July 29 marked the one-year anniversary of Arizona's controversial immigration law, a year that has seen similar anti-immigrant bills emerge across the country. Thanks to the release of over 800 pieces of "model legislation" by the Center for Media and Democracy, we can now pinpoint the source of the outbreak to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a bill factory for legislation that benefits the bottom line of its corporate members. While it has been reported that more immigrants behind bars means more income for ALEC member Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), less discussed has been how immigrant detention benefits commercial bail-bond agencies, an industry represented in ALEC through the American Bail Coalition.
Race / Ethnic Issues
As CMD has previously reported, Governor Walker's budget bill will have a negative impact on Wisconsin's populations of color, especially in regards to perpetuating Wisconsin's atrocious record of racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Walker's effort to prolong prison sentences will also result in increased costs not reflected in the budget, at the expense of spending on education and health.
While Wisconsin protest coverage has focused on GOP efforts to limit public sector collective bargaining, less attention has been given to the Republican attack on the poor and people of color. On Saturday, activists gathered at the Exposing Colorlines event at the capitol to focus on the under-reported aspects of Walker's budget and proposed GOP legislation.
The divide-and-conquer attack on working people by Wisconsin Republicans continues. After pitting private sector workers versus public employees, Walker and the GOP are now targeting Wisconsin's quickly-growing Latino and immigrant communities.
The latest census numbers show that Wisconsin's Latino community has grown by 74 percent in recent years, and GOP lawmakers have responded aggressively to this shift in Wisconsin's ethnic composition. Walker's budget eliminates laws that had treated immigrants humanely, and a GOP bill circulating through the legislature seeks to impose a draconian racial profiling bill modeled after Arizona's SB1070. What's more, the anti-immigrant sentiment may be fueling the out-of-state effort to recall Wisconsin's Democratic Senators.
Last week, the Senate refused to approve the DREAM Act, a bill that would have offered a path to citizenship for children brought into the country illegally if they attend college or serve in the military. Opponents stated that no immigration reform will happen without first "securing" the 1,951 mile U.S. border with Mexico. America's current approach to border security is wasteful and ineffective, and "securing the border" will never be achieved until we redefine our approach to, and definition of, border security. With many in Washington expressing concern about fiscal responsibility, reining in the billions wasted annually on current border security policies should really be a priority. But America's xenophobic preoccupation with an "invasion" by brown-skinned "illegals" may keep us pursuing an expensive and unreasonable approach to border security.
Recently, we expressed concern about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) testing iris-scanning technology on immigrants detained at the border. Since posting that entry, the Center for Media and Democracy has obtained a copy of the DHS “Privacy Impact Assessment” for the technology’s test run, and we are now even more concerned that DHS has not adequately considered this technology's serious implications for privacy and civil liberties.
Last week, USA Today reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was to begin testing new iris-scanning technology that stores digital images of people's eyes in a database. The two-week test of the new technology is to be conducted on immigrants that officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency encounter at the border. Iris-scanning technology conjures fears of Big Brother totalitarianism, brings to mind science-fiction films like Minority Report, and has drawn the ire of civil liberties groups. American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Christopher Calabrese tells USA Today that many fear that the iris-scanning cameras could be used covertly. "If you can identify any individual at a distance and without their knowledge, you literally allow the physical tracking of a person anywhere there's a camera and access to the Internet."
In Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally last week, held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, Beck claimed that he and his Tea Party followers would "take back the civil rights movement." While King's speech led Congress to pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, Beck's movement could lead to that Act's abolishment. Although Beck has not publicly called for overturning the 20th century's greatest piece of equality-advancing legislation, the libertarian philosophy he espouses is at odds with the way the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by private businesses. While Beck did not clearly state how he would reclaim the civil rights movement (he asserted that his rally was nonpolitical and aimed at "restoring America's traditional values") other leading libertarian right-wingers have called for abolishing some of the Act's most important elements, saying they constitute unnecessary government interference with the market. While undoing the Civil Rights Act through political channels would be almost impossible, the U.S. Supreme Court may have granted the right-wing a means to do so through the judiciary. The Court's reasoning in its January 2009 Citizens United decision could put some of the most important parts of the Civil Rights Act at risk.