The country is paying attention to immigration of late, but few know about one of the recent history and coming effects of federal immigration policy from Clinton to Obama: transforming the federal prison system to make Latino prisoners the largest single group in that federal system. Though most immigrant prisoners have committed no crime, changes to federal immigration policy have created what’s known as the “crimmigration” system in which changes to immigration law have multiplied exponentially the ways in which undocumented immigrants can be prosecuted and jailed as criminals.
Most troubling in all this, is that the “crimmigration” policies were partially enabled by more than a decade’s worth of messaging about “tough and smart,” “bi-partisan comprehensive reform” premised on a dangerously simplistic equation: immigrant=criminal. Look at all of the “immigration reform” proposals with their emphasis of “earned legalization”, “tough enforcement”, “border security” and other multi-milloin dollar framing and messaging, and you will see the makings of the Frankenstein immigrant prison monster that has been pieced together “bi-partisan” patches of some legalization in exchange for massive amounts of more and more punitive policy.
Legal experts and the Congressional Budget Office estimate that S. 744, the Senate version of the immigration reform bill, will legalize no more 5-8 million, NOT the “11 million” undocumented people touted by reformers). This means that millions will be left as vulnerable to imprisonment, deportation and terror as any previous generation of immigrants. This is one of the many inconvenient facts that “immigration reformer” don’t mention in their talking points about a “tradeoff.”
At the same time, the current “immigration reform” bill will do nothing to impact the juggernaut of immigrant imprisonment-except intensify and expand it. Consider these impacts guaranteed under the Corker-Hoeven amendmendment, which is now the de-facto bi-partisan Senate bill: 20,000 more border patrol means more “detainees”; More surveillance equipment means more “detainees”; more billion$ for ICE means more privately run federal immigrant prisons and, therefore, more federal immigrant prisoners. New laws in the legislation will increase the categories of immigrant criminality, which means more immigrant prisoners.
And then there’s the policies that gave rise to mass mobilizations and demands for citizenship, policies like SCOMM that will remain in place as President Obama speeds to break his own record of 1.7 million deportations, hundreds of thousands of immigrant prisoners and countless children and families terrorized by thousands of ICE raids. When asked about these kinds of issues during a recent call with immigrant rights advocates, Sen. Charles Schumer, the lead Democrat on immigration, gave stayed with talking points heard from big money, Beltway immigrant rights groups: legalization means that people won’t be subjected to Obama’s deportation machine.
While predictable, such responses from Schumer and other Democrats “leading the charge on immigration reform” are untrue and dangerous, beginning with the fact that the millions that will be left out of the legalization provisions of S. 744 will face an expanded and more aggressive immigrant prison and deportation dragnet. Future migrants will enter a United States growing even more hostile, more violent and more greedy with regard to immigrants. Nobody, it seems, is thinking of the future, especially the future of immigrant prisoners. Countless reports document that sub-human conditions in which immigrant prisoners are exposed to rape, psychological abuse, beatings, torture and even murder at the hands of immigration jailers.
In the face of “immigration reform” guaranteed to degenerate further the immigrant condition-and non-immigrant condition(i.e. we are complicit with our silence)- in the growing immigrant gulag of the United States, these immigration reformers would do well to remember the words of Doestoevsky, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
We are entering an immigrant prison without precedent, one being built and bolstered with chants of “Si Se Puede” & talking points that “trade off” millions of immigrant prisoners for increasingly fewer and fewer immigrant citizens.” (Some) DREAMers and other “Immigration reformers” are gearing up for what, in the context of the coming immgrant gulag can only be called an “Orwellian victory” (or perhaps a pyrrhic victory What does it mean for the cause of immigrant rights? What does it mean for “civil rights” and Latino politics? And, most importantly, what does this all mean for our civilization? What?