Immigration Detention and the Racialized Governance of Illegality in the United Kingdom.

AuthorTurnbull, Sarah

Race today is supposed to be a thing of the past. And yet all we do, seemingly, is to talk about it. We talk (about) race when not talking (about) it; and we don't talk (about) it when (we should be) talking (about) it.

--Goldberg (2015a, 1)

This article examines immigration detention as a racialized practice of governing illegality in the United Kingdom. It aims to respond to the call of scholars such as Bowling (2013), Parmar (2016), and Garner (2015) for criminology to explicitly engage with the racialized nature of contemporary practices of border control. In so doing, it represents an attempt to directly address the most salient observation from my multi-sited ethnography of immigration detention in the UK: that detention is a racist practice. This is not a novel observation, but rather one that many scholars, activists, and racialized migrants themselves have long known and/or experienced directly. Following scholars such as Hernandez (2012), Loyd (2015), Longazel et al. (2016), and Bhui (2016), this article aims to engage directly with the racist nature of immigration detention and to position race and racialization as key to understanding this particular exercise of state power. (1) It also considers the value of ethnography for comprehending and conceptualizing race and racism "on the ground" in this unique carceral context. Indeed, as Bhui (2016, 269) argues, "it is not possible to fully understand the dynamics of immigration detention without also understanding debates about race, ethnicity and racism within and across national boundaries." That the UK's nine immigration removal centres (IRCs) primarily incarcerate racialized people further underscores the salience of race for making sense of the logics of confinement and the governing of illegality. The dehumanization of racism works to produce certain peoples as inherently detainable and deportable.

As Goldberg (2015a, 1) makes clear in the above excerpt, our contemporary moment is characterized by the logic of postraciality, one in which race and racism are assumed to be a thing of the past. Everyday, institutional, and structural racisms persist, yet the discursive terrain of postracialism seemingly limits what can be identified as racism. As Lentin (2016, 36) explains, "racism is most commonly explained in terms of its manifestation as a behaviour, action, or attitude rather than as the expression of systemised racial logics with complex and multi-routed underpinnings."The logic of postraciality narrows our understanding of what racism is, and identifications of racism are met with denials (Goldberg 2015a; Lentin 2016). Indeed, Earle and Phillips (2015, 230) observe that "despite recognition of the urgent need to address widespread racism in British society, its complex, shifting dynamics and locally specific manifestations can be challenging to conventional empirical inquiry." This article represents an attempt to think through ethnography as a method of unpacking institutional and structural forms of racism in the context of British immigration detention.

In this article, I consider illegality in a productive sense, following De Genova (2002, 423), as a category that arises from, and is sustained by, the state and its security logics and immigration policies, as well as "the broader politics of nationalism, nativism, and citizenship." Various categories of people are made illegal and subject to criminalization as "non-citizens or failing citizens" (Tyler 2010, 65). The neoliberal British government is actively producing illegality through its explicit policy of generating a "hostile environment" (Yeo 2017; see also Jones et al. 2015) for "unwanted" migrants by making their lives increasingly difficult, circuitous, and precarious, particularly for those who are poor and racialized. Presumably, with growing restrictions and prohibitions (including criminal offenses) on their ability to work, rent, bank, or obtain a driver's license in the UK (see Aliverti 2015), the "illegalized" will be "persuaded" to self-deport (Inda Sc Dowling 2013, 23). If not, immigration detention exists at the harsher end of the border control continuum to help solve the problem of migrants that the British state wants to expel.

Producing Racialized Illegality: The UK Context

The on-the-ground reality of the British state's response to unwanted racialized others must be situated within a broader "global hierarchy of mobility" (Bauman 1998, 151) in which the vast majority of the world's population does not have access to regularized routes for migration. In addition to a plethora of border control efforts--interdiction at sea, pre-entry screening, the strict granting of visas, etc.--that make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for most human beings to migrate, Western states are increasingly called upon to deal with those deemed unwanted who make it into, or already exist within, territorial borders. Indeed, as Bowling (2013, 302) argues, the growing "nexus between immigration and criminal law enforcement has the effect of immobilizing [non-white] people in the 'global South' and entrenching their position among the over-policed and over-imprisoned in the 'global North.'" Processes of illegalization are met with logics of confinement, producing a seemingly ever-growing population of poor and racialized peoples incarcerated in both the penal and the immigration systems of wealthy nation-states.

Within this broader context, the issue of immigration detention--also termed "immigration imprisonment"(Longazelet al. 2016; Simon 1998)--has garnered increased academic attention in recent years as the phenomenon itself has grown rapidly around the world (Leerkes 8c Breeders 2010; Simon 1998; Welch 1996; Welch & Schuster 2005). The existing literature has drawn attention to the difficulties associated with the lived experience of indefinite detention (e.g., Bosworth 2014; Griffiths 2013; Longazel et al. 2016; Turnbull 2016a); issues of privatization and the emerging "immigration industrial complex" (e.g., Ackerman & Furman 2013; Bacon 2005; Doty Sc Wheatley 2013); concerns about the effects of detention on mental health (e.g., Robjant et al. 2009; Steel et al. 2011); and questions of resistance (e.g., Colombo 2013; Fiske 2016; McGregor 2011; Parr 2005; Puggioni 2014; Sutton & Vigneswaran 2011). (2) Several scholars have explicitly drawn attention to the racialized nature of detention, linking this particular policy and practice to the state's racial projects and processes of racialized social control (Bhui 2016; Bosworth 8c Kellezi 2015; Hernandez 2012; Longazel et al. 2016; Loyd 2015).

There is also a strong body of scholarship underscoring the necessity to locate contemporary practices of border control like immigration detention and expulsion within broader histories of nation-building and exclusion (Provine 8e Doty 2011; Sharma 2015; Weber 8c Bowling 2004, 2008) and as linked to parallel state practices of crime control and punishment that disproportionately affect racialized peoples (Angel-Ajani 2003; Longazel et al. 2016; Loyd 2015; Wacquant 2008). As Wacquant (2008, 49) argues, "the deployment of the penal apparatus to deal with immigration enables Europe to shun its deep-seated entanglement in the fate of the postcolonial societies of its former empire." It also permits Europe to sidestep the varied "forms of social and state ostracization that continue to derail the path of non-European migrants in national life even as they gain legal status" (ibid.). Yet, unlike in times past, migration policy is not explicitly racialized or gendered; rather, these social categories are evoked and "exercised without having to be explicitly stated" (Goldberg 2015b, 121). Racism works implicitly in and through migration policy and institutional structures and practices that include "on the basis of shared whiteness" and exclude those racialized as non-white (Fox et al. 2012, 681).

Present-day British immigration detention stems from Britain's colonial project and its racialized post-World War II immigration policies that targeted non-white former colonial subjects for strict control and/or exclusion from the nation (Bhui 2016; Bosworth 2014; Bowling & Phillips 2002; Fomina 2010; Paul 1997; Tyler 2010; Weber & Bowling 2004, 2008). More specifically, during the 1960s, as Weber and Bowling (2008, 365) observe, "the development of what amounted to a 'white Britain policy' was indicated by the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigration Act 1962, which severely limited migration from the 'New' Commonwealth, while welcoming those from the mainly white Old Commonwealth." In contrast to the explicit racism of past immigration policies, contemporary immigration policy and practice appears race-neutral, working instead through notions of nationality and culture (Sharma 2015). However, race remains the key technique through which human mobility is managed and through which "access to legal belonging, credential movement and travel, and the protection" of the state are distributed (Topinka 2015, 446).

The racialized character of British immigration detention can also be connected to the British state's growing rejection of the European project--most recently articulated in the Brexit decision (see Virdee & McGeever 2017)--which increasingly manifests itselfin the racialization and exclusion of Eastern Europeans. Garner (2007, 67) argues that the "fear of the East--as a source of criminality, nomadic peoples, prostitution, and wage-cutting labor--has flickered in and out of political consciousness in the West" since the signing of the Schengen Accord. In the United Kingdom, Eastern Europeans are increasing subject to racialized hostility and discrimination (Fox et al. 2014). "There is,"according to Ghosh (2011, 189), "an uneasy and unresolved relationship in Europe between the continuing economic need for migrant labor and the growing social dissatisfaction with their...

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