Immigrant detention centers and the economic crisis

By Ivan Rangel, Denver FIST

Why has the state’s attitude toward immigration been very severe in some periods and more lenient in others?

When the big corporations are in dire need of a cheap and massive labor pool they lobby for more lenient border policies, and the state is more lax in enforcing immigration rules. These corporations view their workers as cheap labor, and immigrant labor is as cheap as it comes in the United States.

When the economy falters the attitudes of the state and the corporations it serves can change.  The U.S. economy is currently in the midst of a dire crisis as the real unemployment rate continues to grow.  As a result, steps have been taken to remove those undocumented entrants who came here to work in jobs that no longer exist. This explains the new drive to expel unwanted, superfluous immigrant labor.

This will not actually fix the economy. The only effect will be on the families split up by the detentions and deportations and the children that will suffer even more as they see agents armed to the teeth raiding their homes and kidnapping their parents whose sole crime was to labor to provide for their family.

As the economy continues to show the true nature of capitalism—that of a deteriorating barbaric system—those responsible for the current economic crisis continue to look for someone to point the finger at and blame.  The Republican Party–the party of unabashed racism, Christian chauvinism, and hypocrisy—and it’s propaganda pundits (Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity of The Fox News Channel), and henchmen (Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona who was a guest on Lou Dobbs live and said he was “honored to be compared to the Ku Klux Klan”) are on a mission to redefine the word immigrant so that it is synonymous with criminal.

In order to accomplish this task the right-wing section of the ruling class has utilized its massive propaganda machine in order to whip up fear and racism against a people who do not speak the mainstream language, have very few rights and can be victimized with little chance of retaliation. This is why the media machine has tried to convince workers that undocumented immigrants are a threat to their jobs.

The state tool of anti-immigrant persecution and repression is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigrant detention centers are the notorious physical premises of this agency where the term “human rights” is optional. ICE works as a modern day Gestapo, a version of Pinochet’s fascist henchmen, as it seeks to criminalize human beings and detain them for an undetermined period of time for no other reason than immigration status.

There are currently dozens of immigrant detention centers throughout the U.S., with more of them being concentrated within the Southwest. Each center could easily produce its own series of horror stories of inhumane treatment and even torture.

Take for instance the recent incident from Maricopa County, AZ.  Undocumented worker Alma Chacon, a native of Durango, Mexico, was arrested while 9 months pregnant. She went into labor and was rushed to the local hospital by Sheriff Arpaio’s officers, who then forced her to give birth while shackled to the bed the same way African slaves were treated during the height of the U.S. slave trade.

After giving birth under such inhumane circumstances, the officers refused to allow the new mother the right to hold her newborn baby. She was told she could not see her child, and if no one claimed the child within 72 hours the state would take away all custodial rights. The very state that forced her to give birth like a chained animal threatened to steal her child.  Arpaoi’s henchmen are even reported to have refused a request by the nurse to unshackle the woman from the bed so that a urine test could be performed in the bathroom.

What explains such acts of inhumanity? The only liable answer is racism, fueled by the night vision camera footage of immigrants attempting to cross the border, of hateful slander being spouted by those yearning for the “good old days” when people of color were legally recognized as less than human. It is obvious that the racist newscasters and racist sheriffs must be removed from their posts, as they serve as apologists for those who are attempting to create an extreme right-wing movement, including among the youth.

The corporate media and “maverick lawmen” must not be allowed to create an atmosphere of hate and strike fear in the hearts and minds of the immigrant community. The movement must take a stand to defend the defenseless, to let it be known that this persecution of immigrants will not be tolerated. A few voices alone will not get it done. Only the people united can accomplish this task.


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