With billions of dollars at stake under immigration reform legalizing undocumented immigrants (and reducing the number of people subject to detention), it should come as no surprise that Congress isn’t in a hurry to act. The June 5 article “Ellison seeks change after detainee reports abuse” points out one of the most troubling drivers of federal immigration policy: the detention business. It notes that “as required by Congress,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “detains at least 34,000 individuals across the country each day in a network of county jails, privately run contract facilities and federal facilities that cost taxpayers $2 billion each year” and that the “contracts to keep the ICE detainees have proved lucrative for private and public corrections facilities.”
To appreciate just how lucrative, look at the dollars that private prison companies are willing to spend on lobbying. According to Detention Watch Network, in 2013, the GEO Group, which operates one-third of the nation’s immigration detention beds, paid in-house lobbyists $1.2 million and outside lobbyists another $880,000 convincing Congress to act in the corporation’s interests. Minnesota counties have gotten in on the action. The Sherburne County jail, where an assault of an 18-year-old ICE detainee took place, is 10 years into a 30-year contract with federal immigration authorities and proudly touts that the “majority of bed space is rented to the federal government and generates significant revenue.”
Michele Garnett McKenzie, Minneapolis
THE VALUE OF WAR
Thoughts for a young man eager to fight
Two summer reading suggestions for the young enthusiast of unbridled militarism whose letter appeared June 4 (“You may not like it, but war is an answer”):
First, the letter writer might be interested in Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler (http://tinyurl.com/kusr5v5), who won two Medals of Honor fighting in the conflicts cited (Mexico, during the battle of Vera Cruz, and Haiti, for the capture of Fort Riviere). Later in life, Butler became disgusted (http://tinyurl.com/mzhdfzb) by war profiteering and the mistreatment of veterans, concluding that “War is a racket [http://tinyurl.com/37g9w]. … I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank.” Butler (“Old Gimlet Eye”) would be the first to tell you it’s a rare war that’s necessary or “good.”
Second, the letter writer should read freely about today’s Washington, D.C. — the vainglorious politicians, the Beltway arm-twisters, the budgetary knife fights, the fear-mongering and the bully-boy posturing that degrade our unending campaigns.
The military serves, after all, the bidding of Congress and the president. To the letter writer: Sincere best wishes if you pursue your plan of becoming a military officer, and may you serve honorably if you do. But remember what they say: Before you take the job, learn all you can about your new boss.
Drew Hamre, Golden Valley
• • •
I get alarmed when a teen who wants to join the military or anyone seems to be so misinformed and frankly speaking seems fanatic.
The Mexican-American War — or, as I know it, the invasion of Mexico, in which the United States forced Mexican cession of the territories of Alta California and New Mexico in exchange for $15 million, moving its national border to the Rio Grande — was nothing but imperialism.
We should also never forget that war was used by Americans to try to exterminate the Native Americans and by those Americans who wanted to keep their slaves.
Felipe Munoz, Minneapolis
• • •
Perhaps this young letter writer is simply naive and needs to grow up and experience the real world; I wish him luck, though, because, as a future military officer, he might want some real infantry experience as a lowly private first class to help straighten out his views on the efficacy of hand-to-hand combat.
He writes that “nearly every war from 1775 to the present, save Vietnam, in all these conflicts, our military has successfully protected both U.S. and human interests.” Vietnam is the one war I and several million other Americans in uniform then — mostly young men of an age to be drafted, like he is today — know contained enough death (58,000-plus killed) and enough injury (300,000-plus badly wounded) of just American military personnel (not even considering, perhaps, the millions dead and injured among our enemies and innocent civilians from both the north and south of that country) to conclude that war is never an answer. It may be necessary, but only as a last resort. Get in, win and get out.
There is a very moving military memorial right in the letter writer’s very own Eden Prairie, where the names and faces of dead Americans, heroes every one of them, are etched in that beautiful black granite. He should visit and, as he reads the names, he should wonder aloud how they might feel about how Vietnam really ended, or about how Iraq has respected the deaths of even more thousands of members of yet another generation of American soldiers? He may wise up quickly enough in those short moments to change his opinion of even what has to be his latest “war is an answer” example. I would ask him, “What professed aims of U.S. foreign policy were achieved by force” even in Afghanistan, our latest war?
I support his right to speak his mind, and even as an old man now, I would defend to my own death his right to be free, to be badly uninformed and to remain forever naive. He’s brave and willing. America needs millions more like him, but only when we really need to go to war. For myself, I will live every last day of my own life experiencing a terrible survivor’s guilt that I was allowed, by luck, to not be part of the huge number of KIA and POW and MIA who were sacrificed to Vietnam; may they forever rest in peace. May we never wake them and tell them why they died.
Neil Brodin, Litchfield, Minn.
Bears in the suburbs? Why might that be?
The news has been covering quite a few incidents of bears spotted in the Twin Cities and other metro areas (“South metro fields flurry of bear sightings,” June 4). What we fail to remember is that bears (and other wildlife) show up in urban areas because they are losing habitat. What is really sad is that many of the new housing and business developments are nearly empty because people are moving back to the cities. Too bad the bears can’t take up residence in the empty businesses and foreclosed homes out in “their old neck of the woods.”
Julie Knudsen, St. Louis Park