The movement to abolish slavery relied heavily on the exercise and protection of enslaved and formerly enslaved people’s freedom of speech against robust efforts to suppress their messaging. The same is true in the context of the movement to abolish immigration detention. For decades, people in immigration detention, formerly detained people, and their allies have exercised their First Amendment rights to expose the conditions of their confinement and demand their freedom. In response to their protests and other forms of individual and collective expression, detained and formerly detained immigrants have faced suppression and retaliation, threatening not only their right to speak out but also the public’s right to hear their grievances. This Essay argues that the freedom of speech is a critical right in the movement to abolish immigration detention, drawing parallels to the exercise and suppression of abolitionist speech during the time of legalized chattel slavery. It explores historical examples of protests, hunger strikes, petitions, and grievances led by detained immigrants, and the impact of these efforts on the movement to abolish immigration detention. It describes how immigration jailers routinely suppress detained immigrants’ speech, often through violent means, and critiques the federal government’s attempts to justify this suppression in the name of safety and security. As abolitionists argued in the movement to end slavery, freedom of speech has the power to aid in the abolition of even the most entrenched systems of control.
"Immigration Detention and Dissent: The Role of the First Amendment on the Road to Abolition,"
Georgia Law Review: Vol. 56:
4, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/glr/vol56/iss4/4