The NATO summit is being paid for by a $19.1 million grant from the federal government, security grants and private donors, including donations from 36 private companies. Donors include military-industrial giants Boeing and Raytheon, as well as FedEx and General Electric. The average contribution is thought to be around $1 million or an in-kind donation of manpower, but donation amounts will not be disclosed until after the summit concludes. At least 11 of the corporate donors have ties to World Business Chicago, whose board is chosen by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Other donors, such as Duke Energy, Caterpillar, and General Electric, have personal ties to either Mayor Emanuel or the Democratic party.
With this appearance of blatant cronyism, coupled with traditional criticisms against NATO, it is not surprising that large-scale rallies and protests are planned for the summit. These include a two-day Counter-Summit For Peace and Economic Justice with plenary speakers and workshops, a Shut Down Boeing event (time TBD), and a large march and rally organized by National Nurses United.
Despite approving the NNU march route several months ago, the city revoked the permit on May 8, citing the addition of musician Tom Morello to the schedule. The city’s proposed changes to the route would effectively nullify its impact by shielding NATO participants from the protesters, something the United States criticizes other countries for doing. On May 12, the NNU compromised with the city to keep the permit, though still agreeing to limit its First Amendment rights by agreeing to abandon the march.
The city is heavily prepared for these demonstrations. The NATO summit is a National Special Security Event, reports the Chicago Sun-Times, with its own flight restrictions and assistance from police coming from as far away as Philadelphia and North Carolina. An event with this designation is considered by the Department of Homeland Security to have an elevated threat of terror attacks. Security is the responsibility of the Secret Service, the FBI is in charge of intelligence and counter-terrorism, and there is additional cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The ACLU notes that protesters may find themselves facing the implications of H.R. 347 – the new questionable new law that carries possible penalties of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The ambiguous language in H.R. 347 is of concern to the ACLU and others. The previous version of this law, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, required that the person act willfully and knowingly to be considered in violation. H.R. 347, notes the ACLU, removed “willfully” from the text, meaning that someone who is in a restricted zone but does not know that their remaining there is in violation of the law may be considered to have acted criminally. This NATO summit will be the first real test of H.R. 347.
Kade Ellis of PrivacySOS has detailed the preparations the city has made for the expected influx of protesters, including the militant attitude adopted by Sergeant William Schield after training at the DHS Center for Domestic Preparedness facility.
The facility, located in Anniston, Alabama, trains police and emergency responders to handle mass casualty events, hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction, suicide bombers, pandemics, and CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) Incidents. What it does not seem to provide is training for law enforcement officials, who are the under the stress of working overtime in tense conditions, to deal with large-scale but peaceful protests. This outside training, focused on terrorism, is the result of budget cuts and the continued encroachment of the DHS into civilian police departments.
Given the conditions, jurisdictional confusion, the focus of Chicago police training, and the popular portrayal of anti-NATO and anti-globalization protests as violent, anarchic riots, the possible intensity of security enforcement is of concern to activists. The city only recently settled a lawsuit with more than 800 plaintiffs who were part of mass arrests in the 2003 Iraq War protests. Aon, the insurance broker who had contracted with the city, only received one bid from the 70 possible carriers to insure police against lawsuits.
Some resources for activists and those attending NATO protests:
- ACLU Report: Know Your Right to Protest in Chicago – includes an overview of the fundamental right to protest, restrictions (including time, place and manner), street and sidewalk protests, and information about specific places in Chicago
- The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has launched a hotline for journalists covering the NATO protests
- The RCFP media hotline, 312-251-1000, will be staffed by volunteers on Sunday (May 20) and Monday (May 21)
- The National Lawyers Guild will provide legal support and a hotline for NATO demonstrators
- Chicago Action Medical will staff a Wellness Center, providing first aid and holistic care, until the 21st
A jury has found Occupy Des Moines protester and former state representative Ed Fallon not guilty of trespassing for violating an 11 pm curfew. Fallon and 14 other members of Occupy Des Moines were arrested after knowingly remaining on the grounds of the Iowa state Capitol on October 9, 2011.
Although Mercer Lewis of Occupy Denver was earlier acquitted by a jury on March 7, the Fallon case is a victory for the movement. Fallon admitted under oath that he violated the curfew, but a jury of his peers upheld his and the other protesters’ rights, finding, “[t]he Constitution supersedes all state laws and regulations.”
This is the first of many jury trials expected for Occupy movement, as arrested protesters are increasingly choosing to demand their Sixth Amendment rights in tandem with the protections afforded under the First.
In the foreword to “Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea”, Mark Kurlansky asserts:
Responding to violence with more violence is rarely appropriate. However, discussing nonviolence when things are going smoothly does not carry much weight. It is precisely when things become really difficult, urgent, and critical that we should think and act with nonviolence.
A February 3 piece in the Guardian highlights the apparent divide within the Occupy movement. Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York marched in solidarity with Occupy Oakland, where over 400 demonstrators were arrested on February 1.
As they marched, and occasionally sprinted, through lower Manhattan, masked protesters were seen pulling debris into the road. A small minority of demonstrators threw bottles at police officers, while larger numbers chose to berate the cops with chants of “fuck the police” and “racist, sexist, anti-gay/NYPD go away.” The combative attitude and aggressive tactics, justified by some by ongoing police violence, upset a number of demonstrators.
Timothy Pool, a well-known citizen journalist in the Occupy Movement, was accosted by some protesters who demanded he stop filming their actions – releasing air from the tires of an NYPD vehicle. He had been assaulted by a masked assailant just days earlier. These incidents, as well as the attacks on and intimidation of other citizen journalists have brought to light an underlying tension within the Occupy movement. While much of the media focuses on the more radical elements, Occupy needs to address this division and the tactics used by the few that put all of us at risk.
Citizen journalists often do not have the protections offered to the credentialed main stream media. While events in New York and Oakland, as well as in other cities, have shown that police are sometimes willing to arrest and brutalize these credentialed and well-known journalists, the larger number of us are always at risk of arrest and censorship. For further risk to come from within the movement itself is disturbing.
The identity of Tim Pool’s attacker and some others caught on tape committing destructive acts is questionable. The first reaction I usually get is that they are law enforcement infiltrators, sent in to commit acts of violence, discredit the movement, and give the waiting police an excuse to brutally crack down on the protest action.
The FBI Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) was created in 1956 and officially ended in 1971 (more on that in a moment). COINTELPRO is often referred to as a surveillance program, but that was not its primary aim. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, agents regularly infiltrated activist groups with the goal of subverting the organizations. The main goal of COINTELPRO was never surveillance – monitoring alone does not require the level of infiltration employed by the program. Agents sought to disrupt activist groups by instilling fear and distrust, causing internal collapse. COINTELPRO was exposed in March 1971 and declared officially over later in the year.
The program – or at least, its tactics – has almost certainly continued, and it targets activists. Sophisticated technology, the acceptance of warrantless wiretaps, surveillance vehicles, and smaller hidden cameras and microphones all reinforce the theory that surveillance itself is not the aim of counterintelligence programs.
In fact, the exposure of COINTELPRO and the assumption that it continues may itself be a tactic. We know about these programs and see undercover agents exposed, as recently occurred in the Supreme Court protest on January 20. The mere presence of DHS vehicles on-site and the assumption that infiltrators are among Occupy is enough to cause some people to panic. These agents have been visible or revealed largely because that is their role. The point of COINTELPRO has always been to create paranoia within the group.
What concerns me is the seemingly automatic assumption made by many people that any action considered violent or destructive is done by infiltrators. This is naive. The Occupy movement embraces and prides itself on being of the 99% – we are quick to apply that label to nearly everyone, but apparently refuse to acknowledge that destructive, radical people are indeed the 99%. Occupy is a populist movement without central leadership, open to everyone, that acts in the public squares and streets. It is the perfect movement for infiltrators – not only law enforcement, but Black Bloc and others inclined to violence.
I have always argued that the General Assembly and consensus process would protect us from these elements, but the attack on Tim Pool and threats on other citizen journalists has led to discussions about diversity of tactics. While this seems to be largely a euphemism*, the conversation is important and needs to be public. On Sunday, January 29, members of Occupy Wall Street held a Diversity of Tactics meeting in Washington Square Park around 3 pm. Pool told me that he and others were told cameras “were not a good idea.”
The Guardian quotes Occupy Wall Street protester Ted Hall as saying, “our strengths are not in secrecy. Our strengths are in transparency…. [anything] that’s secretive is going to attract instigators and undercovers like a moth to a flame.”
I am personally in favor of asserting our commitment to nonviolence. Nonviolence is not an ideology, does not require us to ‘roll over’ and does not weaken us. Nonviolence is a tactic. It is active and demanding and powerful. More powerful, in fact, than throwing bottles and breaking windows.
Kurlanksy notes the absence of a positive English term that properly conveys the principles of nonviolence. “Nonviolence” itself seems to suggest that violence is the norm, or an eventuality. The Sanskrit ahimsa, which Gandhi used as the basis for the Indian Satyagraha civil resistance movement, is active – the avoidance of violence – the choice to act without harming others. Gandhi makes clear in his translation of “Satyagraha in South Africa” that Satyagraha is an active, not passive, civil resistance. He further considered Gita, the concept of a just war, to be allegorical, interpreting it as an internal struggle and ahimsa to mean violence in all states – including dishonesty, wrath, and hatred.
The movement needs to make choices. If we recommit to nonviolence we can then address how to protect both journalists and the masses from retaliation. Will this cause a schism? Possibly.
A contingency calling itself the White Bloc announced its intentions for the February 4 Occupy Oakland FTP march. The amount of anger directed as this decision seemed to highlight the divisions within the Occupy movement.
Subsequent conversations I had with Occupy Oakland protesters revealed that the name White Bloc could easily be interpreted to mean something other than what I believe its original intentions to be – specifically against the Black Bloc. Coming from a privileged background, I too quickly overlooked how this designation would affect persons of color. It is evident to me that, while the White Bloc may have been an important experiment, a group labeling itself as white (or any color) has broader implications. Persons of color and other minority groups have for years been the targets of law enforcement profiling and narrow-minded surveillance programs and the onus is on the rest of us to be sensitive to anything that could cause people to feel further disenfranchised. Journalist Ayesha Kazmi puts it best:
As tempted as many white Occupy protesters are to proclaim “we are all one and the same!”, you cannot expect minorities, whose communities have been subjected to intimidation and abuse, to suddenly throw away the race card and jump on the bandwagon. These are critical times, and as such, it is important for Occupy to get it right. We are all part of the 99% – and the concerns of some should fast transform into the concern for all.
However, with the NDAA and EEA looming, we need to make a decision now about what kind of movement we are, and act accordingly. The transparency and nonviolence that were behind the White Bloc idea are what is most important. Defacement, vandalism, and the use of projectiles are not self-defense. If we want protect ourselves from the destructive elements, we need to reaffirm our commitment to nonviolence and make it evident, always, to those outside the movement. This means the media, the public at large, and law enforcement. Along with everything else, Occupy is fighting an information war.
There is more information on nonviolent ideology, tactics, and its dynamics available from Nonviolence International.
*interestingly enough, ‘Diversity of Tactics’ came into widespread use at the height of the anti-globalization movement in the 1990s, right around the time when Black Bloc tactics were increasing in western United States.
Photographs from the January 20, 2012 Occupy the Courts demonstration at the Supreme Court
Supreme Court police said eleven people were arrested in the demonstration and a twelfth was later arrested inside the court. That man, Scott Fitzgerald, was reportedly already wearing the jacket that said “Occupy Everything” when he went through security upon entering the court and was not attempting to be disruptive.
On October 16, Dr. Cornel West was arrested along with eighteen others for demonstrating on the Supreme Court steps.
After a 14-hour drive, two of which were spent in northern Virginia traffic, we arrived back in DC.
McPherson Square had changed dramatically since our departure. The park, which had seemed so large when we were only sleeping on the ground in one quadrant, had been filled with tents.
We made our way to the Capitol building, where the day’s demonstrators were planned. The group was filled with both young and old, seasoned protesters, Occupiers, children and grandparents – people had traveled from across the country to attend the protest.
Retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis was in attendance, and quickly stopped and held by Capitol Police. Assuming his arrest was imminent, protesters rallied behind him.
Captain Lewis was released to cheers and told protesters Capitol Police were confirming his identity and that he was not carrying a weapon. In a later interview with Occupy San Diego, he gave protesters some advice about dealing with police:
“Don’t be shouting things at them that rile them up. I understand the frustration, I understand the anger…we worked within the system, we elected Obama…but if you’re ever involved, do not become physical with the police. You will not win. You will come out worse.”
He also spoke about the Occupy Wall Street eviction, the increasing militarization of police, and the use of tasers and the LRAD system.
After the initial breach, the atmosphere around the Capitol steps turned jubilant, with protesters feeling they had achieved a small victory for the day.
Capitol Police quickly lined up to contain the situation. Most were professional, calm, and even seemed to be enjoying the revelry, but several arrests did occur.
Another young man was arrested shortly after. “I’m not resisting!” he said, “I’m standing here.”
After 2 pm, groups formed for planned autonomous actions and meetings with their Congressional Representatives, including at the Rayburn Office Building, which houses the offices of 169 Representatives. The group decided to forgo the crosswalks to the Rayburn Building and took to the street instead.
Shortly after leaving the Congressional offices, protesters held an impromptu march through the streets. The police response was unprecedented. This was not the first time that an Occupy had taken the streets, but Capitol Police seemed more interested in containing the march than preventing it.
Already people were mic checking for another march, but the group decided to wait until the planned time on the permit.
Just before 7 pm, protesters again took to the streets for the planned march following a route from the Capitol to the Supreme Court and ending at the White House. I lost battery at this time, but still ran ahead of the march with other media. Police presence, perhaps in response to the earlier march, was heavier and more aggressive. At one point an officer forced me off of the sidewalk and into the street. When I told him I was covering the action he said, “if you’re covering it, you’re with them.” Another citizen journalist was similarly forced into the street.
The march ended at the White House.
After chanting and singing, the crowd began to dissipate slightly, with some people leaving for a planned party at the Capitol lawn and others demanding President Obama make an appearance. What we didn’t know at the time was that the President was out to dinner for the First Lady’s birthday. The security demanded by his motorcade returning may explain the events that followed.
Both Park and DC Metro Police were on scene but allowed normal pedestrian traffic to flow through the street in front of the White House and Lafayette Park. As protesters lingered, police presence began to intensify, with Secret Service mobilizing. One person mic checked that he was informed (through sources unknown) that riot police were on their way, bringing dogs, to disperse and presumably arrest any remaining protesters. Several of us decided to remain on site to document the events, aided by our ‘Ninja Backpack’ with its portable military-issue personal generator. After some time we began to see police donning riot gear and there were indeed vehicles marked as K9 units, but there were no signs of dogs or even police mobilization. There were, however, a number of fire trucks and ambulances staged on 17th Street, and police moving in from that area (Note – I lived in DC for a year and saw this many times when the Presidential motorcade was due to pass through a particular street).
Tension steadily increased and we decided to leave the scene, as there were about 20 – 30 people remaining at the White House gate.
As we were walking back on H Street, on the north side of Lafayette Park, police informed us that the park and Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House were closed because “one of you Occupy people” lobbed a smoke device onto the lawn.
The corporate media has reported extensively on that incident, and I was not there, so I will not attempt to recount it. However, I do wonder if there is any correlation between mainstream media’s coverage of #J17 being almost entirely limited to this event and that members of the White House press pool held while the device was investigated.
I can also assert that there were not 1500 people present at the White House at that time, as Secret Service spokesperson George Ogilvie has been quoted as saying.
When we left, the remaining demonstrators were hanging paper hearts on the fence, confident that #J17 had been a success.
January 17, in Washington, DC – the #teamoccupyyourmom / xo99percent reunion at Occupy Congress
On Occupy’s four-month anniversary, Occupy Congress will hit the streets of Washington, DC. A grassroots effort, Occupy Congress is planning meetings with Congressional Representatives as well as rallies around the Capitol and a large multi-occupation General Assembly. Many of us will be staying with Occupy K Street in McPherson Square.
This administration has broken the social contract and bond with its citizens. The Occupy Congress Buses are filling up quickly, hopefully bringing thousands of people from across the country to the front steps of Congress.
Because while Occupiers have been busy with evictions, raids and arrests, Congress passed and President Obama signed the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2012 into law, bringing with it the possibility of indefinite detention for American citizens.
Because we currently face two additional threats to our free speech, access to information and free communication, and our ability to even demand our rights – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Enemy Expatriation Act.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a great resource for news on SOPA, on which debate has been postponed until Congress returns from recess. SOPA, sponsored by seemingly every large corporation, would give the government the power to shut down sites that are even suspected of committing copyright infringement. The bill is being sold as an anti-piracy measure, but its reach is so far beyond that. During the massive campaign to stop SOPA, a Phillies blogger detailed the implications the bill would have on fan sites and blogs. For the sake of transparency, please know that the writer is a long-time friend of mine from college. Ryan says, if he were to post a video of the Humpty Dance to the zoowithroy Phillies blog* -
- I’d be guilty of a felony for linking to that video.
- ZWR would be liable because he owns the site on which it was posted and as such be guilty of a felony and the copyright holder would instantly be allowed to shut down the site permanently.
- The company that hosts ZWR’s webservers is guilty of a felony for hosting the site.
- The guy that uploaded it to YouTube would have committed a felony by uploading it.
- YouTube is guilty of a felony for hosting it and/or not preventing it from being uploaded in the first place and, as such, could be shut down permanently.
- If ZWR were tweet the link to this post, Twitter would also be guilty of a felony and could also be shut-down because they (inadvertently) linked to this post.
Furthermore, SOPA may allow for the government to conduct deep-packet inspection, tracking and analyzing user-transmitted data, a filtering technique famously employed by Iran (aided by Nokia Siemens) to track and find activists in the violent aftermath of the 2009 Presidential elections. During the early days of the Arab Spring, it was reportedly used in Syria, Egypt, Libya and possibly Tunisia for the same purpose.
As for the Enemy Expatriation Act, our corporate-owned media has yet to cover it, but the text of the bill is clear enough:
112th Congress: 2011-2012
To add engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States to the list of acts for which United States nationals would lose their nationality.
Couple this with the NDAA and the Department of Defense considering protests low-level terrorism, and it is clear that we have to continue to speak out while we are able.
Occupy Congress is the next necessary step for the Occupy Movement.
Early backlash against the event tried to paint it as an SEIU-organized-or-sponsored event, suggesting that this was the union’s attempt to co-opt the movement, push for Obama 2012, and dilute Occupy’s message. The underlying implication was that Occupy Congress was a Democratic Party event and conservatives should not attend.
I spoke with Occupy Congress organizers, who assured me, “the SEIU has zero role in organizing this event.” This was corroborated by a long-time Occupy K Street activist I’ve met and consider trustworthy. Finally, an unknown individual or group using the hashtag #TCOT (‘Top Conservatives on Twitter’, a standard tag for conservative-leaning members) along with the Occupy Wall Street #OWS tag, issued this promotional poster in support of the action -
It’s been a long winter…a long 3+ months. It will be rejuvenating to finally meet Occupiers from across the country who we’ve only seen in video and pictures. We are influencing each other and changing the course of this country. I can think of no better way forward than to meet on January 17, chant nonsense, yell ‘SPOON’ at the top of my lungs, and parade around the Capitol. Please join us.
More information on #J17 can be found via Occupy Congress -
- on Twitter as @re_occupy
- and on the Occupy Congress January 17th, 2012 Facebook page
Join the planning on the Occupy Congress Wiki.
*It’s a long season and Phillies bloggers are a strange breed.
Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holiday of Your Choosing from Jo and Kor, aka the ladies of #teamoccupyyourmom.
The Christmas season has been difficult on us both as it has been for the entire Occupy movement. Cities across the country have evicted Occupiers, often in the early hours of the morning and with unnecessary force. Some groups are fractured from the inside, facing personality and ideology clashes, and are struggling to maintain cohesion.
We can only grow by representing the entire 99%. To move forward, we have to consider traditionally marginalized groups – ethnic minorities, immigrants, Native Americans, religious minorities, and women – and not only engage them in conversation, but truly listen to their concerns, demands, and ideas. We cannot speak for them, but must work with them.
And, as always, we must be transparent. Leaked emails from OccupyWallStreet suggest that money is not being spent in the most responsible way.
We will overcome this Valley Forge moment. Occupy is young and faces considerable challenges but we have already made a positive impact on the country. Occupy has already changed the national economic conversation. Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, has proposed a Constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood. The House of Representatives Financial Services Committee announced it will be holding hearings on no-contest settlements. The National Lawyers Guild, which provides pro-bono legal observation and assistance to Occupy, has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for evidence of federal involvement on Occupy crackdowns. The refusal of the CIA to even consider an FOIA request highlights the inherent issues with the FOIA.
Where traditional media has failed, we have excelled. Citizen journalists across the country are bringing the news to the people. I am proud to say that #teamoccupyyourmom has been at the forefront of coverage, with the Gypsy Cell traveling to cities across the east coast and the gulf. They were there to cover the New Orleans eviction and the #D12 port action at the Port of Houston. The team has been on the ground in Austin, Birmingham, Boston, DC, Houston, Keene (NH), New Orleans, Philadelphia and Wall Street. We have exciting plans for the New Year, including #OccupyCongress on January 17 in Washington, DC and some to-be-announced things in the works.
As always, we are dependent on you for your help. Please consider making a donation to #teamoccupyyourmom if you are able.
Happy 100 days, and on to freedom.
On Saturday, December 3, members of Occupy Birmingham traveled to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama to stand in solidarity with opponents of HB56, Alabama’s harsh anti-immigration bill.
Among those in attendance were undocumented immigrants, such as Victor, a young man who was denied enrollment into any of the collages he was accepted to because, despite growing up in America, he was classified as an international student. Victor stood before the crowd and proclaimed, “I am undocumented and I am unafraid” before launching into a passionate speech.
“I have been here since I was six years old,” Victor said. “I consider myself a Mexican, and American, and a southerner. To anyone who says, ‘what part of illegal don’t you understand?’ I say, ‘what part of humanity don’t you understand?’”
His speech, like all the others, was translated into perfect Spanish. The translators – a young black man and a young white man – were symbolic of the diversity within the crowd.
13-year old Jocelyn stood before her supporters, nearly shaking as she struggled with the bullhorn. At first she just seemed nervous, but soon the extent of her trauma was made known. Her mother, who brought Jocelyn to the United States as a six-year old girl, had fled the state last month with her husband and baby daughter because she feared the implications of HB56. Jocelyn, through tears, spoke of how she begged her mother to let her stay – just one more year – and live with her uncle, because she wants to finish school. “I stayed because I want to fight for my dream – I want to be the first one in my family to graduate,” she said.
Mrs. Mohammad was detained with her husband and 18-year old son in 2009. The family was forced to make the devil’s choice between the two parents. As her husband was the sole wage-earner, they decided he would stay with their remaining children while she joined their son in custody. She was held in detention, not only with other immigrants, but with criminals. Though she pleaded with the prison authorities, they repeatedly made her remove her religious headcovering to be photographed during processing. The photographer was male – a violation of her religious rights and an assault on her dignity. As for her now 21-year old son, he was born in Saudi Arabia but was raised in the United States – his parents brought him here when he was just a year old. “We are not criminals. We are immigrants. We are here to work and raise good children.”
Though our original plans were to surround the facility, we were given permission only to march around the front on the sidewalk. As we marched and chanted, we began to see faces appear in the top windows. They began to rattle – “let our people go” and there they were, able to see our outpouring of love in the form of signs and chants, screams of “we love” you and fingers held up in ‘V’s. “Una familia!” we yelled, and the detainees, our sisters and brothers in bondage, yelled back. Amazingly the detainees held up signs of their own – “Detention = Injustice” and simply, “L-O-V-E-U.”
The Department of Homeland Security Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget request notes that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) developed an action plan that reduced the average length of stay (ALOS) for ‘criminal aliens’ by 11 percent in 2009. It makes no mention of the ALOS for non-criminal ‘aliens’.
The Migration Policy Institute report for that same year showed that 34% of ICE detainees had received their final removal orders. Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) concerns “Aliens and Nationality”. 8 CFR 1241.33 stipulates, “once an order of deportation becomes final, an alien shall be taken into custody and the order shall be executed.” It does not specify how soon the removal is to occur, except that to be no sooner than 72 hours after the service of the final deportation decision. Nothing in the federal statute or the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) dictate how long an alien may be held after receiving their final deportation orders. Of the 10,771 detainees for which a final removal order date was provided, the average length of detention following those orders was 72 days. The average length of time in detention for post-removal order detainees, including time both before and after the final removal orders were issued was 114 days. 1,792 post-removal order detainees had been held for over six months. Information obtained via a FOIA request in January 2009 listed more than 400 detainees without any criminal conviction who had been held for more than a year.
The MPI report also spells out the underlying problem with ICE ‘criminal alien’ numbers – they include persons who have committed immigration-related crimes. For nearly 20% of the detainees in the MPI report “the most serious criminal offense recorded was traffic-related (13%) or immigration-related (6%).” Even with these petty offenses being considered criminal, an astounding 58% of the detainees had no criminal record whatsoever. The report editorializes, “[these detentions are] difficult to explain since mandatory detention laws largely apply to criminal aliens.”
There is an underlying financial incentive here. Though ICE’s FY2009 budget included $63 million for “alternatives to detention” programs, 12 of the 17 of the most immigrant-populated detention facilities were operated by private contractors – correctional facility companies who stand to make a higher profit from every full bed. For FY2012, ICE will pay the Etowah County Detention Center $30 per bed per day.
Laws like Alabama’s HB56 work in tandem with Secure Communities (SCOMM), a mandatory ICE program that allows federal and local law enforcement agencies to share biometric information through the FBI’s IAFIS and DHS’s IDENT programs. A person arrested under HB56 can be held for an additional 48 hours by local law enforcement, allowing ICE agents time to review these databases and detain them for deportation proceedings. The FY2012 budget request for SCOMM is $184 million, a $64 million increase over FY2010, and will expand program deployment to 96% of jurisdictions. DHS maintains that SCOMM will be fully implemented by 2013. Alabama signed on to SCOMM on April 25, 2011.
The IIRIRA combined Deportation and Exclusion proceedings into a new one – Removal, giving immigration judges the power to adjudicate both. §237 reflected the Woodby v. INS, 385 U.S. 276 (1966) decision that immigration officials must demonstrate “clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence” for an immigrant to be deported in order to sustain the specific deportation charge. The court found in Woodby that it is appropriate to place the burden of proof on the government, as is required in other denaturalization cases.
Under the IIRIRA, an immigrant ordered removed but whose home country will not accept returnees may still be administratively ordered removed and held in detention indefinitely. According to the Women’s Refugee Commission, others at Etowah County are victims of torture or persecution in their home countries. Immigrants who cannot be repatriated or who do not qualify for political asylum due to bureaucratic hindrances would, in a just system, be considered stateless people in need of protection, not detention. Article 31 of the 1954 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons protects such persons from expulsion except on grounds of national security or public order. The United States is, however, not a signatory to this convention.
The United States is also not alone in its increasing deportation efforts. Europe and Australia are increasingly hostile to immigrants, even defying the Refugee Convention to deport Iranians who qualify for political asylum due to a clear threat of persecution if forcibly returned. However, as flawed and xenophobic as our immigration laws may be, the people detained in Etowah County are not even being held according to the law.
In Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001), the United States Supreme Court ruled that immigrants subject to removal but who could not be repatriated to their countries of origin could not be detained for longer than six months, barring extenuating circumstances. Though the case dealt specifically with non-citizens who were lawfully admitted to the country, it found that detention longer than six months would raise due process concerns. Specifically, the noted that the statute (INA Subsection 241(a)(6)) may be interpreted to justify indefinite detention. In Clark v. Martinez, 543 U.S. 371 (2005), the court clarified its position regarding to which non-citizens the language applies. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, found that six months was the time reasonably necessary to achieve removal and a non-citizen may be eligible for release if they can demonstrate that their continued detention beyond that period will not further removal in the foreseeable future.
The problem with the Clark ruling here is that it is incumbent upon Etowah County detainees – the same ones who can only speak to their families via television screen and have little access to legal advice – to argue their case.
And this is where we come in.
As Victor said, “Revolutions start with thoughts. Revolutions start at home. We can do this together.”