Thursday, February 19, 2009
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano shows few signs of reining in the immigrant crackdown launched by her predecessor Michael Chertoff. She recently called for "more boots on the ground" along the border and touted her determination to promote the "rule of law" in immigration enforcement.
The "rule of law" framing of immigration policy copies the language of the Bush administration and the agenda of the immigration restrictionists. The apparent continuity between the enforcement agenda of Chertoff and Napolitano alarms advocates of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).
But Napolitano's tough talk on immigration enforcement reflects key components of the new messaging of the leading CIR advocates in Washington. As the immigration debate has shifted to the right, liberal groups like the National Immigration Forum, America's Voice, Center for American Progress, NDN, and National Council of La Raza have also been calling for an immigration reform that "secures the border" and "restores the rule of law."
As a strategy to build center-right support for comprehensive immigration reform, including legalization, the Washington, DC-based liberal immigration lobby has advocated that the Democratic Party and all immigrant-rights advocates adopt a "rule of law" framework that includes more border security and employment verification while placing the onus on immigrants themselves to "get right with the law."
The concept behind this strategic maneuvering is that Americans will support a legalization provision for illegal immigrants if the proposal is couched in tough "rule of law" language. In other words, by moving to the right immigration advocates would be better positioned to advance a liberal immigration reform. Thus far, however, this pro-immigration strategy of talking tough to advance CIR has fallen flat.
The Bush administration used the "rule of law" position on immigration to rationalize the immigrant crackdown. The Obama administration to date has shown few signs of backing away from the Bush administration's enforcement-first regimen. The "rule of law" logic of border control and immigration enforcement continues to dominate the immigration debate in America. In a Feb. 16 interview with NPR, Napolitano signaled her intention to embrace that agenda.
"First of all, the rule of law applies on the border, and we want to make sure that that happens, No. 1. That means manpower. That means technology—things like ground sensors. It means interior enforcement against those who intentionally are going into the illegal labor market and creating a demand for illegal laborers, so that's all going to continue. How we do that may change with me as a new secretary, but we want to make sure the rule of law is applied, and it's applied fairly and forcefully across the border."Like Chertoff, who frequently explained the Bush administration's "enforcement-first" regime as an effort to "restore integrity" to immigration law and border control and thereby create a foundation for immigration reform, Napolitano sees enforcement and border control as laying the groundwork for immigration reform.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
“We find that persons confined suffer harm or the risk of serious harm from deficiencies in the facility’s provision of medical and mental health care, suicide prevention, protection of inmates from harm, fire safety, and sanitation.”
“The Detention Center, through PNA, provides inadequate medical services in the following areas: intake, screening, and referral; acute care; emergent care; chronic and prenatal care; and medication administration and management. As a result, inmates at the Detention Center with serious medical needs are at risk for harm.”
(Read entire report on PNA’s Medical Gulag at: http://sites.google.com/site/transborderproject/medical-claims-and-malpractice-at-west-texas-immigrant-prison )
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The Reeves County Detention Center started burning again on Wednesday night, and the billowing clouds of smoke could be seen for many miles across the northern reaches of the Chihuahua Desert. Nothing but abandoned ranch houses, still oil pumps, and endless stretches of creosote and tar bush -- except for a prison for immigrants on fire.
Reeves County officials and residents are worried. The prison, which is owned by the county and located outside of the county seat of Pecos, is about the only font of "economic development" the county has left.
The glory days of Pecos are long since gone. Residents remember when farmers used to drive into Pecos in Cadillacs when taking their cotton to the railroad depot, and when the area was known for its sweet cantaloupe and rugged ranchers. But the farm and ranch boom ended in the early 1960s when the water wells ran dry. Nine inches of annual rainfall over the millenenia did create underground pools of sweet water, but several decades of intensive farming and ranching left these high plains dry and dusty.
The oil boom spurred new development in the 1970s and 1980s but hundreds of pumps silhouetted against endless horizon stand dark and still. High gas prices fueled a brief boom in 2007 and early 2008, but the signs of that brief boom are evident only to locals.
The county clerk's office buzzed with activity as speculators and representatives from oil companies in Midland and Odessa searched county land records looking to gain rights to oil fields that might again produce black gold if barrel prices rose about $150 or more. The few hotels that front the interstate were renting rooms at weekly and monthly rates to oil services workers who came to Pecos hoping for another one of the town's boom times.
In the early 1990s the town fathers envisioned another economic boom for Pecos. This time, though, not development dependent on nonrenewable resources -- water, oil, earth of the arid plains -- but on a resource that seemed to be ever rising in modern America. They dreamed of making Pecos a destination for prisoners.
They could offer a remote location, a county willing to issue nearly $100 million in revenue bonds for prison construction, and a downtrodden, , desperate, despairing workforce left behind by previous booms. All this would make Pecos "competitive," as county officials say, in a national market that seemed bust-proof.
Not only was the system of crime and punishment in America producing tens of thousands of more prisoners every year. The number of detained and imprisoned immigrants was also rising exponentially. The year that the first of the three Reeves County prisons opened Congress was passing legislation that would start a new era of criminalizing immigrants. With nearly a million illegal immigrants streaming into the country each year, the demand for prisons to hold these immigrants until deportation seemed boundless.
Initially called the Law Enforcement Center with capacity of some 900 "criminal aliens," Reeves County has expanded the prison to three units with a total capacity of more than 3,700. The contracts with the Bureau of Prisons and GEO Group and the revenue bonds note that this may be just the beginning of the dream of making Reeves County the nation's immigrant prison capital. Someday, the prison may expand to 7,000 prison beds if all goes well.
Although owned by Reeves County, the detention center is managed and operated by GEO Group, the world's second largest prison corporation.
Now the dreams of county officials and many county residents are going up in smoke.
On Dec. 12 prisoners rioted after an inmate died. Rioting inmates presented a series of complaints to the prison officials and to the Mexican consulate centering on demands for better health care. GEO and county officials assured the public that control was reestablished and prisoner complaints were being evaluated and attended to.
But on Saturday Jan. 30 prisoners again rioted, setting fire to various buildings and causing heavy damage. On Monday morning GEO issued a statement asserting that there had been a "positive outcome." According to GEO Group's John Hurley, "We're close to resolving this issue. We're going to meet with them again and we think that everything will be resolved today."
On Thursday morning, even as plumes of smoke began rising again from the prison, the county issued a reassuring statement, asserting that "during the past twenty-four hours progress has continued toward returning the facility to more normal operations." What is more, "It is expected that the remainder of the population will be processed to the designated housing area throughout the day....Inmates have engaged in no renewed disruptive behavior and have cooperated with staff as the repositioning process is completed."
But even as the county judge's office was handing out its latest statement, fire trucks and county deputies were speeding out to the prison, sirens blaring and lights flashing.
Photos by Tom Barry