Saturday, May 8, 2010

Surveillance and Immigration

Hal Pepinsky,,
May 8, 2010
The immigration bill now working its way through the US senate requires that biometric national identity cards be produced by all US employees. I am reminded of apocalyptic prophecies I heard from survivors of intergenerational satanic cults as the twentieth century was about to end: Eventually, in order even to work, you would be required to carry a mark of the beast. Already, personal information was being accumulated (as someone told me she understood it, in a Stockholm suburban center). In the late sixties, I had already learned never to say anything on the phone that I would not want overheard. When I heard worries expressed about progressive state intrusions into privacy, I joked that since the government had at least two security clearances’ worth of information on me, I was protected by their information overload.
What is information overload protection for this native-born older white man become further pretexts for detaining, criminalizing, deporting and economically marginalizing poor young people of color, in this case known or suspected immigrants. For one thing, biometric national identity cards would become a lucrative new crime control industry. At what point would state or private employers of what size be required to hook their own readers up to a national data base? At what point would employers be prosecuted for not having kept records of id checks? What sort of industry would grow in the new market for identity fraud? This is Arizona’s law carried to a whole new level.
As a schoolchild I memorized Emma Lazarus’s poem at the base of the US Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shores.
Send these, the homeless tempest tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.
These days, “enlightened” politicians in the White House and Congress have come to recognize dangers of giving way to protectionism in hard times. Some blame free trade agreements. In a truly free global market, those who were unemployed in the US could freely move to foreign labor markets, and Latin Americans could re-colonize the nation that has colonized them since the Monroe Doctrine in 1815. With truly conservative belief in personal freedom, there would be no drug war, hence a major drop in murders along the US-Mexican border.
Next month I will be at the International Conference on Penal Abolition in Belfast. The conference will never again come to the US, because even in 1991, the one time the conference was held in the country, people with long-gone felony convictions were turned away at the Canadian border. International boycotts of the US started long before the current boycott of Arizona. And US senate sponsors of “immigration reform” have the gall to criticize Arizona. These days, it’s hard to tell our domestic enemies from our foreign ones. I wish Lady Liberty were allowed to do her magic. Love and peace--hal

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