Deportations will continue until morale improves: Discontents 7/12/21

Putting out a fire with gasoline

Flight path of iAero Airways deportation charter flight from the ICE staging facility in Alexandria, LA to Port-au-Prince on July 6, 2021. Courtesy of FlightAware

Across the political spectrum, our conversations around immigration tend to focus on how enforcement will affect things domestically: whether and what kind of immigration is a net benefit or detriment to the U.S. economy, whether aggressive enforcement is a matter of upholding the rule of law or a crass and unnecessary tearing apart of families, if deportations are a way to keep U.S. communities safe or do irreparable damage to their fabric. People fall along all different points on these questions, and it’s obvious many are approaching them from a bad-faith and heavily racial lens, but the conversation as a whole rarely moves beyond that framework to consider how U.S. domestic immigration policy can directly impact other countries.

It’s not a minor or theoretical question. There are clear, recent historical examples of how U.S. presidents’ and policymakers’ choices on how to approach immigration enforcement here has had appreciable and significant impacts elsewhere in the long-term. For decades, the U.S. famously had an essentially open-door policy towards Cubans, leading to a large, conservative by self-selection, aggressively anti-Castro, and legally-present-by-default population in an important swing state, in turn driving a consistently belligerent foreign policy towards Cuba. Had Cubans been forced to contend with the same immigration laws as everyone else, would the history of anti-Cuban sanctions and isolation have been different? It’s impossible to say for sure, but the theory makes sense.

Conversely, you can draw a straight line from the politically-motivated denials of asylum and deportations of Salvadorans during and immediately after El Salvador’s brutal civil war to the arrival and growth of MS-13 and the other powerful, transnational gangs whose systematic violence has made life untenable for tens of thousands of people in that country. The Reagan administration threw its backing behind the military dictatorship, providing staggering sums in “security” assistance, training death squads, and furnishing guns and equipment. It couldn’t well admit that its own ally was committing atrocities worth granting refuge over, and so asylum grant rates for El Salvador remained in the low single digits throughout the war despite mountains of corroborating evidence. In a dark irony, the refusal to grant protections then has fueled the drivers of migration now.

Much more recently, the decision to continue deportations during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has been linked to outbreaks in deportees’ countries of arrival, including in Haiti. The Biden administration now faces a concrete test of whether it has learned anything at all from these missteps, as the Haitian government establishes martial law and the security situation deteriorates following the brazen assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last Wednesday morning. It’s not clear yet what exactly took place — theories have run rampant since the government announced it had arrested U.S.-Haitian dual citizens and presumed Colombian mercenaries in the attack — but what is clear is that it’s a delicate inflection point for Haiti. It also remains the only country in the Western hemisphere to not have access to coronavirus vaccines.

Nonetheless, just the day before Moïse’s assassination, the U.S. sent a deportation flight to Haiti. It’s likely many of those on board were asylum seekers who had recently fled and are being returned in the midst of crisis, from a U.S. detention infrastructure that is itself rife with COVID-19 infection. In late May, the Homeland Security Secretary had announced that Haiti would be re-designated for Temporary Protected Status with a new eligibility date of May 21, 2021, a move which would allow thousands of Haitians to apply for protection from deportation and work authorization.

Along with my colleague Gaby Del Valle, we explored in last week’s BORDER/LINES how, despite it having been a month and a half since the flashy declaration, the designation has yet to be formalized, leaving many Haitians vulnerable to return to a country unable to safely take them in. Absent a move to stop further deportations in the near term, the Biden administration risks directly worsening the interlocking health and political crises of Haiti, once again proving that U.S. immigration enforcement has a long and sometimes unpredictable reach.

To continue the fun and lightheartedness, here’s what you can read from the rest of our always-cheery Discontents team. Don’t forget to subscribe to get your weekly dose:

Welcome to Hell World

Luke O’Neil

Last week Joe Keohane struck something of an uncharacteristically optimistic tone for Hell World, writing on the power of talking to strangers, which is something many of us have sorely missed throughout the pandemic.

Our problems are incredibly complex, and I think it will take 20 years of hard work before this country is actually functional again. But I think that work has to be done by citizens, and I don’t think we can solve anything without first learning to communicate with one another, and without exercising curiosity about one another, and without humanizing one another.

In that same piece I asked readers to write in with what changed, if anything, either personally or systematically, over the past year and a half that they would like to see stick around.

One development I hope to see continue is how numerous cities around the country had to adapt to make city council meetings and other hearings that are in theory open to the public available to stream from home. It wasn’t just a positive change in terms of accessibility issues for people who might find it hard to attend in person, but also makes sense for everyone period. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t stay this way and expand to as much public business as possible. And if nothing else it gave us the LAPD Zoom meeting with the infamous sign off “Suck my dick and choke on it. I yield my time. Fuck you.” 

Today Charles Star writes about the case of a man in Texas who was threatening to set himself on fire so the cops tased him thereby instantly setting him on fire.

“We have found that, given the horrendous scene that the officers were facing, involving the immediate potential for the destruction of lives and property, the force used—firing tasers—was not unreasonable or excessive, and consequently we hold that the officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment and are thus entitled to qualified immunity,” the court said in February.

I also do some of my trademark meandering nonsense about hornets and flooding basements.

The Insurgents

Jordan Uhl & Rob Rousseau

This week we talked about Jordan's majestic July 4th experience on the National Mall, whether Trump has lost some of his power as a right wing figure, Rob's ongoing unjust persecution for merely asking some questions about the possible role of the FBI in the January 6th Capitol Riot, and how the Biden Administration has put the well-being of migrant children in the hands of a company that is known primarily for cleaning water damage (who are now employing techniques on these kids that were once reserved for suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.)

We also get into Tucker Carlson's recent claims that the NSA is spying on him, which he escalated later in the week when he, correctly, put enemy-of-the-show Ken Klippenstein on blast for FOIA-ing his FOIA request. Should we automatically disregard any claim that Carlson makes just because it's coming from Carlson? Could that possibly be part some kind of double-bluff strategy to get liberals to trust the intelligence community? The truth is out there.

Foreign Exchanges

Derek Davison

I’ve got a new podcast to share with you! It’s called American Prestige and I’m co-hosting it with historian Daniel Bessner. Our aim is to produce a show that’s timely, informative, hopefully entertaining, and that challenges the principles of US foreign policy. Additionally, I’m hoping to start an inexplicable feud with a small European country (specific country TBD). Our first episode is available now at SoundCloud and should be migrating out to podcast outlets as we jump through their various technical hoops. We discuss the US exit from Afghanistan and talk about foreign policy and the “Biden Revolution” (no, seriously, this is a thing now) with our guest, Stephen Wertheim of the Carnegie Endowment. Please check it out!

At Foreign Exchanges last week I spoke with Terje Østebø of the University of Florida on the latest developments in Ethiopia. We discuss the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s surprising military resurgence, the dire humanitarian situation in Tigray, and the outlook both for this current conflict and for Tigray and Ethiopia moving forward.

All Cops Are Posters

Katie Way

This week on ACAP, I wrote about the LAPD fireworks debacle, a murder in Brooklyn, and the One Easy Trick cops use to deflect responsibility when they fuck up, which a reader pointed out looks a lot like DARVO: "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender." (Thanks Reuben!) I also dropped in a little update on the man behind the TikTok dog star K9 Arlo, a recovered police dog taken down by friendly fire: Tyler Turpin, Arlo’s handler, left the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office in June in the midst of an investigation that’s not not related to posting.

Sick Note

Libby Watson

Hi again—this is the first time I’ve contributed to Discontents since I took a long break after my mum died. If you haven’t read my post about her death, check that out too. Last week I talked to Bernie Sanders….’s brother, Larry, a former Green Party councillor and spokesperson on health and social care. (Social care is what we call long-term care.) We talked about the importance of universal, non-means tested healthcare, and what decades of cuts have done to services in the UK. I particularly liked what he said about the NHS: that it’s “not just a method of delivering health service. It's a statement that everybody in the country makes to each other, when you're in that difficulty, your country will stand behind you, your society is on your side and wants to help you when you're facing the big challenges of your life.”

I also went a little mental about a story from Iowa of a man who faces up to 10 years in prison for using an alias to obtain healthcare, and what it says about our healthcare system that he is treated as a criminal while hospitals are allowed to Straight Up Lie about their prices. Many more of my thoughts about this are unpublishable.

Habibti Please

Nashwa Lina Khan

This week, Habibiti Please is focused on a favorite topic of the show: disarmament. Nashwa and Geneviève host Jeremy Corbyn and Paul Rogers in advance of Selling Death: Why the International Arms Trade Must be Controlled, an upcoming event hosted by Egypt Watch and Jeremy Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project. Join Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Rogers, and Geneviève at the event on Saturday, July 17th, 2021, at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and 4 p.m. London time here. You can find the episode here. 

We discuss the Peace and Justice Project, an initiative that works to bring people together for social and economic justice, peace, and human rights in Britain and across the world.

This episode explores the arms trade and why we must move towards disarmament. The international arms trade fuels forever wars, bloody occupations, and the military-industrial complex. The detritus of war and occupation will linger long after militaries leave the countries they ravage. As this episode highlights, COVID-19 serves as a canary in the coal mine; a warning for how things can only get worse if change does not happen now. A virus cannot be nuked, yet the rush to create and sell arms from the imperial core has continued without challenge even during the pandemic. 

The Corbyn Peace and Justice Project illustrates why domestic and international problems and injustices cannot be separated. We also explore how we build solidarity beyond borders and across communities. 

This episode also draws links between the arms trade, the climate crisis, and other ongoing struggles, including the growing number of refugees. Industrialists selling weapons and war promoters are akin to the mythical hydra, where chopping off one head sprouts another. This hydra is a monster, directly supported by Western governments. And blowback is to be expected. Continued death and destruction fueled by the imperial core through tradecraft will have global consequences.

Forward-looking movements are needed now. Join Egypt Watch and Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project for Selling Death: Why the International Arms Trade Must be Controlled this Saturday on July 17th. We look forward to seeing you there. Now, more than ever, we must stand in solidarity to stop our governments from funding mass death throughout the world. 

Head over to to sign up for Saturday’s event.