Posts tagged Soviet Union

Solzhenitsyn Saturday

It’s a shame about his later work, but The Gulag Archipelago, at least, is a work of passion, insight, and genius. And a work that has a lot to say to us here in the Free World today—perhaps more than we would like to admit.

Why, then, should you run away? And how can you resist right then? After all, you’ll only make your situation worse; you’ll make it more difficult for them to sort out the mistake. And it isn’t just that you don’t put up any resistance; you even walk down the stairs on tiptoe, as you are ordered to do, so your neighbors won’t hear.

And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood that they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you’d be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur — what if it had been driven off or its tires spiked? The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!

If… If… We didn’t love freedom enough.

(Via The Picket Line 2008-08-06.)

I can’t make out what you’re trying to say on account of the corpse in your mouth.

There’s an Australian state socialist magazine called Links, which, for reasons that remain completely opaque to me, seems to believe that the old Movement of the Libertarian Left listserv wants and needs to be buried under reams of its promotional materials. Here’s a choice passage from an interview they ran, which they recently promoted on the list:

Peter Boyle: You’re criticising Labor for not seriously tackling global warming but what do socialists say should be done to address the crisis?

Dave Holmes: What is needed to cope with the crisis is a sharp change of direction. We need an emergency mobilisation of society, a five- or 10-year plan to achieve a drastic reorientation of our economy and use of energy. Anything else is simply not serious.

— Links (2008-04-03): A revolutionary response to the climate change crisis

Everything old is new again.

My own views about global warming, as a phenomenon, are perhaps shockingly ordinary. From what I’ve read I see no reason to doubt that it’s real, and caused largely by human activity, and an increasingly serious concern for many people all over the world. I think that each of us individually, and together with our neighbors, ought to be giving serious thought to the problem, and especially to how hypercentralized, state-supported and state-insulated corporate capitalism (especially the state-regimented, state-subsidized, and state-cartelized fossil fuel industry) structures the problem, and what we can each of us do about both the situation as it affects us, and also about the root causes that drive it.

But when you have a problem created, in large part, by a system of massive government regimentation, privilege, and technocratic planning, in an industry whose exploration and extraction are founded in colonialism and government land-grabs, whose distribution is heavily regulated, concentrated, and promoted by government, and whose protection flows from the barrel of Coalition tanks, I am not entirely convinced that this is a good reason to call for more government regimentation, privilege, and technocratic planning, or for concluding that We need less of [the so-called free market], not more.

I am convinced that people who talk about revolution without understanding the possibility of free action outside the realm of state coercion, who never see any way to approach a pressing social problem except emergency mobilization through lock-step central plans fraudulently passed off as a big society-wide discussion, but in fact handed down in the form of government marching orders—such people are talking with a corpse in their mouths.

Further reading:

Politics by other means

This appeared in the March 2008 issue of Wired:

On the morning of October 27, 1969, a squadron of 18 B-52s — massive bombers with eight turbo engines and 185-foot wingspans — began racing from the western US toward the eastern border of the Soviet Union. The pilots flew for 18 hours without rest, hurtling toward their targets at more than 500 miles per hour. Each plane was loaded with nuclear weapons hundreds of times more powerful than the ones that had obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The B-52s, known as Stratofortresses, slowed only once, along the coast of Canada near the polar ice cap. Here, KC-135 planes — essentially 707s filled with jet fuel — carefully approached the bombers. They inched into place for a delicate in-flight connection, transferring thousands of gallons from aircraft to aircraft through a long, thin tube. One unfortunate shift in the wind, or twitch of the controls, and a plane filled with up to 150 tons of fuel could crash into a plane filled with nuclear ordnance.

The aircraft were pointed toward Moscow, but the real goal was to change the war in Vietnam. … Frustrated, Nixon decided to try something new: threaten the Soviet Union with a massive nuclear strike and make its leaders think he was crazy enough to go through with it. His hope was that the Soviets would be so frightened of events spinning out of control that they would strong-arm Hanoi, telling the North Vietnamese to start making concessions at the negotiating table or risk losing Soviet military support.

Codenamed Giant Lance, Nixon’s plan was the culmination of a strategy of premeditated madness he had developed with national security adviser Henry Kissinger. The details of this episode remained secret for 35 years and have never been fully told. Now, thanks to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it’s clear that Giant Lance was the leading example of what historians came to call the madman theory: Nixon’s notion that faked, finger-on-the-button rage could bring the Soviets to heel.

… Kissinger had suggested the nuclear maneuvers to give the president more leverage in negotiations. It was an articulation of the game theory he had studied before coming to power. What were [the Soviets] going to do? Kissinger said dismissively.

— Jeremi Suri, Wired 16.03 (March 2008): The Nukes of October

This is how the State and its exquisitely trained court intellectuals protect you: they steal your money; they use your stolen money to hire armed men who will keep you corralled inside an artificial border; on the basis of their arrogated power over everything inside border, they then throw themselves into ridiculous posturing and pissing contests with other States, over whose artificial borders should go where, over geopolitical prestige and influence, and over politicians’ dreams of a historical legacy; and then, in the name of their own pride, they commission their trained theoretical experts to devise a thermonuclear game of chicken to play for leverage in the Great Game. It was, after all, only the lives of a few hundreds of millions of ordinary people that were hanging in the balance; not like it was anything important compared to the personal honor of Richard Milhous Nixon, or a negotiated settlement that wouldn’t embarrass the United States federal government in front of all the other governments.

… On the most obvious level, the mission failed. It may have scared the Soviets, but it did not compel them to end their support for Hanoi, and the North Vietnamese certainly didn’t dash to Paris to beg for peace. … More than 35 years after Giant Lance, I asked Kissinger about it during a long lunch at the Four Seasons Grill in New York. Why, I asked, did they risk nuclear war back in October 1969? He paused over his salad, surprised that I knew so much about this episode, and measured his words carefully. Something had to be done, he explained, to back up threats the US had made and to push the Soviets for help in Vietnam.

No, it didn’t.

Over My Shoulder #41: Paul Buhle on establishmentarian unionism, the decline of labor organizing, and the rise of Labor PAC. From Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor.

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. These are a couple of passages from the final chapters of Paul Buhle’s book, Taking Care of Business: Sam Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor. They have a lot to say on the logical end-point of establishmentarian unionism and how, within the tripartite planning system of Big Government, Big Business, and Big Labor—particularly after the corporate merger and consolidation known as the AFL-CIO—the top union bosses tacked further and further away from industrial organization towards political organization — in effect, ceasing to be workers’ unions, and instead operating as an enormously wealthy but crumbling and increasingly irrelevant sort of Labor PAC.

The departure of Reuther and the UAW from the AFL-CIO in 1964 not only meant no charismatic personality was left combat meaning but also no block of aggressive unionists to offer significant, concerted resistance to rightward-drifting union leadership and social policies. The executive committee functioned as a glorified rubberstamping agency rather than a representative body. Seen in retrospect, centralization of power was the inner logic of the subsequent institutional consolidation. Neither William Green nor Walter Reuther nor even Samuel Gompers, an expert autocratic manipulator in his day, wielded as much personal control is to Meany and his entourage. One traditional labor historian, admiring the advance of the bureaucracy, put it most politely: labor evidently no longer had any great need for services beyond negotiation and enforcement of existing contracts. Everything else could more safely and efficiently be handled better from above. In December 1977 at the last national convention where Meany played an active role, the only names offered in nomination for president and secretary were Meany and Lane Kirkland. Neither was resistance offered to any of the nominees for the thirty-three vice presidencies. A lone dissident of sorts who did manage to get onto the council, the socialistic machinists’ president, William Winpisinger, was widely regarded as window-dressing for the steady rightward drift. Carefully directing his political views toward the public sphere, Winpisinger restrained his personal criticisms of Meany, much as some socialist craft unionists of the 1910s insisted that Gompers was a symptom and not the cause of labor conservatism, better endured than combated. Meany responded by savaging Winpisinger’s favorite views without mentioning Winpisinger himself.

By the 1970s, Meany grew more candid—or perhaps merely more arrogant. He held his ground proudly against his internal enemies and gleefully watched the mass social movements of the 1960s fade away. Admittedly, he also saw power within the Democratic Party slipped further from his potential grasp and the AFL-CIO fall precipitously by any measurement of size and influence. Asked in 1972 why AFL-CIO membership was thinking as a percentage of the workforce, he responded, I don’t know, I don’t care. When a reporter pressed the issue, Would you prefer to have a larger proportion? Meany snapped, not necessarily. We’ve done quite well without it. Why should we worry about organizing groups of people who do not appear to want to be organized? If they prefer to have others speak for them and make the decisions which affect their lives… that is their right. Asked whether he expected labor’s influence to be reduced, he responded, I used to worry about the… size of the membership…. I stopped worrying because to me it doesn’t make any difference… The organized fellow is the fellow that counts. This is just human nature. Unorganized and lower-paid workers were less-than-irrelevant to Meany; they were unwanted.

Never particularly supportive of strikes except those protecting jurisdictions, Meany became steadily more hostile to walkouts as time went on. (He made one key exception urging political strikes by merit time workers against, of all things, we being loaded onto Russian ships.) In 1970, he observed, where you have a well-established industry and a well-established union, you are getting more and more to the point where strike doesn’t make sense. Rather than strikes and organizing, Meany put his eggs into the basket of electoral campaigns, legislative activity, and involvement in a panoply of government-management-labor commissions and agencies in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. In some circles these activities actually reinforce the myth of the powerful Meany, labor statesmen and public figure. They did demonstrably little for labor. And no amount of them could quite dispel the image of the narrow-minded unabashedly feminist-baiting and gay-baiting labor boss eating at four-star restaurants and puffing a high-priced class of cigars once restricted to capitalists and mobsters.

The AFL-CIO politicked actively for Jimmy Carter in 1976, after its leaders have expressed their real preference for Scoop Jackson. Ironically, the Georgia Democrat’s narrow margin of victory actually made the support of labor, the African-American community, and feminists, among others, the crucial margin between defeat in victory. Once more, given a different approach, it might have been a moment for the labor movement to flex very real muscles and work for legislative assistance and breaking down barriers to organizing the unorganized, just as the women’s movement reached in early apex and as assorted movements among people of color looked to advances within the mainstream. For that kind of enterprise, however, Meany had no stomach whatever.

Once in office, Carter offered symbols instead of substance: a modest assortment of anti-poverty pilot programs amid a generalized retreat from the Great Society promises. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall would be remembered not for his speeches saluting labor but because he was the last labor secretary who apparently believed the unions were necessary for working people. As so often, labor had rewarded its friends, gaining little in return. Meany soon let it be known that he was giving Carter a C- as president. Did he wish to see anyone else in the race for 1980? Yes, he shot back, Harry Truman. I wish he were here. To be fair, the old strike-breaking Give ‘Em Hell Harry could not likely have accelerated the growth of American weaponry any faster than Carter did after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. He might have bombed Iran into oblivion, and he surely would have sounded tougher. That kind of rhetoric, joined perhaps with robust new liberal-led red-scare against peaceniks, feminists, and radicals at large, would surely have had more appeal to the frustrated, aging bully that Meany had become.

The AFL-CIO issued dire warnings before and after the crucial 1980 election. Union activists worked although with less enthusiasm than anxiety for Carter’s re-election. The aftermath of Reagan’s triumph (by a relatively small margin, it should be remembered, and due to the Iran crisis and the economy rather than any great public fondness for the former California Governor) quickly justified the forebodings. As the new president broke the air controllers’ strike and sent a message to the labor movement both Reagan’s rhetoric and policies proved brutal. The Republican administrations appointees to the National Labor Relations Board notoriously slanted against unions, moved quickly to remove restraints upon opposition to unionization and to all but encourage fresh efforts at decertification. Especially for people of color, disproportionately poor and barely-working class, the prospect of factory shutdowns and worsening health care with few resources was aggravated by their being depicted as the ungrateful recipients of various undue privileges and taxpayer largesse. Union membership fell for an assortment of other reasons as well, but heightened employer resistance stood near the head of the pack. And yet, if labor leaders distrusted or even despise Reagan’s allies, many experienced an unanticipated degree of self realization and hating Reagan’s enemies, those feminists, peaceniks, and assorted left-liberals to assistant to become radio host Rush Limbaugh’s favorite targets.

Besides, labor did have an elusive, thoroughly institutional fallback on the national political stage. In 1981, in the wake of Reagan’s victory, a hard-pressed Democratic National Committee granted the AFL-CIO 25 at-large seats and four out of 35 seats on its executive body. Within a diminished party suffering an early bout of Reaganism (and whose congressional delegation would indeed vote for so many of Reagan’s programs), the AFL-CIO became in return the largest single Democratic financial donor, supplying the DNC with more than a third of its annual budget. The defeat of a modest labor reform bill in Congress in 1978 showed that the conservative counteroffensive had begun in earnest with simultaneous Democratic president and Congress for the last time in at least a generation. Wall Street analysts warned that a new era of militant labor leadership might emerge a political defeat.

Instead, defeat bred timidity and an eagerness to shift foreign of rightward to recuperate the Reagan Democrats. As along with an increasingly unrealistic hope for a major change of labor laws, the specter of protectionism—which labor’s top leaders did not themselves particularly desire—offer the only popular fight-back issue imaginable. In the absence of a real internationalist program of protecting working people across borders, the new protectionism mainly added us mean-spiritedness to organized labor’s perennial self-concern. The downward spiral of labor’s claim to special protection within the liberal coalition thereby lead further and further to its isolation.

— Paul Buhle (1999), Taking Care of Business: Sam Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor, pp. 195–198, 219–220.

Someone must have slandered Thomas W….

(Story via Freedom Democrats 2008-01-25.)

The primary reason that you should oppose government immigration laws is that the system of international apartheid is based on morally despicable premises, and necessarily involves massive State violence against peaceful people. Immigration laws involve the State in discrimination against, and violation of the basic human rights of, peaceful immigrants. But that’s not all that they do. And if you understand the stupidity and the evil of immigration laws, but don’t yet feel that you personally have a reason to stick your own neck out to actively oppose them, maybe this will help change your mind.

FLORENCE, Ariz. — Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he’s never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack’s claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.

In Warziniack’s case, ICE officials appear to have been oblivious to signs that they’d made a serious mistake.

After he was arrested in Colorado on a minor drug charge, Warziniack told probation officials there wild stories about being shot seven times, stabbed twice and bombed four times as a Russian army colonel in Afghanistan, according to court records. He also insisted that he swam ashore to America from a Soviet submarine.

Court officials were skeptical. Not only did his story seem preposterous, but the longtime heroin addict also had a Southern accent and didn’t speak Russian.

Colorado court officials quickly determined his true identity in a national crime database: He was a Minnesota-born man who grew up in Georgia. Before Warziniack was sentenced to prison on the drug charge, his probation officer surmised in a report that he could be mentally ill.

Although it took only minutes for McClatchy to confirm with Minnesota officials that a birth certificate under Warziniack’s name and birth date was on file, Colorado prison officials notified federal authorities that Warziniack was a foreign-born prisoner.

McClatchy also was able to track down Warziniack’s three half-sisters. Even though they hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years, his sisters were willing to vouch for him.

One of them, Missy Dolle, called the detention center repeatedly, until officials there stopped returning her calls. Her brother’s attorney told her that a detainee in Warziniack’s situation often has to wait weeks for results, even if he or she gets a copy of a U.S. birth certificate.

Warziniack, meanwhile, waited impatiently for an opportunity to prove his case. After he contacted the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, a group that provides legal advice to immigrants, a local attorney recently agreed to represent him for free.

Dolle and her husband, Keith, a retired sheriff’s deputy in Mecklenburg County, N.C., flew to Arizona from their Charlotte home to attend her brother’s hearing before an immigration judge.

Before she left, she e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. After someone from his office contacted ICE, immigration officials promised to release Warziniack if they got a birth certificate.

After scrambling to get a power of attorney to obtain their brother’s birth certificate, the sisters succeeded in getting a copy the day before the hearing.

On Thursday, however, government lawyers told an immigration judge during a deportation hearing that they needed a week to verify the authenticity of Warziniack’s birth record. The judge delayed his ruling.

I still can’t believe this is happening in America, Dolle said.

Warziniack began to weep when he saw his sister. They still don’t believe me, he said.

Later that day, however, ICE officials changed their minds and said that he could be released this week.

— Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Washington Bureau (2008-01-24): Immigration officials detaining, deporting American citizens

In the real world, outside of statist power trip la-la land, if you grabbed somebody off the street and locked him up in a hellhole jail cell against his will all through a complete mistake, and you kept him there and stole weeks of his life away from him, all the while failing to notice your fuck-up because of your arrogance and negligence, you would pay for what you did. You’d pay for it on a civil level in the form of restitution to your victim, and you’d pay for it on a criminal level with charges of kidnapping. Morally, the immigration cops who did this should be in jail. But, wait—once you strap on a badge and a gun, suddenly some sanctimonious buck-passing and excuse-making, with an Oops, our bad tacked on along the way, is close enough for government work:

On Thursday, Warziniack finally became a free man. Immigration officials released him after his family, who learned about his predicament from McClatchy, produced a birth certificate and after a U.S. senator demanded his release.

The immigration agents told me they never make mistakes, Warziniack said in an earlier phone interview from jail. All I know is that somebody dropped the ball.

Officials with ICE, the federal agency that oversees deportations, maintain that such cases are isolated because agents are required to obtain sufficient evidence that someone is an illegal immigrant before making an arrest. However, they don’t track the number of U.S. citizens who are detained or deported.

We don’t want to detain or deport U.S. citizens, said Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman. It’s just not something we do.

… ICE’s Fobbs said agents move as quickly as possible to check stories of people who claim they’re American citizens. But she said that many of the cases involve complex legal arguments, such as whether U.S. citizenship is derived from parents, which an immigration judge has to sort out.

We have to be careful we don’t release the wrong person, she said.

— Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Washington Bureau (2008-01-24): Immigration officials detaining, deporting American citizens

Of course, if you really give a damn about avoiding mistakes, you might actually take some steps towards investigating, presuming innocence, and following some kind of basic due process before you throw living people down a legal memory hole. But that would require actually granting suspected illegal immigrants the as good or better legal privileges and immunities as are offered to suspects in a normal court proceeding, rather than presumptively throwing them into a detention center and then running them through a parallel, unaccountable administrative process for today’s federal Fugitive Alien Law. And what La Migra gives a damn about is proving to bellowing Know-Nothing busybodies that they are doing something to crack down on illegal immigration—the lives, liberties, and livelihoods of bystanders be damned.

An unpublished study by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York nonprofit organization, in 2006 identified 125 people in immigration detention centers across the nation who immigration lawyers believed had valid U.S. citizenship claims.

Vera initially focused on six facilities where most of the cases surfaced. The organization later broadened its analysis to 12 sites and plans to track the outcome of all cases involving citizens.

Nina Siulc, the lead researcher, said she thinks that many more American citizens probably are being erroneously detained or deported every year because her assessment looked at only a small number of those in custody. Each year, about 280,000 people are held on immigration violations at 15 federal detention centers and more than 400 state and local contract facilities nationwide.

Unlike suspects charged in criminal courts, detainees accused of immigration violations don’t have a right to an attorney, and three-quarters of them represent themselves. Less affluent or resourceful U.S. citizens who are detained must try to maneuver on their own through a complicated system.

It becomes your word against the government’s, even when you know and insist that you’re a U.S. citizen, Siulc said. Your word doesn’t always count, and the government doesn’t always investigate fully.

While immigration advocates agree that the agents generally release detainees before deportation in clear-cut cases, they said that ICE sometimes ignores valid assertions of citizenship in the rush to ship out more illegal immigrants.

Proving citizenship is especially difficult for the poor, mentally ill, disabled or anyone who has trouble getting a copy of his or her birth certificate while behind bars.

Pedro Guzman, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen who was born in Los Angeles, was serving a 120-day sentence for trespassing last year when he was shipped off to Mexico. Guzman was found three months later trying to return home. Although federal government attorneys have acknowledged that Guzman was a citizen, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Thursday that her agency still questions the validity of his birth certificate.

Last March, ICE agents in San Francisco detained Kebin Reyes, a 6-year-old boy who was born in the U.S., for 10 hours after his father was picked up in a sweep. His father says he wasn’t permitted to call relatives who could care for his son, although ICE denies turning down the request.

The number of U.S. citizens who are swept up in the immigration system is a small fraction of the number of illegal immigrants who are deported, but in the last several years immigration lawyers report seeing more detainees who turn out to be U.S. citizens.

The attorneys said the chances of mistakes are growing as immigration agents step up sweeps in the country and state and local prisons with less experience in immigration matters screen more criminals on behalf of ICE.

[ICE officials] said they were able to confirm [Warziniack’s] birth certificate, but they didn’t acknowledge any problem with the handling of the case.

The officials blamed conflicting information for the mix-up.

The burden of proof is on the individual to show they’re legally entitled to be in the United States, said ICE spokeswoman Kice.

I want to stress that the point here is not that this kind of treatment is wrong because the people being treated this way aren’t really illegal immigrants. I’m not saying that we need procedural protections for suspects because it’s better for a hundred guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be punished. That’s not my point because morally, illegal immigrants aren’t guilty of a damned thing. U.S. citizens aren’t entitled to special treatment just because they are Estadounidenses; they’re entitled to be treated better than this because they are people. If there is no excuse for making U.S. citizens disappearing into legal limbo in a system of prisons and administrative law where they have no real civil liberties and no recourse to due process protections, and no excuse for trashing their lives and livelihoods by locking them up and exiling them from their homes, on the unspeakably arrogant presumption that it’s the citizen who has to prove to the government’s satisfaction that she has a right to live peacefully in her own home, then there’s no excause because there’s no excuse for treating anyone that way, no matter what their nationality and whether or not they have a permission slip to exist from the federal government. The thing itself is the abuse.

But the point that I do want to make is that if you’re a U.S. citizen, and you’re not convinced of the central importance of immigration law—if you believe that you can reliably secure your own freedom without paying attention to the way that governments treat undocumented immigrants—then you need to think a lot harder about what a system of immigration control necessarily entails. International apartheid requires mechanisms for detecting, and then either interdicting or rounding up, unauthorized immigrants. But to discover and then interfere with their presence in the country, it necessarily entails a system of paramilitary border control, and it also necessarily entails immigration dossiers, passbooks, and government surveillance. But these systems have to be inflicted both on citizens and on immigrants for them to make any sense at all; by definition, the government can’t discover immigrants who bypass the official documentation system by getting documentation of their undocumented status, so instead the border control State has to force everyone else to carry papers, to submit to La Migra’s surveillance, and to take on the burden of giving affirmative proof of our status whenever some prick with a clipboard demands it. There’s no way to block off opportunities for undocumented immigrants to move or to get jobs except by limiting everyone’s freedom of motion or employment to government-controlled chokepoints where papers can be demanded and inspected. And there’s no way to make undocumented immigrants disappear into legal limbo without also, at the same time, creating an ominous threat to any citizen who might come under La Migra’s suspicion or might have trouble producing her own papers on demand. There is no way for international apartheid to be enforced on immigrants without massive invasions on the privacy and liberties of non-immigrants, because the basic concept — the concept of a government with the power and prerogative to systematically screen who is and who is not allowed to exist within its territory — requires everybody, whether their presence is authorized or unauthorized by the government, to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so.

What immigration law does to illegal immigrants is despicable. There is no excuse and it should be abolished immediately. But if you, reader, recognize this, but still don’t see how it personally concerns you, then you should look harder at the effects that immigration law necessarily inflicts on the rest of us in everyday life. Immigrant and citizen, documented and undocumented, the fact is that we are all in this together, and if we let the State spy and stomp on any of us, the system for implementing the policy is necessarily going to spy and stomp on all of us in the end.