Our world is separated by hundreds of thousands of miles of imaginary lines that divide us from each other. I.C.E. and the Border Patrol enforce U.S. policies that target millions of immigrants every day.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Last year alone, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency ("I.C.E.") arbitrarily detained more than 110,000 people, and deported more than 226,000 immigrants simply for living their lives.
"I.C.E. is a national deportation task force."
I.C.E. was created in 2003 following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Today, I.C.E. is rapidly growing, and is already the second largest investigative agency in the government, with over 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices in the U.S. and 46 other nations. The sprawling agency has an annual budget of approximately $6 billion, most of which is funneled right into "Enforcement and Removal Operations."
Last year, between Jan. 20 and Sept. 30, I.C.E. detained nearly 111,000 people, a dramatic 42 percent increase over the prior year. The agency also deported more than 226,000 immigrants.
More disturbingly, I.C.E. is becoming more agressive. Recently, I.C.E. has been targeting businesses, such as 7/11, schools, hospitals, and local courthouses. I.C.E. is stoking fear against millions of immigrants across the nation. These are the tactics of an authoritarian regime beginning an ethnic cleansing. As with any attempted ethnic cleansing, we should forcefully resist any such tactics.
"I.C.E. is ramping up a massive ethnic cleansing in America."
We believe the solution to the so called "immigration" issue, which amounts to nothing more than justification for ethnic cleansing in America, is not to reform but to abolish I.C.E.
Customs and Border Patrol
With more than 60,000 employees, I.C.E.'s sibling agency, the United States Customs and Border Patrol agency is one of the largest police organizations in the world, larger than even the New York City Police Department
On an average day, C.B.P. monitors nearly one million visitors, searches more than 67,000 cargo containers, and detains more than 1,100 individuals. Annually, C.B.P. oversees an average of more than $3 trillion in international trade, largely discouraging the free flow of people and the flow of goods with its arbitrary enforcement of hundreds of Byzantine laws and regulations.
"We need to tear down the border walls. We need to stop turning people away."
Earlier this year, C.B.P. arrested a volunteer for No More Deaths, an organization that strives to prevent migrant deaths on the border between Arizona and Mexico, on felony charges of smuggling while providing humanitarian aid (food, water, clothes and shelter) to two migrants.
The C.B.P. Deputy Commissioner bragged about "arresting nearly 1,000 people a day coming across the border." Even worse, the C.B.P. fabricated data alleging a 73% rise in assaults against border agents.
"No ban, no wall, no borders at all."
We need to eliminate all immigration restrictions on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, or any other arbitrary class membership. Our militarized borders and ports of entry are the hallmarks of authoritarianism. Our border walls are also a new manifestation of our obsession with prisons.
History has proven that border walls will inevitably be used to keep people in as much as they’re used to keep people out. We need to tear down the border walls. We need to abolish the C.B.P.
Every person — regardless of where and when they were born, how much money they make, their legal status, the color skin, or their political and religious beliefs — deserves unrestricted free access to healthcare. Free access to healthcare is a human right.
Single Payer Healthcare
In 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Popularly referred to as "Obamacare," this massive bill didn't go far enough toward providing us with healthcare. Affordable healthcare is better than no healthcare, but it is not universal healthcare. We demand more.
"Healthcare shouldn't just be 'affordable,' healthcare should be free."
Today, millions of us still struggle to afford the care we need to treat chronic conditions, get our medications, and receive surgeries and other life-saving medical procedures. In desperation, some of us are forced to participate in unsanctioned survival economies, which the government labels "criminal." Others have sought relief by using online crowd-funding to try and cover rising medical costs. But the few of us who manage to do so successfully are not inspirational stories. They are a reminder of the systemic failure of our healthcare system, which continues to force millions of people into poverty and desperation.
These struggles are all-too-common for trans people, who frequently face legalized discrimination while seeking basic and necessary medical care. Despite recent progress, trans people, especially low-income trans people, still regularly encounter discrimination and punitive bureaucratic hurdles that denies them access to hormone replacement therapy, gender-affirming surgeries, and other needs. Even worse, the current administration has already begun using its executive power to remove the meager protections granted to trans people under the Affordable Care Act.
"No one should ever be afraid of going to a hospital. Healthcare should be provided, no questions asked."
In a society where the three richest Americans own more wealth than half the population, this is unacceptable. Healthcare conglomerates and the political class that obediently carries out their agendas don't have the right to choose who is and isn't "worthy" of medical care. We should never have to choose between our financial stability and receiving medication or going to a hospital. This means completely replacing our flawed medical insurance system with universal single payer healthcare, making healthcare free for everyone. No exceptions.
Universal Basic Income
In the age of automation, our work based society is fast becoming obsolete. Universal Basic Income ("U.B.I.") is an innovation that tackles the social and economic friction caused by this transition, at the heart.
"With automation, our jobs are going away. We need to transition to a 'post-work' society."
Different forms of U.B.I., sometimes referred to as a "negative income tax," have been embraced across the ideological spectrum.
However, U.B.I. will only be a solution if it provides everyone with enough income to live a full, comfortable, and safe life. This can only happen if U.B.I. is provided
In practice, a comfortable living income level should be the baseline for all of us. All individuals or families would be subsidized to that minimum level, no questions asked. We shouldn't be required or expected to work in a society without jobs.
"A Federal jobs guarantee will only mean creating more bulls—t jobs."
U.B.I. differs from a Federal jobs guarantee, which in an automated society would largely create jobs without meaning or purpose, beyond that of simply employing people for sake of employing people. We don't want meaningless jobs, we want meaningful lives.
The time has come for us to establish a Universal Basic Income.
The Police State
Our repressive government has been allowed to grow unchecked. Our police state exercises ever greater intrusion and authority into our daily lives.
Federal, state and local governments constantly ask us for more prisons and jails, both private and public. They use the rarely paid, forced labor and involuntary servitude of millions of forgotten people, living on the edge of human existence.
The United States imprisons more people than any other nation. The US makes up only five percent of the world's population but imprisons 21% of the world's total.
"You can't ask our broken prison system to reform itself. The prisons themselves have to go."
The number of people incarcerated in America has risen from about 500,000 to over 2.2 million between 1980 and 2015. Currently, nearly half of all federal prisoners are serving time under a federal drug offense, primarily from the so-called "War on Drugs."
Our vast prison-industrial complex has been called the "New Jim Crow" because of its clear racial motivations. People of color people make up more than one third of the total prison population, and are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white people.
"While on hunger strike, we stood with millions of other prisoners wanting better lives."
Our punitive system is tearing families apart, and exacerbating crime by locking people up rather than offering them increased social services and rehabilitation. The wave of prisoner work strikes and hunger strikes (including Chelsea's) that shut down prison labor operations in 24 states in September 2016, was a natural act of resistance to a punitive system that treats people as less than human.
The prison system cannot be reformed. Our prison system must come to an end, and our prisoners need to be freed.
Repeal the Law Enforcement Officers' "Bill of Rights"
Three years have past since the murder of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore uprising, and the acquittal of the police officers involved in Gray's death. Now, with many states passing a so-called "bill of rights" for cops, police officers are being held even less accountable for their actions.
"Any so-called 'bill of rights' for cops, is just a license to murder. They not only get out of jail free, they pass 'GO,' and collect $200."
All of the complex rules and procedures with these laws make it so time-consuming and cumbersome to conduct any full investigation that many departments are dissuaded from pursuing them.
In cases such as Major Joseph Floyd in Florida, Officer Michael Vagnini in Milwaukee, and the Fullerton, California, police officers who beat to death Kelly Thomas, these officers can rack up numerous complaints and still be given passes, until they do something more serious. Maryland's provisions mean that complaints and investigations into an officer’s conduct may be purged after only three years.
We need federal legislation that pre-empts any state or city implementation of the "Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights," which exist in fourteen states. Police officers who kill and injure people should be held to the same standard as any other citizen charged with murder or attempted murder.
Demilitarize and Disband the Police
Police agencies always want more, more, and more. More police officers on the street, with shiny new military grade equipment. Warrior cops on a city or state salary. They want to watch our every move and invade our privacy, with sophisticated mass surveillance systems, secret courts and subpoenas, and no-knock warrants.
"We live in a domestic military occupation. Our most vulnerable communities look like a battlefield dominated by armed cops."
1,146 people were killed by police in 2017 alone; more than 25% of them were people of color. People of color are three times as likely to be killed by police than white people.
Due to the unsurprising revelations uncovered within the Baltimore Police Department after a massive police corruption trial and a scathing Department of Justice report, local politicians in Maryland have rightly called for the disbanding of the department.
"I've been involved in a full-blown military occupation. We brought it home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We brought it to Baltimore."
The tactics, expertise, and weapons developed for war inevitably make their way into the hands of domestic law enforcement and policing. This "Boomerang Effect" means that it was only a matter of time before these weapons of war would find themselves on our streets back home.
Major examples of this include the military-style training and posture of cops, and the use of dragnet surveillance under the excuse of an endless threat of terrorism. Currently, thousands of police departments are obtaining military-grade weaponry like AR-15 variant rifles, armored personnel carriers, and helicopters directly from the military under the 1033 Program.
When police departments obtain these new weapons, there are no rules governing how they are used. Police departments can be seen all across the country using military gear in dangerous and violent no-knock raids against low-level drug offenders.
We need to end the 1033 Program once and for all, and end the practice of no-knock warrants.
Police in Schools
Police are increasingly a common sight on school campuses in communities nationwide. In 2014, 43% of public schools reported the presence of one or more security guards, security personnel, school resource officers or sworn law enforcement officers during the 2009-2010 school year, climbing after recent high profile school shootings.
Meanwhile, the number of crimes against students has plummeted more than 80% since 1992, with the rate of victimization for students in the middle schools and high schools dropping from about 182 incidents per 1,000 students to just 30 in 2013.
"Our schools look more like jails and prisons. I should know, I've been to prison."
Cops in schools actually make safety worse for children, especially among students of color. Their presence increases the likelihood that students will end up severely disciplined for minor infractions and in trouble with the law at a younger age.
Each decade, schools look more and more like jails. We need to end the school-to-prison pipeline, and remove all police and policing from our schools.
The "War on Drugs"
After six decades, the Federal government's "War on Drugs" has been a catastrophe. The prison population has exploded, while medicinal and recreational drug use remains ubiquitous. It's time to end the war on drugs, and focus on treating and rehabilitating those affected by drug addiction.
"Thousands of people of color are being held in prison for 'drug crimes', while 'entrepreneurs' profit from legalization."
Created in 1973, the Drug Enforcement Administration ("D.E.A.") has enforced the massive Controlled Substances Act. They engage in nationwide raids, searching and arresting approximately 30,000 people a year. The D.E.A. has also pioneered the abusive practice of civil asset forfeiture, the "license to steal" which has caused the total value of money and property seized by law enforcement to surpass the amount stolen by burglars each year.
Federal, state and local police agencies, armed with military-grade grenade launchers and tanks, routinely serve search warrants using deadly no-knock raids to go after suspected drug dealers and users. Since the 20th century, when the War on Drugs was ramped into overdrive, the rate of no-knock raids has increased from around 800 a year to over 20,000. The government's response to drugs is deadlier, and far more dangerous than any drug.
For instance, D.E.A. agents shot a New Hampshire woman while picking up her infant grandchild, but agents had the wrong residence; D.E.A. and San Francisco police raided a UC-Hastings law professor under the mistaken belief that he was growing marijuana; and, the D.E.A. defended the practice of agents pointing their guns at children's heads during drug raids, even though agents had raided the wrong home after taking down an incorrect license plate number.
"No knock raids are nothing more than deadly home invasions and robberies, conducted by uniformed cops."
In the federal prisons, more than half of those sentenced to a year or longer of jail time are still there for drug crimes.
We should repeal the Controlled Substances Act. We need to dismantle and abolish the D.E.A. We need to realize that the sale, possession, and consumption of drugs has never been a criminal justice issue. Instead, we must channel these vast resources toward drug treatment and rehabilitation.
If work is work then sex work is work, too. Sex worker's rights are labor rights.
Sex workers, near universally, want decriminalization of all forms of consensual, safe adult sex work. Just ask sex workers.
The criminalization of the sex industry exacerbates violence and exploitation against marginalized sex workers, and severs them from vital systems of support. Policing of sex work pushes instances of actual sex trafficking further underground, which puts sex workers' lives at greater risk of violence. Decriminalization will remove the incentive for police to harass sex workers, and respects the lives of migrant workers.
Sex workers deserve the same rights afforded to other workers including the right to form unions and publicly organize for better working conditions. Sex workers should feel safe in asking for support from their communities without fear of retribution by police, and with immunity from prosecution for engaging in work.
"Taking down Backpage is censorship. You may as well take down Google, or Facebook while you're at it."
We've seen recent efforts to conflate sex trafficking with consensual sex work. The Department of Justice seizure of the advertising website Backpage, which hosted ads posted by sex workers, is the most high profile example of this. Backpage allowed sex workers to screen potential clients, empowering them to work independently and safely.
A brief glance at the 93-count indictment against the operators of Backpage reveals that not a single count pertains to sex trafficking. As usual, it's clear that a real issue such as "sex trafficking," a very real problem that is in no way defensible, is being hijacked to target consensual sexual activities with adult workers who are just trying to survive.
We need to repeal laws like SESTA/FOSTA, which put sex workers at greater risk of abuse, violence, and death. We need to decriminalize sex work nationwide.
The Military Industrial Complex
The most recent budget allocates nearly $700 billion to the U.S. military. This is the largest spending on the military in history. This price tag dwarfs the military budgets of the next seven top-spending countries combined.
"Seven hundred billion dollars a year. Billion. With a 'B.'"
The U.S. could slash its military budget by half, and still spend more than any other nation. To add insult to injury, the funds are allocated toward what amounts to a giant blank check to the military industrial complex, including companies like Boeing, Raytheon, Halliburton, and Lockheed Martin, to name a few.
Financing global empire is expensive. It's also inherently destructive, needing to justify the weight of its own immense scale. Every intercontinental ballistic missile or fighter jet necessarily comes at the expense of some other good or service, especially given that this weaponry is financed via our tax dollars. Over half of the Federal budget invests in waging war around the globe. The cost in blood, tears, and treasure is unfathomable.
We need a dramatic reduction in funds allocated for "defense." They don't contribute to making anyone safer. We have seen that spreading the presence of the U.S. military around the globe actually destabilizes entire regions, and spreads fear and animosity. These funds can be put to better use.
The United States is the biggest arms dealer on the planet. American arms exports are likely to expand. We need to end funding and the sale of arms to Israel, which are used in the ongoing and deliberate oppression of Palestinians; to Turkey, where they are used in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Kurdish people in northern Syria and Afrin; and to Saudi Arabia, which uses weapons in the ongoing wholesale massacre of Yemenis.
UnionsWe live in a time when the right of workers to organize is under attack by the government. We are now seeing schoolteachers courageously fighting back, walking out and going on strike in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona. We know it's more important than ever to defend the right to organize and strike together.
"Organizing, taking action, and striking against public and private employers are the most powerful tools of the labor movement."
These strikes are in response to the dangerous trend accelerated by Wisconsin's attacks on collective bargaining rights and Janus v. AFSCME, which aims to financially cripple public sector unions.
We need to restore the absolute right to strike for all workers, including public employees. We need to repeal outdated laws that seek to limit that right, such as Taft-Hartley. We need to oppose the attempts to enact so called "right-to-work" legislation, and to prevent general strikes. An injury to one is an injury to all.
The practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," involves drilling into the ground and injecting a high-pressure water mixture, with sand and chemicals, into the rock to release the gas or liquid fossil fuels underground. The term fracking refers to how the rock is fractured apart by the high pressure mixture.
Fracking and the subsequent wastewater disposal cause groundwater to become tainted with carcinogenic chemicals. The practice injects huge amounts of water into the ground, and several instances can stress underground faultlines and cause earthquakes, such as in Oklahoma.
In addition, the transportation of liquefied natural gas through pipelines (obtained by fracking) puts communities at significant risk of fires, explosions, and spills. The fossil fuel industry is putting all of us in danger for the sake of profit.
The government uses heavy-handed methods in response to all communities that oppose or actively resist against the natural gas industry.
We need a full, national moratorium on the practice of fracking, and on the infrastructure that supports the practice.
Our institutions must respect our right to privacy. We need to immediately scale back and dismantle our vast secret intelligence agencies. The only mission our bloated intelligence apparatus has is to find new ways to collect as much information about the public as possible.
In 2016, a federal judge ordered Apple to provide "reasonable technical assistance" to the U.S. authorities for unlocking an encrypted iPhone implicated in the San Bernardino attack.
Apple declined to help the government. The company and privacy advocates called the order "chilling" and said that it would require writing new software that would be "a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks".
"It always starts with 'terrorists,' then moves to 'drug kingpins,' then the target morphs into all forms of political dissent."
The case marked one of the highest-profile clashes between the government and the public in the debate over encryption and data privacy. Police claim that encryption used in modern devices makes it harder for them to prevent terrorist attacks. However, our privacy has been a poor subject when it comes to the government, especially since the revelations about the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance activities.
Any effort to scale back the surveillance apparatus must be accompanied with a guarantee of secure communications. That is why we believe that strong encryption is a human right.
"Encrypt everything. Even your music."
We should oppose all efforts by the national security state, whether intelligence agenices, the military, or police, to coerce service providers into installing any backdoors that would access our encrypted and private data. Such data would includes all of our communications, medical records, locational data, contacts lists, and more.
The Insider Threat Program
In the months following the government's initial charges against me in 2010, President Obama formed the National Insider Threat Task Force under the authority of the intelligence community and federal law enforcment agencies. The Task Force's program, the Insider Threat Program, is tasked with the breathtakingly broad mission of targeting anyone "who misuses or betrays, wittingly or unwittingly," their "authorized access to any U.S. Government resource." The methods the task force outlines amount to hundreds of thousands of government employess living under total surveillance, even outside the workplace.
"Working in the federal government is life in a constant state of fear. Fear of your boss. Fear of your fellow employees. Everyone is watching now. Everyone is afraid."
The program creates an environment of fear that relies on any "anonymous feedback." This can create endless witch-hunts, with “general invitations” to report or file complaints through so-called open door policies, and vagueness about what feedback is expected. According to research, programs like the Insider Threat Program create a perfect storm of conditions against innovation, creativity and preventing corruption.
The Insider Threat Program affects millions of employees who might dissent in any way. For instance, over the period of several years, a former senior government official, Thomas Drake, repeatedly attempted through many official and internal channels (including inspectors general and both Congressional intelligence committees) to draw attention to distrubing National Security Agency programs. Drake was investigated for nearly half a decade, and charged with violations under the broadly interpreted Espionage Act of 1917. In 2011 he plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor after accruing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal defense fees.
"There are no safe 'proper channels' to raise an issue within the Federal government or military. It's a trap for the Insider Threat Program. Stay away."
Agencies implementing the Insider Threat program could examine anyone who has motives of "greed," "financial difficulties," is "disgruntled," has "an ideology" a "divided loyalty," an "ego" or "self-image," or "any family/personal issues." Such subjective labelling could easily be applied to virtually every single person currently holding a government position.
The Insider Threat Program is a threat to any dissatisfation or dissent within the U.S. government, and we need to cancel the program immediately.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
The Foreign Intelligence Surviellence Court ("F.I.S.C.") is a secret court system established in 1978, following the Church Committee hearings. The F.I.S.C. issues secret warrants and subpeonas for clandestine electronic surveillance, physical searches, and certain other forms of investigative actions on U.S. soil and U.S. citizens.
In addition to the F.I.S.C., Executive Order 12333 also authorizes the National Security Agency (and other intelligence agencies) to to collect, process, analyze, produce, and disseminate all forms of communications in a vast, global electronic dragnet.
The intelligence agencies are not the first people to be trusted when it comes to privacy and rights. When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail; when you're working in intelligence, everything looks like a vital source of information.
As former director of the National Security, General Keith Alexander, said, the intelligence agencies' goal is to “collect it all.” The intelligence and law enforcement agencies at all levels of government want big and expensive tools, with as little pesky oversight as possible.
The U.S. intelligence community never admits to deliberately violating civil liberties and privacy on a grand scale. Instead, the endless secrecy, lies, and privacy violations may just be the inevitable result of the inherent malevolence of intelligence agencies and surveilliance programs. We can't trust the fox to guard the henhouse.
"We won't be able to challenge the secret police, and the secret court system, and the secret prisons, and the secret government."
The F.I.S.C. acts merely as a rubber stamp for the government in an attempt to provide an illusion of oversight and checks and balances behind a wall of secrecy.
We should adopt legislation (Chelsea wrote such a proposed bill while in prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas) that abolishes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as well as legislation that curtails the authority under Executive Order 12333.