tv Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garcia Hernandez Migrating to Prison CSPAN February 2, 2020 7:00am-8:30am EST
so great to have you all here. as you know we are an independent bookstore and wine bar and events like this are our favorite thing to do so we're excited you could all comeout . if you are not here for the event the aware thatit's going on . tonight we have the honor of having cesar fernandez who has written migrating to prison, america's obsession with locking up immigrants. he is a professor of law at the university of denver and an immigration lawyer who runs immigration.com and speaks on immigration law and policy issues, he hasappeared in the new york times, wall street journal, npr, guardian and other venues . please give a big welcome to cesar. [applause] >> good evening. great to be here with all of you. it's really nice when i find out that i'm not the only one who thinks that spending a saturday night in a bookstore
is the best option available. especially here. i actually wrote a decent chunk of migrating in prison over at the bar just behind some of you so i recommend the wine. but if the last few chapters start to meander, blame it on the hungarian tocai, not on me. so thanks for coming. like a lot of us in the united states, for me the story of migration, is that better? for me the story of migration is one that's much more than intellectual, much morethan a professional story . is my story about my lived experience. i was raised in mcallen texas which is a city just
abutting, it's about five miles or so from the rio grande river in south texas and that's relevant because the river they are, this is a fairly semiarid part of the country. it's not an easy place to live, so the waterway, the river is the reason why there are communities that hug the rio grande and that people settled in this region many generations ago. and it happened well before this natural waterway that brought people together, then became the international boundary that forms the us-mexico border so my family straddled this formal international boundary. my parents worked there, the
births of my siblings did and of course my daily existence for most of the first decades of my life did and in this context, for crossings or a routine fact of life. people cross the border for family occasions, just for monday and shopping trips, for medical appointments so our family had a binational, bicultural and a bilingual existence in this place and we were at once in 2 worlds and at the same time also living very much a singular experience . it is the experience of life along the borderlands so they are in this particular corner of the world, my parents managed to raise five children and in a migrant farmworker housing project by
doing what many people do. by scrimping and by scrounging. we recycle cans for cash long before any ofus knew there was some environmental benefit to this . we stood in line for the free cheese and peanut butter that governments officials use to bring over to our neighborhood in large trucks. and all this happens in part because my parents didn't have much by way of formal education. my father finished highschool in texas . my mother finished third grade in a small town in the mountains in central mexico where she was born and raised . and she finished the third grade twice and it wasn't
because she was doing poorly academically. it was because that was all that there was. the school and her town went through the third grade and she really enjoyed being in school so to stay in school, she for another year had to repeat the same grade that she had already done. and so to this day, i don't know. i can't say whether it's because of this lack of formal education or access to formal education or whether it's despite it, but whatever the reason, education was everything to my parents. they filled my mind, my siblings minds with the ambition for learning that they had been unable to fulfill themselves in their own lives. and by doing so they prepared me to thrive in worlds that growing up in south texas, i
didn't know existed. they prepared us to thrive in worlds they didn't know existed. and to be sure, when i left that in between space of the borderlands, we often say we're not from one place or another place , when i left that in between space, i found myself startled and unmoored in the imposing halls of brown university. the ivy league which is what took me away on my community in south texas and after that, i was disoriented even more when i was pursuing a lawdegree in boston . but nonetheless, despite that i found the courage to transcend in that childhood, in that childhood of crossing boundaries. it was through these
experiences, far away from the south texas community that breathes life into me that i came to see what was not apparent to me as a child . as a kid, knowing no other way of life, i had been unable to see the power that the law had on the border. and on the bodies that dared to cross the border. i did not know that the border patrol, that lucky mcgraw was not an everyday feature of life as experienced by most people in the united states. growing up in south texas i did not know that immigration checkpoints, about an hour north of the border would raise eyebrows outside of the region. i did not know that anything was strange about the occasional deal of sleeping
on our couch in the living room as he made his way north for work. so i did not realize the power that the law actually had on my daily existence. until i took myself outside of that comfort zone in south texas and reflected on where it is that i had been. the one facet of south texas continued to remain hidden from my view until i returned to the region as a newly minted lawyer. i had my bar card, i was it was still shiny new in my hand and i returned so that i can represent my friends who were facing deportation proceedings alongside, i could represent them alongside my brothers in the law firm that they and i had together.
i'm still a part of. and that facet of south texas life that was still unknown to meuntil i went back was the focus of this book . immigration prisons. all of a sudden i found myself representing clients in detention centers that i hadn't known existed. surrounded by onion cells are tucked into wildlife refuges. these places were remote even by the standards ofsouth texas . these were prisons in which people were incarcerated who, as it turns out, had been there all along. while i was being raised and yet, this had been, this was a story that was completely unknown to me . for me at least, they were effectively hidden in plain
sight. i remember vividly the very first time that i drove to the port isabel detention center which is 1500 or so bed facility that is, that has been around since the mid-1980s and as i drove on a small road and never driven a long before, i actually pulled over to the side of the road at one point, just to admire the scenery. there were native bamboos growing from alongside some lakes and i remember seeing these gorgeous white birds that were just standing in the midst of these bamboos and i now know that these are egrets. but i didn't know that at the time, i've never seen anything like this so eventually i started the car
up again and i continued along the path to the port isabel detention center and i didn't stop again until i got to guardhouse. outside of the facility, completely out of nowhere. and you're going from this gorgeous wildlife refuge and all of a sudden you run into the first securitycheckpoints . in order to part, you have to buy the guardhouse. they have to that you, see why you're there so then you're allowed to park in this completely ordinary parking lot. and you go to another security checkpoints to enter the facility. and inside, there are steel doors and there are security cameras all over the place, you're constantly being watched and you're being escorted.
you're being escorted, you're not allowed to walk around mainly because this is a prison and your escorted to a cinderblock visitation room where the rare attorney meet with a client and i say rare attorney because in immigration court there is no right to government financed lawyers, but what that means is you're going through deportation proceedings while you're locked up and you can hire a lawyer if you can afford to , but most people can't so that meant that most people were going through the process of trying to fend off deportation while they were locked up in this facility and doing it by themselves. so now years later i'm privileged to call myself a law professor, a teacher, a writer and i've written for over a decade about the ever-growing intersection between criminal law and immigration law, about the criminalization of migrants themselves. and people often ask me how
long have you been working on this book and the honest answer is i don't know. because i can't tell you. i think the idea for the book started on that drive to the port isabel detention center back in 2008 or so. but more fundamentally than that, it started i think when i was a child . and in my view, the law was nothing more than the power of the border patrol to decide who got to live with their family, who got to go to work. so i think it's actually the most accurate way i can respond to that question is to say that i've been working on this book in a sense as long as i've been doing this work. i've been working on thisbook in a sense as long as i've been living this work .
incarceration is one of the harshest realities of this trend. it's the part of immigration policing that led to the death of a man named camiar samini with a green card in his hand and i showed up one day at the agency and took him to a private immigration prison in suburban denver, in aurora area not too far from where we're all gathered tonight. just two weeks later, he was dead. the government's pressrelease said that he died suddenly . the government's internal investigation report released over a year later, and only after a journalist filed an open records request to get it said that the prison doctor never bothered to see him.
it says that the nurses did not follow the doctor's instructions. the immigration prisons are the places where the government, where our government, where we , the people oversee suffering. where the quality of life suffers and indeed, where at times life goes to end. and for those reasons, i think i conclude in my migrating to prison that immigration prisons are not defendable. in this book, i trace how the us at one point in its history actually shut down its immigration prisons and how for the 25 years after that, life went on without them. and then i described how starting in the late 1970s , the united states built the
largest immigration prison system in the world. today, the united states locks up roughly half 1 million people every single year because the government thinks that they have violated immigration law. in immigration prisons, there are people are being held there under the power of civil law because the government says that they might not belong here. and there are people who are held there under the power of criminal law because the government once to punish them for having come here. today, immigration prisons are everywhere and they take just about every form, from an old motel down in tucson to this concrete fortress in an industrial quarter of aurora just off of interstate 70, not too far from here and
some people are there because the government wanted to strip them of the permission that they had to be here . take jerry armigo who i spoke to when writing this book. jerry was raised in south texas not far from where i grew up and we were both born in thispoor, predominantly mexican community . only i was born north of the rio grande river and he was born on its southern side which means that i was born as a us citizen and he was not. and after high school i went off to college and after high school, jerry joined the army and got sent off to iraq. so i was shocked by a different culture. and he was shocked by
exploding bombs. and when he returned to south texas to recover from those injuries, he didn't get the support he needed so he fell into drugs, and eventually into the criminal justice system and one day i picked him up and send him to an immigration prison with the goal of deporting him. one bomb, a shoddy mental health system and a few bad decisions and all of a sudden jerry transformed from war hero to criminal alien. so others are locked up because they dared to seek safety in the united states. federal law is really quite clear that anyone who is physically present in the united states can ask for asylum here. itdoes not matter where you came from . it does not matter how you got here. and yet, come into the united states without the permission
of the federal government is also a federal crime. and this is why in the summer of 2018, we saw federal officials taking parents away from their children. and kids were sent off to places like that old motel in tucson that's surrounded by tall fences and it's monitored by 24 seven security cameras. and at the same time the parents were being prosecuted criminally in federal courts in places like mcallen where i grew up. before them, and since then , kids have been confined with their parents, kids like diego soria rivera. when he was just one-year-old , diego and his mother wendy decided that life in honduras
was too dangerous for them to stay. a lot people from all overthe world have done , for generations, diego and wendy turned to the united states for safety. and when they got here asked for asylum. within a few days they found themselves in an old nursing home outside of philadelphia from which they could not leave . ice calls it a family residentialsector . critics call it a baby jail. diego and wendy were stuck inside an old nursing home turnedprison , waiting for the legal process to slowly grind forward. one year old when he arrived, diego was three by the time he got out and eventually did win his legal case to stay in the united states, but not before 650 nights had passed.
i tell the story of diego in the book, and i tell the stories of many other migrants who are caught up in the immigration prison system. but in the book, i make the case that immigration prisons are not just inhumane and immoral. i make the case that they've also been created to serve that most of us cannot imagine and do not condone. they're not keeping us safe. they are not promoting justice and immigration prisons are not about enforcing the law. instead, they are about electing politicians and they are about fueling the pockets of five it prison corporations and rural economies and these are not reasons to lock up anyone.
so to give you more context about this i want to read from a couple of pages from the book and a passage that i think helps illustrate the political motivations, political rationale for which that gives us these prisons these days. so let me take us back to 2014, obama administration and in a primetime immigration speech on november 20 2014, president obama explained that his administration, immigration enforcement priorities target felons, not families. terminals, not children. gang members, not a mom who is working hard toprovide for her kids, the president said . resident obama's dissertation is as good an example of resident trumps trite comment about targeting bad hombres
and i strive to mimic his pronunciation but i can't area both of these formulations simplify complex human beings. felons are part of families. just like one persons bad hombre might be another's father. it hurts that he was trying to be a dad and he can't. cecilia said about her father, locked up for returning to the united states to reunite with his kids . the easy soundbite makes for politically useful talking points, but they are a lousy basis for public policy. the shifting sands of the political debate about which migrants deserve to live freely in the united states and which don't expose the pernicious edge of sorting the good from the bad. listen to most elected officials talk about immigration and one commonality weekly becomes
obvious. everyone, it seems, wants to lock up and deport criminals. president clinton signed law that made it easier to stick landon immigration prison and harder to get out. his successor inaugurated the era of hard-line criminal prosecution of violators. president obama and his top immigration officials. they claimed to focus their resources on so-called criminal aliens and oversaw the largest immigration prison population in history until then. the trump administration has not differed and in its first week as president donald trump signed an executive order declaring aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the united states can be particularly significant threats to national security and public safety. despite the consistent
bipartisanship of tarring migrants who have committed a crime, it's impossible to sort thegood from the bad consistently . obama's felons not families remark categorized people into boxes. family members on the one hand and criminals on the other. trump uses 2 different categories, law-abiding citizens almost always depicted as white and migrants almost exclusively not white. both categories are our convenient rhetorical ploys that make for good soundbites but neither can be defended logically. the criminals obama derided are also family members. families include criminals and criminals have families. lots of crime in fact is committed against family members. politicians and pundits inclined to dislike margaret migrants have a sharp eye for their own mistakes. when i police pinned a murder
on an unauthorized immigrant from mexico, trump stood in front of the camera and complained we have tremendous crime trying to come through the borders and in trumps view crime, not people cross the border. by contrast, president obama was the opposite of trumps crudeness and callousness, still the obama administration heavily publicized its policy of targeting migrants with criminal histories while going easy on people who avoided blemishes . even the daca program was off-limits to people who have can committed some crime. trumps comments are cruder than the obama administration policy but both examples it into abroader bipartisan political pattern . migrants are expected to be innocent. if they are not, they stop being in the good graces of policymakers and the laws that they make.
we love our victims innocent, writes the philosopher martin dole are, we empathize with them as long as they appear to be innocent but the moment they display some trait that is notentirely amiable , their sympathy is cut short. for us citizens, blemishes are to be expected because humans are imperfect creatures. we mess up. president trump expressed support for his campaign chairman paul manafort who admitted to lying to the fbi. he pardoned his supporter george violet who was convicted of disobeying court orders but he regularly hearts on about the dangers migrants pose and comes tothe aliens who migrate to the united states , blemishes are red flags that citizens should be wary.the political rationale or imprisonment is, we can find out in republican comments,
we can find it in the positions of democrats, even liberal democrats like president obama but it's not just aboutpolitics . this is also a story about business. for private businesses and local governments immigration prisons are an attractive financial spigot . in oneyear alone , congress spent about 10.7 billion dollars on an ice detention system, the two largest private prison corporations in the united states, the geo group get about 50 percent of their revenue from the federal government and with that they hire people, often in out-of-the-way locations where decent paying jobs are hard to come by so to elected officials, a threat to their high employment in prison is a threat to their reelection bid. let me describe this
financial relationship with another passage from the book . one that takes us to a rural part of mexico. most days are quiet in milan new mexico. the wild diner offers a 1950s throwback experience with red booze lining that u-shaped building. and keep a cafc smothers it's so puppy is in a red chili that screams newmexico cuisine . if milan's 3000 residents had more options they can jump on interstate 40 and hadan hour and a half east to albuquerque . unless they are locked up. almost 40 percent of milan's population lives inside the cibola county correctional center. a monochromatic complex of beige buildings tucked behind
the wild diner owned and run by core pacific, one of the twolargest operators of private prisons in the united states . many years this correctional center held people convicted of entering the united states clandestinely. as convicted criminals, they were behind bars becausethey were being punished . ring the concertina wire stretched across the top of two layers of fencing leave a clear impression that punishments is in fact the goal. in return for running the milan prison , core civic received a steady revenue stream on the justice department'sbureau of prisons . milan meanwhile came to value the presence place in the towns slumbering economy. roughly 300 locals work there. when the bureau of prisons announced in july 2016 that it would not renew its contract with core civic at
the time the company was called the corrections corporation of america , a shutter jolted the community. one resident reflecting on the many prison employees she knew whose livelihoods were suddenly at risk boiled down her sauce to this. it sucks. in the summer of 2016, the federal prison agency's decision to cut off the cibola county somebody seemed like it's dead now. who would want to do business with a prison so problematic that the bureau of prisons had decided to sever its 15 year relationship. seeing that eminent tip to unemployment rise on the horizon, local officials and cca executives sprung into action. the consequences of the bureau of prisons decision were frightening .
for some officials, that made path forward unambiguous. my first option is for it to stay private because of the revenue the present produces for the city of milan. the local state senator democrat clemente sanchez said. before the month of october was out, sanchez could breathe a sigh of relief and cca officials could celebrate success. another contract was in place , this time with the department ofhomeland security . ice. as a federal departments immigration lawenforcement arm , ice is tasked with detaining people facing the possibility of removal through the nations immigration court system except for when ice officers mistakenly pick up a us citizen which happens, everyone who's locked up on behalf of ice is either a migrant who's waiting to
learn whether she will be allowed to remain in the united states or a migrant who's already been ordered removed awaiting the next available one-way spot on a bus or an airplane. unlike the bureau of prisons, ice does not imprison to punish. it imprisons to give the federal government time to decide who gets to be in the unitedstates and who does not. this isn't punishment , courts tell us. it's just deciding where on the map people should stand. only their standing in the same prison in which the bureau of prisons, people who were being punished were told they had to stand. the politics and profits are the reasons why half 1 million or so people are locked up every year and immigration prisons from maine down to southern california. the politics and profits are not reasons anyone should be
locked up and that's why in the end of migrating to prison, i call for abolishing immigration prisons. and what when i call for its i know it's not in all small-town but it's also not impossible. because it's been done before. and most of us know something about ellis island and we know that it's the place that welcomed generations of newcomers to the united states and it did that. it absolutely did that but it was also an immigration prison with an ironic view of the statue of liberty. the anarchist emma goldman spent time there. a famous singer or the metropolitan oscar and sophie and i did too. a little boy namedgeorge zimmerman was born there . and just like today in the 1950s, immigration prisons like ellis island were said to protect us from ungodly dangers. today, it's terrorists and
its gangs back then it was communism. the soviet union was recovering from the immense pounding it had taken during world war ii and the cold war was beginning. and that little speck of land off of the coast of southern manhattan was supposed to keep us safe from people like ellen knox. ellen is a fascinating story i want to share very briefly because she's, her situation is so illustrates so much of what was happening. ellen was born in germany and she spent part of hitler's reign in czechoslovakia. when war caught up with her she headed to england as a refugee where she worked for the royal air force and then the united states army. while holding the allied
forces she met, she enlisted as an army veteran. after the war, the two married with the approval of the army's commanding officer in frankfurt and taken advantage of the war bride act, this was a special immigration procedure rated by congress precisely so that war veterans return to the us with new wives. ellen arrived in new york on august 14 1948. that's when the honeymoon turned to a nightmare. citing evidence that they refuse to disclose even to the knox, immigration officials at ellis island were anything but welcoming. ellen was excluded from the united states and sent to the restricted quarters of the islands immigration station to fight for her freedom. as we approach ellis island, she later wrote i could see parts of it were enclosed by wire fences topped by barb wire and marked by what appeared to be watchtowers.
these fenced off areas were subdivided by more fences which gave the whole place look of a group of kennels. and an official history published by the now-defunct immigration and naturalization service leader described as agrueling detention like penitentiary . ellen wasn't even given a hearing at which she might claim her right to enter the united states for plea for mercy. time and again, immigration officials denied ellen's attempts to live freely in the united states with her husband. time and again they decided secret evidence or admission would be prejudicial to the interests of the unitedstates . insistence she fought all the way to the supreme court where she found little comfort. the constitution's promise of a fair hearing proved
meaningless, despite justice robert jackson letting her off of ellis island in may 1949, his colleagues in the supremecourt were not so sympathetic . for people like ellen hoping to enter the united states, the court ruled, congress can create any procedure like whatever the procedure authorized by congress is, it is due process as far as the alien denied entry is concerned, the court ruled in january 1950. the next month ellen wasback on the island . and eight decades later, courts continue to rely and denied all of the most limited procedural protections to migrants who have not been inspected and legally authorized to enter the united states. and by 1950s when ellen was, how herself on ellis island, the immigration prisons there was in bad shape. it needed to be repaired.
and in the white house at the time , was the war hero turned republican president, dwight eisenhower area and no one had to tell dwight eisenhower about the dangers that the united states face in the aftermath of world war ii. it's the beginnings of the cold war and get instead of fixing up the ellis island prison, eisenhower chose to shut it down. on november 11, 1954, the very first veterans day, eisenhower's attorney general herbert brown well presided over a naturalization ceremony at everett field, home of the old brooklyn dodgers and while there he attorney general announced the government's new position . today, the little island between the statue of liberty he said and the skyline and
peers of new york seems to have served its purpose. a few days later, the new york times reported last detained alien, the norwegian semen had overstayed his shore leave was a passenger on the battery bound ferry. that is, the united states government knew this norwegian semen had been graded granted permission to work and then he was supposed to leave but he didn't. and the united states knew that the united states government knew who he was and not only knew where he was, he was in their custody. and the united states government put him on a ferry into manhattan. no one knows what happened to him after that.
if the cold war was not enough to stop eisenhower from shutting down immigration prisons, i think it's time for us, 65 years later to be equally courageous. i think we have to stop constraining our vision to whatever is deemed possible in the moments and we hear a lot these days about what is possible and what's not possible. it's not possible to change how we do things, it's not possible to prod congress into doing anything about immigration and it's if it's not possible tochange anything, what's the point of trying ? what's the point of imagining the impossible? but here, where we are in this space inside of the bookstore, i think it's appropriate to remember a man who put fire into words, james baldwin. i start the book with a line
from the last few pages of james baldwin's essay the fire next time, let me share these lines with you. i know that what i am asking is impossible but in our time as in every time, impossible is the least that one can demand. we have to ask for the impossible, because we know what happens if we don't alter course. anyone who follows the news can rattle off so many reasons to be sad about the state of the world and that's certainly true ofimmigration policies in the united states and elsewhere .and instead of getting mired in this despair, there are a few steps that i think he can all take to help push our country towards the future that when it comes to the lack of
immigration prisons at least, we might be able to push our country towards the future that looks more like our past . first, join forces with your courageous neighbors. here and in denver, that includes people like the folks who are working at cost and a process in aurora. which is an organization that shelters people who are released from theowner immigration prison . they are, the volunteers welcome newcomers and i know that they would welcome you. and i know that they rely on donors like you to pay the bills and the small house in which cost a day, literally feed the hungry and provides rest to the weary. give me your tired, your poor
, your huddled masses yearning to be free. that's is exactly what's cost and a positive does every single day. and i know that i could use your help. second, vote. but don't just vote reflexively. immigration residents is not start in january 2017 when donald trump entered thewhite house . they want and whenever donald trump leaves the white house. immigration prisons group with bipartisan support. there were more people locked up in immigration prisons than ever before under president obama. until president trump. republicans need to be reminded that this is a costly experiment in depriving people of their liberty, and democrats could
stand to be reminded that immigration prisons don't promote public safety and it doesn't matter whether there's a private company running them or a local governments, they are always violent, always. i wrote migrating to prison, america's obsession with locking up immigrants precisely to shine a light out of this whirlpool of misery. this is a book born from a profound commitment to hope, just like james baldwin tells us to do. and i implore you to join me in that hope and to take action to make that hope reality. thank you. [applause] now, i think we
have some time for questions and there is a microphone going around, so if you have questions, please i love to hear them but i think we need to hear them through the microphone. no questions? >> thank you for your time and thisinteresting topic that's so pertinent . you mentioned a man who had died here in aurora in the present and the other day i saw a video of a 15-year-old
boy who had died in a holding cell in texas. so are those just a few rare instances or does that happen often ? >> unfortunately i'm thinking in the last week or so, we got some footage of a 15-year-old, a young man mexican 16-year-old who was detained in a border patrol holding station down in mcallen, down in my hometown and another nearby facility and it turns out he had the flu and he died. he died in the custody of the border patrol, despite a nurse having seen him and said this kid is ill, we need to monitor him and if he gets worse we need to get him to a hospital that didn't happen. so i would love to say that those two, that those are the only two.
the only two examples but we know that's not true. since september of last year in 2018 i think have been at least six reported deaths of kids alone. in the custody of the department of homeland security since october 1 of this year, that's when the fiscal year started. there have been two instances of adults dying in the custody of the immigration and customs enforcement agency and of course death is certainly the most egregious consequence, but it's not the only horror that happens and in the book i write about a man named leianta pacheco. southwest key where he works is the biggest office of the
office of me set resettlement uses used to run shelters for kids who are by themselves, they came to the united states alone or they separated from their parents and the government's insistence that these are not prisons, these are shelters, but echo was working at one of these and eventually he sexually assaulted seven kids . before it was found out. and you know, he was prosecuted and convicted. sent to jail, to prison. those kids are carrying that for therest of their lives . so yes, that certainly happens i think it's important to remember that other things happen in some of these facilities thatdon't need to happen at all .>> you pointed out the obama administration versus the trump administration but is
there any way that they are handling things differently, obama versus the trump administration ? >> one of the reasons why i started the formal process of writing this book and putting together the ideas and pitching it to my publisher was because for eight years underpresident obama , i was seeing how many people the federal government was locking up and i was seeing, working in these facilities so i saw just how troubling the conditions were in many of these facilities. and i go around talking to people, going around talking to academic audiences. i'm a professor by day and talking to journalists, advocates and people didn't know aboutit .
and often times people didn't want to hear about it. and yet we were locking up for, 500,000 people every single year under president obama. you're still doing that. we're doing that to a greater extent than we had before, i write in the book president obama presided over the largest immigration prison population in the us until president trump so it's growing . i think as people, there's no doubt that president obama and president trump are completeopposites . the abrasiveness with which president trump approaches the world is caustic to the extreme. and president obama certainly propose things differently but when it came to their policies on immigration and specifically on the enforcement part of immigration, i think it's important to recognize that
when one historical record follows from another historical record, that what we're seeing is atrend . so i think of president trump's policies are still being very much directly stemmed frompresident obama's . >> good evening. i have 2 questions, first question is i only started reading yourbook , i'm not completely done with it yet, i know you just released this book. >> quick reading. >> i appreciate the work that you're doing and i'mwondering if at some point , in your book did you also mentioned another immigration processing center that a lot of people do not mention is angel island off the west coast which detained and exploited immigrants who were seeking refuge as well. >> i do. so the ellis island of the
west coast was angel island, only the dynamics were somewhat inverted . it's a fairly small percentage of the people who were arriving from europe through new york to ellis island were actually detained at ellis island. it was mostly the inverse and angel island and i forget off the top of my head the exact numbers but that data is in the book, so you will get there eventually but angel island is right in the middle of sanfrancisco harbor . and it was developed in response to the fact that for about the first hundred years of the country's history the federal government really didn't deal with immigration, was a creating immigration law that changed in the 19th century when we started to see a backlash of lyrical racist backlash against chinese migrants and
eventually that resulted in congress starting to make it more difficult for chinese migrants to come to the united states, culminating in the chinese exclusion act which is the only federal law to ever explicitly reference a particular national origin group in its title, right when it's excluding people. so once we developed a series of laws that said certain kinds of chinese people, eventually being most chinese citizens or people of chinese descent could not enter the united states and we needed some apparatus to figure out who fits into which box and for a while we were just doing that on impulse area the shipping companies complained, they were in the business of moving things back and forthacross the ocean , sitting there now the governments says you can land, you can't land. so the compromise was we will let people go and hang out on shore, but there should be
companies responsible for making sure they don't leave and for sheltering them. you can imagine the shipping companies were happy but the conditions were horrible. so then reformers came around and argued these places are abominable, we can't let these private corporations house these people in converted warehouses right along the waterfront and what we need instead is the federal government to build its own facility, that's how we get to the actual facilities that were built in angel island and later on the east coast of ellis island. >> i appreciate you included that, i visited that facility and as a refugee and as an advocate, community advocate i appreciate you addressing that goes it's something that is not mentioned or barely mentioned when we talk about immigration in the united states and my second question
or comment would be is that when we mention immigration there are particular groups that are constantly on the forefront when it should be a collective effort. when there are so many different ethnic cities and groups in detained and deported. right now southeast asians and vietnamese people are being deported and detained without any due process so it's an important element and i hope you include that at some point if not in this book but future books is that we need to work together . i know that the border issue at the southern border isvery important , but higher numbers in the collective effort can make such a bigger impact and ihope you include that in your future work . >> i think one important connection that i do make in this and other work that i've done over the years is trying to understand how we build up
the legal framework allows us to imprison so many people and that's a complicated evolution, to go from a system that doesn't recognize prisons as a legitimate way of enforcing immigration law to one that does without even thinking about it. and that really gets started in the late 70s through the 1980s and it really picks up steam with the reagan administration when the reagan administration started pitching the illicit drugs, illegal drugs as the new thing that we ought to be worried about and not only were they focusing on illicit drug activity but they were identifying a particular people. primarily with african-americans so we see that the criminalization of african-americans that becomes the beginnings of the one are the same moment in the history of the united
states when the legal framework that allows us to imprison so many migrants, several decades later starts to develop and not just the same political moment, it's the same pieces of legislation, some of the same laws in 1986 and 1988 and 1990 that create the beginnings of the mass incarceration system that we are familiar with in the war on drugs context is what gives us the legal framework for the massive immigration prison population that we have now area. >> yes, i get educated from my son, i get most of your work through him and my daughter-in-law but i'm confused. i served combat tours in central america and asia and we dealt in violence firsthand and that's still there so how do you justify or how do you come to terms with not i guess having a
detention center and figuring out who is who? not everybody is coming and i'm not against immigration at all. i just, it's so complicated and i don't hear an answer. >> certainly there are some folks who engage in criminal activity. there are people who i talked about and i say, i mention he got into drugs. he was driving around, driving his pickup around full of marijuana. >> .. >> ..
way to think about this. the way i think about this, is where, when it comes to immigration prison, people are locked up there. they're not locked up what they may have done criminally. i grew up in south texas, the border patrol was everywhere in south texas. there was police activity for other reasons. i never saw as much crime in one place as my percent weekend in the ivy league, right? my first weekend in college. all right? and, i assure you that the police could have smelled their way, this was before i wanted legalization, the police could have smell their way to federal crimes and they weren't interested in doing that. on the contrary all right.
so that kind of immunity that comes with being primarily privileged, wealthy white person is not something that communities of color can count on. and so until we get beyond that racist disparity in the criminal justice system, then, i don't think it is ever justifiable to tack on a secondary punishment, a a secondary consequence, the fact that a large group of people doing what they shouldn't be doing, some of them have the misfortune getting caught, others don't, a lot of time it is just because of the skin you were born into, the wealth that you, that you have come to benefit from.
>> can i ask you one last question? >> i don't know who is talking now? >> my name is carlos. thank you for writing the book and opium piece in "the new york times." how i learned about your bank. thank you for my reading my e! e! -- emails. we have many people that we work with from the detention center from jail, besides the good intentions, the instrument of humanity of treating people right way, standard of care for many medical issues we find a lot of resistance to provide the right care. that instrument we have to push, push, push, being a lawyer, to insure that some of these patients at least receive the right care? i mean ideally we would like to
shut down the facility but in the meantime at least, you know, fight against some of these rampant violation of human rights we see on daily basis. is there anything else you suggest we can do to insure the care of these people? >> yeah. thankthank you, carlos, for that question and your communications earlier in the week. i think the first step is to make sure that you're in there, right, to continue to get access. one of the largest, the most substantial obstacles to, to eliminating immigration prisons, abolish immigration prisons, no one knows what happens inside of these facilities, in large part there are very few lawyers to go into them. lawyers have privileged access to prisons in other contexts but in this context because in the i.c.e. environment, border
patrol environment, most of the people are not represented. no one is going in and out of facilities to report what is happening. no one has seen what you and your colleagues are seeing. secondly a lot of these facilities unlike the one in suburban denver are in middle of nowhere. like the border detention center i was talking about earlier. given you are in there, it is absolutely essential to do your work in coordination with legal services providers, lawyers who are actually interested in starting to beat down some of the most egregious aspects much these facilities. here in denver there is a fantastic organization called the civil rights education enforcement center, creek, i don't know if you're any one here from creeb, i would be
happy to put in touch with you, carlos, they're doing work to make sure conditions are being held in places like aurora are improved. one of the side effects of that is raises costs. they're private facilities. they're beholden to investors. maximizing the profits to investors. the more costs go up the less attractive this industry is to investors. >> cesar, thank you for your book. excited to read it and your work and bringing together all the critical pieces and our current situation the deep roots it has. i have a question. i want to make a comment or an invitation to people. i am wondering you touch on so much, do you in your book you bring in the piece of the legacy of the united states abroad and
violence happening in the northern triangle in the world and forcing people to leave to violent situations for simple survival. immigration, economic issues are always a factor and our trade agreements are essential creating that and wars, training of people in schools in the americas those sorts of things before you do, i want to make a plug. cesar talked about horrific situations in the geo detention center and across the country. a family is fighting deportation for 14 years. i want to invite all of you to come tomorrow, in front of the geo detention center at 10:45 a.m. 3130 oakland street in aurora. he has been married to a citizen and fighting his deportation for
14 years. he is currently detained detaine detention center. he found out that his appeal for the 10th circuit is stay of deportation while they make a final reading on his appeal to be denied. he is likely to be deported next week. you hear about the lack of medical care. carlos tried to help him get medication he needed when the medical center didn't have basic diabetes medication. they were not allowing, have you come to hear from the family directly going on inside. tomorrow, sunday, 10:45 a.m. at the geo. detention center at on 3130 oakland street. >> the response i get from talking about this work, this is not our responsibility. the conditions that leave people to leave honduras and guatemala
and el salvadore are their responsibility. united states had on going relationship with central america. the united states has on going relationship with mexico for many, many generation. people don't decide to leave with a blindfold on and throw a dart and on map of the world and to land in the united states. people come here for specific reasons. a lot has to do with on going relationship. the united states has a long story of recruiting people. i talk about the program which in fact was a two decade more or less program or initiative that was agreement between the united states and the mexican government to bring workers, mexican workers, low-skilled workers to the united states.
this was middle of 20th century. this is how my grandfather came to the united states for the first time. some of my older uncles. my mom's older brothers this is how they came to the united states. i talk about my grandfather's experience as a bresoro coming to the u.s., being humiliated, being treated so poorly it left a sour taste in his mouth that he never wanted to come back. the only came back twice for a special event, i think his favorite grandchild's life and i was not the favorite grandchild. my oldest sister but, this, these relationships are economic, they're military and they're not just in the past. they're very much in the present. so yeah, i think that history is, isn't something that we can
think of as something for the dusty old books. it is about the present as well. >> hi, professor hernandez, thank you for your leadership on this issue. i was wondering in the interest of imagining the impossible and the necessary, do you set out a investigation in your book for the mechanism for dismantling immigration prisons and also given the state state of the gld the things in the news you say are enough to make us all very sad and increasing rates of migration, do you set forth a vision in the book? would you be willing to share your vision with us what we do, once we do dismantle this system? >> yeah. i think certainly, i think it is important to recognize, for me to recognize, for others to recognize i certainly don't have all the answers. we built up an enormous
immigration prison system over course of 40 years or so certainly i don't have the hubris to imagine myself as being the single bearer of all the answers. frankly i don't even know all the right questions to ask but i do think there are some concrete steps that we can take and one of them perhaps in a self-interested way is to end leal services and non-leal support services. going back to the reagan administration the government piloted projects over and over again detained individuals, including detained individuals with criminal histories, including detained individuals who have been deemed to be so dangerous the at times the government will keep them in jail until they die
indefinitely. access to lawyers, program workers, case managers and get out of prison. to stay on top of the court dates. to make sure they're going through the legal process as the courts set it out and avoid trouble. why does this happen? lawyers do lots of things including help to explain people the process they're going through. that gets buy-in. the more familiar with the process, making key decisions about your future, works more likely you are to stick with the process. social workers help you to maintain some kind of social balance, some kind of enough access to housing and employment that you can keep, keep a little bit of stability in your life going through inherently a really stressful, high-risk process. case managers make sure you have bus fare. that you know where you're
going. make sure you're communicating with the court in the event something happens that you can't show up. all of these things combined help people keep up with the process and to do it in a way that you know, meets the deadlines and keeps people, avoids getting anyone in trouble. >> i'm just curious what you would say to a trump voter fingerprints, that would wants to lock up people for, i don't know committing crimes or not obeying laws? >> yeah. so i think, i think that is an important part of this project, of this conversation and i think for me the there are two-ways to
avoid this entire phenomenon of locking up migrants. one is moral and one's not. one's really about politics and about money. and that story of politics and money, i think i makes can resonate more with folks who have a hard time relating people like any of the other folks who find themselves locked up. there we see is the, the prison here, the immigration prison is used over and over again by politicians who are interested in wooing voters. who are interested in getting elected, who will say whatever they need to say to make sure their constituent going to be happy. how will constituents happy? they will not be happy if 200 job facility shuts down, right?
and so, politicians have, have a vested interest in making sure these facilities are operating without regard to what, their need, without regard to what is happening on the inside. the reality is these things are expensive. running these facilities, $2.7 billion in one year for one agency is an enormous amount of money that could be better spent in all kind of other ways. and so, we're locking up a lot of people and we're doing so for the sake of votes and for the sake of profits. i think that, and to many folks who don't necessarily share my personal connection to the people who i am concerned about, i think that line of reasoning might have a stronger, stronger
impact. i see a hand up in the back over there. >> okay. professor garcia hernandez, you said sometimes people have a hard time relating to the man who had a pickup full of marijuana but do you feel that people understand what really types of crimes and offenses make people deportable. although i have never driven marijuana around, i certainly committed several traffic offenses made some of my clients, quote, unquote deportable? do you think addressing the difference between types of offenses that make you deportable and start the conversation break the stigma of
criminal versus undocumented? >> that is certainly something that, something that an obstacle for those of us who talk about immigration and about people who are getting deported because of criminal history. when we listen to politicians, this is true with president obama. this was true of president obama. president trump. talking about high level officials. really dangerous people, getting rid of them, locking them up make us safer and rapists, drug traffickers, and they give us really big number how many people with criminal histories are getting locked up and getting deported. when you actually look at the data, the largest category, this is almost true every year going back to the beginning of the obama administration, the largest category of crimes which people are getting locked up and deported is convicted of an
immigration crime. just a crime of coming to the united states -- underlying activity of coming to the united states without the government's permission, then you get criminally prosecuted for that, you get convicted. now you're a criminal. you're a felon. now, department of homeland security can report, we have some, whatever number of people who this year were locked up were criminals, that's true, right, if by criminal all we mean is, we are convicted of a crime but when we're actually concerned about people who engage in, who are harming folks, actually a present danger, that is, that is starts to fall apart. but it also falls apart if we look at criminal histories. cameron, he did have an actual criminal history. i think possession of some drug. i think it was cocaine.
he was convicted and then he was re, he served his time. he was released. there was something like 12 years went by. he was living, business owner and living his life and then all of sudden i.c.e. shows up one day, picks him up. this guy is dangerous. why we need to lock him up. he died two weeks later, sorry. but, like those, it is really to demonize people based on criminal histories. that is why i approach all the material with a really strong skepticism about the moral, what a criminal history tells us about somebody's moral worth. a lot of it goes down to the fact that i see so much criminal history, so much central criminl history, no one is investigating or prosecuting. i've been college campuses my
entire life. sexual abuse is rampant. drug abuse is rampant. i wish it wasn't. those folks are not getting labeled criminals. we're not celebrating when something bad happens to them because rest of us are safer. people are not that simple. we're complex, contradictory creatures. some of us have the misfortune of getting caught. >> you talk about immigrants getting charged for minor crimes. back in the 1940s, during world war ii this also happened with japanese-americans. with the fact you were talking about earlier. i was wondering if the u.s. is now taking modern day approach to nativism? >> yeah. thank you for that question and that linkage to world war ii and also world war one to a lesser
known extent is an important, is an important part of the story what this reveals about our willingness to the return to the same policy of locking up for people for one reason or another we decide are undesirable. we started it off with the chinese, chinese women are coming here by themselves. obviously they're engaging in prostitution. we will ban them. if they manage to get off the boats we'll lock them up. then we sort of expand from there. we turn to some political markers, anarchists, emma goldman, socialists, communists. then eventually we target gay people. we target people with criminal histories and people who are associated with, tarred with associations with terrorism. so we see over and over again that we respond to people by
demonizing them. that allows us to take a harsh approach to them. that marker of undesirability that never changes. we tend to associate undesirability with gangs or terrorism or crime, certainly not suggesting that is always going to be true. actually i don't think it will be. if history teaches us anything. it won't be. it will transform. eventually we'll find some other basis of deciding that, denoting somebody is undesirable. my guess that will change but, but the basic categorization will remain the same. we'll lock people up. treating them poorly and treating them if they're simple, one-sided people. we've done that in the past. we're doing that now.
no other questions? thank you. good job. [applause] >> hi, there, i will jump in here real quick. i'm nicole sullivan. i'm owner here at book bar. i want thank for all of you being here tonight. this is a important topic. this is the reason i opened a bookstore, to have a platform for authors like seasr to have important topics such as this i apologize for all of you who is standing, says more about you, well, maybe not. we're a small bookstore. says loot about both of us. thank you so much for being here. we so appreciate it. we so appreciate cesar and all
of our authors. we are actually going to, we've been busy all day which is a great thing because that means people are also shopping local which is also one of my passions. so we'll ask people to clear the ramp here so we can bring down a table for a book signing. so if you would like to get your book signed we're setting up a station for that. if you move over here. closer to the bar. closer to the bar. put it in order. thank you so very much you have made me so happy. and thank you. happy holidays. [applause] >> here is look at some books being published this week. former treasury secretaries timothy geithner and henry paulson, former chair of the federal reserve bernie ben berne insides into the 2008 financial
crisis in first-responders. a report on industrial espionage conducted by china and the fbi efforts to stop it. jerry mitchell reopens the "mississippi burning" case in 1964. 20 klansmen murdered three civil rights workers in a race against time. cathy barnett argued that democrats have failed the african-american community, in nothing to lose, everything to gain. back women's history of the united states, history professors look at how african-american women have shaped american history. radio host diane reem writes on the right to die movement. in, when my time comes. look for the titles in bookstores in the coming week. watch for authors in the near future on booktv on c-span2.
andly levin of michigan spoke about hess new book on unions and workers rights. here is some of the conversation. >> i covered labor rights for "the new york times" in 19 years, one of my concerns interviewing people all over the nation, so many people had no idea what unions are, what unions do, how unions brought us 40 hour work week and pensions and bumper sticker, unions the folks that brought us the weekend. i want to explain to people, unions have achieved a whole lot in american history, now they're really been in decline. they have taken it on the chin. as a result things are considerably worse for workers i believe than was the case 30, 40 years ago. i think, far too for americans realize that compared, that american workers have it bad in many ways compared with workers in other industrial nations on very basic things. we're the only industrial nation doesn't have a law guarantying
all workers paid parental leave, paid maternal leave, only industrial nation that doesn't guaranteed paid vacation. european union, workers are guaranteed four weeks vacation, france, six weeks. workers are suffering terrible wage stagnation while worth profits at record levels. workers get in their gut something is broken and very frustrated. in my book i try to explain why things have headed south for workers in many ways. i say that worker power in the states is arguably the weakest it's been in decades. the percentage of workers in union, one in 10 workers are in unions down. that is down more than one in three when unions were at their peak. unions, certainly unions have faults, despite the faults
unions played a key role building the middle class, giving workers a voice, whether on job safety or pensions or stopping bullying by bosses. and unions played a key role in washington on enacting medicare and making social security more generous. in recent years unions have been on the defensive. corporate power has really trumped union power in many ways. i think we as a nation to figure out a way to give workers more power to help create a fair nation, to help end wage stagnation. for example, you know, we have not raised the federal minimum wayne in over a decade. that is the longest time in american history that the minimum wage has not been increase. i submit, i argue, workers, worker power is so weak in congress. they're unable to persuade lots of members of congress to raise the minimum wage.
it is very, very hard for millions of americans to live on 7.25 an hour the federal minimum wage. >> to watch the rest of interview, to find others like it, booktv.org. click on the after words tap at the top of the page. >> nice to see all of you nice folks here tonight. i see familiar faces. a few new faces. we're happy to have all of you here. i don't need to do much of a introduction, because i know our friend alan. i will share a secret. he was going to name it, 50 shades of alan, decided against it. he thinks he can only tell jokes but i'm happy to have alan here. let's give alan a jersey welcome. thank you very much. >> i spent a lot of time growing up in jersey. my father had