by Jarred Bean
Defund the Police.
These three words, which seem incomprehensible to those who refuse to fully investigate their meaning, have become a rallying cry for a more just system that funds robust community services rather than upholds the violent and repressive police state to which we have all grown accustomed. They have become a rallying cry against the institutionalized white supremacy and hyper-militarization that all-too-often brutalizes communities of color with little, if any, true oversight or accountability.
These three words should find and are finding a home within the immigrant advocacy movement, as they represent a fight against a mirrored evil of the institutions that dehumanize, disenfranchise, and brutalize human beings for no other reason than immigration status.
If anything should be readily apparent, it’s that the fights to re-imagine our policing system, carceral system, and immigration system are one in the same.
Abolish ICE and CBP.
Abolish detention centers and border camps.
Abolish private prisons.
Just as we know that funding community services provides better, and more financially efficient, outcomes than over-funding and over-arming police, so too does relying on community solutions for handling immigration-related issues. There is simply no reason why police funding should make up anywhere close to a third of a city’s expenditures, just as it makes no sense for immigration authorities to have absurdly high budgets for the capture and detention of immigrants who could otherwise thrive or be supported on the local level for a fraction of the cost.
Just as study after study has shown that immigrant detention is an absolute waste of money on top of being a clear moral failing on behalf of our nation, the oft-quoted fact that the United States has the largest prison system in the world elucidates both the moral failings and lack of fiscal efficacy of maintaining the status quo.
The fact that the prison and detention systems in the U.S., bolstered by virtually unaccountable police and immigration authorities, are so ubiquitous is by no means an accident. Plenty has been written about how our prison system is a manifestation of a white supremacist state that traded one form of slavery and disfranchisement for another (the fruits of prison labor are literally all around us, just as the effects of voter suppression are readily apparent), and the same is true regarding the use of detained immigrants for labor. The mere existence of private prison and detention facilities represent the commodification of human beings for the accumulation of private wealth, all at an exponentially higher price tag that should shake every conservative taxpayer to their core.
While a certain cross-section of everyday people might agree that we need to draw down the size of our carceral systems, they might also find themselves uncomfortable holding police and immigration authorities responsible for the havoc that they’ve wrought. As of now, a majority of Americans oppose defunding the police (though framing of this question can produce very different results) and the call to abolish ICE didn’t achieve mainstream approval at the height of its prominence, but the chaotic times we find ourselves in during the wake of rampant police violence against peaceful protesters, continued assaults on immigrants, and the growing weakness of Trump’s campaign underscore a chance for immigration and Black Lives Matter activists to coalesce around a shared message of securing justice in an unjust state. Now is the time for unifying as part of a shared Civil Rights movement that can simultaneously continue to hold the powerful accountable, push candidates and electeds to support their platforms, and mobilize supporters to oust racist and xenophobic republicans this fall.
It’s no secret that the expansion of our carceral states came in lock-step with the increased militarization of both our police and immigration forces (itself a manifestation of our brutal historical foreign policy), and it’s also no secret that much of this militarization came as a result of often bipartisan action. As the Republican Party has solidified itself as the champion of this continued hyper-militarization, BLM and immigration Civil Rights activists must now come together in a pivotal bid to ensure that the Democratic Party fully recognizes their power over its continued survival and ability to thrive, thus ensuring a chance to truly achieve its aims of reimagining our police and immigration systems.
In one of the most tumultuous times in our nation’s modern history, solidarity is the only way forward.
Jarred Bean is a writer and analyst working in the New York City Department of Education. Coming from a working class family in North Carolina, he has gone on to live in and serve working class communities in the US and abroad. He has previously written for Brand New Congress.
Cover graphic: Erik Ruin