Saturday, August 7, 2010

On ICE, Imprisonment, and White Supremacy

This is a pamphlet that was passed out at the Friday noise demonstration outside the Water St. Jail. We hope to radicalize the dialogue about immigration, and draw lines between the criminalization of migrants and and other marginalized people.

Social Control In Santa Cruz:
ICE, Imprisonment, and White Supremacy

August 2010

In our midst there are humans living in cages: tucked between the San Lorenzo River and Ocean Street over 300 people sit behind bars, serving sentences or awaiting trial. From the drunks in their stupor, caught up on yet another DUI, to the gang members arrested for having the wrong family or tattoos, to the gun-toting killer: our crimes are a product of our society, a response to the everyday violence that capitalism inflicts upon our lives and bodies by the mechanisms of poverty, by the police’s baton, the pesticides in the field and the “accidents” in the factory. Crime and criminals only exist because the law exists to categorize people as such, just like illegal immigration is only a phenomenon because of the existence of nations and borders. To escape the situation we are in we must step back and examine it clearly, and look at the real functions of imprisonment in our society.

Some residents of Santa Cruz have been in an uproar about the supposed crime problem: “Our town is being taken over by illegals!” “If we know who these people are, can’t we just go in their houses and get them?” “How would those anarchists like it if we threw a rock through their windows?” Since the killings of Tyler Tenorio, Carl Reimer, and the May Day property destruction, the police and their allies have needed a scapegoat for their failure to control Santa Cruz and keep out the riff-raff. Of course, the obvious choices were those who the police already wanted locked up: people of color and anarchists. The Santa Cruz Sentinel has only contributed to the hysteria and witchhunt-like atmosphere by publishing misleading articles and pictures of SubRosa collective members. While the death threats seem to be over, the city council has used the riot and recent violence as a justification to fill eight vacant positions in the police force, as well as to begin working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

With neo-nazi and fascist activity in our country on the upswing, we must fight any ICE presence in our area. Immigration control and the militarization of the border are but one more way to divide and conquer the lower classes: racism and fascism go hand in hand. In the guise of national security, the federal government is establishing a system which gives them the ability to detain people of color at will, indefinitely, without access to legal help or medical care. A 2009 article in The Nation reported that ICE has 186 unmarked and unlisted offices they use to detain people, incommunicado. 107 people have died in ICE custody between 2003 and 2009. But we don’t need this proof to know that the whole project of immigration control is fucked. We know it’s just another tool of a white supremacist power structure, another method to control us and keep us in line. We see the effects in our communities, we feel the terror of the situation when ICE is knocking at the doors of friends and family.

Regarding our local situation, it would help us to look at the recent past. In 1982, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service, ICE’s predecessor) raided the Beach Flats and took kids out of class at Bay View Elementary School. In 1984 INS did sweeps of the Beach Flats twice, snatching 22 people from their homes, a soup kitchen line and the street. Even though the City Council declared Santa Cruz a “sanctuary city”, meaning city employees can’t inquire about or report on someone’s immigration status, the INS raided Beach Flats again in 1993, arresting 6 people. In Watsonville, there were ICE raids in 2006 and 2008, both part of regional sweeps. 107 people were arrested in the 2006 raids, and even though only 19 had warrants for arrest, 90 were swiftly deported. Watsonville also calls itself a sanctuary city: it’s plain to see how meaningless this is.

Now Santa Cruz is taking part in a national Department of Homeland Security program called Secure Communities, or S-Comm. The State of California has agreed to participate in the program, and although technically counties can opt out of the program, California Attorney General Brown denied San Francisco County’s request to opt out. In effect, the program provides funding for local jails to check the immigration status of anyone who is booked into the jail, whether or not they are convicted of a crime. This means police could arrest anyone they think might not be a citizen, for something as petty as jaywalking, take them to jail, and have them deported. This is what’s happening in Phoenix, Arizona right now, under the direction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. S-Comm is Obama’s version of SB 1070. In Santa Cruz, S-Comm is scheduled to go into effect on August 10th.

This plan plays perfectly into what Santa Cruz has been trying to do for years. Though the city council has opposed S-Comm, they haven’t challenged ICE’s partnership with the SCPD. Besides that, their anti-homeless laws and destruction of community space in favor of creating a sanitized downtown shopping district prove whose side they’re on. The lines are being drawn, clearly. Groups like Take Back Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Neighbors, functioning as eyes and ears for the police, would like to whitewash our town. But there are many more of us, even if it may not seem so. Despite our racial, cultural, and class divides, all who are persecuted and marginalized by the law have some common cause. Some of us are forced into conflict with this society, and some of us have chosen to struggle. Either way, those of us who aren’t directly affected by ICE should do whatever is in our power to resist and show solidarity with affected individuals and communities.

But what we need isn’t immigration reform, it’s the destruction of all borders and detention centers. The first step is kicking ICE out of Santa Cruz, but this isn’t the end. Santa Cruz’ neo-colonial relationship to Watsonville and the other nearby Hispanic populations needs to be challenged also: it’s just one node of the economic system that coerces people into picking strawberries to support a family back home or working in the dining halls at UCSC. While of course immigration reforms make a huge difference in the lives of families and workers across the country, we can’t stop there. The roots of the problem lie much deeper.

To challenge imprisonment in general, we can start with the specific facts. Santa Cruz’ downtown jail is already 114% over capacity, and the minimum security wing of the Rountree Lane Facility outside Watsonville was recently closed due to budget constraints. On July 21st the downtown jail had two fights in one day, to which Sheriff’s Office Lt. Shea Johnson responded with an apt criticism of incarceration: “I don’t know what the fight was over. No one’s talking, but when you have people locked up in a facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there’s tension sometimes.” Whatever the conditions may be, imprisonment is unacceptable, and won’t solve our society’s problems. The law doesn’t provide justice or safety for everyone: rather, it maintains the current order and hierarchy, enforcing our social roles and defending the moneyed classes. Prisons are a huge source of profit: especially ICE detention centers, which are run by private corporations such as the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group (which Wells Fargo Bank is invested in). While Santa Cruz may not see the effects as clearly as, say, Oakland, police repression and violence still reverberate in our communities. The same system that kills and imprisons black youth in the ghetto also raids the homes of Central American immigrants and tears apart families, the same mechanisms that allow suburban white kids to attend a UC and get a respectable job force others to sell drugs or their bodies to survive.

Those who want to defend capitalism and white supremacy in Santa Cruz are getting organized: so should we. While some talk to their neighbors to support police power, we can talk to our neighbors to subvert their power.

Spread information, show up in the streets, find each other and build collective power. Resistance is gathering around the country. Along with many other actions on July 29th in Arizona, when SB 1070 went into effect, protestors blocked the entrance to the Maricopa County Jail, delaying Sherrif Arpaio’s immigration sweep. If we struggle together we stand a better chance than if we let each group, culture or demonized minority get repressed individually. California is headed down the same path as Arizona, and our position as immigrants, workers and dissidents gets more precarious every day. The net of social control is drawn tighter with each new law, budget cut and layoff, and only we can choose what our response will be.

yours truly,
some local anarchists

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