This week’s Extra! Extra! turns to some devastating immigration news and a look at women’s rights more broadly. This week also brought, perhaps unsurprising, news that the fossil fuel industry knew half a century ago the devastation they would wreak on the planet and did nothing. We also take a look at the state of police brutality globally before turning to a few updates on the upcoming US election.
Immigration News, or the Lawful Dehumanization of People
Himani: Trump’s opening act was the Muslim ban which bounced around through the courts until the Supreme Court upheld it in June 2018. Since then, he’s closed pretty much every single avenue of “legal” immigration, including gutting the asylum program. While it remains the case that, if we’re talking about deportations of people who have been in the country for longer periods of time, there actually have been fewer of those under Trump than Obama, Trump has sown unprecedented discord in immigrant communities with his large immigration raids.
None of this is to excuse what happened during the Obama administration with deportation. But it does indicate a very clear shift in approach between Trump and Obama. (Probably the understatement of the year, that.) Trump’s goal, from the beginning, was the border wall — to shut down entry into the country both literally and figuratively, and Trump is accomplishing this with his immigration policies. And now, he’s trying to expand the group of people who would be eligible for deportation. We saw this with his approach to DACA — even though the Supreme Court upheld DACA and a federal judge mandated that the administration accept new DACA applications, the Trump administration is blatantly refusing to. This decision around TPS will have largely the same effect; people who were previously protected from deportation no longer will be.
As we’ve seen time and again with Trump’s immigration policies: they make their way through the courts and, ultimately, Trump and Bush appointees go through great lengths to bend the law to let the administration do whatever it wants. In this case, that means the extraordinary claim that Trump’s decision on TPS isn’t motivated by “racial animus.”
I’m not here to say that things were swell under Obama: there is clearly a meaningful difference between “better” and “good.” But what Trump is doing, and by extension what he would do in a second term, is unconscionable.
Rachel: This has been weighing so heavily on me all week, and is absolutely going to end up being something covered in history books (if we’re still allowed to have those?) as far as atrocities that were performed in the background of more mainstream concerns like Zoom hangouts and home workout routines and that no one stopped. I’ve really appreciated Tina Vasquez’s excellent reporting on this at Prism, and there isn’t a ton I can add that she hasn’t.
I do want to point out two things: that reproductive violence and medicalized violence have always been part of both the carceral system and the immigration system; at the risk of flattening a long and complex topic, we can think about the fact that incarcerated pregnant people are often denied necessary prenatal medical care and forced to give birth while literally shackled; the racist and xenophobic public anxiety around “anchor babies” of migrant women; and the horrifying history of using inmates as test subjects for clinical trials. The persistent resistance from ICE against allowing journalists or non-GOP politicians to see the inside of detention facilities or speak with detained people was an obvious red flag that this (and probably much more, unfortunately) was likely occurring, but also we didn’t need that cue because these values and priorities are a fundamental part of the carceral system of immigration.
And looking more closely at reproductive rights specifically, this is why it’s so key for mainstream (white) feminism to develop a lens on reproductive rights beyond abortion and birth control — in a white supremacist culture that overvalues the nuclear family as centered around middle-class white women, our major reproductive hurdle is going to be access to birth control. For Black, brown, Indigenous and migrant women, the state has consistently and violently robbed them of the ability to have safe and healthy families, which includes reproduction – which is why we’ve seen mass forced sterilization so often in US history when it comes to these groups. I’m thinking of this because of the detail that one of the ICE facility’s doctor’s former patients alleged that he couldn’t be forcibly performing hysterectomies, because he had actually refused her one when she wanted it voluntarily, implying that she might in fact want children later. The reality is that it’s actually totally expected that the same doctor would hold both views and refuse agency in opposite ways for different groups of women.
The State of Women’s Rights: It’s Not Looking So Great
Himani: I’m always a little wary of posting articles about women’s rights abuses in the so-called “third world”, “global south” or whatever term you prefer. There’s this other-ism that sometimes feels like it lurks below the surface of these conversations, particularly when they’re had in Western and white spaces. As if America and Europe don’t have their own problems with sexual violence, assault and domestic violence. In all three countries discussed here, what’s happening to women is horrifying and heartbreaking. But rather than only seeing the brutality, the focus should also be on the activists who are bringing these issues to the forefront in their countries, even sometimes at the risk of their own lives and safety.
They Knew the Climate Catastrophe Would Come
Himani: This was a damning and also unsurprising read how Big Oil knew going back to the ’70s at least that plastic could not be recycled but they kept lying about it. And now plastic pervades the entirety of our existence, from the food we eat to the water we drink to the air we breathe.
Himani: And in what basically reads like a companion story, Big Oil — along with Big Coal — also knew, going back to the 70s, that burning fossil fuels would lead to global climate change which would in turn lead to devastating environmental phenomenon, including the massive wildfires we’ve been witnessing across the globe the last several years.
And Related: The Same Companies that Do Not Care about the Environment Also Do Not Care about Indigenous Rights
Rachel: This is so devastating, Jesus. I’m also having a lot of thoughts about this in light of the now-memeified call to arrest Breonna Taylor’s killers – the reality is that even if there are consequences for the cops who killed her, that won’t constitute justice; justice would be Breonna still being alive. Similarly, the sort of corporate equivalent of a notes app apology that’s issued here in response to a completely irreversible harm is so useless and disrespectful!
A month after the destruction in Juukan Gorge, the company issued an apology and said it would support strengthening legal protections for Aboriginal heritage sites.
Last month, after a board review, Rio Tinto stripped the three executives of performance-related bonuses for this year. That review concluded that even though the company had legal permission, its actions “fell short of the Standards and internal guidance that Rio Tinto sets for itself.” …”We are also determined to regain the trust of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people and other Traditional Owners,” Thomson said.
Okay?? The implication that the issue here is one of affect — “we will regain the trust” — and not of material harm is so deliberately obfuscating. I’m very frustrated by the increasing momentum attempting to move the public consciousness into issues of feeling (“It’s important to us that the public feel heard”) rather than committing to material change.
Update on the Pandemic: Still Causing Devastation
Himani: This article didn’t present any new information but another lens for understanding what we have known for a long time throughout this pandemic: the pandemic is disproportionately affecting communities that were already experiencing substantial stress and harm because of the way we’ve chosen to organize our societies.
Rachel: Wow, who could have predicted this! Who could have possibly seen this coming! Ahhh!
Himani: The main takeaway here is that it will take a long, long time to actually distribute a vaccine for COVID-19 even after it’s been developed. Any notion that a vaccine will quickly rid us of this problem needs to be dispelled, pretty much immediately.
Police Brutality Is, Truly, A Global Problem
Rachel: Full disclosure, I haven’t finished reading this, but I will and also would recommend it! For months & years we’ve been talking about seeing the overlaps between different communities in resistance globally; the same tear gas canisters being used in Palestine as in Ferguson, watching the same tactics to defuse them spread through social media from Palestine to Hong Kong to Chile to the US. This is really harrowing in a lot of ways, but also helpful and can be energizing and informative; this can be a scary look at ‘what’s to come,’ but also in the same way that ‘scary’ videos from other locales helped Portland protesters organize and effectively resist riot police, so can more info from Colombia!
Some Updates on the Protests in the US
A Little Something to Hope For in Criminal Justice Reform
Himani: Prosecutors are re-examining their own roles and positions in the criminal justice system. While there’s something appealing about the idea of fully dismantling a system that is so completely broken and starting over from scratch, there are the practical considerations of, you know, how to actually dismantle such a fully entrenched system. So the new moves by DAs in California and in Virginia to form new alliances and associations that are actively pushing for changes in how they view crime and policing, to me, feel like an important step towards building an equitable and fair justice system.
State of the US Election
Himani: This is so fucked up and I strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to vote in American elections to read this article.
Himani: Facebook is moving to limit its staff’s ability to talk about the upcoming election. Meanwhile, the conspiracy theories it had (at a very minimum) a hand in allowing to grow on its platforms are already having their effects on the upcoming election.
Himani: And on the subject of election coverage, last week I highlighted some reporting by the Intercept and a few commenters, rightly, brought to my attention that I was giving far too much credit to a journalist with a troubling history of denying Russian interference in the 2016 election and who had given credibility to an established racist, misogynist and transphobe. (The tweet from the transphobe has been removed from the original post but you can see the discussion in the comments section.)
Coincidentally, this article was published in the New York Times two days later. It describes a pretty substantial fuck-up in the news room that resulted in the arrest of a government informant. (Remember Reality Winner?) But more importantly, this whole situation serves as a reminder, as the presidential election kicks into high gear, to approach the news with ever-increasing caution. Also coincidentally, Vox published a “Fake News Survival Guide” last week. A lot of things here that might be familiar but some helpful reminders on ways to consume the news without falling prey to all the sensationalism and conspiracy theory-ing.
Well, Here Is One Good Thing that Will Happen on Nov 3
Rachel: Not to brag but did you know that Autostraddle’s own Carmen Rios interviewed Sarah back in 2012? Some things have changed for the better since then! This is so exciting!