“To make a thief, make an owner; to create crime, create laws.” — Ursula K. Le Guin
The following is a report about surveillance and social control of migrants and criminalized peoples, written from a prison-industrial-complex abolitionist perspective.
Here, we describe practices that we term “data criminalization:” the creation, archiving, theft, resale and analysis of datasets that mark certain people as threats and risks, based on data culled about them from state and commercial sources. Data analysis and prediction may seem modern, scientific or objective, boasting cutting-edge biometric identification and AI-powered tools — but here they operate as part of a longstanding historical process of racial and national profiling, management and control in the US.
In this report, we examine and deconstruct some key practices in the surveillance of migrants as conducted by government agencies and private companies that work together to create and manage vulnerability and exclusion. We wrote this report and created a web-based interactive tool for prison abolitionists, migrant justice organizers, scholars, anti-surveillance activists and everyone else who is working to oppose interlocking systems of incarceration, criminalization, and social control. We hope that this report provides a framework to reject and denaturalize criminal legal procedures and categories, border control and securitization, identity capture and registration regimes, and “data-driven” predictive and sorting practices used to justify punishment and social exclusion.