Below is an image from the Migration Now portfolio. This image was created by artist Molly Fair.
Fair’s image calls for an end to the detention system and an end to the abuse of immigrants’ rights. With the proliferation of laws and enforcement policies that seek to criminalize immigrants in the U.S., immigration detention has become a fast growing form of incarceration. The for-profit detention industry is growing, in spite of the fact that detention facilities have been found to subject people to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. ICE and its supporters continue to defend the substandard conditions of detention centers, denying that people’s human rights are being violated.
This week, the Detention Watch Network identified the 10 worst immigration detention centers across the U.S. in a new report. The report suggests that:
At all ten of the facilities, people reported waiting weeks or months for medical care; inadequate, and in some cases a total absence, of any outdoor recreation time or access to sunlight or fresh air; minimal and inedible food; the use of solitary confinement as punishment; and the extreme remoteness of many of the facilities from any urban area which makes access to legal services nearly impossible.
Detention Watch Network calls for the immediate closure of these facilities. One of these detention centers is the Tri-County Detention Center which is the only privately-run immigrant detention center in Illinois. You can read a summary of the terrible conditions at Tri-County HERE (PDF).
Next Monday, I will be releasing to the public a set of resources about policing, violence, and resistance that me and my friends have been working on for over a year. Regular readers of Prison Culture are aware of this work since I have been previewing some of what I have learned about the history and current manifestations of oppressive policing here.
I’ve waxed poetic about Rachel at length here so I won’t embarrass her by gushing any further. I have already expressed my gratitude to her and she knows that I am in awe of her talent. So thank you, Rachel.
I hope that everyone reading this post will take the time to share the zine with someone else who you think should read it. For those who are in the Chicago area, we will be unveiling the zine and many other resources on Saturday May 5th at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Details of the event are here and we will have a few printed copies of the zine on hand.
I am swamped this week with work and several other projects so I will only post if there is any breaking news or if I feel an urge to rant. I hope to be back to regular posting next week.
I write a lot about the history of the convict leasing system on this blog. I don’t think we can properly consider U.S.labor, racial, or penal history without a thorough understanding of that pernicious system.
After chasing many immigrants off resulting in tons of agriculture jobs being unfilled, the state of Alabama has a bright new/old idea. The state is considering using prisoners to fill the void left by the flight of immigrant labor:
“Agriculture officials in Alabama are looking into using prisoners to fill a labor shortage that the agency blames on the state’s controversial new law targeting undocumented immigrants.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is meeting with south Alabama farmers and businesses in Mobile on Tuesday. Deputy commissioner Brett Hall says the agenda includes a presentation on whether work-release inmates could help fill jobs once held by immigrants.
Hall says planting season is coming up, and some growers fear most of their workers are gone. The agriculture agency says the new law has caused a chronic labor shortage on Alabama farms.”
Anyone who knows anything about Alabama’s sordid history of convict leasing should not be surprised that the state would turn to prisoners to do the back-breaking work that others will not do.
Mary Ellen Curtin’s excellent study about black prisoners in late 19th century Alabama illuminates episodes in American history that are pretty much unknown to us. Curtin contends that Alabama Democrats in the late 1800s turned to the convict lease system to address the state’s financial troubles. Coal companies were happy to make use of this convict labor but they were not the primary force pushing the practice. Curtin suggests that the lease system in Alabama left a lasting legacy:
“In the words of Populist critic William H. Skaggs, the lease was ‘vile,’ ‘pernicious,’ ‘excrable,’ ‘venal,’ and ‘brutal.’ It perpetuated ‘despotism’ by binding Alabama’s mineral interests to its political elite. It held the legal system hostage to the crass self-interest of county sheriffs, who collected fees for every prisoner they arrested, and politicians, who refused to forgo revenue paid for in human suffering. It linked race and criminality in a new and powerful way. It generated peonage by forcing convicted individuals to escape prison by allowing a local white landowner to pay their fine and thus control their labor. The lease shaped Alabama’s political economy and contributed to the legalized repression of African Americans during the age of segregation. Government officials and corporations willingly and knowingly traded prisoner’s lives for profit and revenue (p.10).”
Now that the state of Alabama has run off the undocumented workers who were willing to take on back-breaking agricultural work, they are planning to return to their tried and true ways of exploiting prisoners. We should remember Alabama’s history and legacy of convict leasing and we should strongly oppose a reinvented version of that system. We should reject trading the lives of undocumented immigrants for the lives of prisoners.
Regular readers know that I have written about the intersection between immigrant detention and the prison industrial complex intermittently on this blog. You can find some of the posts here, here, and here.
Just recently I’ve become aware of the fact that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is attempting to build a huge, private immigrant detention center in a small town called Crete, Illinois, just south of Cook County. A coalition of individuals and organizations are mobilizing to create an action plan to stop this center from being built. As I get more information on that campaign, I will of course share it here.
In the meantime, I have come across a few resources that I would like to share about how criminalizing immigrants is big business. First, I suggest that everyone check out the Immigrants for Sale site. They are doing great work raising public awareness about these issues. Below is one of their latest videos about how private prisons are profiting off the detention of immigrants.
Another resource that I discovered over the past six months is a series of audio stories by the Common Language Project about the history of immigration detention and also about how immigrants are being treated in detention in the state of Washington today. They are excellent and informative. I highly recommend listening.
The excellent PBS show called “NOW” did a terrific expose about the nexus between immigrant detention and private prisons in 2008. You can watch that report here.
Finally, I am privileged to own two limited editions of a zine titled Detained by artist Eroyn Franklin. The zine follows the story of two immigrants as they navigate the detention process. The publication is educational and moving. I don’t know if there are still copies available but you can see various photographs of the images which were displayed as part of an exhibit earlier this year.
U.S. taxpayers are spending at least $18.6 million per day to house an estimated 300,000 to 450,000 undocumented immigrants who are incarcerated and eligible for deportation from the United States, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The cost per day for these prisoners is based on Justice Department incarceration cost estimates from 2001 and on the lower-end figure of 300,000 incarcerated deportable undocumented individuals, which means the actual expense today could be substantially higher than $18.6 million per day. Source: DHS FY11 Performance Report
Immigration reform can’t come soon enough! Criminalizing immigration status is inhumane and a waste of valuable resources.
On July 22nd, I shared info about a CBS report about undocumented immigrants filling Arizona prisons. On July 25th, I blogged about KPHO’s reporting about the connections between the Arizona governor and private prison companies. On August 3rd, I suggested that Arizonans should impeach their elected officials.
Yesterday Rachel Maddow highlighted what I and many others have been writing about regularly for the past few weeks — the ties between private prisons and Arizona’s politicians. Hopefully this will encourage many others in the mainstream media to do more investigative reporting on this matter.
Gurgaon, May 19 (IANS) Supreme Court's Justice P. Sathasivam, who is also the executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), Sunday said that cases related to women are being given priority by courts after the Delhi gang-rape. […]
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Combatting violence against women in Iraq spawns higher education partnership between Vanguard University and University of Duhok. Visit to California includes training with 12th District Court Judge David O. Carter, OC Juvenile Justice Douglas Hatchimonji, OC Juvenile Services, OC Child Abuse Special Teams (CAST) and Westminster Police DepartmentCosta Mesa, […]
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