Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor May 25, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Immigration, Prison Industrial Complex.
Tags: 13th amendment, detained immigrants, detention centers, human rights, ian urbina, illegal immigrants, immigrants, involuntary servitude, migrants, prison labor, prison labour, private prisons, roger hollander, slave labor, slave labour, solitary confinement
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Roger’s note: the NY times never ceases to amaze me with its euphemisms. For the Times torture is often “enhanced interrogation.” Here, slave labor is “cheap labor.” Slave labor is alive and well in the United States of America, from the tomato fields of Florida to the government’s own more and more privatized prison system. Unless, of course, you believe that payment that ranges from zero to thirteen cents an hour is not slave labor.
From the article:
“I went from making $15 an hour as a chef to $1 a day in the kitchen in lockup,” said Pedro Guzmán, 34, who had worked for restaurants in California, Minnesota and North Carolina before he was picked up and held for about 19 months, mostly at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. “And I was in the country legally.”
Mr. Guzmán said that he had been required to work even when he was running a fever, that guards had threatened him with solitary confinement if he was late for his 2 a.m. shift, and that his family had incurred more than $75,000 in debt from legal fees and lost income during his detention. A Guatemalan native, he was released in 2011 after the courts renewed his visa, which had mistakenly been revoked, in part because of a clerical error.
Well, since prisoner “cheap” labor is saving the tax payer and the private prison corporations so much money, it must be loved by the Democrats and the Republicans. Clerical errors do happen, and Human Rights can be such a bore.
HOUSTON — The kitchen of the detention center here was bustling as a dozen immigrants boiled beans and grilled hot dogs, preparing lunch for about 900 other detainees. Elsewhere, guards stood sentry and managers took head counts, but the detainees were doing most of the work — mopping bathroom stalls, folding linens, stocking commissary shelves.
As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities.
This work program is facing increasing resistance from detainees and criticism from immigrant advocates. In April, a lawsuit accused immigration authorities in Tacoma, Wash., of putting detainees in solitary confinement after they staged a work stoppage and hunger strike. In Houston, guards pressed other immigrants to cover shifts left vacant by detainees who refused to work in the kitchen, according to immigrants interviewed here.
The federal authorities say the program is voluntary, legal and a cost-saver for taxpayers. But immigrant advocates question whether it is truly voluntary or lawful, and argue that the government and the private prison companies that run many of the detention centers are bending the rules to convert a captive population into a self-contained labor force.
Last year, at least 60,000 immigrants worked in the federal government’s nationwide patchwork of detention centers — more than worked for any other single employer in the country, according to data from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. The cheap labor, 13 cents an hour, saves the government and the private companies $40 million or more a year by allowing them to avoid paying outside contractors the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Some immigrants held at county jails work for free, or are paid with sodas or candy bars, while also providing services like meal preparation for other government institutions.
Unlike inmates convicted of crimes, who often participate in prison work programs and forfeit their rights to many wage protections, these immigrants are civil detainees placed in holding centers, most of them awaiting hearings to determine their legal status. Roughly half of the people who appear before immigration courts are ultimately permitted to stay in the United States — often because they were here legally, because they made a compelling humanitarian argument to a judge or because federal authorities decided not to pursue the case.
“I went from making $15 an hour as a chef to $1 a day in the kitchen in lockup,” said Pedro Guzmán, 34, who had worked for restaurants in California, Minnesota and North Carolina before he was picked up and held for about 19 months, mostly at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. “And I was in the country legally.”
Mr. Guzmán said that he had been required to work even when he was running a fever, that guards had threatened him with solitary confinement if he was late for his 2 a.m. shift, and that his family had incurred more than $75,000 in debt from legal fees and lost income during his detention. A Guatemalan native, he was released in 2011 after the courts renewed his visa, which had mistakenly been revoked, in part because of a clerical error. He has since been granted permanent residency.
Claims of Exploitation
Officials at private prison companies declined to speak about their use of immigrant detainees, except to say that it was legal. Federal officials said the work helped with morale and discipline and cut expenses in a detention system that costs more than $2 billion a year.
“The program allows detainees to feel productive and contribute to the orderly operation of detention facilities,” said Gillian M. Christensen, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency. Detainees in the program are not officially employees, she said, and their payments are stipends, not wages. No one is forced to participate, she added, and there are usually more volunteers than jobs.
Marian Martins, 49, who was picked up by ICE officers in 2009 for overstaying her visa and sent to Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Ala., said work had been her only ticket out of lockdown, where she was placed when she arrived without ever being told why.
Ms. Martins said she had worked most days cooking meals, scrubbing showers and buffing hallways. Her only compensation was extra free time outside or in a recreational room, where she could mingle with other detainees, watch television or read, she said.
“People fight for that work,” said Ms. Martins, who has no criminal history. “I was always nervous about being fired, because I needed the free time.”
Ms. Martins fled Liberia during the civil war there and entered the United States on a visitor visa in 1990. She stayed and raised three children, all of whom are American citizens, including two sons in the Air Force. Because of her deteriorating health, she was released from detention in August 2010 with an electronic ankle bracelet while awaiting a final determination of her legal status.
Natalie Barton, a spokeswoman for the Etowah detention center, declined to comment on Ms. Martins’s claims but said that all work done on site by detained immigrants was unpaid, and that the center complied with all local and federal rules.
The compensation rules at detention facilities are remnants of a bygone era. A 1950 law created the federal Voluntary Work Program and set the pay rate at a time when $1 went much further. (The equivalent would be about $9.80 today.) Congress last reviewed the rate in 1979 and opted not to raise it. It was later challenged in a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets workplace rules, but in 1990 an appellate court upheld the rate, saying that “alien detainees are not government ‘employees.’ ”
Immigrants in holding centers may be in the country illegally, but they may also be asylum seekers, permanent residents or American citizens whose documentation is questioned by the authorities. On any given day, about 5,500 detainees out of the 30,000-plus average daily population work for $1, in 55 of the roughly 250 detention facilities used by ICE. Local governments operate 21 of the programs, and private companies run the rest, agency officials said.
These detainees are typically compensated with credits toward food, toiletries and phone calls that they say are sold at inflated prices. (They can collect cash when they leave if they have not used all their credits.) “They’re making money on us while we work for them,” said Jose Moreno Olmedo, 25, a Mexican immigrant who participated in the hunger strike at the Tacoma holding center and was released on bond from the center in March. “Then they’re making even more money on us when we buy from them at the commissary.”
A Legal Gray Area
Some advocates for immigrants express doubts about the legality of the work program, saying the government and contractors are exploiting a legal gray area.
Jacqueline Stevens, a professor of political science at Northwestern University, said she believed the program violated the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for crime. “By law, firms contracting with the federal government are supposed to match or increase local wages, not commit wage theft,” she said.
Immigration officials underestimate the number of immigrants involved and the hours they work, Professor Stevens added. Based on extrapolations from ICE contracts she has reviewed, she said, more than 135,000 immigrants a year may be involved, and private prison companies and the government may be avoiding paying more than $200 million in wages that outside employers would collect.
A 2012 report by the A.C.L.U. Foundation of Georgia described immigrants’ being threatened with solitary confinement if they refused certain work. Also, detainees said instructions about the program’s voluntary nature were sometimes given in English even though most of the immigrants do not speak the language.
Eduardo Zuñiga, 36, spent about six months in 2011 at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, awaiting deportation to Mexico. He had been detained after being stopped at a roadblock in the Atlanta area because he did not have a driver’s license and because his record showed a decade-old drug conviction for which he had received probation.
Gary Mead, who was a top ICE administrator until last year, said the agency scrutinized contract bids from private companies to ensure that they did not overestimate how much they could depend on detainees to run the centers.
Detainees cannot work more than 40 hours a week or eight hours a day, according to the agency. They are limited to work that directly contributes to the operation of their detention facility, said Ms. Christensen, the agency spokeswoman, and are not supposed to provide services or make goods for the outside market.
But that rule does not appear to be strictly enforced.
At the Joe Corley Detention Facility north of Houston, about 140 immigrant detainees prepare about 7,000 meals a day, half of which are shipped to the nearby Montgomery County jail. Pablo E. Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, which runs the center, said his company had taken it over from the county in 2013 and was working to end the outside meal program.
Near San Francisco, at the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility, immigrants work alongside criminal inmates to cook about 900 meals a day that are packaged and trucked to a county homeless shelter and nearby jails.
A Booming Business
While President Obama has called for an overhaul of immigration law, his administration has deported people — roughly two million in the last five years — at a faster pace than any of his predecessors. The administration says the sharp rise in the number of detainees has been partly driven by a requirement from Congress that ICE fill a daily quota of more than 30,000 beds in detention facilities. The typical stay is about a month, though some detainees are held much longer, sometimes for years.
Detention centers are low-margin businesses, where every cent counts, said Clayton J. Mosher, a professor of sociology at Washington State University, Vancouver, who specializes in the economics of prisons. Two private prison companies, the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, control most of the immigrant detention market. Many such companies struggled in the late 1990s amid a glut of private prison construction, with more facilities built than could be filled, but a spike in immigrant detention after Sept. 11 helped revitalize the industry.
The Corrections Corporation of America’s revenue, for example, rose more than 60 percent over the last decade, and its stock price climbed to more than $30 from less than $3. Last year, the company made $301 million in net income and the GEO Group made $115 million, according to earnings reports.
Prison companies are not the only beneficiaries of immigrant labor. About 5 percent of immigrants who work are unpaid, ICE data show. Sheriff Richard K. Jones of Butler County, Ohio, said his county saved at least $200,000 to $300,000 a year by relying on about 40 detainees each month for janitorial work. “All I know is it’s a lot of money saved,” he said.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group that promotes greater controls on immigration, said that with proper monitoring, the program had its advantages, and that the criticisms of it were part of a larger effort to delegitimize immigration detention.
Some immigrants said they appreciated the chance to work. Minsu Jeon, 23, a South Korean native who was freed in January after a monthlong stay at an immigration detention center in Ocilla, Ga., said that while he thought the pay was unfair, working as a cook helped pass the time.
“They don’t feed you that much,” he added, “but you could eat food if you worked in the kitchen.”
Education, Not Deportation!”: Undocumented Students Protest Napolitano as UC President July 20, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in California, Education, Immigration, Race.
Tags: asha dumonthier, California, deportations, education, higher education, Homeland Security, immigrants, janet napolitano, napolitano appointment, roger hollander, uc, undocumented, University of California
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Photo Credit: AP Photo
The former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security will be the first woman president of the 10-campus UC system and will earn $570,000 per year in her new position. Shortly after Napolitano’s compensation was read at the public meeting, a UC student stepped forward from the audience and started the chant, “Education, not deportation!” Campus police escorted four other students out shortly after when they refused to leave the room.
About 60 students, parents, faculty and staff representing UC Merced, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and other campuses protested outside the meeting to show their disappointment with Napolitano’s nomination.
As Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano oversaw a record number of deportations under the Obama administration, about 400,000 undocumented immigrants per year.
Undocumented student protesters said they were concerned about what her appointment could mean for students like them.
“She’s separated a lot of families,” said Wei Lee, an undocumented graduate of UC Santa Cruz, who noted that the UC system is home to many undocumented students. “We cannot allow someone like Janet Napolitano with her background and her experience to run this fine education system.”
Lee, who is ethnically Chinese and was born and raised in Brazil, fell out of immigration status after being denied political asylum. He said that without the advocacy of his friends and community, he and his family would have been deported. Today, he is a part of the student group ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education) and says that the current immigration system “does not reflect American values.”
San Francisco State University student Akiko Aspillaga held a pink sign that read, “This feminist opposes Napolitano’s appointment.”
“For somebody who justifies the war, who militarizes not just our borders but our communities and separates our families… if those are her values, we don’t want her to be the lead of our education system,” said Aspillaga.
Lotus Yee Fong, whose son has two UC degrees, expressed concern over Napolitano’s credentials: “She is not an educator.”
Protesters also criticized the timing of the appointment. Napolitano was nominated only a week before the public meeting, which they said left them little time to organize.
“It’s more or less a political coup,” said UC Santa Cruz student Daniel Shubat, shaking his head. “They did it during the summer. It’s underhanded and we don’t have a say.”
Supporters are quick to point out that Napolitano has also been criticized by Republicans who accuse her of being too soft on immigration enforcement.
Hershey’s ‘No Charlie’s Chocolate Factory’ August 23, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Immigration, Labor.
Tags: boycott, chocolate factory, cultural exchange, exel, foreign workers, guestworker, guestworker alliance, hershey chocolate, immigrants, jon swaine, labor, roger hollander, slave labor, unfari labor, working conditions
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NEW YORK – It sounded like the perfect summer job.
Anger … a student protests against the working conditions at a Hershey’s factory. (Photo: AP)
Students from China, Africa and eastern Europe would work in a Hershey’s chocolate plant before using their earnings to travel the US and learn English.
“We have all seen Charlie’s chocolate factory,” said one student, 19-year-old Harika Duygu Ozer. Another said: “I thought we would see America like in movies.”
The factory, in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, did not live up to Roald Dahl’s thrilling world of chocolate waterfalls and infinite treats, however.
The 400 students, who each paid up to $US5940 ($5700) to join the State department’s cultural exchange scheme, claimed they were forced to become “captive workers”.
Shifts, often at night, consisted of lifting dozens of heavy boxes, trying to control fast-moving production lines, they said.
“They don’t care if you are small, you don’t have the power, you didn’t eat – they just care about their production,” one of the students said.
A spokesman for the National Guestworker Alliance, which is backing the group, said: “They were warned to stop complaining or they would be kicked out.”
The students walked out last week in protest at their conditions and pay, which after deductions and rent charges allegedly amounted to between $US40 and $US140 for 40 hours of work per week. They marched with dozens of supporters through Hershey itself.
Hershey said the plant was run by Exel, a logistics company. Exel said temporary workers were overseen by a third company, and that it had been told to stop hiring students from the scheme. It said students were informed of likely working conditions.
National Outcry Builds Against Obama’s Deportations August 18, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Immigration, Racism.
Tags: anti-immigration, deportations, Homeland Security, human rights, immigrants, Immigration, kanya d'almeida, obama deportations, racism, robert morganthau, roger hollander, s-comm, undocumented
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Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Over one million immigrants have been deported since President Obama took office, making his deportation track record the worst in the history of the United States.
WASHINGTON — When 20-year-old Isaura Garcia called the 911 emergency hotline while being physically abused by her partner, she never imagined that her plea to U.S. legal authorities would lead to imprisonment and possible deportation.
A federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer arrests an immigrant during an enforcement surge in Arizona. The Secure Communities program allows local officers to quickly and easily check a person’s immigration status in the federal database. (Photo Courtesy of ICE) Though Garcia’s face was “black and blue” from repeated beatings by her boyfriend, the police – who insisted that she speak in English while explaining her plight – arrested her, held her in prison for over a week on a “felony domestic violence” charge, transferred her to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), placed her in deportation proceedings, and finally released her on an electronic ankle bracelet.
Garcia’s story is just one of thousands of similar tales whose inception can be traced to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operation known as Secure Communities (S-Comm), a program that is now being challenged at the national level.
On Tuesday, a coalition of human rights defenders, including the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the Center for Constitutional Rights, teamed up with over 18 other national and community-based organizations to make public a comprehensive report detailing the often devastating impacts of S-Comm on immigrant communities in the U.S.
Alongside testimony from victims of the program, including horror stories like Garcia’s, the report calls for immediate termination of the program, which huge swathes of civil society have long deemed to be a failure.
“There is an overall sense within the movement for immigrant justice that S-Comm is too broken to be fixed,” Chris Newman, the legal director at NDLON, told IPS.
“It has now become obvious even to people outside the immigrant rights community – such as former District Attorney of New York Robert Morgenthau and San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey – that DHS is more interested in the politics of [these failed] programs than they are in genuine reform of immigration policy,” he added.
Launched by ICE in 2008, S-Comm was initially marketed to the U.S. public as a voluntary program designed to “improve and modernize the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the United States” by sending fingerprints submitted by local law enforcement agencies to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal background checks, and then automatically searching those fingerprints against immigration databases.
According to the new report, “If ICE determines that an individual may be deportable, it requests that the local law enforcement agency detain him or her for transfer to ICE and possible deportation.”
Critics of the operation have blasted it as an open attack on immigrants’ basic civil and human rights by trapping millions of undocumented residents – most of them innocent, or guilty only of very minor offenses such as traffic violations – in a dragnet that has so far expelled 115,000 immigrants from the country.
“This policy is creating an ‘Arizonafication’ of our country,” Newman told IPS, parroting a phrase that has been used to describe the effects of Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona, which essentially legalized racial profiling and is widely believed to be the harshest piece of anti-immigration legislature implemented in the country.
“The program piloted in Arizona and initiated as merely an experiment [foreshadowed] the Frankenstein that S-Comm has created,” he added.
“There is a sense within the immigrant justice community – and beyond it to academics, scholars and law enforcers – that DHS simply cannot be trusted,” Newman said.
“Calling the program ‘Secure Communities’ is misleading, since it actually achieves the opposite result. In fact, the whole operation has been a lie from its very inception,” he insisted.
Newman is by no means alone in his denunciation. Tuesday’s report joined increasingly loud calls for an end to the program.
Alarmed by the mandate of S-Comm to conflate local police authority with ICE’s function as an immigration-regulation body, the governors of Illinois, New York and Massachusetts scrapped the program, relying on the extensive Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) that were drafted in the initial stages of S-Comm granting states the green light to suspend their participation in the program whenever they chose.
But last week, the Barack Obama administration “disregarded the concerns of the [immigrant community and law enforcement officials] by announcing that DHS will continue its rapid rollout of the program – without state authorization,” according to a press release by the New York Immigration Coalition.
The statement added that over one million immigrants have been deported since President Obama took office, making his deportation track record the worst in the history of the United States.
Laura Rotolo, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), responded to the rescinding of the MOA in a blog post, which stated, “overnight [S-Comm] has become a federal mandate that will turn every city and every town into a feeder into the broken immigration system, not to mention part of the burgeoning bio-metric surveillance system that targets all Americans,” adding that the DHS must be held to account for its policies.
The recent report highlights all these problems and more, such as the already frayed relationship between immigrants and law enforcement authorities made worse by a reluctance to report crimes for fear of being deported; and the impact of S-Comm on the racially biased and highly lucrative prison industrial complex.
Last week, Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, executive director of Enlace, an alliance of low-wage worker centers and community organizations in the U.S. and Mexico, stated, “DHS continues to demonstrate who it listens to – not to the millions calling for legalization and not to taxpayers, but to the private prison companies and their investors who are bent on profiting from taxpayers by jailing immigrants.”
He added, “Over a million immigrants have been imprisoned in the last three years, costing taxpayers billions of dollars that should have been allocated for education, healthcare and other legitimate public needs instead of being spent on expensive cages for men, women and children.”
Enlace is currently partnered with unions and community groups across the country in a nationwide Prison Industry Divestment Campaign, an effort to push all public and private institutions to “divest their holdings in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, [the U.S.'s] largest private prison corporations which profit annually from billions in taxpayer money.”
Tags: ge, General Electric, immigrants, mike elk, roger hollander, taxation, taxes, undocumented
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Our guest blogger is Mike Elk, a freelance labor journalist and third generation union organizer based in Washington, D.C. You can follow him for more updates on twitter at @MikeElk.
This past month, there was much outrage over the fact that General Electric, despite making $14.2 billion in profits, paid zero U.S. taxes in 2010. General Electric actually received tax credits of $3.2 billion from American taxpayers.
At the same time that General Electric was not paying taxes, many undocumented immigrants, who are typically accused of taking advantage of the system while not contributing to it by many on the right, paid $11.2 billion in taxes. A new study by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy shows that undocumented immigrants paid $8.4 billion in sales taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $1.2 billion in personal income taxes last year. The study also estimates that nearly half of all undocumented immigrants pay income taxes.
ITEP bases its figures of what immigrants pay taxes based on the following factors:
- Sales tax is automatic, so it is assumed that unauthorized residents would pay sales tax at similar rates to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants with similar income levels.
- Similar to sales tax, property taxes are hard to avoid, and unauthorized immigrants are assumed to pay the same property taxes as others with the same income level. ITEP assumes that most unauthorized immigrants are renters, and only calculates the taxes paid by renters.
- Income tax contributions by the unauthorized population are less comparable to other populations because many unauthorized immigrants work “off the books” and income taxes are not automatically withheld from their paychecks. ITEP conservatively estimates that 50 percent of unauthorized immigrants are paying income taxes.
While it’s impossible to estimate exactly how much in taxes undocumented immigrants paid, it is clear that undocumented immigrants are paying more taxes than General Electric, which paid absolutely nothing. This raises the question of who really is leaching off the American system: undocumented immigrants who pay their taxes and are typically too afraid of being deported to receive public assistance or corporations that pay nothing while receiving billions in credits
‘They Kill Alex’ September 6, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Immigration, Iraq and Afghanistan, Latin America, Peace, War.
Tags: ales arredondo, anti-war, carlos arredondo, chris hedges, immigrants, Iraq war, latinos, military, military recruiters, military recruiting, peace, roger hollander, veterans for peace, war
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by Chris Hedges
Carlos Arredondo, a native Costa Rican, stands in a parking lot of a Holiday Inn in Portland, Maine, next to his green Nissan pickup truck. The truck, its tailgate folded down, carries a flag-draped coffin and is adorned with pictures of his son, Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, 20, a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004. The truck and a trailer he pulls with it have become a mobile shrine to his boy. He drives around the country, with the aid of donations, evoking a mixture of sympathy and hostility. There are white crosses with the names of other boys killed in the war. Combat boots are nailed to the side of the display. There is a wheelchair, covered in colored ribbons, fixed to the roof of the cab. There is Alex’s military uniform and boots, poster-size pictures of the young Marine shown on the streets of Najaf, in his formal Marine portrait, and then lying, his hands folded in white gloves, in his coffin. A metal sign on the back of the truck bears a gold star and reads: “USMC L/CPL ALEXANDER S. ARREDONDO.”
“This is what happens every week to some family in America,” says Carlos. “This is what war does. And this is the grief and pain the government does not want people to see.”
Alex, from a working-class immigrant family, was lured into the military a month before Sept. 11, 2001. The Marine recruiters made the usual appeals to patriotism, promised that he would be trained for a career, go to college and become a man. They included a $10,000 sign-on bonus. Alex was in the Marine units that invaded Iraq. His father, chained to the news reports, listening to the radio and two televisions at the same time, was increasingly distraught. “I hear nothing about my son for days and days,” he says. “It was too much, too much, too much for parents.”
Alex, in August 2004, was back in Iraq for a second tour. In one of his last phone calls, Alex told him: “Dad, I call you because, to say, you know, we’ve been fighting for many, many days already, and I want to tell you that I love you and I don’t want you to forget me.” His father answered: “Of course I love you, and I don’t want-I never forget you.” The last message the family received was an e-mail around that time which read: “Watch the news online. Check the news, and tell everyone that I love them.”
Twenty days later, on Aug. 25, a U.S. government van pulled up in front of Carlos’ home in Hollywood, Fla. It was Carlos’ 44th birthday and he was expecting a birthday call from Alex. “I saw the van and thought maybe Alex had come home to surprise me for my birthday or maybe they were coming to recruit my other son, Brian,” he says. Three Marine officers climbed out of the van. One asked, “Are you Carlos Arredondo?” He answered “yes.”
“I’m sorry, we’re here to notify you about the death of Lance Cpl. Arredondo,” one of the officers told him. Alex was the 968th soldier or Marine to be killed in the Iraq war.
“I tried to process this in my head,” Carlos says. “I never hear that. I remember how my body felt. I got a rush of blood to my body. I felt like it’s the worst thing in my life. It is my worst fear. I could not believe what they were telling me.”
Carlos turned and ran into the house to find his mother, who was in the kitchen making him a birthday cake. “I cried, ‘Mama! Mama! They are telling me Alex got killed! Alex got killed! They kill Alex! They kill Alex! They kill Alex!” His mother crumbled in grief. Carlos went to the large picture of his son in the living room and held it. Carlos asked the Marines to leave several times over the next 20 minutes, but the Marines refused, saying they had to wait for his wife. “I did this because I was in denial. I think if they leave none of this will happen.” Crazed and distraught with grief, the father went into his garage and took out five gallons of gasoline and a propane torch. He walked past the three Marines in their dress blues and began to smash the windows of the government van with a hammer.
“I went into the van,” he says. “I poured gasoline on the seats. I pour gasoline on the floor and in the gas tank. I was, like, looking for my son. I was screaming and yelling for him. I remember that one day he left in a van and now he’s not there. I destroy everything. The pain I feel is the pain of what I learned from war. I was wearing only socks and no shoes. I was wearing shorts. The fumes were powerful and I could not breathe no more, even though I broke the windows.”
As Carlos stepped out of the van, he ignited the propane torch inside the vehicle. It started a fire that “threw me from the driver’s seat backwards onto the ground.” His clothes caught fire. It felt “like thousands of needles stabbing into my body.” He ran across the street and fell onto the grass. His mother followed him and pulled off his shirt and socks, which were on fire, as he screamed “Mama! Mama! My feet are burning! My feet are burning!” The Marines dragged him away and he remembers one of them saying, “The van is going to blow! The van is going to blow!” The van erupted in a fireball and the rush of hot air, he says, swept over him. The Marines called a fire truck and an ambulance. Carlos sustained second- and third-degree burns over 26 percent of his body. As I talk to him in the Portland parking lot he shows me the burn scars on his legs. The government chose not to prosecute him.
“I wake up in the hospital two days later and I was tied with tubes in my mouth,” he says. “When they take the tubes out I say, ‘I want to be with my son. I want to be with my son.’ Somebody was telling me my son had died. I get very emotional. I kept saying ‘I want to be with my son’ and they think I want to commit suicide.”
He had no health insurance. His medical bills soon climbed to $55,000. On Sept. 2, 2004, Carlos, transported in a stretcher, attended his son’s wake at the Rodgers Funeral Home in Jamaica Plain, Mass. He lifted himself, with the help of those around him, from his stretcher, and when he reached his son’s open casket he kissed his child. “I held his head and when I put my hands in the back of his head I felt the huge hole where the sniper bullet had come out,” he says. “I climbed into the casket. I lay on top of my son. I apologized to him because I did not do enough to avoid this.”
Arredondo began to collect items that memorialized his son’s life. He tacked them to his truck. A funeral home in Boston donated a casket to the display. He began to attend anti-war events, at times flying the American flag upside down to signal distress. He has taken his shrine to the Mall in Washington, D.C., and Times Square in New York City. He has traveled throughout the country presenting to the public a visual expression of death and grief. He has placed some of his son’s favorite childhood toys and belongings in the coffin, including a soccer ball, a pair of shoes, a baseball and a Winnie the Pooh. The power of his images, which force onlookers to confront the fact that the essence of war is death, has angered some who prefer to keep war sanitized and wrapped in the patriotic slogans of glory, honor and heroism. Three years ago vandals defaced his son’s gravestone.
“I don’t speak,” he says. “I show people war. I show them the caskets they are not allowed to see. If people don’t see what war does they don’t feel it. If they don’t feel it they don’t care.”
Military recruiters, who often have offices in high schools, prey on young men like Alex, who was first approached when he was 16. They cater to their insecurities, their dreams and their economic deprivation. They promise them what the larger society denies them. Those of Latino descent and from divorced families, as Alex was, are especially vulnerable. Alex’s brother Brian was approached by the military, which suggested that if he enlisted he could receive $60,000 in signing bonuses and more than $27,000 in payments for higher education. The proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, is designed to give undocumented young people a chance at citizenship provided they attend college-not usually an option for poor, often poorly educated and undocumented Latino youths who are prohibited from receiving Pell grants-for at least two years, or enlist and serve in the military. The military helped author the pending act and is lobbying for it. Twelve percent of Army enlistees are Hispanic, and this percentage is expected to double by 2020 if the current rate of recruitment continues. And once they are recruited, these young men and women are trained to be killers, sent to wars that should never be fought and returned back to their families often traumatized and broken and sometimes dead.
Alex told Carlos in their last conversation there was heavy fighting in Najaf. Alex usually asked his father not to “forget” him, but now, increasingly in the final days of his life, another word was taking the place of forget. It was forgive. He felt his father should not forgive him for what he was doing in Iraq. He told his father, “Dad, I hope you are proud of what I’m doing. Don’t forgive me, Dad.” The sentence bewildered his father. “Oh my God, how can I forgive you? … I love you, you’re my son, very proud, you’re my son.”
“I thought, when he died, my God, he has killed somebody,” Carlos says quietly as he readied for an anti-war march organized by Veterans for Peace. “He feels guilty. If he returned home his mind would be destroyed. His heart would be torn apart. It is not normal to kill. How can they do this? How can they take our children?”
© 2010 TruthDig.com
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
List of cities boycotting or condemning Arizona June 3, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Immigration, Race, Racism.
Tags: Arizona, arizona law, arizona racism, boycott, boycott arizona, illegal immigration, immigrants, Immigration, racism, roger hollander, sb 1070
www.votolatino.org, May 13, 2010
Below is a list of cities who have passed (or are considering passing) boycotts on business in Arizona or have condemned SB 1070. Please comment and leave a source on this story if there are more cities not listed that have (or are considering) resolutions.
- San Francisco supervisors, on a 10-1 vote, approved a nonbinding resolution that calls for a boycott of Arizona-based businesses. It asks for, but does not demand, that city departments refrain from entering into new contracts or extending existing ones with companies headquartered in Arizona, unless severing those ties would result in significant costs to the city or violate other laws. (via SF Gate)
- The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 to stop doing business in Arizona unless the state’s tough new immigration law is repealed. The city does about $52 million worth of business with Arizona companies, but it’s likely that only about $8 million worth of contracts can be terminated. (via NPR News)
- The Milwaukee Common Council Tuesday (5/4) failed to act on a resolution calling for the city to boycott companies based in Arizona. The council sent the measure back to committee. Alderman Robert Puente said his colleagues need to further study the Arizona law. (via WUWM)
- The resolution, proposed by Council Member Mike Martinez, calls for ending all business-related travel to Arizona by city employees, unless it is related to police investigations, providing humanitarian aid or protecting Austinites’ health and safety. (via Austin American Statesman)
West Hollywood, CA
- The council voted 5-0 Monday night to approve the boycott. The action immediately suspends official travel to Arizona and calls for developing official sanctions. (via CBS2)
- As the City Council passed a resolution urging that Boston cut business ties with Arizona, Menino said it was important to send “a message’’ that the city disagrees with that state’s response to illegal immigration. (via Boston.com)
- The council voted 7-0 Tuesday in favor of the boycott. It calls on city officials to review existing contracts with Arizona-based businesses and not enter into any new ones. It also says staff should not travel to the state on official city business. (via Fresno Bee)
St. Paul, MN
- Mayor Chris Coleman is ordering city departments to no longer travel to conferences in the state of Arizona. (via My Fox 9)
- Responding to Arizona’s new immigration law, the resolution requests that the city government and the employee pension fund “divest’ from all Arizona state and municipal bonds and ban city workers from traveling to that state on official business. The resolution, which will be voted on at a later date, does not appear to prevent the city from doing business with Arizona-based companies, as some Hispanic activists had proposed. (via Washington Post)
New York City
- New York’s City Council will consider a resolution calling for a boycott of all things Arizona. Ydanis Rodrigues, a Manhattan Democrat, filed the non-binding resolution Wednesday, a council aide confirmed. (via WSJ)
- Employees of the City of Boulder will no longer be traveling to Arizona for business, City Manager Jane Brautigam announced, as a show of the city’s opposition to the recent immigration legislation passed in that state. (via Examiner)
- Seattle’s City Council unanimously passed the Boycott Arizona Resolution, directing departments not to send employees to the Grand Canyon State and to refrain from doing new business with firms in Arizona in protest of the tragic new law. (via Examiner)
- During their Tuesday evening meeting, the city commission voted unanimously to pass a resolution against Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070. (via Valley Central)
- That until the repeal of SB 1070, the City of Hartford shall not engage in any discretionary travel to Arizona and when applicable and without conflicting with any laws, the City of Hartford shall not engage in any contract for goods or services with any Arizona-based company. the Court of Common Council urges all public and private universities with campuses in Hartford to decline invitations to any sports tournaments in Arizona (via L. E. Cotto and City of Hartford Resolution)
- The Coachella City Council formally opposed Arizona’s new immigration law Wednesday night. (via Desert Sun)
El Paso, TX
- The city’s resolution only condemned Arizona, but counselors added a boycott at last minute and approved the measure. (via News Channel 9)
- Mayor Michael B. Coleman has banned city workers from traveling to Arizona on government business, a decision that plunged Columbus yesterday deep into the nation’s emotional debate over illegal immigration. (via The Columbus Dispatch)
Tags: hispanics, immigrants, Immigration, jeffrey rosen, latinos, leslie savan, letterman, luis ramirez, Media, mexicans, new republic, racism, racist violence, scapegoating, severin, sonia sotomayor, supreme court, us
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By Leslie Savan, TheNation.com. Posted May 13, 2009.
Mexicans have recently been the prime target of the most rancid typecasting in the media — can more racist violence be far behind?
Amid the anti-Mexican media hysteria festering since the outbreak of swine flu, Dave Letterman’s portrayal last week of potential Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a hot-blooded Hispanic Judge Judy wasn’t the ugliest stereotyping of Latinos. It was actually weak tea compared to the mouth-foamings of Jay Severin, the Boston radio host who called Mexicans “leeches,” “the world’s lowest of primitives,” and exporters of “women with mustaches and VD.” WTKK-FM has suspended but hasn’t fired Severin, even as some advertisers have bailed.
No, Letterman’s bit was far more mainstream, and more feasibly “acceptable” than, say, the kneeslappers of Betsy Perry, a branding consultant whose Huffpost musings about Mexican “banditos” and “the Mexican help with hands washed in parasite-infested tap water” resulted in Mayor Bloomberg axing her from the New York City Women’s Issues Commission. Clearly, not all Perry’s issues are about women. (She has since apologized.)
With the rightwing smuggling in the lie that immigrants are responsible for swine flu in the U.S. (when, in fact, it’s been spread here primarily by Americans who’ve visited Mexico), Mexicans have been, of course, the prime target of the most rancid typecasting. But once the type has been cast, it has jumped easily to Latinos of any origins. A summa cum laude graduate at Princeton, an editor of the Yale Law Journal, now a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and a Bronx native raised by her single mom (like Obama), Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican descent, and so this:
Not even a gulp from the Morning Joe gang. Mika laughed, and Willie Geist mumbled something about “fit for the Supreme Court.” We may never learn whether Sotomayor is or isn’t “fit,” because before we or the Senate Judiciary Committee see her in reality, we’ll visualize that hot tamale from the courtroom TV show losing control of her fellow Hispanic hotheads.
This particular ethnic skewering seems out of character for Letterman, who often slices through idiot-think brilliantly. Maybe he was, as conservative blogger Ann Althouse suggests, “mocking the mocking of Sotomayor.” What is up? I asked a Letterman show spokesperson, who answered, “We’re going to decline comment on this.”
Whatever Dave’s intentions, the Sotomayor brand he’s helped put into play seems to have grown out of a controversial post, “The Case Against Sotomayor,” by The New Republic‘s legal correspondent Jeffrey Rosen. Relying primarily on anonymous former law clerks as sources and admitting that he didn’t research Sotomayor’s opinions much, Rosen nevertheless deduced that “the most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was ‘not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench.'” His unnamed sources, he wrote, questioned “her temperament…and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices.” One of the unnamed said another unnamed said, “she’s not the brainiest.” From that, a National Review blogger further deduced that Sotomayor is “dumb and obnoxious.”
Rosen has since backpedaled a bit, and testimonies to Sotomayor’s intellect (“she’d be the kind of justice who could change some minds”) and temperament (“one of the best mentors I’ve ever had”) are coming in from named sources. But, as Media Matters asks, in a terrific, detailed piece, “Where does Sonia Sotomayor go to get her reputation back?” A TPM commenter adds, “It’s this allegation about intelligence that most deeply plays into the hands of anti-‘affirmative action’ conservatives who just love to suggest that this woman, despite graduating summa cum laude at Princeton and so on, isn’t as smart as a white guy.”
Maybe playing fast and loose with Latino caricatures isn’t the best idea in times of plague and economic dislocation. Remember how Jews were blamed for bringing the Black Death to Europe in the 14th century, setting off the mother of all pogroms?
Last week, Maria Hinojosa, senior correspondent for NOW on PBS and managing editor of NPR’s Latino USA, spoke about how swine flu hysteria is hitting home. On New York radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show, Hinojosa said a friend of hers, a domestic worker in Spanish Harlem, told her that she was recently “hassled by groups of women who said, ‘Go ahead, tell them you’re sick.'” Later that same day, she “was hassled again on the bus, and she saw a group of women physically push a Mexican man away.”
“This has very human consequences,” said Hinojosa, who is amazed that “in 2009…all of us here, suddenly we have to protect the lives of Americanos in New York City. It’s crazy.”
Hinojosa also cited the case of Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant who was killed 10 months ago in the predominantly white town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, apparently for walking with a white woman.
“A group of teenagers beat him to a pulp, beating his head in till his brains came out,” said Hinojosa. “All of them, last week, just a few hours from here, were found nonguilty, only guilty of lesser charges, and in the courtroom when that was announced there was a crowd of cheers and applause.
“That’s the country that we live in and the area that encompasses all of us.”
Leslie Savan is the author of Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Language in Your Life, the Media, Business, Politics, and, Like, Whatever.
Private Prison as Stimulus April 6, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Economic Crisis, Human Rights, Immigration.
Tags: corrections corporation, Criminal Justice, dream act, Economic Crisis, geo, immigrant prisons, immigrants, immigration laws, immigration policies, matt kelley, prison industry, prison profits, private prisons, roger hollander, slave labor, warehousing immigrants
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Matt Kelley, http://immigration.change.org/blog
Published April 02, 2009 @ 05:00AM PST
[Change.org's Criminal Justice blogger Matt Kelley guest blogs here today about the consequences of privatization and proliferation of immigration detention. Check out Matt's blog today for my guest post there about the DREAM Act. - DB]
Cities and towns from coast to coast are struggling to stay afloat in this recession and they’re grasping for any new industry that will move to town – including one that profits from locking up immigrants, private prisons. It’s sad that the warehousing of immigrants is one of few stable industries in the United States today, but it’ll stay that way as long a cycle of profit surrounds our immigration policy.
Local governments are tripping over one another to get a piece of the private prison pie. Two news stories this week – from Baldwin County, Georgia and Morton, Mississippi – make plain the unapologetic drive of municipal governments to become prison towns to create jobs and industry when manufacturing and other industries are dying and moving away. The destructive immigration policies that siphon thousands of people into these prisons are viewed as nothing more than fodder in an economic machine.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of locking up undocumented immigrants, we could focus on enabling hard-working people to pursue their dreams and stimulate the economy through work and innovation rather than through prison profits.
Today on the Criminal Justice blog, Dave Bennion writes about the promise of the DREAM Act, which – as you know – would allow undocumented immigrants to pursue legal status through college education or military service. Passage of the DREAM Act would be a big step in the right direction, for an America that should allow us to pursue our personal and professional goals. But until progressive reforms like this take root, we’re dangling the American Dream before the eyes of millions, only to divert them to being warehoused in our private prisons, working and living for someone else’s profit.
MIGRATION-US: Strained Detention System a Virtual Black Hole March 26, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Immigration.
Tags: Amnesty International, asylum seekers, human rights, immigrants, Immigration, immigration detention, immigration review, immigration rights, marina litvinsky, migrant rights, refugee rights, roger hollander, torture survivors, Undocumented Immigrants
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By Marina Litvinsky
WASHINGTON, Mar 25 (IPS) – The U.S. government has failed to uphold international human rights standards in its detention of immigrants and asylum seekers, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) said in a report released Wednesday.
The report, “Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA,” shows that tens of thousands of people languish in U.S. immigration detention facilities every year – including a number of U.S. citizens – without receiving a hearing to determine whether their detention is warranted.
According to the report, in just over a decade, the number of immigrants in detention each day tripled from 10,000 in 1996 to more than 30,000 in 2008. Numbers are likely to increase in 2009.
The people detained include lawful permanent residents, undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers and survivors of torture and human trafficking.
“America should be outraged by the scale of human rights abuses occurring within its own borders,” said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. “Officials are locking up thousands of human beings without due process and holding them in a system that is impossible to navigate without the legal equivalent of GPS.”
“The United States has long been a country of immigrants, and whether they have been here five years or five generations, their human rights are to be respected. The U.S. government must ensure that every person in immigration detention has a hearing to determine whether that detention is necessary,” he said.
The report contends that U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been incorrectly subject to mandatory detention and spent months or years behind bars before proving they are not deportable. According to AIUSA’s research, at least 117 people have been held in mandatory detention for crimes that were ultimately determined not to be deportable offences.
Even more astounding, in 2007 alone, legal service providers identified 322 individuals in detention who may have been able to claim U.S. citizenship.
Mr. W., a U.S. citizen, was placed in immigration detention in Florence, Arizona. According to the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, he was born in Minnesota and had never left the United States in his life. Because he was detained, he did not have access to his birth certificate, and was working in the prison kitchen for a dollar a day to earn the 30 dollars it would cost to order a copy of his birth certificate. Mr. W. was finally released after being detained for over a month.
Others who are lawful residents of the U.S. languish in detention for so long that they choose to go back to countries where they are at risk of being attacked or imprisoned.
L.N., 27, was born in Afghanistan and came to the U.S. with his family as refugees when he was seven years old. He was placed in deportation proceedings and held in mandatory detention because of a drug conviction in 2007. He began urinating blood not long after, and was experiencing constant fatigue, pain and discomfort. He was first seen by a doctor a month and a half later and after nine months, he had yet to receive any diagnosis or treatment.
He told Amnesty International that he is so frustrated and afraid that he is considering giving up his claim of citizenship and going back to Afghanistan in order to obtain medical care.
“When people who may well be citizens of the United States are desperate enough to be deported to countries they don’t even know, there clearly is a breakdown of disturbing proportions within the U.S. system of immigration detention,” said Sarnata Reynolds, AIUSA’s policy director for Refugee and Migrant Rights.
Because under U.S. law, individuals in deportation proceedings may secure counsel, but at no expense to the government, the vast majority of people – 84 percent – in immigration detention do not have a lawyer, and instead represent themselves. According to AIUSA, representation by legal counsel can have a significant impact on the outcome of an individual’s case. One study found that individuals are five times more likely to be granted asylum if they are represented.
For many immigrants, release from detention is out of reach because bonds are set impossibly high.
The report states that although immigration judges have the authority in some cases to release immigrants on their own recognizance or with a minimum bond of 1,500 dollars, reports indicate that the judges are now less likely to do so.
According to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), in 2006, immigration judges in the United States declined to set bond in 14,750 cases. In 2007, the number increased to 22,254, and in the first five months of 2008, immigration judges had already refused to set bond in 21,842 cases.
To house the rapidly increasingly number of detainees, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) increasingly relies on contracts with state and county jails. Approximately 350 facilities hold up to 67 percent of all detained immigrants.
Amnesty International’s findings indicate that conditions of detention in many facilities do not meet either international human rights standards or ICE guidelines. Immigration detainees are often detained in jail facilities with barbed wire and cells, alongside those serving time for criminal convictions.
Immigrants are unnecessarily exposed to inappropriate and excessive restraints including handcuffs, belly chains, and leg restraints. Amnesty International received reports that some individuals have been subjected to physical and/or verbal abuse while held in immigration detention, in violation of international standards.
Immigrant detainees also find it difficult to get medical attention. At least 74 immigrants have died in detention during the last five years.
“Conditions in detention centres have been shown over and over again to be in violation of ICE standards and international law, but wholly absent is almost any accountability for these violations,” said Reynolds. “Immigration and Customs Enforcement must be held accountable and enact enforceable human rights standards to eliminate inappropriate and dangerous housing conditions.”
The AIUSA report, which launches the organisation’s campaign to promote and protect the human rights of immigrants, shows that the average cost of locking up an immigrant is 95 dollars per person, per day, or approximately 2,850 dollars per month, funded by taxpayers.
Alternatives to detention programmes, such as such as conditional release, reporting requirements, an affordable bond, or financial deposits, have been shown to be effective and significantly less expensive than holding people in immigration detention. A study of supervised release conducted by the Vera Institute in New York yielded a 91 percent appearance rate at an estimated cost of 12 dollars per person per day.
AIUSA calls on the U.S. government to implement its recommendations which include: ensuring that alternative non-custodial measures are always explicitly considered before resorting to detention; and ensuring the adoption of enforceable human rights detention standards in all detention facilities that house immigration detainees, either through legislation or through the adoption of enforceable policies and procedures by the Department of Homeland Security.
Though ICE has announced the publication of 41 new performance-based detention standards, which will take full effect in all facilities housing ICE detainees by January 2010, AIUSA maintains that “these are still only guidelines, don’t ensure compliance with human rights standards, and are not legally enforceable.”
“We are reviewing (the report) and are engaged in comprehensive review of detainee health care,” Cori Bassett, a public affairs officer at ICE, told IPS. “ICE has made appreciable gains by adopting detention standards,” she added, though “the care and treatment (of detainees) does not yet meet our standards of excellence.”
“(The Department of Homeland Security) and ICE is committed to measurable and sustainable progress and we pledge to ensure that it occurs,” she said.