Silver or lead is a question usually asked by drug cartel jefes (aka bosses). But I would like to apply the metaphor to the U.S. government.
Plata or silver represents the money each detained immigrant is worth to the private prison complex in the U.S. According to THIS article in Mother Jones, 65% of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainees were held in private prisons as of November 2016.
In 2009 Congress passed a so-called “detention bed mandate.” This required that 33,400 immigration beds were to be filled every night. This mandate – which no other law enforcement agency has – came at a taxpayer cost of 5.05 million dollars a day. As of 2013 that mandate was increased to 34,000 beds a day. Two U.S. Representatives, Foster (Ill.) and Deutch (Fla.) championed the elimination of this mandate with the support of dozens of colleagues. Rep. Foster is still fighting to eliminate the mandate and his cause is featured in a current series on PRI’s The Takeaway found HERE. According to THIS LA Times article, the Trump administration is calling for a substantial increase in immigrant incarcerations to 80,000 people a day.
So who benefits from such a mandate? From the viewpoint of sociologists in THIS article and from the Council of Hemispheric Affairs in THIS report, the question is who doesn’t? Private prisons, county jails, lobbyists, U.S. senators and representatives, contractors, construction workers, food workers, etc. And then of course, the actual detainees do not benefit at all. Complaints and fears documented from the detained include: lack of food, no medical care, rapes, beatings, the separation of families. HERE is a report written by pediatricians about the effects of detainment on children. So this is where the plomo or lead comes into the equation.
Quite a few of the women, children, and men that travel from our southern neighbors to the U.S. do so because of American backed violence in their hometowns. America’s demand for drugs has spurred the rape, torture, enslavement, murder, corruption, and overall hell on earth for many communities across central and south America. So why can they not get asylum?
According to THIS article and U.S. immigration law it is because fleeing general violence is not reason enough for the U.S. to grant anyone asylum. But if anyone is in a targeted group (such as children being recruited for cartels or the U.S. gang MS-13) then an argument can be made. Though that argument tends to fall on deaf ears. The late and great author, Chuck Bowden, tried to get asylum for a reporter from Mexico (a well known targeted group) and the U.S. immigration system shut that effort down (Read Bowden’s account of his effort HERE).
So while Americans contribute to their own deaths, as well as, their families and communities through their own opioid addictions they also contribute to the deaths of thousands of people, families, and communities south of the border – the source of their opioids thanks to the cartels.
So the question remains only for those fleeing the American spurred violence in their communities south of our borders: plata o plomo?