Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Immigrant Detention Centers -Again!

I'm behind on my reading, but I got this from Pacific News Service.

A Halliburton subsidiary has a $385 million contract to build large-scale immigrant detention centers. Apparently, Homeland Security is worried about an "emergency influx of immigrants" and thinks that the best thing to do with such an influx would be to detain them until they figure out what to do. The Halliburton website says this: the detention centers "provide for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs". One of these centers opened in Tacoma on April 7; there are others in Boston and south Texas as well. I'm sure there are more.

Uh oh. Opened to do what? What programs are we implementing here, exactly? And how do we know that civil liberties of citizens will be protected? Certainly our long-ish term history of the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II suggests that we forget the "niceties" of citizens' rights occasionally. Certainly, our near-term history suggests that the current administration cares not the slightest about civil liberties. Illegal wire-tapping, anyone?

So, in a nutshell, we have here nepotism, a huge contract awarded to a company documented to have wasted untold amounts of taxpayer money, and a dubious enterprise from the get-go. I'm not really surprised, but I am exhausted. What should a fair-minded, liberally-inclined person do?

First, we have to acknowledge that there have been immigrant detention centers for a very long time. The first thing that happens when a person gets off the plane and asks for asylum is that person is put in a detention center. As I've mentioned before, the care that a person gets there isn't always what one would hope (Give Me Your Tired). So, informing oneself is a good beginning. If you want a fictionalized account of a true story, watch Chasing Freedom. If you want something more straight-forward, you might read Mark Dow's American Gulag.

But read fast, because we really need to move past information-gathering to action. Who's working with activist leadership training in immigrant communities? Those people need to be supported. The Catholic church has actually stepped up to the plate on this issue. How might a person connect with actual social change in that context? Personally, I'm looking for something beyond rallies and marches, but they can be important too. What's up with the immigrant detention facility in Chicago? There must be one. Where is it? Who's monitoring it? These questions have answers, I suppose. I'll see what I can track down.

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