Thanks to the Hammond Daily Star for publishing my piece. Full Text is available below!
Immigration Enforcement is White Supremacist-Capitalism at Its Worst
There is a lot of debate in the news and on social media about “zero-tolerance” immigration enforcement. This policy has included actions such as family separation, highway checkpoints, and sweeps at bus stations and train stations within 100 miles of the border. Some claim this policy is needed to keep Americans safe, while others argue that it’s cruel and inhumane. As a sociologist, I see this as just another example of white supremacist-capitalism.
What is White Supremacy?
Most people think of the KKK when they read the words “white supremacy.” However, white supremacy has is more than extremist groups and racist uncles. From a sociological perspective, white supremacy is a system of oppression that organizes society so that it’s everyday functioning benefits “white people” at the expense of anyone deemed non-white. White supremacy has looked different throughout history, but it originated as a system to deem who was human (White) and who was sub-human (Non-White) so that the humans could take the land and rape, murder, and enslave the sub-humans.
Similarly, capitalism can be understood as a system of oppression where society’s normal, everyday functioning benefits the capitalist class at the expense of the workers. Many Americans identify as “capitalist”, however, capitalism isn’t a system of identity politics like “Republican” or “Democrat”. Capitalists own the “means of production” including raw materials, the tools used to harvest/transform/transport raw materials and products, the warehouses the store raw materials and products, the markets which sell products, and banks that manage financial capital. I don’t own any of those things which makes me a worker. Likely, you are in the same position as me. If you don’t own the means of production, that means you must sell your labor power to survive. In our society, everything we need to survive exists. There is more food in our local grocery stores than can be eaten and there is much more sitting in warehouses and on trucks right now. There are enough homes for everyone to have safe and secure housing. But, under capitalism, food and housing are held hostage from us. we must sell our labor to earn money to buy the things we need. A sociological examination of history shows us that this system only benefits one group of people: the capitalist class. Of course, some workers will rise to the top but many more of us will work ourselves to death making our people rich.
White Supremacy + Capitalism = White Supremacist-Capitalism
So, what is white supremacist-capitalism? White supremacy and capitalism are essentially twins. They emerged around the same time and have worked together to make a very small group of people extremely rich and powerful. The Dutch made billions through the Trans-Atlantic African slave trade. Which involved kidnapping, buying, and selling human beings to other human beings. The Dutch weren’t the only players in the game, but they were the first white supremacist-capitalists. Today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Border Patrol roams the country hunting non-citizens (sub-humans) to detain and deport. We (workers) allow this to happen because we’re convinced that they “must have done something wrong” or “deserve what they get”. Such statements are both white supremacist and reflect nearly 500 years of capitalist ideology. And the capitalist class is laughing all the way to the bank.
Enter the Immigration Industrial Complex
With over 21,000 agents, the Border Patrol is the largest police agency in the country. Think about everything a Border Patrol agent needs to do their job: guns, boots, uniforms, handcuffs, cars/trucks, radios, etc. Add the cost of these things together and then multiply the cost of each by 21,000. It’s hundreds of millions of dollars in profit for the capitalist class; without detaining a single person!
Immigration Detention Centers are built by private corporations. Just building a detention center makes money for the capitalist class. However, many detention centers are operated by private corporations, such as GEO Group and CoreCivic. There are at least 200 detention centers in the U.S. According to Freedom for Immigrants, each year the US detains about 352,000 people. Freedom for Immigrants estimates that it costs about $145/day to house a detained human being. This means that immigrant detention is a $600 Million Dollar per Year industry.
The golden rule of capitalism is to make a profit and to make a bigger profit this year than you did last year. So, each year the immigrant detention industry needs to grow. This means that more people need to be detained. To grow the industry, enforcement needs to be harsher and new technologies need to be created and deployed to identify human beings worthy of detention and deportation.
The Bottom Line
Under white supremacist-capitalism, human beings are commodified. Five hundred years ago, Africans were the commodity, today immigrants have been identified as potential profits and the capitalists have hired workers to harvest these profits. You can argue that it’s about “rule of law” or “keeping Americans safe” but at the end of the day human beings are hunting other human beings for profit. Are you okay with that?