This is the most important part of the speech I gave at the Immigrants Occupy rally at Foley Square on December 18th, the International Migrant Day.
First, let’s look at the cost of immigration detention and deportation.
Immigration detention and deportation is a multi-billion dollars business. For the Fiscal Year beginning October 1, 2011 (Fiscal Year 2012), the House of Representatives has approved a budget of $2.75 billion for Detention and Removal. The Obama Administration‘s most recent request to Congress for immigration detention alone amounts to $5.5 million per day. The current cost to detain an immigrant is approximately $166 per day.
Second, let’s look at what all this expenditure is for.
ICE says that its policy is to prioritize apprehension and detention of individuals convicted of serious criminal offenses. But 65% of immigrants who were detained and deported from 1996 to 2006 were detained after being arrested for nonviolent crimes. In 2009 and 2010, over half of all immigrant detainees had no criminal records (much like the recent case of Ayded Reyes). Of those with any criminal history, nearly 20% were merely for traffic offenses.
Third, let’s look at where all this money goes.
Most of ICE-run detention facilities have been privatized. As a result, the expansion of the immigrant detention system has benefited the private prison industry. In 2010, the two largest ICE detention contractors Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) and the GEO Group Inc., reported annual revenues of $1.69 billion and $1.17 billion respectively.
Fourth, let’s follow the money and connect the dots.
The huge amount of profits that the private prison industry creates from the detention and deportation of immigrants have motivated private prison corporations to try to exert their influence on legislators and lobby for laws that detain immigrants more frequently and for longer periods of time. For the five corporations with ICE detention contracts for which federal lobbying records are available, the total lobbying expenditure for 1999 through 2009 was over $20 million. Arizona‘s controversial S.B. 1070 bill was drafted in the presence of officials from CCA. Of the 36 co-sponsors of S.B. 1070, 30 received campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists or companies, including CCA.
The following paragraphs, which were left out at the rally due to time constrains, help you understand the impact of immigration detention and deportation on immigrants.
We at Families for Freedom have a distinct understanding of the issue. Our members are being detained and deported or threaten to be detained and deported for all kinds of reasons and non-reasons, from being suspected of having overstayed visas, to having committed a felony many years or even decades ago, sometimes during one’s teenage year, which one has long served time for. Many of our members have lived legally with their entire families in the US for decades, many since their childhood, and now are being ripped apart from their families and communities and sent to countries where they have no families and which they do not know much about.
Having been convicted of a crime is only an excuse for immigrants to be detained and deported. And it is an unfair one. If immigrants who have committed a crime have to face deportation after serving their time, deportation is an additional punishment for immigrants for no other reason than being immigrants. And it is a very severe punishment. (You may understand it better by listening to this This American Life radio program concerning the 1996 law.)
Immigrants are often detained without access to a lawyer and taken far away from their homes and communities so that they cannot get help from their families and communities. Those that are detained are often denied access to health care. So not only they can be deported without a chance to fight their deportation, some of them also have to deal with serious health problems in detention which have resulted in death in some cases.
This article was written for Occupy Wall Street’s media team to submit to The Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section. I have not been notified that it has been used. So I am posting it here to share. A few changes have been made for the sake of political correctness and accuracy.
Most people who come to Occupy Wall Street for economic reasons are protesting against income inequality. However, there are quite many who come to protest a host of other issues including budget cuts, worker exploitation, and crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, etc.
Budget cuts are being implemented or threatened to be implemented on all levels of government all over the country and in many countries in the developed world. Budget cuts can have profound impacts on the lives of many who need government assistance, especially at this difficult time when government assistance is needed more than ever.
Worker exploitation is happening more often because of intense competitions among businesses trying to survive a hard time and because of the lack of new job opportunities. In an economic hard time, businesses have both the motivation and the condition to exploit workers more. Economic hardship means fewer customers, which means more competitions among businesses. The lack of new job opportunities means workers have to put up with harder working conditions and spending more time at work without getting proper compensations for it.
Crackdowns on undocumented immigrants have had a devastating impact in immigrant communities and beyond. Families are torn apart. Bread-earners are taken away. Children are left in foster care (see “Study: 5,100 Kids in Foster Care After Parents Deported” and “U.S. Deports 46K Parents With Citizen Kids in Just Six Months”). Not to mention many jobs left unfilled (see “Test fails to replace immigrant laborers with U.S. citizens in Alabama”), crops left rotten in the field, loss of economic output, loss of tax revenue from businesses as well as from immigrant workers (see “RELEASE: How Georgia’s Anti-Immigration Law Could Hurt the State’s (and the Nation’s) Economy”), more financial burden for the government, and more burden for local communities.
The good news is, although you do not hear much about them, there are working groups at Occupy Wall Street, such as the Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group, that are working on these issues. Occupy Wall Street has developed into a mini society where we take care of each other and try to get all the issues that we are facing addressed.
Activists do not have to live where meetings are supposed to take place. Meetings do not have to take place where activists live.
We should call on residents to provide shelters to activists and offer to pay part of their rents. We can use the money donated to OWS to help pay their rents. This way we can find more shelters for activists and so more activists will be able to join the movement.
Also, activists should be flexible and keep their personal belongings in storage, shower in the gyms, and be willing to sleep in living rooms or in sleeping bags (rather than tents) if they sleep outdoor. That way it would not bother too many people.
We are here to build a movement, not to ask for whatever we want. Do you agree? If activists can not sacrifice themselves, how do they lead a movement that ask others to refrain from being too greedy?
This flyer was distributed at the Zuccotti Park two weeks after Occupy Wall Street started. I have run out of the flyer and have not printed any more. So I am posting it here in case anyone still wants to see it. Occupy Wall Street is now a movement rather than just a demonstration or a protest. But I am listed it under “Demonstrations” just for convenience.
What do we want?
- End the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq
- End the use of torture and targeted killing
- Restore habeas corpus
- Restore civil liberties (was originlly misspelled as “liberty”)
- End the deportation of immigrants
- Legalize undocumented immigrants
- Reform the immigration system
- Justice for Troy Davis
- Justice for Meredith Kercher
Human rights have always been the driving force for economic prosperity. Only when people have more rights can they afford more. If no social progress is being made anywhere in the world, there will be no economic growth.
Check out posts by “Fourth of July” on 212s.com and facebook.com/anythingnewyork for more…
March for America is an advocacy event for immigration reform that will be held in Washington, DC, not New York City. But there will be buses picking up people from New York City. So I am posting information about the event here.
Bus Departs: 6 a.m. Sunday, March 21
Bus Returns: 10:30 p.m. Sunday, March 21
Location: 7th Avenue and 13th Street, Manhattan
Cost: $10 (Scholarships available)
Contact: Chantale Soekhoe, NYCLU Advocacy Program Assistant: email@example.com or 212.607.3371
Click here to reserve your seat now: https://secure.aclu.org/site/Ticketing?view=Tickets&id=107581
Another place to reserve a bus seat to DC is http://www.nycharities.org/events/eventlevels.aspx?ETID=1257