This is the second text printed on the fliers that PCWC members distributed on the May Day/May 2nd immigrant solidarity march in Phoenix. This piece was by our good friend and comrade Sallydarity, "Release them all! Stop jailing migrants!" is yet another valuable contribution of hers to the understanding of the situation facing immigrants in Maricopa County.
We've heard the stories: Undocumented immigrants are getting kidnapped and held for ransom, and perhaps found in drop houses if the police get a tip. The migrants are vulnerable targets because they have been criminalized by the state. Something we don't hear too much about is that the biggest armed gang in the country is kidnapping migrants and holding them against their will. They're not holding them in drop houses; these uniformed kidnappers are handcuffing the migrants and incarcerating them in jails and detention centers.
If we feel that it is tragic when traffickers do it, why do we let the police get away with it? Whether they are "rescued" from traffickers, stopped while driving in one of Arpaio's sweeps, or confronted with the ridiculous charge of conspiracy to smuggle themselves, migrants get caught up in the US prison system for no other reason but crossing a man-made line in the sand.
Arpaio, taking pleasure in humiliating brown-skinned people and getting cheers from racists, stands out as the villain of Maricopa County. But the other police departments are acting in similar, more quiet ways. While migrants and activists wait to hear what the federal government will do to save us from Sheriff Joe, the Department of Homeland Security is holding hundreds of thousands of people- triple the number of people in detention just ten years ago- in detention centers. If they end 287g they will only replace it with something more tasteful; something called "Secure Communities" which will target our "criminal alien" population. Meanwhile our legislature is coming up with new ways to criminalize migrants.
Migrants have been criminalized for who they are and where they are from- not for doing harm. If anything is harmful, it's punishing people for trying to survive the results of colonialism, capitalism, and globalization (which most US citizens enjoy the benefits of). When it is nearly impossible to make a living and nearly impossible to migrate legally, anyone would travel to where they have more opportunities. Why then would advocates for immigrants' rights legitimize the arrests of undocumented immigrants by complaining only about the "legal" people who get caught up in the racial profiling sweeps? We mustn't buy into the efforts to divide us! We need to bring down the walls between us, as well as the physical walls- the border walls, the jail walls, and the walls of the detention centers.
It should be a crime to imprison people for trying to survive!