ICE is Sterilizing Immigrants. Is Joe Biden the Answer?
The roots of our crisis have not changed.
with Joe Barden
The allegations of forced sterilizations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are a familiar moment for a country with a long history of genocide. Unnecessary medical procedures on imprisoned humans is torture, and preventing a race of people from reproducing is genocide. How do we respond?
Electoral addicts rushed in to make this about why you should vote for Biden (because that’s the only way to change anything, apparently). Are they right? Has the calculus shifted? Is this a reason to vote for blue rapist over red rapist?
For several reasons, no, it is not.
1) Concentration camps become concentration camps when people are imprisoned there, not when genocidal actions occur. Reject the idea that something specific happening at the camps is reason to embrace the Democrat. If you’re now pissed about genocide, welcome. You should have been pissed all along — concentration camps themselves are genocidal.
2) The Trump administration is by no means solely responsible for the profitable imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of human beings. They’re not just Trump’s camps. They’re American camps, and in no small part they are Obama’s camps. When you build concentration camps, you are absolutely responsible for the things that later happen there. The crisis is a bipartisan creation, so simply voting Democrat is no solution. To that end, it’s no secret that Obama’s promises to Latinos went unfulfilled.
3) We do not know that the sterilization orders came from the top, but we don’t actually need to. Neither the start nor the end of a genocide requires explicit leadership. Once built, the machine can run on its own, and increase its actions independently. Each stage makes the next palatable. Indefinite detention becomes family imprisonment, becomes child separation, becomes forced adoptions (read: literal kidnapping), becomes toxic disinfectant sprays during a respiratory pandemic, becomes forced medical treatments, becomes forced sterilization.
And as often happens, the liberal reaction to GOP violence is to suggest doing the exact same thing in a less-awful way.
This reactive, ‘damage mitigation’ mentality bares the fatal flaw of lesser-evilism: any atrocity can be justified in comparison to the idea of something worse. And yet, damage mitigation is the main (if not only)¹ strategy to get us to vote for the blue neoliberal over the red neoliberal.
On the other hand, if we had 2000 people marching on every ICE center tomorrow and for the next two weeks, this shit would be ended.
4) Does anyone really think Biden would end the genocide of Latinos, or will he just soften the rhetoric? Are you voting for him to change things, or just voting for the appearance of the possibility of change? Is there reason to think Biden has the will, capability, or desire to revise our immigration situation? Biden has been silent on reports that thousands of children are being sexually assaulted in his country’s camps. Why would he start caring now?
At best, any real change from Biden is a pipe dream, as he’s already pledged to let Trump’s wall remain. Remember when Obama promised to close Guantanamo? Barack was a far younger, far sharper, far better politician, with an incredible mandate to lead. And yet our imperial prison is still open. Why would Biden be more successful?
5) Biden’s last gig was working for the previous deportation king. To make any serious change to ICE or American immigration policy will force Biden to admit that he and Obama were seriously wrong. And that’s not going to happen.
6) It’s tempting to say “but Biden is easier to move left!”, but as one of many Republican speakers at the Democratic National Convention reminded us, that’s just not true. And it’s hard to imagine reform coming from someone so deeply in the pocket of the prison-industrial complex. We’ll have to be out in force either way.
7) Here’s what Biden WON’T do: free all imprisoned migrants, open up immigration, and close the ICE camps, private or public. These would represent an actual terminus to the genocide, and anything short of that is simply performative. Voting for the guy who might make concentration camps a little less awful is not a solution; it just makes you feel like you’re doing something to help. Any serious analysis of who Biden is should tell you that.
In a crisis, it’s tempting to reach for the closest, most familiar weapon, and satisfy the feeling that we need to “do” something. But if that weapon helped create the crisis in the first place, we need to think again. We absolutely need to do something, but we cannot vote our way out of the hell we’ve created. We must pull it down, brick by brick.
- Try to make a case for Biden without mentioning Trump. I dare you.