The US denying passports to people delivered by midwives is a modern-day witch hunt!

Twin brothers who were scheduled to prove that they were born in the United States. The twins were born with the assistance of a midwife in a border town. They now potentially face deportation.

It happened under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but it tapered off in 2009 after a lawsuit by the ACLU. Now, with Donald Trump in office, the number of Latinx citizens who have had their citizenship questioned and their passports revoked has reached hundreds, maybe even thousands. The reason? Being delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.

The crackdown began because of accused fraud in the 1950s, whereby midwives and some physicians along the Southern border listed U.S. births for babies born in Mexico. The use of midwives in the region was common, a tradition, because the cost of hospital care was too high. It is nearly impossible to ascertain which midwife-granted birth certificates are fraudulent and which are not.

Throughout the early to mid-20thcentury, borders between the two countries were open, and Mexican and American citizens would travel back and forth on a regular basis. Ironically, it was more difficult to obtain dual citizenship in Mexico if the child was born in the United States to Mexican parents, and if the child was first registered in the United States, the child’s U.S. citizenship was rarely questioned. Immigration law followed an “oldest public document” policy; the child’s oldest public document was considered the most reliable evidence of a child’s place of birth. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a push to close the U.S-Mexican border followed in the wake of the legalization program enacted under President Reagan.

As the push to make citizenship more difficult and closing the border started ramping up, the government started filing fraud charges against midwives in south Texas. Between 1960 and 2008, more than 75 midwives were convicted of signing birth certificates for children they did not deliver. Midwives would end up guessing which certification were given out fraudulently, leading to overly-inclusive lists of names. The parents of the children that were named were not given notice that they were named, and were not given the opportunity to challenge the inaccuracy of the lists. What’s even more alarming was the fact that 250 midwives were deemed “suspicious” with 175 charges being dropped. The U.S. Government never did explain how or why they were considered under suspicion, but egregiously claimed that 15,000 midwife forgeries exist in south Texas. The effect has raised suspicion toward citizens born through midwives in certain regions, a rising witch hunt against midwives and an attack on the children they delivered.

As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in June 2009, U.S. citizens who wished to exit or enter the United States were required to have a valid U.S. passport or passport card. The process caused problems for citizens born to midwives. The passport approval process became a convoluted ordeal, forcing the filing of carious legal actions. Problems occurred at a port of entry when a U.S. citizen’s passport reveals birth by midwife, especially if the midwife is on the government’s suspicious or convicted lists. Passport issues also arose in the cases of U.S. citizens who have never left the United States after their birth.

As part of a settlement from a class action lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights and legal organizations – including the ACLU, the ACLU of Texas, the international law firm Hogan & Hartson LLP, and Refugio del Rio Grande, Inc. – according to ACLU Racial Justice Program staff attorney Vanita Gupta, “Citizens will no longer be denied a passport solely because of their race, ancestry or because they happened to be born at home with a midwife.”

In 2017 alone, 971 people were denied passports. Those who have had their passports denied or revoked are in a state of limbo, their official birth certificate in doubt, and face possible detention and deportation. An attorney in Brownsville, Jamie Diez, said, “I’ve had probably 20 people who have been sent to the detention center—U.S. citizens.” Coupled with Trump’s crackdown on nonexistent “voter fraud” and campaigns for more restrictive voter identification laws in more conservative areas, especially Texas, those who have had their citizenship questioned may be barred from their legal right to vote.

According to immigrant attorney, Carlos Batara, “From a practical standpoint, the government actions are poorly reasoned…even in cases of seniors who may have been fraudulently registered as U.S. citizens at birth. On the other hand, if there was a fraud committed at the time of birth, they played no decision-making part. They did not commit the fraudulent act. Babies at birth are incapable of criminal intent. On the other hand, if their citizenship was fraudulently procured . . . To the extent they have lived an exemplary life, stayed out of trouble with the law, worked steadily and paid taxes, bought a home for their offspring, little, if any, public good is derived from stripping them of citizenship at such a late stage in their lives. Moreover, little, if any, positive benefit flows to the U.S. government from stripping their spouses and offspring, including grandchildren, of their citizenship . . . which was gained via the family patriarch’s presumed citizenship status. So what principles of legality or compassion, then, are served by challenging these seniors and turning their entire lives, and the lives of their families, upside down 50-60 years later? My view? Absolutely none.”

Why then are we so quick to launch a witch hunt against midwives and the children that they delivered?


(Photo Credit: Batara Immigration Law)

France contracts the epidemic of “tough on immigration” laws

Some issues come back to the scene of “democratic” states at the time of neoliberal battles. In this time of globalization, there is a disparity of sanctions between movements of vulture capital and movements of people, themselves often victims of the economics of globalization.  While no one of late has offered a bill against vulture venture capital, in France, the Minister of the Interior Gérard Collomb has offered Parliament a new bill on asylum and immigration, nicknamed the law of shame.  Fitting into the European Union eagerness to crack down on the rights of people in exile, the bill aims to cut down the appeal time for asylum seekers as well as increase the time in immigration detention center. With an eye to society-market language, the bill promises “controlled immigration, effective asylum rights, and successful integration”.

While the Minister of the Interior claims the bill is balanced, NGOs involved in immigration services, such as la Cimade, warn of the danger of increasing levels of dehumanization with a law that treats everyone reaching France with suspicion. The Minister responds, repeatedly, that France cannot receive all the misery of the world. Remember the Geneva Convention? The Geneva Convention defines rights for refugees, not rights for countries to get rid of refugees.  This “controlled immigration”  bill has already passed the first chamber.

The bill doubles the maximum number of days spent in detention center from 45 to 90 days. Ostensibly, that gives the authorities more time to find solutions other than allowing the person in exile to stay in France, in other words, reaching an agreement with the refugee’s original country about the possibility for return.

According to Mireille Delmas-Marty, French law scholar and professor, before the end of the 1970s there was no separate notion of immigration, and no detention center existed for administrative detention, but, over time, the confusion between immigration, being illegal and delinquency has changed with changes in the law. In 1980 the “Bonnet Bill” marked the beginning of the criminalization of immigration. The bill allowed 7 days of administrative detention under specific conditions. France’s Supreme Court ruled that was too long and censured the bill. In 2018, 90 days is described as a reasonable length of time behind bars for non-criminal people. “Administrative” incarceration for people who are accused of nothing other than traveling without documentation should be challenged in the context of a record number of incarcerations in French prisons with 70,367 behind bars, 21 000 awaiting trial, and 120% occupation rate.

French civil society has resisted the principle of administrative detention on immigration issues. Recently, parents, students and teachers united to demand and obtain the liberation of the father of two high school students from Kosovo who was placed in administrative detention for his immigration status. Such acts of resistance have occurred repeatedly.

Collomb’s bill accelerates asylum procedures so people will have to apply for asylum within 90 days instead of the current 120 days. If their application is denied, they will have 15 days instead of 30 to appeal. The asylum process is already extremely difficult to maneuver for most people in need. Many NGOs, such as the Primo Levy Center, describe the process as too fast and shallow to be fair. Right now, judges and employees of the court of appeal for refugees and the immigration lawyers’ guild are on strike, denouncing the impossibility of treating everyone given the lack of resources.

The bill contained some progressive elements such as a better protection for women victim of sexual mutilations, stateless people, reunification with their family for minors traveling alone, and removing countries denying rights to homosexuals from the list of safe countries.  But the debate in Parliament revealed a larger resistance as the positive sections didn’t make up for the overall lack of protection for the dignity of people in exile. Many MPs from the majority opposed the bill and denounced the absence of necessary altruism and benevolence. With the bill, France is neither a land of integration nor of hospitality. Christiane Taubira remarked that the bill catered to a certain sector of French voters rather than taking into account the human reality of the migrations of our time.

Can numbers change the suspicious side of the law of shame on immigration? At a recent conference on migration, refugees, and exile, French historian Patrick Boucheron argued that more statistics are necessary to understand the human reality of today’s migrations. The world is made of 244 million migrants, with 100 million forced to migrate, 21 million refugees under the status of the Geneva Convention, and 3 million migrating to developed countries. The 10 countries that receive over 50 % of people migrating make up 2 % of the world’s GDP. Boucheron explained that in a time of capitalist crisis accompanied by environmental crisis, hospitality becomes a key political question.

What will transform the vision and understanding of people who are migrating from the perspective of the people who migrated before them?  President Emmanuel Macron’s nickname is Jupiter, a mythological god that reigned over other gods. Jupiter was also the god of hospitality. We should remind the young President of France of that. How can people and the government transform distrust into trust?  What will make a politics of hospitality possible?


(Photo Credit 1, 2: La Cimade)

A reminder of the responsibility of the state to guarantee rights and dignity to all people

Since his inauguration, Donald Trump has stepped up the offensive against the dignity and rights of immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants who are caught in the web of ever harsher immigration laws. Candidate Trump pledged to deport 3 million undocumented immigrants, and let’s not forget that under President Obama, 2.4 million undocumented immigrants were deported. Attorney General Jeff Session, whose racist stands are no secret, has engaged in a trial of strength with the people who believe that respect for rights and dignity of all people is the responsibility of the state.  All of these policies aim at marketing a more xenophobic vision of the society that pits the “elected citizens” against the most vulnerable members of this society.

Patrick Young, an attorney for the Central American Refugee Center, CARECEN, in Hempstead and Brentwood, Long Island, New York presents the possible responses to the collusion between ICE and the police in making arrests and then deporting undocumented immigrants.

He also expounds on the impact on the immigrant community.

Finally, we asked him what were the main issues that immigrant women face in these particular times in the United States.

This continues our series of interviews with Patrick Young. You can read and hear the earlier interviews here and here. Along with being an attorney for Central American Refugee Center, CARECEN, Patrick is also an immigration law professor at Hofstra University, co-director of the Law School’s Immigration Clinic, a policy analyst for New York State Immigration Action Fund, and a writer for Long Island Wins, a website geared toward Long Island immigration communities.


(Photo Credit: Long Island Wins)

No safe status for immigrants and refugees

Patrick Young is an attorney for the Central American Refugee Center, CARECEN, in Hempstead and Brentwood, Long Island, New York. We asked Patrick Young, “What are the options for organizations, such as CARECEN, to act in protecting the people who are under threat of deportation?”

In addition, deportation is also a threat to people living legally in the United States under the Temporary Protection Status, TPS, as this program is up for renewal. The latter is decided by the President only. The production of temporary status is certainly problematic in making the fate of people at the mercy of one “man” such as the president of the United States. We discussed the issue of TPS with Patrick Young as well.

This continues our series of interviews with Patrick Young. Along with being an attorney for Central American Refugee Center, CARECEN), Patrick is also an immigration law professor at Hofstra University, co-director of the Law School’s Immigration Clinic, a policy analyst for New York State Immigration Action Fund, and a writer for Long Island Wins, a website geared toward Long Island immigration community.

We talked with Patrick Young about the increasingly alarming issue of deportation for many living in the United States.

(Photo Credit: Long Island Wins) (Interview by authors)

Responding to the first President of the United States elected on an anti-immigrant platform


Patrick Young marches with CARECEN

Patrick Young is an attorney for the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN), located in Hempstead and Brentwood, Long Island, New York. He is an immigration law professor at Hofstra University, co-director of the Law School’s Immigration Clinic, a policy analyst for New York State Immigration Action Fund, and a writer for Long Island Wins, a website geared toward Long Island immigrant communities.

CARECEN is working with immigrants, offering them legal assistance with TPS, DACA, application for green cards and renewal and adjustment of status, as well as other kinds of legal advocacy, citizenship classes, and English language instruction.

Immigration is a vexed issue in the United States, heightened by an election marked by racism and political alliances. In 1948, President Truman signed the Displaced Persons Act, which included many restrictions. This was the first attempt toward a standard refugee entry policy. 1967 saw the UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The US signed the protocol and passed enabling legislation in 1980, but it was not enforced until 10 years later. The selection of refugees was arbitrary. People coming from the Eastern Bloc, for example, would be protected, whereas people coming from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras would not.

The following series of interviews draws attention to many aspects of immigration under the current president who is the first president elected on an anti-immigrant platform.


(Photo Credit: Long Island Wins) (Interview by authors)

Thais Moreira and Yashika Bageerathi: faces of democracies’ new witch-hunt


From the perspective of the State, young asylum seekers and young undocumented residents are the same. They are not supposed to be `here’. They are not supposed to speak up, and certainly not for themselves. Under no circumstances are they to succeed. Unkempt citizens of the unwashed criminal classes, they are to stay in the shadows … as shadows. This week, , in France, and Yashika Bageerathi, in England, are the faces of democracies’ new witch-hunt, and they reveal that a specter haunts Europe.

Thais Moreira is a 20-year-old student who came to France, from Brazil, in June 2009. She came with her mother. Since her arrival, Moreira has been a model student, resident, everything. She has fully integrated herself into her neighborhood, school, and new country. In mid February, she went to the local police station for `regularization.’ According to French law, if one has been in the country for five years and has completed three years of schooling, one can apply for residence papers. Some bureaucrat decided that Moreira had only arrived in France in 2010. And so, on March 7, she received the dreaded OQTF, or Obligation de quitter le territoire français. The letter gave her 30 days to leave the country.

Yashika Bageerathi is 19 years old. With her mother, younger sister and brother, a 16-year-old Bageerathi arrived in England in 2012, fleeing physical violence from a family member in Mauritius. Last week, Yashika Bageerathi was informed that, since she was now of majority, her case had been separated from that of the family, and her application for asylum was denied. She was to report to Yarl’s Wood. She was sent to the airport where, apparently, British Airways refused to give her passage. This seemed like a reprieve … until the State responded to the young woman’s appeal to not be separated from her family. The Home Department’s replied, “Fine, the whole family’s denied asylum, and you’re all going back to Mauritius.” That’s where the situation sits now.

In both Thais Moreira’s and Yashika Bageerathi’s cases, students and staff mobilized and organized. They have protested, marched, organized Twitter campaigns (check out #FightforYashika), organized petitions, and more. They have raised a mighty ruckus. And they are asking questions, especially about “the yawning gap between official rhetoric against immigrants “who do not fit” and the violent reality of expulsion and deportation.”

From the Dreamers in the United States to Thais Moreira in France to Yashika Bageerathi (and before her, Lorin Sulaiman) in England, young people, students all, are protesting the witch-hunt that is immigration policy. And it’s not just those students who are asylum seekers or undocumented residents. It’s their friends as well, the students they study, play, and live with. They confront State viciousness with hope and creativity. They oppose State callousness with love. Who’s the teacher and who’s the student now? Stop the democracies’ witch-hunt. Empty the immigration prisons. Stop the deportations … now!


(Photo Credit:

Devyani Vs. Sangeeta: Domestic Workers’ Rights

Sangeeta Richard

The recent strip search, including cavity search, of a female Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, in New York, raised a hue and cry in India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, including much of the administration and the public, denounced the U.S. act as demeaning, primarily because a body search of a female is considered dishonorable by Indians for it brings shame upon the woman, her family and the country, and secondly the Indian court would not consider a salary issue between an employer and her maid tantamount to a crime that necessitated a strip search.

But we need to look at some underlying blind spots this issue glaringly reveals:

1. While Devyani’s experience of undergoing a strip search is demeaning, I believe that such a treatment of any woman in the U.S. who is in police custody or in customs/immigration, whether the crime is unremarkable or severe, as unacceptable. We have not protested enough about strip searches of women especially since such searches are now placed within the umbrella of security and anti-terrorism jurisdiction.

2. While there is now a history of protest to raise minimum wage in the U.S. and the pay discrepancy between men and women is a hot button issue, brought to light by the Lilly Ledbetter bill signed by President Obama in 2009, enforcing this in reality has been tough. But many grassroots movements, such as Working Families and Occupy, are making their mark in trying to make employers conscious of pay gaps and inequities. While Devyani’s lawyer may argue that she has done everything legal under the contract with the maid, Sangeeta Richard, nevertheless, the reaction of the Indian government and a mortified public brings up the fact that Indians have internalized the notion that since most of middle class has maids and there are no unions to protect their wages or their treatment, that there is nothing shocking in the continuation of this practice when domestic workers work in Indian households locally or abroad. The protest about wages and treatment of domestic workers both local and migrant is heard loudest only among feminist organizations. Governments have not taken it seriously; there is no proper jurisdiction regarding wages for domestic work, therefore the issue prevails in the shadows.

3. The irony of the Devyani case is that Devyani is Dalit herself—the oppressed class in India’s caste system. The Dalit movement began during the time of India’s nationalist movement for Independence from British rule. Although the reservation system (similar to Affirmative Action) was put in place to address the rights of the underprivileged castes in the caste hierarchy, nevertheless the oppression of Dalits continues. Devyani’s family is Dalit, but well to do, and she is a diplomat employed by the Indian government. It is indeed a lesson in the nature of oppression to see one who has risen to a privileged position in terms of economic class and status to pay a low wage to a woman she hired to work in her household. Of course, since this act is an allegation until proven, and Devyani may after all be innocent, nevertheless this case brings to light two questions: Should foreign diplomats be allowed to get away with anything because they have diplomatic immunity? Should the U.S. use cavity search and strip search on women in immigration violation cases? How can we separate wage issues from labor trafficking cases, since labor trafficking is another charge brought against Devyani? How can we take personal responsibility to make sure someone we know is not being paid below minimum wage?


(Photo Credit: Times of India)

In Canada, another casualty of immigration laws and indifference

On December 20th 2013 Lucia Vega Jimenez committed suicide, hanging herself in a shower stall of a bleak border facility at the Vancouver International Airport under the jurisdiction of Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA. She died eight days later in a hospital.

The Transit Police arrested Lucia for two reasons. First, she did not purchase her bus ticket. Second her name and origin could be the source of a serious offense. It became a life-and-death offense for Lucia.

After her arrest, her fate was in the hands of CBSA, who sent her to their Vancouver airport facility to await deportation.

The news of Lucia Vega Jimenez’s death surfaced over a month after she died. It has generated a number of outcries and questions. But what are the questions?

Why was she detained in quasi isolation with no contact allowed with friends and family members? What is the border that the CBSA is “defending” so harshly?

After 9-11 2001, the rhetoric about border insecurity and porosity was utilized by CBSA to implement secrecy as its regular practice through protection against terrorism legislation in 2003. According to immigration lawyer Phil Rankin, “They think themselves as the first line against terrorism.”

Exactly what borders are we talking about, as all sorts of merchandise and products travel freely thanks to manipulative trade agreements? Moreover, a certain code of silence surrounds the way the global market trade system impoverishes and destabilizes populations, especially women.

Lucia was 42. she was worried for her safety, as she had made a failed refugee claim in 2010. She was distraught, as some cash that she saved for her family had been stolen.  She was detained in a facility that is described as a very lonely, isolated place. Phil Rankin explained, “No one gets in or out. It’s very impersonal, very secure, and very private, there’s no John Howard Society, no visits from family or lawyers. They want to move these people without a fuss or muss. There’s no oversight by non-officials.”

This question of lack of independent oversight has been challenged by the BC Civil Liberties Association and No One Is Illegal, a grassroots organization that works to end detention for migrants in Canada.  Then, should we question the fact that the CBSA has contracted with a private firm (Genesis Security)?

Despite some 7000 signatures on a petition that demands an “immediate public inquiry and a comprehensive review of migrant detention policies,” the tone of some comments from forums such as a local TV forum reveals that the general public has been rendered insensitive to these questions of detention of migrants. The reality of Lucia’s death in isolation, the reality of a woman who worked and lived in Vancouver as a domestic worker, vanishes under the views that she was “illegal” and responsible for killing herself. These populist utterances are encouraged and help to camouflage the reasons for border security that justify the mistreatment of migrants and the surveillance of everyone.

We should wonder how borders have become private and secretly run to serve the global market and how in the midst of privatization and deregulation policies, Lucia Vega Jimenez had come to prefer to kill herself rather than being deported. We should wonder about the complete indifference of officials who pride themselves in defending their country, but defending their country against what?


(Image Credit: Sanctuary Health)

Who killed Samba Martine? We all did

Samba Martine died, or was killed, on December 19, 2011, in the Aluche immigrant detention center in Madrid. This week, a Spanish court ordered her case to be reopened, stating that Martine’s death “could have been avoided.” That’s putting a fine point on it. Samba Martine was killed. She was killed by the Spanish government. She was killed by a global immigration detention gulag that has little to no rules, even less enforcement of the few rules it has, almost no accountability, and so little transparency as to be opaque. Except to the prisoners who continue to die … avoidably.

Here’s one version of Samba Martine’s story, as presented last year to a European Parliament Commission: “On 19 December 2011, a Congolese citizen, Samba Martine, died at the Aluche immigrant detention centre in Madrid. According to the Spanish Ombudsman’s 2012 annual report, her death was due to a lack of communication between institutions, which meant that she was not given the right treatment as someone with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The immigrant held at Aluche had been diagnosed as HIV-positive at the Melilla temporary detention centre for immigrants but was transferred to the Aluche immigrant detention centre in Madrid without the latter centre being given any information whatsoever about her health status. This meant that at Aluche she was diagnosed with different illnesses and the centre’s doctors treated her on the basis of the different diagnoses without realising that she was HIV-positive, which consequently led to her death … The case of Samba Martine shows that the lack of coordination between the Aluche immigrant detention centre and the Melilla temporary detention centre for immigrants led to a diagnostic error which meant that she was not given the essential treatment for her illness, which indirectly caused her death. In addition to this case, there is the case of Idrissa Diallo and many other immigrants who have lost their lives in immigrant detention centres in Spain, suggesting that human rights … are being systematically violated.”

Samba Martine did not die of a `lack of coordination’. She was killed. She was killed by a program that targets immigrant women, and especially African women.

Samba Martine was held at Aluche for 38 days. From the day she arrived to the day she died, she complained of severe headaches, perineal irritation, stomach pains, and more. She went to the on-site medical facility, such as it is, and was given little to no treatment. Finally, the pain was so severe, they decided to send her to the hospital, only after debating whether to send her in a police car or ambulance. Hours later, Samba Martine died, alone, in pain.

Who died that night? 3106. A number, not a person. Cause? Cryptococcal infection … the second most common AIDS-defining illness in Africa. What crime did she commit? None. `Officially’, Aluche isn’t a prison. In fact, it’s worse. Next to Aluche, standard Spanish prisons look almost decent.

Samba Martine is not an exception. The notorious CIE, the Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros, is filled with Sambas. Women, and especially African women, suffer particular indignities and violence. A litany of `failures’ and `omissions’ will now ensue. The prison clinic is private. The prisons don’t communicate with one another. The prison staff is inadequately trained. None of these describe what happened.

Samba Martine was not failed by anyone. She was killed. She was killed by the State, in this instance Spain, and she was killed by the world that sustains black holes, militarized borders on every corner, and dispensable surplus populations.

On June 2, 2012, six months after she died, Samba Martine was buried in a cemetery in Madrid. Her mother, Clementine, came from Canada. She knew her daughter’s death was neither accident nor failure. It was murder. She knew. We all killed Samba Martine.


(Photo Credit:

War against the refugees, madness, madness, war

The news today presents the two faces of a spinning coin. On one side, the direct war against asylum seekers. On the other side, the structural war against asylum seekers. Spin the coin, and the two become one.

On a morning talk show today, Australia’s Prime Minister was asked about the varieties of silence and secrecy that mark the State’s campaign against boat people reaching Australia. Boats have been secretly towed to Indonesia, according to some reports. Reporters are routinely denied access to immigration prisons. The Prime Minister’s response is telling: “The public want the boats stopped and that’s really what they want – that’s really my determination. If stopping the boats means being criticised because I’m not giving information that would be of use to people smugglers, so be it. We are in a fierce contest with these people smugglers. If we were at war we would not be giving out information that is of use to the enemy just because we might have an idle curiosity about it ourselves.”

When it comes to the immigration centers, the Prime Minister continued his line of reasoning: “I am confident that we are running these centres competently and humanely … Let’s remember that everyone in these centres is there because he or she has come illegally to Australia by boat. They have done something that they must have known was wrong. We don’t apologise for the fact that they are not five star or even three star hotels. Nevertheless, we are confident that we are well and truly discharging our humanitarian obligations. People are housed, they’re clothed, they’re fed, they’re given medical attention, they’re kept as safe as we can make it for them, but we want them to go back to the country from which they came. That’s what we want.”

The public wants, we want, war. Under the new campaign, Operation Sovereign Borders, Australia militarized its refugee practices, policies and policing agencies. In permanent of border protection, all’s fair, and no need to discuss justice. It’s about winning the fierce contest. The Prime Minister bristles with military `confidence’.

On the other side of the world, the British government today received a report from its National Audit Office. The report, COMPASS contracts for the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers, suggests, in detail, that the `confidence’ placed in private corporations that house asylum seekers was, at best, misplaced.

COMPASS stands for Commercial and Operating Managers Procuring Asylum Support. As always, this outsourcing was meant to save the government money. In March 2012, the government contracted three companies: G4S, Serco and Clearel. From the beginning, Clearel seemed to meet its contractual obligations, and complaints from residents were far and few between. G4S and Serco, on the other hand, started poorly and continued in that vein. This is not surprising, given that neither Serco nor G4S had any experience in housing asylum seekers. They knew how to detain them, how to put them in cages and throw away the keys, as the Yarl’s Wood experiences have shown. But they had never actually housed asylum seekers in communities. So … how did they get the contracts?


The two largest outsourcing and private security corporations in the world exuded confidence. The State felt confident as well. And now, two years later, they’re failing, and the government wants to recover £7m, and that’s just for starters.

Sometimes the housing was substandard, other times the processes were inhumane. With little to no prior warning and absolutely no consultation, women and children, in particular, found themselves shunted from one side of the country to another. Women asylum seekers also reported that staff would carry out unannounced property visits. Sometimes staff would enter into the house or apartment without even knocking. Some women asylum seekers reported these intrusions “made them feel unsafe.” The majority of women asylum seekers in England, as everywhere, are fleeing sexual violence, more often than not from partners or community members, and are single. None of that mattered to the staff; they had their jobs to do.

When it comes to refugees and asylum seekers, only confidence counts. The State has confidence in itself and in its contracted confreres. In the Australian and the British cases, this confidence is intensified by the racial/ethnic dynamic of White majority governments declaring war on individuals and populations, and in particular women and children, of color.

Where once the situation was “war amongs’ the rebels, madness, madness, war”, today the song sung with confidence is “war against the refugees, madness, madness, war.”


(Photo Credit: AAP/Scott Fisher)