at Tea Party rally on Oct. 22, was instrumental in drafting the state's immigration law. He also sits on a American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) task force, a group that helped shape the law.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill was his idea. He says it's not about prisons. It's about what's best for the country.

"Enough is enough," Pearce said in his office, sitting under a banner reading "Let Freedom Reign." "People need to focus on the cost of not enforcing our laws and securing our border. It is the Trojan horse destroying our country and a republic cannot survive as a lawless nation."

But instead of taking his idea to the Arizona statehouse floor, Pearce first took it to a hotel conference room.

It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.

It's a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce's idea took shape.

"I did a presentation," Pearce said. "I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, 'Yeah.'"

Drafting The Bill

The 50 or so people in the room included officials of the Corrections Corporation of America, according to two sources who were there.

Pearce and the Corrections Corporation of America have been coming to these meetings for years. Both have seats on one of several of ALEC's boards.

Key Players That Helped Draft Arizona's Immigration Law

Key Players That Helped Draft Arizona's Immigration Law

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in "a significant portion of our revenues" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

"There were no 'no' votes," Pearce said. "I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation."

Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona's immigration law.

They even named it. They called it the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act."

"ALEC is the conservative, free-market orientated, limited-government group," said Michael Hough, who was staff director of the meeting.

Hough works for ALEC, but he's also running for state delegate in Maryland, and if elected says he plans to support a similar bill to Arizona's law.

Asked if the private companies usually get to write model bills for the legislators, Hough said, "Yeah, that's the way it's set up. It's a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together."

Nothing about this is illegal. Pearce's immigration plan became a prospective bill and Pearce took it home to Arizona.

Campaign Donations

Pearce said he is not concerned that it could appear private prison companies have an opportunity to lobby for legislation at the ALEC meetings.

"I don't go there to meet with them," he said. "I go there to meet with other legislators."

Pearce may go there to meet with other legislators, but 200 private companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to meet with legislators like him.

As soon as Pearce's bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC's influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.

That same week, the Corrections Corporation of America hired a powerful new lobbyist to work the capitol.

The prison company declined requests for an interview. In a statement, a spokesman said the Corrections Corporation of America, "unequivocally has not at any time lobbied — nor have we had any outside consultants lobby – on immigration law."

At the state Capitol, campaign donations started to appear.

Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months, from prison lobbyists or prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group.

By April, the bill was on Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.

Brewer has her own connections to private prison companies. State lobbying records show two of her top advisers — her spokesman Paul Senseman and her campaign manager Chuck Coughlin — are former lobbyists for private prison companies. Brewer signed the bill — with the name of the legislation Pearce, the Corrections Corporation of America and the others in the Hyatt conference room came up with — in four days.

Brewer and her spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

In May, The Geo Group had a conference call with investors. When asked about the bill, company executives made light of it, asking, "Did they have some legislation on immigration?"

After company officials laughed, the company's president, Wayne Calabrese, cut in.

"This is Wayne," he said. "I can only believe the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what's happening. Those people coming across the border and getting caught are going to have to be detained and that for me, at least I think, there's going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do."

Opportunities that prison companies helped create.

Produced by NPR's Anne Hawke.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wall Street and the Criminalization of Immigrants


Over the past four years roughly a million immigrants have been incarcerated in dangerous detention facilities in our taxpayer-financed private prison system. A growing number of news reports and investigations confirm that for many of the people funneled into this system, it is a living nightmare. Children were abused, women were raped, and men died from lack of basic medical attention.

These facilities are run by two Wall Street-backed companies that actively promote the criminalization and incarceration of immigrants in the United States -the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.

The T. Don Hutto immigrant detention facility in Taylor, Texas provides a now well-known example of the abuses that take place within private prisons for immigrants. Beginning in May 2006,the Don Hutto prison was used to house children and their parents who were on a path to deportation. Reports began to surface of widespread abusive treatment of immigrant children by staff of Corrections Corporation of America. An ACLU lawsuit filed on the basis of documented cases of abuse finally led to the closing of the Don Hutto facility for housing families in 2008. After the children were excluded, the Don Hutto only held women detainees. But the abuses continued. Evidence has surfaced that a number of women were sexually abused over the past two years in Don Hutto by CCA staff. Sexual abuse, including rape, has been documented in several detention centers.

The other large private prison corporation contracted by the federal government to run immigrant prisons is the GEO Group. The GEO detention facilities have also racked up many reports and complaints of abusive treatment of immigrant detainees and corrupt staff practices that violate the basic human rights of prisoners. Last month we spoke with the sibling of a detainee in a GEO-run facility who was denied basic medical attention for lack of funds to pay. The detainee’s family had to raise funds to get their relative medical attention in the facility from GEO. Other GEO detainees have died from a lack of medical attention.

Another relative of a GEO detainee told us that prisoners who avoid getting on the wrong side of GEO guards could aspire, at most, to a job in the prison that pays 17 cents an hour for doing office work.

GEO recently agreed to pay restitution for its employees’ physical abuse of prisoners who were strip searched in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, and New Mexico. In another case, GEO was ordered to pay $40 million in the wrongful death of a prisoner in its custody in Raymondville, Texas. GEO has also been sued by seven children who were sexually assaulted by a guard while being held in a GEO facility.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), based in Nashville, Tennessee, and the GEO Group, a global corporation based in Boca Raton, Florida are the nation’s two largest prison companies. They run highly integrated operations to design, build, finance and operate prisons. GEO rakes in $1.17 billion in annual revenue, and CCA tops that at $1.69 billion. Together these companies are principal moving forces in the behind-the-scenes organization of the current wave of anti-immigrant legislative efforts, which, if successful, would dramatically increase the number of immigrant prisoners in over 20 states.

Following the Money

GEO CEO, George Zoley, was a Bush “Pioneer” who bundled more than $100,000 in contributions for the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, GEO was successful in securing the contract to run the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

GEO hired the services of lobbyists who had held influential positions in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Prisons, Office of the Attorney General, and the office of then-Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, to lobby their former employers and Congress. Throughout 2005 and leading up to the largest immigration raid in U.S. history in December 2006, GEO and CCA spent a combined total of over $6 million on lobbying efforts.

On May 1, 2006, while millions of people marched in favor of immigrant rights in 102 cities across the country, GEO and CCA were lobbying the federal government for more business. The marchers, despite their historic turnout and broad citizen base, could not block the growing wave of government support of GEO’s and CCA’s business plans.

The December 2006 raid, in which over a thousand men and women employed at Swift meat-packing plants in several states were detained, marked a change in the federal government’s enforcement of the 1995 immigration law. For the first time, many of those picked up were charged with crimes such as falsifying identity documents or identity theft that carry long prison sentences, rather than misuse of a social security number, a misdemeanor.

This single change in enforcement of existing law created a potential “market” of over 10 million new felons almost overnight, multiplying the lucrative incarceration market for the private prison industry and sending a shock wave through immigrant-related communities across the country. At the time of the Swift raid, USA Today quoted the Reverend Clarence Sandoval of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Logan, Utah, as saying, “They are taking mothers and fathers and we’re really concerned about the children. I’m getting calls from mothers saying they don’t know where their husband was taken.”

Through this change in how federal law is enforced, CCA and GEO suddenly had a huge pool of captive clients, and began to rake in millions of dollars in public funds to house, transport, feed and control immigrants.

Predictably, costs to taxpayers skyrocketed. From 2006 to the present, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) budget for the identification, custody, transportation, detention and removal of immigrants has increased 51%. The U.S. Marshall budget for the custody and transportation of immigrants over the same period has increased 15%, and the Bureau of Prisons budget for detention of immigrants over the same period has gone up 9%. The billions of dollars in increased expenditures have provided the primary source for the billions in increased revenue for CCA and GEO.

In addition, currently 625 state, county and municipality law enforcement agencies are providing identification, custody, transportation and detention of immigrants through agreements with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to a federal Government Accounting Office study conducted last year the cost of this program to local taxpayers is unknown because 60% of state and local governments do not keep data on their personnel, equipment, supplies and other costs related to these agreements, and therefore are not reimbursed for those costs. Whatever the exact cost, local taxpayers will feel the pinch as this program is expected to expand to all 3,100 state, county and municipal detention jurisdictions in the nation by the end of 2011. Consequently CCA and GEO can expect to increase their revenues as states and counties increasingly subcontract incarceration responsibilities to these companies.

Last year Seeking Alpha, a website of actionable stock market opinion and analysis popular on Wall Street, reported that GEO’s income from prison health care services ending in March of 2009 topped $1.0 billion, a 5.8% profit. Seeking Alpha also stated that CCA’s profit for the same period in 19 states was over $1.6 billion, with a profit margin of 9.4%. In an article entitled “Where Delinquencies Make for Good Business” the same publication noted, “Crime, unfortunately, is a growth industry and GEO Group has proven to be a successful player in the outsourcing trend for governments at many levels.” Pushing criminalization of immigrants to cast a wider net in society has been a key part of that “success.”

Soon after the Bush Administration implemented the change in law enforcement affecting immigrants, Wall Street advisors publically recommended buying stock in private prison companies like CCA and GEO. At the time, Vice President Dick Cheney was heavily invested in Vanguard, one of a handful of major shareholders in GEO.

The lobbying paid off for both companies, in huge revenue increases from government contracts to incarcerate immigrants. From 2005 through 2009, for every dollar that GEO spent lobbying the government, the company received a $662 return in taxpayer-funded contracts, for a total of $996.7 million. CCA received a $34 return in taxpayer-funded contracts for every dollar spent on lobbying the federal government, for a total of $330.4 million. In addition, both companies increased revenues over the same period from detention facility contracts with a number of states.

In 2007, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) conducted 30,407 immigration raids in workplaces, neighborhoods, and public gathering sites such as bus stops and commuter train platforms. The number of raids conducted that year was double the 2006 total. The number of immigrants placed behind bars, for what amounts to the crime of having been born in the wrong place, increased from 256,842 in 2006 to 311,169 in 2007.

As a result of fear induced by the raids and other factors, pro-immigrant May Day marches in 2007 were much smaller than those of the previous year. In mid-2007, while many activists and organizers were focused on legislative reform, public protests, eliminating the raids, and trying to help families and friends of those who had been taken away by ICE and other enforcement agencies, GEO and CCA shareholders reaped a huge profit. Both companies issued 2-for-1 stock splits that roughly doubled the value of their shareholders’ stake.

Although stockholders profited handsomely as revenues from prison contracts rose for both companies, the increase wasn’t large enough to satisfy some of their respective major shareholders. J.P. Morgan Chase, a major owner of GEO, dumped most of its stock and relinquished its leadership position in the company.

One problem for major investors seeking huge gains from the for-profit prison business was that revenue rates couldn’t keep rising because federal agencies didn’t have enough personnel to arrest and process more immigrants than the expanded number they were now handling. It became apparent that the only way to significantly raise revenue through increasing the numbers of people picked up, detained and incarcerated was to hire more law enforcement personnel.

The private prison industry now needed a new source of low-cost licensed law enforcement personnel. CCA and GEO then turned to state governments as the focus of business expansion. Both companies stepped up efforts to acquire contracts with state and local governments that were entering into lucrative agreements with the Department of Homeland Security to detain immigrants in state and local detention and correctional facilities.

The result of this shift in business focus is exemplified by CCA’s role in Arizona’s SB 1070 and both CCA’s and GEO’s roles in other legislative efforts aimed at dramatically increased numbers arrests of undocumented immigrants in over 20 states. Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer, who received substantial campaign financing from top CCA executives in Tennessee and employs two former CCA lobbyists Chuck Coughlin and Paul Sensman, as top aides, signed SB 1070 into law on April 23.

On Friday, July 30, 2010 the Republican Governors Association, which so far this year has received over $160,000 in contributions from CCA and GEO, and their respective lobbyists, sent out a nationwide solicitation written by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer requesting contributions to fund an appeal of the partial injunction issued by a judge against SB 1070.

In addition to funds raised by the partisan appeal, Brewer’s legal effort has been bolstered by supporting briefs filed with the appeals court by three states– Florida, Texas and Virginia–that have contracts with GEO or with both GEO and CCA. The two prison companies are currently ramping up their political involvement in these states and in several others that have anti-immigrant bills moving through their respective legislatures. In all, twenty states are considering SB 1070-inspired bills, which have been endorsed by their respective Republican gubernatorial candidates, financed in large part by the Republican Governor’s Association.

Last November, CCA’s top management in Tennessee contributed the largest block of out-of-state campaign contributions received by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.[1] CCA, which already has several detention facilities in Arizona and hopes of expanding its immigrant prison business in that state, is expected to gain a huge increase in revenues with the implementation of SB 1070. Currently, Latinos driving out of the city of Tucson in any direction are being stopped at checkpoints, where they are asked to show their papers.

GEO and CCA are now heavily involved in the governor and state legislative races in states where they plan to expand their respective shares of the prison and incarceration market. GEO, for example, backed first-term Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell, in Virginia last year, and has contributed heavily to the Republican Governor’s Association and to the Florida Republican Party. In addition to Jan Brewer in Arizona, CCA is contributing to the campaigns of both, Republican Meg Whitman, and Democrat Jerry Brown, for governor in California. CCA is also giving money to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, even though Jindal isn’t currently facing an election, and to the Republican Governors Association, which has contributed over $1.5 million to state races this year.[2]

Since the change of administration in Washington D.C., GEO has expanded its presence there by adding the services of lobbyists who formerly served in high positions in the Obama presidential campaign, the Clinton White House, and the Senate and House Appropriations committees. Currently, GEO retains the services of three Washington D.C. lobbyists who also work for Wells Fargo, GEO’s top shareholder. One of GEO’s Washington D.C. lobbyists, Barbara Comstock, is also a member of the Virginia state legislature. CCA relies on its officers to do its lobbying in Washington DC,[3] where some board members, such as former Arizona U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini, are well-connected.

CCA’s and GEO’s share of the taxpayer-funded immigrant incarceration business has grown substantially since 2006. Today, for example, in California, anyone picked up by ICE in Los Angeles is sent to a CCA facility in San Diego, while those picked up by ICE in Seattle or Portland, OR, are sent to a GEO facility in Tacoma, Washington, because detention facilities owned and operated by the federal government are at 137% capacity, with no room to house more prisoners.

Wall Street’s Role

CCA and GEO are owned by major Wall Street institutions, which profit from the immigrant incarceration business as major shareholders.

The most influential investor in CCA is a hedge fund, Pershing Square, which is run by Wall Street investment guru activist investor, Bill Ackman. Ackman also plays a powerful role in Target Corporation and Kraft Foods. Wells Fargo is the most powerful investor in GEO.

Other major investors with the power to influence management in one or the other of the two companies are Vanguard, Lazard, Scopia, Wellington Management, FMR (Fidelity), BlackRock and Bank of America. Each of these major owners is sensitive to public opinion in one way or another. These major investors do not need to rely on either CCA or GEO to make money, since most of their money is invested in enterprises unrelated to private prisons.

By almost any measure, the increased number of deportations of immigrants has not had the desired effects on anyone other than the private prison industry. Unemployment among native-born citizens in the U.S. has skyrocketed as the number of immigrants being deported has risen to over 400,000 a year.

The United States now has more people in prison than any other country on earth. At over 2 million, the U.S. has a half million more people behind bars than China, which has the second highest number of prisoners.

One would like to think that bringing this information to Congress’s attention would be enough to compel them to abandon policies that criminalize immigrants. However, that is not likely to happen soon.

This probable reluctance on the part of Congress to act isn’t merely because of the substantial campaign contributions that Senators and members of Congress receive from the private prison industry. Most members of Congress have personal investments in one or more of CCA’s or GEO’s major shareholders.

While it is true that many people are invested in CCA or GEO through their pensions without knowing it, reports on the personal finances of some key members of Congress suggest some of them have more than a casual interest in the fortunes of CCA or GEO.

One example of a Washington DC powerhouse with a substantial financial interest in CCA is Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, one of a small group of investors in Pershing Square, a hedge fund that holds the most stock in CCA of any of the company’s shareholders. Senator Enzi, a senior Republican who sits on the Senate Budget Committee, was awarded a 100% approval rating by U.S. Border Control (USBC), which describes itself as “a non-profit, tax-exempt, citizen’s lobby. USBC is dedicated to ending illegal immigration by securing our nation’s borders and reforming our immigration policies.”

As Congress is currently tasked with finding ways to reduce the burgeoning deficit and alleviate the suffering caused by the economic crisis, shifting priorities from programs that benefit prison companies to much-needed programs that benefit taxpayers only makes sense. Compelling Congress to abandon immigrant criminalization policies is probably going to require, among other things, that citizens convince some combination of our pension funds, Wells Fargo, and a key hedge fund or two, to pull out of the private prison industry and to go elsewhere to make money.

We should be able accomplish this. IBM and Ford, when challenged, found themselves unable to justify their investments in apartheid in South Africa. As a result of a swelling movement of students, faith-based organizations, unions and shareholders, these companies divested in 1986, contributing to the fall of the racist apartheid system and a transition to democracy.

Similarly, Wells Fargo, Pershing Square, and other financial giants shall be hard-pressed to justify investments in the massive suffering caused by the criminalization of immigrants, as a movement comes together to expose the harm done to the public good by their current investments in the immigrant prison industry.

Who knows? Some of these financial institutions might even see the wisdom in investing in companies that produce family-wage jobs.

Peter Cervantes-Gautschi is the Director of Enlace, a Portland, OR based organization focused on strategic organizing, campaigns, and training in organizational development around workers’ struggles, and the impacts of multinational corporations in the lives of people in all sectors of society. Peter has been a labor activist since 1965, starting as a young farm worker in Southern California. He is a frequent contributor to the Americas Program


[1] Arizona campaign contribution reports compiled by the National Institute On Money in State Politics show that CCA’s CEO Damon Hininger, CFO Todd Mullenger, CDO Anthony Grande, and then General Counsel, Gus Puryear, contributed to Jan Brewer’s campaign.

[2] National Institute on Money in State Politics.

[3] Center for Responsive Politics, Open

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Australia: Solidarity actions with the Villawood detainees

This is one reportback about a series of actions that took place in various parts of Sydney today in solidarity with the detainees at Villawood detention center - who were occupying the roof there in an act of defiance at their own incarceration and out of respect for Josefa Rauluni who had committed suicide there yesterday morning.

Today afternoon a group occupied the foyer of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIC) and locked themselves to the front counter. This action was undertaken with the direct purpose that it could affect the outcome of the protest taken by detainees at Villawood who were saying they would be forced to jump from the roof if no-one from DIC would speak to them regarding their cases. By occupying and refusing to leave the DIC office we intended to apply some more force upon these faceless officials to actually respond to the desperation of those occupying the roof.

The action was also taken because it had become clear that the militancy of those incarcerated within these detention centers was far outstripping that of anyone outside. We hoped to raise the level of solidarity with those inside beyond passively pleading to some higher authority to be 'more humane'.

After gaining entry and occupying, the group asserted they would not leave until things were sorted out on the roof at Villawood. Management at DIC refused to accept any responsibility for the situation there, typically trying to pass the buck like the faceless bureaucrats they are. Eventually they expectedly passed the buck right on to the police, who were happy to threaten all with arrest.

Inspite of the intimidation tactics of the police, stalling tactics allowed the protesters to stay in a fair bit longer. All the while, we were in contact with those on the roof at Villawood, expressing our solidarity and finding out how they thought negotiations were going. By the time police rescue arrived to cut free those locked on at DIC it was becoming clear that there was a chance of a resolution out at Villawood that was at least satifactory enough to make the detainees on the roof not jump off.

By this point however, the police were determined to harass, intimidate and make arrests and so 2 of the protesters inside DIC were arrested and held for a number of hours and charged with trespass. A number of people gathered outside the police station where those arrested were being held in an act of defiance and solidarity. Due to further police provocation and harassment a further arrest was made at this stage.

In solidarity with all those incarcerated in prisons, detention centers or whatever name they are given we scream...
"Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons."

The Villawood detainees that had occupied the roof eventually came off not because of any discussions with the pathetic officials from the Immigration Department, but because of some significant, but only intermediary assurances from UNHCR.

It is also worth pointing out there were 2 other equally significant actions undertaken in solidarity with those on the roof today. One involved a few hundred people heading out to Villawood so that they could be visible and heard by detainees in a strong and direct show of support. The other was the taking over of a public square in Newtown by 30 or so people who hung banners and handed out flyers during peak hour.

The following is a text that was being distributed by those who were involved in the occupation at DIC...

Solidarity with Villawood Detainees

“It has come to this because we have seen life lost and we believe we have to do this in order to protect our lives” – detainees in Villawood

Early yesterday morning, Josefa Rauluni committed suicide in Villawood detention center. He was to be deported that day. This death rests in the hands of Australia’s paranoid and racist border policy.

Other detainees immediately responded to show respect for Josefa and express their anger at their own detention. 11 people have occupied the roof of Villawood and many more have been on hunger strike for over 20 hours.

The events of yesterday demonstrate the desperate situation in the detention centres and the brutality that underpins border control. Deportations and invisible queues have claimed more lives than we will ever know. The experience of living under this oppression cannot be measured.

The rooftop protest of several detainees is part of a growing militancy amongst those incarcerated in detention centres. In the past months we’ve seen hunger strikes, breakouts, roof occupations and self harm. The present protest in Villawood is an expression of rage by people whose control over their own lives has been taken away by the Australian Government. It acutely expresses how fortress Australia takes lives.

Yesterday there were protests on both sides of the fences in Villawood. We must continue to take action in solidarity with the struggles occurring from within the detention centres. Our actions must reflect the urgency of the situation as the government amps up its racist, anti-migrant rhetoric and implements harsher policies that cost people’s lives.

We struggle against the policing of peoples movement and micro-control of peoples lives at the borders (and in detention) not because of humanitarian concern, but because their struggle is also ours. We have more in common with these people than with the bosses and the politicians who make the decisions that affect all our lives.

We struggle against all borders because no death as a result of border protection brings us more freedom.

We tear down all cages because peoples’ desire to move will never be caged.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prison Industry Funnels Donations To State Lawmakers Introducing SB1070-Like Bills Around The Country

In December 2009, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a powerful front group that helps corporate representatives craft template legislation for state lawmakers, funded partially by the private prison industry — hosted Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R) and began debate on legislation that would provide broad powers to local police to arrest anyone who might look like an immigrant. ALEC then distributed the template legislation to its members. The January/February 2010 edition of ALEC’s magazine highlights the draft version of SB1070 — the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” — as model legislation.

In April of this year, Pearce then introduced ALEC’s template as the infamous SB1070 law. Notably, the ALEC task force which helped Pearce devise his racial profiling law included Laurie Shanblum, a lobbyist from the mega-private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which previously played a role in privatizing many of Texas’ prisons. An investigation from Arizona’s KPHO-TV found more ties between SB1070 and the private prison industry: Paul Senseman, Gov. Janet Brewer’s (R-AZ) deputy chief of staff was a former lobbyist for CCA (his wife is still a lobbyist for CCA) and Chuck Coughlin, Brewer’s campaign chairman, runs the lobbying firm in Arizona that represents CCA. In These Times reporter Beau Hodai, who also reported much of SB1070’s connections to the private prison industry, has a chart to explain the relationship.

CCA is set to receive well over $74 million in tax dollars in FY2010 for running immigration detention centers. In a presentation given earlier this year, Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund with a large financial stake in CCA, suggested that CCA’s profitability depends on increasing numbers of immigrants sent to prison. Many of the legislators helping to earn CCA more profits with radical anti-immigrant bills mirroring SB1070 have been recipients of private prison industry cash or have worked closely with the CCA-funded ALEC organization:

– TENNESSEE: Earlier this year, legislators in Tennessee passed an immigration bill with provisions “similar to, but less harsh than, those of SB 1070, including requiring city and county jails in the state to report any person who may be in violation of immigration laws to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” But that wasn’t enough: right-wing local lawmakers also passed a resolution honoring Arizona’s SB1070, and a delegation of state lawmakers promised to introduce an anti-immigrant bill even “broader” than SB1070 in 2011. Many of the leading local lawmakers who voted for the anti-immigrant bill and resolution received thousands of dollars from CCA’s political action committee in the past two years, including State Reps. Gerald McCormick ($250), Barrett Rich ($500), Eric Watson ($250) and State Sens. Bill Ketron ($1,000), Jim Tracy ($500), Dolores Gresham ($1,000), Bo Watson ($500), and Jack Johnson ($500). Tracy, who sponsored the resolution honoring Arizona’s SB1070, also received $2,000 directly from CCA founder Tom Beasley, reports the Nashville City Paper. CCA retains five lobbyists in the state and spent at least $50,000 this year to lobby on immigration and other issues.

– OKLAHOMA: Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK), who won her party’s nomination to run for governor this year, received the maximum donation permitted by law from CCA. State Rep. Randy Terrill (R-OK), who announced that he was planning an “Arizona-Plus” immigration bill that would be harsher than SB1070, is a proud member of the CCA-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.

– COLORADO: A group of Republican lawmakers in Colorado, after a research trip to Arizona this summer, have stated that they plan on passing a SB1070 law in Colorado next year. CCA’s lobbyists in Colorado have raised funds for many of the lawmakers in the group. CCA lobbyist Margy Christiansen raised $400 State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, one of the leaders of Colorado’s Arizona expedition, and CCA lobbyist Jason Dunn raised $150 for State Sen. Mike Kopp, the Republican minority leader who is promising to promote an SB1070 bill next session.

– FLORIDA: During the gubernatorial primary campaign between disgraced businessman Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum (R-FL), the prospect of importing Arizona’s SB1070 became a prominent issue in the race, with both candidates promising to bring a version of the law to the state. While many Florida Republicans recoiled at the idea, which stands to alienate many Hispanic voters, a cadre of state lawmakers and candidates for the state legislature, most funded by the prison industry, announced their support for an SB1070-type law. State Rep. Bill Snyder, who has received $500 from CCA, pledged to introduce a bill more draconian than SB1070. State House candidate Ben Albritton, another outspoken supporter of SB1070, took $500 from CCA, and State Rep. Joe Negron, who has been working with Snyder to sponsor the bill, received $1,000 from the Geo Group, another major private prison contractor which operates immigrant detention centers. Overall, the Republican Party of Florida has been the biggest recipient of prison industry cash in the past two years: $37,000 from CCA and $145,000 from the Geo Group.

– PENNSYLVANIA: In the Key State, State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA) introduced the ALEC-drafted “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” one month before State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ) introduced his version of the bill in Arizona. Metcalfe is a highly active member of ALEC. He was paid $1,500 by ALEC just to attend its meetings with CCA lobbyists on how to draft the law.

In Tennessee, the average daily number of immigration detainees sank to 40 in FY2009, down from 95 in FY2008. This may change with CCA’s aggressive lobbying for more laws encouraging aggressive arrests of immigrants or people who look like immigrants. Charles Maldonado, who has reported on CCA’s corrupting influence at the Nashville City Paper, notes that CCA may see new business at its West Tennessee Detention Facility with the passage of more SB1070-related laws.

ALEC, with funds from several private prison companies, helped sponsor “truth-in-sentencing” and “three-strikes-you’re-out” laws all over the country for the past two decades. These laws have greatly increased incarceration rates, and have contributed to America’s distinction of having the largest prison population in the world.

Tucson Group “Polices” the Police on Immigration

TUCSON, Ariz.— A coalition of community groups in Tuscon is using video to show how readily police are cooperating with Border Patrol, despite local law enforcement’s stated opposition to Arizona’s new immigration law before it took effect.

The “Yo Soy Testigo” ("I’m a witness") campaign, launched by Tucson-based Coalición Derechos Humanos, seeks to shine a light on the practice of police cooperation with Border Patrol in the city.

The group, in partnership with PanLeft Productions and Migra Patrol CopWatch, has been using video cameras to document just how often police officers are detaining Latinos—with or without documents—and turning them over to immigration authorities. The group hopes that the videos will increase community awareness of how police are really treating Latinos, despite their supposed opposition to SB1070, and will pressure law enforcement to change its policies.

“We want to expose this reality and for people in the community to take responsibility,” said Isabel Garcia, director of Coalición de Derechos Humanos. She urges people to call the Yo Soy Testigo hotline to report any incidents so they can be videotaped and documented.

Prior to SB 1070, local police departments and other state agencies already had their own policies to detain undocumented immigrants on a discretionary basis. Had a court allowed the new law to take full effect, such detentions would have become mandatory throughout Arizona.

But the mandatory detention provision of SB 1070 provoked a strong outcry from the state's local law officers.

“We are not interested in enforcing federal immigration law,” said Captain Michael Gillooly, the Tucson Police Department's chief of staff. “The problem with SB 1070 is that it mandated we did that.”

In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star in July, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said: “Although illegal immigration has undeniable impacts on Arizona, requiring local police already strapped for resources to act as immigration agents is not the answer.”

The Pima County Sheriff's Department and the South Tucson Police Department also opposed SB 1070.

But despite such widespread opposition, videos captured by Jason Aragon of PanLeft and Migra Patrol Copwatch show a different picture.

A recent video posted online, titled “SB 1070 is in full effect,” shows a woman detained by Tucson police and then shortly after taken away by Border Patrol.

Lynda Cruz, a volunteer with Migra Patrol CopWatch, was present that day, and said the woman was pulled over for a minor infraction. The woman, a legal resident, had forgotten her wallet at home and didn’t have any identification, Cruz says.

Volunteers like Cruz advise people who are detained to refuse to speak with their captors and to request the presence of their attorney.

When New America Media asked about this incident, Gillooly said the Tucson Police Department was confident that the officer acted appropriately and was following department policy.

“Our investigation of that revealed that when the Border Patrol arrived, that female refused to answer any questions,” Gillooly said. He said the federal agent was forced to take her to the station to check whether she was an undocumented immigrant.

When asked why the police detained this woman and called the Border Patrol, Gillooly said he wouldn’t provide any more information.

Cruz said similar incidents have occurred in South Tucson, an area that is predominantly Hispanic.

Gillooly said the department has not seen an increase in complaints from community members about possible racial profiling or police abuse.

“People don’t complain? How are they going to complain if they are the ones retaliated against?” responded Garcia of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos.

The situation in Tucson hasn’t attracted nearly as much media attention as the controversial immigration raids in Latino neighborhoods in Phoenix by Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies. But, in many ways, the dynamics at play in Tucson are creating heightened tensions.

About 40 percent of the city’s half-million residents are Latinos. Tucson, located less than two hours from the Mexican border, is also home to a Border Patrol station, which facilitates more direct cooperation between police and U.S. immigration authorities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has 3,300 Border Patrol agents dedicated to the Tucson sector of the border.

In the past five years, the Border Patrol added 1,000 agents as part of a federal effort to escalate border security.

Unlike Phoenix, it is not uncommon to see Border Patrol cars driving through Tucson. Many of those who work at the Border Patrol station live in the community.

“People are divided over this issue,” said Alex González, a volunteer [or “promotoras”] with Coalición de Derechos Humanos. “Even families are divided on this.”

She said the new “Yo Soy Testigo” hotline has been flooded with calls denouncing police detentions and cooperation with Border Patrol.

One of the calls she took last week came from Gerardo Robles, a heartbroken undocumented immigrant, who sobbed over the phone in desperation. His wife, who was also undocumented, was pulled over by a Tucson police officer in a traffic stop. The officer called the Border Patrol, and now his wife is in a detention center.

Robles and his family have been living in Tucson for six years. He said they considered leaving the state because of SB 1070 but had been hoping for the best— in the past, police had stopped him on several occasions but had never called the Border Patrol. The politics behind SB 1070 might have changed things, he said.

“A criminal that traffics with drugs—those people are in the streets,” he said. “They are the ones that are free. My wife was coming back from work to feed our two children.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

BOAF Art Auction

Join us for an excessively fun time. The Boxing Gym(no, it's not a boxing gym anymore) is located in Barrio Anita near the Southwest corner of I-10 and Speedway Blvd. Check out the Art page to see some of the art that's already come in.

Border Opposition Action Fund: Call to Artists!

BOAF is hosting an Art Auction on Saturday, Oct. 9. Details of the event will be posted soon. Money raised at this event will go to O'odham VOICE Against the Wall, O'odham Solidarity Across Borders and those who locked down at the Border Patrol Headquarters in Tucson, Az in May. The basics of art submissions are as follows.
Any medium is welcome.
Content does not have to be border related.
We are asking for submissions or their photos by Fri., Sept. 24. Photos with artist information will be posted.
We are asking for submissions by Fri., Oct 1.

O'odham Ofelia Rivas to National Guard: 'We do not want you on our lands'

Ofelia Rivas, traditional O'odham living on the border, released a statement to the National Guard, who are to arrive on the US/Mexico border in Arizona on Monday.

To the United States National Guard arriving in O'odham Lands,

We are not compliant people, we are people with great dignity and confidence. We are a people of endurance and have a long survival history. We are people that have lived here for thousands of years. We have our own language, we have our own culture and traditions.

You are coming to my land, you may find me walking on my land, sitting on my land and just going about my daily life. I might be sitting on the mountain top, do not disturb me, I am praying the way my ancestors did for thousands of years. I might be out collecting what may be strange to you but it might be food to me or medicine for me.

Sometimes I am going to the city to get a burger or watch a movie or just to resupply my kitchen and refrigerator. Some of us live very much like you do and some of us live very simple lives. Some of may not have computers or scanners or televisions or a vehicle but some of us do.

The other thing is that some of us are light-skinned O'odham and some of us are darker-skinned O'odham. Some of us spend a lot of time indoors or outdoors. Sometimes my mother might be of a different Nation (refers to different tribal Nation) or sometimes our father is Spanish or we may have some European grandmother or grandfather.

If you want to question who we are, we all have learned to carry our Tohono O'odham Nation Tribal I.D. Card. It is a federally-issued card which is recognized by the federal government which is your boss. This card identifies us and by law this is the only requirement needed to prove who we are. We do not have United States passports because most of us were born at home and do not have documents, but that does not make us "undocumented people." Your boss, the Department of Homeland Security, and the government of the Tohono O'odham Nation have negotiated an agreement which is, our tribal I.D. card is our identification card and no other document is required.

The O'odham, (the People) as we call ourselves, have been here to witness the eruption of volcanoes that formed the lands we live on. We have special places that hold our great-great-great-great-great great grandparents remains, our lands are a special and holy place to us. Some of us still make journeys to these places to pray. Some of these places hold holy objects that maintain specific parts of our beliefs. When you see us out on the land do not assume we are in the drug business or human smuggling business. Sometimes we are out on the land hunting for rabbits or deer or javelina to feed our families. We may be carrying a hunting weapon please do not harm me, my family loves me and depends on me.
When you are out on our land, be mindful that you are visitor on our lands, be respectful, be courteous and do not harm anything.

Sometimes you may see us gather all night long, dancing and sometimes we are crying loudly, do not approach us or disturb us in anyway, we are honoring a dead relative and preparing them for burial. Sometimes we are conducting a healing ceremony out on the land, do not approach us or disturb us. Sometimes we may be singing and dancing all night long, these are our ceremonies that we have conducted for thousands of years. We are not behaving in a suspicious nature, this is our way of life.

As original people of the lands we honor everything on our lands and we regard all as a part of our sacred lives, do not kill any plants and animals or people on our lands. Do not litter our lands with your trash. When we visit other peoples lands and cities and homes we do not litter or leave behind trash.

We might be driving our cars, sometimes old, sometimes very new, do not try to run us off the roads or tailgate me. I value my life and my family, I might have a newborn in my car or my grandmother or my mother and father, my brothers and sister or my aunts and uncles or my friends. These are all important people to me and I do not want to see them hurt or dead.

If I seem like I do not understand what you are saying, please call the Tohono O'odham Police and ask for an O'odham speaking officer to come and assist you. I might be laughing at you if you talk to me in English, I don't know what you are saying and I am laughing out of nervousness and fear because you are armed.

If you are afraid of us and draw your weapons on me, I am more afraid of you because I am unarmed and my family is in the vehicle with me or they are in my house when you come into my house. Sometimes my house might be in poor condition but it is my home, it is my sanctuary, be respectful. Sometime there are elders in my house that are already afraid of armed people in our communities such as the border patrol and other federal agents.

There are some people that do drug business or human smuggling business but we are not all doing that, we are not all criminals. Do not treat us like criminals.

We might call you killers and murderers as you just came from killing people. To the O'odham you are a dangerous person, to walk onto our lands bringing fresh death on your person is very destructive to us as a people. You may have diseases we do not know, illnesses of your mind that you might inflict on us. Please do not approach us if you are afflicted with fresh death.

Remember we do not want you on our lands, we did not invite you to our lands.

Do remember that we have invited allies that will be witnessing your conduct on our lands and how you treat our people.

From the the O'odham Lands
Ofelia Rivas

Originally posted at Censored Blog:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

33 charged with blocking L.A. city streets during immigration protests

Photo: Fourteen people were arrested when demonstrators gathered May 6 on Alameda Street in front of the Federal Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles to protest Arizona's new immigration law. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles prosecutors have charged 33 immigration activists with a variety of misdemeanor crimes related to three protests beginning in May that blocked city streets.

The protesters face charges, such as remaining at an unlawful assembly, resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer and blocking the sidewalk or street.

Those facing resisting-arrest charges face up to year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted. Those charged with unlawful assembly face up to six months in jail if found guilty, a spokesman for the city attorney's office said.

In the first incident May 6, eight women and six men participated in a protest against the new Arizona immigration law by blocking an intersection near the federal courthouse on Alameda Street with their hands locked together inside tube devices.

Prosecutors claim it took officers several hours to remove the protesters, who are to be arraigned Sept. 22.

Later in the month, California Highway Patrol officers arrested nine immigration protesters in front of the West Los Angeles Federal Building. The suspects sat in the street, locking their hands together and causing a massive traffic jam for several blocks.

On July 29, protesters blocked the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Highland Avenue by putting their hands together in a locking device and refusing to move.

Officers had to physically carry the demonstrators and used specialized equipment to remove the elaborate tube and chain locking systems connecting the protesters' arms.

-- Richard Winton

Monday, August 9, 2010

Noise Demonstration at Santa Cruz County Jail

“Bunch of overgrown boy scouts/but it’s us against them ‘til they let every one of my boys out” –Unalike, A-Alikes
On Friday evening, August 6, we gathered outside the Santa Cruz County Jail to demonstrate our solidarity with the people locked up inside and express our hatred of imprisonment. About 30-40 of us stood in the middle of Blaine Street, next to both the main County Jail (where 336 people are locked up) and the Women’s Facility (21 people). We banged on drums made from 55-gallon barrels with the intention of creating as much noise as possible to breach the prison walls. Our portable sound system blasted insurgent hip-hop, including N.W.A’s “Fuck the Police” and the Geto Boys’ “G-Code.” We carried two banners stating, “Free All Prisoners” and “Chinga la Migra/Fuck I.C.E.”

Chants included “We Are All Illegal, Todos Somos Ilegales,” “Chinga la Migra, Y La Policia,” and “Revolt on the Outside, Revolt on the Inside!” We also told jokes at the expense of cops and jail guards. At one point, as the jail guards stood on the roof of the jail watching us, people started chanting “Jump! Jump! Jump!” We also used a megaphone to attempt to speak directly to the prisoners and let them know that they are not forgotten and that they have support from the outside.

One of the main reasons we were there was to express our rage at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (AKA La Migra). We despise the very existence of I.C.E. and borders, but we’re specifically pissed off about a program (named “Secure Communities” by some twisted bureaucrat) that is going to be implemented in the local jail starting August 10. "Secure Communities" mandates that every person booked into jail will have their fingerprints run through an I.C.E./Department of Homeland Security database. Currently there are 25 people on I.C.E. hold in the County jail system, meaning that they will be held an extra 48 hours after they should be released, so that I.C.E. can kidnap them. The new program, funded by Obama, will lead to even more people being detained and deported. Also, earlier this year, the city decided to hire eight more cops, and the police’s gang unit has started working directly with I.C.E.

The apartment complex next to the jail has similar architectural features—isolated units surrounded by high walls and a metal fence. Some of the neighbors came outside and spoke with participants in the demo. Generally, they seemed supportive; one young girl even joined in briefly by playing a drum. We also passed out a pamphlet containing our analysis in hopes of spreading a critical dialogue about I.C.E. and imprisonment. The demo was an attempt at breaking out of our own isolation and communicating with others, both the prisoners and the neighbors. In some ways, we were successful, but we have much to learn. It was an empowering event for participants and some passersby, though we haven’t yet heard what the prisoners’ reactions were. In a heartbreaking moment as we were leaving, we exchanged glances with a woman in the Blaine St. Facility standing at the window. The grim reality of confinement was unavoidable as we departed and she remained.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

On ICE, Imprisonment, and White Supremacy

This is a pamphlet that was passed out at the Friday noise demonstration outside the Water St. Jail. We hope to radicalize the dialogue about immigration, and draw lines between the criminalization of migrants and and other marginalized people.

Social Control In Santa Cruz:
ICE, Imprisonment, and White Supremacy

August 2010

In our midst there are humans living in cages: tucked between the San Lorenzo River and Ocean Street over 300 people sit behind bars, serving sentences or awaiting trial. From the drunks in their stupor, caught up on yet another DUI, to the gang members arrested for having the wrong family or tattoos, to the gun-toting killer: our crimes are a product of our society, a response to the everyday violence that capitalism inflicts upon our lives and bodies by the mechanisms of poverty, by the police’s baton, the pesticides in the field and the “accidents” in the factory. Crime and criminals only exist because the law exists to categorize people as such, just like illegal immigration is only a phenomenon because of the existence of nations and borders. To escape the situation we are in we must step back and examine it clearly, and look at the real functions of imprisonment in our society.

Some residents of Santa Cruz have been in an uproar about the supposed crime problem: “Our town is being taken over by illegals!” “If we know who these people are, can’t we just go in their houses and get them?” “How would those anarchists like it if we threw a rock through their windows?” Since the killings of Tyler Tenorio, Carl Reimer, and the May Day property destruction, the police and their allies have needed a scapegoat for their failure to control Santa Cruz and keep out the riff-raff. Of course, the obvious choices were those who the police already wanted locked up: people of color and anarchists. The Santa Cruz Sentinel has only contributed to the hysteria and witchhunt-like atmosphere by publishing misleading articles and pictures of SubRosa collective members. While the death threats seem to be over, the city council has used the riot and recent violence as a justification to fill eight vacant positions in the police force, as well as to begin working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

With neo-nazi and fascist activity in our country on the upswing, we must fight any ICE presence in our area. Immigration control and the militarization of the border are but one more way to divide and conquer the lower classes: racism and fascism go hand in hand. In the guise of national security, the federal government is establishing a system which gives them the ability to detain people of color at will, indefinitely, without access to legal help or medical care. A 2009 article in The Nation reported that ICE has 186 unmarked and unlisted offices they use to detain people, incommunicado. 107 people have died in ICE custody between 2003 and 2009. But we don’t need this proof to know that the whole project of immigration control is fucked. We know it’s just another tool of a white supremacist power structure, another method to control us and keep us in line. We see the effects in our communities, we feel the terror of the situation when ICE is knocking at the doors of friends and family.

Regarding our local situation, it would help us to look at the recent past. In 1982, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service, ICE’s predecessor) raided the Beach Flats and took kids out of class at Bay View Elementary School. In 1984 INS did sweeps of the Beach Flats twice, snatching 22 people from their homes, a soup kitchen line and the street. Even though the City Council declared Santa Cruz a “sanctuary city”, meaning city employees can’t inquire about or report on someone’s immigration status, the INS raided Beach Flats again in 1993, arresting 6 people. In Watsonville, there were ICE raids in 2006 and 2008, both part of regional sweeps. 107 people were arrested in the 2006 raids, and even though only 19 had warrants for arrest, 90 were swiftly deported. Watsonville also calls itself a sanctuary city: it’s plain to see how meaningless this is.

Now Santa Cruz is taking part in a national Department of Homeland Security program called Secure Communities, or S-Comm. The State of California has agreed to participate in the program, and although technically counties can opt out of the program, California Attorney General Brown denied San Francisco County’s request to opt out. In effect, the program provides funding for local jails to check the immigration status of anyone who is booked into the jail, whether or not they are convicted of a crime. This means police could arrest anyone they think might not be a citizen, for something as petty as jaywalking, take them to jail, and have them deported. This is what’s happening in Phoenix, Arizona right now, under the direction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. S-Comm is Obama’s version of SB 1070. In Santa Cruz, S-Comm is scheduled to go into effect on August 10th.

This plan plays perfectly into what Santa Cruz has been trying to do for years. Though the city council has opposed S-Comm, they haven’t challenged ICE’s partnership with the SCPD. Besides that, their anti-homeless laws and destruction of community space in favor of creating a sanitized downtown shopping district prove whose side they’re on. The lines are being drawn, clearly. Groups like Take Back Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Neighbors, functioning as eyes and ears for the police, would like to whitewash our town. But there are many more of us, even if it may not seem so. Despite our racial, cultural, and class divides, all who are persecuted and marginalized by the law have some common cause. Some of us are forced into conflict with this society, and some of us have chosen to struggle. Either way, those of us who aren’t directly affected by ICE should do whatever is in our power to resist and show solidarity with affected individuals and communities.

But what we need isn’t immigration reform, it’s the destruction of all borders and detention centers. The first step is kicking ICE out of Santa Cruz, but this isn’t the end. Santa Cruz’ neo-colonial relationship to Watsonville and the other nearby Hispanic populations needs to be challenged also: it’s just one node of the economic system that coerces people into picking strawberries to support a family back home or working in the dining halls at UCSC. While of course immigration reforms make a huge difference in the lives of families and workers across the country, we can’t stop there. The roots of the problem lie much deeper.

To challenge imprisonment in general, we can start with the specific facts. Santa Cruz’ downtown jail is already 114% over capacity, and the minimum security wing of the Rountree Lane Facility outside Watsonville was recently closed due to budget constraints. On July 21st the downtown jail had two fights in one day, to which Sheriff’s Office Lt. Shea Johnson responded with an apt criticism of incarceration: “I don’t know what the fight was over. No one’s talking, but when you have people locked up in a facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there’s tension sometimes.” Whatever the conditions may be, imprisonment is unacceptable, and won’t solve our society’s problems. The law doesn’t provide justice or safety for everyone: rather, it maintains the current order and hierarchy, enforcing our social roles and defending the moneyed classes. Prisons are a huge source of profit: especially ICE detention centers, which are run by private corporations such as the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group (which Wells Fargo Bank is invested in). While Santa Cruz may not see the effects as clearly as, say, Oakland, police repression and violence still reverberate in our communities. The same system that kills and imprisons black youth in the ghetto also raids the homes of Central American immigrants and tears apart families, the same mechanisms that allow suburban white kids to attend a UC and get a respectable job force others to sell drugs or their bodies to survive.

Those who want to defend capitalism and white supremacy in Santa Cruz are getting organized: so should we. While some talk to their neighbors to support police power, we can talk to our neighbors to subvert their power.

Spread information, show up in the streets, find each other and build collective power. Resistance is gathering around the country. Along with many other actions on July 29th in Arizona, when SB 1070 went into effect, protestors blocked the entrance to the Maricopa County Jail, delaying Sherrif Arpaio’s immigration sweep. If we struggle together we stand a better chance than if we let each group, culture or demonized minority get repressed individually. California is headed down the same path as Arizona, and our position as immigrants, workers and dissidents gets more precarious every day. The net of social control is drawn tighter with each new law, budget cut and layoff, and only we can choose what our response will be.

yours truly,
some local anarchists

comments, critique, or ideas? email