Week 1: Two Decades of “Homeland Security”

The paramilitary style tactics used to suppress protest in recent months are nothing new—they’ve been used against immigrant communities in the U.S. for decades. 

In the United States, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operates in an expansive zone that stretches 100-miles inland from any land or sea border. Encompassing entire states and almost all the country’s most populous metropolitan areas, the 100-mile zone covers an area where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives. Within this territory, federal officials enjoy broad, extra-constitutional powers, running immigration checkpoints and conducting searches that routinely overstep and abuse the law.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) itself, which houses CBP, is a relatively new agency. A product of the post-9/11 war on terror, DHS was created in 2003 by combining agencies tasked with immigration and border enforcement and forming new ones like ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Since then, the DHS budget has significantly increased. As the DHS budget grows, so do contracts to private corporations who profit off border militarization. From 2008 – 2020, DHS gave more than 516,000 contracts to corporations, worth more than $184 billion combined. These are often the same corporations earning lucrative military contracts. The big five defense contractors—Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamic—also rank among the top companies in the border security business. 

DHS is among the federal agencies we’ve seen deployed to cities like Portland, OR and Chicago, IL,  where they take advantage of their broad authority to violently suppress uprisings—themselves in response to unaccountable police violence towards Black people. The paramilitary style tactics, including violence, disguise, and rampant abuse, seen in Portland are nothing new; they’ve been used against immigrant communities across the country for decades. 

Call to Action:

Defund Hate is a coalition organizing to divest from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Call your Member of Congress to #DefundHate! Script can be found here: https://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/defundhate

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