Activists Demand Immediate End To Deportations! Reunite Families!
By Ann Montague
President Biden has been signing numerous Executive Orders. But a closer look shows they contain no immediate solutions. Instead they merely refer issues to a governmental body or create a task force for further study. Meanwhile, Trump’s reactionary policies remain in force.
A March 15 New York Times article entitled “Migrant Cascade Worsen Near U.S. Border” was explicit:
“Over the past week, Mexican officials and shelter operators like the International Organization of Migration said they had been surprised by the Department of Homeland Security’s new practice of detaining migrants at one point of the sprawling border only to fly them hundreds of miles away to be expelled at a different border town.”
The Times continued: “The United States is doing this under a federal order known as Title 42. The order, introduced by Mr. Trump but embraced by Mr. Biden, justifies rapid expulsions as a health measure amid the pandemic.”
Times reporter Maria Abi-Habib disagreed stating. “But cramming migrants into airplanes and overcrowded detention facilities without any coronavirus testing defeats the purpose of [Trump’s] Title 42, observers say.”
Abi-Habib added, “Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, said that the American authorities had seen ‘an increase in encounters’ but that to adhere to [Trump’s] federal guidelines for Covid-19, border officials were ‘expeditiously’ transferring migrants out of their custody,” that is far away from the Mexican border.
Similarly, the Biden administration has made little or no progress regarding the separation of children from their parents with some thousands of near terrified children remaining in squalid U.S. detention centers. U.S. immigration rights activists continue to demand immediate government action on this most critical issues as well as the closure of the private prisons used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Biden’s promises for “review and planning” notwithstanding, hundreds are deported daily, in continuity with the egregious practices of Trump and Obama before him.
Aura Bogado from the Center For Investigative Reporting, notes that President Biden has called only for a “Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Task Force” on family separation. She points out, “This is the same agency that separated children from their parents in the first place. Now they are the ones tasked with figuring out where these families are when they never had a reunification plan in the first place? Biden campaigned on opposing family separations. The idea that we need a task force, when Biden has the House and the Senate rings hollow to a lot of people. If you compare Obama and Trump just on the numbers alone, one President deported far more than the other, and that was Obama [who deported three million immigrants, Editor]. So we will see what Biden does.”
Erika Pinheiro the Litigation Director of Al Otro Lado is assisting families on both sides of the border. She responds to media statements that there are 600 families who are separated. “There are well-over 600 if you count children who have been put in foster care and parents who were forcibly deported. There could easily be over a thousand families. I was disappointed to see that the task force has 120 days until their first report. That is four months of study! We are in touch with families now! They have been vetted; they are ready to return. We have no indication that they will bring back the families who were deported without their children.” There is great concern among those already working to reunite families that the Task Force is more than a delay; it is just political posturing.
Bogado also points out that the Executive Order to end all new contracts with for profit private prison companies applies only to the Department Of Justice not ICE.
Immigration detention should never mean imprisonment because it was technically never a crime. Immigrants were being held on civil charges. But in 2005 through a joint initiative of the DHS and Department of Justice a program called Operation Streamline was formed. This set up fast tracked immigration offenses by providing for mass proceedings against unlawful border crossings. As many as 80 persons were tried together, generally pleading guilty en masse. The first entry was a misdemeanor punished by six months in prison. Reentry became a felony punished by up to 20 years. Prior to Operation Streamline they would have been returned to their home country unless they had committed a felony. Today they are among the ever-increasing racist U.S. mass incarcerated population of 2.2 million people – the largest number and percentage of the population in the world!
The Tucson, Arizona-based immigrant rights organization, Derechos Humanos, has for years encouraged supporters to sit in courtrooms en masse to observe Operation Streamline’s inhumane processing of immigrants, often among Latin America’s most poor and oppressed and all essentially victims of U.S. imperialism’s neo-colonial policies that foster underdevelopment, poverty and exploitation. These “legal” courtroom proceedings are indeed shocking to observe. Large groups of men, 80-90 at a time, are shackled to each other to appear before a judge without a lawyer or due process after having been compelled to sign “plea bargain” agreements presented to them in English prior to walking into the courtroom. They are then convicted, officially designated as persons with a U.S. prison record, sentenced and quickly ushered to private prisons. Operation Streamline and the criminalization of immigrants has made record profits for corporations like the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America. Without doubt no Biden executive order will end either Operation Streamline, the criminalization of immigrants or the private prison system.
Call to action
More than 160 immigration and criminal justice groups across the country are calling for an end to Operation Streamline, mass sentencing and for a suspension of unauthorized entry and reentry prosecution. They demand the termination of DHS contracts with private prisons. Ten of thousands of activists have protested the inhumane treatment of immigrants over the last four years. They increasingly understand that yet another government “task force” to study the “problem” is no remedy at all. The capitalist system requires cheap labor, immigrant labor, prison labor and non-union labor to survive and prosper. Immigrants and the poor are tragically among those most likely to be infected with the COVID-19 virus, to be without heath care, to be forced back to work with the least protection and to be constantly at the mercy of racist police and the spectrum of border police, ICE and Homeland Security officials who exist to keep them compliant, passive and subordinate. The vast anti-racist and democratic rights protests of last summer inform us that major fightback struggles are on the agenda today.
Join the fight for immigrant rights!
End all deportations! No human being is illegal!
End Operation Streamline!
Close all private profit prisons!
Open the borders! Empty the prisons filled with capitalism’s victims.