Trump on Thursday made the big gaffe of claiming that his threatened crackdown on migrants and refugees will be a militarized operation, even though we have laws against that sort of thing in America. On the books, anyway.
"We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country and at a rate that nobody has ever seen before,” Trump boasted to a gaggle of multinational CEOs meeting with him at the White House. "And it’s a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country—when you see gang violence that you’ve read about like never before and all of the things—much of that is people that are here illegally. And they’re rough and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people. So we’re getting them out.”
He couldn't have picked a better time for his bluster, given how the military dude in charge of domestic Homeland Security is just fresh off his stint of running American military operations in huge chunks of Central and South America. Even more awkward, Gen. John Kelly was physically present in Mexico at the exact moment that Trump was thumping his chest. Accompanied by Rex Tillerson, Exxon-Mobil's new Secretary of State, Kelly already was ineffectually trying to convince his Mexican counterparts that America really loves Mexico. He was already trying to do damage control over the Wall business as well as over Trump's threat to send armed troops over the border to "fight the drug war" in a more public fashion than has been heretofore deemed proper by the Deep State/military-industrial complex.
"There will be no use of military forces in immigration,” Kelly insisted in a direct rebuttal of his putative boss. “There will be no—repeat, no—mass deportations.”
There's also the matter of the administration "dumping" immigrants into Mexico who are not even Mexican citizens. Most of those coming across the southern border are refugees from the drug and gang violence in Central American countries.
And that, as the Intercept's Lee Fang puts it, has the private prison industry salivating. If the Mexican government refuses to accept the deportees, they'll have to be locked up somewhere. And there is a shortage of "facilities" to deal with the millions of human beings whom the Trump administration apparently has in mind.
Meanwhile, the corporate mainstream media has chosen to freak out not so much about the deportations per se, but about Trump's semantics on the militarization of the crackdown. Press Secretary Sean Spicer, for his own part, ineffectually tried to explain that his boss was only using the military term as an adjective to describe how "precise" and streamlined the roundups are going to be.
But the alternative reality is that Trump was only speaking the truth in his own usual disjointed, context-free way.
US law enforcement - and that very much includes the Border Patrol and Immigration enforcement - has been highly militarized for at least the past decade. As Nafeez Ahmed writes in Alternet,
Under the controversial "1033" program, the Department of Defense (DoD) is able to provide "surplus" military-grade equipment to law-enforcement agencies.After criticism of the program in the wake of militarized police force during protests in Ferguson and Baltimore, the Obama administration made some feeble P.R. efforts to rein in the foisting of excess war hardware upon minimally trained local law enforcement agencies.
The program, legislated for in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), provided local police forces access to billions of dollars worth of high-tech military equipment, including armoured tanks, rocket launchers, automatic weapons, night-vision goggles, and other supplies traditionally used by the U.S. Army in foreign war theaters.The DHS often provided multimillion-dollar grants to law-enforcement agencies to purchase the military equipment.
The truth, though, is that domestic militarization is easier than ever. The only requirement is for the agencies to convince the feds -- specifically, the Pentagon - that such high tech weaponry is needed to control any number of vaguely-defined situations and "threats."
Despite what Obama's public relations offensive claimed at the time, Ahmed continues,
The 1033 program’s open-ended carte blanche for domestic law-enforcement agencies to access military-grade equipment has not been repealed, but integrated deeper into the Pentagon bureaucracy.Trump's military "adjective" is boosted by the fact that the Pentagon is now run not by the traditional civilian, but by an active military man -- Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who has absolute legal carte blanche to militarize whatever domestic agency he feels like.
The new amendments dramatically increase the Pentagon’s powers to scrutinize and supervise the use of military equipment in the homeland. Among their implications, they make DoD-supervised military training mandatory for domestic agencies who receive these weapons.In effect, this places all domestic law enforcement operations using Pentagon-supplied military equipment under the partial jurisdictional authority of the Secretary of Defense. By making domestic agencies more accountable to the DoD, the revamped 1033 program in effect extends the Pentagon’s jurisdictional authority into the homeland by bureaucratic fiat.
Trump's deportation directives are only the culmination of decades of institutional xenophobia and greed. According to Princeton University sociologists Douglas Massey and Karen Pren, "(...) border enforcement emerged as a policy response to a moral panic about the perceived threat of Latino immigration to the United States propounded by self-interested bureaucrats, politicians, and pundits who sought to mobilize political and material resources for their own benefit. The end result was a self-perpetuating cycle of rising enforcement and increased apprehensions that resulted in the militarization of the border in a way that was disconnected from the actual size of the undocumented flow."
Translation: follow the money.
After 9/11 and the founding of the Homeland Security state, the militarization of the Mexico border took off like a shot. And the very definition of "border" has increased exponentially. For greed and fear purposes, the border is the entire contiguous United States. This is not a new Trump invention, according to the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights:
The border has become an imagined war zone, where the war on drugs, crime, and aliens are fought. Such arrangements make the border an area where the U.S. constitution has little to no value, a post-constitutional territory that expands across the country. Although there are many ways to assess just how militarized the border has become, one of the clearest ones is looking at the colossal spike in funds funnelled into border security.And Trump's Wall is also a highly unoriginal concept, given that there is already a huge fence spanning much of the border. In 2006, the Bush-era Congress (and that included an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) approved the construction of the multibillion-dollar Secure Fence, which turned 700 miles of the southern border into a virtual war zone.
Then during the Obama presidency came the draconian enforcement and expansion of 2008's Secure Communities initiative. It tore apart millions of families whose members were arrested and deported for even very minor traffic infractions, such as an unpaid parking ticket.
This is the exact same program which Trump now wants to revive, after Obama scaled it back somewhat in 2014, due to legal challenges and electoral pressure from immigration rights activists and Latinos, whose votes the Democratic Party so desperately needs for its continued survival.
And Sarah Lazare explains,
Meanwhile, Obama expanded the 287(g) program, which was authorized in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton. According to ICE, the program “allows a state or local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), in order to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.” The program expanded immigration enforcement powers to local police, giving them the authority target undocumented people in the streets and in jails, leading to an escalation in racial profiling. While the Obama administration later partially scaled back 287(g), Trump has referenced this initiative and Secure Communities as models to emulate and “revitalize.”Still, Obama always kept up his big propaganda show of supporting immigrants, even as ICE continued its cruel - and racist - raids and roundups throughout his tenure. In 2013, for example, under the Criminal Alien Removal Initiative in New Orleans, ICE stalked and arrested people in their Bible Study groups, in laundromats, in apartment complexes with the aid of the same high-tech mobile biometric devices first designed for military use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
McClatchey's James Rosen reported in November that the very authoritarian Obama has actually been unfairly castigated by Trump and other Republicans as a weak little pussycat, given how cruel and right-wing his administration actually was in its accomplishment of more than 2.5 million deported human beings. The record proves it:
David Burnham, co-founder of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, said the increase represents a joint crackdown by lawmakers and the Justice Department under Obama.Therefore, if and when he does succeed in revitalizing Obama's cruel agenda, Trump is absolutely right in characterizing this long-standing weaponized American policy of stalking, harassing, terrorizing, fingerprinting, arresting, incarcerating, deporting, wounding, and yes, even killing people as a military operation.
“This outcome is a combination of policies and actions by a very aggressive Congress and a very aggressive Obama administration both wanting to work the borders – keep people out, as Mr. Trump says,” Burnham told McClatchy.
Obama has long been described as the “deporter in chief” by immigration advocates who dispute President-elect Donald Trump’s characterization of Obama as soft on immigration.
But the new numbers provide the first concrete evidence of how Obama’s record compares with his predecessors’.
It's a domestic war in every brutal, racist, demeaning and profit-motivated sense of the word. It is what Barack Obama so cloyingly called a "norm" in that self-protective and self-serving farewell speech that he gave to the nation right before jetting off to canoodle with billionaires and raise a billion and half dollars for a museum celebrating his life.
Trump is simply the first high-ranking American official to call it exactly what it is. His big lie is that more immigrants kill native-born Americans than are injured or killed by American immigration policies.