Thursday, June 01, 2017

SB4 and the Immigration Industrial Complex

Most of the Memorial Day Holiday and the feel-good spirit of the last day of Texas’ 85th legislative session was disrupted for lawmakers and concerned protesters when Republican Representative Matt Rinaldi provoked a hateful incident on the Texas House floor (Link)

Members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus MALC condemned Rinaldi’s behavior (Link), with much frustration centered around SB4, a racist law set to go into effect on September 1st, 2017.  Proponents claim all undocumented immigrants will be subject to the same treatment by law enforcement, but SB4, it is safe to assume, will not be enforced this way as it will inevitably be used to racially profile certain members of the community who look and speak a certain way, generally people of color.  SB4 couches anti-immigrant racism in a legal pretense used to justify their detention and prosecution.  But make no mistake, SB4 has nothing to do with law enforcement.  Not a single major law enforcement agency in the state of Texas endorsed it (Link).  According to the ACLU, being present without documents is not even a crime in and of itself (Link).  However, being present without documentation is somehow conceptualized by many as some sort of felony offense. 

There exists a coercive aspect on the part of exploitative businesses and employers wanting to hire undocumented immigrant workers.  This lure encourages undocumented immigrants to seek employment in the U.S.  Employers benefit from the exploitation of this non-unionized, no-benefit labor force willing to work for little relative to legal residents.  While businesses substantiate the use of undocumented labor in order to exploit undocumented workers, these same workers become subject to exploitation from the private prison industry.  The true moral and ethical dilemma lies in the appeal to racist impulses by legislators to push for anti-immigrant laws like SB4 that provide the inputs needed to profit the private prison industry.  The private prison industry profits from the formation of federal, state, and locally constructed laws that subjugate undocumented immigrants and work to perpetuate the sustainability of an immigrant industrial complex (Doty & Wheatley, 2013). The business of being undocumented is profitable for corporations seeking profit from immigrant detention.  Beginning in March of 2003, the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has managed immigration and detention.  The undocumented immigrants held in detention are referred to as detainees meaning these immigrants cannot leave the facility with these facilities located in almost all 50 states as well as in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Dow, 2007).  

Over the past two decades, private prison corporations have come to comprise a factor that has been essential to the formation of an immigration industrial complex.  According to Doty and Wheatley,  there are four aspects of the immigration industrial complex that include: the legal apparatus, worldviews, private corporations, and webs of influence (Doty & Wheatley, 2013).  Coleman and Kocher suggest that the purpose of the immigration industrial complex is to manage populations as a kind of social control project since the prison industry is not designed to reduce the numbers of undocumented immigrants, or it has not achieved this goal, but is constructed to encourage the removal of immigrant bodies from public spaces (Coleman & Kocher, 2011).  The private prison industry cynically encourages lawmakers to produce laws designed to ensnare undocumented immigrants for them to be detained in facilities that profit immensely from their detention and whose profitability is dependent upon the virtually uninterruptible source of revenue in the form of tax dollars that fund detention.   From beginning to end, the undocumented immigrant is subject to exploitation.  

Coleman, Mathew, Kocher, Austin. (2011) Detention, deportation, devolution and immigrant
incapacitation in the U.S. post 9/11. The Geographical Journal 177 (3), 228–237.

Doty, Roxanne Lynne & Wheatley, Elizabeth Shannon. (2013). Private detention and the
Immigration industrial complex. International Political Sociology, 2013(7), 426–443.

Dow, Mark (2007). Designed to punish: Immigrant detention and deportation. Social Research
74(2), 533-546.

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