Keep all the beds occupied

But also in the Atlantic is Franklin Foer’s cover story on how Trump radicalized ICE. He starts with people fleeing murderous violence in Mauritania:

The country is ruled by Arabs, but these refugees were members of a black subpopulation that speaks its own languages. In 1989, in a fit of nationalism, the Mauritanian government came to consider these differences capital offenses. It arrested, tortured, and violently expelled many black citizens. The country forcibly displaced more than 70,000 of them and rescinded their citizenship. Those who remained behind fared no better. Approximately 43,000 black Mauritanians are now enslaved—by percentage, one of the largest enslaved populations in the world.

I didn’t know about that. I’m horrified that I didn’t know about it.

Some were able to escape to the US; some of those settled in Columbus, Ohio, but their asylum applications were flawed and some judges ordered them deported.

But those deportation orders never amounted to more than paper pronouncements. Where would Immigration and Customs Enforcement even send them? The Mauritanian government had erased the refugees from its databases and refused to issue them travel documents. It had no interest in taking back the villagers it had so violently removed. So ice let their cases slide. They were required to regularly report to the agency’s local office and to maintain a record of letter-perfect compliance with the law. But as the years passed, the threat of deportation seemed ever less ominous.

Then came the election of Donald Trump. Suddenly, in the warehouses where many of the Mauritanians worked, white colleagues took them aside and warned them that their lives were likely to get worse. The early days of the administration gave substance to these cautions. The first thing to change was the frequency of their summonses to ice. During the Obama administration, many of the Mauritanians had been required to “check in” about once a year. Abruptly, iceinstructed them to appear more often, some of them every month. ice officers began visiting their homes on occasion. Like the cable company, they would provide a six-hour window during which to expect a visit—a requirement that meant days off from work and disrupted life routines. The Mauritanians say that when they met with ice, they were told the U.S. had finally persuaded their government to readmit them—a small part of a global push by the State Department to remove any diplomatic obstacles to deportation.

Oh well great; so they get to go home to be enslaved or killed. Fabulous. So they’re leaving Columbus and hiding out in New York or going to Canada to apply for asylum.

[O]ne segment of the deep state stepped forward early and openly to profess its enthusiasm for Trump. Through their union, employees of iceendorsed Trump’s candidacy in September 2016, the first time the organization had ever lent its support to a presidential contender. When Trump prevailed in the election, the soon-to-be-named head of ice triumphantly declared that it would finally have the backing of a president who would let the agency do its job. He’s “taking the handcuffs off,” said Thomas Homan, who served as ice’s acting director under Trump until his retirement in June, using a phrase that has become a common trope within the agency. “When Trump won, [some officers] thumped their chest as if they had just won the Super Bowl,” a former ice official told me.

ICE is a child of 9/11.

following the shock of 9/11, ice was created as part of the Department of Homeland Security, into which Congress awkwardly stuffed a slew of previously unrelated executive-branch agencies: the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard. Upon its creation, DHS became the third-largest of all Cabinet departments, and its assembly could be generously described as higgledy-piggledy. ice is perhaps the clearest example of where such muddied, heavily politicized policy making can lead.

It’s Homeland-thinking – this is Our Home and outsiders don’t get to just move in. It’s not a generous or compassionate way to think.

It’s a money-spinner though.

ICE quickly built a sprawling, logistically intricate infrastructure comprising detention facilities, an international-transit arm, and monitoring technology. This apparatus relies heavily on private contractors. Created at the height of the federal government’s outsourcing mania, DHS employs more outside contractors than actual federal employees. Last year, these companies—which include the Geo Group and CoreCivic—spent at least $3 million on lobbying and influence peddling. To take one small example: Owners of ice’s private detention facilities were generous donors to Trump’s inauguration, contributing $500,000 for the occasion.

Basically the point of ICE is to get people out.

ICE, however, is assigned the task of removing undocumented immigrants from the country’s interior, and it has approached this mission with cold, bureaucratic efficiency. Until recently, the agency had a congressional mandate to maintain up to 34,000 beds in detention centers on any given day with which to detain undocumented immigrants. Once an immigrant enters the system, she is known by her case number. Her ill intentions are frequently presumed, and she will find it exceedingly difficult to plead her case, or even to know what rights she has….

Under the current administration, many of the formal restraints on ice have been removed. In the first eight months of the Trump presidency, ice increased arrests by 42 percent. Immigration enforcement has been handed over to a small clique of militant anti-immigration wonks. This group has carefully studied the apparatus it now controls. It knows that the best strategy for accomplishing its goal of driving out undocumented immigrants is quite simply the cultivation of fear. And it knows that the latent power of ice, amassed with the tacit assent of both parties, has yet to be fully realized.

The thing about cultivating fear is that you can get people to leave on their own, with no expensive pursuit or argument in court needed.It’s a long article; this is only a fraction. The tl;dr is that for political and financial reasons ICE treats people badly while contractors make a profit.

ICE has numeric goals, and it goes to great lengths to achieve them. Among the most important of these goals is the drive to constantly run its detention facilities at maximum capacity. In 2004, Congress directed ice to add 8,000 new beds a year. (In 1994, the government maintained a daily average of 6,785 detainees; this year, the expected average is 40,520.) This required a massive investment in detention, which Congress wanted to ensure didn’t go to waste. In 2009, Robert Byrd, the late Democratic senator from West Virginia, quietly added a provision to an appropriations bill mandating that ice “maintain a level of not less than 33,400 detention beds.” The provision was never debated and left room for competing interpretations. But for large stretches of the Obama years, Byrd’s amendment was regarded as an obligatory quota. (Last year Congress finally removed the Byrd quota, but Trump’s goals for detention far outstrip anything Congress has ever mandated.)

And so on. It’s a gruesome, depressing story, tragic for the people caught in ICE’s clutches.

2 Responses to “Keep all the beds occupied”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting