Executive action: Obama’s welcome to the white nation!

First read this important shortpiece from Alex Soto about the ways immigrant and indigenous communities are being intentionally divided and pitted against each other

On November 20, Obama began unveiling the new stage of the grand bargain: increased enforcement against the many in exchange for probationary and temporary relief for the few. The “criminals” are the target, we are told, not hard working would-be Americans who are productive for the “security and prosperity of the nation”. This is by now familiar, so much so that it is accepted by the mainstream immigrant rights movement as “inevitable” or as a fact on the ground, a reality that one has to accept when formulating a “realistic” and “winnable” fight.  With that in mind, there is great cheering – it is a victory, they say, and we must push for more!!… Read more

The border is the problem: Resisting the “humanitarian solution” to child migration

From Moratorium on Deportations Campaign, just published here
The border is the problem: Resisting the “humanitarian” solution to child migration

Recently, images of migrant prison warehouses on the US-Mexico border have been leaked to the media. These images are grotesque, illustrating the inhumane conditions of incarceration inside warehouses nicknamed “coolers” or “ice boxes”. This is where people who are captured while trying to cross the border are taken by Customs and Border Protection (CPB), one of the branches of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), before being transferred to other detention facilities around the country.

The reactions to these images are of justifiable outrage — people are crammed into cold warehouses that are not fit to house human beings, with no mattresses to sleep on and with no legal rights, no access to health care or to basic needs such as toilet paper.  Images of detainees forced to sleep on floors, exposed to frigid temperatures and conditions of exhaustion, have shocked just about everyone who has seen them. Our outrage should not stop us from looking carefully at how the images are being used and how the “crisis” they illuminate is being framed.  The incarceration of migrants in inhuman conditions has been an ongoing crisis, and the existence of the coolers has been reported by migrants and advocacy groups for at least 8 years, several lawsuits have been filed, yet there has been no public outcry.… Read more

Colonial attitutes are not that subtle — we are all hella perpetuating them

Puente is now, right now,  organizing a campaign called “Trail to End Deportations”. Nice name, very catchy, sounds familiar… hmmm, oh yes, I remember. It is riffing off the Trail of Tears. That is some heavy shit. Wow. Taking on that kind of reference, making that kind of comparison, is a pretty audacious move.  I wonder if that means it is an anti-colonial campaign, does it signal commitments on the part of Puente to oppose the militarization of indigenous lands, for instance? Two O’Odham people were shot by border patrol today, people are arrested, searched, harassed, life ways are disrespected, forms of cultural survival and inhabitation are violated, people are cut off from lands, sovereignty redefined as nothing unless it is the sovereignty of the United States. Puente are staging a media event crossing through a war zone. Where is Puente in this war, or does it merely serve as a backdrop for a campaign that can claim neutrality ? How neutral, exactly, when you appropriate this overtly?

Politically, it sure is important to ask what are the connections between the genocidal forced displacement westward of indigenous peoples in the so-called United States and the forced migration of peoples of the Americas northward in the wake of NAFTA?… Read more

Colonization under the guise of “immigrant rights”

Across the United States, immigrant rights advocacy groups have been pushing for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), with increasing intensity over the past 16 months. They have worked hard to present this proposed legislation as an essential win for the movement, a unique chance to take a step in the right direction. They have grossly exaggerated the benefits and have consistently misrepresented the provisions of the bill, suggesting the legislation would legalize 11 million people, it would strengthen family unity and decrease deportations. None of this is true, as grassroots migrant justice groups like MDC have amply demonstrated. For the most part immigrant communities have not been duped. Despite their impressive budgets, political backing and media monopoly, and despite the deepening crisis facing migrant communities, large-scale, mass molibizations of the migrant grass-roots has eluded the NGO complex.

In parallel to the push for CIR, there has been a resurgence of protest around ending deportations, which has presented itself as an alternative to the manipulative and politically swarmy reformist movement. Seeming to be youth-lead and defiant of powerful political lobbies, this other movement emerges out of the DREAMer lobby, a powerful national campaign that involves a lot more than the brave young people we see in front of cameras.… Read more

Imigration reform, and the myth of the “reformed” illegal

Reflecting on this post from Mariame Kaba:

“The irony of all of this is that the carceral state is deeply invested in circulating “conversion stories” about the “reformed criminal.” Rehabilitation is supposed to be a central tenet of the American prison system”. … “The immigrant who is criminalized is forever a ‘criminal’ and will be precluded from ever gaining citizenship rights.  Why can’t the immigrant be ‘rehabilitated?’ What does this mean about what the country actually believes about the possibilities of so-called ‘rehabilitation’ for ‘criminals?’ How can we use this seeming contradiction as the basis for calling for prison abolition? If the prison is abolished, will we also be rid of the concept of ‘rehabilitation?’ Does this then afford us an opportunity to get outside of the constraints of the concept of “criminality?” “

To think abut rehabilitation and the narratives of “reformed criminals” in relation to immigration reform as Mariame suggested, perhaps we can pull back a bit from the specifics of “criminal alien” – i.e. the non-citizen who is accused of having a criminal record, and instead speak more broadly about the category of “illegal”. “Unauthorized presence” means being in this country without documentation; this has been criminalized in the popular imagination and in the enforcement of immigration policies, but not necessarily in the penal system.… Read more

The Border Wars and Criminal vs Alien

Moratorium on Deportations (MDC) has been conducting workshops and teach-ins around the senate version of immigration reform. This post uses some of that analysis and also connects with Mariame Kaba’s post on criminalization. More educational materials on this bill  here.  See here for MDC statement on the war at the border.

A short summary of the Bill so far
As the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744, aka Immigration  Reform) moves through the Senate, it is now becoming harder and harder to deny that “immigration reform” is a pretext for the largest militarization program in US history. This shit has gone off the cliff.

From its inception, this was a militarization initiative. Let’s review how it is structured, what is it’s architecture:
1. Border security — describes the goals of border militarization as: 24×7 surveillance of the southern border; catching 90 percent of attempted crossings; implementing a national E-Verify system for all employers; implementing an exit system that tracks visas on all airplanes and sea vessels. How will this be accomplished? Adding 3,500 new troops; $6.6 billion new funds; deploying the National Guard at the border; drones and other military equipment; integration with Department of Defense Operations; incentivizing local police for detaining immigrants; construction of double layered border wall
2.… Read more

Abolish “papers”? Another look at Registered Provisional Immigrant

Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) is a new status invented in Senate Bill S-744. The status is conditional in several ways. First: no one can apply for it until the Secretary of Homeland Security has completed a border enforcement strategy that will outline how DHS will build new border walls and add drones, new troops and hi-tech surveillance in order to ensure 24/7 surveillance of the border, lead to a 90% capture rate of newly arriving migrants… among many other nightmarish ambitions (this is appropriately referred to as the “trigger”). Secondly, it has strict criteria that exclude people with a criminal record; exclude people who are not able to document that they have had continuous employment while the in  the United States (there is an allowance for interruptions of 60 days). Seasonal workers, those who work intermittent jobs, those who cannot prove employment… all will be excluded. It also excludes people who cannot document that they earn at least 100 percent of the poverty level wage — that means that in a family of two with one income earner, minimum-wage earners are excluded. From the time that the application process opens, people will have one year to complete all their documentation and to gather a lot of cash: to pay application fees and back taxes and, given the bewildering nature of the process, most likely to pay attorney fees as well.… Read more

“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

Myths on Climate Change and Migration

(by Daniel Carrillo)

Climate change is real. Humans and corporations (which are also legally humans) are destroying the earth. Immigration is real. Humans and corporations are destroying migrant and poor working communities. The climate under which we live in is a hostile one. But many myths have debunked real action.

While it is corporations that are leading the attack against the earth and migrants, they do so with ever more ease thanks in part to consent of many. Negotiations for climate change and for immigration are going backwards. They have been happening at various levels these past years, with papers signed and enacted to protect the environment and the border. Yet all the results seem to have taken us further back. More alarmingly they take is further back with the consent of some “advocates” for the environment and migrants. Something is better than nothing. That is a myth. The greater myth perhaps is that as a movement we cannot command anything better.

Other myths prevail: Global warming is a farce and migrants are the cause of numerous social problems. With the consent given by advocates, these myths are further grounded in society. And corporations have the space to maneuver and escape criminalization for all their illegal activities, amassing vast wealth and power off the backs of migrants, poor communities and the environment.… Read more

Citizen as contested and the violence of “inclusion”

Mariame’s post (link here) brings into question the problematic category of “citizen”. Who and what is a citizen? How “real” is the citizen? How is this myth constituted, what is its rhetorical power? and: what are we erasing when we believe it, when we do not contest it?

As you say, the process of nation-building involves, among many things, a process of exclusion, of definition through negation. The nation is an imagined, invented concept, as is the citizen: the body that is supposedly the bearer of “inalienable rights”. This is a relatively recent invention, but already so normalized that its constructedness is often well concealed. The myth of the citizen also works to conceal the ways that nation-building means not just citizens and non-citizens, but social categories that are both “citizens” and excluded from citizenship at the same time. There are many forms of conditional inclusion , or selective inclusion, that are in effect forms of exclusion. This is part of the process of establishing a social order of racial domination in the United States, relegating blacks to a category of unequal or excluded citizens.

I think the questions you raise are precisely the ones that are absent from the debate around “immigrant rights” —  namely, the ways in which current immigration practices emerge from, and express, longstanding practices of exclusion and marginalization of particular groups, especially (not exclusively) along racial lines; what you call “nation-making along a particular set of criteria”.… Read more

Nation-Making, Illegalization and Self-Definition through Negation

by Mariame Kaba

Rozalinda, thank you for your last intervention (here).  It provoked so many different ideas and questions for me. My thoughts are inchoate at this moment but I’ve decided to pick up on two ideas that you raise (implicitly and explicitly):

  1. Nation-making
  2. The process of illegalization

The quotes from the CIR bill’s “Congressional Findings” section did indeed provoke a chuckle. But the words are familiar. They aren’t new. They have their roots in a history of American nation-making which extends far beyond how the country enforces its territorial integrity (i.e. borders).  Nation-making extends to the stories that we invent and tell ourselves about who we are. I want to focus on this paragraph in particular:

“We have always welcomed newcomers to the United States and will continue to do so. But in order to qualify for the honor and privilege of eventual citizenship, our laws must be followed. The world depends on America to be strong — economically, militarily and ethically. The establishment of a stable, just and efficient immigration system only supports those goals. As a nation [emphasis mine], we have the right and responsibility to make our borders safe, to establish clear and just rules for seeking citizenship, to control the flow of legal immigration, and to eliminate illegal immigration, which in some cases has become a threat to our national security.

Read more

The path to illegalization and the invisibility of the state

Mariame’s post (linked here) on anti-blackness  prompted some further reflection on militarization and also on merit-based immigration, extending the question of who and what is rendered invisible. One of the key questions mentioned in her post had to do how anti-blackness operates to frame the relationship between race and migration. Mariame received many comments on the facebook note, including suggestions for a number of texts that provide further analysis into how the figure of the “hard working immigrant” and the tropes of the “nation of immigrants” reinforce long-standing racist stereotypes. In a short text for AREA, I tried to deal with the ways that immigrant rights activism often reproduces this rhetoric, not only rendering invisible the colonial project as an ongoing process but also by working to produce the myth of undifferentiated arrivals that erases racial subordination. In other words, we do not all arrive under the same conditions. And we are not all “white on arrival”. Also, several of my organizer colleagues are outspoken about this within the movement, although there is less bibliography to point to since writing is not the primary practice; for example, the No Name Collective has offered this critique in several public workshops and discussions (most directly in an event at Mess Hall, I hope to find the audio recording of this and upload here whenever possible) about how claims such as “we are not criminals” is not a rejection of criminalization, but a claim to respectability and an attempt to become racialized as white, or at the very least to appeal to dominant White understandings of criminality.… 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

Let’s Talk About this “Reform” Business – Militarization

Rozalinda Borcila (5/08/13)  The authors and promoters of the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” use the media to hypnotically repeat words that sound nice: “immigration reform”, “fixing the broken immigration system” , “pathway to citizenship”, “seize the moment”, “right thing to do”. But these words are never defined, they remain empty, untethered from accountability to actions upon human lives. They are slogans, available to anyone powerful enough to broadcast them. Even reading the title and first few pages of this bill can surprise anyone who has taken those terms at face value, or who believes that this bill truly represents an effort to address the situation of migrants’ exclusion, il-legalization and oppression in the US. Have you read it? Try it.


Of course, the bill is so long and so complicated and so full of technical language that it keeps most people, including most in the media, from being able to read and understand it. This reflects the nature of how it was produced – behind closed doors, in successive negotiations between powerful political and corporate players, the bill is more like a corporate merger deal than a political process in a so-called democracy. So we have a bill whose nature is twofold: on the one hand, the secrecy and self-interest of the “negotiations”, in which powerful players are calculating how best to capitalize upon the “immigration crisis”; and on the other hand the grotesquely misleading and endless hype in the media, which seeks to quickly shove it down our throats.… Read more