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War on Terrorism and Immigrants

Section Objective

This section will discuss the historical context for the present-day "War on Terrorism." It also explains how the Right and the U.S. government have exploited certain key events and people's genuine fear, to pursue an agenda that includes domestic repression, increased hostility to immigrants, and the militarization of the U.S.- Mexico border.

Chapter Outline

Download entire "War on Terrorism and Immigrants" chapter
of Defending Justice
(PDF, 874KB)

Summary

George W. Bush was right about the fact that global terrorism did not begin on September 11, 2001. But he is wrong in implying that the response- the War on Terrorism- began that day. It, the war on drugs, the war on crime, and other such domestic and foreign policies are deeply rooted in U.S. history. While many agendas and policies advocated and implemented by various administrations, including the Bush Administration, might be identified as having right-wing origins, many others, especially when it comes to foreign policy, are harder to pinpoint as being specifically rightist. They are instead much more structural and/or systemic in nature, and are rooted in the historical evolution of the United States from its original founding to its "sole superpower" status at the present time.

Terrorism has been a horrific reality for the world beyond our borders since long before September 11, 2001. And now it is an equally terrifying reality for Americans. It is important to understand that people's fear of terrorism, whether they live in the United States or elsewhere, is genuine- whether that terrorism is perpetrated by non-State actors like Al Qaeda, or State actors, i.e., governments. It is equally important to understand that governments around the world, including the United States, have exploited this fear to impose draconian laws that infringe on people's civil liberties and violate their civil rights, and that help to maintain the social, racial, economic, and political status quo that benefit the wealthy and the ruling elite. As Natsu Taylor Saito explains:

"Since September 11, the Bush administration hundreds of new laws giving the executive branch powers. The administration has unilaterally thousands of people, hold them indefinitely and to the courts, and interrogate them. We are necessary to protect us, the American people, values' of freedom and democracy."

"But who is an 'American' for purposes of governmental protection and constitutional rights? To understand just who and what are being protected by the 'war on terror' today, we need to look at these measures in the context of the United States' long history of conflating race, 'foreignness,' and disfavored ideologies [like Communism and Socialism]; its consistent use of law enforcement and intelligence powers to suppress movements perceived as political threats; and its more general use of the criminal justice system to preserve the status quo."



Chapter Contents

Pages 149-174 of Defending Justice, edited by Palak Shah

  • Homeland Security: Low-Intensity Conflict Targets Non-Citizens by Matthew Lyons
  • Role of the State: USA PATRIOT Act
  • Role of the Right: Activating Citizens
  • Immigration as a Criminal Issue
  • Organizing Advice: Resisting Border Militarization, a Q&A with Border Action Network
  • Additional Resources

 



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