The language of Prevention in Immigration Policy/Practice

Modern science in the United States has been rooted in the concept of prevention. We are told to wash our hands to prevent spreading our colds. We take our children annually to doctors to receive a bevy to prevent them from getting sick (a


nd to allow them to enter into schools). We try to prevent bad things from happening to us and our loved ones and engage in and with a variety of measures in order to not miss school, work, in order to not be bedridden or not go to the emergency room or worse.

The current political climate, as evidenced in the last (mercifully) presidential debate of this campaign season, frames the issue of immigration, specifically “unauthorized” (or “illegal” for those who still favor this term) immigration as disease, as illness, as something to inoculate and protect the United States as personified into a white nation/being from. And let’s be real, it’s no accident that this frame is being used by those in power and those that want more power in the form of placement in specific political offices, in a racialized way. The border wal

l, now elevated to near mythical status, is a prophylactic meant to keep out black and brown people, as individuals and families ( I think it’s dangerous to prioritize one set as more dangerous than the other but that’s a different post). The antibiotic comes in the form of “investment” in Central America that seeks to contain families and children from crossing cell walls, either by keeping them contained where they are or contained in literal cells if they make it into the United States.

It’s too easy, too convenient for the Democrats to wash their own hands, pointing to Republican front runners characterizations of “bad hombres”. Clinton, in the last debate, pretty much said the same thing, that the focus should be on deporting criminals, but perhaps because she said it in English, the dog whistle was harder to hear. The p

roblem is that given the roots, history and current application of policing in the United States, including the violent creation of and subsequent protection of invented borders, everyone who doesn’t fit into the narrative of the healthy U.S. citizen, is criminal.

The diagnosis and cure are clear, once there is clarity as to what the real disease is and where its roots lie.

Let’s look at what Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, stated most recently:


“Working with the Government of Haiti, DHS intends to resume removal flights as soon as possible.  DHS and the Department of State are working with the Government of Haiti and other key partners to ensure that removals occur in as humane and minimally disruptive a manner as possible.  The policy change I announced on September 22 remains in effect. Haitians attempting to enter the United States without authorization will continue to be placed into immigration detention. “


Minimally disruptive to the United States, clearly not to Haitians.


“The new immigration enforcement priorities President Obama and I announced in November 2014, which focus on serious convicted criminals and those apprehended at the border, are being implemented effectively by our immigration enforcement personnel.  Our priorities are reflected in actual results.  Today, over 99% of those in immigration detention fit within one of our enforcement pr

iorities; and around 85% are within the top priority for removal.  In 2009, just 35% of those deported by ICE were convicted criminals; today that percentage is about 60%.  Enforcement actions that began early this year, focused on families and unaccompanied children now over 18 that were apprehended at the border.”


See what I wrote above about criminality. “Convicted criminals” could be swapped out for “diseased” by race/national origin. So we are catching more of those who “threaten” the US way of life. Be not afraid (except you black, brown folk).

“Border security alone cannot overcome the powerful push factors of poverty and violence that exist in Central America. Walls alone cannot prevent illegal migration.  Ultimately, the solution is long-term investment in Central America to address the underlying push factors in the region. We continue to work closely with our federal partners and the governments in the region, and are pleased with the $750 million Congress approved in FY 2016 for support and aid to Central America. We urge Congress to provide additional resources in FY 2017.”

History has shown us what US “investment” in Latin America looks like and actually means. Think of free trade agreements. Think of financial readjustment policies tied to social readjustment policies. To keep with the analogy of this post, contain/destroy the “illness” of dissent against corruption over there so we don’t have to deal with it over here.

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