Rad Geek People's Daily

official state media for a secessionist republic of one

Posts from May 2022

Sole Source

Shared Article from NPR.org

The government program that contributed to the baby formula shor…

Baby formula is in short supply after a voluntary February recall by the manufacturer, Abbott. Today, we explain how the government helped shape the U…

Darian Woods @ npr.org

So, it turns out that having a system of state-wide near-monopolies on baby formula was a pretty bad idea, and requiring WIC recipients to participate buy only from a sole source provider in their state was an especially bad part of that bad idea. Welfare programs should not be structured to create this kind of fragility in access to basic necessity goods, but the usual and completely explicable Public Choice considerations led officials to deliberately engineer this kind of monopolistic fragility into the entire market for baby formula in the United States. When another part of government forced one of those oligopolists to halt production, this terrible idea has produced extremely painful consequences, especially for low-income parents and their babies — exactly the people who were the supposed beneficiaries of the entire scheme.

The entirety of official conduct both in the lead-up to this crisis and in the public reaction to it has been appalling both in its callousness and in its utter ineptitude in the face of repeated entirely predictable cascading disasters. It would make a good black comedy, if not for the problem that comedy shouldn’t make you so absolutely goddamned angry at everything about the situation.

Unstuck in Deep Time (The Dawn of Everything, David Graeber and David Wengrow)

There are several ways to read David Graeber and David Wengrow’s big new book, The Dawn of Everything. (1) You might find in it an anthology of engrossing archaeological discoveries and classic ethnography. Or (2) you might find mainly a big-picture theory of world history — an ambitious synthesis and explanatory framework, which is both a sustained critique and also a competitor for Big Histories like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel or Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens. Or (3) you might see it more in terms of an analytical toolkit and philosophical dialogue, an extended effort to introduce anthropological concepts and philosophical reflections on the diversity of human societies with copious empirical illustrations drawn from prehistory and the early history of civilization.

This decade-long collaboration includes all of those. Graeber, an anthropologist, is known for a brilliantly prolific series of wide-ranging publications, including Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. Wengrow, an archaeologist, specializes in the Near East, North Africa and the role of long-distance exchange and cultural borrowing for early cities. They tell a boldly original story, combining intellectual history, cultural anthropology and a global survey of recent archaeology. But first they must dispose of a popular fable — a Simple Story about human evolution and the origins of civilization. I lay this out in my review of the book, in the June 2022 print issue of Reason; if you’re a subscriber you may already have seen it. If you’re not, it’s now online:

Shared Article from Reason.com

Book Review: The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Early cities' concentrated populations and burgeoning scale didn't spontaneously summon pharaonic god-kings or bureaucrats

Charles Johnson @ reason.com

There’s a simple story about life before civilization, retold by evolutionary scholars and New York Times bestsellers like Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. Anthropologist David Graeber and archaeologist David Wengrow summarize it skeptically in their big new book, The Dawn of Everything.

Long ago, the story goes, we were hunter-gatherers, “living… in tiny bands. These bands were egalitarian; they could be for the very reason that they were so small.” We did this for hundreds of thousands of years, until an Agricultural Revolution fed an Urban Revolution, which heralded civilization and states. That meant “the appearance of written literature, science and philosophy,” but also “patriarchy, standing armies, mass executions, and annoying bureaucrats demanding that we spend much of our lives filling in forms.”

Or perhaps, interjects Steven Pinker, those bands weren’t childlike innocents, but brutal and chaotically violent: We shouldn’t regret armies or bureaucrats, but greet them as liberators. Either telling maintains the long arc: We were all one way for so long, until changes came and we were irreversibly another.

. . . Civilization, [the Simple Story] argued, posed a tragic dilemma: wild, childish freedom or mature, comfortable confinement.

What if that dilemma is an illusion? Dawn’s archaeological chapters slice up the Simple Story’s film-strip progression of evolutionary stages and (pre)historical inevitability. There was no Age of Innocence: Prehistoric people were already smart; their world was already old, with long histories now lost to us. . . .

. . . Early cities’ concentrated populations and burgeoning scale didn’t spontaneously summon pharaonic god-kings or mandarin bureaucrats. Wengrow and Graeber favor recent reinterpretations of the Indus Valley metropolis Mohenjo-daro as organized with no evident palaces, rulers, or institutional government. Bustling cities from Uruk to Teotihuacan seemingly alternated epochs when rulers took hold with centuries when the populace repudiated them.

Again and again, stereotyped stages and origins of social inequality obscure more than they reveal about prehistoric complexity. Dawn shifts focus from equality to fluidity: If human beings, through most of our history, have moved back and forth fluidly between different social arrangements… maybe the real question should be how did we get stuck? … How did we come to treat eminence and subservience not as temporary expedients… but as inescapable elements of the human condition?

— Unstuck in Deep Time (Book Review: The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity)
Reason, June 2022.

Read the whole thing at Reason dot com.

Many, many thanks to Jesse Walker for thinking of me to review the book, and for his patience in a slow and sometimes bleary-eyed, underslept process of delivering it — as well as the thoughtful collaboration of Jesse and the other editors of Reason, in the long process of whittling down an awful lot of thoughts on an awfully big book into something that could fit onto two pages of a print magazine.

There are a few things that were pretty important to me on reading the book that I didn’t get the chance to say, or that I could only barely hint at, within the limited space of the printed review. I briefly mention in the review How much trust you place in evocative reconstructions of silent ruins depends on your confidence in the conjectural process of archaeological interpretation. Graeber and Wengrow are forthcoming about that, frequently noting the limitations of the evidence (“Much of this remains speculative…”). But cautionary hedges sometimes vanish when earlier conjectures return to bolster later conclusions. Many interpretations are best read with a cautious eye to possibilities, probabilities, and certainties. Here’s a couple of examples of that. In a chapter on early domestication and the Gardens of Adonis, a thoughtful, carefully hedged passage explores admittedly incomplete lines of evidence for the tentative hypothesis that it might, very often, have been women who were responsible for the accumulation of early agricultural knowledge and experiments with domestication in the Neolithic Fertile Crescent. Late in the book, this returns in the claim that we will never know just who first discovered that you can make bread rise by adding yeasts, but we can be almost certain she was a woman, and would not be considered white if she tried to immigrate to a European country today.[1] In a chapter on early cities, we review some ground-breaking research on a group of 6,000 year old Mega-Site settlements practicing early agriculture on the Ukrainian forest steppes. We are not sure just how many people lived there at a time or whether they lived there year round, but they may have; careful archaeological examination turns up no evidence of central planning or top-down administration, but it is carefully noted that In the absence of written records (or a time machine), three are serious limits to what we can say about the details of kinship or decision-making within these sites. But then as we turn to city organization in old Mesopotamia, we are positively told the Mega-Sites offer us proof that highly egalitarian organization has been possible on an urban scale. This is adduced largely on the strength of the fact that their houses seem to have been arranged in concentric circles — and that arrangement means something very interesting in the moral economy of modern Basque villages, which also happen to be similarly round.[2] There is nothing wrong with speculating here about interesting and suggestive archaeological sites; but I wish that the book’s healthy awareness and careful observations about the limitations of available evidence persisted better throughout the entire exposition.

If Dawn has a real besetting sin, it is not overconfidence but wrath, in particular the impatience with which it attacks other methodologies for studying prehistory, including those of Big History rivals. I mention in my review that I think the book is at its weakest when its authors are most polemical. The early criticism of Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, for example, uncharitably discounts his engagement with paleoanthropological evidence. Pinker’s evidence, which is heavily dependent on Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization (1996), may be out-of-date, oversimplified or bad; but settling the matter it is not simply a matter of Well, you may have one murdered Ice Man, but I’ll show you another who was well cared for, and it is not simply a matter (as is brusquely suggested in the text) of amateur Pinker blundering around without any knowledge of the field or babbling on matters better left to the grown-ups. Nor is Pinker’s use of modern global statistics on human well-being adequately answered by waving it off with the facile suggestion that you can make statistics do whatever you want with the right starting assumptions, and that the better approach is to check a historiographical lit review on Indian captivity narratives. Late in the book they glibly handwave neo-Hobbesian pictures of human history as extremely popular among billionaires but [holding] little appeal to anyone else.[3] I doubt the authors really don’t know anyone else who might genuinely sympathize, out of complacency about modern life, or a deeply jaundiced view of older living conditions. Viewpoints like that are widespread, even if there are deeper subtleties on offer.

I’m elaborating here on some areas where I am critical of the book’s weaknesses, but the review is a pretty strongly positive one. I found The Dawn of Everything an immensely provocative and rewarding book to read. As an archaeological and anthropological anthology, it is fascinating and rewards a curious reader; as a philosophical exploration and synthesis it is thoughtful, questioning exploration and really interestingly and tightly structured in a series of ring compositions that address topics like seasonality, rivalry and schismogenesis, urbanism, technology, and path dependence. If you’re curious about the politics, there’s a lot to interest individualist libertarians in a story of social and economic development that takes human agency seriously as a historical force, does not take the Leviathan state as a necessary or desirable outcome of social complexity or advanced technology, and offers a boldly optimistic brief for Enlightenment ideals of personal freedom within an urbanized global society. If anything, the book’s sharpest blows are against the preoccupations of Primitivists (civilization and technology aren’t harbingers of inevitable domination and ecocide; Dunbar’s Number notwithstanding, the ways people find to manage social scale don’t always orient vertically), of Marxists (human social forms aren’t mechanically determined by modes of production or easily classifiable according to a world-historic revolutionary drama), and of Progressives (the Left should embrace a politics of liberty over and above obsessions with inequality).

The prospect of reviewing The Dawn of Everything necessarily bears a poignant note of saudade — to hold this big book, bursting with exhilarating possibilities and experimental beginnings, while called upon to write it up as David Graeber’s last book. The text was finished less than a month before Graeber’s untimely death in the Fall of 2020; Wengrow’s moving dedication reminisces on how the collaboration grew luxuriantly from a sprawling correspondence that converg[ed] by increments into working drafts of this new history of humankind. It grew in the telling; they realized how much was left to say, and planned to write sequels; no less than three. The book we have is a worthy capstone to Graeber’s work, but so palpably calls for further exploration that I can only hope Wengrow will continue the conversation despite the immeasurable loss of his co-conspirator.

I mentioned three ways you can read this book; you could, I suppose, also set out to read the book (4) as a sort of Anarchist History of Humanity, a sprawling case for the authors’ vocally anti-authoritarian political vision and radical activism. Many reviews, perhaps inevitably, have dwelt on David Graeber’s passionately outspoken anarchism, reading The Dawn of Everything as his last sweeping, world-historical brief for the movement slogan, Another World Is Possible. More than one review essay that started down this road soon ceased to be an essay about the contents of the book at all, and simply pursued the reviewer’s further thoughts about Occupy Wall Street, protest politics, or the practical prospects for Anarchism in the modern world. Now there’s nothing at all wrong with a good book about Anarchism, and Dawn certainly does wear its political buttons on its backpack. I have my own thoughts on those, as I’ve mentioned, but the book is an ambitious work of scholarly synthesis, which should be engaged on at least some level other than purely present-oriented political debate.

And one of the important things to notice about The Dawn of Everything, as a politically engaged book, is how much it does not just cherry-pick prehistory for illustrative examples of the authors’ political preoccupations. Interested as they are in cities without governments, Graeber and Wengrow spend even more time identifying hierarchies, domination and slavery where conventional Simple Stories wouldn’t expect them. This is an enormously ambitious book, evoking the grand ambitions and style of Enlightenment treatises of moral science – from the outrageous scope of the title (Of Everything!), to whimsically elongated section headings.[4] It’s correspondingly an enormous book, with essayistic chapters that bulge in the middle from prolonged tours of excavations and interpretations, digressing into Stoned Ape theories of human evolution, Rousseau’s dabbling in comic opera, and the (alleged) suppression of the Secret Order of the Illuminati.[5] The overarching, avowed project of the book is to open oneself to extreme possibilities and surprising complications, not to use past societies as convenient canvases for anti-authoritarian fables. The book’s most overtly political chapter is its Conclusion; the appeal there is to awake from dogmatic slumbers, to open up to extreme possibilities in the ways humans can devise to live in this old world. They write there that This book began with an appeal to ask better questions about the past and future of humankind.[6] This is an aspiration the book admirably fulfills.

  1. [1]Ch. 5, 237; Ch. 12, 499; emphasis mine.
  2. [2]Ch. 8, 294; 297.
  3. [3]Ch. 12, p. 493.
  4. [4]In Which We Apply Mauss’s Insight to the Pacific Coast and Consider Why Walter Goldschmidt’s Description of Aboriginal Californians as Protestant Foragers, While in Many Ways Absurd, Still Has Something to Tell Us.
  5. [5]Ch. 2, p. 68; see also fnord.
  6. [6]Ch. 12, p. 493.

ICE Spies

For more than a decade now, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the violent federal law-enforcement agency that specializes in hunting down, rounding up, imprisoning and deporting undocumented immigrants, has compiled a trove of biometric data and dossiers, and a mass surveillance toolkit including facial recognition, fingerprint and DNA testing, automated license plate readers, closed-circuit TV cameras, GPS tracking units, cell-site simulators, private commercial databases, law-enforcement databases, wiretapping and Wi-Fi interception. They have routinely used this toolkit to engage in warrantless surveillance of vast numbers of both immigrants and American citizens, and they have quietly expanded it over the last several years to evade public accountability and to skirt controls introduced by cities and states … to protect communities from precisely these kind of intrusive searches.

Shared Article from Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology

American Dragnet

One of two American adults is in a law enforcement face recognition database. An investigation.

Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology @ americandragnet.org

Since its creation in 2003, ICE has consistently marketed itself as a law enforcement agency that targets criminal aliens, a term the agency has used to describe noncitizens who have had contact with law enforcement, regardless of whether they were actually convicted of an offense.[36] ICE uses the language of the criminal legal system to defend deportation rhetorically, but it also relies heavily on criminal legal system infrastructure to carry out enforcement operations. Over the last two decades, the immigrant rights movement has done powerful work to reveal the ways that ICE uses police and jails to investigate people for deportation, including through the notorious mandatory fingerprint sharing scheme known as Secure Communities (S-Comm), which established a system by which fingerprint scans taken by state and local law enforcement are automatically compared against a database operated by DHS, alerting ICE to possible immigration violations.[37]

What has received less attention, however, is ICE’s deployment of a much broader array of data-sharing and data collection programs that amass information from sources outside of law enforcement.[38] As cities and states have enacted sanctuary policies limiting law enforcement cooperation with immigration officials, ICE has progressively expanded its surveillance toolkit to include troves of data beyond what can be provided by state and local police. ICE has turned toward government agencies like DMVs, asking for driver information and requesting face recognition searches on entire license photo databases. It has ramped up investments in contracts with private data brokers, buying access to billions of pieces of data sourced from places like credit agencies and utility companies.

— American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, Finding 1
Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, 10 May 2022.

The result has been a vast, intrusive surveillance apparatus covering access to personally identifying information on the overwhelming majority of the American population, whether immigrant or native-born. Here’s the overview of the report.

This report, the product of a two-year investigation involving over 200 Freedom of Information requests, a review of over 100,000 ICE procurement transactions and a series of comprehensive legal surveys, fills many of those gaps. It explains the historical and legal context that has allowed ICE to create its dragnet and offers policymakers and advocates a frame through which to understand it. The report also illustrates the reach of ICE surveillance through case studies on ICE’s use of: (1) DMV data and photos; (2) utilities data; and (3) interview data from unaccompanied children detained at the border.

The results of our investigation paint a stark picture of dragnet surveillance, indicating that ICE has used face recognition technology to scan the driver’s license photographs of 1 in 3 adults, has access to the driver’s license data of 3 in 4 adults, is able to track the movements of drivers in cities home to 3 in 4 adults and could locate 3 in 4 adults through their utility records. Secrecy, impunity, dragnet surveillance–19 years after Byrd stood in the well of the U.S. Senate and declaimed against the Homeland Security Act, his warning has come to pass.[27]

This report is not the first to describe ICE’s surveillance dragnet. For years, organizations like CASA, the Immigrant Defense Project, Just Futures Law, the Legal Aid Justice Center, Make the Road, Mijente, the NILC, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), the ACLU, Project South and dozens of others have warned of, and advocated against, ICE surveillance. This report is the first, however, that attempts to quantify the reach of ICE surveillance into the daily transactions and private lives of every American, as Byrd predicted. Based on this new research and analysis, the report calls upon Congress to investigate and conduct oversight into ICE surveillance, and it offers policymakers and communities a set of concrete suggestions for taking apart this American dragnet.

— American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, Introduction
Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, 10 May 2022.

This systematic, ever-growing surveillance apparatus began at least as early as 2008. ICE has continued to grow its secret surveillance programs and capacity for warrantless spying throughout the administrations of Republican and Democratic presidents, under every president from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

In 2008, ICE expanded its cooptation of policing infrastructure to include digital infrastructure with the launch of the Secure Communities program. The keystone of S-Comm is a fingerprint-sharing initiative that automatically sends the fingerprints of any person who is booked by federal, state or local law enforcement to the FBI and ICE.[45] While several states initially resisted enrolling in S-Comm, the Obama administration stated that participation was mandatory.[46] As a result, all 3,181 law enforcement jurisdictions in the country–in all 50 states, the district and five U.S. territories–were enrolled in the program.[47] In 2014, after years of intense pressure from the immigrant rights movement, President Obama and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson suspended S-Comm but replaced it with the substantially similar Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), leaving the biometric information sharing processes across the country unchanged.[48] That enabled President Trump to issue an executive order immediately restarting S-Comm five days after his inauguration.[49] Although President Joe Biden revoked that order in early 2021,[50] the fingerprint-sharing program still remains in place today.

These data-sharing programs and cooperative agreements with law enforcement agencies became cornerstones of U.S. immigration enforcement. Just three years after the launch of S-Comm, the number of people deported under the program made up 20% of total deportations that year.[51] As of 2020, about 70% of ICE arrests resulted from ICE officers being notified of a person’s impending release from jail or prison.[52] The increasing levels of cooperation between immigration officials and law enforcement also coincided with an explosion in the number of deportations from the U.S.

. . .

While ICE’s initiatives to draw information from state and local police were rolled out with great publicity, its efforts to reach data streams from sources outside of law enforcement have been extremely secretive. ICE began broadening the scope of its data collection in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as part of an overarching federal initiative to radically increase domestic surveillance under the auspices of the war on terror. Before 9/11, immigration authorities rarely investigated cases outside of the criminal context.

. . . [During a massive expansion of domestic surveillance and personnel intended to track down visa overstays and people with outstanding removal orders] ICE began systematically securing new troves of data that it could use to pull people into detention and deportation. Unlike the data fueling prior initiatives, this new data came overwhelmingly from sources outside of law enforcement, including agencies and offices within federal, state and local governments, as well as from the private sector. As ICE sought to remedy the data shortages that hindered previous efforts to pursue cases, it amassed records far beyond what was provided by state and local police, allowing the agency to track a significantly larger number of people. With these efforts, the reach of ICE surveillance far exceeded that of the already massive databases maintained on arrestees and visa holders, usurping data sets that easily included the majority of people in the U.S.

— American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, Finding 1
Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, 10 May 2022.

Over and over again, in states where reform-minded governors and state leiglsatures have made deliberate efforts to cut off cooperation with ICE data-gathering and enforcement, the agency has used alternative pipelines, private data brokers, and secretive side doors to circumvent even the most determined attempts to limit their surveillance.

The revelation that ICE could access Washington’s driver database sent shockwaves statewide. Inslee issued a personal apology, admitting that the state fell short in fulfilling its commitment to protecting immigrants.[108] He also moved quickly to prevent something like that from happening again. Inslee immediately ordered Department of Licensing employees to stop sharing driver information with ICE absent a court order and ordered the department to conduct a full-scale internal review of its data-sharing practices.[109] . . . By the time the results of the investigation went public, the Department of Licensing had decided to cut off ICE’s access to the DAPS database.[115] The department no longer permitted face recognition searches on driver’s license photographs for immigration enforcement purposes. Washington was assuring drivers that it had locked the door to the state’s driver’s license information. . . .

Yet Inslee’s attempts to sever ICE’s access to driver’s license records appear to have only encouraged the agency to turn toward a secretive side door. . . . The Department of Licensing wasn’t the only agency in the state that could grant access to drivers’ records and license photos; the Washington State Police operated an electronic data-sharing system known as WSP ACCESS, and according to the employee, agents could use it to electronically query and receive the license photos of Washington drivers.[117] . . . ICE has also prolifically used WSP ACCESS to access Washingtonians’ driver data, sometimes with state employees’ encouragement. . . .

. . . Alarmingly, despite the governor’s best efforts, there is every indication that ICE still has unrestricted, warrantless access to Washington drivers’ data. How is that possible? The answer lies in the multiplicity of intersecting access points through which states like Washington allow driver information to flow to outside agencies and the difficulty of severing those points of access. Despite the efforts states have taken to restrict ICE’s access to driver’s license data, ICE routinely finds ways to circumvent most state-imposed limits. When one spigot turns off, ICE simply moves to another pipeline.

. . . ICE investigators use a sprawling web of databases, networks and information-sharing initiatives to access states’ driver records. . . . This set of communications reference the three major pipelines that ICE uses to obtain state driver’s license information. First, ICE accesses driver’s information by making direct requests to DMVs. ICE agents may contact DMV employees to ask for records and may also request employees to conduct face recognition searches. Second, ICE accesses drivers’ information via government databases. ICE agents may directly search electronic databases of registered drivers and vehicles. Finally, ICE accesses drivers’ information through data brokers. DMVs frequently sell driver’s license data to private companies that resell access to ICE agents and others.

— American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, Finding 2
Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, 10 May 2022.

Here’s what all this meant in the lives of José Santos Quintero Hernandez, Maribel Cortez and their family.

José Santos Quintero Hernandez and Maribel Cortez have been married for 22 years. They met in the U.S. after emigrating separately from El Salvador, fleeing violence and what Hernandez described as certain death.[16] The couple had led a quiet life, raising five children in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb less than one-hour’s drive from the U.S. Capitol.[17]

One morning in early February 2020, a little over 17 years after Byrd’s remarks [about the dangers of organizing the new Department of Homeland Security —RG], the Hernandez family got a knock at their door. One of the children opened it. The kids watched as ICE agents entered the house, arrested their father and took him away.

There are millions of undocumented people in the U.S. How did ICE come to arrest Hernandez? Had he just arrived and missed a court date? No, he had been living here for decades. Had he come to ICE’s attention through local law enforcement? No, neither Hernandez nor Cortez had ever had any encounters with the police or immigration enforcement.

No, the agents explained to Hernandez as they walked him to their car. They found him because he had recently obtained a Maryland driver’s license. They used the information he gave to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to find him, arrest him, lock him up in an immigration detention center and start deportation proceedings against him.[18]

Later that month, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun revealed that, in addition to searching through Maryland drivers’ personal information -– their names, addresses and dates of birth -– ICE had also been scanning Maryland drivers’ faces and conducting face recognition searches on their license photos. Those warrantless searches were not restricted to undocumented immigrants or other applicants for what are called “standard” licenses; ICE had been logging into a state face recognition database and scanning the faces of the state’s drivers, which totaled more than 4 million people.[19]

— American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, Introduction
Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, 10 May 2022.

Here is the part where Maryland lawmakers were shocked and heart-broken that the direct, unintended consequence of their supposedly pro-immigrant reforms was actually to provide ICE with more information and resources to hunt down the undocumented immigrants they were sending to the DMV.

Maryland lawmakers were shocked–particularly those who had led the effort in 2013 to allow undocumented residents to apply for licenses. Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk of Prince George’s County was distraught to learn ICE was tracking down Maryland immigrants using a program she had supported. It breaks your heart, she told The Washington Post. We didn’t know. We could have gotten it right in the beginning if we knew.[20] To this day, state officials seem to have no idea how many times ICE has scanned the faces of Maryland drivers.[21]

— American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, Introduction
Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, 10 May 2022.

And to be sure it is awful to see, but liberal lawmakers never seem to see that the only way to get it right when it comes to government surveillance is to stop surveilling people, collect less data, and resist any and every attempt by law enforcement to get access to whatever you do have on file. You don’t have to secure the data that you never collect. If you go around gathering tons of information about undocumented immigrants and actively encourage them to turn over lots of information about who they are and where they live, then the border police will do everything they can to get their hands on that information. Of course they will. There is a lot of heartbreak here, but there should be very little surprise. The big villain of the piece is ICE, and the Department of Homeland Security, and the United States federal government, including all of the administrations, both Conservative and Progressive, that have created their architecture of mass surveillance and mass deportation. But the liberal reform community and their favorite politicians — however kindhearted their intentions — have also spent a decade and a half mostly encouraging supposedly friendly state, local and federal agencies to gather lots and lots of personally identifying information on undocumented immigrants, in the name of bringing them out of the shadows, facilitating their entry into the aboveground formal economy, and connecting them with adminsitrative half-measures, precarious protected statuses, and political deferrals as a partial substitute for real legal residency. This is sold as practical reform, but its unintended practical consequence has been to feed the growth of ICE’s dossiers and surveillance network, and to leave millions of people completely at the mercy of the slender legal and political restraints on the demands of federal law enforcement and national security agencies.[1]

The massive scale of ICE’s surveillance programs have turned the agency into a key component in what Anil Kalhan, professor at Drexel Kline School of Law, has called the immigration surveillance state.[96] According to Kalhan, ICE surveillance has transformed a regime of immigration control, operating primarily on noncitizens at the border, into part of a more expansive regime of migration and mobility surveillance, operating without geographic bounds upon citizens and noncitizens alike.[97] University of California Irvine professor Ana Muñiz recognized a similar shift within a specific immigration enforcement system, the Enforcement Integrated Database. She argues that increased data collection and data-sharing arrangements transformed the database from a case management system to a mass surveillance system.[98]

— American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, Finding 1
Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, 10 May 2022.

These expansive surveillance programs, conducted furtively over decades by a secretive federal law-enforcement agency with the tacit or explicit support of multiple Presidents of the United States, largely evading scrutiny or review by legislative authorities and repeatedly circumventing attempts to limit their scope by other agencies at the state or federal level, are intrusive, invasive, and unaccountable; they are also frightening, politically corrosive, ethically bankrupt, and profoundly damaging in concrete terms for the lives and livelihoods of real people. It is an outrageous and invasive effort to carry out the senseless demands of an utterly unjustifiable, morally outrageous policy of border control.

The mass surveillance apparatus is awful. It has grown out of control because there is no such thing as immigration enforcement without a police state, and the nature of every police state is to grow out of control as long and as far as it can. There is no such thing as a limited police state, just a police state that will inspect and follow everyone it can for as long as it is permitted to do so.

It should not be accepted placidly, and there is precious little excuse at this point for believing that it can be curtailed, controlled or rendered harmless by piecemeal progressive reforms. That there machine feeds and grows on the paper trail that is generated by piecemeal progressive reforms. The basic incentive of every form of government enforcement, and every form of government surveillance, is to feed, and grow, on everything it can find, as much it can, and as far as it can go. It may be limited more or less by practical real-world constraints, by the incentives of competing powers, or by really determined and effective popular protest. But ultimately it can be stopped only by confronting and getting rid of the root cause.

It is practically nearly impossible to seriously limit or get rid of the immigration surveillance state without seriously limiting or getting rid of immigration controls and immigration enforcement. ICE spies because ICE investigates, and ICE investigates because ICE deports people. The only real way to cut off the spying is to cut off the deporting.[2] And that is absolutely something worth doing on its own merits, because the effects of those controls on the immigrants targeted by them are awful and completely unjustifiable.

Open all borders, dismantle all gates, and let people come and go as they please. You don’t need mass surveillance if you’re not trying to track people down. You don’t need to track people down when they haven’t done anything wrong.

Abolish ICE, immediately, completely and forever.


See also.

  1. [36]For example, the Criminal Alien Program (CAP) sends ICE officers into jails to interview detained people to determine if they may be deportable. CAP officers do not distinguish between people detained pre-trial and people who have been convicted of an offense. In fact, a significant number of people removed under CAP did not have criminal convictions. See Guillermo Cantor, Mark Noferi & Daniel E. Martinez, Enforcement Overdrive: A Comprehensive Assessment of ICE’s Criminal Alien Program, American Immigration Council 2 (Nov. 1, 2015), https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/research/enforcement_overdrive_a_comprehensive_assessment_of_ices_criminal_alien_program_final.pdf (PDF) (Out of more than half a million CAP removals that took place between FY 2010 and FY 2013, ICE classified the largest share (27.4 percent) as not definite criminals–i.e., ICE recorded no criminal conviction.).
  2. [37]U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secure Communities: A Comprehensive Plan to Identify and Remove Criminal Aliens 1-2 (2009), https://www.ice.gov/doclib/foia/secure_communities/securecommunitiesstrategicplan09.pdf (PDF) (Through the deployment and use of the biometric-based identification systems, all persons booked into custody will be automatically checked for their immigration status as well as prior criminal history.)
  3. [38]This report distinguishes between law enforcement, and non-law enforcement data, but because of the increasing interoperability of databases and networks across all levels and branches of government, as a practical matter it may make more sense to begin thinking of all data as potentially law enforcement data.
  4. [27]As a young man, Robert Byrd organized a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. As a young senator, he made his name opposing civil rights laws. As an older Senator, however, he was deeply embarrassed by this and became a staunch proponent of the Voting Rights Act and other key civil rights laws. This grace, unfortunately, never extended to people like Mr. Hernandez. In fact, Senator Byrd spoke heatedly against efforts to give undocumented people a path to citizenship. In remarks on the floor of the Senate during an immigration debate, he warned that any one of the undocumented, unchecked aliens… could be a potential terrorist. Regardless of his history or his motives, however, Senator Byrd’s warning has proved frighteningly accurate. 109 Cong. Rec. S2794 (daily ed. Apr. 4, 2006) (statement of Sen. Robert Byrd).
  5. [45]U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Secure Communities: A Comprehensive Plan to Identify and Remove Criminal Aliens 1-2 (2009), https://www.ice.gov/doclib/foia/secure_communities/securecommunitiesstrategicplan09.pdf (PDF) (Through the deployment and use of the biometric-based identification systems, all persons booked into custody will be automatically checked for their immigration status as well as prior criminal history.).
  6. [46]Julia Preston, States Resisting Program Central to Obama’s Immigration Strategy, New York Times (May 5, 2011), https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/us/06immigration.html (The states’ objections are setting up a confrontation with the Department of Homeland Security, whose secretary, Janet Napolitano, has said that Secure Communities is mandatory and will be extended to all jurisdictions in the country by 2013.).
  7. [47]U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Secure Communities (Feb. 9, 2021), https://www.ice.gov/secure-communities (ICE completed full implementation of Secure Communities to all 3,181 jurisdictions within 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories on January 22, 2013.).
  8. [48]See Letter from Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security to Thomas S. Winkowski, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement et al. 2–3 (Nov. 20, 2014), https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/14_1120_memo_secure_communities.pdf (PDF) (Accordingly, I am directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to discontinue Secure Communities. ICE should put in its place a program that will continue to rely on fingerprint-based biometric data submitted during bookings by state and local law enforcement agencies to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal background checks. … This new program should be referred to as the Priority Enforcement Program or PEP.).
  9. [49]Exec. Order No. 13,768, 82 Fed. Reg. 8799 (Jan. 25, 2017).
  10. [50]Exec. Order No. 13,993, 86 Fed. Reg. 7051 (Jan. 25, 2021).
  11. [51]In fiscal year 2011, the number of removals under S-Comm was 79,726. TRAC, Removals under the Secure Communities Program (2019), https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/secure/. In total, ICE ERO removed 396,906 individuals during fiscal year 2011. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FY 2011: ICE announces year-end removal numbers, highlights focus on key priorities (Oct. 17, 2011), <https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/fy-2011-ice-announces-year-end-removal-numbers-highlights-focus-key-priorities#:~:text=Overall%2C%20in%20FY%202011%20ICE’s,of%20criminals%20since%20FY%202008>.
  12. [52]Hillel R. Smith, Cong. Rsch. Serv., LSB10375, Immigration Detainers: Background and Recent Legal Developments 1 (2020).
  13. [108]Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Inslee statement on Licensing policy changes to protect personal information of immigrants and refugees (Jan. 15, 2018), https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-statement-licensing-policy-changes-protect-personal-information-immigrants-and.
  14. [109]Washington State Department of Licensing, DOL takes immediate steps to stop disclosure of information to federal immigration authorities, Washington State Department of Licensing: DOL Blog (Jan. 15, 2018), https://licensingexpress.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/dol-takes-immediate-steps-to-stop-disclosure-of-information-to-federal-immigration-authorities.
  15. [115]Washington State Department of Licensing, DAPS Contract Terminations, 2017/2018, WADMV_002563 (US Dept. of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement / ERO Fugitive Ops Unit … TERMINATED — NO OPTION to sign a new contract … US Dept. of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement/DRO Yakima … TERMINATED — NO OPTION to sign a new contract … US Dept. of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations … TERMINATED — WITH OPTION to sign a new contract).
  16. [117]Washington State Department of Licensing, Email from Jeff Oehlerich, Investigator 3 to Border Patrol Agent (Mar. 30, 2017), WADMV001963-WADMV001964 (In the past, we have been very liberal in accepting the justification of criminal investigation from requestor’s [sic] and not required more specific descriptions. This changed about a month ago as the result of an executive order from the governor. We now require the title or statutory citation of the actual crime being investigated before we will provide a photo. This is at the direction of our executive leadership team. The wording that authorizes a photo for verifying identity when an officer may request identification, was added to allow officers to have direct access to photos in their patrol cars and sue them when they stop a violator who does not have ID. The WSP ACCESS system does have a specific query format where they can get a photo when they request a driver’s check. The actual method of making the query depends on the interface program the agency uses, so I don’t know what limitations or requirements each department may have. I would suggest contacting one of the agencies in your local area to see if thaye [sic] can assist.).
  17. [16]Personal Information, State and Local Agencies, Restrictions on Access: Hearing on H.B. 23 Before the Md. H. of Delegates Judiciary Committee (Jan. 27, 2021) (statement of Alex Vazquez of CASA), https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Committees/Media/false?cmte=jud&ys=2021RS&clip=JUD_1_27_2021_meeting_2 (at 46:33, certain death).
  18. [17]Erin Cox, Gov. Hogan opposed to ending ICE’s warrantless access to driver’s license database, Washington Post (Feb. 27, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/hogan-opposes-blocking-ice-from-drivers-licenses/2020/02/27/3e23bbcc-5903-11ea-9000-f3cffee23036_story.html.
  19. [18]See id.
  20. [19]See Drew Harwell, ICE has run facial recognition searches on millions of Maryland drivers, Washington Post (Feb. 26, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/02/26/ice-has-run-facial-recognition-searches-millions-maryland-drivers; Kevin Rector, ICE has access to Maryland driver’s license records. State lawmakers want to limit it, Baltimore Sun (Feb. 26, 2020), https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-pol-ice-mva-bill-20200227-rsgqqajmwne4hollsz4svgpa6m-story.html. The term standard license is used in Maryland to differentiate these identity documents from licenses that comply with the requirements of the federal REAL ID Act, which requires verification of immigration status. Maryland’s face recognition repository, the Maryland Image Recognition System, or MIRS, includes all driver photos regardless of the kind of license. Bureau of Transp. Stat., U.S. Dep’t of Transp., Maryland: Transportation by the Numbers 2 (2020), https://www.bts.gov/sites/bts.dot.gov/files/states2020/Maryland.pdf (PDF) (4.4 million licensed drivers in 2018).
  21. [20]See Cox, supra note 17.
  22. [21]See Letter from Kevin Combs, Md. Dep’t of Public Safety and Corr. Servs. to Sen. Susan C. Lee et al., Nov. 21, 2019 (explaining, in response to a query from legislators regarding the number of such searches, that Maryland does not have access to users’ search results and instead offering the number of sessions [that] were saved by ICE users in 2018 and 2019).
  23. [1][There are some things that it is within the power of state and local authorities to do, and other things that it is not in their power to do. The best thing would be to open the borders, halt all deportations, release all detainees, and abolish ICE and CBP immediately, completely and forever. This is not something that it’s within the power of the Maryland state legislature to accomplish, even if they were willing to do so. But there are other things that are within their power, and within that limited scope, it would have been practically far better for them to put limits on local law enforcement’s opportunities or ability to demand papers, to reduce immigrants’ exposure to policing, and just to reduce or eliminate government requirements for photo ID wherever it is possible to do so — better, that is, than spending a decade and a half encouraging more undocumented residents to apply for photo IDs. You don’t have to secure data that you never collect.But without photo IDs, how would they drive without fear of arrest? Do state governments need to have laws for arrest people who are driving around without a state-issued photo ID, not to mention proof of insurance and a whole bunch of extra paperwork? Do they, really? –RG]
  24. [96]Anil Kalhan, Immigration Surveillance, 74 Md. L. Rev. 27 (2014).
  25. [97]Id. at 2.
  26. [98]Ana Muñiz, Secondary ensnarement: Surveillance systems in the service of punitive immigration enforcement, Punishment & Soc’y 2 (Feb. 11, 2020).
  27. [2][One way to do this, if possible, would be to get the government to abandon the failed and abusive border-control policies that authorize the agency to go around deporting people. That’s real nice if you can get it. If you can’t, then there are other ways, besides direct policy change — if you can’t control those who set the policy, then you’d better set about using countervailing social and political pressures to systematically degrade the agency’s practical ability to pursue it. –R.G.]
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