Putting the Nation Before the Human

Massachusetts State Representative Ryan Fattman drew criticism for remarks he made regarding the state’s participation in the federal “Secure Communities” program. According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Fattman was asked if he was concerned that the program might make a woman without legal immigration status hesitant to report to the police that she was raped and beaten as she walked down the street. His response? “My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward.” (“Immigrant checks urged,” June 8, 2011)

Note how Fattman reveals his priorities. He doesn’tt attempt to argue that his policy will not result in crimes going unreported. His attitude could be characterized as “who cares if someone’s body and dignity are violated in the most offensive way? She didn’t have the proper paperwork to exist here.” A cynical person might describe Fattman’s statement as tacit approval of brutality against those who violate immigration restrictions. They’ve been designated outlaws, and are thereby outside of the law’s protection.

Whatever the malice of his intent, it is clear that Fattman wants the undesirables out. What happens to them as a result is not his concern. They simply “should be afraid” to report any crimes to the agencies that are supposed to deal with crimes.

Fattman’s remarks exemplify the attitude of putting “the nation” before human life. The immigrant without papers has violated the sanctity of the nation, crossing borders without obtaining permission from the byzantine bureaucracies that answer to the politics of prejudice. The woman’s actual safety is not as important as the hypothetical safety of the “good citizens” who are supposed to be secure under the surveillance state. In this way rape becomes a less serious crime than paperwork violations.

Paperwork violators — including those who haven’t committed any actual crime — continue to be deported in massive numbers. Those passing through the process find themselves transported among a bewildering array of local prisons and unidentified detention centers that have been aptly named “homeland Guantanamos” by immigrant rights activists. There’s a profitable industry in making people disappear.

The state primarily serves people with political power and those who can deliver more — like prison industry lobbyists, for example. Those without political power can develop counter-power by creating networks of informed individuals that make it easier to live apart from, and eventually in opposition to, state power.

If these networks seek to neutralize all impositions of authority of one person over another — to disperse political power — then they are working toward anarchism. Anarchy empowers peaceable individuals. Incentives toward actual crimes would be reduced by a dynamic economy and social norms that discourage coercion, while victimization could be reduced by systems that don’t instead focus on victimless activity. This puts the whole idea of borders into question, which is a good thing. Borders are boundaries between gang territory, typically drawn by conquest and upheld by oppression.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory