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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Central Valley | Immigrant Rights
The Desert in the Valley: How Arizona Style Laws are Already in Effect in Modesto
This article looks at a recent raid in Southside Modesto and discusses how Arizona styles laws and tactics are already being used here in the Central Valley.
According to a vendor who conducted an interview with Modesto Anarcho last week, a recent raid on the 7th Street Flea Market led to many people including some children being rounded up by I.C.E. (Immigration Customs Enforcement, immigration cops) for deportation. The raid on the flea market was part of a larger crack-down by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) against DVD and CD bootleggers. According to the Modesto Bee:
Approximately 80 officers were involved in the raid. Besides the FBI, officers from the Stanislaus and Sacramento County Sheriff's Departments and the Sacramento High Tech Crimes Task Force assisted.
What the Modesto Bee article fails to mention and what was reported to Modesto Anarcho, was that ICE agents were also involved in the sting and arrested several people on suspicion of being undocumented. According to the vendor who was interviewed, when FBI agents moved through the market taking bootlegged products, ICE agents also rounded up people who were in the general area, including several young children. According to witnesses, this is the second raid on the flea market in the last year.
In the summer of 2010, the Arizona Governor signed into law SB-1070, the most sweeping immigration legislation in recent US history. The law would legally give police the right to racially profile people and stop anyone at anytime if they were suspected of being in the United States illegally. Once stopped, the suspect would have to provide documentation to prove that they were a legal citizen of the US. As expected, SB-1070 brought on massive protests and much of the bill is currently is tied up in Arizona courts. However, already hundreds of thousands of people have fled the state, fearing the looming police state.
As reported by people living in the South-Side of Modesto who also attend the Flea Market, many people living in the area already carry their "papers" or legal documentation with them at all times. This is done because many people are afraid that they will be stopped by the police at any time and asked to see their ID. If they do not produce their ID's (it is not illegal in California to not have an ID, but police can bring you down to the station if they 'need' to obtain your information) they fear that they will be taken by police and deported. Since California law does not require one to carry their ID at all times, police need a pretext for stopping someone and then obtaining their information (and then determining if they are 'illegal' or not).
Often, many police do not even need a 'legal' reason to ask for someones ID. They can simply ask to see your identification and a person can consent. They can also ask if someone is on probation or parole, giving them the right to stop and question someone. For instance, around the same time as the raid on the Flea Market, a Grayson resident was interviewed by Modesto Anarcho who reported that Grayson police were doing random searches and patrols in cars, asking various residents walking down the street to see their ID's or if they were on probation or parole. These situations (on top of instilling fear in people) give the police chances to catch people on basic parole violations as well as find individuals who may be in the US without 'proper' paperwork. These sweeps also have other motives; the desire to keep people locked into ghettoized areas and make them afraid to organize and fight back.
Checkpoints are also being used more and more as a way in which law enforcement agents in California are able to 'legally" try and find people without papers. At a DUI check point, officers ask to see a person's driver's licence and ask if the person has been drinking. But they also serve as a way of seeing if the person is an immigrant or on probation. Checkpoints can often lead to the police conducting warrant-less searches of cars as well as repossession of cars in the wake of someone being brought in for deportation. Checkpoints aren't just a means to check immigrants; the generate millions in tax-venue both through fines and tickets and through the repossession and later sale of people's cars.
Prisons themselves are also big business, especially privately funded prisons including many immigrant dentition facilities. The corporate run prisons generate literally billions in profits, putting money into the pockets of corporations while hard working people are locked in jail, awaiting deportation. In fact, in Arizona, it was private prison corporations and their lobbies which pushed the hardest for laws such as SB-1070. They knew that when police rounded up immigrants, they would also be ensuring more money in their own pockets. Whether "illegal" or not, corporate prisons stand to gain hundreds of dollars in a single day for each person incarcerated.
Recently, head Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson backed by Board of Supervisor member Bill O'Brien (head of O'Brien's markets), have lobbied the Federal Government to turn the empty beds in the Stanislaus County jail into make-shift holding facilities for immigrant detainees. The jail would be 'rented-out' to the federal government and would generate money for the county through the detention of people deemed to be 'illegal' by local law enforcement. As Christianson stated, Modesto Bee reported:
Christianson confirmed a preliminary agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A final deal could be inked in three or four months, he said. ICE would pay the county $110 per day for each "civil detainee," many awaiting hearings for deportation at federal courthouses in Sacramento, Fresno or San Francisco.
In other words, when people are arrested by law enforcement, they must await deportation hearings by the Federal Government. While waiting, they must be housed by some sort of prison system and under Christianson's plan, many people would be housed right here in Downtown Modesto. Thus, people arrested for being without papers (or simply to determine if they are 'illegal') would be sent to the Stanislaus County jail where they would generate money for the county just by being imprisoned. This would include people stopped in checkpoints, at raids on flea markets, or those stopped on the street by police.
To fight this, we must become aware that law enforcement in our society is not a neutral force and exists to hold in place the divisions of race and class that exist to serve power and wealth. Often routine operations such as traffic stops, checkpoints, and stopping people on the street may result in families being torn apart, lengthy jail sentences, deaths from encounters with officers, as well as profits for corporate and state interests. We must realize that racism is being used to divide poor and working people against each other. We are not made safer by the jails filling with our neighbors and co-workers, nor will it lead to 'more opportunities' for 'legal' Americans or less crime. In rejecting the racist logic that attempts to pit different groups of workers and unemployed people against each other, we must come together in a shared struggle against the forces which profit from repression and the prisons which they proliferate.