FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Borders as Weapons of the State

by NATHAN GOODMAN

In Tacoma, Washington, immigrant detainees held in the Northwest Detention Center are on hunger strike. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are attempting to intimidate, and threatening to force feed, them.

When I talk to many Americans about this hunger strike, many lack sympathy with the detainees. They brand immigrants as “illegals” and use this as an excuse to ignore violations of their human rights.  Human beings cannot be “illegal.” To refer to them as such dehumanizes migrants through a toxic and racist ideology.  A person’s actions may be harmful, or even criminal. But what is criminal about migrating? All undocumented immigrants have done is travel to a new country to live, work, support their families and engage in peaceful commerce and association with people. That’s no crime. Properly understood, migration is part of what makes a free society flourish. Moreover, the majority of immigrants held in detention centers have not been convicted of any crime.

Meanwhile, those who detain and repress immigrants engage in a litany of violent crimes enabled through state authority. Take their plot to force feed the hunger strikers, for example. Force feeding is widely considered torture and has been deemed cruel and inhumane by organizations including International Red Cross, the World Medical Association and the United Nations. By definition, force feeding hunger strikers involves brutally and painfully violating their bodily autonomy in order to suppress their political speech.

But the criminality of the immigration detention system doesn’t end there. Immigrant detainees are held indefinitely in supposedly “civil proceedings.” They are not charged with crimes nor are their rights to legal representation honored. As of 2010, 84% of detained immigrants were not represented by a lawyer. This is not justice. It is due-process-free kidnapping under the color of law.

This detention without charges, trial, or representation often occurs for profit. The Northwest Detention Center, where the hunger strikers are held, is operated in “privatized” fashion by GEO Group. Like other prison profiteers such as Corrections Corporation of America and the Management and Training Corporation, GEO Group extracts obscene profits from government for locking human beings in cages. Rather than providing goods and services people want to buy, prison profiteers engage in state violence in exchange for money plundered from the people through coercive taxation.

Throughout the world, governments use borders as an excuse to violate rights and engage in criminal violence. For example, the Canadian state cages immigrants indefinitely simply for being immigrants. They frequently hold these detainees in solitary confinement, which is internationally recognized as a form of torture.

Meanwhile, the Israeli state has been sending African refugees to a massive prison camp. These refugees are subjected to violence and rampant discrimination motivated by a climate of paranoid racism in which Africans are feared as “infiltrators” that may undermine the Jewish demographics of Israel.

States throughout the world kidnap, cage, torture, and deport migrants and refugees, but the brutality of immigration restrictions doesn’t end there. Borders trap people under oppressive governments, preventing them from fleeing violent atrocities. For example, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees flee the Russian state’s homophobic repression only to find themselves ensnared in the coercive clutches of immigration bureaucracies.

Similarly, the crisis in Ukraine is exacerbated by immigration restrictions, which trap Ukrainians in the crossfire of the conflict. As Sheldon Richman recently put it,

“Ukrainians who want to get out of their dicey neighborhood, whether permanently or temporarily, should be free to move to the United States. Look at it this way: How dare we Americans confine Ukrainians to a condition they might desperately wish to escape?”

Immigrants are often smeared with accusations of criminality. But the real crimes in immigration policy are perpetrated by states. States kidnap, torture, and plunder in order to enforce lines drawn on maps. And in doing so, they enable other states to brutally repress trapped subjects. All states are criminal enterprises, and borders are among their most dangerous weapons.

Nathan Goodman is the Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org). He blogs at Dissenting Leftist.

More articles by:

Nathan Goodman is the Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org). He blogs at Dissenting Leftist.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail