OP-ED: Immigration Enforcement is White Supremacist-Capitalism at Its Worst

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.

Understanding Capitalism

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?

New Workshop: Cultivating Embodied Compassion

I’m honored to offer my new workshop Yoga For a Cause: Cultivating Embodied Compassion at the 2018 Meetings of the Southern Sociological Society in New Orleans this spring.

Academics are accustomed to living disembodied lives. As students, teachers, and researchers, most of our labor takes place in our minds, and increasingly in our hearts. Many of us will spend decades hunched over our laptops, chasing our next publication or promotion, or grading “just one more” essay. In this workshop, we will explore yoga an embodiment practice that empowers us to treat ourselves and others with compassion.

The workshop will begin with a 50-minute yoga asana practice, followed by a discussion of how we as sociologists can transform our selves and the academy through compassion. The asana practice will be accessible to all levels, and all bodies are welcome.

Proceeds from the $15 donation will benefit Hurricane Recovery in Puerto Rico.

Power, Resistance, and Change: (Disaster) Sociology in the Trump Era

Presented at the Annual Meetings of the Society for the Study of Social Problems – August 13, 2017

Marc R. Settembrino, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Southeastern Louisiana University

The idea for this paper came shortly after January 20, 2017. Like so many of you, I was riding the proverbial emotional roller coaster. I was high from a weekend of protest and solidarity, but dreading the months and years ahead.

It was also time to commit to a topic for this year’s meetings, so, I put together the following abstract:

Disaster sociologists and our colleagues in other social science disciplines have provided critical examinations of how social inequality produces and is reproduced by “man-made” and “natural” disasters.  Due to our long and symbiotic relationship with the Federal government, American disaster sociologists have been influential in shaping the way that government agencies prepare for and respond to disasters. However, today our relationship and influence seems uncertain. Though unpredictable, this paper examines the future of disaster sociology within the context of the Trump administration. Specifically, this paper examines the challenges that disaster researchers face in political climate dominated by austerity, “alternative facts”, and uncertainty. In this paper, I propose strategies through which disaster sociologists can resist and subvert attempts to obfuscate knowledge and silence dissent.

Continue reading “Power, Resistance, and Change: (Disaster) Sociology in the Trump Era”

New Publication: Exercising Agency: How Men Experiencing Homelessness Employ Human, Social, and Cultural Capital to Mitigate Natural Hazards Risk

I’m pleased to announce that my newest publication, Exercising Agency: How Men Experiencing Homelessness Employ Human, Social, and Cultural Capital to Mitigate Natural Hazards Risk, is now available online at the Natural Hazards Review.


People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable in society. They are exposed to a variety of natural and technological hazards and may have few resources available to protect themselves and their property. Despite their vulnerabilities, there has been relatively little research on how the homeless mitigate their hazard risks. The present study seeks to fill that oversight. Specifically, this paper examines the strategies that homeless men in Central Florida employ to mitigate their risks to natural hazards in the region. This study finds that despite increased social vulnerability to natural hazards, some risk can be mitigated by utilizing public spaces such as libraries, activating social networks of friends and family, and employing certain techniques to establish and maintain campsites. Thus, the homeless exercise agency by using their human, social, and cultural capital to mitigate risk.

Full text available here: https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)NH.1527-6996.0000256

New Publication: “Teaching Inequalities: Using Public Transportation and Visual Sociology to Make It Real”

TeachingSOC Clip


My article with Liz Grauerholz, “Teaching Inequalities: Using Public Transportation and Visual Sociology to Make It Real” is in the July issue of the ASA Journal Teaching Sociology. I’ve included the abstract below, but the full text is here: http://tso.sagepub.com/content/44/3/200.full .

Abstract: In this article, we describe an adaptation of Nichols, Berry, and Kalogrides’s “Hop on the Bus” exercise. In addition to riding the bus, we incorporated a visual component similar to that developed by Whitley by having students conduct a sociological, photographic exercise after they disembarked. Qualitative and quantitative assessment data show that taken together, these exercises enhance students’ awareness and sociological understanding of social inequalities, especially income inequalities. Specifically, the activities make abstract concepts real to students, make more obvious inequalities that often go unnoticed, help students better understand how structural barriers affect individuals’ daily lives and contribute to broader social inequalities, and to some degree, dispel stereotypes of marginalized groups.


Research featured in the November 2015 Issue of the Natural Hazards Observer

Check out the November 2015 Issue of the Natural Hazards Observer to learn more about how the homeless are vulnerable yet resilient in the face of man-made and natural hazards.

Observer“As you are reading this, more than 500,000 Americans are homeless. Many will sleep in homeless shelters; others will sleep in tents or other makeshift accommodations. The latter are exposed to a range of weather-related hazards. They represent some of the most vulnerable people in society and must be incorporated into emergency plans. Paradoxically though, homeless individuals can also be assets to their communities during disasters.

Nearly five years ago, I volunteered in the annual Point-In-Time Count (PIT) of people experiencing homelessness. That day, my group was tasked with surveying food banks in Osceola County, Florida, a county characterized by high poverty rates and widespread family homelessness. It was a gorgeous Florida winter morning—the sun shone warmly in a cloudless sky while a gusting breeze kept us cool. Bad weather was expected in the afternoon, but I wasn’t too worried about it. As a native Floridian, I am used to tumultuous afternoon storms.” Click here to continue reading.

The Natural Hazards Observer is published by the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Articles cover disaster issues, recent disaster management and education programs, hazards research, political and policy developments, resources and Web sites, upcoming conferences, and recent publications. Learn more and subscribe here: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/o/

Forthcoming Publication – Values over structure: An ethnographic study of volunteers participating in a juvenile diversion program

I’m excited to announce that my article “Values over structure: An ethnographic study of volunteers participating in a juvenile diversion program”, will appear in the December issue of the Justice Policy Journal. JPJ is the peer-reviewed, open-access, journal of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. More information about the journal can be found on their website: http://www.cjcj.org/news/category/511 .


This study is an ethnographic study of community volunteers participating in a juvenile diversion program called Neighborhood Accountability Boards (NAB). My research shows that NAB members encourage offending youths to make better choices in the future. Specifically, NAB members encourage youths to obey the law, work hard, and have a good attitude. However, the NAB members are aware of environmental factors, such as family and schools, which may limit the choices actually available to youths and influence their decision making. Ultimately, these findings represent a contradiction in which NAB members encourage youths to subscribe to middle-class values despite the fact that there may be structural obstacles which my impede youths from doing so.