Round Table on #AbolishICE: Blockade, Commune, Defend

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In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we sat down with participants of the Abolish ICE movement from across the US, including people in Tacoma, WA, Portland, OR, Chicago, IL, and San Francisco, CA. While each of the experiences of those involved in #AbolishICE were different, they show the complexity of a period of struggle that became one of the most important political eruptions during the Trump period.

Throughout our discussion we touch on:

  • Internal dynamics within the blockades and the encampments themselves.
  • Dealing with both police repression and attacks from the far-Right.
  • Building and navigating relationships with established groups on the ground, non-profits, and family members coming to ICE facilities to see their loved ones.
  • Creating organizing strategies when an encampment was not possible.
  • The overall impact of the encampments and blockades as well as assessing how these tactics could be applied in the future.

The #AbolishICE movement was important because it sought to bring together both the communal experimentation of Occupy with the logic of the blockades that have erupted during Black Lives Matter movement and against pipeline projects. Beyond changing the political conversation and landscape, the encampments managed to shut down some facilities, halt the processing of migrant people, and in many instances, delayed or stopped physical deportations.

The #AbolishICE movement showed what a material force of people backed up and supported by a wider network of communal mutual aid and autonomy could accomplish, but a larger question remains: why haven’t these actions continued?

Just today, it was announced that yet another person has died under border patrol custody, the fourth person to die in the past several months while being processed by immigration officials, while 22 people have died in the last two years. Each week seems to bring a new devastating report of rampant sexual abuse and clandestine child detention facilities. The Supreme Court this week also ruled that the State can now hold migrants in detention indefinitely with criminal records. And, despite the fact that border crossings are at a record low, the amount of people being incarcerated in detention centers is at an all time high; upwards of 50,000, over 10,000 the amount that even Congress has authorized, and with ICE of course pushing for more. Behind this, is a booming industry of private prisons, border patrol and guards unions, and construction contractors all looking to make money in this growth industry.

In short, despite the gains made by #AbolishICE, the deportation system largely adapted to the new environment. It increased the size of and moved child detention facilities even farther away from the eyes of the public or hid them completely, ensuring that abuse and corruption would only be further solidified and protected. It fought to gain new legal powers over migrants bodies, such as indefinite detention. It sought to repress those that fought back, such s deporting #AbolishICE participant and anarchist Mapache in Texas and attempting to throw the book at No More Deaths volunteers in Arizona.

To the passive observer, these actions will appear to be illogical or “overkill” to a “problem” that appears dwindling in size. However, when we view this increasing repression and building of infrastructure in the context of a project of ethnic cleansing, we see that the goal of all of these is two fold: to purge the US of what Tucker Carlson calls, “dirty” immigrants, but also to make a lot of money while doing so. When this projects is also understood in the context of the amount of influence on the Trump administration that white nationalist think tanks like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), it makes even more sense. We should also keep in mind that massive sweeps and waves of deportations against Laintx immigrants, to the tune of millions of people, including even those considered “American citizens,” has happened in the past, such as when Mexican immigrants were blamed for the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The need for a direct action based movement against the growing deportation machine is now greater than ever. Hopefully the struggles to come can learn from #AbolishICE and go beyond the limits of previous struggles; thousands of lives depend on it.


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