Not a day goes by that I am not asked to write about something in regards to Trump. Without a doubt, there is a never ending supply of topics from which to choose from. A sort of fish in a … Continue reading
Published on Crooks & Liars and Liberal Progressive Democrat News
While everyone’s justifiably been hemming and hawing over Trump’s latest executive order fiasco that bans Muslims from seven countries, I’ve been worried about two other orders that will affect our immigrant communities deeply. The basic purpose of these two orders, released just two days before the Muslim ban, is to end the practice often referred to as “catch and release” and to order the Department of Homeland Security to allocate all available resources to building and maintaining detention facilities for immigrants, documented or not. This is to be acheived by contracting with private prison corporations. These two orders are the real meat behind Trump’s immigration war, not the recent Muslim ban which was so poorly written and blatantly illegal that one has to assume it was released to draw attention away from the other two bans.
Now that I’ve got your attention, I want to explain what this means and how it will translate into actual policy in regards to immigration enforcement. But before I do that, I want to elaborate on why you should take my words as gospel on the subject of immigration. No I’m not an attorney, and I’ve been out of the immigration biz for some time, but I know immigration law backwards and forwards. And I can tell you what Trump, or better yet Bannon is up to.
I am a former Senior Patrol Agent for the U.S. Border Patrol. Unusual for a liberal I know. I don’t advertise this; my Twitter profile simply says I’m a former federal agent. It’s not out of shame. I am proud of my accomplishments. It’s out of not agreeing with our laws regarding immigration. I have no desire to argue with people who think they’re scholars of immigration just because they’ve shared a few memes on the subject. Nor do I want to get into a Twitter war with other immigration agents who may defend every policy regardless of how it effects people or how it punishes those simply looking for a job and in turn does nothing to the smugglers or employers who hire them. Yes, I’m a flaming liberal who believes in immigrant (documented or not) rights, but I also believe in protecting our borders. I just don’t agree with how we do it. It is a backwards, poorly designed system that punishes innocent, hard working people. Unfortunately, Trump is making it worse.
I could write a book on my experiences in the USBP, and perhaps some day I will. But for now, I will just give you a brief background. I joined the BP after putting myself through college and earning a B.S. in Law, cum laude honors, from Auburn University. I worked at the infamous Campo station. I say infamous because we were known for our tracking skills; hiking sometimes for ten or more hours through rough brush and high mountains. I worked alone with a three hour wait for backup being the norm. My gear included a lifted 4×4 Bronco, a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver, a pair of handcuffs, an asp baton and a radio that seldom worked because of the terrain. I apprehended many drug smugglers, smugglers of young women for sex work and people from all over the world.
But those arrests were not the norm. Coming from my internship as a Mobile, Alabama District Attorney Investigator where I helped put murderers and rapists away, I found my job as a BP agent frustrating. Waiting hours for transport was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish, and I learned that contrary to popular belief, some of those I apprehended at 3 a.m. on the top of a mountain were quite educated, even more so than myself. Most though could not read or write, signing an X for their signature and using the Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo for their birthday because they did not know on what day they were born. I met Native Indians from Oaxaca and Tlaxcala, and people from a far south as Zacatecas and Quintana Roo.
My job did not harden me to their circumstances. The vast majority of arrests came from Mexico: grandma, mom and dad, kids and even some babies. I often stopped my truck at the convenience store in Tecate before returning them to their country so I could buy the mothers diapers and formula for their babies. I asked them to not cross in the dangerous mountains that took so many lives. In turn, they would sometimes ask to be let go, but I swore an oath that I would not violate.
Eventually, I became a Senior Agent working in prosecutions and a San Diego Sector Intelligence Agent. Both are positions held by few agents. Truth was that most agents had no idea how to complete the paperwork for a simple deportation. BP was and continues to be known for hiring the least educated and least experienced persons. They have reduced their standards in an effort to flood the border with agents and therefore, there is a high turn over rate and high level of corruption. Those that are professional, career oriented agents tend to leave for greener pastures.
Personally, I needed to get away from those that were not criminals and work on the smugglers themselves, the majority of whom were American. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the USBP had little interest in prosecutions. I was only allowed to go after the actual drivers and not the organizers. This I could have done at the station level. Even when I discovered that it was my former boss, the head of Campo Station who is now deceased, that was smuggling drugs through the East County, I was met with opposition. I had enough and left. Disgusted with the legal system and the federal government, I left the law field completely.
It is through being a prosecution and intel agent that I can speak to these executive orders. I don’t claim to represent the USBP, only myself and my own experiences.
The executive order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” orders the arrest of any immigrant, documented or not, that has either “been convicted of any criminal offense…, has been charged with any criminal offense…, who has committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense…” or “in the judgement of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
Trump intends to basically deputize all police, local, state and federal as immigration officers. Notice how it says “any criminal offense.” For legal residents, known as LAPR’s or greencard holders, past law dictated the crime had to be a serious one such as murder, rape, drugs and crimes of moral turpitude. This executive order means they can now be deported for any criminal offense no matter how slight, and they don’t have to be convicted of said offense. In fact, there doesn’t even need to be an offense. The last quote allows immigration officers to arrest and deport solely based on their opinion. Therefore, due process is no longer a right of any immigrant.
The second executive order signed by Trump on January 25th was titled the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” This basically orders the Secretary of Homeland Security to allocate any and all funds to arresting, detaining and deporting immigrants. It also bans the “catch and release” or as it is referred to in immigration as “voluntary returns” or “VRs.” This concept has been used by the BP since before I entered in ’95. Basically, the idea was that with thousands of undocumented immigrants entering without inspection (8 USC 1325), there was no feasible way to detain them all and formally deport them. This VR was only used for Mexico and allowed the immigrants to sign away their right to a hearing via an I-213 form. They could then return to Mexico and try again within hours. The main point was that it was a benefit to the US government since they had neither the money nor the space to detain so many people. But now Trump is ordering that every person crossing the border without inspection will be formally deported, a civil offense. If they return, they will be charged with Re-Entry After Deportation (8 USC 1326) which is a criminal offense punishable by two to five years.
Of course this is actually about racism and money. Luckily for the private prison system, Trump has agreed to give them contracts again. The GEO Group, Inc. and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) maintain 85% of US prisons. The GEO Group alone gave the Trump campaign over $250,000, Mike Pence received at least $10,000 and countless other Republican leaders got thousands as well. In fact, both companies’ stock soared with the election of Trump. It is estimated that The GEO Group’s stock will climb by 25% this year.1
Additionally, CoreCivic spent over $1.6 million in 2016 to lobby Republican congress members in regards to using private prisons for immigration detention facilities. The GEO Group spent over $800,000 in 2016. They specifically lobbyied Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, to the tune of $120,000.2
Owners of The GEO Group and CoreCivic stock include The Vanguard Group, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup to name a few.3 I can only wonder who else in the Republican Party owns stock in these companies.
So what does all this mean? Trump/Bannon are making it difficult to be an immigrant in this country of immigrants. All immigrants, documented or not will be subject to deportation. They will be arrested and placed into private prisons run by The GEO Group or CoreCivic, awaiting their hearings, deported to their countries of origin. Others will be held for years simply for trying a second time to enter the US without inspection, a civil offense as I stated.
The GEO Group and CoreCivic will be paid millions if not billions of our tax dollars via the Trump Administration. Trump will insist he’s keeping America safe when in reality he is tearing families apart, destroying our economy that relies on immigrant workers and business owners and creating an endless supply of clientele for private prisons.
The administration has already begun advertising for new BP agents on television and radio. The media has not caught on and has no idea. Soon immigrants across the country will hear a forceful knock on their door.
I only have one question to ask you.
Are we going to let him get away with this?
I’m worn out. Trying to keep up with *45 and every ludicrous policy that comes out of his mouth or his stubby little fingers is exhausting. Then add to that his army of evil minions and the greedy, power hungry Republicans in the legislature that would sell not only their souls but their first born to maintain power, and we liberals are starting to feel like we’re swimming upstream with a tractor tire tied to our legs. And they just keep adding to that weight. From nominees that have numerous conflicts of interest and Republican attempts to hide them by limiting the confirmation process, to immigration bans on Muslims, pulling funding from women’s health programs, Russian hacking, *45’s tax returns, violations of Emoluments Clause, pay for play schemes and…and…ughhhh! I need a Valium and a latte.
It’s almost as if they planned it this way. Hmmmm? What to do. What to do.
When I remove my emotions, my anxiety from the onslaught, I see one thing. Regardless of what the opposition is doing, we are being forced into a defensive, reactionary position. This is not a good place to be in since it inhibits action and growth. When you are in this position, all of your energy goes to trying to hold the line. Nothing is left over for a proactive, forward thinking strategy.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a need to work the defensive line. We have to have a defense. Marching for women’s rights and immigrant rights is fundamental to who we are as Democrats, liberals and progressives. It is vital to loudly address the blatant abuse of power we find ourselves in today. Protesting is an American right. It is the one thing politicians are forced to listen to. Consistent, vocal and demonstrative protests force action. Republicans can pass all the laws they want and hide in their offices disconnecting their phones, but they cannot stop the protests. They cannot stop thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of protesters. Let them try. And when their jails are full, they’ll be thousands more to take their place. Besides, being arrested for protesting is on my bucket list anyhow.
But like any decent sports team, we have to develop an offensive strategy as well. Plus, marching and protesting isn’t everyone’s bag of chips. Some are afraid to protest publicly, and rightly so. We are just steps away from local police becoming immigration agents. If you are not white, public protesting can have a significant risk. Yes it is racist and wrong, but that is the fact of where we are in this country right now.
If you find being on defense all the time too stressful, join the offense. It might not be as sexy as marching with thousands of people, but it is equally if not more important. This is the grunt work that takes dedication and commitment.
The number one most important task for our offensive strategy has to be voting. Nothing will change if we don’t regain control of at least one of the legislative houses. Ideally of course we want both. We must hold our currently elected officials responsible for maintaining a defensive position in regards to new voting restrictions. Any and all laws regarding voting rights put forward by Republicans will be met with a strong, united Democratic front.
The second part of the plan, the offensive part, involves getting Democrats out to actually vote. Since Republicans have rigged the system to disenfranchise our base, we have to construct a plan that works within their regulations. It is the Democratic Party’s responsibility, their mandate, to invest in a plan to make this happen. Districts where disenfranchisement has occurred must be identified. This is more than just sitting at the mall registering voters. Many of these districts, thanks to Republicans, only allow voters to register one day out of the month at a facility that is hundreds of miles away. Add to that ridiculous requirements of multiple forms of identification and other obstacles, and many voters just cannot make registration happen.
I am reminded of how civil rights workers ensured that African Americans were registered to vote in the south during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Today is no different. They worked within the system as it were and so will we today. Starting now, not next year, Democrats have to start organizing to get these people registered to vote. This means volunteers educated in what the registration requirements are for that state, and they must in turn inform voters of said requirements. A combination of using voter rolls and going door to door will identify those in need of assistance. Should voters not be able to get to the registrar of voters, the party will be required to provide assistance. I imagine a volunteer driving a van of those prospective voters on that one day out of the month. If a state law requires a state ID to register to vote and the voter cannot afford the fee, it could be paid for by donations from party members.
The Democratic Party must also develop a plan in regards to Republicans stripping liberal leaning districts of voting polls and actual voting machines. Legislatively our leaders must start putting forth two bills in regards to these blatantly prejudicial laws:
- A federal law requiring districts maintain a predetermined amount of polls and working machines per the percentage of voters within those districts is mandatory.
- A federal law is needed stating that any registered voter in line before posted closing hours is allowed to vote.
I realize these are not likely to pass the current Congress. However, I believe in the strategy of submitting bills regardless of their likelihood of passing. This will inform the American voters what exactly the Democratic Party stands for. It will also show them that the Republican Party does not want Americans to vote. Start calling and visiting your representatives and local Democratic Party office. Demand that they start submitting these two bills.
On election day 2018, “follow through” is the name of the game. Volunteers and organizers must be prepared to get people to the polls even if that means driving them there. They must also have a team in place at polling sites in these troubled, Republican manipulated districts. Any and all reports of voter disenfranchisement must be documented.
Go to your local Democratic Party office an volunteer to register voters.
Once we win back the legislature, we can begin the offensive strategy to undo all the damage *45 and the Republicans have done.