Our nation’s immigration system is unjust, dehumanizing and rooted in white supremacy. The fear of arrest can wreak havoc on families and communities. Detention means family separation and the sudden loss of parents, siblings, friends, wage-earners and employees. Deportation, often to an unfamiliar country experiencing intense violence, may mean death.
To learn more about the importance of legal and bond support as well as explore related issues, please keep reading.
WHY LEGAL REPRESENTATION AND BOND
Legal representation and being free from detention are, with few exceptions, the only means for an undocumented person to obtain legal status or relief from deportation. Immigration is a civil, not a criminal matter. Those fighting immigration cases are not provided a public defender and therefore must seek legal counsel. Pro or low bono representation can not meet the demand. Depending on the case and the attorney, fees range from $3,000-10,000 with a sizable initial and often monthly payments. Immigration bonds, averaging $16,000 nationally, must be paid in full. Most people simply can not afford these expenses.
“How much does freedom cost? For immigrants detained in the U.S. it can be as low as $1,500 or as high as $80,000.”
—Paul, Kari. Advocates say that the fastest way to help immigrants separated from their children: Post their bail. Marketwatch. 6 July. 2019. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-what-it-costs-to-free-one-immigrant-from-detention-2018-06-20. accessed 15 Nov.2019
“One of the most effective ways to reunite immigrants separated from their families is to assist with paying their bail.”
—Editorial Board. Children Should Not be Dying at the Border: Here’s How You Can Help. New York Times. 24 June. 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/24/opinion/border-kids-immigration-help.html. accessed 15 Nov. 2019
“In addition to arresting more undocumented immigrants, the government is now going after many legal immigrants with old criminal convictions.”
—Fertig, Beth. More New Yorkers Are Stepping Up to Bail Out Detained Immigrants. Gothamist. 15 Oct. 2019 https://gothamist.com/news/more-new-yorkers-are-stepping-bail-out-detained-immigrants. accessed 20 Oct. 2019
THIS IS NOT NEW
U.S. immigration policy, including family separation and labor exploitation, is a continuum inextricably linked to colonization, genocide and enslavement. European colonizers justified their actions in the name of Christianity and “racial” difference. The first U.S. Naturalization Act of 1798 allowed only white men to become naturalized citizens. Native children were taken from their parents and placed in boarding schools. Slave children were separated and sold at auction. In the late 19th century, Chinese were first enticed and then prohibited from immigrating here. During the 20’s, U.S. businesses incentivized Mexican workers to come across the southern border. Once their labor was no longer needed, more than a million, including a half million U.S. citizens, were deported or de-patriated. This process was repeated during the 50’s in the Border Patrol’s “Operation Wetback”. Punitive immigration policies are bipartisan. Barack Obama’s administration deported 5.5 million people, half of whom were apprehended at the border, half of whom lived in the interior. The current dismantling of our immigration system is real but it is not new and is firmly rooted in white supremacy.
“Why the Border is Here: Five Centuries of Whiteness, Exclusion and Othering”. Compiled by Priscilla Mendenhall, Natalie Romero and Frank Valdez. Border is Here workshop. 2019. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mo2h2rYBGQatThGz3SCW3hsZj0E5q4CH/edit
“White supremacy has a long and sordid history in the federal immigration laws….from 1790 to 1952, the very definition of U.S. citizenship for persons not born within the U.S. depended on racial criteria.”
—Srikantiah, Jayashri and Shirin Sinnar. White Nationalism as Immigration Policy. Stanford Law review. Vol. 71, March 2019. https://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/white-nationalism-as-immigration-policy/. accessed 11 Sept., 2019
“(By 1927) two men spearheaded the effort that would lead Congress to criminalize unlawful entry into the United States. They were motivated by eugenics and white supremacy.”
—MacDouglall, Ian. Behind the Criminal Immigration Law:Eugenics and White Supremacy. ProPublica. June 19, 2018 https://www.propublica.org/article/behind-the-criminal-immigration-law-eugenics-and-white-supremacy. accessed 11 Sept., 2019.
“In the almost three years since President Donald Trump took office, the US asylum system has almost become unrecognizable….layer by layer, a series of impediments in Central America, at the border, in detention centers, and in the immigration courts have made obtaining asylum nearly impossible.”
—Narea, Nicole. The Demise of America’s Asylum System explained. Vox, November 5, 2019. https://www.vox.com/2019/11/5/20947938/asylum-system-trump-demise-mexico-el-salvador-honduras-guatemala-immigration-court-border-ice-cbp. accessed 15, Nov., 2019
WHY "THEY" COME
“We uncritically supported dictatorships..blinked at repression and participated in the suppression of democracy in Latin America”...They do not emigrate, they flee”. Robert White, US Ambassador to El Salvador who was removed from his position in 1981 by Ronald Reagan.
White was speaking in the 80’s. And still, they flee. In FY 2019, Customs and Border Patrol apprehended 453,000 migrants at the southern border, primarily families, single parents with children or children alone. Each day, 50,000 detainees are held in CBP or ICE facilities. The numbers have dropped recently, largely because the Administration has coerced Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador into “building his wall” through militarized border controls. But, still, they flee - because the conditions they are fleeing, resulting in large part from US interventions over the past two centuries, are worse than the cruel, violent journey they face and limited hope of settling here.
Timeline of U.S. Interventions in Latin America. Compiled by William Van Norman. Border is Here workshop. July, 2019 https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fThBbFXIfmXekNyMkIYEUq4hMD8t7w70/edit
“The liberal rhetoric of inclusion and common humanity is insufficient: we must also acknowledge the role that a century of U.S.-backed military coups, corporate plundering, and neoliberal sapping of resources has played in the poverty, instability, and violence that now drives people from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras toward Mexico and the United States”.
—Tseng-Puttermman, Mark. A Century of U.S. Interventions Created the Immigration Crisis. Portside. July 16, 2018 https://portside.org/2018-07-16/century-us-intervention-created-immigration-crisis. accessed 11 Sept., 2019
“Only by changing the nature of the American Empire can Latino equality and assimilation become real.”
—Gonzalez, Juan. Harvest of Empire, The Untold Story of Latinos in America. Penguin Books, 2011.
“It is in Central America where the Republican Party first combined three elements that give today’s imperialism its moral force: punitive idealism, free-market absolutism and right-wing Christian mobilization.”
—Grandin, Greg. Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States and the Rise of the New Imperialism. Holt. 2006.
UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS IN VIRGINIA
Over 1 million immigrants live in Virginia, of whom an estimated 300,000 are without legal status. The top five countries of origin of unauthorized immigrants are: El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines. 53% of this population is from Mexico and Central America, 25% from Asia, 10% from South America and 6% from Africa. Half have lived here for a decade or more, marrying, having children as well as participating in their churches and communities. Over 75% of working adults are in the labor force. They experience disproportionate rates of wage theft, workplace harassment, assault and injuries. While reviving dying towns and strip malls, sustaining many low-wage industries and contributing $250 million in state and local taxes, they remain ineligible for public services, including social security whose future funding is dependent on them and their children.
Migration Policy Institute. Profile of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population: Virginia.
Goren, Laura and Ashley C. Kenneth. Virginia Immigrants in the Economy: Pillars of Prosperous Communities. Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. June, 2019
Goren, Laura. Woven Together: The State of Immigration in Virginia’s Economy. Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. October 2019 https://www.thecommonwealthinstitute.org/2019/10/24/woven-together-the-state-of-immigrants-in-virginias-economy/
UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS AND LABOR EXPLOITATION
“Our current immigration system isn’t working for workers. Instead, it benefits low-road employers who exploit the immigration status of unauthorized immigrants and authorized guestworkers through a legal framework that puts downward pressure on wages and leaves migrant workers powerless to enforce their labor rights and hold employers accountable”.
—Costa, Daniel. Employers Increase Their Profits and Put Downward Pressure on Wages and Labor Standards by Exploiting Migrant Workers. Economic Policy Institute. August 27, 2019. https://www.epi.org/publication/labor-day-2019-immigration-policy/
“To protect the workers who put food on American tables, we need a policy that centers immigrant farm labor and addresses the effects of immigration policy as labor policy on wages and labor conditions.”
—Smolski, Andrew. Stemming the Exploitation of Immigrant Farm Labor. Context. July 4, 2019. https://contexts.org/articles/stemming-the-exploitation-of-immigrant-farm-labor/
“Everybody is saying ‘the cruelty is the point,’” said Alida Garcia, vice president of advocacy for the immigration and criminal justice reform group FWD.us.
—Carrasquillo, Adrian. ICE’s Raids Were a Win for Corporate Exploitation. The New Republic. August 12, 2019 https://newrepublic.com/article/154732/ices-raids-win-corporate-exploitation
“I have listened to Salvadoran refugee kindergarteners describe their entry into the United States as something akin to experiencing prison. It is children who are not only seeing their parents subject to inhumane treatment by government employees, but it is children who are subject to these policies and complexes. Those experiences are already becoming some of the first collective memories of the United States for our future citizens and residents. The extent of the abuses and traumas that will remain in children’s earliest memories of entry into the United States reflect a parameter of who we collectively are.”
—Ferdowsian, Hope. In Conversation with Mike Anastario, Author of Parcels: Memories of Salvadoran Migration. Medium, January 21, 2019. https://medium.com/@hopeferdowsian/in-conversation-with-mike-anastario-author-of-parcels-memories-of-salvadoran-migration-6474924886e0. accessed 10 Oct., 2019