Wednesday 3 May
During the last few weeks, the United States has seen an unusually high number of reports of space aliens. Admittedly, Donald Trump has encouraged the public to report 'aliens' – although most likely expecting those reported to be undocumented immigrants from Mexico or Central America, rather than further afield extra-terrestrials.
In yet another scheme with the intention of demonising immigrants in the US, the Trump administration launched the office of Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, or VOICE, at the end of April. In essence, the office has been entrusted with the popular task of conflating immigrants and criminals. It has a toll-free hotline, through which the caller supposedly can get victim-based support as well as access to information regarding the alleged perpetrator's progression through the immigration system.
The idea behind VOICE – which operates within the Department of Homeland Security – is to provide assistance for individuals who have fallen victim to a crime committed by a perpetrator who does not have a legal right to reside in the US. Unfortunately for most, this is done by highlighting the irregular immigration status of the perpetrator rather than by focusing on the criminal offence in question or the experience of the victim. As the office falls under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), this should not come as a surprise.
It is clear that victims of crime must have access to support. However, through VOICE, they are used as tokenistic pawns in the Trump administration's efforts to emphasise the criminality amongst immigrants. As it happens, there already exists an office whose purpose is precisely to support victims of crime. It is called the Office for Victims of Crime and operates through the Department of Justice.
In contrast to the Office for Victims of Crime, a crime can only be reported to VOICE if it is suspected that the perpetrator does not have a legal right to remain in the US. This raises the question of how the victim would have knowledge of the immigration status of the perpetrator. Indirectly, the Department of Homeland Security thereby prompts the victim to make a judgement of the perpetrator’s immigration status in order to access support.
Another crucial question is about the relevance of the information VOICE provides. To what extent is the progression of the perpetrator's legal case through the immigration system relevant to a victim calling to access support? Seeking support after having fallen victim to a crime does not automatically translate into seeking vengeance, although this is what the Department of Homeland Security seems to imply. Rather, it suggests that the state is undermining the victim's experience and need for support by shifting focus to the perpetrator, even where this may be irrelevant to the caller.
The access to, and active sharing of, sensitive information about the perpetrator's immigration status is what sets VOICE's services apart from those of other organisations working with victims of crime. Without needing to disclose any identifiable information, the caller, through VOICE, can gain access to highly sensitive information about another individual. It is a system easy to exploit.
Furthermore, although the caller may previously have considered the immigration status of the perpetrator irrelevant, VOICE suggests that it is the crux of the issue. Whereas the Department of Justice focuses on the law that has been breached, the Department of Homeland Security instead suggests that if an undocumented perpetrator would have been deported from the country earlier, the breach of the law could never have occurred. Thus, focus is shifted from the criminal act itself to the person behind the criminal act.
Lastly, violence most often occurs between family, friends and acquaintances. If the victim of a crime also lacks a legal right to reside in the US or has for other reasons had negative experiences with US immigration control, he or she would be unlikely to turn to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement for protection. Thus, the individuals who are most likely to fall victim to crimes committed by individuals with irregular immigration status are among the least likely to contact VOICE.
Donald Trump – or, perhaps more likely, his advisers – are clever. Institutionally demonising immigrants and encouraging suspicion based on ethnic markers is tactical and unfortunately likely to be effective.
Let's keep calling them to report UFO sightings.
Thursday 4 May
It's the day of the council elections and I am trying to familiarise myself with the candidates. The most helpful tool I find is Wikipedia. I search the names of each of the candidates, but am largely unsuccessful. One of the candidates is very active on Twitter and often tweets and retweets political posts. However, he fails to mention that he is running for councillor. I later learn that at least two Scottish candidates were unaware of their names being on the ballot until they received ballot papers. I'm hoping that the candidate in my ward was aware, but just forgot to tell others.
Monday 8 May
The 8th of May. May 8. May-eight. Maaaate!
There is a call to move Australia Day from 26 January to 8 May. The reason is pretty simple: 26 January 1788 was the date of the arrival of the British in what is now Australia. The arrival was rapidly followed by a genocide of indigenous people, and 26 January is referred to by some as Invasion Day or Survival Day. Some argue that 26 January is therefore an inappropriate day to celebrate the peace and diversity of Australia. It seems like a bit of an unnecessary provocation to say the least.
Throughout the years, there have been many suggestions of alternative dates. The most brilliant by far is 8 May. There is a common belief that mateship, or being friends in a somehow Australian way, is the most Australian thing there is. It has connotations of unconditional loyalty during wartime, socialism during peacetime, and is an appreciated term when forgetting the name of the person to whom you are speaking. Generally, people also appreciate puns. So why not move Australia Day to 8 May?