Fear and paranoia TV

Victor Fernandez explains why there's nothing heroic about the stars of Homeland Security U.S.A.

ABC's new reality show "Homeland Security U.S.A."ABC's new reality show "Homeland Security U.S.A."

THE PAST eight years are a testament to the bankruptcy of the "war on terror" and the government's use of fear, paranoia and xenophobia to accomplish U.S. imperial aims abroad and a crackdown of civil rights at home.

Whether it be human rights abuses in immigration detention centers or the jailing of Muslim and Arab citizens without any charges in the U.S. and Guantánamo Bay, the broader U.S. public, with the help of activists who bring these abuses to light, is beginning to question the reasons behind this war on terror. This of course has been helped by President Barack Obama's willingness to close down Guantánamo.

Yet along comes this show Homeland Security U.S.A., which plays off racist stereotypes in order to justify these abuses. The reality show follows the supposed day-to-day activities of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents at borders and airports.

Reliably and predictably, every episode has an Arab/Persian/Indian group or individual who are detained and questioned while trying to enter the U.S. Many times, they are not allowed into the country because of "presumed associations with terrorists"--or even worse, "association with people who maybe associated with terrorists."

Review: Television

Homeland Security U.S.A., Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.

They aren't even charged with anything. Similar "suspicions" are what landed Dr. Sami Al-Arian in jail for more than five years while the government charged him with aiding terrorists. More recently is the case of Fahad Hashmi, who is charged with housing an acquaintance who then later gave socks and a raincoat to an alleged member of al-Qaeda.

Just as predictable and despicable is the treatment this show gives to Latino immigrants. It either paints them as criminal drug smugglers, human traffickers or helpless targets in Border Patrol hunting parties.

Like the rest of this show, these situations center around the idea of laws and their enforcement, but never questions these laws to begin with. So the immigration issue is not seen as the result of failed immigration policies, but as a law enforcement issue. This plays into the hands of the right wing who only want to see immigrants deported.

Homeland Security U.S.A. is basically a show that glamorizes and romanticizes exactly what is wrong with immigration policy and the criminalization of immigrants.

The show highlights some really horrible acts. For example, in episode one, a family at the San Ysidro Border Crossing is forced out of their car at gunpoint with their children crying, only to find out that this was a case of mistaken identity.

Sometimes it descends into the absurd, such as in episode six, where a German tourist is made to pay $300 because he had a sandwich in his bag and did not claim that he was bringing food in his customs declaration. However, all of this is justified as necessary precautions in the war on terror, as if doing these acts makes us a safer nation.

Yet most startling is what this show doesn't portray. Since it tries to paint the DHS as the everyday heroes who protect our borders from "terrorists," it doesn't show the detention centers that house entire families or the ones that don't provide adequate health care for their inmates, many of whom end up dead as a result.

It doesn't show how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids all across the country not only destroy the lives of immigrants, but are used to hide the abuses of the employers, such as the raid a few years ago on the Smithfield Foods plant in North Carolina that was aimed at scaring workers involved in a unionizing drive.

It doesn't show how ICE splits up parents from their children. Finally, it doesn't show how Arabs and Muslims are targeted by society to the point where even wearing a shirt with Arabic writing or looking "Muslim" could get you thrown off of a plane.

It is up to activists to take on this show and point out that DHS are not heroes, but villains, and part of a system that uses fear and racism to get what it wants. This is even more important since hate crimes against Latinos are up, there's a recession, and there's two wars. Thus, we should demand that this show be taken off of the air since it furthers the scapegoating of immigrants in this country, especially Latinos and Arabs.