Media Consortium Blogger
The nation’s eyes are fixed upon a trembling economy. It affects our ability to survive, to thrive, and even think rationally. Today’s economic crisis is also impacting the lives of immigrants and immigration reform on multiple levels, be it through provisions to the economic stimulus bill, individual lawmen exceeding the bounds of their office, or a scrambling Pentagon viewing immigrants as easy recruits.
It is understandable, though ironic, that the immigrant community is prey to multiple factions during hard times. Fear of survival makes it easy to point at “the other,” especially when we are worried about our resources. During the Great Depression, Mexican Americans bore the brunt of this type of fear. In light of today’s economic crisis, we haven’t come very far.
Voices are clustering on the Right to encourage this dynamic and immigrants are being scapegoated with no heed to how it might play out amongst a scared citizenry.
As Lisa Navarrete reports for Alternet:
He may have a new gig as a National Review columnist, but … [Mark Krikorian of the National Review] smears pro-immigrant and civil rights organizations, wrapping his divisiveness in the cloak of freedom of speech.
Krikorian is hardly the only example. We are repeating this terrible process without learning from previous experience. It’s tragic that the economic crisis is also helping feed the growing network of detention centers and raids that prey on migrant families, justifying them with talk of jobs and income.
As RaceWire reports, the detention centers sprouting up all over country are an industry that capitalizes on persecution. And the immigrant detainee population has tripled since 1996 according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own records, as revealed by New America Media. It seems economically unsound and profoundly amoral to remove workers from producing areas of our economy to invest instead in an inflated prison system. Our current prison system includes the detention center industry and the 287(g) agreement, which enlists local law enforcement in enforcing federal immigration law.
ICE’s reach is growing and filling quotas has corrupted their purpose. Public News Service reports on a New York-based investigation that showed ICE “shifting focus” from the “most dangerous undocumented immigrants to just making lots of arrests.” ICE is casting a wider, sloppier net as part of the United States’ broadening security apparatus.
Alternet explains the terrifying relationship between ICE, migrants, the age of terrorism and a bloated detention system in The New Political Economy of Immigration:
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 drastically altered the traditional political economy of immigration. The millions of undocumented immigrants — those who crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas — who were living and working in the United States were no longer simply regarded as a shadow population or as surplus cheap labor. In the public and policy debate, immigrants were increasingly defined as threats to the nation’s security. Categorizing immigrants as national security threats gave the government’s flailing immigration law-enforcement and border- control operations a new unifying logic that has propelled the immigrant crackdown forward.
It is understandable that after being attacked, a nation would draw in and lean toward suspicion. But where has this gotten us? Are we more secure? Or are we simply enabling more systems in which the most vulnerable suffer?
As reported in past Weekly Wire articles, immigration reform supporters are coming together and speaking out in greater numbers. Even today, NDN and National Council of La Raza are holding a Washington D.C. event that is open to the public and that will “serve as a platform for identifying strategies that will move immigration reform forward in 2009.”
And yet, as Roberto Lovato writes for Alternet, we should be wary. The Obama administration and some allies, even, will not be as receptive to changing the national response to immigration as many hope.
In a such a dangerous climate, a climate in which economic decline worsens the undocumented condition — death in jail, hate crimes, death in deserts, daily doses of dehumanizing media — it is our duty to reject as extremely dangerous and in the most forceful terms any of the “smart enforcement” and other militaristic language and policy used by Napolitano, GOP & Dems and some “immigrant rights advocates.”
At the same time, the Democratic Party ought to be at least a little wary of the GOP using immigration as a wedge issue, as Angelo Falcón warns in New America Media. And Rahm Emanuel indicates he has “an appreciation for the high Hispanic voter turnout and support for Democrats in 2008 that dramatically shifted the political landscape.”
Which direction will we go? Which America will 2009 show us to be? We both work and wait to find out.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.