The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Detainees Protest the Conditions in Immigrant Prisons

Dec 7, 2015

A wave of hunger strikes has spread through immigrant detention centers in several states since October. It is part of a larger, on-going wave of protests, in which thousands of detainees have been trying to call attention to the inhumane conditions under which they are held captive.

These “detention centers,” where the federal government holds more than 30,000 people captive on any given day, are in effect prisons. The prisoners’ “crime” is being in this country without proper documents. They not only have committed no real crime; many of them are in fact fleeing crime and violence, especially those from Latin American countries. Many others are fleeing poverty.

About 500 women are detained at T. Don Hutto, an all-women’s detention center in Texas, the majority of them from Central American countries. They are trying to escape from poverty, domestic abuse and gang crime, many with their children. Twenty-seven women at Hutto launched a hunger strike on October 27. Seventeen Hutto detainees described the poor conditions and abuse in the facility in hand-written letters, which were publicized by advocacy groups. Many of the women have family members in the U.S. and demand to be reunited with them, but authorities deny their requests.

When federal authorities arrest and detain undocumented immigrants, they have the choice of either citing and releasing them, or deporting them back to their countries. Many Central American women and their young children have been sent back to their home countries – back to the poverty and abuse they were trying to flee. Most of the women held at Hutto and other detention facilities face the same fate.

But many immigrants the authorities deem able to work are often given a court date and released. Like the decision to deport, this too is a conscious decision by the authorities. Capitalists have always welcomed able-bodied immigrant workers, on whom they are able to impose lower wages and harsher working conditions – especially undocumented workers whose situation is always insecure. The threat of deportation is used by capitalism as a way to keep a “labor market” that can more easily be manipulated for higher profit.

Workers have nothing to gain from the anti-immigrant, “us-versus-them” talk the bosses and their politicians constantly bombard us with. It’s nothing but another way the working class gets divided – and, like every division, it weakens us as a class.