Saturday, October 25, 2008
The economic crisis in the United States is having its effect on undocumented migrants. Elliot Spagat writes for the Associated Press:
After struggling to pay his $300 monthly rent and send money to his wife and two children back in Honduras, Dionisio Urbina has given up. The day laborer is saving for a one-way plane ticket home.
Thousands of Latin American immigrants both legal and illegal are going back home as the economic crisis in the United States causes jobs to dry up in the construction, landscaping and restaurant industries.
The flow of immigrants back across the border tends to be cyclical, with many people going back home for the Christmas holidays. But some authorities say they are seeing a bigger-than-usual reverse-immigration effect this year.
Mexico City's municipal government predicts between 20,000 and 30,000 immigrants above the usual number will return from the United States in the next few months because they cannot find work. Click here for the rest of the story.
Since 2000, the nation's Latino population has increased by 10.2 million - 6 million from births in the United States and 4.2 million from immigration. Overall, the nation's Latino population has grown by nearly 30 percent, from about 35 million in 2000 to about 45 million in 2007, according to the Pew report. By comparison, the non-Hispanic U.S. population grew just 4 percent over the same period.
For the full story, click here.
About 54 percent of the proposed fence is to be built on private property, raising concerns among ranchers who fear they will lose access to irrigation pumps and ecologists who worry it will block the migration of endangered species such as the jaguar and ocelot.
The U.S. Justice Department has filed dozens of lawsuits seeking court orders to gain access to property for surveying while the Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge by two environmental groups to Chertoff's decision to waive 19 federal laws to speed construction of the fence.
For the story, click here.
Friday, October 24, 2008
In 2004, George Bush won Nevada by about 21,000 votes and New Mexico by only 6,000 votes. Will new voters in those states--many of whom are Latinos--be the difference for Barack Obama on November 4? This comment on alternet.org thinks so.
Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Fact Sheet from Lory Rosenberg:
Release Date: October 23, 2008
Each day at America's ports of entry U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inspect more than 1.1 million travelers, including 340,000 vehicles and over 85,000 shipments of goods approved for entry; process more than 70,000 truck, rail and sea containers; collect more than $88 million in fees, duties, and tariffs; seize more than 5,500 pounds in illegal narcotics; and intercept more than 4,400 agricultural items and pests at ports of entry.
Securing the Border
DHS has completed more than 216 miles of pedestrian fence and 154 miles of vehicle fence on the southwest border, for a total of approximately 370 miles.
The Border Patrol now has more than 17,600 agents and by the end of this year we will have more than 18,300 agents. This doubles the size of the Border Patrol over the Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 level.
We are using technology along the border in connection with tactical infrastructure, where Border Patrol deems necessary. Some technology currently used includes: unattended ground sensors, truck-mounted mobile surveillance systems, remote video surveillance systems, unmanned aerial systems, and fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft to detect, classify, track and respond to illegal border crossings.
DHS saw a more than 17 percent reduction in apprehensions of illegal aliens at the southern border in FY 2008. This is an indication that there are fewer attempts to cross the border illegally. Interior Enforcement
In Fiscal Year 2007, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 3,563 gang members and their associates. This includes 1,489 criminal arrests.
Under Operation Community Shield ICE has arrested more than 11,000 members and associates of approximately 890 different gangs. Of those apprehended so far in FY 2008, 1,654 have been charged criminally and 2,211 have been charged with immigration violations and processed for removal.
The Secure Communities plan is not just about immigration enforcement – it's about improving public safety. As a part of Secure Communities, the ICE Criminal Alien Program (CAP) prioritizes and identifies removable criminal aliens based on their threat to the public safety and before they are released into the community.
ICE has expanded its CAP to identify incarcerated criminal aliens. In Fiscal Year 2008, ICE identified for removal more than 221,000 criminals who were incarcerated in federal, state and local facilities.
ICE established Fugitive Operations teams five years ago, and today they number over 100. ICE has eliminated more than 102,000 cases from the fugitive alien backlog in FY 2007 and over 95,000 cases in FY 2008. The net effect has been a nearly 12 percent reduction in the fugitive case backlog, over these two years (from 632,726 to 557,762 presently). Finally, Fugitive Operations Teams made nearly 34,000 arrests so far in 2008, exceeding the number of total arrests through this program in FY 2007.
ICE continues to increase worksite enforcement operations. So Far in FY 2008, ICE made 1,101 criminal arrests and 5,173 administrative arrests.
In Fiscal Year 2007, DHS obtained nearly $19 million in criminal fines, restitutions and civil judgments as a result of worksite enforcement. e-Verify
e-Verify is a free and simple to use Web-based system that electronically verifies the employment eligibility of newly hired employees -- visit www.dhs.gov/e-Verify.
e-Verify works by allowing participating employers to electronically compare employee information taken from the Form I-9 (the paper based employee eligibility verification form used for all new hires) against more than 425 million records in the Social Security Administration's database and more than 60 million records in DHS immigration databases. About 96 percent of all cases queried through e-Verify are automatically verified to be employment authorized; those results are returned within seconds.
Currently, more than 90,000 employers in every state and U.S. territory are enrolled in e-Verify and, on average, the program increases by about 1,000 new employers each week. Thus far in FY 2009, there have been more than 450,000 verification queries run through the system. More than 6.6 million queries were registered during FY 2008.
DHS' FY 2009 appropriation legislation, signed into law on Sept. 30, 2008, provided $100 million to continue, expand and improve e-Verify in FY 2009. No-Match Letter
DHS today issued a Supplemental Final Rule that provides additional background and analysis for DHS's No-Match Rule. The DHS regulation, which was originally proposed in June 2006 and issued in August 2007, clarifies what steps responsible employers can take to resolve discrepancies identified in “no-match" letters issued by the Social Security Administration and provides guidance to help businesses comply with legal requirements intended to reduce the illegal employment of unauthorized workers.
The regulation sets forth clear guidance for businesses to comply with “no-match" notices and provides a safe harbor for employers who follow the guidance and perform due diligence so they are not found in violation of their legal obligations.
The implementation of this regulation has been delayed to lawsuits filed by the ACLU and U.S. Chamber of Commerce preventing DHS from issuing “no-match" letters.
The National Immigration Forum has issued this statement about the new rule:
"Today, DHS issued a final administrative rule notifying employers that failure to take action upon receipt of Social Security Administration "no-match" letters will serve as constructive notice that an employer had hired an employee who was an undocumented immigrant. These "no-match" letters are in fact wage report letters issued by the Social Security Administration that are designed to identify possible record-keeping errors and other problems associated with matching wages to Social Security numbers. The following is a statement from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum
While Congress holds hearings on Wall Street's financial crisis and the Bush administration's response, and the Department of Labor releases unemployment statistics confirming the pain of a slow down in the economy, the Department of Homeland Security continues to march to the beat of its own deportation-only drum. While the country focuses on a severe credit crisis, the lack of health insurance crisis and a looming recession, DHS’s action effectively pours salt onto a wound widening everyday. To burden good employers with mounds of enforcement-laden paperwork based on bad data stifles an economy struggling to survive.
Today’s release of a final administrative rule regarding “no-match” letters is opposed from all corners of our economy. The so called "no-match" rule turns an advisory letter issued by the Social Security Administration – designed to ensure that individuals paying into the Social Security system are properly credited for their work – into a tool for tracking down undocumented workers. While employers should certainly take steps to correct discrepancies, the no-match rule will not seriously address the problems of illegal immigration.
Inaccurate databases, human error, and failure to report name changes can all contribute to the "no-match" problem, but this new rule is likely to turn all no-match letters into scarlet letters, leading to unnecessary dismissals and possible discriminatory hiring practices. Given our country's rapidly unraveling economy, measures that further weaken businesses and threaten the economic security of our nation and of legitimate workers – native and immigrant worker alike - is bad public policy.
The Bush administration is determined to continue the drumbeat of deportation-only practices, using its last few months in office to put regulations in place that will make it that much more difficult for a new administration to tackle immigration in a straightforward and reasonable way. The administration should heed the call of thousands of employees and employers who fear the ramifications of this new rule.
The next administration and Congress should move quickly to help America get back on its feet by enacting immigration reform that is fiscally responsible, creates genuine security for communities, and leads to rational regulation of immigration. The no-match rule makes no contribution to those objectives and should be shelved before it disrupts the economy even further."
On October 23, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Supplemental Final Rule that provides additional background and analysis for the department's No-Match Rule. The DHS regulation, which was originally proposed in June 2006 and issued in August 2007 as a Final Rule, clarifies what steps responsible employers can take to resolve discrepancies identified in "no-match" letters issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It also provides guidance to help businesses comply with legal requirements intended to reduce the illegal employment of unauthorized workers.Download no_match.pdf
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The L.A. Times reports that "[a] controversial cervical cancer vaccine that has been only recommended for U.S. residents has become a requirement for all new female immigrants ages 11 to 26, sparking an outcry over the order's safety and cost." We previously reported on thsi new requirement here.
Today, a groundbreaking report released by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) entitled The New American Electorate: The Growing Political Power of Immigrants and Their Children examines the growing electoral clout of a previously unidentified yet pivotal group of voters in key states around the nation-naturalized immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants raised during the current era of immigration that began in 1965.
The report prepared by Rob Paral and Associates for the Immigration Policy Center finds:
• New Americans Were Nearly 9% of All Registered Voters in 2006
• New Americans Registered Voters Jumped Nearly 60% between 1996 and 2004
• New Americans Share of Registered Voters Exceeded the 2004 Victory Margins in 16 States Including Battlegrounds: Nevada, Florida, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
2008 is expected to be a banner year for New American voters due to record-breaking naturalization rates of up to three million new citizens; turbo-charged registration efforts by groups like the We Are America Alliance and "Ya es Hora, Ve y Vota;" and aggressive GOTV efforts in ethnic communities which will likely result in Latino turnout hitting record highs in 2008-surpassing the 7.6 million Latino voters who turned out in 2004.
Click here to view the report and fact sheet in their entirety.
The Immigration and Public Diplomacy Appointments Project is a newly-founded project to identify, recommend and support top-notch candidates with global understanding for key decision making positions in the next Administration. The formative principles underlying the Project are a belief that sensible immigration policies and international openness are essential to the advancement of our economic well-being, our national security, and our cultural heritage. A central Project goal is to expand the pool of talented professionals from across the country who will consider applying for positions in the next Administration.
Working collaboratively with NGOs in immigration, public diplomacy, international education, higher education, and foreign policy, the Project will put forward a series of resumes to the next Administration that are well-matched to key White House and agency positions. Nominations that are submitted to the Project for consideration will remain private and the recommendations that are ultimately put forth by the Project will remain private as well. Submitting a resume through this Project is just one of many different activities an individual should undertake to advance his or her candidacy for a position. And, of course, submission of a resume through this process does NOT constitute an application.
To recommend yourself or someone else for a senior-level immigration or public diplomacy position in the next administration, please go to: www.ipdaproject.org.
The Freedom Center Journal ("FCJ") is a joint scholarly publication of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the University of Cincinnati College of Law. The purpose of the FCJ is to foster discussion and debate about the scope and nature of freedom, broadly defined. The FCJ pursues its mission by publishing interdisciplinary works by a broad range of scholars and students on, among other things, issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion.
Issue One of Volume Two of the Freedom Center Journal will focus on the issue of immigration/migration. We are interested in all facets of immigration/migration including, but not limited to, the impact of gender, race, class, and sexuality on the immigrant experience; examination of the reasons certain people migrate to certain places; examination and discussion of current immigration laws in the United States; historical analyses of particular migrant patterns; and modern day slavery and its connection to migration.
Paper proposals (in the form of abstracts) are due by December 1, 2008. Responses to proposals will be sent on December 8, 2008. Please also note that final drafts based on accepted proposals must be completed by March 2, 2009. Please address any inquiries to either of the co-editors-in-chief, Katie Weber or Damaris Del Valle, at UCLawFCJ@gmail.com.
Finally, if you would like to be added to a call-for-papers mailing list, please send the following information to UCLawFCJ@gmail.com:
Put "Call for Papers List Serve" in the Subject Heading
In the body of the e mail include:
Name; Title (Associate Professor, etc.); Affiliation; Area of Study;
E-mail address where you would like information to be sent.
Last week, I wrote about the attempted de-Americanization of Barack Obama by the McCain/Palin campaign. Our friend, Wajahat Ali, picks up the thread in this Guardian column citing Colin Powell's comments on Sunday:
After being treated as political kryptonite and depicted as enraged Orcs for the past seven years, Muslims and Arabs – the media's modern day Morlocks – temporarily emerged as human beings thanks to Colin Powell's Obama endorsement on Sunday.
The former US secretary of state partially redeemed his tarnished legacy by asking:
What if [Obama] is [a Muslim]? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be president?
Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion: he's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
Unfortunately, according to an increasingly vocal, racist and Islamophobic minority, which has been shamefully aided over the years by the inexcusable silence of a complicit mainstream media, there is something fundamentally "un-American" about wearing the contemporary Scarlet Letter: Muslim.
The October surprise unleashed by a desperate Republican campaign – spearheaded by mavericks John McCain and Sarah Palin – reeks from the stench of a modern day, fear-mongering McCarthyism - replacing Communism with Islam. Click here for the rest of the column.
The U.S.-based National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) joined with scores of organizations from around the world, representing migrant rights, women's, labor, domestic workers and human rights groups to open the international gathering, "People's Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights" (PGA). Organized by an international coalition working with Philippine groups, the PGA is a major parallel event to governments who are meeting in Manila for their second "Global Forum on Migration and Development" (GFMD).
Colin Rajah, representing NNIRR in the international working group organizing the PGA in Manila, pointed out, "Migrants have rights; they are not commodities to be bought, sold, shipped and deported when they are no longer needed."
The PGA applied and received a public permit from the Philippine government more than four months ago to hold their events at the Rajah Sulayman Park, across from the shores of Manila Bay. Days before the opening, the Philippine government revoked the PGA's permit, fearing the international exposure on the issues of migrants. In response, the Malate Catholic Church opened their doors and the PGA was able to hold the opening meeting in the Church's parking lot, across from the Rajah Sulayman Park.
Speaker after speaker from the Philippines, Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and the U.S. shared their "cuento," or story of migration, denouncing how governments, employers and corporations subject migrants to abuses. Nunu Kidane with Priority Africa Network (PAN), a U.S.-based diaspora organization, pointed out how Indigenous people and other migrants from Mexico and Latin America are dying in the deserts and mountains on the U.S. side of the Mexico border while African migrants are drowning in the Mediterrean Sea attempting to reach Europe. These deaths are a consequence of deliberate policies of "migration management" and other restrictive policies that criminalize status and provide no relief for the disastrous effects of globalization.
Led by William Gois of Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), the PGA rally then began to march towards the Rajah Sulayman Park. Some 50 police agents, in riot gear and brandishing shields and batons, rushed over to block the march.
With hand-made signs, waving banners and flags, marchers began chanting "Migrant rights are Human Rights!" and marched around the park. Towards the close of the rally, Rex Varona with the Asian Migrant Center (AMC) in Hong Kong, along with other speakers repeated during the rally that "Governments must end forced migration; migrant workers are not commodities!" The PGA marched around the park and police, ending their peaceful assembly where it began -- at the church parking lot.
"We are in Manila raising the voices of our communities reminding the governments that migrants have rights that they must uphold and protect," added Rajah, who also directs NNIRR's International Migrant Rights and Global Justice Program.
A very interesting comment from Mary Ann Zehr of Education Week:
Some immigrant groups to the United States might not have learned English as quickly as their descendants claim they did, according to an interesting study by a German professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Hat tip to ESOL World News.)
Joseph Salmons, the German professor, and Miranda Wilkerson, a recent Ph.D. graduate in German from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, decided to look closer at a common refrain that appears in letters to newspaper editors or surfaces in current debates about immigration, writes Brian Mattmiller in an Oct. 16 article put out by the university's public relations department.
The refrain is: "My great-great-grandparents came to America and quickly learned English to survive. Why can't today's immigrants do the same?"
The researchers dug through census data, court records, newspapers, and other materials to get to the bottom of whether the refrain is true. Mr. Mattmiller writes:
What Salmons and Wilkerson found was a remarkable reversal of conventional wisdom: Not only did many early immigrants not feel compelled out of practicality to learn English quickly upon arriving in America, they appeared to live and thrive for decades while speaking exclusively German.
Click here for the rest of the column.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
When it comes to the raids, all I can conclude is a resounding "huh?"
RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.'s latest column takes on the immigration debate:
"It is remarkable that so many of those who rail against illegal immigration don't really understand the terrain. This includes folks at Washington, D.C., think tanks who write about immigration without interacting with actual immigrants, TV commentators who remake themselves for higher ratings, and opportunistic politicians who spin anger and prejudice into votes." (emphasis added). Any ideas on who Ruben is talking about?
Over 100 people are engaging in a hunger strike to mobilize 1,000,000 people to sign the Pledge to vote and take action for immigrant rights.
On October 15th, 21 days before the 2008 election, immigrants, movement leaders, day laborers, faith leaders, student leaders, grassroots organizers, musicians and artists, and people of conscience will rise out of fear and begin one of the largest hunger strikes in American history.
“The Fast for our Future” will set up a permanent encampment at La Placita Olvera (or Olvera Street Plaza), the historic heart of Los Angeles, for the duration of the hunger strike. In the same spirit as César Chávez and Mohandas K. Gandhi, our shared sacrifice and commitment to the Immigrant Rights Movement will inspire a historic mobilization of Latino, immigrant, and pro-immigrant rights voters. We must remember the I.C.E. raids, those detained and deported, the families torn apart, the dreams deferred. We must remember the marches, the walkouts, the boycotts, and the promise we made: “Hoy Marchamos, Manana Votamos.”
In 2006 we marched in millions for our rights.
On November 4th we will vote in unprecedented numbers.
Who We Are
RISE is the new nonviolent action wing of the immigrant rights movement.
We are neither isolated individuals nor a coalition of organizations.
Rather, we are many independent leaders unified by a common message, strategy, nonviolent discipline, and brand.
We are a movement that will rapidly grow through the momentum generated by our militant nonviolent actions for immigrant rights.
We believe the aggressive enforcement of the unjust laws of our broken immigration system is tearing our country apart. The national policy–and its local reflections of raids, detentions, and deportations targeting the millions of undocumented immigrants who are an essential part of our nation–is ripping our families apart, terrorizing our communities, and shredding the civil and constitutional rights that define America. It must stop. Now.
The essential strategy of RISE will unfold in two phases:
In the 1st phase, beginning now and continuing through the first 100 days of the next administration, we will engage in lower-risk nonviolent tactics designed to rapidly recruit and train new members and popularize our national brand.
In the 2nd phase, we will escalate to a sustained campaign of nationally-coordinated mass nonviolent action and civil disobedience designed to make the enforcement of the unjust laws of our broken immigration system politically and practically impossible. The campaign will create an urgent moral imperative and a political necessity to achieve just and humane federal immigration reform now.
Anyone can join and become a leader in RISE by participating in a basic training and adopting our common message, strategy, nonviolent discipline, and brand.
RISE was formed after a series of meetings exploring nonviolent movement strategy that brought together immigrant rights leaders from across the country. We decided that in order to address the current crisis of immigration law enforcement and win reform there was a need to build a militant nonviolent wing of our movement. In our strategy and tactics we learn from the example of successful nonviolent struggles from all over the world, from César Chávez and the United Farm Workers to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Who is Joining the Fast?
The “Fast For Our Future” has received the support from numerous organizations. We would like to thank them for their commitment to La Causa and their courage in engaging in a long-term fast.
Maria Elena Durazo
Los Angeles County Federation of Labor
United Farm Workers
Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA)
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
Rev. Peter Laarman
Progressive Christians Uniting
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is organizing this fast?
A: RISE is a movement of immigrant rights leaders and advocates who believe that to successfully confront and overcome the human rights crisis that we currently face in the immigrant rights community, we must use the strategies and tactics of escalating non-violent conflict taught to us by Cesar Chavez and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
RISE is the main sponsor of the Fast for our Future. Endorsers of the Fast include: IDEPSCA; CHIRLA; Center for the Working Poor, Faith/Activism Collective and Progressive Christians Uniting; Homies Unidos; Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA); Korean Resource Center; Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional; Father Richard Estrada, Placita Catholic Church; Pastor Abel Lara, Placita Methodist Church; Dolores Huerta, and Maria Elena Durazo.
Q: Is this really the largest hunger strike in American history?
A: We expect to have at least 100 fasters by the end of this fast. We already have 150 pledged. We know of no other hunger strike in American history with this many people fasting at once.
Q: Why are you taking part in this hunger strike?
We are taking part in this hunger strike to remobilize our community to vote in unprecedented numbers on November 4th. We are fasting until 1 million people sign the pledge to vote for immigrant rights on November 4th. Under the Bush Administration’s attack on the undocumented, our families, community and our country are being torn apart and our constitutional and civil rights are being shredded. We must RISE to protect our rights, our families, our community, and our country -- and fulfill the promise we made in the spring of 2006, ‘Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote’. Tomorrow has arrived, and we must show politicians our collective power as voters and hold them accountable. I’m fasting to remind people how serious this crisis is and how important it is to vote now.
Q: How long are all of you fasting?
Some of us have pledged to fast until we reach 1 Million voters who pledge to vote and/or fast for immigrant rights. Others are committing to join the fast for a set period of time, anywhere from a day to a week and more.
Q: Will the hunger strike end on election day?
Our goal is for unprecedented numbers of Latinos to vote on November 4th. We will know the outcome on election day, so the fast will end on November 5th.
Q: Which Presidential candidate do you think will be more responsive to the needs of the undocumented? Why are you not targeting a specific candidate?
A: We are not here to endorse a specific candidate. We are here to call on our community to remember the attacks on our rights, our families, and our community and fulfill the promise we made in the Spring of 2006, ‘today we march, tomorrow we vote.” We encourage our community to look at the records of all candidates to see who has stood with us, but we believe that whoever is elected needs to know that the Latino and immigrant vote is powerful, that we care about this issue, and that we will hold them accountable.
Q: How do you think this will affect the election?
A: In 2006 we promised that “today we march, and tomorrow we vote”, and the day to vote has arrived and we will vote in unprecedented numbers.
We will show politicians that our vote is powerful and that we will hold them accountable for this all out attack against immigrants that is tearing our families, our community and our country apart.
Q: Are you asking that Congress or the President pass an immigration reform bill?
What should that bill look like?
A: We are here to draw a line and show that we will not accept the Bush Administration’s all out attack against our community. We will not let it continue. Our communities, our families, and ultimately our country are being torn apart by this attack and the hostile and hateful anti-immigrant environment it’s creating. It’s not who we are, as a country, and it’s not acceptable - it has to stop. We want to denounce the raids, denounce the hate, and call on our community to remember the undocumented and vote for a better future on November 4th.
Q: Are you calling for an end to the raids and other immigration enforcement?
A: We are fasting until we get 1 million people to sign a pledge to vote for immigrant rights. That is the goal of our fast. Of course we denounce the raids, denounce the hate, and denounce the attacks against immigrants that are tearing our families, our communities and our country apart. The first step to ending all this is for us voters to vote in unprecedented numbers for immigrant rights on November 4th. Sign the pledge today!
Q: Why is there only Spanish language and other ethnic press at our fast events?
A: Our goal is to mobilize the immigrant community to vote, and we know that the Spanish language press and the ethnic media was the key to mobilizing millions of people into the streets in 2006.
Announcing the website Border Thinking on Migration, Culture, Economy and Sex by Laura Agustín
Here is a word from laura about her new website:
The term Border Thinking, and the site, are inspired by Gloria Anzaldúa’s book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza and Walter Mignolo's book Local Histories/Global Designs. Anzaldúa spent her life trying to figure out how a mestizo, or mixed, identity might help overcome national, confrontational politics. Mignolo advocates making a conscious effort to overcome easy oppositions between dominant and dominated cultures. Migrants are commonly seen as both unwanted intruders and powerless victims, but my own ideas since the mid-1990s work to break down this duality and think about power in different ways. One of my publications in 2008 is entitled Border Thinking.
Here are the reasons I started a blog, which also reproduces many of my previous publications.
Why Migration? When I began writing about migration I thought I was writing about my friends and family and why their motivations were misunderstood by media, governments, feminists, social projects and academics in the first world. Later, I realised I was also writing about myself. My point of view is rarely heard in public, but many people tell me that they share it. So I decided to make my work more available.
Why Sex? It was obvious to me from the beginning that most treatments of migration ignored sex and sexuality. In order to study migrants who wind up selling sex, I needed to take an anthropological view, which tries to leave moralising aside. Most of my writings demonstrate this way of thinking, which is not objective (because I don’t believe in pure objectivity) but embodies a different morality, or what Arturo Escobar called a different ‘ethics of concern’. Besides, our societies continue to be obsessed with everything sexual, and particularly with the exchange of money for sex, and I keep wondering why. Why Informal Economies? Most talk about sex-and-money revolves around one of the easy oppositions that border thinking tries to resist: prostitution as violence against women versus sex work as a job option. My ideas don’t fall into either category but rather wander about in the middle, in the grey areas, in the temporary elements of migratory life. In the process of migrating, most people run into opportunities to work in jobs not included in formal, official accounting and lists. These are jobs for which income is not declared and taxes are not paid, or which occupy some twilight status. Such jobs often mean no rights for workers, who must accept whatever bosses offer. Unless governments officially recognise businesses, neither owners nor workers can enjoy both the rights and responsibilities of the formal economy. This is a fundamental issue underlying the vulnerability of migrants who can easily find jobs outside their own countries – and who therefore understand that their labour is needed – but who cannot become official residents or citizens based on their employment. Why isn’t ‘No Borders’ the Solution? I would prefer to live in such a utopian world, but as I wrote earlier this year To say ‘Let there be no borders’ is like saying let’s do away with traffic regulations, allowing unlicensed drivers to go as fast or slow as they want on streets with no stoplights, lanes or marked exits. To state the utopian goal is one thing; to figure out how to keep order afterwards is another. And to position ourselves as free of any necessity to differentiate ourselves from others by accusing the men in suits is to avoid the harder truth that we are all implicated in these oppressive cultures and that we often benefit from them. This is an example of border thinking. What about Policy? Regulation? The Law? Structural Inequalities? They all come into play in my work, but border thinking shifts them from their usual central locations into the margins and puts questions about culture and sociality in the centre. Usually. I’m not promising total consistency.
More than 1.3 million college-educated immigrants living in the United States are unemployed or working as taxi drivers, dishwashers, security guards or in other unskilled jobs because they are unable to make full use of their academic and professional credentials, according to a new report issued today by the Migration Policy Institute. The report, Uneven Progress: The Employment Pathways of Skilled Immigrants in the United States, for the first time quantifies the scope of the 'brain waste' problem that affects 22 percent of the 6.1 million immigrants with a bachelor's degree or higher who are in the U.S. labor market. The report analyzes and offers possible solutions for the credentialing and language-barrier hurdles that deprive the U.S. economy of a rich source of human capital at a time of increasing competition globally for skilled talent. Download brainwasteoct081.pdf