Prisons are for Burning by Neal Shirley
Putting 11-year olds in Detention Prisons Is Sifting Through the Political Hot Air of an Election Year
Over the weekend of January 9th and 10th, US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained 121 people for deportation. The raids, which occurred in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, are reportedly the beginning of a massive, coordinated effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deport thousands of Central American immigrants, primarily women and children seeking escape from cartel and government violence in their home countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. They will likely include hundreds of families like that of Rosa Vargas Morales and her three children and grandchild, who were separated by the ICE raid on their Atlanta home roughly a week ago. After the raid, Morales’ brother said to the media, “Right now my family is detained and I don’t know what will happen to them … All I can do now is ask God for help.”
As many have already written, the increase in Central American refugees seeking asylum in the US is one among several factors leading to an escalation in immigration-related hot air from politicians and would-be-presidents this year. Also at issue is the massive migration of Syrian refugees, and North Africans fleeing political and economic crises in their home countries, who have unsurprisingly received far less sympathetic media and humanitarian aid compared to their Syrian counterparts.
All of these factors contribute to a political climate perfect for the stoking of xenophobic fear and white nationalist anxiety by politicians, and no one has done so more opportunistically than Donald Trump and his fellow right-wing candidates. But the political arena, framed around a supposed dichotomy between tolerant and humanitarian-minded liberal heads of state like President Obama or Angela Merkel on the one hand, and security and nationalist-focused demagogues like Trump or Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban on the other, gives a false picture.
Take the Obama presidency, for instance. By mid-2014, the DHS reported that Obama had deported 1,974,688 people, and “returned” (that is, sent back immediately after crossing the border) roughly 1.6 million more. By most statistical calculations, that represents a marked increase in deportations – which means breaking up families and destroying lives – from his more right-wing predecessors. Immigration activists call Obama the “Deporter-in-Chief” for a reason. Liberal political rhetoric about tolerance and “American values” is one thing, the actual lived fact of structural oppression is quite another.
That disjunct between rhetoric and reality makes sense when you look at the systemic root causes of this Central American migration, both historically and in the present-day context of economic neoliberalism. Hundreds of years of genocide, missionaries, nation-building, resource extraction, manipulation of political processes by northern capitalists, the suppression of revolutionary movements and the establishment of dictators, the “war on drugs” – the conditions that prompted this wave of refugees and asylum-seekers didn’t come from nowhere. They have virtually nothing to do with what president is in office, and everything to do with hundreds of years of colonialism, not to mention the last two decades of bipartisan trade agreements and apolitical investment patterns.
Given this context, it is a disgusting irony that countries like the United States or Germany get to be judge and jury as to which kinds of humans should be allowed to cross which imaginary lines on maps that they got to draw in the first place. Even as we may hope that as many families as possible, like the Morales, may achieve asylum status and not be separated, it’s worth remembering that all denominations like refugee, amnesty, citizen, or illegal are intrinsic to this complex of borders, detention prisons, and global capitalism. If we want to “fix” this problem, it won’t mean an immigration reform that gives more people legal status on one side of a border or another. Rather, it will mean getting rid of borders and legal and illegal statuses, altogether.
A few quick shout-outs on prison-related news this month:
Prisoners in Alabama have been holding it down the last few months, with disruption, attacks, and organizing going at several different facilities. This has possibly been in anticipation of Alabama’s epic journey to win the National Championship game against Clemson. Roll tide and burn the prisons. Anti-prison revellers carried on the tradition this year of New Year’s Eve noise demos outside of jails and prisons all over the world.
January 22nd is a day of solidarity with transgender prisoners, initially called for by eco-prisoner and all around badass Marius Mason. Get your crew together and make some shit happen!
Proclaiming “Freedom for the anarchist [prisoners] of Chile, Greece, Mexico, Brazil and the world,” some anarchists in Tijuana, Mexico took part in a variety of actions as part of Black December, including widespread graffiti and incendiary attacks on a McDonald’s and an ATM.
Prisoners recently concluded a hunger strike over “gross food” at the Regina Provincial Correctional Center in Canada.
You can hear updates on Eric King’s case as well as medical updates on Mumia Abu-Jamal on a recent episode of Political Prisoner Radio .
For more prison news from the last month, check out the It’s Going Down site.