Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From the Bookshelves: Enduring Uncertainty: Deportation, Punishment and Everyday Life (Dislocations) by Ines Hasselberg

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Enduring Uncertainty: Deportation, Punishment and Everyday Life (Dislocations) by Ines Hasselberg

Focusing on the lived experience of immigration policy and processes, this volume provides fascinating insights into the deportation process as it is felt and understood by those subjected to it. The author presents a rich and innovative ethnography of deportation and deportability experienced by migrants convicted of criminal offenses in England and Wales. The unique perspectives developed here – on due process in immigration appeals, migrant surveillance and control, social relations and sense of self, and compliance and resistance – are important for broader understandings of border control policy and human rights.

Here is what a London School of Economics and Political Science book review had to say about Enduring Uncertainty:

 "Hasselberg’s book is an important contribution at a time when migration to Europe is being widely discussed. While politicians and tabloids steer this debate to suit their own agendas, large aspects of the increasingly punitive migration policies in the UK remain out of public sight. By choosing foreign national prisoners and their families as her research participants, Hasselberg is not only offering them a voice, but also telling a different and undoubtedly more complex story about citizenship and belonging in Britain today."

KJ

July 13, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 11, 2016

From the Bookshelves: What Incoming Freshman Are Reading

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Photo by Sam Greenhalgh

Universities around the country have assigned summer reading to their incoming freshman class. And, as Inside Higher Ed reports, many of the books chosen relate to immigration.

That's a great list for any immprof to tackle over the last weeks of summer.

-KitJ

July 11, 2016 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Immigrant of the Day: Luis Enrique, Singer (Nicaragua)

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Luis Enriqueis a Nicaraguan-born singer and composer. He attended high School in Whittier, California, near Los Angeles. He started his career in the late 1980s and achieved success in the 1990s earning the title "El Príncipe de la Salsa" (The Prince of Salsa). Enrique was a pioneer in the salsa romántica movement of the 1980s. He received two Grammy Award-nomination for "Best Tropical Latin Performance" for album Luces del Alma and his song Amiga. In 2009, his album, Ciclos, was nominated for numerous Latin Grammy Awards. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Album.

Enrique immigrated to the United States in 1978  He will be sharing his story as an undocumented immigrant in the United States in an upcoming book, Enrique will tell of his personal journey from Nicaragua to making a home in L.A. He was undocumented for about 10 years. 

 

KJ

July 10, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Immigrant of the Day: Vladimir Nabokov (Russia)

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Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) was a Russian-American novelist. His first nine novels were in Russian, and he achieved international prominence after he began writing English prose. His most famous book Lolita (1955) was also controversial.

Nabokov immigrated in New York.  He joined the staff of Wellesley College in 1941 as resident lecturer in comparative literature. The position, created specifically for him, provided an income and free time to write creatively. Nabokov founded Wellesley's Russian Department.

In 1945, Nabokov became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Nabokov left Wellesley in 1948 to teach Russian and European literature at Cornell University, where he taught until 1959. Among his students at Cornell was future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who later identified Nabokov as a major influence on her development as a writer.

Nabokov wrote Lolita while travelling on butterfly-collection trips in the western United States that he undertook every summer. In June 1953 Nabokov and his family went to Ashland, Oregon. There he finished Lolita.

KJ

July 7, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

From the Bookshelves: Anna O. Law Review of MAKING FOREIGNERS: IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP LAW IN AMERICA, 1600-2000 by Kunal M. Parker

Anna O. Law reviews MAKING FOREIGNERS: IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP LAW IN AMERICA, 1600-2000, by Kunal M. Parker in Law and Politics Review.  She concludes:

"One may have quibbles with how Parker makes his arguments, but one cannot contest that the book lays out a provocative new thesis that deserves serious discussion and engagement. In light of MAKING FOREIGNERS, Emma Lazarus’ “New Colossus” poem sounds downright mawkish. The borders were never open to all. And even for those born in the USA, they were not automatically insiders, and worse yet, one could at some point in one’s lifetime lose one’s insider status. Ultimately the book is a rebuke to the still persistent myth that circulates even among scholars today, not to mention the general public, that in the days of yore, this nation of immigrants had open borders, and once “in,” you were home free."

Making Foreigners is previewed here.

KJ

 

June 16, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 13, 2016

From the Bookshelves: In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park

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In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park

Yeonmi Park has told the harrowing story of her escape from North Korea as a child many times, but never before has she revealed the most intimate and devastating details of the repressive society she was raised in and the enormous price she paid to escape.

Park’s family was loving and close-knit, but life in North Korea was brutal, practically medieval. Park would regularly go without food and was made to believe that, Kim Jong Il, the country’s dictator, could read her mind. After her father was imprisoned and tortured by the regime for trading on the black-market, a risk he took in order to provide for his wife and two young daughters, Yeonmi and her family were branded as criminals and forced to the cruel margins of North Korean society. With thirteen-year-old Park suffering from a botched appendectomy and weighing a mere sixty pounds, she and her mother were smuggled across the border into China.

I wasn’t dreaming of freedom when I escaped from North Korea. I didn’t even know what it meant to be free. All I knew was that if my family stayed behind, we would probably die—from starvation, from disease, from the inhuman conditions of a prison labor camp. The hunger had become unbearable; I was willing to risk my life for the promise of a bowl of rice. But there was more to our journey than our own survival. My mother and I were searching for my older sister, Eunmi, who had left for China a few days earlier and had not been heard from since.


Park knew the journey would be difficult, but could not have imagined the extent of the hardship to come. Those years in China cost Park her childhood, and nearly her life.  By the time she and her mother made their way to South Korea two years later, her father was dead and her sister was still missing. Before now, only her mother knew what really happened between the time they crossed the Yalu river into China and when they followed the stars through the frigid Gobi Desert to freedom. As she writes, “I convinced myself that a lot of what I had experienced never happened. I taught myself to forget the rest.”

In In Order to Live, Park shines a light not just into the darkest corners of life in North Korea, describing the deprivation and deception she endured and which millions of North Korean people continue to endure to this day, but also onto her own most painful and difficult memories. She tells with bravery and dignity for the first time the story of how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea—and to freedom.

Still in her early twenties, Yeonmi Park has lived through experiences that few people of any age will ever know—and most people would never recover from. Park confronts her past with a startling resilience, refusing to be defeated or defined by the circumstances of her former life in North Korea and China. In spite of everything, she has never stopped being proud of where she is from, and never stopped striving for a better life. Indeed, today she is a human rights activist working determinedly to bring attention to the oppression taking place in her home country.

Park’s testimony is rare, edifying, and terribly important, and the story she tells in In Order to Live is heartbreaking and unimaginable, but never without hope. Her voice is riveting and dignified. This is the human spirit at its most indomitable. 

 

 

Park became an international sensation in October of 2014 after delivering an emotional and engaging speech at the One Young World Summit in Dublin, Ireland. Ms. Park describes her harrowing escape from the repressive North Korean regime and how she persisted in her quest to freedom even when captured by human traffickers in China.

USCIS recently recognized that Yeonmi Park is an individual of extraordinary ability in the field of activism for North Korean human rights and granted her petition for a green card.  

KJ

June 13, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

From the Bookshelves: Linda Valdez, Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders

NBC News reports that, as the nation celebrates Immigrant Heritage Month, Arizona journalist Linda Valdez tells the story of how she, a daughter of a middle-class family from Ohio, fell in love, married and has made a life with Sixto Valdez, the son of a family of 14 children who grew up poor in a rural town in Mexico.

Their love story is chronicled in Valdez's book Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders. She writes that she was talked into going on vacation to Mexico with her mother in 1988. As it turned out, the trip led to her meeting Sixto, who later crossed the border illegally from Mexico to be with her.

Her book, Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders (2015), is not the typical immigration story.  It is told by a middle-class American woman who falls in love with the son of an impoverished family from rural Mexico—a man who crosses the border illegally to be with her.

Married in 1988, Linda and Sixto Valdez learn to love each other’s very different families and cultures, raising their child to walk proudly in both worlds.

Revealing the tragedies and ultimately the triumphs that emerge when two families living on different sides of the border come together, Crossing the Line cuts through the fears and preconceptions that fuel the continuing political turmoil over immigration. It is a story America needs to hear.

KJ

June 4, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

From the Bookshelves: Code Name Zeus by Gary Andersen

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Government agencies and sinister organizations in the United States and around the world closely follow the activities in and around the small town of Kursk, Texas. The town and surrounding area, settled by German Russian immigrants in the early 20th century, suffered greatly from the dual impact of the Dust Bowl years and the Great Depression, only to be saved by two strange newcomers from Europe who are great believers in capitalism and the American way of life.

After making a vast fortune starting on the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, and around Beaumont, Texas, Russian immigrant Robert Barzinsky and his junior partner, Jack Barnett, a native of Ireland, move to Kursk. They ranch, drill for oil, and create a secret project, Code Name: Zeus, where they prepare for a major worldwide disaster.

Barnett’s son, Jack Jr., is the Renaissance man who recruits a team of techies, led by Chip Faraday, to provide the technological evolution to successfully prepare for the eventual destruction of most life on earth. Chip Faraday, his lifelong friend Rick Christiansen, their former professor Dr. Dane Madsen, and a small group of outcasts provide the path to survival.

America is an amalgamation of a great variety of people; initially explorers from Europe and native people, then a wide variety of European settlers and African slaves.  In time, the colonials rebelled against England and built a great nation based on Judeo-Christian principles. Only eighty years after the Declaration of Independence, slavery was abolished. How many countries can make this claim? Today, although not perfect, it is a country of immigrants from virtually every part of the world. Contrary to what some believe, the American experiment has never been matched throughout history.

Code Name: Zeus is a story about immigrants from several countries coming together in a remote place in Texas to make their way as Americans.  They left their grim existences in faraway parts of the world with no assurance they would find success and happiness. The story is an allegory of the broad spectrum of our extended family, from our ancestors to its current makeup, as well as the broad circle of friends we have developed over the years.

KJ

May 24, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Live From MSU: International Norms in Immigration Law

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Fullerton, Gilman, Ramji-Nogales, Kanstroom, Family

Our last plenary panel of the today centered on international norms in immigration law.

We started with rapid-fire background material from the panelists.

Jaya Ramji-Nogales (Temple) spoke about international norms and immigration law. She informed us about the four sources of international law: (i) treaties, (ii) customary international law, (iii) general principles of law that recognized by "civilized nations", and (iv) the teachings of the most highly qualified folks on the law (us!). She also talked about the fields of international law that are relevant to migration - principally human rights law, labor law, criminal law. 

Maryellen Fullerton (Brooklyn) talked about the institutions entities involved making international law relating to migration: The UN (which includes the following bodies working on migration: UNHCR, Global Form on Migration and Development, Global Migration Group, ILO, ILC), UN treaty bodies, international courts, regional human rights institutions, and NGOs.

Dan Kanstroom (BC) noted that the United States had a role in the architecture of the international legal system, yet it doesn't really play a positive role in creating international law itself, particular in the human rights aspects of immigration norms.

Denise Gilman (UT) spoke about enforcing international norms. In particular, she talked about using fora like the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to engage the U.S. government and to challenge its immigration practices, for example in regard to family detention, under international law. She also spoke about using international laws as pressure points in litigation.

Dan then returned to stage to talk about international law regarding the expulsion or deportation of noncitizens. There is little explicit international law in this area. The void has allowed the established U.S. system of deportation to be "exported around the world," which Kanstroom sees as a bad thing. He wants progressive international norms put into place. Enter the UN's draft articles on the expulsion of aliens and his own declaration of expelled and deported persons, which he walked us through identifying highlights.

Jaya offered thoughts on the "refugee crisis" and international law. The quotes are hers. She questions whether there is, in fact, a crisis. And whether it's about refugees at all. What she does see is a systemic failure of international migration law to address three critical issues: safe transit, entry, and the right to remain. She wants to see a comprehensive approach to tackle these issues.

Denise emphasized the value of discussing international law in the immigration context, even after acknowledging the enforcability issues and problems with substantive international norms themselves already identified by Dan and Jaya. She sees international law as having the potential to pull us out of the "quagmire" of domestic immigration law by offering new perspectives. 

Maryellen grabbed the baton to bring this panel to a close. She focused on her book The Global Reach of European Refugee Law (Cambridge Univ. Press 2013), which addresses the extent to which EU asylum norms have influenced the law and practice of states around the world ("norm diffusion").

A shout out to Jill Family (Widener) for excellent moderating.

-KitJ

May 20, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs, Law Review Articles & Essays | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Immigration Article of the Day: Productivity and Affinity in The Age of Dignity by Stephen Lee

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Productivity and Affinity in The Age of Dignity by Stephen Lee,University of California, Irvine School of Law May 5, 2016 The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, 2015 Michigan Law Review, Vol. 114, No. 6, 2016 UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2016-20

Abstract: Americans are living longer than ever before. Meanwhile, labor studies project a shortage of caregivers in future labor markets. This forces an urgent question: Who will take care of us once we are too old to take care of ourselves? Ai-jen Poo, a nationally recognized activist takes up this question in The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. Recognizing that a sizable portion of the caregiving workforce is foreign-born and unauthorized, one answer that Poo offers is expanding employment-based visas to manage future migration flows. While embracing Poo’s larger vision of reform, this Review does two things. First, it shows that immigration admission rules are governed by what I call the productivity/affinity binary in which rules reflect a preference for either workers or family members. In this sense, Poo’s vision for reform privileges caregivers for their economic productivity. This leads to this Review’s second goal: to show that gaps in the caregiving labor market might also be filled by expanding family-based migration opportunities. Relying on family-based migration to fill labor gaps both makes intuitive sense given the kind of affinity bonds that often transpire between family members and caregivers and creates a pool of workers that is flexible and responsive to the shifting needs of the caregiving industry.

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KJ

May 19, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

From the Bookshelves: John Lennon vs. The U.S.A.: The Inside Story of the Most Bitterly Contested and Influential Deportation Case in United States History by by Leon Wildes

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John Lennon vs. The U.S.A.: The Inside Story of the Most Bitterly Contested and Influential Deportation Case in United States History by by Leon Wildes (2016)

At a time when the hottest issue in US immigration law is the proposed action by President Obama to protect from deportation as many as 5 million illegals in the United States, the 1972 John Lennon deportation case takes on special relevance today, notwithstanding the passage of forty years since he was placed in deportation proceedings.

For the first time, noted New York immigration attorney Leon Wildes tells the incredible story of this landmark case – John Lennon vs. The U.S.A. -- that set up a battle of wills between John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and President Richard Nixon. Although Wildes did not even know who John Lennon and Yoko Ono were when he was originally retained by them, he developed a close relationship with them both during the eventual five-year period while he represented them and thereafter. This is their incredible story.

KJ

May 12, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Art of Ramiro Gomez

Writing about Lhakpa Sherpa earlier today got me thinking about the near-invisibility of certain workers in the United States. And that, in turn, got me thinking about L.A. artist Ramiro Gomez.

Ramiro Gomez, child of undocumented migrants and a former nanny, uses art to, as the Atlantic wrote, "put[] he lives of California’s near-invisible and individually disposable workers front and center." He takes famous paintings and magazine advertisements, and he adds the workers who must behind the images.

Here is "Fred Segal Store, Los Angeles" by Ramiro Gomez (2016). It's Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72 inches.

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If you're in LA, you can see Ramiro's On Melrose collection at the Charlie James Gallery (969 Chung King Road, Los Angeles 90012) through May 28.

Don't live in LA? No worries. You can check out his work in the book Domestic Scenes: The Art of Ramiro Gomez. Put a pin in that one. It looks like quite the present idea for the immprof in your life.

-KitJ

May 11, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

From the Bookshelves: In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

 

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In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by

The star of Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin presents her personal story of the real plight of undocumented immigrants in this country

Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahit Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, was just fourteen years old on the day her parents and brother (who were visa overstays) were arrested and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family.

In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman's extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are just as precarious, and whose stories haven't been told. Written with Michelle Burford, this memoir is a tale of personal triumph that also casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families like the author's and on a system that fails them over and over.
 
Click here for a USA Today interview with Guerrero about the book.
 
 
 
 
 
KJ
 

May 5, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Throwback Thursday: Michael Walzer


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If you haven't read Michael Walzer's 1983 book Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, put it on your summer reading list. I myself am grateful to immprofs Steve Legomsky and David Martin for introducing me to it some years ago.

Walzer is a political theorist and moral philosopher. In Spheres of Justice, he tackles "distributive justice," that is, how goods of every kind can and should be allocated worldwide. 

Chapter two of his book is particularly important for immprofs. It considers "membership" from a distributive justice perspective. The discussion includes assessment of immigration restrictions as justified elements of community building and membership identification. He writes:

The members of a political community have a collective right to shape the resident population...

That right is not unbounded. Walzer outlines obligations owed to current members and "mutual aid" (think refugees).

-KitJ

May 5, 2016 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

From the Bookshelves: The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World by Tara Zahra

 

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The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World by Tara Zahra

Between 1846 and 1940, more than 50 million Europeans moved to the Americas, irrevocably changing both their new homes and the ones they left behind. In this groundbreaking study, Tara Zahra explores the deeper story of this astonishing movement of people—one of the largest in human history.

The great exodus out of Eastern Europe hollowed out villages with dizzying speed. As villages emptied and the fear of depopulation ran rampant, anxiety over “American fever” prevailed, leading to the scapegoating of Jewish emigration agents. Yet others saw vast opportunity: to seed colonies of migrants like the Polish community in Argentina, to gain economic advantage from an inflow of foreign currency, or to reshape their communities in a new land. In the United States, their migration fostered the notion of the “land of the free.” Globally, the policies that gave shape to this migration provided the precedent for future events such as the Holocaust, the closing of the Iron Curtain, and the tragedies of ethnic cleansing.

A sweeping history of the most consequential social phenomenon of the twentieth century, The Great Departure gives poignant attention to the individuals whose lives were transformed by these decades of mass departure, and a keen historical perspective on their continuing legacy.

For a book review and interview with the author in National Geographic, click here.

KJ

May 4, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 2, 2016

From the Bookshelves: Strangers at Our Door by Zygmunt Bauman

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Strangers at Our Door by Zygmunt Bauman (to be released June 2016)

Refugees from the violence of wars and the brutality of famished lives have knocked on other people's doors since the beginning of time. For the people behind the doors, these uninvited guests were always strangers, and strangers tend to generate fear and anxiety precisely because they are unknown. Today we find ourselves confronted with an extreme form of this historical dynamic, as our TV screens and newspapers are filled with accounts of a 'migration crisis', ostensibly overwhelming Europe and portending the collapse of our way of life. This anxious debate has given rise to a veritable 'moral panic' - a feeling of fear spreading among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society.

In this short book Zygmunt Bauman analyses the origins, contours and impact of this moral panic - he dissects, in short, the present-day migration panic. He shows how politicians have exploited fears and anxieties that have become widespread, especially among those who have already lost so much - the disinherited and the poor. But he argues that the policy of mutual separation, of building walls rather than bridges, is misguided. It may bring some short-term reassurance but it is doomed to fail in the long run. We are faced with a crisis of humanity, and the only exit from this crisis is to recognize our growing interdependence as a species and to find new ways to live together in solidarity and cooperation, amidst strangers who may hold opinions and preferences different from our own.

Bauman discusses the book and the refugee crisis in the New York Times.

KJ

May 2, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

From the Bookshelves: Voices of the Undocumented by Val Rosenfeld and Flor Fortunati

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Voices of the Undocumented by Val Rosenfeld and Flor Fortunati

America is in the midst of a daily debate about the issue of undocumented workers. It seems that every day there is another controversy about immigration in the news. Most Americans read these articles and look upon the undocumented immigrants as an undifferentiated block of people. Few seem to truly understand them as individuals, how they got here and their personal stories. This non-fiction book, Voices of the Undocumented, tells the stories of nine undocumented individuals, their struggles as day workers, how their lives are in limbo and their hopes for a better future. This is not a political book. The purpose of these life stories is to give these faceless people a voice.


From the heartbreaking story of Salvador (an illiterate Mexican farm worker who entered the U.S. illegally four times), to Ernesto (an educated Peruvian womanizer), to the amazing accomplishments of Rocío (a graduate of a prestigious university), Voices of the Undocumented relates poignant accounts of the undocumented workers' lives. One must know the stories to truly know the people.

Val Rosenfeld is retired and lives in Los Altos, California.  She has been a volunteer with various organizations and is currently an ESL teacher at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View, California.  She has an MBA degree from the University of Santa Clara and worked in corporate finance for several high-technology companies.

Flor Fortunati lives in Sunnyvale, California.  She is from Buenos Aires, Argentina and is temporarily living in the United States. She is currently a volunteer at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View. She graduated from the Universidad de Buenos Aires with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Before moving to the United Sates in 2013, she worked for various petroleum companies.

KJ

April 13, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Love Letter to My Clients and Hamilton by Elizabeth Keyes

UB Law immprof Elizabeth Keyes has penned the following:

Barack, Lin-Manuel, Juan. Seeds in the garden planted so long ago by another man who was young, scrappy and hungry and who then accomplished extraordinary things. The first two you know, and there they were free-styling at the White House last month. One, the child of a Kenyan immigrant and an American who became President. The other, the child of Puerto Rican parents who is, so far, a Tony, Grammy and Macarthur genius award winner. But who is Juan, and can’t we get back to Hamilton? (Please?)

Juan is my client. An undocumented immigrant. And Hamilton is his story. Yes, the musical tells a specific story, about a specific man in a different era. But it is a quintessential story of immigration, hunger, and accomplishment, and that story is Juan’s, too. Almost precisely, but for one important difference. I’ll get to that in a moment. (Wait for it.)

With Hamilton, we all fall in love with the characters and the performers and the music in equal measure. But as an immigration lawyer, I also very powerfully felt my heart soar with gratitude and recognition about something much more specific: Here was the story of an immigrant disdained as a “Creole bastard,” being told with unabashed glory and pride. The love and respect that the Hamilton cast show in their narrative is akin to the love and respect that I feel for Juan and so many of my clients who so seldom feel the love and respect from anyone.

From the first song, asking us to spot Hamilton, “another immigrant comin’ up from the bottom” to the show-stopping moment at the Battle of Yorktown where he and Lafayette reconnect and—with deserved pride—nod their heads and say “immigrants…we get the job done,” Hamilton is an immigrant story, featuring the ambitious young person with little more than a “top-notch brain,” who makes his way here and thrives in a land full of opportunity for anyone bold enough to seize it.

Hamilton’s story is helped by the laws of his day. When he arrived in the United States in 1772 or 1773, there was no immigration law that prevented him from coming. He was a British subject, who could travel freely among all parts of the world that Britain controlled—and much beyond it as well, if he wished. When he and Lafayette came, there was no such thing as being “undocumented” or immigrating illegally because there were no such laws to break and no visas to acquire. States had some rules about who could arrive, and sometimes charged fees on arriving passengers, but that was about it until the late 19th century, when we started excluding Asians, then poor people, then LGBT people, and so on and so on.

In his more open era, Hamilton could and did lay immediate claim to his country, shifting from loyal, royal subject to American as easily as he breathed. Ron Chernow, in the biography that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to ultimately create Hamilton, writes:

Few immigrants have renounced their past more unequivocally or adopted their new country more wholeheartedly. ‘I am neither merchant nor farmer,’ he now wrote, just a year and a half after leaving St. Croix. ‘I address you because I wish well to my country.’

“My” country. Hamilton claimed America as his, in 1774. As he could. As he was legally able to do.

By 1777, Hamilton became General George Washington’s chief aide-de-camp, and Chernow evokes the power of his transformation of identity:

Once again, the young immigrant had been transported to another sphere…The high-level service completed Hamilton’s rapid metamorphosis into a full-blooded American. The Continental Army was a national institution and helped make Hamilton the optimal person to articulate a vision of American nationalism, his vision sharpened by the immigrant’s special love for his new country.

How does someone metamorphose into a full-blooded American today? Not through valiant service, although for some, that remains a possibility—Margaret Stock, another Macarthur genius award recipient and a senatorial candidate from Alaska, made that connection to the Pentagon when she rapidly pushed through the idea that some immigrants with legal status could acquire citizenship rapidly in exchange for providing valuable military service to the nation. Hamilton’s heirs, certainly.

But for most, there is no metamorphosis available, and that is where Juan’s story differs from Hamilton’s. But what a story his is. Juan came to the U.S. from a place where he just could not get the education he wanted. He had finished high school, and came here in his late teens, intent on getting further. Literally the day after he arrived, he started loading and unloading trucks at a nearby hardware store, earning the precious dollars he needed to go to school. He hasn’t stopped working since, but he also managed to go to community college, and then transfer to a four-year university. No big deal, but he graduated from that university summa cum laude. While studying in a second language. While working full-time. Young, scrappy, hungry…you see it, right? (I’ve written about him before, so see here if you want to read more.)

Being a non-stop person himself, Juan applied to graduate school, and he now goes to a prestigious one on the scholarship he earned from being so danged studious. Like Hamilton, there are a million things he hasn’t done, but just you wait. I expect him to reinvent the world one day, and when he does, I will be so proud to have known him.

But unlike A.Ham claiming citizenship in his new country, Juan cannot. Paths to legal status in the United States are achingly narrow for all, and treacherously easy to fall off. Nowhere is this more true than for people of color living in communities that are over-policed, for immigrants with limited English skills who accept guilty pleas for crimes they may not have committed, without fully understanding the consequences of those pleas. I could go on. But let it suffice to say that there is a deep, sometimes painful, beauty in the immigrant story being told as passionately and evocatively as it is by the richly diverse case of Hamilton, when our enforcement policies today target so many people who look like that cast.

Juan, like many thousands of young people, is too busy studying to get into trouble—until the day he forgets to replace a headlight on their car, gets pulled over by the police in an immigrant-unfriendly town or county, run through an immigration database that may reveal his lack of status, and placed in removal proceedings. If that happens to Juan, I will be there with him, fighting for him. Most immigrants in removal proceedings are not fortunate enough to have a lawyer. They leave, and with their departures we lose people who could have contributed vibrantly to our nation.

Imagine America if Hamilton had been deported for lacking papers. We make all manner of things deportable offenses these days, and it doesn’t matter if everything is “legal in Jersey” if the federal government says, say, dueling is a deportable offense. We would have lost a man who, by the time of his engagement to Eliza Schuyler in 1780, even his future father-in-law recognized as American. Philip Schuyler told Eliza that Hamilton was “the ornament of his country.”

His country. America. A place where even an orphaned immigrant can make a difference. How do we treat these immigrants today? With contempt (sometimes literally). With jail. With life in the shadows. With hope after hope of political accommodation dashed by a Congress which responds to the worst voices of fear, and not the call of Hamilton’s own legacy.

Juan, too, is an ornament of his country, as are the DREAMers who are reinventing our idea of citizenship by claiming their American-ness so forcefully. In this, and in their project of redefining who America is, and who Americans are, they are Hamilton’s heirs. They are the seeds he planted in a garden 250 years ago when he walked off that boat in New York.

As depicted by the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton kept searching for ways to do more for the country he loved, and to take advantage of every opportunity this country gave him. Thankfully, people like George Washington judged him for his talent, and not for his place of birth. Might we do the same for young, scrappy, and hungry Juan, and so many like him. If we could see them as Hamilton’s heirs, that would be enough. And if we could reform our laws to let them be the Americans in law that they already are in their hearts, that would be enough. It’s only a matter of time.

April 7, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs, Immigration Law Clinics, Law Review Articles & Essays, Music | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, March 28, 2016

From the Bookshelves: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

Keita Ali is on the run.

Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita’s ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches—until Keita is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family’s survival.

Keita escapes into Freedom State—a wealthy island nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown. Keita can stay safe only if he keeps moving and eludes the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he would face almost certain death.

This is the new underground: a place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be “illegal” live below the radar of the police and government officials. As Keita surfaces from time to time to earn cash prizes by running local road races, he has to assess whether the people he meets are friends or enemies.

Keita’s very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister’s life, too.

Fast moving and compelling, The Illegal casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees and urges us to consider the plight of the faceless, the unseen and the forgotten.

The Illegal is published by HarperCollins in Canada and by  WW Norton & Co in the United States.

Click here for a review of The Illegal.

KJ

March 28, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

From the Bookshelves: Latinos and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia by José Luis Morín, editor

9780313356605

 Latinos and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia by José Luis Morín, editor (March 2016)

Although increased Latino immigration is often associated with increased crime, statistics belie that accusation. Immigrants are actually less likely to be involved in crime than citizens, and they have lower incarceration rates than other groups in the population. In fact, "high immigration" states, such as Arizona, have the lowest crime rates in the Union.

This unique compilation of essays and entries provides critical insights into the Latino/a experience with the U.S. criminal justice system.

Concerns about immigration's relationship to crime make accurate information and critical analysis of the utmost importance. Latinos and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia promotes understanding of Latinas and Latinos and the U.S. criminal justice system, at the same time dispelling popular misconceptions about this population and criminal activity in the United States.

Unlike a traditional encyclopedia comprised solely of A–Z entries, this work consists of three parts. Part I offers detailed essays on particularly important topics. Part II provides short, A–Z entries, and Part III gives readers access to resources and key public documents. Topics are cross-referenced to enable easy research. Among the wide range of topics covered are policing and police misconduct, incarceration, the war on drugs, gangs, border crime, and racial profiling. Historically important issues and events relative to the Latino experience of criminal justice in the United States are also included, as are key legal cases.

Features

  • Topical essays on issues such as immigrants and crime, drugs, youth, border crime, racial profiling, and prisons
  • Shorter, A–Z entries on a wide range of additional topics
  • A section of key public documents
  • A selected bibliography divided into topic areas

Highlights

  • Provides vital information at a time when questions and controversies swirl about Latinos in the United States
  • Addresses key areas of concern with respect to Latinos and crime, immigration, drugs, gangs, and police policies and practices in Latino and African American communities
  • Documents the often-forgotten history of Latinos in the United States, from the Greaser Act and zoot-suit riots to the contemporary experience of Latinos facing racial profiling and controversial immigration legislation
  • Contains both long essays that provide context and depth of discussion and shorter essays for quick reference on specific topics
José Luis Morín is professor in the Latin American and Latina/o Studies Department and a member of the faculty in the doctoral program in criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Professor Morín is author of Latino/a Rights and Justice in the United States: Perspectives and Approaches and a recipient of many honors and awards, including the 2007 "El Award" for outstanding contribution to the Latino community, presented by the El Diario/La Prensa, the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States.
 
KJ

March 17, 2016 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)