Defund The DHS

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Exponents Magazine published my second piece, pasted below. But honestly, if you’re pressed for time and want to read something about defunding/dismantling the Department of Homeland Security, this piece is better than mine. This is another good read on DHS.


Defund The DHS

The House will soon vote on an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Created in November 2002 to improve coordination between departments after the September 11th attacks, the Department of Homeland Security is the country’s youngest cabinet department. Here’s why now is an excellent time to defund the DHS. 

In the wake of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, President Trump authorized DHS to disappear demonstrators in unmarked vans. Unfortunately, opaque operation and human rights violations are nothing new for this department.

Since its inception, DHS personnel have consistently been the perpetrators of grave human rights abuses while its leaders have repeatedly lied to the American public. Despite the fact that American immigration is associated with lower crime and higher economic growth, and immigration to the US is flat, budgets for the “border enforcement industrial complex” balloon every year. 

Under DHS sit both U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the United States Border Patrol. The list of human rights abuses perpetrated by these two organizations alone could fill books. 

Families Torn Apart

Among the most reprehensible policies implemented by DHS is the Family Separation Policy. The intent of this “zero tolerance” approach to immigration was to deter asylum seekers. 

The Trump administration didn’t invent separating children from their families at the border. Under the Obama Administration, DHS would separate children from their guardians at the border if they were in danger.

The difference is that Trump wants to dissuade refugees fleeing rampant violence in Latin America (due in large part to the US war on drugs) from coming to the US. Since he can’t legally turn them away, the Trump administration has instead weaponized family separations in an effort to inflict so much pain on asylum seekers that they would choose to remain in countries where their lives were in danger. This is in fact the statedpurpose of the family separation policy. As Adam Serwer wrote in The Atlantic, the cruelty is the point.

As a result of this weaponization, the number of family separations carried out by DHS has skyrocketed. By August 2017 DHS had increased family separations by a factor of ten. By April 2018, DHS was actively separating thousands of families at the border. 

Life Inside the Concentration Camps 

First and foremost, family separation damages children, leading to lifelong struggles including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

But, this is just one part of a DHS-led larger effort to make crossing the border as painful and dangerous as possible for refugees. For example, Border Patrol officers are known to dump out water left for fleeing families who must brave extreme heat as they travel, laugh at crying children separated from their families, and post racist memes about immigrants dying on Facebook groups. 

Once separated, DHS detains some children in concentration camps where infants go without baby food and older kids can eat only junk food, if they’re fed at all. They also go without soap, toothbrushes, and showers. On American soil, innocent children sleep on cots, cramped together in sweltering heat, matted hair crawling with lice. Cruelly, lawyers representing DHS have arguedagainst having to provide basic hygiene to children detainees. In detention centers, DHS employees have molested thousands of children while DHS covered up the abuse. 

Even before COVID-19, DHS has refused to give their prisoners flu shots and other medical care, even though non-profits have offered to cover the costs. This has led to multiple preventable deaths. DHS also tortures adults with solitary confinement and by denying them access to medical care. At least six children and 24 adults have died in ICE custody. 

Deported to their Deaths

If they don’t die while in custody, many are instead deported back to their country of origin, often based on faulty information. Most asylum seekers have no legal representation so when DHS lawyers use false evidence to argue against asylum they have no recourse. The Trump administration has deported tens of thousands of asylum-seekers only for cartels to kidnaprape, and target thousands of them for extortion. 

“The Department of Homeland Security is essentially delivering asylum-seekers and migrants into the hands of kidnappers, and people who are attacking the refugees and migrants when they return,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First.

And while carrying out these flagrant, cruel human rights abuses, DHS leadership has lied repeatedly to Congress and the American public. 

Lying, Unaccountable Leadership

On June 17, 2018, six months after DHS circulated a memo containing official plans to separate families and nearly a year after the initial surge in family separations, then DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” In December 2018, as children were dying in ICE custody from insufficient medical care and neglect, Nielsen testified, under oath, before the House Judiciary Committee, “I’m not a liar; we’ve never had a policy for family separation.” 

Nielsen then falsely claimed family separation was necessary due to an influx of kids and adults who aren’t related. Not only was she lying about the true intended purpose of the policy, but about the deluge as well. At most, 0.6% of refugee children show up with adults who aren’t their parents. 

Once released, parents often couldn’t find their children. DHS leadership claimed their database recorded the information necessary to reconnect families. Yet in reality, the DHS tracking systemautomatically deleted those records. To this day, we still don’t know how many children DHS has separated from their parents, how many they’ve lost, and how many have died in DHS custody. 

On June 26, 2018, a federal judge ordered DHS to halt family separations at the border and to reunite children with their parents. Yet DHS continued separating families and lying about the numbers. Between then and July 2019 DHS has separated at least 900 families. 

We also don’t know how much all this has cost, since data fraud is rampant within Border Patrol. But we do know it’s a lot. 

Extreme Expenditures and Regulatory Capture

DHS had a $47.7 billion budget in 2018 and is the third-largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Between 2006 and 2018, DHS spent at least $80.5 billion on contracts for border and immigration control services. 

Why does ICE pay companies $319 per night per person when an ankle bracelet costs $15 per day, at most? Intensive supervision costs just $38 per day per family and boasts a 99% compliance rate. Because it provides revenues to the cities, relatively high-paying jobs, and outsize returns to investors such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, Vanderbilt University, and Jack C. Massey. 

The War on Immigrants has created a powerful lobbying bloc of border-security companies pushing for spending and civil liberties violations that vastly exceed the threat posed by illegal immigration.  

Detention centers are a massive wealth transfer from American families to stockholders, city bureaucrats, and detention center employees. DHS pays billions of dollars to privately owned and operated family incarceration facilities which lobby for stricter immigration rules. These kinds of wealth transfers create their own industry/government revolving door lobbying apparati, constantly demanding more prisoners to increase profits to shareholders especially. 

The House Appropriations Committee influences (and can block) DHS funding. However, border-security corporate giants are its members’ biggest campaign contributors. Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Boeing contributed a total of $27.6 million to members of the committee between 2006 and 2018. Last year the House Appropriations Committee’s top two contributors were Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, offering $866,194 and $691,401 respectively to members’ campaigns. Raytheon, Boeing, Deloitte, and General Dynamics, also donated more than $500,000. 

The House Homeland Security Committee evaluates legislation on border and immigration control. Unsurprisingly, border-security corporate giants donated $6.5 million to members of the committee between 2006 and 2018. 

VisionGain argued in 2014 that the global border-security market was in an ‘unprecedented boom period’ and will be a $52.95 billion market by 2022.

Going Forward

As Will Wilkinson writes of the border enforcement industrial complex, “The fact that we built it at all, and on a bipartisan basis, is a stain on our national conscience.”

The Department of Homeland Security has nothing to show for its existence except a massive budget and immense human pain. It lines the pockets of private companies and investors who in turn lobby for policies that constitute grave human rights abuses and are overseen by craven, sociopathic liars. 

We as a nation have to do better than paying private companies billions of dollars to lock children in dirty rape cages. It’s long been time to defund the DHS.

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