Migrant Emancipation: January 2011 Archives

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Migrant Emancipation category from January 2011.

Migrant Emancipation: December 2010 is the previous archive.

Migrant Emancipation: June 2011 is the next archive.

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