Monday, April 28, 2014

Redressing the Shame of U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Policies

Dear Friends,

Here is an abstract of a new essay I have written and posted on SSRN:

Redressing the Shame of U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Policies

(forthcoming book chapter in LOIS LORENTZEN, ED. HIDDEN LIVES AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN AMERICA: UNDERSTANDING THE CONTROVERSIES AND TRAGEDIES OF UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION ((Praeger 2014))

In this chapter, I provide a focused view of certain examples of U.S. immigration laws and enforcement policies that have gone too far. I provide a fuller picture of employer sanctions enforcement and Operation Gatekeeper, along with harsh deportation policies that are enforced in the name of protecting our borders and ourselves from a so-called invasion of immigrants. I explain how the lack of sufficient visas and U.S. trade policies have exacerbated the alleged “illegal immigration” problem. And I discuss how a system based on ethical values is needed to remedy the evils of current U.S. immigration policies.

The experiment that we call America is a test of our character and our willingness to believe that we can have a strong country that is caring and diverse. Showing compassion and fairness in our immigration policies is not a sign of weakness. Rather, those traits demonstrate confidence in a rule of law and system of government that metes out punishment when necessary, but understands that regulating the lives of those who seek to live within our borders must be done with the utmost compassion, dignity, and understanding. As in previous generations, there is much to admire about individuals who come to our shores seeking freedom and a better life. Whether they are fleeing persecution or entering to seek work in order to better their lives, the newcomers of today are not much different from those of the past. Once here, welcoming newcomers and understanding the challenges that they will be facing are imperative. As they become part of our neighborhoods and communities, some may make mistakes, but we would do well to remember that supporting rehabilitation, giving a second chance, and providing ways for individuals to mature are essential elements of a civil society. Although these forgiving traits may immediately benefit the individual, in the end, we all benefit. When an individual finally turns the corner and becomes a contributing member, the entire community benefits socially, emotionally, and economically.

To read the entire essay, click here.

bh

April 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Si Se Puede: Cesar Chavez, The Man Vs.The Movie

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This episode of NPR's Alt.Latino focuses on Cesar Chavez, the recent biopic about the civil-rights activist and labor leader and the movement to unionize farm workers. The film has been credited as an example of a Latino filmmaker telling the kinds of stories often ignored by mainstream cinema. It's also been taken to task for glossing over the contributions of Filipino organizers to the creation of the United Farm Workers union, while also minimizing Dolores Huerta's role in the movement during the time depicted in the film.  Gustavo Arellano, author of the column Ask A Mexican, and film critic Anne Hoyt discuss the conflicting views that the film has generated since its March release.

KJ

 

April 28, 2014 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Health Care Options for the Undocumented

In an article "Healthcare options for undocumented immigrants," Lisa Zamosky of the Los Angeles Times summarizes the health care options available to undocumented immigrants.  The bottom line is that undocumented immigrants have limited access to health insurance, a fact the Affordable Care Act does little to change. While there are some possible options to obtain coverage for the undocumented, they are somewhat limited.

KJ 

April 28, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

DU Crimmigration Law & Policy Workshop

In March, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law hosted a workshop on Crimmigration Law & Policy Workshop: Immigration Detainers and gathered leading scholars and advocates to explore the rise of crimmigration, the impact of crimmigration on Colorado families and communities, the formation and adoption of detainer policies limiting local compliance and the litigation sparked by the widespread use of detainers. Click the link above and view program.  The recording of each panel session is available on line and no login/password is required.

KJ

April 28, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Let My People Work: Our FAITH at the Intersection of Immigration and Economic Justice

From: Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-CA) Statewide Affiliates & the California Immigrant Policy Center

A Conference to inspire, inform, and strengthen the voice of FAITH in the movement for economic justice and immigrant rights

Let My People Work: Our FAITH at the Intersection of Immigration and Economic Justice

June 9 - 11, Los Angeles

Dear friends,
 
We are excited to announce a few of our plenary speakers for the conference. It is our goal to provide attendees with an experience unlike any other that is deeply rooted in the movement.   We invite you to join us. This conference will inspire, educate, strategize and deepen the vision and commitment of faith people in the movement for justice.

Confirmed Plenary Speakers:

Rev. James Lawson, former pastor of Holman United Methodist Church, Los Angeles: Civil Rights Leader

Rev.  Kelvin Sauls, Pastor of Holman United Methodist Church, Los Angeles

Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Director of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor

Rev. Phil Lawson, Civil Rights and Immigration Activist and Leader

Shelia Devaney,  visiting Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress and former program officer at the Ford Foundation

Professor Bill Ong Hing, University San Francisco Law Professor and Author

Rabbi Mike Rothbaum, Bend the Arc
 
Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center 
 
This conference will focus on:

-organizing for economic and racial justice conducted by immigrants, workers, and families in California
-achieving immigration reform that is rooted in our faith values
-ending mass deportation and mass incarceration
-highlighting the vision, voice, power and practices of faith communities
 
Please join people of faith, clergy and lay leaders from across California who are engaged in the ministry and movement for economic justice, immigration reform and worker rights.
 
Seasoned veterans and those newly involved are all welcome.  All faith traditions, races, nationalities, ethnicities, and languages are welcome.  (Translation will be available.)  Our grassroots, community, labor and policy partners also are welcome.

Click Here to Register!

Get more info at the Conference Website
www.tinyurl.com/clueconf

Thank you very much for your response. We look forward to seeing you at the conference. Please contact us, or Kianna Shann, kshann@clueca.org, for any questions.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rev. Deborah Lee and Rev. Dr. Arthur Cribbs
CLUE-California

bh

April 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

H-4 Visa a curse: for the women in U.S.

Guest blogger: Ankit Prakash, LLM student, University of San Francisco School of Law

In today’s world every women has ambition of reaching heights in their professional life. Here is a story which tells you how thousands of women are deprived of what they want to do with their life. I got the chance to meet one of those unfortunate women, as she was a senior from my law school in India who recently relocated to San Francisco after marriage. I am writing about her and how her ambition of growing her professional career was curtailed because of U.S. immigration policy. Her problem is that she is the dependent of H-1B visa holder; as such she was issued an H-4 visa at entry.

She started law school in 2006 in India. Her ambitions were high to become a top legal practitioner in the world. She always aimed high and stood among the top five students in her batch. She was very active with her extra-curricular activities and participated in various national and international moot court competitions. She was convener of the moot court committee and an active member of the placement committee in the law school in India.

She graduated in 2011 with flying colors which resulted in several job opportunities from different companies. She always has been interested in international law and insurance law. She chose to work with the legal team of the leading insurance company in India. She worked hard for a year and during work she applied for her higher studies. Her hard work and dedication gave her a chance to study for a master’s of law in international law in a prestigious university in United Kingdom on a full merit based scholarship.

During her stay in London she met her boyfriend and after graduation from university in London last year,  they married. He got an opportunity to work with a well-known IT Company in Silicon Valley. After, marriage she came to live here in San Francisco on a dependent visa (H-4) because of her husband’s H-1B visa. Even after holding a master’s degree and ambition for better future by herself are in the hands of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allow U.S. employer to employ a temporary worker from foreign nation for work in a specialized field. Generally spouses of H-1B visa holders get a dependent visa (H-4). They can go to school and get a degree so that they can work or convert their visa to H-1B. But, H-4s are not allowed to get any kind of student loan so their spouses have to take expensive personal loans to fund the spouse’s education. An H-4 visa holder would be unable to use any scholarship money awarded. They are not even allowed to work while studying, as some F-1 visa holders might. They are allowed on the job training but they are not allowed to work.

The problem is that the majority of H-4 visa holders are women and nobody has ever heard their voices. That is a shame, because talented individuals like my friend could actually help boost the U.S. economy if she were allowed to work. Many H-4s are highly skilled and experienced. They cannot live up to their potential. Policy makers should not forget that Silicon Valley has been bolstered by the sweat and blood of H-1B workers; but H-4 dependents have sacrificed dreams and aspirations. This ineligibility to work should be reconsidered, especially because of the disparate impact on women. Reform could help better their futures as well as the future of the United States.

bh

April 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 9 Action to End the Detention Bed Quota

From Detention Watch Network:

Detention Watch Network (DWN) takes to the streets to End The Quota! Join us in Washington, D.C. as we march, we rally, and take a public stance against the arbitrary quota that requires the incarceration of 34,000 immigrants in detention at any given time.

What: DWN Takes to The Streets! End The Quota Action in DC!
When: Friday, May 9th, 2014
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Where:  Meet outside the Smithsonian Metro Station (Orange and Blue Line), Washington, D.C.

We have the power to demand that Congress and President Obama eliminate the quota and stop the senseless targeting and incarceration of immigrants. Click here to learn more about the quota.

For more information and to get involved please contact Catalina Nieto, DWN Field Director at cnieto@detentionwatchnetwork.org or 202-350-9058.

bh

April 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Janet Napolitano: How to diversify a campus, in spite of the Supreme Court

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In the Washington Post, University of California President Janet Napolitano discusses the challenges facing public universities in California in which Proposition 209 since 1996 has prohibited the consideration of race or gender in admissions decisions.   She observes that

"As Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained while referencing the University of California’s amicus brief [in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, decided earlier this week], Proposition 209 produced `an immediate and precipitous decline in the rates at which underrepresented-minority students applied to, were admitted to, and enrolled' at the university. At the University of California’s most selective campuses, for example, admission and enrollment rates for underrepresented minorities dropped by more than half immediately after the ban was put in place."

President Napolitano concludes as follows:

"Our experience in California gives Michigan — and other states that may be considering bans on race-conscious admissions — a sense of what lies ahead. For nearly two decades, we have served as a laboratory of innovation for race-blind strategies to promote diversity on our campuses. We will continue these vital efforts. But as long as the university is prohibited from considering all of an applicant’s characteristics, we will be doing so with one arm tied tightly behind our backs."

 KJ 

April 27, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Justin Bieber Questioned on Return to US

USA Today reported earlier this week that, according to various news reports, Justin Bieber was released after being questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers for nearly four hours in Los Angeles.  He was returning from a trip to Asia.

Bieber has had some legal challenges:  "He's scheduled to go on trial in Miami in July on charges of driving under the influence and resisting arrest. A misdemeanor assault case in Toronto is awaiting trial, and in Los Angeles, prosecutors are considering whether to bring a felony vandalism case against him over eggs thrown at a neighbor's house."

KJ

April 27, 2014 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Oregon Counties Modify ICE Detainer Policies

From OregonLive:

Twenty-three Oregon law enforcement agencies so far have changed their practice of holding suspected undocumented immigrants in jail for the sole purpose of deportation.

The changes have quickly spread across the state and, legal experts say could have nationwide implications.

Under a federal program called Secure Communities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can request that police keep a cleared inmate in custody at the locality's expense, giving ICE agents time to retrieve the individual for possible deportation.

Sheriff’s officials in Oregon updated their policies after a federal judge ruled April 11 that Clackamas County violated one woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her for immigration authorities without probable cause, 19 hours after her original booking charges had cleared. Read more..

Philadelphia ended it's local cooperation with ICE detainers last week as well.

bh

April 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Commodification of Filipino Workers in the Era of Globalization

Guest blogger: Jennifer L. Sta.Ana, second-year law student, University of San Francisco

On a hot August morning, I sat at my grandmother’s table, eating kanin (rice) and daing na bangus (fried fish) for breakfast.  The ceiling fan swirled above, the shutters were pushed open, and the breeze delivered echoes of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” through the window screens. Renee, my grandmother’s driver (a member of the family commonly present in city homes in the Philippines), had a local radio station on, playing “the” summer anthem which originated from the distant land I called home – the United States. After breakfast, I got into Renee’s car and headed to the airport. It was my last day in the Philippines after an externship working in human rights.

Renee and I took the same highway to the airport as we had done everyday to get to work – EDSA. This was the same highway brimming with crowds during the People’s Power Movement, which overthrew Marcos in 1982. Looking out the car window, it was now filled with billboards, advertising U.S. films like Despicable Me 2, clothing brands depicting U.S. teen heartthrobs, and blue-eyed, blonde-haired models.

As I peered out of the window, I took a short moment to reflect on my summer. On my last day on the job, I said my goodbyes to familiar faces, one of which belonged to the cafeteria cashier. In response to my farewell, she asked, “Saan ka pupunta?” (“Where are you going?)” “Sa States” (“To the US”), I replied. “Suerta ka naman aalis ka na” (“You’re so lucky that you finally have your chance to leave”), she exhorted without knowing I was Filipino-American. “Nandito pa ako katulad ng mga iba na naghihintay sa aming papeles!” (“I’m still here like the rest of us waiting for our [immigration] paperwork!”).

She, like many Filipino citizens, strives to be elsewhere. The Philippine government explicitly calls Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) its greatest export. Corazon Aquino’s administration of the 1990s glorified OFWs as the “new heroes” of the Philippines.  Largely underlying this token praise is the reaped gain for the government. In 2011 alone, OFWs delivered $20 billion USD back to the Philippines, over 10% of which contributes to the Philippines’ GDP and ranks them as the world’s second largest sender of remittances, just behind Mexico.

To the individual, the opportunity to work abroad, even as cheap labor, promises more financial security than staying in the Philippines. The average hourly wage is less than $1.50 USD in the Philippines.  Many more citizens are unemployed. From April to September 2012, 2.2 million OFWs were scattered the world.  The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, an entire government agency devoted to OFW migration, identified domestic work as the number one occupational category for migrant workers

Filipino immigrants who work in household service enter the U.S. either through 1) the H2B visa (non-agricultural guestworker visa), 2) a tourist visa, 3) by accompanying their diplomat employers through the B1, A3 or G5 visas or 4) a family petition.  These gateways to a “better life” are not always propitious.

Recorded cases depict U.S. recruiters fraudulently petitioning for H2B visas.   A number of OFWs find that, upon arrival, employers steal their rightful wages, provide inhabitable housing, and charge excessive recruiter fees. Because OFWs can only lawfully stay in the country by working for their petitioning employer, workers do not report abuses.  Proposals for immigration reform in the United States only increase the number of guestworkers to satiate the U.S.’s cheap labor needs.

Some domestic workers enter as tourists and overstay their B2 visa. Now undocumented, they work under the table and are subject to the same exploitative schemes as H2B workers.  Domestic helpers accompanying diplomats are similarly situated– unable to escape from potentially abusive employers due to risk of deportation. 

Filipinos who are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are among the largest groups to submit family petitions to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). More requests for family reunification outnumber visa availability. The backlog is so large that the U.S. State Department sets priority dates especially for the Philippines in its visa bulletin, meaning that visas will finally be available for petitioners who filed on or before the bulletin’s listed priority date. The May 2014 bulletin indicates that USCIS will have a visa available for a Filipino sibling of a U.S. citizen if the petition was filed with USCIS on or before November 1, 1990.  But, to clarify, the sibling waiting twenty-four years will not be granted a visa come May. USCIS will solely begin processing the application. There is no guarantee of approval. Proposed immigration reform eliminates the sibling category because the backlog is so extensive.

As I sat in Renee’s car, not only did I think of the commodification of people outside of the Philippines, I also thought of the converse – what directly permeates into Philippine borders.

At the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. colonized the Philippines, importing its brand of law and education. To this day, the main Philippine Constitutional Law textbook at one of the most prestigious law schools in the nation, Ateneo, heavily showcases SCOTUS opinions.

From legalese to common vernacular, Western language holds formidable cultural capital in the Philippines. I used Tagalog to the best of my ability while I was there. Upon realizing I was born and raised in the States, locals commonly asked, “Bakit ka nagtatagalog?” (“Why are you speaking in Tagalog?”). It was expected that I, as many Filipino-Americans, would only know English. Even if I did know Tagalog, English was the preferred language of the land – it signified prestige and a good education.

With the advent of neoliberalism in the 1970s, the Philippine government instituted pro-privatization policies to adjust to Western expectations of progress. While in the Philippine region of Mindanao, I stumbled upon a government-sponsored advertisement in the local paper. It informed foreigners of the government’s visa waiver program, enticing them to stay and invest in the country. The Philippines unabashedly promotes rapid development and relocates the urban poor to the metropole’s outskirts.  Accompanying ads saturated with American movies and idols, billboards promote new shopping centers and condominium high-rises.

Culminating from the synergy of seemingly countervailing policies in the Philippines – the encouraged exodus of citizens and the unfiltered embrace of Western knowledge and development – is a streamlined message asserting, “What’s foreign is better.” It is better to drive out citizens to work in foreign lands. It is better to learn and speak in a foreign tongue. It is better to welcome foreigners to capitalize on the land.

Washington loses sight of what is happening beyond U.S. borders when formulating “comprehensive” immigration reform. Policymakers push for myopic measures, solely focusing on immigration as a domestic issue. Congress will pour money to create a construct akin to the Berlin Wall and a path to citizenship will be given to undocumented persons already here. But, if it is truly comprehensive, should we not look at the underlying causes of immigration, which is inherently tied to the U.S.’s influence abroad – tied to the U.S.’s need for cheap labor and its economic and political stamp of approval in the Global South? In an era of globalization, we must champion local industry and knowledge. People should not be forced to leave their families and homelands any longer.

bh

April 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Indigeneous Languages Flourish Among Mexican Immigrants

NPR has a story on something that many Americans do not know:  Immigrants from Mexico don't always speak Spanish. Instead they speak indigenous languages. That's created huge communications problems.

KJ

 

April 25, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

ICE Rarely Uses Prosecutorial Discretion to Close Immigration Cases

The Obama administration issued a number of directives on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in immigration removal cases.  TRAC data shows that yhe use of prosecutorial discretion (PD) by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to close cases in the Immigration Courts continues to be relatively rare -- only 6.7 percent of cases were closed on this basis between October 2012 and March 2014. Overall PD usage has hovered in the six to eight percent range for months, though its use varies widely by location. As of March 31, 2014, Immigration Courts with ICE PD closures in the three to four percent range included those in San Antonio, New York City, Las Vegas and Newark. The Houston, Buffalo and El Paso courts saw even lower levels: less than three percent. On the other hand, the PD closure rate for the Tucson and Seattle courts has been about 30 percent during the past 18 months.

For the complete list documenting the use of PD in each Immigration Court and hearing location, updated with the latest court data through March 2014, see TRAC's Prosecutorial Discretion tool.

For ICE PD usage in earlier years, see the TRAC report.

KJ 

April 25, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

GOP Senators Accuse Obama of Abandoning Immigration Enforcement

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Suzanne Gamboa of NBC News reports that a group of 22 senators --  all but two of whom voted against a Senate-approved immigration reform bill -- warned President Barack Obama late last week  in a letter that immigration changes his administration is considering would be “a near complete abandonment” of immigration enforcement. The letter also accused the president of taking actions that show “an astonishing disregard for the Constitution, rule of law, and the rights of American citizens and residents.”

The letter begins:

"We write to express our grave concerns over the immigration “enforcement review” that you ordered after meeting with advocacy groups on March 13, 2014, and that is now being carried out by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to reports, the changes under consideration would represent a near complete abandonment of basic immigration enforcement and discard the rule of law and the notion that the United States has enforceable borders.

Clearly, the urgent task facing your administration is to improve immigration enforcement, not to look for new ways to weaken it. Since 2009, your administration has issued policy directives and memoranda incrementally nullifying immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States – to the point that unless individuals in the country illegally are apprehended, tried, and convicted for a felony or other serious offense, they are free to live and work in the country."

The Senators who signed the letter were Charles Grassley, Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby, Mike Lee, Johnny Isakson, Mike Johanns, James Inhofe, John Boozman, David Vitter, James Risch, Pat Roberts, Mike Crapo, Roy Blunt, Thad Cochran, Saxby Chambliss, Tim Scott, Tom Coburn, Deb Fischer, Ted Cruz, John Hoeven, Jeff Sessions and Orrin Hatch.

KJ

April 25, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Probe: DHS watchdog cozy with officials, altered reports

The Washington Post reports that the top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general, according to a new report from a Senate oversight panel. Charles K. Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely shared drinks and dinner with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations, according to the report from an oversight panel of the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee.

KJ

April 25, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Boehner Mocks Colleagues on Immigration Reform

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Racialized Exclusion Leads to Ungrievable Border Deaths

Guest blogger: Amelia Andersen, second-year law student, University of San Francisco

The number of migrants that have died crossing the border since 1998 is estimated to be at least 5,595  people. In 2012 alone, 477 migrants lost their lives attempting to cross. Importantly, these figures only represent the migrant bodies that have been recovered along the border. The vast, mountainous, and remote areas that constitute border crossing points means that it can take many years for the body of a migrant to be recovered, if they are discovered at all. For these numbers to be more than merely anecdotal, the loss of lives along the border must be understood within the larger context of the United States’ racialized immigration laws.

Beginning with slavery and continuing to the immigration laws that are in place today, “the meaning of citizenship [in the U.S.] has rested on the denial of citizenship to nonwhites living within its borders.”  Historically, whiteness has been produced through the legal and social reification of racial categories and racial difference. From Dred Scott to In Re Rodriguez, defining racial difference became the Court’s job in the early citizenship prerequisite cases. In these cases, courts used both “common knowledge” and “scientific” rationales to justify the racial divisions they used to define people as white (suitable for citizenship) and as non-white (unfit for naturalization).  Accordingly, since this nation’s inception, citizenship has been about denial of rights to certain racialized groups. In other words, the hegemonic belief in the privileges and rights afforded to the citizen is dependent on the construction of the racialized “illegal alien” who is denied these rights.

Today, the racialized underpinnings of the “citizen” v. the “illegal alien” paradigm has become invisibilized and normalized. As citizenship has become an unquestioned ideology, “illegality” has functioned to instill notions of criminality on migrants of color. “Illegal immigrants” have become hyper-visible as a result of both legal interventions and because of the ideological effects of the discourse of “illegality.” 

The ideology that allows the dominant U.S. polity to see migrant deaths as ungrievable, and migrants themselves as subhuman, is maintained not only by our national laws and policies but also by nativist and racist discourse. As author Nicholas De Genova explains, “migrant “illegality” is produced as an effect of the law, but it is also sustained as an effect of discursive formation.”  Discourse is essential in the production and affirmation of ideologies. Phrases like the “browning of America”, the undocumented “invasion”, and “the border crisis” merely reinforce dominant myths about undocumented migration and drive policies like Operation Gatekeeper. This rhetoric circulates through language or images used in the media. For example “Time magazine’s June 11, 2001, cover image illustrated just how subtly the idea of reconquest, or a Mexican takeover of the United States could be evoked.”  The image was of two smiling Latino children dressed as children anywhere in the U.S. may be dressed and the text next to it stated “THE BORDER is vanishing before our eyes, creating a new world for all of us.”  Clearly, the brown-skinned children on U.S. soil were intended to convey the vanishing of the U.S./Mexico border. This deeply racialized discourse functions as an apparatus of power to sustain migrants’ vulnerable and disposable position in U.S. society.

Much like “illegality,” the border itself is a social construction. For generations there existed no physical barrier along our national border. The border was porous, defined by the transnational communities that inhabited it rather than by militarized infrastructure and armed border patrol presence. However, as author Nestor P. Rodriguez writes, “for the generations of U.S. people historically removed from its inception, the border takes on the character of an institution, that is, as “objective reality” and as “self-evident.”  This means that the border is seen as a necessity, essential for sovereignty and national security.

The growing death toll along the border can be directly attributed to the federal policies that have been executed along the border in the last fifteen years. Operation Gatekeeper was implemented in 1994, the idea behind the policy was “prevention through deterrence.” By constructing the border wall and increasing border patrol presence, the government sought to cut off access to traditional crossing routes through the implementation of technological infrastructure and militarization tactics. However, rather than deter, this policy has only moved the foot traffic of migration out of the public eye and intentionally forced undocumented migrants to cross through extreme environments and natural barriers that the government anticipated would increase the likelihood of injury and death.  Not only did the government know that these deaths would be a likely result of their new policies, once this was proven true, INS chose to continue Operation Gatekeeper.  This means that the production of death along the U.S./Mexico border is an intended result of our current Federal immigration policies rather than an unanticipated consequence.

Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of the release of the number of border crossing mortalities has been the absence of significant public outcry. The historical racialization of migrants, coupled with the construction of their “illegality,” has ensured that the implementation of border policies that produce predictable deaths on a large scale are more than tolerated by U.S. society; they are naturalized. Sometimes the deaths of migrant border crossers are viewed as a justified deterrent to others who may want to cross, or as a deserved consequence of their choice to break the law. This discourse focuses on “choice”: “they were the ones who chose to cross illegally” or “they chose to break our laws.” Blaming the undocumented person shifts the conversation away from the political and economic factors that create immigration patterns and the laws that produce their illegality. It makes the death of migrants sound inevitable or, at the very least, unremarkable. The ideology of “illegality” and the assumed entitlement of the dominant white U.S. citizenry equates to the belief that their deaths are a consequence of migrants’ “poor choices.” This belief is then bolstered when officials, like the former Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Alan Bersin, treat the loss of life along the border as “necessary incidents of war.” 

Author Judith Butler’s  explanation of what lives are deemed grievable and which are not, proves useful when discussing the lack of public reaction to the increasing number of migrant deaths. Butler explains how frames of recognition determine the ways in which individuals distinguish certain people’s privileged positions in relation to others. Crucially, “the frames that, in effect, decide which lives will be recognizable as lives and which will not, must circulate in order to establish their hegemony.”  In other words, the circulation of dominant frames operates to normalize societal inequalities in order to justify the systematic exposure of certain groups of people to greater violence and social injustice, or what Butler would term “positions of precarity.” Importantly, in the context of immigration, racism works as a frame to render certain lives grievable and others expendable. Butler notes that racialized bodies are exposed to such precariousness that when they die, their lives “are not grievable since in the twisted logic that rationalizes their death, the loss of such populations is deemed necessary to protect the lives of the ‘living’.”  In the case of the border crossing deaths, migrant’s racialized position within society renders their deaths utterly ungrievable, making sure that American citizens don’t see the blood on their hands or feel it on their consciences. 

Conservatively, at least one migrant a day dies attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico Border. The heightened militarization tactics along the most popular border crossing points and the strategies of “prevention-through-deterrence” have done little more than effectively funnel migrants through the desert. This “funnel” can be viewed as an incidental byproduct of these federal policies or it can be distinguished as a racialized national project of exclusion that normalizes and makes unremarkable the killing of thousands of human beings.

bh

April 24, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Bringing Immigrants Back — To Deport Them: An Attempt to Inflate the Removal Numbers?

A number of undocumented immigrants are being arrested and imprisoned, not while trying to enter the U.S. as you would expect, they are being caught while trying to leave. That's right, people trying to self-deport, as some politicians have put it, are being prosecuted and given prison sentences then deported anyway. NPR's Ted Robbins has that story.

KJ

April 24, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Living in a Car Culture Without a License: The Ripple Effects of Withholding Driver's Licenses from Unauthorized Immigrants

Today, the Immigration Policy Center released Living in a Car Culture Without a License: The Ripple Effects of Withholding Driver's Licenses from Unauthorized Immigrants by Sarah E. Hendricks, Ph.D. In recognition of the many contributions immigrants make to our society and economy, states and cities across the country are creating welcoming initiatives that seek to integrate and maximize the contributions of immigrant workers and entrepreneurs of all backgrounds. On a parallel track, some states currently offer driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants and many more states have begun considering it. This makes sense given that the United States is among the top motor-vehicle dependent countries in the world.This paper argues that states that do not offer driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants will limit the contributions that immigrant communities as a whole can make, are likely to face negative economic and public safety consequences and risk creating a climate that impedes the adaptation of immigrants.

KJ

April 24, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigrant of the Day Lupita Nyong'o named People's most beautiful person of 2014