Around the country, as the demand to abolish ICE spreads, occupations of its offices are springing up. In many of the cities where such occupations exist, they have heightened contradictions between the proclamations of “sanctuary” by elected officials wanting to look progressive, and those officials’ actual policies of repressing protest. George Ciccariello-Maher, an activist and academic, has taken part in the Occupy ICE encampment in Philadelphia and joins me to discuss the evolution of the tactic and demand, the relationship of movements to self-proclaimed progressive mayors, and more.
I think we are used to abolitionist language seeming really extreme or long-term or pie in the sky, and yet, we have seen this claim take root and spread. Partly because of the real brutality of what ICE is doing and the transparency of what is going on.
It is also really important to remember that one of the first things I think we should do as analysts, but also as movement organizers is to historicize, to think about the fact that ICE is not that old. ICE is a new institution. ICE has not been around very long. Abolishing it really should not be that difficult. That points both towards the potential and the possibility of this claim to actually come about. I think that is why you see many Democrats, or some Democrats at least, talking about the abolition of ICE, but it also points toward the dangers because we are in a strange situation where you are talking about abolishing something, but it is really just an intermediate demand because the last thing we want is to see ICE simply replaced by INS, by Border Patrol doing the same exact work or going back to an old status quo which is not good enough for us.
We need to be very careful to tether the demand to abolish ICE to the demand to not replace it. This is actually what a lot of Democrats have been insisting on, “We will find a better replacement.” No. We don’t want any replacement for this. We want to roll back the powers that have been granted even to Border Patrol in recent decades and the dramatic expansion of that agency and the dramatic expansion of its budget and expansion of its ground force on the border. We want a radical transformation, ultimately, that points toward border abolition by the end.
Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast.
Sarah Jaffe is an independent journalist covering labor, economic justice, social movements, politics, gender, and pop culture. She is a Nation Institute fellow, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, and runs the podcast series Interviews for Resistance. Find her on Twitter at @sarahljaffe.