The United States’ Illegal Slaves

By: Grainne Rhuad

In the United States today, there is increasingly a culture of unwelcome. In 2010, the U.S. deported a record 392,862 immigrants.

Just before Christmas, the DREAM Act, a bill to help young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, failed a vote in the U.S. Senate.

“Though the international community has set standards for protecting refugees—those fleeing war or political persecution—there are no provisions for “economic migrants.” However, to a parent whose child is malnourished or dying from a preventable disease, the threat is no less real than a bullet or a bomb. ~ And yet we are at a tipping point in the U.S. United States citizens are having the same hard times. We are also being preached to by media outlets, politicians, churches and neighbors that this is not our concern. Our concern it seems is “us”.

In the coming year, the Obama administration is planning to deport hundreds of Haitians from detention centers in the U.S. to jails in Haiti, where they risk contracting cholera. Several states are expected to debate Arizona-type legislation.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  This is about race and money.  Race because someone from the U.K. has practically no problem getting a visa. The same is true for Norway, France and Italy.  But if you are a person of color, and poor to
boot…forget about it.  People from our own colonies in places like Guam and Puerto Rico have a hard time moving to theU.S. Migrant workers make our country work.  In a country which was economically founded
on slave labor, it is the only way to come close to this slavery which we have lost.  Without immigrant workers in our fields, factories and construction we would not be prosperous.  Some people still cannot get this.  Take Glen Beck for an example, who recently dismissed the importance of Cesar Chavez on his talk radio show. Stating plans to name a naval ship after him was tantamount to shooting unborn fetuses out of cannons.

It would also be delusional at this point to believe that only tea partiers and other fringe groups are for closing borders for all reasons.  We have become a nation which espouses the ‘unwelcome guest’ policy and many who think this way hide behind their elementary understanding of the constitution.  “We are a nation of laws,” they say.  However being a nation of laws doesn’t mean we are a moral or compassionate one. We were also a nation of laws when slavery was legal, when women could not vote and when Jim Crow laws ruled the South.  We are still a  nation of laws when a third strike will keep a person in prison for life regardless of how small that crime is-think receiving stolen goods unknowingly.

It’s been easy to point fingers at individual border states like Arizona who authored SB170 which would give them the right to harass and humiliate anyone who was seemingly ‘un-American’ by requiring identification and paperwork to show citizenship or visa.

One would hope that we all understand how immigrant labor makes and saves us money on a daily basis.
Farm workers, household staff and factory workers are in no position to complain about minimum wage.  They don’t
form unions and they readily take extra shifts doing jobs nobody else wants to do.  The idea being sold to middle
America that Latin American immigrants are taking jobs that could be theirs is dead wrong.   It has been readily
documented that Wal-Mart, “America’s low price leader” hires, abuses and attempts to hide migrant workers while paying them substandard wages.

However there is also big business in imprisoning illegals in the U.S.   Privately owned prisons across the country currently house illegal immigrants and receive federal dollars for their stay.  Money which according to the
government we don’t have enough of to keep our own criminals detained.

Private companies in the United States operate 264 correctional facilities, housing almost 99,000 adult offenders. Companies operating such facilities include the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Inc, and Community Education Centers. The GEO Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Securities, and includes the Cornell Companies, which merged with GEO in 2010.

Citing an Urban Institute study, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies Steven Camorata noted in 2004: “Roughly 17 percent of the prison population at the federal level are illegal aliens.  It’s important to note that this is at the federal level.  Overall it is estimated undocumented individuals make up 27-30 percent of the prison population.

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street.  And we all know Wall Street doesn’t give a damn whether its workers are illegal aliens or not, cash is king, and they are rolling in dough.

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce.  The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

But that’s not all. According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.

A lot of these products are finding their way to the very border these immigrants passed over, being used by immigration patrols to keep them safe and to supposedly keep everyone else out.

It’s clearly in nobody’s interest to stem the flow of immigration.  To do so would cost a lot of our companies
dearly.  It would also piss off the families of soldiers serving overseas whose sons and daughters can’t get enough
equipment for fight a bloody endless war for more resources we think we can’t live without.

If you have ever wondered when the time will come when slavery will return to the U.S.of A, wonder no more.  The time is now.  More importantly ask yourselves this: If the borders are effectively closed who will fill the gap left in manpower?

Americans when they hear the statistics on undocumented individuals in prison automatically assume it is due to the fact they have committed a crime.  This is partly true; they are here in the U.S. illegally which is currently a crime.
Not addressed however is why they are not deported to their country of origin.  The reason is because they are
making private companies money.

According to Tom Barry from The Center for International Policy: “There isn’t a real precise definition of criminal aliens. The general definition is that these are non-citizens who have committed crimes, either immigrants who are illegal or legal immigrants that have committed crimes. However, the definition – the working definition – has expanded dramatically since 1996, when they added a whole new level of criminal violations that mean that a criminal violation is not only faced criminal consequences for that but then is deported, but more particularly, since 2005, that simple border-crossers, illegal border-crossers, are now criminal aliens and are not just deported – put over the border – but spend time in prison first, before they’re deported.”

Time spent making money for Wall Street and stockholders. Where previously, most immigrants who were picked up for crossing illegally were just put across, back across the border, they are now being incarcerated in privatized prisons which accept federal funding in addition to turning a profit for whatever goods or services they create.

There are organizations working to bring this issue to light.  The Mennonite Committee, a long standing pro-immigration group had this to say on their homepage:

“Mennonite Central Committee (originally formed to work with people uprooted in the aftermath of World War
I) continues to provide resources to immigrants and refugees of all faiths in the United States, Canada and many other countries.

In Washington, MCC encourages U.S. government officials to fix the laws that make it impossible for many immigrant and asylum seeker families to successfully navigate the U.S. legal system. It also encourages
immigration and border policies that focus on community accountability, humane enforcement and system-wide approaches.”

They also make this strong statement on their activism page: Mennonite Church USA has roots in seventeenth-century churches planted by immigrants from Europe. Our church continues to grow and be enlivened by immigrants who join us from many countries. As Christians, we believe we are called to welcome these sojourners in our congregations and communities, especially as our government creates increasingly harsh immigration laws in the name of fighting terrorism. Assumptions about identity make some people more vulnerable to political biases
and discrimination than others. Our concerns about the status of immigrants in this country relate to how people are treated based on race, nationality, ethnicity, and religious identity.

We reject our country’s mistreatment of immigrants, repent of our silence, and commit ourselves to act with and on
behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, regardless of their legal status.”

The Mennonites also take their stance on immigration from their scripture:“When a stranger sojourns with you in
your land, you shall not do [the stranger] wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love [the stranger] as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt…” (Leviticus
19:33, 34). We affirm that God has called us to welcome immigrants, because all of us are sojourners (Exodus 23:9, Deuteronomy 24:17, 18). We believe that when we welcome strangers, we welcome Jesus (Matthew 25:35).”

The summer months (May-July) or “death season” usually result in the greatest number of fatalities.  In 2004 the Department of Homeland Security reported 138 deaths. One should assume there were more as it is unlikely they reported all of them or were even aware of those who died of heat stroke, childbirth, naturally occurring injury as in snake bites or exposure and organized crime.  Many families in border states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California are affected.  Towns straddle the border and in a lot of cases families living in what used to be the same town can no longer move freely to visit one another.

To bring awareness to this The MCC has been supporting The Migrant Trail Walk of Life. This is their statement on the project:

“The Migrant Trail: We Walk for Life was the idea of three people who decided to first do the walk in 2004 as an act
of solidarity with migrants and to raise awareness about the deaths and terrible plight that migrants face. A total of 30 people did the entire walk the first year, approximately 50 the following year, and nearly 75 in 2006. All four years have had more than 100 walkers join the walk for the final leg into Tucson. Walkers have come from many states and countries, and represent a wide diversity of race, age, religion, and political affiliation.

Community support for the walk has been overwhelming. Each year more organizations have helped organize the walk. The Walk itself has been an important community building experience with walkers organized into teams which cover all aspects of the journey. Many walkers have commented that the camaraderie experienced during the walk was the best part of all.

The Migrant Trail Walk is not intended to simulate the experience migrants face as they cross the gauntlet of death. Walkers are accompanied by support vehicles, unlimited food and water, and medical attention: things that the migrants themselves desperately lack. However, by walking more than 75 miles in the hot summer sun the walkers try to make a small contribution that will someday lead to change on the border.

MCC participated, jointly with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in the Migrant Trail for the first time in 2006. MCC’s participation in the Migrant Trail promotes local partnership and the opportunity to raise awareness in the broader community”

It is indeed something we should all be holding close to us because without the immigration of our forbearers we would not be U.S. citizens ourselves.  To ignore this is to ignore the true message of our fledgling country.  Also if we are going to ignore this we should change the script at Ellis Island. You know, the “Give me your poor, hungry, tired and yearning to break free.” It seems downright hypocritical to ignore at this point the very thing that makes our
country unique.

Our love hate relationship with the border has a lot to do with money and how we both make it and spend it.   We may not care to think about it but immigrants, even illegal ones, perhaps especially illegal ones are keeping us afloat.

 

 

http://washington.mcc.org/issues/immigration

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/20/nyregion/20haitians.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

http://www.thirdway.com/wv/?Page=6016_A+Culture+of+Unwelcome

http://www.mennoniteusa.org/Home/ChurchwidePriorities/StatementonImmigration/tabid/111/Default.aspx

http://mycuentame.org/2011/05/23/glenn-beck-compares-cesar-chavez-to-joseph-stalin/

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8289

http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=121248709

http://bostonreview.net/BR34.6/barry.php

10 Comments on “The United States’ Illegal Slaves”

  1. Thanks so much for bringing attention to this issue. You’ve talked about an issue I’ve been oppossed to for some time now (3 strikes laws) which is costing America more that we know. The effects these laws have on us fiscally, but more importantly, emotionally and psychologically are staggering. The effects are slow and subtle at times. That’s why correcting this mistake doesn’t keep much traction in the general public. I’ve learned much more about immigrant imprissonment and the Mennonites than I would have expected from your title. I think that the general population in our country is insulated from these issues. I firmly believe that when people are directly effected by these issues they will take action. Until then there will continue to be a disconnect.

  2. @PBugnackiLCSW- you hold a high view of our population. I do not believe people will do more when it starts to affect them. A. It already does but people are too placated to notice. B. By the time someone is affected to the point of complaint it is usually too late as they or their loved ones are already incarcerated and making helmets for the military.

  3. I’ve felt for some time that if any Christian organization was to save the US from complete moral bankruptcy, it was the Quakers and the Mennonites. They are steadfast in their refusal to join war; any war, no matter how idealistic one or the other side sounds. They are courageous in their willingness to serve as mediators of peace. They are willing to accept that human behavior is fallible and do not set themselves up as judges or jury, deciding who shall be forgiven and who is condemned. They understand, i think, that we each make our own torment, carry our own burden of guilt. We might think there are those who don’t really carry any punishment of torment for their wrong actions, but they do. It’s why people who are apparently secure in their lofty positions, keep secrets, lie, drink too much and must see psychiatrists for their sleep disorders.

    One of the curious things about this present attitude concerning immigration is that America is one of the areas that has a shrinking population. Their are fewer people to fill housing; even though we have a record number of homeless; a smaller work force paying into the social security fund, and in some areas, even school populations are shrinking to the point where some schools are closed down and the students transferred to another. These conditions will compound at least over the next twenty years as the last few generations have progressively had fewer and fewer children.

    It doesn’t take much of a background in math to figure out that these future projections mean big trouble if we don’t progressively scale down demand; which also means dwindling down projected income; to match the decreasing population or to stimulate population growth by allowing immigration. The solution has been to pass more prohibitive laws, increasing the risk of fines or confinement so as to wring out the last bit of soluble income before tossing the victims of lawless laws aside as so much refuse.

    We are a nation of laws… we are all nations of laws, some with laws more sensibly confined, benevolent and socially oriented than others. We are a nation of lawlessness when we remove morals, ethics, compassion and consideration for others from our laws and make it a purely profit making society.

  4. Wonderful article G. I love your Mennonite illustration, not to mention the scriptures quoted. For a while, I was undecided on the immigrant issue. But good articles like this really tell the story.

  5. karlsie said, “One of the curious things about this present attitude concerning immigration is that America is one of the areas that has a shrinking population.”

    I have to ask karlsie, “are you living is some cloistered group?” Since 1970, a mere 40 years ago, the US population has grown from 205 million to 310 million today; and Census Bureau projects that we will add another 149 million by 2050. How on earth did you come to the conclusion that the US, “has a shrinking population?” You should note that the Census Bureau’s projections includes the deaths of the post WWII baby boom generation.

    All of this horrendous, destructive growth was not the result of increased fertility of US citizens. It’s the result of Congressionally mandated legal immigration combined with Congressional, Presidential and Judicial refusal to enforce immigration law and stop the massive influx of illegal aliens. In just 80 years US population will have increased over 120%; that’s hardly a decreasing population, and hardly the result of a desire on the part of US citizens to have such growth.

    karlsie and everyone else visit NumbersUSA.org for honest, unbiased information on population growth and its source.

  6. Paul, i probably should have been a little more explicit in my explanation. By “shrinking population”, i was referring to the number of children born to US citizens on US soil. These numbers have been dwindling generationally. As more and more of the baby boomers reach retirement years, the proportion of retirees will put an enormous strain on the work force, which is why the retirement age is gradually being bumped up.

    I live in an area that has been over-developed. The city planners used the data for the last twenty years to estimate exponential growth that didn’t come. Now, houses sit on the market four to five years before selling and usually the owner settles for a much smaller sum than had originally been planned. I don’t think my community is an isolated example.

    Projections that include immigration without making adjustments for a) decreased immigration, which we are currently witnessing and b) fewer children born to US citizens, are in error. They did not include the variables. They only way the US population will increase in any significant amounts by 2050 is if we continue immigration or if the US youth of today should suddenly decide to start having numerous children.

    I’m not an advocate of liberal child production. The world is staggering under its billions now, but the truth is population boom has reached its peak in most countries. Even China is beginning to see the effects of population control as their one-child only begins taking effect, and their largest population is pushing middle age and retirement years. With war, disease and intense poverty taking its toll, i think we better start looking forward at current trends instead of backwards at the explosive seventies.

  7. Glen Beck is the new Whitman …. wonderful article, so much to think about … I live near a Quaker Church and often drive by it, and every time I do, there is someone standing there with a sign saying to stop the war and bring back our young men and women .. Lincoln freed no one .. money wins .. the lowest bid wins .. and Walmart is the new model for democracy … indifference wins every time .. Liberty Bells are made in China .. why pay a fair price for a towel made in America when you can get one made from Vietnam, where the child at the loom is 9 years old … our souls and democracy have been taken over by business and robber barons and lawyers who know no idea of fairness or concern for the huddled masses .. they only profit by making sure this is the fastest growing demographic …. it was said that “the business of America is business” … and anything that benefits business will win .. America is in decline … and no one seems able or willing to correct a course that they refuse to see as evil …. thanks for researching and writing this, you are good ….

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