Since the early 1980’s, a lot has changed globally as a relatively ubiquitous trend of trade-liberalization reoriented nation-states’ economies towards very specific functions on global networks for production and consumption. An easy extrapolation from this trend would be to say that nation-states matter less in this all-encompassing economic structure; in fact, for an extremely small elite class, that’s true. 50% of all the world’s university students, for example, get their education here in the United States, where they exchange ideas and cultural norms that facilitate global trade in goods and, more lucratively, finance instruments.
But for the rest—the most—of everybody, national borders have greater implications than ever before. How else could workers be forced into cooperation with a trade regime wherein their time was greatly devalued and self-sufficiency undermined, where local food and goods are increasingly replaced by imported ones at prohibitive prices?
One expression of this trend is the proliferation of (mostly privately owned) immigration detention centers in the United States. This phenomenon has emerged since the beginning of the “neoliberal” era in the early 1980’s, detaining around 50 humans on any given day in 1981 up to around 30,000 per day in 2011. That’s not to say that deportation of those without US documents didn’t happen before, sure it did. The element of detention is in many ways, however, a relatively recent development..
Tacoma Center sixteen hundred suffer sleepless nights
no phone calls home to families, no reading, no Miranda rights
a second tier of prison, as if the first was not enough
it seems a citizen’s great promise is
a place to stretch when they lock you up
But either way, they are commodifying someone,
as if said someone ever could just fade away:
the dreary endless days don’t pass like numbers on a page,
they sit in silence ‘til they rail against the irons of their cage
In such a casual addition to supplies, to chains, to flows
tucked between logistics systems, a lock factory, a railroad
as billboards picture families, reunited in their homes
buses carry “unnamed” inmates
to unnamed jails, on unnamed roads
It is a euphemistic package for apartheid
a billion dollars earned in someone else’s blood
a xenophobic answer to a manufactured question
how to monetize the labors lost from deportation trolls
Hundred and twenty five dollars a head
hundred and twenty five dollars a bed
and one weekend we gathered outside of the gates
and we read off the name of the dead
I must say it’s a strange sense of sedition
just to show the hopes we’d hold
contract the contradict contrition
of soulless states, of stateless souls
Oh eugenic organs, how you beat, constrict and breathe
oh you magic markets do detain, defeat, deceive
and on the edge of this gross city, your mixed metaphors conceive
remuneration, replication, yes, interminably.