Immigration

Immigrants aren't the real threat in the United States — ICE and the Border Patrol are

President Joe Biden has been lauded for his empathetic comforter-in-chief responses to the ravages of the coronavirus, economic pain and gun violence. But anyone worried about the fate of non-citizens in the US, or at the border, has observed not empathy but a toxic mix of indifference and willful commitment to pointlessly punitive policies.

From a failure to rescind the former president's Title 42, causing almost all recent asylum-seekers to be expelled from the US, to his equivocation on the 2021 refugee cap, it's almost impossible to find good news about immigration policy in 2021.

Biden isn't exceptional. For Democrats, "border security" is a familiar posture, whether or not immigration reform is on the table. Bill Clinton presided over the creation of a legal architecture leading to mass immigrant incarceration. Barack Obama pushed the limits of the deportation infrastructure that was built in the interim, deporting more people from this country than any president to this day.

But the very phrase "border security" is misleading, training our minds on ominous-sounding but imaginary threats from outside the US and distracting us from the very real threat posed by an enormous militarized force charged with policing immigration.

In fact, much of the devastation causing people to flee triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) is the direct result of the deportation of gangs formed in the US (notably, MS-13 and Barrio 18) as well as American interference with those three countries dating back to the early 20th century. Today, we're told we need border security forces to prevent trafficking, among other crimes. Too often, though, it is the border police themselves engaging in trafficking and related criminal activity.

Two agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), are responsible for policing immigration. They decide who gets arrested, who gets hearings, who is deported, and who will be jailed indefinitely. They are huge, awash in cash, poorly supervise and incentivized to be maximally cruel.

CBP alone constitutes the largest federal law enforcement agency in the US. Together, the two agencies consume nearly $20 billion a year, a non-trivial portion of which goes to shadowy private companies like Geo Group and Core Civic for incarceration and, increasingly, for so-called e-carceration that can transform any home or neighborhood into a penal outpost, often with very little protection for anyone's data privacy.

Even when they don't outsource their work, we underestimate the dangers posed by ICE and CBP. ICE is reported to generate thousands of sexual and physical abuse complaints each year. CBP agents are more famous for indifference to law. They are five times more likely to be arrested than other law enforcement agents. They have been found illegally cooperating with citizen militias that dress in police costumes and "patrol" areas where they think they'll encounter people they can harass and abuse.

CBP's lawless culture is likely in part an outcome of the fact that the US Congress and the US Supreme Court have affirmed a distinct interpretation of the 4th Amendment that gives CBP leeway, in many instances, to stop, search and question people without warrants or the kinds of suspicion required of all other law enforcement agents. Last year, CBP drones were seen flying over protesters in Minneapolis. ICE has also targeted and harassed journalists and lawyers who specialize in immigration issues.

Deportation and detention may sound like problems for only non-citizens and mixed-status households, but as long as deportation forces have existed, those same forces have arrested and sometimes expelled US citizens. In the case of ICE, the number of citizens targeted for deportation is quite high. The Cato Institute estimates that over the course of 11 years, it is likely that more than 20,000 citizens were issued ICE "detainers" (i.e., requests from ICE or DHS to local law enforcement to keep people incarcerated who would otherwise be released so that ICE agents can pursue them).

There are many reasons that we find ourselves living with two sprawling immigration police forces that each year encroach further on the basic civil rights and safety of everyone in the US. But one important reason is that their very existence implies threats from outsiders that do not exist. For all the money, weapons and power that CBP and ICE have claimed, they have not reduced crime rates, ended the illegal narcotics trade, prevented the flow and use of deadly weapons, or in any other way made people safer. To the contrary, all too often is the immigration police who are committing crimes, trafficking illegal substances and compromising our security.

How the right wing invented a fictional 'migration crisis' — and tricked us into believing it

Most people seem to have accepted the truth about the so-called war on drugs. By that, I mean it was never about drugs. Its true target was non-white people, especially Black people. Its goal was social control. Slavery gave way to Jim Crow, which gave way to the mass incarceration of "undesirables." Illegal drugs were merely a pretext. These days, states are legalizing drugs. Some are even releasing people convicted of drug crimes. In all, we seem to be experiencing a new age of drug enlightenment.

I hope it does not take most people as long with "border security." Like the "war on drugs," it's not about security. It's about social control. It's about having a legal reason to put non-white people in jail, kicking them out or just acting barbarously toward them. Drugs did not threaten the national interest until the government said they did. Same with the southern border. People used to pass freely, wherever the seasonal work took them. It did not threaten the national interest until the government said it did.

If it isn't already, please permit me to make it clear. When the Republicans talk about "illegal immigrants," they're not talking about illegal action. They're giving voice to their real objectives. They want to punish immigrants for who they are. They can't outlaw them outright, of course. The Congress, the law, the courts and popular opinion would prevent that from happening. But they can expand the scope of political conflict so that legal behavior seems illegal, thus forcing the government to respond. The result is billions spent every year on securing a border that will never be secure. The result is billions wasted annually on punching down on the poor, the weak and the brown.

For instance, "unlawful entry." That's the offense of crossing the border without proper authorization. It's a misdemeanor. (I'm serious.) So is overstaying your work or student visa. These are crimes, to be sure, but hardly serious crimes. They don't rise to the level of a felony. They are not deserving of being ripped from one's family or community—presuming the point of the law is justice. It isn't for the Republicans. The point is dominance. So for a decade and more, they have expanded the meaning of a minor criminal offense so that it looks like a dangerous way-of-life threatening crime.

The same thing is being done to "refugees." Fact: Anyone traveling to the southern border to request political asylum is a temporary legal immigrant. Full stop. That's the law. Indeed, the statute requires US Customs and Border Protection to open a process by which the agency tries reconnecting refugees with family in the US. But what began with the Trump administration is being continued by the GOP. Anyone traveling to the southern border is being called "illegal," even if they're children. Another fact: Every one of those 22,000 migrant children in government custody is here legally.

The same thing is happening with respect to the "open border." Fact: There is no such thing. It is a complete fiction. The border is tightly regulated. The Democrats in the Congress are not trying to open it. The Biden administration wants nothing to do with the idea. What it does, however, is follow laws entitling asylum-seekers to a legal process. But because the Republicans have defined refugees as "illegal," that gives the impression the administration, which is following the law, is opening the border.

If 22,000 children are refugees, if they're entitled to ask for asylum and if the government is required by law to try connecting eligible refugees to family if possible, why is everyone talking about a "migration crisis"? Great question! There is currently no such thing as a migration crisis. Yet our national discourse is dominated by this fiction.

Partly, it's because the press corps is laundering right-wing talking points in order to get a reaction out of a Democratic administration. Partly, it's out of genuine concern about "social cohesion."1 But mostly, it's because the Republicans have expanded the scope of conflict by way of nonstop lying. It has made legal action seem illegal. Which brings us back to "border security." It's not about security. It's now about forcing a Democratic administration into acting in ways preferred by the Republican Party.

It nearly worked. The White House said last week it would cap the number of refugees allowed into the country at the same level established by the previous administration, at 15,000. This is almost certainly the result of the Republicans making it seem like the Biden administration was opening the border even as it was merely following the law. Fortunately, there was an enormous reaction from not just liberals but moderates like Dianne Feinstein. By Friday, the White House reversed course and did so in a hurry.

This seems to be the first step in a process that might bring "border security" to a similar level of awareness that the war on drugs has achieved. That first step is refusing to give liars the benefit of the doubt. Drugs were never a threat to the national interest. Immigrants will never be either. What is a national threat, however, is the harmful Republican pursuit of "border security" that just makes everyone less free.

'Unconscionable': How progressive blowback moved Biden on refugees

President Joe Biden angered progressives so much when the White House announced week that it would keep former President Donald Trump's historically low cap on refugee admissions despite vowing to increase the number by more than 400% after taking office that he was forced to walk it all back within hours.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had formally notified Congress that the cap would be lifted for this year on February 12. But Biden, at first ignoring growing pressure from Democrats to lift the cap, signed an emergency presidential declaration on Friday keeping the number of refugees for the Trump-era refugee cap at 15,000 just two months after promising to raise it to 62,500. The U.S. accepted nearly 85,000 refugees the year before Trump's election.

Friday's declaration was meant to speed up the processing of refugees approved for admission but an administration official told CNN that Biden will not lift the cap at all this year despite repeated assurances from the White House that the president remains committed to his promise. The move comes as the United States is on pace to admit the fewest number of refugees in modern history despite Biden's repeated vow to reverse his predecessor's policies, which Democrats decried for years as racist and xenophobic.

"It is simply unacceptable and unconscionable that the Biden administration is not immediately repealing Donald Trump's harmful, xenophobic, and racist refugee cap that cruelly restricts refugee admissions to a historic low," Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement on Friday. "By failing to sign an Emergency Presidential Declaration to lift Trump's historically low refugee cap, President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity," she added.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Biden's failure to keep his promise was "completely and utterly unacceptable."

"Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise," she tweeted. "Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, [including] the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong."

Biden's former presidential primary foe Julian Castro called out Biden over reports that the decision was made due to political "optics" surrounding the border influx.

"This is a bad decision," he said on Twitter. "Trump gutted our refugee program, a cornerstone of our global leadership and values. His polices can't be the default we carry on—especially for the sake of 'optics.'"

By Saturday, Biden was telling reporters: "We're gonna increase the numbers."

The White House had already backtracked late on Friday, announcing that Biden would set a "final, increased" refugee cap by mid-May. It's unclear why Biden reversed his campaign position on the refugee cap within a matter of weeks after taking office but a senior administration official told The New York Times that the administration was concerned that the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border has "already overwhelmed the refugee branch of the Department of Health and Human Services." Of course, asylum seekers at the border are processed through a wholly separate system than refugees fleeing persecution and violence overseas.

An administration official told The Times that Friday's executive action would reverse a Trump-era policy that disqualified most Muslim and African refugees and allow the administration to fill all 15,000 available refugee slots, though it will leave thousands of fully vetted refugees stranded at camps around the world. The U.S. was previously on pace to accept fewer than 5,000 refugees this fiscal year.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday the refugee program needed to be rebuilt. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Friday's action was "just the beginning."

"This step lifts the restrictions put in place by prior Administration on where refugees can come from," she tweeted. "We need to rebuild resettlement program and we are committed to continuing to increase refugee numbers."

But there are already "over 35,000 refugees have already been vetted and cleared for arrival, and over 100,000 are in the pipeline often waiting years to be reunited with their loved ones," argued David Miliband, the head of the International Rescue Committee, an humanitarian aid group.

Friday's reversal stunned refugee rights groups who expected the administration to follow through on its promise.

"We are reaching out to the White House to understand why this figure is a fraction of what the administration committed to in congressional consultations," Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, who heads the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which helps resettle refugees, told NPR. "We know we find ourselves in challenging times, but we pray President Biden will fulfill his pledge to return the U.S. to our position of global leadership on refugee resettlement."

Biden's directive came on the same day that a group of Democratic lawmakers led by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who came to the US as a refugee, called on Biden to immediately lift the cap.

"Having fought for four years against the Trump Administration's full-scale assault on refugee resettlement in the United States, we were relieved to see you commit to increasing our refugee resettlement numbers so early in your Administration," the letter said. "But until the Emergency Presidential Determination is finalized, our refugee policy remains unacceptably draconian and discriminatory."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also urged the administration to "recognize [its] moral responsibility" in admitting refugees.

"I think right now we have, well, it's a very few thousand, and we have to increase that number," she said Thursday.

Biden similarly argued that restoring the refugee program was imperative when he entered office, vowing to quickly lift the cap for this year and double the number to 125,000 for the fiscal year beginning in October.

"The United States' moral leadership on refugee issues was a point of bipartisan consensus for so many decades when I first got here," he said in February. "It's going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that's precisely what we're going to do."

The International Rescue Committee released a report earlier this month detailing the decimation of the refugee program under Trump, who slashed the cap from 110,000 when he entered office to 45,000 in 2018, 30,000 in 2019, and 18,000 in 2020. Miliband, the group's president, told CNN on Friday it was "deeply disappointing" that Biden chose to maintain one of Trump's most controversial policies.

"The rightful erasure of discriminatory admissions categories does not dispense with the need for a higher number of refugees to be admitted," he said.

Immigration groups also sounded the alarm over the Biden administration's confiscation of land across the Southern border stemming from legal battles over Trump's border wall.

Biden launched a 60-day federal review of resources used for the wall on his first day in office but the review has not been completed and there is no timeline for its conclusion despite the March 20 deadline. Mayorkas reportedly told DHS employees that Biden's halt "leaves room to make decisions" on finishing some "gaps in the wall." And the Justice Department has continued to seize land from families with about 140 pending eminent domain cases still active, Politico reported.

Biden vowed on the campaign trail that his administration would not build "another foot of wall" and vowed that he would "withdraw the lawsuits" and was "not going to confiscate the land." But the DOJ said in a court filing last month that Biden's first-day proclamation "left open the possibility that some aspects of the project may resume" and the department is still trying to seize private property. Just this week, the government seized six acres of land in Hidalgo County, Texas from one family.

"DOJ sought continuances in pending cases, including in this case, in which the government had previously filed motions for possession of land on the southwest border in light of President Biden's proclamation terminating the national emergency at the southern border of the United States and directing 'a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall,'" a DOJ official told Politico.

Jose Alfredo Cavazos, whose family's land was seized in the case, told Politico he was "very disappointed" by the Biden administration's reversal.

"I thought when he said no more wall that we would get no more wall. But apparently not," he said.

"I'm ... very, very disappointed in Joe Biden. I thought he was a man of his word but apparently he's not keeping his word," added Reynaldo Anzaldua Cavazos, another member of the family. "He said not one more foot of wall and no land forfeitures. We took him at his word and we want him to keep his word."

Joe Biden's big betrayal of a key promise comes at a terrible time

After a steady increase in pressure from outside groups and questions from the media, the Biden administration officially decided on Friday to break its pledge to lift President Donald Trump's strict limits on refugee admissions for the fiscal year ending in September.

Despite previously pledging to raise the cap on refugees from the extremely low level of 15,000 to 62,500, Biden has reversed himself. During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to raise the cap to 125,000 in the next fiscal year, and as recently as February, Secretary of State Tony Blinken had told Congress the level set under Trump for this fiscal year would be increased more than fourfold.

Many observers had become increasingly worried about Biden's commitment to following through on this objective as the weeks dragged on without official action. Some reports indicated Biden was worried about the "optics" of raising the refugee cap. CNN's Kaitlan Collins on April 8 pressed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the issue given the delay, and Psaki insisted Biden was committed to the increase:

Collins: My last question, sorry, is on the refugee cap that the President has proposed raising to 62,500, but he's not actually formally signed the paperwork yet. Is the White House still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year?
Psaki: Yes.
Collins: And so we should expect that before October? And it's not going to change from 62,500? -- is my other question.
Psaki: I don't anticipate that. It is -- that it would change, I should say. It is -- remains -- the President remains committed to raising the cap.

But on Friday, the fears of refugee advocates were realized.

The New York Times reported:

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the decision-making, said the administration grew concerned that the surge of border crossings by unaccompanied minors was too much and had already overwhelmed the refugee branch of the Department of Health and Human Services. But migrants at the border seeking asylum are processed in an entirely separate system than refugees fleeing persecution overseas.

It also noted:

The administration will change subcategories for refugee slots created by the Trump administration that gave priority to Iraqis who had worked for the U.S. military and people, primarily Christians, who are facing religious persecution. But the classification also disqualified most other Muslim and African refugees. As a region, Africa has the most displaced people needing resettlement. An administration official said the change would allow the Biden administration to fill the cap of 15,000, although it would also leave thousands of additional refugees cleared to fly to the United States stranded in camps.

This broken promise from Biden is a cowardly betrayal of his many supporters who were horrified by Trump's aggression toward and disregard for asylum seekers and refugees. Prior to the revelation of Biden's reversal, The Atlantic writer Adam Serwer said on Twitter: "Biden's delay in reversing Trump's discriminatory refugee restrictions is a violation of his campaign promises and the reasons he gave for running in the first place." In a new piece, he wrote:

Restoring "the soul of the nation" cannot mean simply unseating Trump. It also has to mean reversing the policies his administration put in place in an attempt to codify into law his racial and sectarian conception of American citizenship. If Biden cannot do that, then he has restored little more than Democratic control of the presidency. And should he fail to rescind these policies simply because he fears criticism of those who enabled Trump's cruelty to begin with, it will be nothing short of cowardice.
"My faith teaches me that we should be a nation that once again welcomes the stranger and shows a preferential option for the poor, remembering how so many of us and our ancestors came here in a similar way," Biden wrote in 2019. "It's not enough to just wish the world were better. It's our duty to make it so."

So far, Biden has done a lot that is popular — accelerating vaccine distribution, passing the American Rescue Plan, proposing a big infrastructure and spending package. And he may fear that increasing the refugee cap is unpopular and will derail the momentum that he has. Indeed, one Morning Consult poll found that increasing refugee admissions was the only major Biden priority that was unpopular.

But one reason for passing popular policies that meet people's needs is to have more cover and trust with the public when taking values-based policy steps that might trigger some discontent. And it's not as if raising the cap is a bait-and-switch for Biden — he campaigned on letting in more refugees, so he shouldn't feel the need to shy away from it now. It is one of the easiest ways for a president to drastically improve a large number of human lives, saving families from dire conditions in refugee camps, with little or no downside.

And there's likely no upside at all to breaking this promise. The anti-immigrant right wing will not give Biden any credit at all for backing down; instead, it will likely just encourage them to increase their demands even further. They'll cite Biden's capitulation on this promise as evidence that refugees really are a problem, and perhaps say that letting in any refugees is a problem.

This is a particularly terrible time for Biden to be retreating on the immigration issue, too, because anti-immigrant bigotry is resurgent. Fox News's Tucker Carlson, an influential leader in conservatism, is openly endorsing the white supremacist "replacement theory," which Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson recently echoed. And on Friday, a group of far-right Republicans announced the launch of new, openly nativist caucus based on "Anglo Saxon political traditions."

Maybe this increasing sentiment on the right, combined with manufactured right-wing outrage about the border, has spooked Biden into capitulating on this issue. But appeasing this bigotry won't work. It will only embolden it.

Biden Justice Department refuses to disclose certain family separation documents

The Biden administration had until April 2 to decide whether or not it would disclose documents relating to the previous administration's family separation policy, including from a reported White House meeting where former aide and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller and other officials from that administration allegedly voted on the policy of state-sanctioned kidnapping.

Attorneys representing separated families have sought these documents as part of their litigation, but had been blocked by the previous administration. They'd hoped for a different outcome under the new administration, but NBC News reports the Biden Department of Justice has refused to disclose those key items, arguing "the government must protect the right of the government to keep certain planning documents confidential."

Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report for NBC News that Biden administration attorneys said "[t]hose privileges protect institutional interest in the decision making process and the ability of a wide range of government employees to provide candid advice." But attorneys representing separated families are not seeking to prevent government employees from doing that, they're seeking answers from specific officials who implemented this humanitarian disaster that has kept kids without their parents for years now.

Ainsley and Soboroff had reported last year that Miller, upset that separations were going too slow, made officials take a vote on plowing through with the plan through a show of hands. "The Trump administration denied that such a meeting or vote took place," Ainsley and Soboroff reported earlier this month. Attorneys representing families could know more about that meeting, but documents relating to it are among the items that the Biden administration has said it won't release to them.

NBC News reports "[t]he Biden administration did agree to hand over some documents, largely by unredacting previously redacted material," and said that other documents were not relevant. But the report said that attorneys representing families said "the documents sought relate to the government's awareness and intent in directing the separation of families and the resulting harm to families, which are highly relevant to the plaintiffs' claims and the government's asserted defenses."

This decision from the Biden administration comes as hundreds of deported parents have yet to be found and newly identified files could point to a number of previously unknown separations at the southern border by the previous administration.

"We now believe there may have been separations in the first six months of the Trump administration and we applaud the task force for agreeing to review cases during this time period," American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project Deputy Director Lee Gelernt told NBC News. "Whether the task force finds one or many additional separations, it is essential that we find every last child cruelly taken from their parents by our government."

And that officials who carried out these horrific separations be held accountable. President Biden as a candidate had criticized ongoing separations as "criminal." El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar recently told The Intercept that Miller "should be behind bars." She said during that interview that "he committed heinous human rights violations, and I think that those around him who helped plot this out should be held accountable as well."

"The Trump administration's zero tolerance policy devastated thousands of families," tweeted Noah Bookbinder, president of government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "For the Justice Department now to seek to shield key documents from the public is discouraging. The American people—and especially the families torn apart—deserve answers."

Columnist details the 'two big deceptions' in Tucker Carlson's endorsement of a racist conspiracy theory

Fox News' Tucker Carlson has drawn a great deal of criticism recently for promoting a racist conspiracy theory that is common among white supremacists and white nationalists: "the Great Replacement," which claims that liberals and progressives — especially those who are Jewish — are importing non-whites from developing countries in order to "replace" them. Liberal opinion writer Greg Sargent addresses Carlson's latest controversy in his Washington Post column this week, laying out some reasons why the far-right pundit's views on immigration are so wrong-headed.

The Great Replacement Theory isn't limited to the United States. In France, it is a widely held belief among members of the National Front — the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, who lost to President Emmanuel Macron in France's 2017 presidential election. But whether it's being championed by Le Pen in France or Carlson in the U.S., the theory's basic premise — that whites are being "replaced" by non-whites by design — is the same.

Sargent notes that on Monday night, Carlson "doubled down" on Great Replacement ideology, "insisting that his comments were entirely race-neutral and that they were only about defending the 'voting rights' of U.S. citizens."

"But if anything," Sargent writes, "Carlson's defense reveals his worldview as the one that's truly hostile to democracy. And that in turn unmasks the ideological underbelly of the broader right-wing populist nationalist movement that he and his defenders champion."

Sargent goes on to lay out the flaws in Carlson's views on immigration.

"There are two big deceptions here," Sargent explains. "The first is that Democrats want to increase immigration only for cynical electoral purposes. In fact, those who favor more legal immigration have defended it on normative and pragmatic grounds…. Carlson's basic premise — that there's something untoward about wanting to bring more immigrants into one's political coalition — is unwittingly revealing."

Another major flaw in Carlson's thinking, according to Sargent, is that immigrants will automatically become card-carrying Democrats.

"It's strange that Carlson presumes the GOP has no chance at winning these particular immigrants," Sargent writes. "Doesn't that cut against the interpretation of the 2020 election — in which Latinos shifted Republican — holding that right-wing populism can effect a multiracial, conservative realignment of the working class? But the deepest deception of all concerns the notion that bringing in immigrants — or legalizing undocumented ones already here — is by definition a threat to the power of the existing citizenry's voting rights."

It should be noted that some of the Karl Rove-era Republicans of the 1990s and 2000s didn't view immigrants as hostile to the interests of the GOP. If anything, GOP strategist Rove and his allies — including former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who speaks fluent Spanish and is married to a Mexican woman — were of the view that Latino immigrants can be quite receptive to conservative ideas when exposed to them.

Trumpism, however, pushed the GOP in a more nationalist and isolationist direction. And Carlson has been a major proponent of Trumpist ideology.

"In his monologue," Sargent writes, "Carlson declares that on immigration's impact on democracy, 'America badly deserves a national conversation.' Too bad he and his pals are so cagey about what they really believe."

Fox News has a moment of honesty and confronts Gov. Abbott with inconvenient facts about his attack on Biden

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott finally got called out to his face about being silent during the past four years of anti-immigrant abuses under the previous president—and it happened on Fox News, of all places. During a press conference last week, Abbott made claims about abuse at a facility holding unaccompanied children, providing no specific details but calling for oversight, The Texas Tribune reported.

Allegations of abuse under U.S. custody should be treated as serious, especially when it involves vulnerable children, and an investigation is what absolutely should and must happen. Advocates have long demanded this. Greg's sudden concern for the well-being of kids, however, is brand-new. During a Fox News Sunday appearance, host Chris Wallace challenged Abbott on his silence when similar allegations were made during the previous administration.

"Governor, there were thousands of complaints of sexual abuse at migrant shelters during the Trump years, not to say that what's going on now is right, but we couldn't find one instance of you complaining and calling that out when [former] President Trump was president," Wallace said. Abbott responded by basically claiming that, well these were allegations filed with state agencies. So is his reasoning that if it's at the federal level, he may not speak up? So how does he explain Texas suing the federal government over policy?

HuffPost reports that Greg later added, "Don't fall prey to Democrats or others saying, 'Well, Abbott didn't complain about this in the past.'" But the reality is he didn't, and Texas was ground zero for the past four years of anti-immigrant and anti-asylum abuses. El Paso, remember, is where the previous administration "piloted" family separation, the policy that would result in the state-sanctioned kidnapping of thousands of children. Nearly four years after that piloting, kids are still separated from their families.

"Abbott largely remained silent despite reports of widespread abuse in migrant shelters during former President Donald Trump's administration," The Texas Tribune reported. "Now that he's speaking out in the early days of a Democratic presidency, some said they couldn't help but view his comments through a political lens."

Among them is Rep. Veronica Escobar, who said in the report that Abbott "has zero credibility on this or any other issue related to protecting human life. We saw Gov. Abbott's failure to protect his own citizens during the freeze. We saw Gov. Abbott play politics with COVID." I mean, when asked to back up his xenophobic claims about asylum-seeking families spreading the virus, he had nothing.

Our nation with its vast resources has an obligation to treat children coming to our southern border in search of safety with dignity, compassion, and humanity. Their lives and their well-being are on us. But to Greg Abbott and others, they are clearly nothing but political props. It's disgusting, and they should be ashamed. But that would only happen if they had any sense of shame.

Anti-Defamation League chief says Tucker Carlson 'must go' after endorsing neo-Nazi conspiracy theory

Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Thursday endorsed the "great replacement" conspiracy theory that's been used by white supremacists as justification to commit mass murder.

During his show, Carlson claimed it was "true" that "the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate" with "new people, more obedient voters from the Third World."

Responding to this, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called on Fox News to fire Carlson for his most overt embrace yet of white nationalist rhetoric.

"'Replacement theory' is a white supremacist tenet that the white race is in danger by a rising tide of non-whites," Greenblatt wrote on Twitter. "It is antisemitic, racist and toxic. It has informed the ideology of mass shooters in El Paso, Christchurch and Pittsburgh. Tucker must go."

Although Carlson claims that he is not a neo-Nazi, actual neo-Nazis frequently praise and cite his show, and Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin has described Carlson as "literally our greatest ally."

Democratic lawmaker: Put Stephen Miller behind bars

Texas Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar declared that former senior Trump administration advisor Stephen Miller should be tossed into the big house over his continuous "heinous human rights violations."

Reflecting on the Trump administration's immigration policy of separating children from their parents, Escobar didn't hold back. "I think Stephen Miller should be behind bars," Escobar said on a recent episode of The Intercept's "Deconstructed" podcast, "I think he committed heinous human rights violations, and I think that those around him who helped plot this out should be held accountable as well."

Miller, who has since turned his focus to frequently appearing on Fox News and running a right-right legal foundation to pester the Biden administration, was a vital part in implementing inhumane immigration policies enacted by the Trump administration governing the Southern Border. Such policies included the "zero-tolerance" immigration stance, which had all immigrants prosecuted and separated from their children.

Escobar conceded that seeing Miller held criminally accountable for policy decisions is unlikely.

"That is going to be very difficult, but it kills me that these people could potentially walk away and even potentially rebuild their reputations," she stated. The congresswoman, who currently sits on the House Judiciary Committee, further ripped into lawmakers that have advocated and implemented Trump's immigration policies, "I find them to be just among the most reprehensible, abhorrent people that our generation could have ever produced."

Additionally, on the podcast, Escobar stated that the difference between the Trump approach and the Biden administration's strategy isn't night and day - but progress has been made in making immigration more humane under Biden's reign. "The Trump administration put up all sorts of obstacles, trying to prevent families from being reunited. The Biden administration is approaching this in the opposite way, doing everything possible quickly and safely to get families who are here in the United States re-united," Escobar stated. "There's progress. Is it still unacceptable, it is, but there is progress."

While talking with The Intercept's D.C. Bureau Chief Ryan Grim on the podcast, Escobar also made sure to assert that if she feels the Biden administration isn't doing enough, she will speak up.

"I am in good frequent communication with the Biden administration on what's happening, and as long as I continue to see progress and movement in the right direction and input from folks on the ground — including advocates and attorneys who shoulder the consequences of horrific policies right alongside their clients and the migrants who they're advocating for — as long as the admin is moving in the right direction, I will keep working with them and will keep providing them with ideas for reform and for forward movement," the lawmaker stated. "But if at any point I feel like we are sliding backward, or there's not absolutely every resource and effort being put toward a more humane and compassionate system that does justice to our values, I will be among the Biden administration's loudest critics."

Montana's GOP governor signs bill banning 'sanctuary cities.' There's just one problem

No so-called "sanctuary cities" actually exist in Montana, but Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed a bill purporting to ban them in the state anyway. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock had vetoed such legislation in 2019, calling it "a solution searching for a problem." But when you have no solutions to actual problems, the Republican playbook is to just blame an immigrant.

"Supporters of the measure have said that sanctuary cities in other parts of the country have led to increased criminal activity, and that the Montana ban is necessary to preempt such problems," the Associated Press (AP) reported. But that's not only faulty thinking, it's also flat-out untrue.

"Cities that have adopted 'sanctuary' policies did not record an increase in crime as a result of their decision to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to a new Stanford University report," The Washington Post reported last year. That study came after years of lies from the previous administration that claimed safer city policies endangered communities. That administration also attempted to unlawfully strip funds from localities that had passed such measures.

"There's no evidence sanctuary policies harm public safety, and there's no evidence those policies increase crime," researcher David K. Hausman said according to the Post.

The AP reported that Montana's new law "will require state and local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration law and empower the state's attorney general to pursue civil action against jurisdictions that do not comply—including fines and withholding state grant funds." In his veto statement, Bullock warned that police holding detained immigrants past their release date for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to pick up is both unlawful and could expose localities to severe civil liabilities. Really severe.

Last October, Los Angeles County agreed to pay $14 million to settle a 2012 class action lawsuit brought forward by immigrants who had initially been detained by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office but were then unlawfully held for federal immigration agents to pick up later. It was the largest such settlement ever reached, The Washington Post reported at the time. "The holds, also called 'immigration detainers,' forced individuals to be held in county jails after they were legally entitled to be released," National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) said in a release received by Daily Kos.

Seems like Bullock had the right idea there. But when you have no ideas period, you go the Gianforte route, I guess. He hasn't been the only one either. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the previous president's second of many lying press secretaries, launched her gubernatorial campaign with a pledge to also ban so-called sanctuary cities. But, like in Montana, none exist in Arkansas either. "New election cycle, same old xenophobic dog-whistling campaign," tweeted Zach Mueller of immigrant rights advocacy group America's Voice. "Lies told for power and profit, lies to divide and distract, lies that will hurt ALL Arkansans. But likely just a foreshadow of a GOP who learns no lessons and takes no responsibility."

NIJC said in a report last year that "a growing body of social science research shows that communities with immigrant populations are safe, vibrant, and full communities. Sociologists have long found that immigrants bring an inter-connectedness to communities that correlate to lower crime rates."

"Simply put, more immigrants means safer communities—for everyone," NIJC continued. "In fact, many studies have found that crime actually decreases in cities with large immigrant populations. Social scientists even have a term for it: the 'immigrant revitalization perspective.'"

New sites for detained immigrant children under Biden face sharp criticism

In a move that was condemned by environmental justice advocates on Friday, President Joe Biden's administration earlier this week sent 500 unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors to Fort Bliss—a highly contaminated and potentially hazardous military base in El Paso, Texas—and is reportedly considering using additional toxic military sites as detention centers for migrant children in U.S. custody.

"We are extremely concerned to hear of plans to detain immigrant children in Fort Bliss. Military bases filled with contaminated sites are no place for the healthy development of any child," Melissa Legge, an attorney at Earthjustice, said in a statement.

"We recognize that the humanitarian situation at the border needs to be addressed in humanity, compassion, and expediency," Legge continued. "Part of that requires keeping children away from toxic military sites."

"While we are hopeful that the Biden administration will keep children safe, we remain vigilant and ready to continue protecting detained minors in toxic facilities," she added. "Immigrant children under the care of the federal government should not be in cages, let alone toxic sites in military bases."

The Biden administration announced last week that facilities at Fort Bliss "would serve as temporary housing for up to 5,000 unaccompanied minors," the El Paso Times reported Tuesday. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said "it will reserve the Fort Bliss accommodations for boys ages 13 to 17. Military personnel won't staff the site or provide care for the children, who are in the custody and care of HHS."

There are 17,641 unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors in U.S. custody as of Tuesday, according to ABC News. Over 5,600 children are being held in overcrowded facilities run by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), while more than 12,000 are under the supervision of HHS.

Although DHS is supposed to transfer minors to the HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours—after which children are housed in one of more than 200 HHS-approved shelters in 22 states until they can be placed with a family member or another suitable sponsor—thousands have been stuck for far longer than legally allowed in squalid conditions.

Last month, the White House came under fire for restricting media access to CBP's detention facilities, which some journalists have described as "border jails."

As the El Paso Times noted, HHS characterized Fort Bliss as "an 'emergency intake site' and a temporary measure to quickly remove the children from the custody of the Border Patrol."

Earthjustice argues that the Biden administration's plan to use military bases—many of which the group says "are known to be riddled with toxic hazards from past military operations, spills, storage of toxic chemicals, unexploded ordnances, and firing ranges"—to expand its capacity to temporarily detain unaccompanied children is no solution.

According to Earthjustice: "130 military bases and installations are considered priority Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency. There are currently 651 Department of Defense and National Guard sites potentially contaminated by toxic chemicals known as PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS don't easily break down, and they can persist in your body and in the environment for decades."

Several of the military sites being considered by the Biden administration "are contaminated with potentially hazardous pollutants and some are even located on or near Superfund sites," Earthjustice said.

The organization continued:

Superfund sites under consideration for housing children in immigration custody include the Homestead Detention Facility in Homestead, Florida, Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, and Joint Base San Antonio in Texas. Many of the sites remain inadequately remediated and still contaminated. Without proper environmental reviews, there is no way to guarantee these sites are safe for children, potentially exposing them to toxic chemicals that could have lifelong health impacts.
Fort Bliss is no exception. Earthjustice, along with partners including Alianza Nacional de Campesinas and the National Hispanic Medical Association, released hundreds of documents of searchable documents and an expert analysis of previous plans for construction of a temporary detention center for children and families at Fort Bliss. These records document several problems with the project, including that the Army did not adequately investigate to determine what types of waste had been disposed of at the site, that the methods used for testing the soil samples were inadequate or never completed, and that samples taken after the supposed clean-up still had concerning levels of pollution. Additionally, illegal dumping on the site may continue to this day. As a result, there is now even greater uncertainty about the environmental hazards at the site and a greater need for thorough testing, analysis, and cleanup.

"We are deeply concerned about the decision to open temporary detention facilities for minors at Fort Bliss and the potential health risks to the minors detained in tents there," said Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association, a client in Earthjustice's 2018 FOIA lawsuit regarding the base.

"Based on what we found in our Fort Bliss investigation in 2018," she added, "there are still present toxins from past landfills, which means children could be forcibly exposed to toxicity linked to cancer and development defects."

Despite the GOP's dehumanizing and misleading narrative that a "border crisis" is afoot, there has not been an uncharacteristic "surge" in migrants entering the U.S. at the southern border, but rather a predictable bump in border crossings that typically happens at this time of year, augmented by the arrival of people who would have come in 2020 but could not due to the clampdown on immigration during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the Washington Post reported last week.

An HHS statement on the transfer of migrant children to the military base in El Paso said that "the use of the Fort Bliss facility will have no impact on the Department of Defense's ability to conduct its primary mission or on military readiness."

The deference to militarism is telling. According to Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), it is impossible to understand the arrival of asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border without taking into account the role played by U.S. imperialism.

Earlier this week, as Common Dreams reported, the two progressive lawmakers made the case that the root causes of migration from Central America and Mexico to the U.S. can be found in decades of interventionist foreign policy, profit-maximizing trade and carceral policies, and the climate crisis—all driven by the pursuit of capitalist class interests.

Citing the U.S. government's "flagrant disregard for the health of those in custody," Earthjustice called for "the immediate halt of any plans to place children in such unsafe facilities, the securing of safe and suitable housing for children while they are required to remain in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the development of solutions that do not involve placing children on or near toxic sites, military sites, or in detention-like settings."

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