Re-Visioning Immigration

“If you conceptualize migration as national security issue, if you criminalize migration, then your approach will always be reduction of migration,” says Mexican ambassador to the United States Martha Bárcena Coqui. Instead, she suggests, “We need to conceptualize migration as a political, social, and economic phenomenon.” 

Bárcena Coqui and David Milliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, led off the second day of the Leading The Way 2020 (#LTW2020) conference on Tuesday. They talked about global migration and how it has changed during the age of COVID, and about how changing the conceptual frame around immigration could help open more rational and productive discussions. 

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Learning From (Immigration) History

#StandOnEveryCorner in St. Paul
#StandOnEveryCorner in St. Paul

Cycles of immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment mark U.S. immigration history. At the very beginning, Benjamin Franklin denounced German immigrants to Pennsylvania, saying they “will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.” 

From Benjamin Franklin to Henry Ford to Donald J. Trump, from the Know Nothings to the Ku Klux Klan to the Immigration Restriction League and the Center for Immigration Studies, anti-immigrant sentiment is as American as apple pie. (Apple pie, of course, is also an immigrant, having originated in England.) 

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Death in Detention

Cruelty Is Not a Family Value
From photo by Fibonacci Blue, published under Creative Commons license.

Cipriano Chavez-Alvarez was 61 years old, with lymphoma, kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes. A federal judge ordered him released from the prison where he had served 27 years of a life sentence for selling cocaine. The judge said he was in danger of serious injury or death if he remained in prison, because of the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19. The judge said he could be deported or could remain in the United States on up to 10 years of supervised release.

When Cipriano was released on July 31, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained him immediately. ICE sent him to the notorious Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, where detainee and whistleblower complaints describe lack of sanitation and failure to protect against COVID infections or to report those infections. Then ICE transferred him to Stewart Detention Center, where 339 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, including two deaths.

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Paper Walls Keep Immigrants Out

paper wall

Trump’s wall-building obsession knows no bounds when it comes to keeping out immigrants. Though his attempts at building a physical wall continue to fail spectacularly, his administration continues to erect one administrative wall after another. Again and again, these bureaucratic paper walls specifically bar refugees and asylum seekers. Continue reading

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Not Even Three-Fifths of a Person

Throw the Bum Out

The latest Trump executive order attempts to weaponize the census to attack immigrants and states where large numbers of undocumented immigrants live, work, and raise their families. His order says that undocumented persons are not persons for purposes of Congressional apportionment.

The Constitution, written by men who believed it their right to own other men and women and children, originally denied the full personhood of a large part of the population of the new country. Back in 1787, the framers of the Constitution provided that representation in Congress should be apportioned according to a census that counted “free Persons,” but excluded from the count “Indians not taxed,” and counted “three fifths of all other Persons.”  The Fourteenth Amendment ended that three-fifths clause, but still excluded “Indians not taxed.” In 1940, an Attorney General’s opinion said that everyone counted, as “there were no longer any American Indians who should be classed as ‘not taxed.'” Continue reading

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Trump Needs Eighth Grade Civics Class

Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey

Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey, used under Creative Commons license

Now Trump claims he is going to sign an immigration bill by executive order. Somebody needs to explain to him the difference between legislation—bills—that are passed by Congress and executive orders, that are issued by the president. Here’s what he told Telemundo anchor José Diaz-Balart yesterday (July 10):

“The deal was done. DACA is going to be just fine. We’re putting it in. It’s going to be just fine. And I am going to be, over the next few weeks, signing an immigration bill that a lot of people don’t know about. You have breaking news, but I’m signing a big immigration bill.”

“I’m going to do a big executive order. I have the power to do it as president and I’m going to make DACA a part of it. But, we put it in, and we’ll probably going to then be taking it out. We’re working out the legal complexities right now, but I’m going to be signing a very major immigration bill as an executive order, which Supreme Court now, because of the DACA decision, has given me the power to do that.

“No, what I’m going to do is that they’re going to part of a much bigger bill on immigration. It’s going to be a very big bill, a very good bill, and merit-based bill and it will include DACA, and I think people are going to be very happy.

“But one of the aspects of the bill is going to be DACA. We’re going to have a road to citizenship.”

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Cruel and Inhuman: ICE Detention Centers Put Everyone at Risk

Cruelty Is Not a Family Value

From photo by Fibonacci Blue, published under Creative Commons license.

In Arizona, two former correctional officers at the Eloy immigration detention center detailed serious COVID-19 risks to detained immigrants, to employees, and to employee families and communities. Among the problems cited:

  • “Correctional officers told to ration masks and gloves.
  • “Correctional officers given garbage bags with holes cut in them instead of protective gowns when entering isolation pods with detainees infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
  • “Watered-down cleaners instead of alcohol-based solutions used to sanitize surfaces.
  • “Correctional officers pressured to keep working even after showing signs of the virus.
  • “Not being told when other workers or detainees had symptoms or had tested positive for the virus.
  • “Detainees continued to be transferred during outbreaks to other detention facilities, potentially spreading the virus.
  • “Correctional officers who showed signs of fever were told to sit in a tent next to a swamp cooler until their temperature came down.
  • “A detainee was told to hold a frozen water bottle against his forehead until his temperature registered normal so he could be deported.”

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Cutting Off Your Nose

Throw the Bum OutThe Trump administration decreed on July 6 that international students have to leave the country if their universities opt for online-only classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The anti-immigrant cruelty of this order is surpassed only by its utter stupidity. Continue reading

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Slamming the Door on Refugees—Again

what. have we. become

On June 6, 1939, the United States refused to allow entrance to 937 refugees from Nazi Germany who arrived on the M.S. St. Louis. Today, the Trump administration refuses to allow entrance to any refugees. Its latest: a regulation denying asylum to almost everyone. The regulation would:

  • restrict protection for people who have been or fear that they will be tortured;
  • eliminate all protection for people fleeing violence from non-government actors (such as paramilitaries, gangs, or even rogue police or military officers acting without legal orders);
  • deny asylum to anyone who travels through a third country on their way to the United States—thus putting into a regulation the very provision that U.S. courts have said violates U.S. law;
  • strip away due process rights for asylum seekers;
  • deny asylum to anyone whose claim is based on gender, which would include all victims of domestic violence, even when that violence is endorsed by their country’s law enforcement apparatus, and all LGBTQ people whose lives are endangered by persecution in their home countries.

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What You Can Do About Immigration and Refugees

resistencia frazier

Photo by Joe Frazier, used under Creative Commons license https://www.flickr.com/photos/146781514@N05/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I recently got an email from someone who had heard me give a presentation on immigration myths and realities. They wanted to know what they could do. Maybe someone reading this also wants to know what they can do about the relentlessly anti-immigrant actions of this administration. Here’s what I wrote in response: Continue reading

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