Now that SB 4 is law in Texas, the police state and prison industrial complex will be further unleashed on the immigrant community. In this current context, can police be our allies?
Surely, as we hear police chiefs and sheriffs from around the state speak out against SB 4, organizations and immigrants can breathe a much-needed sigh of relief.
But we have to be careful about this.
The police are not our friends or allies under any circumstance. Police can testify before the legislature in Austin in favor of immigrant communities and they can clarify that they will not investigate someone’s status if they are survivors of domestic violence, for example. But at the end of the day, police will obey and carry out unjust state and federal laws.
More explicitly, some agents can purport to be “good cops” while others are tougher and openly racist, but sheriffs and chiefs of police tend to be like politicians who prepare public statements to pacify the public while their actions run contrary. A “good cop” may exist but the institution they represent is systemically riddled with abusive and racist practices including racial profiling, police brutality, and murders, impunity, mass incarceration, punitive and racist sentencing, high bonds, collaboration with ICE and deplorable conditions inside their jails, to name a few.
So why are we so eager to praise police publicly? Why do we invite them to speak at our press conferences, events or rallies? Why would we ally ourselves with representatives of an institution that is inherently racist?
Historically, the police were not created to protect and serve the working class. In fact, it was created to do just the opposite: to protect the rich and elite from a poor, mainly immigrant, working class. Before that, law enforcement in the US acted as slave patrols dedicated to capturing and “deporting” free Black people in the North back to Southern enslavement.
Today the police stand on the heels of an anti-Black and anti-immigrant legacy. Understanding this history allows us to be more critical of law enforcement and their spokespeople. This is not to say that we do not engage with the police because it is necessary to know what they are doing and to make clear community demands. But we should know when and how we draw the line. So when interacting with law enforcement, our intention should not be to collaborate or forge alliances, but rather to challenge them, hold them accountable, and demand justice when they kill members of the Black community or Latinxs and Indigenous people who are also often victims of police violence.
Furthermore, although the phrase, “We are not criminals or terrorists” is well-intentioned, it further perpetuates violence against people whom the system deems as “criminals” or “terrorists”; principally Black people Muslims, and even Latinxs.
Also, people with records are also our family members and deserve respect, dignity, civil and human rights. We should not further marginalize people with records because we know just how complex our social circumstances can be and understand that a charge or conviction does not determine the worth of any human being.
“More explicitly, some agents can purport to be “good cops” while others are tougher and openly racist, but sheriffs and chiefs of police tend to be like politicians.”
In summary, we cannot deem police chiefs and sheriffs as our “champions” or “allies” because it perpetuates anti-Blackness and leads us again into a divisive and detrimental “good’ immigrant vs. “bad” immigrant binary.
It is clear that we cannot simultaneously support police and our community when we have local law enforcement, supposedly on our side repeatedly, stress that they want to maintain “good working relationships with ICE.” In other words, the police are publicly stating that they are committed to a collaboration that advances an anti-immigrant agenda and they will continue to collaborate with ICE and together arrest, incarcerate and deport our community.
Solidarity is our strength, and this means distancing ourselves from and rejecting law enforcement entirely because they are a tool to advance the white supremacist agenda of bad governments in Texas and Washington, DC.
This article was published with the permission of the authors. It was first posted on Medium.