Thursday, January 30, 2020

Crossing Borders and Managing Identities


Crossing Borders and Managing Racialized Identities: Experiences of Security and Surveillance Among Young Canadian Muslims

Like other western nations, th[e] securitization of the Canadian border is increasingly justified through a highly racialized discourse that conceives of Muslims as a threat to western civilizations. As a result, Muslim identities have become the new targets of the architecture of security, placing Muslims in precarious positions as they navigate through airports and borders. Borders in North America are sites where Muslim identities become targets of political processes that compromise humanity, human rights and principles of liberalism. For Muslims in our study, the border is experienced as a “state of exception” (Agamben 2005) where due process rights and legal protections can be stripped away at random and, where Muslims’ Canadian citizenship is undermined and their religious identity vilified.

The level of mistreatment recounted by our interviewees suggests that as a group, they are subject to excessive forms of restriction and unfair treatment. Young Canadian Muslims referred to the fear of being singled out, questioned, and subjected to intrusive security measures such as strip-searches, detention, being placed on no-fly lists, and being denigrated and humiliated by border staff. The recounted the frequent experiences of being yelled at, demeaned in public and in front of family members. They feared for their family and friends and, particularly, the long-term impact on their children. For them, the border was not simply a site where they become the subject of racialized surveillance; it is experienced as an unpredictable, dangerous location where new technologies and practices are used to justify and mask a different level of humanity and legal protections for Muslims. As our interviews document, our participants experienced surveillance as a direct attack on their Muslim identities and an erosion of their Canadian citizenship.

While in their everyday lives our interviewees made attempts to resist the racialization of Islam by asserting their religious identities, airports and borders emerge as spheres where they fear expressing their Muslim identities because this is where their civil liberties are most at risk. For them, security is not a right, but rather a racialized practice of punishment, condescension and derogation.

-- Baljit Nagra and Paula Maurutto, The Canadian Journal of Sociology ,Vol. 41, No. 2 (2016), pp. 165-194

Read the full article here  Download Crossing Borders and Managing Racialized Identities.

January 30, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Senate Trial Strikes a Blow to Racial Justice


The Senate trial of Donald J. Trump (DJT) is a slap to the face of American sensibilities. After all, when it comes to trials, Americans know a thing or two from TV shows like L.A. Law, Law & Order, and Bull, all the way back to Matlock and Perry Mason. At the very basic, most know that a trial is where facts and evidence are brought to light. Viewers expect dramatic cross-examinations and new evidence to be discovered during the course of the trial, that is, we expect real events to unfold. Perhaps this is why there is only moderate interest in the current impeachment trial—there is no suspense because the trial has been gutted by the Senate—we already know the verdict.

More specifically, the trial is a slap in the face of every citizen who has been tried and punished by the justice system. For the millions who are currently locked up in jails, prisons, and detention centers, it especially stings. Not only does DJT get a fixed trial, he gets to keep his job—and keep playing golf in the free world. One might only imagine how this spectacle appears before people who have stressed and ached through real trials, where the prosecution had subpoena power to get testimony and evidence into court. DJT’s trial, instead, reads like a criminal fantasy novel, where a rich shyster who finagles his way into a presidency manages to get a trial with no witness, no subpoenas, and jurors who are not even present.

As such, the trial also strikes a chord with justice advocates due to the racialized nature of the proceeding. As DJT is shielded and advantaged in every possible way by a hoard of white senators, a neutered prosecution that includes racial minorities is prevented from getting witnesses and documents into court. White senators protecting DJT at every cost also contrasts with the black and brown skin of those incarcerated. The imagery confirms the idea that America has two justice systems—one for Whites and one for “others.” 

Even the very fact that DJT is having a trial flips the normal scenario on its head. That is because most who get convicted in the criminal system don’t go to trial in the first place. Nearly all criminal cases are disposed of through some sort of settlement or plea deal, which secures a criminal conviction without the pain of having to go to trial. From this perspective, under normal circumstances, DJT should have “pled out” long ago and not even gone to trial.

For indigent defendants who decide to exercise the right to a jury trial, it is a perilous journey since most rely on public defenders who are notorious for having enormous caseloads, low pay, and few resources to do their job. Often going to trial makes little sense since an indigent defendant lacks resources to mount an effective defense against the prosecution. As a result, many defense lawyers are amenable to deal-making rather than going to trial and losing. Thus, whereas many black and brown defendants get convicted with less than zealous representation, DJT is able to rely on a defense team that has clout and nearly unlimited resources.

Although a live trial of a sitting American president should have been the blockbuster TV event of the century, as ratings go, it was something of a dud, receiving some eleven million viewers at its zenith. For a country that loves its court shows, the viewership is pretty weak. Perhaps all the mystery and drama were zapped once it was decided that there would be no witnesses or evidence. Bolton, Giuliani, and Pompeo among others are the real stars Americans want to see. They are the witness who would have boosted ratings to the stratosphere.

The so-called trial of DJT resembles nothing that Americans are used to seeing when it comes to trials, even less for those with first-hand experience. The proceedings deliver a blow to racial justice and the rule of law. Indeed, DJT has not even bothered to attend his own trial. That alone conveys a luxury that most defendants could never afford. To be sure, his trial portrays a system that’s rigged to line the pockets of the wealthy; the racialized nature of the spectacle reveals the depths of white privilege and underclass oppression.

January 29, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 10, 2020

Expansion of the Immigration Caging Machine


Harvard Latinx Law Review has published "Not A Matter of If, But ‘When’: Expanding the Immigration Caging Machine Regardless of Nielsen" by HLS 3L Felipe Hernández.

Harvard Law School's Crimmigration Clinic is hosting a Facebook Live discussion on January 10, at 12:00 p.m. (EST). Recording of the event is here

Hernández notes in his own words the following four arguments:

(1) Settler-Colonialism: The expanding deportation machine is a "legal system" rooted in the settler-colonial practices that brutally murdered and displaced Native Americans, enslaved peoples of African descent, and caged and killed Brown and Asian folx. This means that the processes, institutions, politics, and tactics have evolved from this history and are allowed in our legal system. We must grapple with these roots to see how today’s practices are an extension of a long historical practice of State violence. Doing so will allow us to build cross community solidarity to abolish the tentacles of the same beast that hurt us all.

(2) More Deportations = More Institutional Power and Profits. Next, I uncover the institutional triangle of actors who make up the immigration caging machine. They evolved from the settler-colonial roots and include Democratic & Republican Legislators (State, Local, and Federal), Executive Enforcers (e.g. ICE, CBP, Local Police, Prosecutors), and (For-profit) Prisons. I show how they work together towards expanding and refining the tactics to criminalize, cage and remove as many people deemed "illegal." For example, state legislators continue to expand ways illegalized people can be labeled "criminals" and subject to caging and removal. This is due in large part to lobbying by private prisons, prosecutors, and police unions. Once in the system they are easily funneled to deportation and everyone in these institutions benefits by way of promotions, elected office, campaign funds, work contracts, etc. As some legislators and some organizers push a narrow "good immigrant" construct, States are able to expand who is a "criminal" and more people are caught in the deportation machine’s net.

(3) The Supreme Court is Complicit and will Not Save Us: Third, I examine all Supreme Court decisions related to immigration mandatory detention to show how the Court has overwhelmingly allowed the expansion of the caging machine, narrowed relief, and allowed Congress to label people deportable for a growing number of reasons. I show how the liberal legal strategy of asking the Court for more due process, reforms, and minimal protections has actually helped refine how the Machine is able to cage and harm more immigrants. Specifically, this has incentivized politicians, prosecutors, ICE/police, and courts to expand who is illegalized as a "criminal alien" who are offered little/no protection in exchange for offering minimal protection to those labeled as "good immigrants." Thus, the legal system pits immigrants against each other in an exchange of "rights." Recently, the Supreme Court allowed DHS to detain and cage someone at any time after they are released from criminal custody (Nielsen v. Preap, 2019). This means that someone who served time for a drug charge 20 years ago, for example, could be held in immigration prisons without bond and deported. As a result of this recent ruling, the Supreme Court bolstered Congressional power to use immigration prisons for deportation. It also incentivized private and State actors to bolster investment in immigration prisons, broaden criminal statutes to capture more immigrants, and expand State and Federal policing power.

(4) Abolish the U.S. Immigration Caging Machine: This article concludes by arguing that, following the lead/vision/strategy of organizers and directly impacted communities, movement lawyers must move beyond reform and instead abolish the immigration caging machine and go beyond #AbolishICE by abolishing prisons, police, prosecutors, criminal statutes, and the legal concept of citizenship. We must support grassroots organizers who are building community power, abolitionist strategies, and divest from the "legal system."

January 10, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 2, 2020

'Whosoever Sees an Evil' - Muslim Americans' Human Rights Advocacy


When Islam and human rights are discussed together, the conversation quickly turns into an abstract, dichotomous debate as to whether the two are compatible. A common line of argumentation proffers Islamic law is fundamentally antithetical to universal human rights norms, while an opposing view rebuts that post-World War II human rights laws are created by former colonialist powers as the latest iteration of Western nations’ imposition of their religious, social, and political order on the global south and east.

Further de-legitimizing human rights law is selective enforcement that exempts European and American persons—the most glaring example being the torture of thousands of Muslim detainees in the Global War on Terror. For these critics, purported universal human rights norms are nothing more than a ruse to punish African, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American state leaders who fail to obey Western states’ hegemonic interests.

Notwithstanding reasonable suspicions of the asymmetrical power animating the international human rights legal regime, the idea that all humans have some fundamental natural rights traverses cultures, religions, and time. Thus, any good faith debates on the compatibility of Islamic law and human rights should not be as concerned with whether Islamic law mirrors Western law—for that would indeed be legal and cultural imperialism—but rather examine the commonalities between Islamic human rights norms and post-WWII Western human rights norms.

While acknowledging the importance of theoretical discussions, this article takes a different approach. Moving beyond an analysis of what is written in religious and legal texts or debated by Islamic scholars, I examine how Islam inspires lay Muslims to defend and advocate for human rights. To that end, I explore how Muslims advocate for human and civil rights—as a result of rather than despite—their Islamic beliefs and Muslim identity. Accordingly, this article focuses on Muslims in the United States as a case study for how commitments to human rights manifest in the lived experiences of Muslims.

Muslim activists in the United States are putting their Islamic faith into action through cross-racial and interfaith rights advocacy. Their collective action for nearly two decades brings into sharp relief the argument that the political environment, not solely religion, facilitates protection of human rights. Whether it is in Muslim-majority democratic countries such as Indonesia and Tunisia or Christian-majority countries such as South Africa, the United States, and some European nations, Muslims living in pluralistic democratic societies defend human rights because of their faith. In doing so, these Muslims demonstrate that authoritarian and politically repressive regimes of most Muslim-majority countries—most of whom are supported by Western states—are more determinative of human rights abuses than the religious beliefs of citizens in Muslim-majority countries.

To read the full article forthcoming in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia on Religion, click here.

January 2, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)