Wednesday, February 7, 2018
By Adam Mclean
The last several years have seen a significant growth in the population of homeless people across the United States. At the same time, there has been an intensification of police harassment of the homeless and those who provide them with aid.
In recent weeks, the WSWS has documented several instances of this in California, where the crisis is especially acute, including the initiation of efforts to clear out an encampment of hundreds of people living in tents and makeshift shelters along the Santa Ana River in Anaheim and the arrests of 12 activists outside San Diego for providing food to the homeless in a public park.
According to a recent analysis of police data by the Los Angeles Times, arrests of homeless people in Los Angeles went up by 31 percent from 2011 to 2016, increasing from one in ten to one in six of all detentions. In this same period, the number of homeless people living in Los Angeles County has increased from 39,000 to 58,000. In the city proper, the population has increased by 75 percent since 2011. Meanwhile, the death rate of those living on the streets of Los Angeles has almost doubled just since 2013.
Moreover, there are numerous tickets that can be written for small infractions that put disproportionate pressure on the homeless. For example, a ticket for sleeping on the sidewalk can cost $238 after California administrative fees, according to the Times.
In addition to putting serious financial strain on those who can least afford it, this has made “failure to appear in court” by far the most common charge among those arrested, more frequent than possession of a controlled substance or parole violation combined, the next two most common charges, respectively.
Several residents at the homeless encampment in Anaheim that the WSWS interviewed last week reported that they or someone they knew there had recently received a ticket for minor infractions.
The increased harassment of the homeless is key component of the efforts to gentrify downtown Los Angeles, which is just a few blocks away from Skid Row, the largest concentration of homeless people in the state.
According to the real estate site Zillow, there are only a few one-bedroom apartments in Downtown LA that rent for less than $2,000 a month, and none under $1,700. The median price is closer to $2,500. Rent for fully half of Los Angeles residents is considered unaffordable.
Given the astronomical cost of rent, vacancy in Downtown is at a 17-year high, with some 12 percent of units sitting empty. Among those, some are owned and see occasional use, but are otherwise empty for most of the year.
However, the high vacancy rate in Downtown is unique to that area. Very low vacancy rates in the rest of the state are one of the main forces putting upward pressure on rents and housing prices. But this too is also a consequence of the fact that it is less profitable to build additional and affordable housing than to undertake other construction projects.
A recently passed and much-touted linkage fee proposed by Los Angeles’ Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti is expected to bring in $100 million per year from developers to be spent on affordable housing projects.
The fee is expected to cover the building and maintenance of only 1,700 affordable units per year. At this rate, holding population growth rates and other factors constant, the fee would see Los Angeles have affordable housing for all of its residents after 300 years.
Even if these handful of affordable units materialize it will represent a mere pittance that will do little good for anyone struggling to make ends meet, on the street or otherwise. In order to make rent for workers in Los Angeles affordable—typically defined as costing less than one third of a household’s income—there would need to be over 500,000 such units created, according to the nonprofit California Housing Partnership Corporation.
In the meantime, there is a near record-breaking amount of construction in downtown, but the new residential buildings are primarily luxury apartments and condos, most of which require an individual to have an annual income of over $100,000 to be considered affordable. One of the construction projects, called Oceanwide Plaza, costs $1 billion—by itself, ten times as much as the expected annual income from the linkage fee—and is expected to finish at the end of this year. Its housing will be exclusively luxury condos, and it will also contain a 5-star hotel.
The explosion in the homeless population while vacancy rates in Downtown LA soar, combined with the fact that any significant affordable housing projects have been rejected by major developers, is a testament to the irrationality of the capitalist system.
The resources to provide adequate housing for everyone exist, as is evidenced by the massive development projects currently underway. If a complex like the Oceanwide Plaza, which spans an entire city block and boasts twin 40-story towers, can be built in the space of a few years, then the means exist for the construction of an equivalent amount of affordable housing. However, anything that impedes private profit is ruled out of hand.
The fact that the only response to the housing crisis by the Democratic Party is a politically expedient token measure makes clear that there are no options that genuinely address the issues confronting society that do not collide head-on with the profit motive.
Posted by The Mexican Invasion & Occupation at 10:40 AM
lCE ARREST KANSAS CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR SYED AHMED JAMAL who violated a Judge's order to leave the country - YOU MEAN ILLEGALS ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW EXCEPT IN MEXIFORNIA
ICE agents arrest Kansas chemistry professor who was taking his daughter to school
By Meenakshi Jagadeesan
7 February 2018
On January 24, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested Syed Ahmed Jamal at his home in Lawrence, Kansas as he was preparing to take his daughter to school. Jamal, a 54-year old adjunct professor of chemistry at Park University in Parkville, Kansas, has been charged with being in the United States illegally.
The manner in which the arrest was carried out as well as the details of the case have drawn the attention of local, national and international media. Jamal was arrested in his own front-yard in the presence of his young daughter, handcuffed and taken to the car before his family could reach him. As his wife rushed out along with their teenage son and tried to hug Jamal, she was warned by an ICE agent that she could be charged with interfering with an arrest. For two weeks Jamal has been held in a Missouri jail, 160 miles away from his wife and three children.
Jamal arrived in the United States 30 years ago on a student visa from Bangladesh. After completing his degree at Kansas University, and a brief return to Bangladesh, he acquired an H1-B visa to work at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. He continued his education, pursuing a doctoral degree at Kansas University in molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical engineering, exchanging the H1-B for a student visa. At the time of his arrest, Jamal was on a temporary work permit that enabled him to get an adjunct position at Park University, while carrying out research at various local hospitals.
According to ICE, while Jamal entered the country legally, he twice overstayed a visa and in 2011 violated a judge’s order to leave the country. As reported in the Washington Post, the agency initially also claimed that Jamal had been arrested on a misdemeanor charge in 2012, but issued a new statement Monday night after it could not confirm the charge.
Jeffrey Y. Bennett, an immigration lawyer who has filed a request to stay Jamal’s deportation order, confirmed that in 2011, Jamal’s visa had become invalid. At that point, he was given a “voluntary departure order” to leave the United States. Non-fulfilment of that order meant that Jamal was vulnerable to being arrested and deported by ICE agents.
Based on an active ICE arrest warrant, Jamal was taken into custody in September 2012, but released on the condition that he continue to check in with ICE. Bennet stated that this was possible because of the way in which ICE functioned under the Obama administration: “At that time, President Obama directed the Department of Homeland Security to exercise prosecutorial discretion on certain people who could legally be deported... and refrain from deporting them if they have more favorable factors than negative factors in their life.”
Jamal, by all accounts, fit that category. A teacher and a volunteer at the Lawrence public schools, Jamal was the sole provider in his family. His three children—aged 14, 12 and 7—are US citizens, and all of his siblings live in the United States as citizens. His criminal record, as his lawyer stated, consisted of nothing more than “speeding tickets, basically.”
In the weeks since his arrest, Jamal’s friends, family and neighbors have organized a change.org petition hoping to persuade the authorities to grant him permission to stay. The petition, which has garnered over 34,000 signatures at the time of this writing, includes a letter from Jamal’s oldest son Taseen. The letter highlights the potential danger to Jamal’s life from radical Islamist groups in Bangladesh should he be deported, and ends with a simple, heart-rending plea for help in bringing his father back: “A home is not a home without a father.”
Jamal’s case is far from unique. In January alone, there were multiple cases of ICE arresting and deporting immigrants who have lived in the US for decades, tearing apart families. Jorge Garcia, a 39-year old landscaper from Lincoln Park, Michigan was forced to leave behind his wife and two teenage children, after he was detained and deported to Mexico last month.
Garcia had been brought to the United States illegally as a 10-year-old. After his marriage 15 years ago, he and his wife—an American citizen and retired auto worker—attempted to get him legal status, but instead ended up being enmeshed in deportation proceedings. Too old to quality for DACA, Garcia managed to get a stay order given his lack of a criminal record. However, ICE revoked those orders at the end of last year, forcing Garcia to leave the country.
In mid-January, Lukasz Niec, a doctor of Polish origin who had been living in the United States for 40 years, was arrested on two misdemeanor charges dating back several decades.
Niec’s sister told The Washington Post that the charges stemmed from a fight following a car accident in 1992, which left Niec with a conviction for malicious destruction of property. The second charge, involving a conviction for receiving and concealing stolen property, had been expunged from Niec’s record.
The local NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan reported that dozens of doctors and hospital employees have written letters in support of Niec, an internal medicine specialist, calling for his release particularly since the hospital is facing a shortage of doctors during flu season. Niec, who has lived in Michigan since he was child, has an American wife and two children. He now faces deportation to Poland, a country whose language he does not speak and where he has no relatives.
Soon after his inauguration, Donald Trump vowed to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants, claiming that most of them possess criminal records and pose a threat to the safety of various communities and the security of the nation at large.
Trump’s Executive Order on Interior Enforcement, signed on January 25, 2017, however, made it plain that the dragnet would not be limited to immigrants with criminal records but would extend to “all removable aliens.” Soon after, the Department of Homeland Security issued memorandums that essentially stripped all deportation priorities, a fundamental shift away from the Obama administration's guidelines to prioritize criminals and recent border crossers.
In the year since, ICE agents have made the news for arresting immigrant workers leaving church, standing outside court houses, taking their children to school, accompanying family members to immigration status check-ins or merely attempting to earn an honest living.
In September 2017, Juan Hernandez Cuevas, along with four other men working in an auto shop, was arrested by men carrying semi-automatic weapons and wearing vests with only the word “Police” on them. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, Hernandez had no idea which law enforcement agency had arrested him until he was at the downtown Los Angeles processing facility and saw the word "immigration" written on a wall.
The ICE agents who arrested Cuevas and his coworkers had come armed only with a warrant for the owner of the shop, who had an outstanding deportation order based on multiple DUI convictions. Without identifying themselves or asking about the immigration status of anyone in the shop, they proceeded to arrest all of the employees in a practice which the Trump administration has deemed “collateral arrests.”
Last month, ICE agents raided nearly one hundred 7-Eleven stores across 17 states, arresting 21 undocumented workers and immediately starting deportation proceedings against them. As Muzaffar Chisti of the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan group that researches immigration issues, told USA Today, the broadening scope of arrests and deportations “shows that there are no longer any priorities. Everyone is a priority."
Posted by The Mexican Invasion & Occupation at 10:38 AM
Posted by The Mexican Invasion & Occupation at 10:27 AM