Narrative is the dominant homeland security methodology.
It would be desirable if policy debates were decided on the basis of objective data. But stories seem to do as acceptable a job framing and advancing policy as scientifically sound inquiry. Especially when the issue is complex – like immigration.
In a 2008 article I reviewed seven defensible definitions of homeland security. Each definition presents a story about the meaning of homeland security.
The last of those definitions described homeland security as a “a symbol used to justify government efforts to curtail civil liberties.” Within this semantic construction, government agents ignore the Constitution’s guarantee of fundamental liberties in the name of a more secure America.
On July 22, the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardoza School of Law released a document called “Constitution on Ice: A Report On Immigration Home Raid Operations.”
The report fuels the narrative that homeland security creates more fear than security.
I am tempted to say I have taken the story excerpts that follow out of context. But as I read and re-read the report, “context” becomes just another weasel word that hopes “this cannot actually be as bad as it looks. There’s got to be something else going on in every single one of the stories the report does not talk about. Maybe once, maybe twice this could happen. But this many times?”
I’m looking for some interpretive help here, but the agency criticized in the Cardoza report apparently responded to press inquiries with non sequitors:
“The men and women of I.C.E. are sworn to uphold the laws of our nation…. We do so professionally, humanely and with an acute awareness with the impact enforcement has on the individuals we encounter. While I.C.E. prioritizes our efforts by targeting fugitives who have demonstrated a threat to national security or public safety, we have a clear mandate to pursue all immigration fugitives.”
Here are some examples of that acute awareness (you can find the stories and supporting documentation in the Cardoza report):
“I was at home with my wife when the door bell rang. I opened the door and noticed approximately 7 uniformed ICE agents with vests and guns standing at my door . . . I opened the door to look at the paperwork and five agents entered my house . . . . The agents then told my wife to stand in the center of ‘OUR’ living room. Not once did anyone say they had a warrant.”
“The 68-year-old woman told Action 4 News that she heard a knock at her door Tuesday morning. But before she had a chance to get up she said U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were inside her home . . . When she asked them why they came into her home they allegedly responded, ‘Show us your papers.’ [The woman] complied by showing them documentation proving that she’s been a United States citizen for 40 years.”
“… in North Bergen, NJ, a tenant opened her door and ICE agents searched the entire apartment without permission or legal justification. The tenant was arrested notwithstanding the fact that she had recently been granted legal immigration status and had documents proving that her official work permit card would soon be coming.”
“… in Newark, NJ, between 5:30am and 6:00am, there was loud pounding on the door. Believing it was another tenant who was locked out, a resident opened the door to find six ICE agents displaying holstered firearms. The officers forced the door to stay open and detained the resident without a warrant, probable cause, exigent circumstances, or a reasonable basis for believing that he was unlawfully present in the United States.”
“… in Hudson County, NJ, at 6:30am, ICE agents did not identify themselves while banging on the door. When a tenant opened the door to see who was outside, the ICE agents forced their way inside illegally, and illegally interrogated people in their home. One resident was forcibly stopped from calling her attorney.”
“Respondent persuasively argues that an egregious violation that was fundamentally unfair occurred during his arrest. . . . ICE agents used excessive force while searching his home . . .. ICE agents entered his home and his private bedroom in the early hours of the morning armed with pistols. They forced him into the hall and required him to stand in his underwear before his brother, sister-in-law and their children. . . . ICE agents refused to produce a warrant or identify the person they claimed to be seeking. Finally, they tied a plastic cord around the Respondents wrists as handcuffs and forced him to accompany them to their office in Manhattan.”
“… in Morris County, NJ, at 6:45am, ICE agents took out their guns, banged on a door, and forced their way in once the tenant opened the door to find out who was there. ICE agents illegally entered and searched the home. An ICE agent yelled at one of the residents who tried to call her lawyer. The ICE agent used abusive language – yelling ‘F*** you’ and ‘You are a piece of s***’.”
“… in Riverhead, NY, Residents were awakened by loud voices yelling ‘Police! Open the door!’ and the sounds of windows and doors being forced open. When one resident entered his kitchen he found an ICE agent climbing through an unlocked window. With one leg inside the home, the armed agent yelled, ‘Open the f****** door!’ When the resident unlocked the door, other agents stormed into the residence. Once inside, ICE agents immediately cuffed all residents, kicked in an interior door, and rifled through dresser drawers without consent, looking for immigration documents.”
“…in Metter, GA, ‘The ICE agents involved in the raids forcefully broke into many of the trailers in the Plaintiff Robinson’s [trailer] parks. The ICE agents caused intentional damage to at least one door and four windows in the Highway 46 Park. In the Turkey Ridge Road Park, the ICE agents ripped the skirting from the perimeters of a trailer and caused damage to the flood boards. Upon information and belief, [ICE Agents] did not have warrants or other legal justification for their actions. As a result of the unlawful and terrorizing actions of the ICE agents, the tenants who rented from Plaintiff Robinson were so terrified that many simply fled from the area.’ “
“… Mrs. G was cooking when she heard the doorbell ring. She went to the front gate and saw a man and a woman in plain clothes. As she was unlocking the gate to ask them what they wanted, the man forced the gate open and the two individuals entered her house. Mr. G was led into his house without first being asked for his permission to enter. In the house, Mr. G saw his pregnant wife crying and handcuffed to a chair, along with two strangers.”
“… during the Nassau County 2007 Community Shield Operation, ICE agents were criticized for donning cowboy hats and flaunting shotguns and automatic weapons.”
“… a Connecticut ICE agent boasted [in an email message] to a state police officer, ‘We have an [operation] scheduled for Wed, 05/02/07 in New Haven . . . [I]f you’re interested we’d love to have you! We have 18 addresses — so it should be a fun time!! Let me know if you guys can play!!'”
During last night’s press conference, President Obama was asked to comment on the arrest in Cambridge of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
He said, “… there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. And that’s just a fact.”
A story or two might suggest a narrative. Story upon story upon story mature into fact.