The issue of colonization, segregation and marginalization of brown people in the United States is a vast and expansive problem. However in the last couple of weeks, several factoids and news stories have emerged that give texture and context to the dimensions of this war.
Leaked Photos of Detained Minors
First were the leaked photos of hundreds of children being held in immigration detention. Aside from the heartbreak and shock that these photos illicit it was also clear form the photos that CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) was neither prepared or suited to handle the thousands of children it detained. Leave aside the fact in no other context are such young children held in such dehumanizing conditions, or Obama’s ‘double down’ that these children will in fact be deported back to the often life threatening environments from which they were originally fleeing, and take the agency’s response to the story being leaked. A tweet from the Border Patrol union days later read..
New annual job rating areas: Babysitting, Diaper Changing, Burrito Wrapping, Cleaning Cells. Law Enforcement? What’s that? #lowmorale
Clearly this tweet mocks the illegal and human rights violating conditions that these children were being held in, but it also illustrates something revealing about how border patrol agents view their job. To CBP their job is to deal with ‘criminals’ and clearly they don’t see their duties surrounding these children as “law enforcement”, conversely it seems they view the moms and dads and other immigrants entering the country as just the kind of ‘criminals’ that would deserve jail cells and beatings. This speaks to the increasing criminalization of immigrants and they way the innocence of these children have made it difficult for true believers of this myth to process the situation.
Separated American Families
Pivot now to American children who have had 300,000 parents deported from the US since 2010. Of the 72,410 parents of American children that ICE deported in 2013, ICE admits that over 10,000 were convicted of absolutely no crime. Of the remaining 71,000 ‘criminals’ ICE will not say how many were involved in misdemeanor crimes or immigration offenses such as re-entering the country, which is a felony. By withholding such information it is unclear how many tens of thousands of parents were deported with their only crime being that they reunited themselves with their children after being previously deported some time in the past.
Border Patrol Abuse
Of course it is unclear what criteria ICE uses in exercising it’s discretion to deport people because of the NSA-like opaqueness of the agency. This shielding of information includes the 43 rock throwers ICE agents have shot at (killing 10) since 2010 none of which have resulted in disciplinary action, but also involves the detained children written about above. On June 11th the ACLU, and others, filed a complaint against the border patrol alleging egregious abuse of the minors it detained. The claim involves 116 children from ages 5–17 and details horrific actions by the border patrol including beatings and torture-style stress positions, as well as some aggregate information such as “Over 80 percent of the kids interviewed said they were denied adequate food and water “, “More than half of the children reported sexual harassment, death threats, and other forms of verbal abuse”. It is truly horrifying to read the two articles linked above.
However this week it was revealed that the Border and Custom’s Internal Affair division, which is tasked with investigating employee misconduct, is itself under investigation for covering up the amount of misconduct complaints they received, and for overstating the corrective action they were taking to address abuse. While the details are still unclear the head of the division has been removed by President Obama and two employees of the division have already committed suicide in the past year after the investigation had started. Again, these are the people are supposed to be the watchdog for CBP.
Arizona Superintendent Huppenthal
While each of these three developments fall under the guise of ‘immigration’, it is American children who are losing their parents, and brown Americans who bear the brunt of ICE harassment and abuse, as the agency acts with immunity. However this last story is along another dimension of the issue; the cultural war against Hispanic Americans regardless of their ‘immigration status’. Earlier this week anonymous online comments were revealed to be those of John Huppenthl, Arizona Superintend of Public Instruction. Some of the most ‘soundbite’ quotes were…
We all need to stomp out balkanization. No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers. This is America, speak English.
Yes, MAS [Mexian American Studies]=KKK in a different color
I don’t mind them selling Mexican food as long as the menus are mostly in English. And I’m not being humorous or racist.
Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps…
The extreme degree to which Huppenthal wants to ban Spanish from the US entirely is directly reflected in the way that he systematically dismantled bilingual prorgrams in Arizona schools. Of course Huppenthal was also the man in charge of banning Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program, and while he disdains food-stamp recipients, 58% of Arizona public school students qualified for free or reduced lunch in 2013.
Sure Arizona is know for the extreme right wing views of some of it’s residents but this is the man in charge of public education for the entire state, and his views revealed here have directly carried over into the policies he’s sought to implement. With the shield of assumed anonymity, Huppenthal reveals his true motives which is to preserve the dominant ‘white culture’ of the United States at the expense of Americans who deviate from those cultural norms. Of course Huppenthal has said “it’s not something to resign over“.
These recent news items are just a tiny sampling of the daily onslaught that brown people in America experience on a daily basis. While there may be individual rebuttals to each little detail in these recent developlenmts, taken to together I think they start to stich together the context of how brown people in the United States are constantly and systematically under attack.
As a quick aside, I’ve had several discussions about Huppenthal’s comments and I’d just like to paste several Facebook comments that I made that touch on my own perspective on the issue.
Americans who speak Spanish are just as American as Americans who speak English. The US has no official language and Americans should use whatever language they want. US culture should reflect the people that live there, not just the people in power.
Basically I think its weak sauce to say that if everyone doesn’t speak English that things would be chaos.
1) There are lots of bilingual, even trilingual, countries.
2) I go shopping in Chinatown, which is like the most extreme example, and while I don’t know shit Chinese and I get along fine.
If English is super popular most, not all, things will be in English and most, not all, people will understand it. If Spanish is super popular most, not all, things will be in Spanish and most, not all, people will understand it.
I think FORCING others to use the language you feel most comfortable with is a form of social control. I also think people greatly underestimate the flexibility of cultures to change and adapt.