Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT); 31.52529686,-111.2892159 (south of Arivaca, Arizona); March 2023. Photograph by Colter Thomas. Source: The Border Chronicle.

Mae govannen! everyone,

I hope you have found my newsletters useful/interesting so far; another week of harrowing madness and barbarism has passed. It’s dark and depressing, but I started this project because all contemporary issues and struggles are interconnected through the problematic of the border regime, and thus documenting and discussing it is crucial in my opinion. On the other hand, the movements to support the victims of this inhuman regime, and to eventually break it down and abolish it, are central to any global emancipatory/revolutionary project.

Our first stop is Turtle Island/North America, where the disgusting spectacle of U.S. bourgeois politics has trended in an ever-more reactionary and authoritarian direction since at least Reagan (but arguably it’s just been a fascistic shitshow throughout its history, starting with settler colonization and genocide). This week the latest appalling episode of this obscene spectacle – wherein two groups of political oligarchs compete against each other to govern the oppression of the proletarian, racialized, and Indigenous populations in the continent and across the empire – continued with the fascistic “border convoy” performances at the border, and Biden’s bipartisan “border bill”, which was first released on Monday then blocked by Republicans the following day.

Let’s take a look at this horrendous proposal from Joe “lesser evil” Biden. The basic purpose of the bill is combining a renewal of aid for Ukraine with an extremely authoritarian and anti-migrant package responding to the outrage about the US/Mexico border “crisis” (needless to say, a manufactured xenophobic notion/sentiment, which most Democrats fully bought into):

  • It basically creates – or expands – the “state of emergency” powers enabling authorities to suspend asylum law, increase and facilitate quicker deportations, and so on…
  • It has huge increases for the EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review, i.e. the court-side part of the deportation regime), for prison/detention, for monitoring, for the CBD (Customs and Border Protection, i.e. one side of the border police), for states, for tech companies and surveillance tech, for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, i.e. the other cops, responsible among others for enforcing detentions), for USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, i.e. responsible for the administering the naturalization and immigration system), and more…
  • The bill has $7.6 billion for ICE , roughly six of which is for deportations and detentions. This would be the “the largest appropriation of funds for immigration detention custody and surveillance operations in ICE’s history” (Detention Watch Network statement); it effectively doubles its already massive annual budget of $8 billion.
    • “Over $3.2 billion dollars for expanded ICE detention capacity (which would be the largest appropriation for custody operations in ICE’s history if passed), almost $1.3 billion for ICE’s surveillance or “alternatives to detention” programming (nearly triple its regular annual appropriation), over $2.5 billion for removal flights and related activities, including “staging facilities,” $1.12 billion for hiring additional ICE and CBP officers, and $210 million for U.S. Marshals Service detention ” [DWN]
    • This week Physicians for Human Rights revealed that ICE used solitary confinement – described as an “endless nightmare” by their victims – at least 14,264 times from 2018 to 2023.
  • “Making an additional $350 million available to transfer to DHS’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contingent on ICE’s ability to reach a detention capacity of 46,500, among other conditions” [DWN]
  • “A new expulsion authority, which will ban entry for nearly everyone in between ports of entry at the Southern Border when crossings hit an average of 5,000 or 8,500 in a single day. This ban includes asylum seekers who will be denied entry unless they spontaneously declare fear of return, and even then they would only qualify for a lesser form of protection” [DWN]
  • “A whole new asylum system which makes it nearly impossible for people to obtain asylum. This new system includes fast-tracked processing, a heightened standard for showing a credible fear of persecution at the first stage, mandated placement of asylum seekers in ICE surveillance programming, and no judicial review whatsoever.” [DWN]
  • It blocks all funding for UNRWA, the US being its biggest donor. See Akbar Shahid Ahmed’s piece. This is another direct form of support for the genocide Israel is committing right now against Palestinians.
  • It “strongly supports” [including] $25 million for Customs and Border Protection to conduct familial DNA testing and $204 million for the FBI for purposes including “the analysis of DNA samples, including those samples collected from migrants detained by the United States Border Patrol” [source]
  • Note that as I mentioned previously, while the bill was being negotiated several Republican senators went as far as saying that they wouldn’t get a better ‘immigration/border security’ deal even if Trump ends up winning a second presidency. The “Border Patrol Union” also endorsed the bill; this is the “union” of (far right, by definition) border cops that endorsed Trump in 2020.

Unsurprisingly, U.S. liberals pretend that this bill was a shocking U-turn from Biden, but as I mentioned in a previous newsletter (quoting Harsha Walia), and as many commented this week, this is hypocritical and illusory because there’s a bipartisan “rampant xenophobic atmosphere“. Democrats and most liberals are, and have always been, willing enforcers of the US’ barbarous imperialist, racist, capitalist, settler, reactionary, and authoritarian policies, including when it comes to AmeriKKKa’s border regime which – like the prison system – expanded and became significantly more brutal/cruel under the Clinton administration:

And with that fascist bill rejected, Biden has now made his priority to tell voters “every day between now and November” that former President Trump and his GOP allies in Congress are the “only reason the border is not secure.” He’s only too eager to expand border fascism, the contrast between Democrats and Republicans/the far right is not as strong as liberals like to pretend! There’s a very simple reasons for this: liberals are just as committed to the reproduction of capitalist-colonial social relations and the nation-state, including its prisons, police and borders.

Integrated Fixed Tower; 31.35915,-110.30267 (west of Miracle Valley in Cochise County, Arizona); May 2023. Photograph by Colter Thomas. Source: The Border Chronicle.

Ultimately, both the bill itself and the Republican senators’ rejection, are explained by the shared commitment of all bourgeois politicians to racist, capitalist, brutal bordering on the one hand, and the atrocious logic of bourgeois politics. Namely, in this case: Biden/Democrats pretending to be the mighty opposition and only safeguard against Trump/Republican authoritarianism and fascism, then systematically bending backward to welcome their brutal capitalist, racist and dystopian intentions; meanwhile the only reason Republicans refused this bill is electoralism/gaining the upperhand in state/governmental power by undermining Biden, because they hope Trump will win this year’s presidential election. Mind you, it’s been conclusively studied and demonstrated that adopting authoritarian and rightwing policies on things like immigration, crime or the economy, doesn’t help liberal and center-left parties win votes. Not that it matters, the problem is that bourgeois politics and electoralism are inherently based on this obscene and cynical spectacle where poor people’s lives are played with like pawns.

In southern states next to the border, like Texas and Arizona, political authorities/local governments “deputize local cops and judges to arrest migrants and *deport them to Mexico* regardless of place of origin” (source). And para-state militias and individuals are taking part themselves in this border violence: the FBI arrested far-right terrorist Paul Faye who wanted to bring explosives and weapons to the border.

Canada is no better, despite erroneously having – like Europe (and likewise it’s completely wrong there) – a reputation as more “liberal” and “progressive”, whatever that means. Like many Western states, its policies concerning displaced populations from recent wars and other conflicts/crises has been discriminatory, for instance going out of their way to facilitate immigration pathway for Ukrainians while doing the opposite for individuals from Sudan. Moreover, as Fitsum Areguy explains,

At its essence, the Canadian mining sector is one monstrous, cyclical neo-colonial project. This approach dovetails with Canada’s broader strategy of backing the forced removal of Indigenous people from their land – even removals verging on war crimes in places like Ethiopia – under the rationale that fewer Indigenous voices equate to diminished resistance against its widespread extraction endeavours. But, of course, this isn’t exactly new. Canada was created with wealth accumulated through the transatlantic slave trade and mining regimes. Black bodies existed outside the category of human and were commodified like mined gold and ore. The violent racialization of Blackness and the colonial logics of extraction are mutually constitutive processes that, as Achille Mbembe describes, transformed Africans into “living minerals” marked for domination and exploitation.

(…) Canada is home to over half of the world’s mining companies and is implicated in over 75 percent of all mining operations globally.

(…) All these harms stem from a modern extractive geography Martín Arboleda calls the “planetary mine,” which is dictated by systems of capital and global supply chains. Modern mining is characterized by transnational corporations and territorial infrastructures, advanced technologies that scan and bore the subsurface for mineral deposits, and automated machines that fragment the Earth around the clock and without needing to stop – and all of it, cumulatively, forcing debilitating migratory and labour patterns that overwhelmingly devastate Afro-Black and Indigenous communities.

The theme of “human trafficking” and “smugglers” is complicated because there obviously exist some criminal and evil elements/networks that exploit people’s misery and need to migrate to abuse them and make money (even then, the focus on “smugglers” is itself myopic), but it’s also a deceitful self-serving narrative used by states/governments and international institutions like the UN. It omits the role that some state officials play in smuggling, the fact that people have to rely on smugglers because legal routes are blocked, and other complexities of immigration and smuggling that don’t fit into this simple humanitarian discourse (which ignores all relevant academic research on this, by the way). In other words, it obfuscates the fact that state and border violence, imperialism/militarism, the ecological and economic crises produced by capitalism, and the international division of labour on which it relies, are at the root of the roughly 100 million forcibly displaced people and the additional millions that have to move for economic reasons.

By conflating “smugglers” – which can mean a variety of things – and “human traffickers” – which implies the worst types of criminal activity/commerce/abuse -, they knowingly contribute to the criminalization of people who flee and migrate to survive (note: there is a clear parallel with the criminalization of sex workers; not to mention that in some contexts/cases both things intersect simultaneously). Moreover, state brutality and criminalization is hugely responsible for the suffering, abuse and exploitation suffered by people-on-the-move. For instance, TRAC (Transnational Records Access Clearinghouse) found that since October 2016, detained immigrants have paid $2 billion in bonds to ICE. As Max Granger noted, how is that any different than “ransom money, extorted by human traffickers”?

Right now, there are about 10 million displaced Sudanese (and a even more urgently needing aid) because of the atrocities committed by and war between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in the past ten months. Meanwhile in Palestine the Nakba continues with no end in sight – Israel is right now attacking Rafah where one of the world’s biggest refugee camps is located, and has declared that it will not agree to the return of residents to the northern Gaza Strip -, completely supported by and tolerated by the majority of global powers from China to Canada. The vast majority of the world’s populations is outraged by and opposed to what Israel is doing and their governments’ support for it, but in a world created around capital, colonial/imperial and state power/supremacy/brutality, it is only the latter that dominates and defines the fate of millions of people. Resistance and liberatory movements obviously matter, but they always start at a disadvantage since the world is structured on this violence and domination. They/we literally have to move heaven and earth (remuer ciel et terre) to attempt to change things so that the most basic human dignity is respected (let alone more ambitious revolutionary aspirations, like abolishing capitalism).

The violence of armed and political groups in Sudan and the Horn of Africa seeking supremacy through warfare and genocide, comes from this global ethno-state model; so does Israel’s settler colonialist state-building project. Both are funded and supported by the West (e.g. the US’ limitless financial/military/political/etc. support for Israel, and the EU funding the RSF for ‘border externalization’) as well as other global powers like China (Israel’s second biggest trading partner). And at the other end, all these innocent human beings are criminalized, forbidden to seek refuge/safety, and further dehumanized. This barbarous global system has to end, it’s so depressingly cruel, murderous and inhuman…


While you’re here, please consider contributing to Rohingya Community Partners’ fundraising!

We shall see if I can keep up the weekly schedule but I know I’ll keep doing this even if I have to take a bit more time in between newsletters. In the meantime and as always: Solidarity Forever!