Category Archives: Ethnicity

Blood on the border: Homeland security run amok


From being a relatively minor federal law enforcement before 9/11, the Border Patrol has been radically re-envisioned and empowered Borders and Customs, a militarized forced equipped with the latest in technology and more than doubled in size to a force of more than 21,000 armed agents.

In this investigation conducted by a Berkeley-based journalism center, MSNBC, and Mexican broadcaster Telemundo, we get a unique look at the actions U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the largest law enforcement agency in the Department of Homeland Security, boasting more than 60,000 employees,

The focus is seen from the viewpoints of those who have been the subjects of violence from the agency’s 21,000 armed agents, as well as by those who have been charged with overseeing the agency and investigating its actions.

Alonzo Pena, Deputy Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2009 until the following year, and had spent 24 years as a special agent for other federal law enforcement agencies, describes the mindset succinctly: “They think they are the policemen of the world,” proudly declaring themselves La Máquina Verde, the Mean Green Machine,fighting alien invaders.

They live by the motto “When I bleed, my blood is green” Substitute blue for green and the words are the same as esnl heard many, many times during our years as a reporter. We suspect they also employ a rationale we’ve heard repeatedly from police at all levels of government: “Better to be judged by twelve [the size of the jury in most U.S. criminal courts] that carried by six [pallbearers in the typical funeral],” a rationale all too often accepted by their bosses, though less so since phones started coming out with built-in video cameras.

And when it comes to shooting brown people, they seem find it just as easy a do cops farther north of the border.

The report focus on men and women who have been the victims of agent violence, including rape and murder. Their numbers include unarmed criminals and alleged criminals, shot in the back while fleeing — an action strictly against agency policy — and Native American youths, shot on their own land.

One was a sixteen-year-old Mexican youth, shot in the back by an agent who fired through border fence and killed the boy on a Mexican street.

James Tomsheck, deputy commissioner for internal affairs for Customs and Border Protection from 2006 to 2014, came to the agency from a distinguished 30 years in the Secret Service. He describes an agency with a history  of protecting agents they know to have acted wrongly, then lying about the crimes they have committed. “I believe there is a culture of holding only themselves accountable, and interfering with outside agencies who attempt to hold Border Patrol personnel accountable for their actions.”

Tomsheck looked at 28 fatalities inflicted between January 2010 and June 2014 that he deemed merited further investigation, including seven he deemed high suspicious. None was prosecuted.

His frankness may have cost him his job under the new “reform” director brought in because of the results from Tomsheck’s findings.

It’s an important report, well worth your time.

From Noticias Telemundo:

Border Patrol Shooting | Noticias | Noticias Telemundo

Program notes from Reveal, the renamed website of Berkeley’s Center for Investigative Reporting:

Paralleling a decade of growth, the U.S. Border Patrol has seen a rise in corruption and a troubling trend of the use of deadly force. Amid a national debate around police use of force, The Center for Investigative Reporting, in collaboration with Telemundo and MSNBC, spent seven months investigating deadly force by Border Patrol agents and how these incidents are handled by its parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Highlighting specific shootings involving agents and how a hiring surge that began more than a decade ago contributed to these issues, the investigation charted several incidents along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and Texas.

Among those interviewed were victims, speaking publicly for the first time, of a brutal assault, rape and attempted murder by a Border Patrol agent in South Texas. Reporting from Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, correspondent José Díaz-Balart got an exclusive first look at a new Border Patrol training tool: a use-of-force simulator used to prepare agents to respond appropriately to threats. Along with interviews of former high-ranking officials, some speaking publicly about inside details for the first time, the investigation offered new insights into how the U.S. government has failed to hold the agency accountable.

Native American drinking stereotype busted


Another myth debunked.

From the University of Arizona Newsroom:

In contrast to enduring stories about extraordinarily high rates of alcohol abuse among Native Americans, University of Arizona researchers have found that Native Americans’ binge and heavy drinking rates actually match those of whites. The groups differed regarding abstinence: Native Americans were more likely to abstain from alcohol use.

The UA study, published online Monday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, was conducted by James K. Cunningham, lead author, a U.S. Fulbright scholar and social epidemiologist with the UA Department of Family and Community Medicine and the UA Native American Research and Training Center; Teshia A. Solomon (Choctaw), director of the Native American Research and Training Center; and Dr. Myra Muramoto, head of Family and Community Medicine.

The researchers analyzed data from a survey of more than 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 whites between 2009 and 2013. The survey, called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, was administered by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The UA study also used another nationally representative survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to measure how often Native Americans and whites engaged in excessive drinking in the past month. Again, findings for the two groups were comparable.

BLOG Drinx

About 17 percent of both Native Americans and whites were found to be binge drinkers, and about 8 percent of both groups were heavy drinkers. Binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks on one to four days in the past month. Heavy drinking was five or more drinks on five or more days in the past month. Sixty percent of Native Americans reported no alcohol use in the past month, compared to 43 percent of whites.

“Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn’t mean that alcohol problems don’t exist,” Cunningham said. “All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender.

“But falsely stereotyping a group regarding alcohol can have its own unique consequences. For example, some employers might be reluctant to hire individuals from a group that has been stereotyped regarding alcohol. Patients from such a group, possibly wanting to avoid embarrassment, may be reluctant to discuss alcohol-related problems with their doctors.”

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Solomon noted that comparable rates of alcohol use do not necessarily result in comparable rates of alcohol-related health problems. “Native Americans as a group have less access to medical care, safe housing and quality food, which can amplify health problems connected to alcohol,” she said.

“Negative stereotyping of groups of people who have less access to health care creates even more health disparities,” Muramoto said. “Based on a false negative stereotype, some health care providers may inaccurately attribute a presenting health problem to alcohol use and fail to appropriately diagnose and treat the problem.”

The researchers feel that their study could impact beliefs about Native Americans’ alcohol use.

“It’s our hope that the media — movies, television, newspapers, radio, Internet — will represent Native American alcohol use more accurately,” Cunningham said. “It’s time to let the myths about elevated drinking fade away.”

A summary of the report, “Alcohol use among Native Americans compared to whites: Examining the veracity of the ‘Native American elevated alcohol consumption’ belief,” can be accessed here. [For the full article, another damn paywall, $35.95, to be exact — esnl]

Lethal private prisons for male border-crossers


They’re a legacy of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and the corporations running them were major campaign contribution bundlers for Hillary Clinton until their role was exposed by The Intercept in July.

Why Hillary? It’s not just out of loyalty to her spouse. Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, is an outspoken advocate for ending the nation’s mass incarceration program and has sponsored legislation to end corporate prisons in the federal justice system.

Clinton only formally backed off from the private prison lobby in October, when she tweeted “Protecting public safety. . .should never be outsourced or left to unaccountable corporations.”

But notice the weasel word unaccountable in her declaration, potentially leaving the door open for “accountable” corporations, whatever those might be.

Now, why that adjective “lethal” in the headline?

Because the subjective of this two-part interview for Democracy Now!, Seth Freed Wessler, is the author of “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die,” a major investigative report for the Nation on deaths in the corporate prisons used to house men whose only offense has been to cross the U.S. border without permission.

And where are these prisons? From the Nation, a map lays it out:

BLOG Prisons 2

And now for the interviews.

From Democracy Now!:

“This Man Will Almost Certainly Die”: The Secret Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Seth, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain the title, “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die.”

SETH FREED WESSLER: That title comes from a quote that was left in one of the medical files I obtained through an open records request. I obtained 9,000 pages of documents. And in those documents, from one of these prisons, there was a medical doctor who left his normal medical notes, but he also left a series of notes railing against the system that he had—he worked in, inside of one of these private federal prisons, private federal prisons used only to hold noncitizens convicted of federal crime—a sort of segregated system of prisons. In these files, he left a series of notes where he was railing against this prison system, basically saying that it wasn’t providing prisoners, or wasn’t allowing him to provide prisoners, the kind of care that as a medical doctor he believed he should be able to provide. These records tell the stories of 103 men who died inside this federal subsystem of prisons.

If you’re convicted of a crime in the United States, a federal crime, and you’re a noncitizen considered a low-security prisoner, you’re likely to be sent to a different prison from all of the rest of—from citizens. And those prisons are nearly the only prisons that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has privatized, has contracted out to private companies—GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation.

And what I found is that the federal government is applying a different and less stringent set of rules to these prisons. And that, in the context of medical care, is leading to stripped-down kinds of medical clinics with lower-trained, lesser-paid, less expensive workers. And in dozens of cases, prisoners held inside are facing medical neglect. In 25 cases I looked at, doctors who reviewed the files said these prisoners likely would have lived had they received adequate medical care.

And the second part:

Seth Freed Wessler on Uncovering the Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails

From the transcript:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the epic battle you had to get these records. How—what kind of resistance did you come up across? And when you say 103 deaths, what period of time are we talking about here?

SETH FREED WESSLER: So, I had filed an open records request, a Freedom of Information Act request, several years ago. And I thought that I was going to get documents from that request. I talked to people in the BOP’s FOIA office, and it seemed that it was moving. But a year passed and then two, and I realized that I wasn’t going to get any of these documents. I had asked for the medical records of people who had died. It took filing a lawsuit in federal court to compel the federal government to compel the Bureau of Prisons to move. And last year, I started to receive these files—which were later unredacted, in significant part—that told the stories of men who had died. The files also included the internal investigations and death reports for each of these men who died. And in many cases, the prisons themselves, the private contractors themselves, acknowledged in these reports that there had been failings.

In one case, the prison company, Management and Training Corporation, contracted to have a after-action report conducted, in anticipation of litigation. That litigation never happened. In fact, this family didn’t know that their—the mother, who’s in Mexico, didn’t know that her son had died for nearly a year. And when I called her, when I found her and I talked to her, she still didn’t know that her son had been locked up for illegal re-entry. That is, she said to me, “I thought he had done something terrible to land in a federal prison in the United States.” But, in fact, I told her why he was locked up.

This is a man who arrived at the prison very rapidly. It was very clear that he was entering into a state of real distress, hallucinating. He said that voices—he was hearing voices that told him to break a window. And he received no substantive mental healthcare, and then he killed himself in this prison, even after he wrote on an intake form that he had been taking drugs for mental illness, that he had committed—attempted suicide in the past, and a medical—a low-level provider saw that he had tried to cut himself previously.

Chart of the day III: Wealth inequality by ethnicity


From Demos:

BLOG Inequality

Class cleansing, history, race, and the Super Bowl


A short but notable segment from Democracy Now! how issues of the issues of class and race are integral to America’s most iconic sporting event.

No Super Bowl in recent decades has evoked their spectral present more than the game’s 50th extravaganza, held in San Francisco, the nation’s most expensive city to inhabit, yet a city haunted by the issues of race and class.

It was, after all, San Francisco that brought the nation its first drug law, created in 1875 to repress a hard-working Chinese population by banning the use of opium, the drug which helped numb the pain brought on by long hours of physical exertion.

The San Francisco ordinance, quickly adopted by most other California cities with large Asian populations, didn’t halt sales of the drug; instead driving it underground and causing the price to spike.

Nor, as any visitor to modern San Francisco can attest, did it succeed in driving out its Chinese residents.

[The nation’s prohibitions of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin were all based directly on overt racist hysteria, as noted here.]

The San Francisco Bay Area was also the birthplace of the most prominent African American militants of the mid-20th Century, the Black Panthers.

And it was the Panthers who were, remarkably, celebrated in Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show by one of the nation’s most popular singers.

But before the game was held, another cleansing of San Francisco took place, this time one based on class and not race.

And with that by way of preface, from Democracy Now!:

Beyoncé Wins the Super Bowl: Pop Legend Invokes Black Panthers, #BlackLivesMatter at Halftime Show

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin joins us from Washington, D.C., sports columnist for The Nation. His latest article, “The Streets of San Francisco: ‘Super Bowl City’ Meets Tent City.”

Thanks so much. His books include The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, which he co-wrote with John Carlos. Your response to all that happened last night, Dave?

DAVE ZIRIN: Well, there’s on the field and off the field. I mean, on the field, you had the Denver Broncos exhibit one of the great defensive performances in Super Bowl history. Off the field, what you had was really an unprecedented sweep of the homeless before a Super Bowl contest. And, you know, every Super Bowl in the host city has a narrative that exists outside the game. In New Orleans, it was “How will the city recover after Hurricane Katrina?” In New York, if you remember—we discussed this, Amy—it was the sweep and harassment of sex workers before the big game that took place in the Meadowlands.

And in San Francisco, it’s the fact that you have this city of only 800,000 people that has a homeless population of 10,000. Sixty-one percent of the homeless in San Francisco were working at the time they lost their homes. And one-third of these 10,000 people are children. And yet, the response from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was: You better get off the street. You better get gone, because we’re about to have a party for the 1 percent. We’re about to have a Woodstock for the wealthy and celebrate the Super Bowl and celebrate our conspicuous consumption. There’s no greater symbol of this year’s Super Bowl, to me, than the fact you could go to the game and buy a delicious hot dog with real gold flakes sprinkled on top, so you could eat gold with your hot dog while people are literally hungry outside the most unequal and, by some metrics, the wealthiest city now in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about what happened inside, at halftime, Dave Zirin? Can you talk about not only what Beyoncé—

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —did there with her song, the homage to the Black Panthers—

DAVE ZIRIN: It was too short.

The Empire Files: Bloodshed on the border


In the second part [first part here] of “The Empire’s Border,” her report on the bloody politics of the United States’ southern border, The Empire Files‘ Abby Martin examines the origins of that boundary line in bloody conflict, America’s first imperial war against another American nation state.

Her focus then shifts to the first border wall, erected after a fierce street battle in the border town of Nogales, Arizona/Juarez, Mexico 98 years ago.

Adding immensely to the border tensions was the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement [and do watch Hillary’s spouse preaching its virtues on signing the treaty into law].

Then came 9/11, and the subsequent paranoia-enabled national security spending binge, in which fears of boundary leakage proved centers of immense profits and bureaucratic binging. . .

Increased deaths became inevitable, especially given a media fueled campaign of paranoia direction against brown-skinned people.

Well, we’ll leave the rest for you.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: The Empire’s Border Part II – A Hidden War

Program notes:

In the second installment of this two-part episode, Abby Martin continues her investigation of the hidden war on the U.S.-Mexico border, looking at the root causes of the epidemic of migrant deaths. The Empire Files documents an inflated, paramilitary Border Patrol, the devastating impacts of NAFTA, how the U.S. Empire benefits from immigrant labor and what can change the equation.

Featuring interviews with Todd Miller, author of ‘Border Patrol Nation’, and Araceli Rodriguez, mother of Jose Antonio, a 16-year-old boy murdered by Border Patrol.

And some good news for the enviornment


A Canadian rainforest is saved.

From the BBC:

Indigenous tribes, timber firms and environmental groups in western Canada have welcomed a deal to protect one of the world’s largest remaining tracts of temperate rainforest.

The Great Bear Rainforest on the Pacific coast of British Columbia is home to many animals and ancient trees.

Logging will be banned across a huge area of the forest.

Environmental campaigners say the deal is a model for resolving similar land-use disputes around the world.