Free Them All: Abolish ICE, Borders, and The Carceral State

Zoey MM and Hannah K

Brief Summary: Immigration and Prisons

Immigration detention and family separation are current manifestations of a racist, capitalist carceral logic present throughout all of American history. During slavery, enslaved people were bought and sold at whim by plantation owners and slave traders; children, spouses, and other family members were regularly separated when sold, partially as a tactic to deprive enslaved people of opportunities for community and loyalty and thus to avoid the threat of rebellion. Following emancipation, convict leasing became widespread, and newly freed African Americans were routinely criminalized, jailed, and then leased out to businesses for cheap labor, a practice which our current prison system is rooted in and continues (on average incarcerated people make 87 cents daily). Similar patterns of criminalization and labor exploitation are present in our immigration system: immigrants commit the manufactured crime of crossing an arbitrary border, and bosses target their precarious legal status as a way to coerce cheap labor.

Immigrant families have been held in detention for years (under the Obama, Bush, and Clinton presidencies as well as the current administration), and immigration detention is currently one of the fastest growing areas of the U.S. prison system. The current child detention centers are horrifying, but not surprising, given how our national prison system routinely breaks up families: in 2015, 1 in 14 children in the U.S. had an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated parent, and in the same year the juvenile incarcerated population was estimated to be ~53,000.


Building Working Class Power

To end the holding and caging of both immigrants and currently incarcerated people, we must work towards the dismantling of several interconnected structures: we must abolish ICE and its accompanying immigrant detention centers, and abolish the borders they supposedly protect. But we must also abolish the police and prison system that marks what existences American ideology find suspect: being on the other side of imaginary line in a desert, being found with drugs, being seen arguing with a family member or peer, being in a place deemed someone else’s property, being someone who sells sexuality as labor, being mentally ill, being unhoused, being poor, being a person of color, being queer.

The kind of thinking that lies behind these criminalized ways of being is also the kind of thinking the results in the imaginary borders that carve their way into our physical and mental lives. These borders contain the correct, verified, and quantified way of being, and anything outside of them is marked as being wrong, unverifiable, and unknown. Yet the lives that exist outside of borders are, on examination, no different from those within. Pain, love, fear, pleasure exist for all––regardless of whether our lives can be marked by numbers or stamped on documents. Only by working and struggling together can we recognize the fundamental alikeness we all share, and only through working to tear down the structures that bind us all can we turn our world of borders delineating what and who we are into one of real possibility. This means pushing for bare minimum reforms like ending cash bail and eliminating mandatory minimums, while also pushing for policies that ultimately diminish carceral facilities, such as defunding and de-arming the police and ICE. This means building alternative structures for addressing harm by building community power and creating space for those forced to leave their homes and seek refuge, which is often the result of American imperialism.

We must be ready to fight with and for one another, whether that means those of us in the free world supporting prison strikes, those of us recognized by the state supporting immigrant labor strikes, and those of us invisible to carceral systems working to disrupt them––whether they are detention centers or prisons, ICE or the police. To not do so is to evade our innate responsibility not just to others, but to ourselves as well; as long as any of us are caged, none of us are free.

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