June 7, 2008
Immigrant Crackdowns and the National Security State
An important essay by Roberto Lovato:
Most explanations of the relentless pursuit of undocumented immigrants since 9/11 view it as a response to the continuing pressures of angry, mostly white, citizens. The “anti-immigrant climate” created by civic groups like the Minutemen, politicos like (name the Republican candidate of your choice) and media personalities like CNN’s Lou Dobbs, we are told, has led directly to the massive – and growing – government bureaucracy for policing immigrants.
The Washington Post, for example, told us in 2006 that “The Minutemen rose to prominence last year when they began organizing armed citizen patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move credited with helping to ignite the debate that has dominated Washington in recent months.”
Along the way to allegedly responding to “grassroots” calls about “real immigration reform” and “doing something about illegals,” the Bush Administration dismantled the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and created the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, whose more than 15,000 employees and $5.6 billion budget make it the largest investigative component of the Department of Homeland Security and the second largest investigative agency in the federal government after the FBI.2 In the process of restructuring, national security concerns regarding threats from external terrorist enemies got mixed in with domestic concerns about immigrant “invaders” denounced by a growing galaxy of anti-immigrant interests. Click here for the rest of the piece.
June 7, 2008 | Permalink
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His 9/11 theory has a big hole--based on government statistics, enforcement was extremely low from 2002-2004, a little higher in 2005, and didn't pick up until 2006 & 2007. What was going on legislatively with immigration in '06 and '07? Thus, the stats point more to a theory of politically laying the groundwork for CIR by trying to convince the public that enforcement has picked up sufficiently to proceed with CIR. There is also the theory that high profile enforcement like raids are intended to rally supporters of CIR including providing CIR-favoring media material for purple prose.
I agree with the author that immigration detention is a growth area in corporate welfare/cronyism. This fits the Bush Administration profile but Lovato doesn't address (unless I missed it) the apparent contradiction of heavy enforcement with a simultaneous policy goal of maintaining cheap imported labor. Aside from the CIR-related theories mentioned above, the contradiction can be explained by the focus on border and interior ‘after the alien is here’ enforcement which as a % does minuscule change to the cheap labor flow. The corporate welfare recipients don't receive as much from a budget tilted more toward employer-based prevention and, even worse, it would deter illegal hiring and negatively affect the cheap labor supply. But in the absence of that and in the meantime, a lot of money can be made in this enforcement industry. An imperfect analogy is broker ‘churning’—a lot of activity with high cost but little or no benefit to the client (in this case us citizen taxpayers). The result is expensive and ineffective policy for the American people but will this immigration complex recede with a new administration? That’s certainly never been the case with the military industrial complex and is already set for no change with either Obama or McCain.
Posted by: Jack | Jun 8, 2008 5:31:19 AM