Friday, May 25, 2007

Book Report: "Targeted" by Deepa Fernandes

Being an immigrant sucks.

"Targeted: Homeland Security and the Business of Immigration"by Deepa Fernandes makes that painfully clear.

If you think what’s happening at Guantánamo is bad, read this tome to find out how Mexicans, Guatemalans, Haitians and any other southerly, brown people are treated when apprehended by the beefed-up forces of order not only along the border, but down at the corner.

Fernandes, producer of WBAI New York’s morning show “Wake-Up Call,” has pieced together a rather staggering compilation of evidence asserting that immigrants have been targeted for a kind of “cleansing” from the national topography.

“Immigrants have been criminalized,” she writes, “and there is a rush to incarcerate and deport them.”

Worse, more insidiously, billions of dollars are being made in the immigration-industrial complex so deftly detailed by the author. Fernandes does a wicked job of piecing together how the Department of Homeland Security, boosted the Republican tropism for “privatization,” was essentially concocted and directed with the connivance of the same corporate forces that would end up benefitting from the enormous, post-9/11 budgets appropriated for "fighting terrorism."

She makes plenty clear, for those not astute enough to notice, that after 9/11 “terrorism” somehow became interchangeable with “immigration,” especially if the influx came from south of the border.

“Immigrants are currently the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the U.S. today,” Fernandes points out.

And if you don’t fit one of the increasingly narrow definitions of a person with the right to be here, you cease to be a person.

“Most people,” Fernandes writes, “probably do not think too much about differences between citizens and noncitizens, yet day by day, the gulf between these two groups grows. it is a divide that has been quietly and systematically engineered. Two systems of justice, two systems of social services, two economies.

It’s the two systems of justice that are most unnerving to read about. These people have no rights at all. Being guilty of nothing lands an immigrant in a newfangled holding complex paid for with your tax dollars and there is nothing to compel release or resolution of a case, even where the person really has no business being in there.

No habeas corpus, no nothing.

All the U.S.-born children, family connections, tax dollars paid-in, and social goods delivered will not save a detainee given the laws that effectively remove any need for a judge; so little discretion is left to them in deportation cases.

If they’ve committed a crime, and by crime that can be smoking a joint on the front stairs with some other revelers, they can forget about it. They’re gone.

And if that means going back to Haiti and jail for a little torture and disease contraction... so be it.

Seeking asylum from persecution? Take a seat in hell for a while...or longer. Fernandes' treatment of the subject essentially suggests that this country no longer represents a refuge for thus threatened with persecution or death at the hands of their home government.

“Targeted” is most powerful when Fernandes, a reporter who has logged thousands of miles between the continents and global hotspots, goes one-on-one, humanizing her subjects.

And this is necessary because, from the start, they don’t belong here and know it. Some have committed crimes and invited the natural reaction that they “go back where they came from.”

But a good writer and reporter knows that, were things quite so black and white, we wouldn’t need good writers and reporters.

There are numerous and worthwhile stories of tragedy-by-law in “Targeted,” as an example, it is worth highlighting the plight of a Palestinian who worked at WBAI with the author.

He got pulled into the maws of the immigration black hole, fought unholy battles to gain release, suffered long periods of imprisonment, and finally died of heart attack upon a release that was as much deserved as his detention was not.

The tale of Haitian who grew up in the United States, served in Iraq, and then came home to get imprisoned for a minor crime committed years before, takes the cake for chutzpah and should scare anybody where the matter of their own possible detention is concerned, citizen or not.

It is unconscionable that such things like this go in the United States of America today.

And while the suits shuffle the floors of Congress trying to figure out who can out-tough whom on immigration or come up with the cheapest and least inconvenient source of labor for corporate America, it’s important to remember that these are human beings and this is a democracy.

Amidst all the unkindness surrounding the immigration debate at present, Fernandes reminds us:

“While it is true that many immigrants come to the U.S. for economic reasons, they also come here for the promises of democracy and freedom that are sold to the world as American ideals. For many immigrants these are not abstract principles or commodities to be bought, sold or imposed. Democracy and freedom are absolutely worth fighting for.”

With everything immigrants contribute to our lives, that reminder may be their greatest gift of all.

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