“We Are Not Criminals:” Immigration Reformers in a Box

by Mariame Kaba

As I’ve been slowly making my way through this “immigration bill,” I have of course noticed that it explicitly excludes people with criminal convictions (of various kinds). Frankly, I understand why it would be framed in this way. I am assuming that the bill’s writers think that this will make it more palatable to certain constituencies. It ensures that only the so-called “deserving” will have access to this potential “gift” of status normalization and citizenship.

The focus on excluding “criminals” has been the part of the bill that has absorbed most of my attention and interest. I want to address myself to some of the points that you raise about immigrant detention and deportations.  Writing on the Al-Jazeera blog (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/2013597332993575.html), Beth Caldwell offers some useful historical context about the uses and purpose of deportation:

“Deportation has a long track record as a tool used to rid societies of people deemed socially undesirable, and excluding those with criminal convictions from immigration reform is consistent with its historic use. Political theorist William Walters traces the origin of modern deportation to political banishment employed by ancient Greece and Rome, the expulsion of poor or religiously unpopular groups during the Middle Ages in Europe, and the forced movement and genocidal practices of Nazi Germany.… Read more

On Reifying Anti-Blackness Through So-Called Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Mariame Kaba (5/8/13): Something else that I am thinking about is how the current “immigration” reform public discussion is almost exclusively about managing Latino bodies. What this leaves out rather glaringly are all of the other bodies that might also want to claim a stake in any “immigration reform.” In my case, I am thinking about sub-saharan Africa which has been made invisible so far in this so-called “reform” effort. So the reality of anti-blackness in American culture is playing out once again in this so-called reform. The racial caste system is perpetuated; only this time a few Latinos (who are seen as deserving) will be afforded a “pass” into”respectability.” So the racial dimensions have always been prevalent in American immigration reform but they seem particularly stark right now.

Rozalinda (5/8/13): I think there are many reasons why “immigration”has become a “Latino” issue in the US — partially due to the security apparatus itself, the disproportionate focus on enforcement against Central and South American migrants, especially Mexican migrants, who seem to be the primary targets for detention and capture. But this is also because of the close links between Spanish Language media, NGO’s and the Hispanic Caucus of the Democratic Party , and the political value of the “Latino vote.” There are many ways that the racialization of people who are politically “red-brown” is also specifically “non-black” or even”anti-black,” and in this the mainstream movement is a principal player.… Read more