Twenty years ago this month, the U.S. government took a sharp turn toward surveillance, racial profiling, and an immigration policy based on fear.
In March 2003, the newly christened Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, opened its doors. The department took everything from immigration enforcement and counterterrorism to airport security and disaster response under one gargantuan bureaucracy.
Despite these wide-ranging missions, the department’s unifying logic in the post 9/11 era has been to wage the so-called war on terror at home. The result has been systemic abuse of minority communities, a dangerous militarization of American life, and a massive waste of money that sapped resources from addressing the real threats to our homeland.
From its earliest beginnings, DHS has been associated with some of our country’s worst scandals.
Ranging from the Bush administration’s creation of a “special registration” process for Muslim men from certain countries to the “Muslim ban” instituted by President Donald Trump, DHS has been a key executor of government policy that officially targets a specific religion. And it’s been a unique terror for immigrants and refugees from Latin America, separating migrant children from their parents even before Trump supercharged the abuse.
These abuses aren’t peripheral to the department’s operations—they’re central. About a third of DHS funding goes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) alone.
Over the past 20 years, DHS has overseen the deportation of more than 5 million people, most of whom had broken no law other than being in the country. Those deportations represent countless family separations and lives disrupted for no discernable gain, and often at a great cost to local communities.
Read the rest at Newsweek.