In this episode we are joined by Jacinta Gonzales, a Senior Campaign Organizer with Mijente, to discuss her current activism against US hostile environments. After bringing to the forefront the racial processes underpinning Ellis Island, our panellists and guest discuss the intersection of technology and state infrastructure in targeting and detaining immigrants at the US border. 

In the first part of this series on the immigrant ‘race’, we learned about the racist foundations of the current UK border regime. This episode picks up this threat to draw parallels to the violence of the US immigration system, which has become increasingly visible throughout the Trump administration. Though the fight against illegal immigration has been going on for many years, with the Obama administration seeing record numbers of deportation, this trend is only getting worse as the government is implicating modern technology to expand surveillance. From the beginning of his campaign, Trump painted immigrants as scapegoats for broader political issues in the US. Since coming to power, the presidents’ administration created policies that explicitly use cruelty to make political points, activating a far-right and xenophobic base to protect his agenda. 

Jacinta takes us back to the legacy of Ellis Island, the United States’ busiest immigration station that saw approximately 12 million immigrants pass through its ports between 1892 and 1954. The euphoria associated with having ‘made it’ to the safe haven that was the US is a scene familiar to everyone, having been replicated in movies, books and photos. What is often forgotten, however, are simultaneously occurring atrocities of land theft, alienation of native populations and forced labour of black people. In recognising that the immigration process at Ellis island was heavily racialised, we can begin to draw parallels to todays’ immigration processes. For instance, narratives of the ‘right’ immigrant are seeping into administrative decisions over people’s worth and a value to the US. The episode highlights how contemporary practices of policing and control are based around race and class rather than public safety. 

Jacinta highlights the importance of building power both inside and outside of the state. The NGO Migente brings together networks of campaigners to create a political home that fights on all these fronts. The term ‘political home’ signifies the dedication to certain principles – Migente is pro black, pro women, pro planet, pro workers – “because our communities are all those things and more”. 

‘Sometimes we have to fight and create alternatives outside of the state, and that is where we are able to use the beauty and intelligence and the brilliance of our communities to create options that our community needs. Sometimes those are co-ops, sometimes those are collectives, sometimes those are community gardens. We have so much to offer that we can build for and between each other.’

Jacinta Gonzales

Part of Jacinta’s activism is the campaign #NoTechforICE. It fights against the technology companies contributing to the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) deportation machinery, fuelled by modern data provision and storage technologies. Coupled with an increasing amount of financial resources made available to strengthen the U.S. police force, the power available to ICE directly results in violence against immigrants. The episode touches on the power configurations between the government and private companies, and highlights the shocking ways in which these transcend data privacy laws. Jacinta highlights the next steps that need to be taken to expose and dismantle the actions of ICE, which are resulting in arrests, separation of families and trauma of thousands of people. 

“We face the hard task to work on both understanding and dismantling hundreds of years of oppressive systems that have been used against our communities while at the same time have the vision of understanding where these governments and companies are trying to go with new systems of control” 

Jacinta Gonzales

Links for further information:

  • The work of Mijente – 
  • #NotechforICE – 
  • An example of how facial recognition is used by ICE –
  • Student protests against Palantir, a private tech company –