ELECTION 2020: More Humane Cages?

Prospects for immigration justice under Biden appear dim, writes Adrienne Pine.

Overcrowding of families observed by DHS Office of the Inspector General on June 11, 2019, at Border Patrol’s Weslaco, Texas, station. (DHS, Wikimedia Commons)

By  Adrienne Pine
Common Dreams

Countless variants of the theme of caged children were used to try to shame leftists into voting for Joe Biden in the recent presidential elections, despite the fact that — as President Donald Trump repeatedly and correctly noted in a twisted defense of his own family-separation policy – the Obama/Biden White House started the program.

Now that we are getting a glimpse of Biden’s transition team, it is clear that his opponents on the left were right to curb their enthusiasm and (in many cases) cast their votes elsewhere. Instead of a reprieve from policies that fall squarely within the definition of genocide, Biden appears poised to dig in his heels. Take, for example, his appointment of Obama’s former top immigration adviser Cecilia Muñoz to his transition team, who brushed off NPR interviewer Maria Hinojosa’s question about family separation, responding that “Some of these things are going to happen.”

While much has been made of the gendered diversity of Biden’s transition team (including Muñoz) and potential cabinet picks, it will be little comfort to the women of Central America, or any other region subject to U.S. interference, to know that the new U.S. #GirlBosses may include Susan Rice as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton as UN ambassador, or Michele Flournoy as secretary of defense.

Form, Not Substance

Many of Biden’s DHS transition team selections show his platform will differ (if at all) only in form, not in substance, from that of Trump. None of his team members hail from the ranks of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) organizers who delivered him his victories in key states like Arizona, and for whom immigration is a major issue.

Instead, Biden’s picks further the logic of his Latino campaign strategy, which pandered to right-wing Miami Cubans and Venezuelans, ignoring the vast, diverse majority of Latinx communities for whom immigration justice, access to quality healthcare and education, and protection from police violence are far more important than fighting communism. While numerous analysts on the left have pointed out that Biden’s approach didn’t even win him Florida, he’s sticking to it.

Biden’s Department of Homeland Security transition team members range from billionaire-funded think tank pundits to corporate lawyers, with a smattering of left-liberal ACLU types, none of whom fundamentally question the overarching logic of border security.

Take Blas Nuñez-Neto, for example, DHS transition team member and RAND analyst who accuses migrants of “taking advantage of incentives created by the U.S. asylum process” and has advocated that asylum seekers be made to seek asylum from U.S. embassies while still living in their countries (a non-starter for people fleeing deadly violence) and building more private prisons to detain entire families indefinitely, as humane alternatives to family separation. 

Fundamental & Fundamentally Flawed  

Beyond the more egregious stances taken by some of Biden’s DHS transition committee members, they appear to be in agreement on some fundamental — and fundamentally flawed — points, all of which prioritize profit over human lives. For Biden’s DHS team:

  • Border “security” (i.e. preventing “terrorists” and/or people without “legitimate” asylum claims from entering the United States) is at least as important as ensuring that the militarized security apparatus doesn’t kill mostly BIPOC people on either side of the U.S. border.
  • Privatized border security expenditures of public funds should continue at least at their current levels, shifting focus from Trump’s extension of Obama/Biden’s physical border walls toward ever-increasing spending on (equally harmful) technologies of surveillance.
  • Migration deterrence measures should follow the logic of the “Biden plan” for Central America, investing hundreds of millions of dollars into repressive state security apparatuses and mega-development projects (despite that plan having dramatically increased impoverishment, state violence and migration since its implementation in response to the 2014 “unaccompanied minor” crisis). 
  • Climate change, which is dramatically increasing migration and should be taken into account in immigration policy, is not a result of capitalism and thus should not be addressed by curbing or (God forbid) ending it.

To understand the dangers to immigrants of the upcoming Biden administration, it’s also important to look beyond the DHS transition team to his other transition team picks. U.S. capitalist-military imperialism in partnership with client governments — and in regime-change efforts against non-client states — is the primary “push” factor for immigration to this country. Journalists Sarah LazareAlan MacLeod and Kevin Gosztola have shown in recent days how Biden has already handed the reins over to the same war hawks and authors of neoliberal trade deals responsible for impoverishment, violence and environmental devastation abroad, and (consequently) immigration to the United States. The defense contractors so heavily represented in Biden’s transition team will profit as much from border security initiatives as they do from foreign wars.

The intertwined success and violence of the U.S. asylum/deportation industry hinges on its profitability. In stacking not just his DHS team but all of his transition teams with neoliberals and hawks, Biden has sent the world a clear signal that despite the cage-free fantasies of liberal Democrats, his immigration policy will be more of the same.

Adrienne Pine is associate professor of anthropology at American University, Washington, D.C., and co-editor of Asylum for Sale: Profit and Protest in the Migration Industry. Twitter: @AdriennePine

This article is from Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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3 comments for “ELECTION 2020: More Humane Cages?

  1. November 19, 2020 at 13:59

    This write selects facts that fit an agenda. An open border one.
    Here are some facts ignored.
    Biden has supported every amnesty proposed.
    Amnesties always create an incentive for more migrants to enter the United States illegally. The illegal population replenished itself in less than a decade after the 1986 amnesty and they came for a reason.
    Amnesties have a “multiplier” effect on the number of foreign nationals who ultimately remain in and enter the United States legally.
    The way that the current immigration laws are structured, immigrants are able to petition for their spouses and children to enter the United States, and once they become citizens, those erstwhile immigrants are able to petition for their parents and siblings, as well. Sixty one percent of the 33 million immigrants admitted to the United States between 1981 and 2016 (20 million in total) were “chain migration immigrants”.
    Nothing that the former vice president has said or issued on the campaign trail suggests that he has any intention of reforming that system and he actually says the opposite. There is no reason to believe that he would not make immediate relatives abroad of an alien issued amnesty eligible for entry, too.
    Biden’s campaign website states: “Each day, in every state in the country, millions of immigrants granted a visa based on family ties make valuable contributions to our country and economy.”
    He has promoted a significant amnesty for foreign nationals currently abroad and for almost all aliens in the United States.
    And on the possibility of gilded cages, Biden has vowed to eliminate executive actions taken by the current administration to limit the number of aliens who claim credible fear (as 105,439 migrants did in FY 2019). This, coupled with his promise to relax the current standards for asylum, will provide stronger incentives for foreign nationals to use any means available to enter the United States in the future while providing yet another selling point for their prospective smugglers.
    There is no reason to believe that Biden will expand the detention of those migrants, and therefore an untold number of foreign nationals would almost definitely enter the United States illegally and be released into this country.
    Once released past experience shows they will not leave. Biden has stated that he will only remove aliens who have committed felonies in the United States not including DUIs, and will fire any ICE officer who transgresses this mandate.
    That will mean that millions —if not tens of millions—of aliens will remain in and/or enter the United States illegally and they will stay. This writer,thinker needs to give some thought, given present pollution and ecological factors, plus others involving unsolvable congestion proboems, whether this is even marginally sustainable.

  2. Mrs. Debra L. Carr de Legorreta
    November 18, 2020 at 17:11

    The Biden team didn’t campaign in Florida solely to win the election; they campaigned in Florida to reassure the right-wing South Americans who make Florida their second home, that the Biden Administration stands behind them in their joint venture against the Latinx peoples. Obama going to Florida was more than electoral politics; it was part and parcel of the DNC’s commitment to the Neo-liberal Doctrine that is killing nations, peoples, and planet.

    How is that the “lesser evil”?

    Dear Noam Chomsky,
    We who are about to die, salute you.

    • paul easton
      November 19, 2020 at 14:10

      Dear Noam Chomsky
      There might be some logic in voting for the lesser evil in the end, but I don’t see the logic of promising to do so from the get go. Could you explain?

Comments are closed.