Recently in Migrant Emancipation Category

jess-and-tania.jpgThe Obama administration has criticized the GOP's "attrition through enforcement" immigration policy framework while adopting it in practice. Undocumented activists have reduced their reliance on politicians and the advocacy community by strategically creating a quasi-legal status for people who publicly identify themselves as undocumented.

Attrition Through Enforcement

Immigration restrictionists have promoted an "attrition through enforcement" policy as a purportedly more humane alternative to mass incarceration and deportation. Instead of identifying, arresting, imprisoning, and deporting every undocumented immigrant in the U.S., the objective of attrition through enforcement is to make life in the U.S. so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they leave on their own. An aggressive campaign to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants estimated to live in the U.S. would be logistically and fiscally unworkable and would necessitate massive human rights violations.

Imagine armies of tens of thousands of immigration enforcement agents scouring the country for people unable to produce papers, internment camps set up to house millions of immigrants awaiting deportation, and millions of U.S. citizen children left parentless overnight. This would be the administration's current enforcement policy implemented on a much larger scale, causing severe economic and social disruption that would extend far beyond the immigrant community.

Restrictionists understand that the domestic and international public backlash from such a campaign would undermine their long-term goal of reducing overall immigration to the U.S. Restrictionists know it is impossible to fully enforce the laws they wrote and shepherded through Congress. Attrition through enforcement aims instead to drive out immigrants by creating a climate of fear and by steadily eroding basic rights. The concept is as pragmatic as it is reprehensible.

CA7.jpgIn my inbox today from DreamActivist.org after another undocumented youth civil disobedience action led by DreamIsComing took place in San Bernadino yesterday:

Hi David

'You are lucky, you must be a citizen. . . aren't you?' the police officer at the jail asked Martha Vazquez, 22, just as she left an interview with ICE. Martha was one of the youth arrested hours earlier at the campus of San Bernardino Valley College.

The catch is that Martha is undocumented, in fact hours before she was at a protest publicly declaring her legal status. Everyone knew she was undocumented. The police and even ICE knew she was undocumented, but they all made a conscious decision not to turn her or any of the youth arrested over to ICE authorities.

The reason for this is simple, ICE authorities are scared of DREAM-eligible youth. If you are public, if you share your story and you are out then ICE is afraid of you. They are afraid to detain you knowing the backlash it would create in the community. They are afraid to come after you because they know we can effectively fight against our deportations and stop them.

This is the reason why we urge all undocumented youth to get active, the more active you are the safer you are. While in jail the youth met many other undocumented immigrants who were not as privileged as them, people who are still in jail and will most likely be detained by ICE.

ICE has power over our communities because they know we are afraid of them. Think for a moment, what would your community look like if the undocumented immigrants there were no longer afraid of being detained by ICE? If they no longer had that fear and could come out of the shadows everyday. Think about it.

We will continue to organize until we reach that point. We hope you will join us.

All of the work we do is completely volunteer run, unlike some organizations we are not funded by any foundations or corporations. If you enjoy or support the work we do please consider making a donation.

Thank you for your support,

Mohammad Abdollahi
co-founder of DreamActivist.org

It appears that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now officially and publicly pro-migrant (sombrero tip to Memeorandum):

The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God.

The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.
Official Statement (10 June 2011)

Generally, as far as I understand it as a non-Mormon, it is the position of the Mormon Church not to get involved in politics. There's certain issues that the Mormon Church does take a stand on though. For example, see the film Prop 8: The Mormon Proposition to see how effective the Mormon Church was in attacking LGBTQ equality in California.

It's good to see the Mormon Church starting to devote some of the energy they've spent on attacking LGBTQ people, towards empowering migrants. It's a major victory for the pro-migrant community. Nativists (whom I prefer not to link to) know it and that's why they've been so quick to attack.

Lewis and Zwerg.jpg[Image: Freedom Riders John Lewis (left) and Jim Zwerg; credit: Corbis]

PBS's American Experience is recruiting applicants for its 2011 Student Freedom Ride, "a journey retracing the historic civil rights bus rides that changed America." Forty college students around the country will be chosen to ride along with original Freedom Riders in May 2011 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the original rides. Those who are interested can apply online here. (Note: the application deadline is this Monday, January 17.)

The original Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated south in 1961 shortly after the Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. They were brutally beaten, their buses were firebombed, and many were arrested by local police in contravention of the Supreme Court's ruling.

The mainstream reaction was not favorable to the riders, who were viewed as unnecessarily provoking social division. Attorney General Robert Kennedy called for a "cooling off" period where activists would refrain from direct action, a request echoed by President Kennedy.

The violence that marks the minds and bodies of immigrant youth today is often hidden, coming in early morning raids that spirit young people away to unseen detention centers, camouflaged in official euphemisms like "security" and "removal." Still, the violence bubbles up in attacks on youth with names like Jose and Luis, fatal shootings of unarmed teenagers by the border patrol, and suicides by those who see no future for themselves.

The mainstream reaction to direct action is still often disapproval. Thoughtful challenges to the status quo provoke condemnation from the comfortable and the powerful, which confirms the effectiveness of targeted direct action.

I hope that young activists in the LGBT and immigrant rights movements consider applying to join the upcoming commemorative Freedom Ride. Dreamers risk long-term imprisonment and exile simply for showing themselves in public under the system of legalized injustice masquerading as immigration law. By selecting Dreamers to join the ride, PBS would ensure that it would be historic as well as historical. But first they need some applicants to choose--Dreamers, apply here!

As among the adherents to any major religion, there is a spectrum of views on migration among Mormons. This is one pro-migrant Mormon reading of kinship networks and migration. Here is an excerpt:

This is what a gentle Mormon radicalization looks like. This is how our fellow Mormons can become empathetically sensitized to the suffering of strangers: through the pedagogy of kinship, and the liberal urge to expand its lessons to others. It isn't the kind of radicalization that traditional revolutionaries pine for: it is no open insurrection against the government, no systematic critique of coercion or capital; not a declaration of insurgency or even any promise of a refusal to compromise in the future. Instead, it is a quiet, even a meek, refusal to accept the tyranny of the state, in one case, when it became just a little bit too much to stomach, and a decision to choose friendship and family instead.

In this post, Tristan discusses two types of kinship relations: vertical and horizontal. By vertical, he means traditional blood or legally-recognized relationships. Horizontal kinship refers to a universal human kinship which is a core precept of the Mormon faith and many others, that we are all brothers and sisters before God.

In my experience, the pressures, challenges, and opportunities faced by the contemporary immigrant rights movement has resulted in many members of the movement developing strong horizontal kinship relationships with one and other. Dreamers (and a few allies) are a tightknit bunch, much closer than many families, and in some cases, closer to each other than to their own families. Yet immigration law prioritizes vertical kinship relationships, which in turn has lead the immigrant rights movement to focus rhetoric and strategy on vertical kinship. I don't like seeing families broken up by the Obama administration, and vertical kinship relations provide value and stability to many people. But we could benefit from thinking more intentionally about the role of horizontal kinship relationships in immigrant rights messaging, policy goals, and organizing.

Phila New Years 2009.jpg
I'd like to join my co-blogger Kyle in wishing our readers a happy new year. It has been a roller coaster of a year, but we're not in the same place we were on January 1, 2010. While going forward we may not have the same unity of purpose that came at the end of the year from pushing for a discrete piece of legislation, the DREAM Act, there is new momentum and energy stemming from that push. And the new year will bring opportunity for new ideas and strategies. They will be necessary to counter new threats from increasingly anti-immigrant legislatures on the state and national level. But how many nativists went on hunger strike in 2010? How many marched over a thousand miles to raise awareness of their cause? How many were arrested in acts of civil disobedience which could lead to exile from their families and communities? I don't remember any. And that is why we will win.

So from Philadelphia on New Year's Eve, Happy New Year!

[Image: Rob Rudloff]

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled two unexpected developments out of his pocket this fall: he became a champion of the DREAM Act in Congress, and he secured victory over his opponent by a margin that no one had foreseen. I propose that these two events were related, but not in an obvious way.

Nativism Causes the Nevada Tea Party to Self-destruct

Politicians and pundits speculated that Harry Reid owed his victory over Tea Party candidate Sharon Angle in November because Latino voters were energized. Angle had run a series of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino ads which won her notoriety for running one of the most racist campaigns of the election season. One ad prompted the View's Joy Behar to taunt Angle to come to the Bronx in one of the election season's more memorable TV moments.

In the ads, Angle alleged that Harry Reid was "the best friend an illegal alien ever had." In one ad, she went after DREAMers directly, claiming that "Harry Reid is fighting for a program that would give preferred college tuition rates to none other than illegal aliens." This specific ad was almost certainly created in response to Reid's highly public effort to pass the DREAM Act shortly before the ad was run.

The narrative that emerged during the late stages of the campaign from both the left and the right was that Harry Reid had pandered to--or responded to--Latino voters in Nevada by announcing his intent to attach the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill in September. Reid knew that by promoting a bill that would legalize hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children, he would mobilize Latino voters who could provide the margin of victory he needed against Angle. So he made a public statement of intent to bring the DREAM Act forward, knowing it would polarize the Senate and inject immigration politics into the Senate race in Nevada.

In retrospect, it was a brilliant plan. Staging a public push for the DREAM Act, which many voters had never heard of before September, was like waving a red flag in front of a bull for Angle and her Tea Party supporters, driving them to embarrassing outbursts of nativism. It seemed they couldn't help themselves. Rachel Maddow called the anti-DREAM Act spot the "most overtly racist ad of this campaign season."

These explicitly anti-Latino attacks in turn mobilized a previously disaffected Latino electorate in Nevada which had been upset with Democratic leadership for ignoring immigration reform. Latino voters came out in force and voted for Reid by a high margin--between 68% and 90% depending on the source. Reid won by 5.6%, mobilizing Latino voters to turnout in record numbers against all predictions.

Perhaps it was Reid's plan all along to pull out the DREAM Act late in the campaign to construct the "Latino firewall" that by some accounts saved his job. But maybe there is more to the story.

This story isn't really related to the migration debate, but I couldn't help but write about it.  CNN reports that a U.S. military jet crashed into the home of Korean migrant Dong Yun Yoon, killing his entire family. 

Yoon named the victims as his infant daughter Rachel, who was born less than two months ago; his 15-month-old daughter Grace; his wife, Young Mi Yoon, 36; and her 60-year-old mother, Suk Im Kim, who he said had come to the United States from Korea recently to help take care of the children.
CNN (10 December 2008)
Despite this tragedy, Yoon, holds nothing against the pilot and even asked people to "pray for him not to suffer from this accident." 

I'll let others read the rest.  This story just reminds me to be thankful for the loved ones around me, and Yoon really is an example of compassion in the face of tragedy.  It's like something right out of the Book of Job

'Language Is A Human Right'

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Renata Avila of Global Voices just sent me an email about an incredible resource to teach Spanish-speaking migrants English.  "Language is a human right" says Fluenz.org and this is what they do:

We create free language learning solutions that address refugees and disadvantaged immigrants in host countries whose language they can't speak or understand.

Our solutions are freely available on the web so that people like you, NGOs, and government agencies can download and distribute them wherever they can make a difference.
If a Spanish-speaking migrant is looking to learn English, this is an excellent resource to help them do so.
Thumbnail image for Underground America.jpgI attended a dramatic reading tonight here in Philly of personal stories taken from a book edited by Peter Orner called Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives.  The book contains the oral histories of undocumented immigrants as told in recent years to the editors of the work.  The stories are real and all too familiar--they reminded me of the clients I work with each day.  The daily petty slights endured, the enveloping fear, the ambition, the scars, the regret, and the hope. 

From an LA Times review of the book from earlier this year, excerpted on the McSweeney's site for the book:

There are 24 stories documented here. Editor Peter Orner and a team of graduate students from San Francisco State University went looking for stories for Voice of Witness, which publishes "oral histories of people around the world who have had their human and civil rights violated." The storytellers hold many different jobs, have different reasons for leaving home and different expectations about U.S. life. Mr. Lai left China after officials found that he and his wife had violated the one-child policy. Saleem, 54, was summarily deported to Pakistan after Sept. 11. Roberto came from Mexico at 14; it took him 30 years to get a green card. "Everything we do is a crime," says a Mexican man called El Mojado. "You don't have papers, it's a crime. You buy fake papers, it's a crime." Elizabeth, an English teacher in Bolivia, came to the U.S. in 2004 to get help for her 8-year-old daughter, diagnosed with a severe form of arthritis. With no money, she slid through the American underworld, down the steps that so many of these people describe: rape, robbery, exploitation and a complete lack of credibility--no way to get help, and no way out.

Decades after arriving, many want desperately to go home and cannot. "I wouldn't make it back across," says Adela, a Mexican woman who has been here for 18 years and longs to see her family but doesn't dare leave her children. "No, there are too many that have died in the desert, too many who have drowned."
The book owes much to recently-deceased Studs Terkel, a pioneer of the oral history genre and a board member of the oral history series, Voice of Witness, of which Underground America is an installment. 

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