Resounding Releases and Silent Imprisonments




 Last week news that someone found shocking originated from a source that usually is thought as having not much to do with immigration. The discussion on “sequestration”, an economic issue that consists in imposing cuts to the federal expenses, implied the mass release of hundreds of immigrants.


The public eye, together with some Republican politicians, considered this choice a serious menace to citizens’ security and an unjust procedure that closely resembles an amnesty. Now, we know from the debate started months ago that “amnesty” is considered a sort of derogatory label, useful to pull down the adversary’s proposals as “too gentle”.


When we read these alarms-like reports, though, we can easily notice how superficially the information is provided. Immigrants released: so why were they in? One story reported by the New York Times is characterized by domestic violence connected to a quarrel with the convict’s wife. But some other voices can raise more awareness of the reasons of these imprisonments: for example, the witness of Miguel Rodriguez, a nineteen years old who simply failed to use his turn-signal. He was also an “illegal”, of course.


By the way, how many people who read with preoccupation these stories of “criminals” let free to wander around know that these social identities and disquieting nicknames are related more to changes in the country laws than to these people’s actual misdeeds?


The sharp divide between felony and infringement of civil rules has switched in the last decade. Unfortunately, as I noticed hastily in my previous post, it is not only an American problem. Beginning in 1998, also in Italy we are detaining people whose only or most relevant fault is that of being undocumented. Other countries of Southern Europe are reacting in the same way to what they perceives as a threat to national sovereignty.  


Except from the injustice that is to be seen in such a treatment, what affects me most is the short circuit, the blind confusion that these practices engender in the public debate. Statistics easily report that immigrants are, in an overwhelmingly majority, also criminal and that they are detained in numbers incomparable to native citizens. What statistics usually do not report is the sad story of how these persons were transformed in criminal, creating laws capable of circumscribing exactly their social group with the stigma of illegality. That’s how it became possible to detain a teenager because of a (reported) mistake while driving, and to authorize other detentions like this as a consequence of the ascertained danger these guys would constitute to our society. It is a vicious circle alimenting itself.


What these policies don’t aliment, though, are the state’s finances. To detain as many people as possible can sound reassuring, but it clearly has a huge cost. Human rights activists define laws like Operation Streamline “a lucrative deal for the private prison industry”


Perhaps which people are getting benefits from these politics could be called into question. Anyway, what remains unquestionable is also what should concern us the most. We surely know who is paying: us, as citizens, and not only in terms of money but even in terms of injustice.


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