THE BLOG
03/25/2008 01:28 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One Raid at a Time: How Immigrant Crackdowns Build the National Security State

"He [King George] has erected a multitude of new offices and set hither swarms of officers to harass out people and eat out their subsistence." The Declaration of Independence, 1776

I. Building Up the Domestic Security Apparatus

Most explanations of the relentless pursuit of undocumented immigrants since 9/11 view it as a response to the continuing pressures of angry, mostly white, citizens. The "anti-immigrant climate" created by civic groups like the Minutemen, politicos like (name the Republican candidate of your choice) and media personalities like CNN's Lou Dobbs, we are told, has led directly to the massive - and growing - government bureaucracy for policing immigrants.

The Washington Post, for example, told us in 2006 that "the Minutemen rose to prominence last year when they began organizing armed citizen patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move credited with helping to ignite the debate that has dominated Washington in recent months."

Along the way to allegedly responding to "grassroots" calls about "real immigration reform" and "doing something about illegals," the Bush administration dismantled the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and created the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, whose more than 15,000 employees and $5.6 billion budget make it the largest investigative component of the Department of Homeland Security and the second largest investigative agency in the federal government after the FBI. In the process of restructuring, national security concerns regarding threats from external terrorist enemies got mixed in with domestic concerns about immigrant "invaders" denounced by a growing galaxy of anti-immigrant interests.

Implicit in daily media reports about "immigration reform" is the idea that bottom-up pressure led to the decision to dismantle the former INS and then place the immigration bureaucracy under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Citizen activism contributed significantly to the most massive, most important government restructuring since the end of World War II. Nor do press accounts mention Boeing and other aerospace and surveillance companies, which, for example, will benefit as government contractors to the federal Secure Border Initiative (SBI) that is scheduled to receive more than $2 billion in funding for fencing, electronic surveillance and other equipment required for the new physical and virtual fence being built at the border.

Nowhere in the more popular explanations of this historic and massive government restructuring of immigration and other government functions do the raisons d'etat -- the reasons of the state, the logic of government -- enter the picture. When talking about immigration reform, what little, if any, agency ascribed to the Bush administration usually includes such mantra-like phrases like "protecting the homeland," "securing the border," and others. And even in the immigrant rights community few, for example, are asking why the Bush administration decided to move the citizenship processing and immigration enforcement functions of government from the more domestic, policing-oriented Department of Justice (DOJ) to the more militarized, anti-terrorist bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security.

Little, if any, consideration is given to the possibility that immigrants and immigration policy serve other interests that have nothing to do with chasing down maids, poultry workers, and landscapers.

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