By Talha İşsevenler
“The logics of democratic states may therefore be more complex than is often assumed. First, they are confronted by contradictory interests groups with employers generally desirous of the cheap and docile workforce of immigrants, while general public shows signs of impatience or xenophobia towards aliens.” (p. 218, Didier Fassin, 2011)
"How does it happen that the state will do a host of things that the individual would never countenance? -Through division of responsibility, of command, and of execution." (p. 383, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power)
One could argue that immigration detention takes part of an overall process in which the possibility of locating the source of political decisions and hence responsibility has been long made disappeared within the diffused network of institutions and practices of governance. For instance, researchers observed "the outsourcing of detention to private actors or to subnational governmental entities as a form of delegating responsibility to reduce costs and avoid legal issues." (p. 151, Flynn and Flynn) Formal gaps between those who produce the rationality of policy, those who benefit from it, and those who are given the task of executing it, often in spontaneous and arbitrary ways, are not the only sources of disappearance of responsibility in the networks of power that reproduce the regime of deportation.
More deeply, we must show that there are multiple epistemologies through which undocumented immigrants are brought to the view of power –on economical, historical, bodily, cultural grounds. At times it is their personal body which is marked by power through the gaze of raiding ICE officer, at times they gain visibility and a chance of futurity solely through access to bureaucratic documents which mediates their life-chances through official channels and at times their physical body does not even exist as such within the view of power, it is the massive population as an object in-itself linked to other macro-variables that is constructed and targeted in the biopolitical calculations which ground practices of deportation. Thus, repressive and ideological instruments are neither organized coherently nor grounded in the same epistemology, effectively making it extremely difficult to pinpoint the sovereign center which can be held responsible for the process. There is not a smooth semantic transition between different domains where reality of deportability is produced. Immigration detention centers capture bodies within their permanently transitory temporalities, political economical rationality invests in the management of disposable workforce by abstract calculations and cultural representations performatively creating a popular truth of ‘criminal immigrant’ attempting to transgress national border while in realitymost of the undocumented immigrants sustain everyday lives within the borders.
The dissonance between different epistemologies and separation of moments of power into different institutions are not accidental but help secure first distribution and then finally evaporation of responsibility. The deportation regime is a complex process of depersonalization and massification of human lives which are then re-individualized where singular lives become casesthrough vast machinery of security complex that is expanded and solidified in the post 9-11 political climate.
“DHS Appropriation Act of 2010 first introduced a daily bed-capacity mandate of 33.400, additionally agency specified a target of 400.000 deportation a year.” Biopolitical decisions are made at the level of population by setting numbers of people to be deported per year effectively maintaining action-at-a-distance, yet "when problems arise those at the lowest end of hierarchy face the direst circumstances, including job insecurity, dismal pay, and punitive action." (p. 131, ibid) This discrepancy between institutions and practices and legal power which sanctifies them is what Michel Foucault showed in his life-long work on the genealogy of forms of power. While political economical rationality regarding the demands for disposable and exploitable and thus “highly efficient” work-force may motivate emergence of certain immigration policies such as sustaining a flow of precarious and vulnerable of immigrants, the actual techniques and institutions which are given the role of realizing these goals cannot be reduced to this initial aim. The sheer profitability of detention system alongside the usefulness of having a scapegoat at times of systemic legitimacy crisis exceed the logic of political economy of labor market but does not necessarily contradict it. Foucault showed this mutual proliferation and evolution of law and disciplinary apparatus in his genealogical studies on discipline, punishment, prison, security and territory. The techniques employed in the prison cannot be reduced to internal logic of law or prison cannot be seen simply as an extension of law; prison has another history.Foucault argues that the modern prison took up ‘discipline’ as a technique which has long evolved from the ancient monasteries as a way of controlling bodies by subjecting them to a spatio-temporal arrangement where the gaze and the command of the ruler are internalized by the now docile bodies. To put it succinctly, in the modern forms of power, the command is first transformed into a rule and then the rule is transformed into a distributed design so that violence is exercised on populations without any particular subject seeming to have sovereign control over the process. This gives power a more neutral and natural view.
If disciplinary spaces of enclosure helped nation-state carve out docile citizens out of undifferentiated masses and maximize their output and ensure their consent the same set of practices equipped with new technological tools can make sure control of migrant flow and manage ‘illegal’ economical milieus and resources which are completely integrated to the rest of the economy.
Moreover, if we look at the people who animate and reproduce the processes that make up deportability we see that they live under extreme and uneven conditions of competition and confrontation which feed xenophobia, racism, violence or cultivation of a culture of vindictiveness. Moreover, the designed de-linking and de-politicization of spaces and discourses of command, execution, punishment and work lead to an overall lack of reflexive capacity and a lack of ability of re-making of the subjective life-world for people who live under the condition of deportability. Consequently, all these structural elements betray supposed rationality of bureaucratic organization and capitalist fantasies of efficiency.
“Statistical tests of restrictive immigration practices in major migrant-receiving countries reveal that more deportation and detention does not result in less immigration. furthermore, some studies have shown that when destination countries implement "alternative to detention" such as reporting procedures or conditional release, most people comply with immigration procedures and do not abscond.” (p. 117, Flynn and Flynn)
Given the apparent contradiction the practices of detention/deportation regime have with their supposed aim, it is safe to argue that more than ending the unauthorized immigration this complex ensures the continuity of post-Fordist economy premised on flexible labor, exclusion and insecurity coupled with a process of welfare retraction and wage compression.
Resources used in this blog post
● Critiquing zones of exception: actor-oriented approaches explaining the rise of immigration detention; Matthew B. Flynn, Georgia Southern University, Micheal Flynn, Global Detention Project in Immigration Policy in the Age Punishment: Detention, Deportation, Border Controled. By David Brotherton, Philip Kretsedemas, Columbia University Press,
● Migrant “Illegality” and Deportability in Everyday Life; Nicholas P. De Genova, Annual Review of Anthropology, 2002, 31:419-47
● Policing Borders Producing Boundaries: The Governmentality of Immigration in Dark Times, 2011, Didier Fassin, Annual Review of Anthropology, 40:213-16
● The Sociology of Vindictiveness and the Deportable Alienby David C. Brotherton and Sarah Tosh in Immigration Policy in the Age Punishment: Detention, Deportation, Border Controled. By David Brotherton, Philip Kretsedemas, Columbia University Press, 2017
● The Will to Power,Friedrich Nietzsche, Vintage Books, 1968