Tag Archives: Immigration

Weekend Links – April 2nd

As could probably be guessed about someone who writes posts online about books, and effuses regularly on twitter about books and other things (cats! baking! Buffy! etc!), I spend a fair amount of time on the Internet. Through the course of a week I come across interesting articles, and I thought I’d share a few with you, dear readers.

I’m going to share by re-posting something I posted on Facebook earlier this week, as I think it is important:

Disgusted today by a combination of two news stories.

The first is about officers in Ottawa wearing “solidarity” bracelets to show their support of Const. Daniel Montsion, who was charged with manslaughter in the death of Abdirahman Abdi last July. The second is about City of Toronto ONCE AGAIN doing their yearly push to ban funding for Pride. This year their excuse is because police were banned from having an official float (though of course are still welcome to attend). 

Seriously people, both of these simultaneously. Do you see the hypocrisy? They are not allowed an official float in Pride this year because there have been YEARS LONG attempts to resolve issues around police brutality and lack of accountability which have gone nowhere. And now they are showing their lack of respect and care in Ottawa by literally wearing arm bands to support the officer charged in the death of a man of color.

Police have very clearly shown, numerous times, that they are not willing to hold themselves, their organization, or their fellow officers accountable so the LGBTQ* community has to center their own members.

The other thing I’d like to share is an article that came my way from a friend. The Establishment has an article titled Why I’m Done Being a ‘Good’ Mentally Ill Person. It’s a really great take down of respectability politics as it applies to mental illness, and the ways in which existing power structures and privileges play into mental health treatment and care. Highly recommended reading,

That moment will stand out in my mind forever. It was the moment when I realized that as long as we divide mentally ill people up into “good” and “bad” — or with coded language like “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” — we replicate the oppressive hierarchies that harm all of us.

The internalized stigma that compelled me to “perform” sanity was the same stigma that can lead to neglect and abuse in psychiatric settings, and further marginalize the most vulnerable mentally ill people.

And, one from the vault (because it’s always good to revisit good articles):

If you’re curious as to why I’m so into immigration policies lately, here is an article from The Nation from 2011 on Why Immigration is a Feminist Issue.

ALSO a bit more good stuff.

WATCH: There is a documentary called Kedi, by director Ceyda Torun, about street cats in Istanbul and it is actually the best thing ever. If you’re feeling down, try to find a screening of this movie. I guarantee you won’t regret it. I went twice, and the theater was sold out the second time. My local documentary theater (how cool is that right?) keeps extending it’s run because it is so popular! (They’ve now extended it into May and there is a good chance I’ll be going again, let’s be real it makes me so happy and we can always use more happy in our lives.)

What are you reading / watching / listening to this weekend? Share your good stuff with me please! 😀

Thoughts on Targeted by Deepa Fernandes

Targeted: Homeland Security and the Business of Immigration by Deepa Fernandes provides an in-depth exploration of immigration policies, filled with personal stories, of the United States before and after 9/11. Written in 2007, the book is out-of-date but is still, I would argue, fascinating and important reading. Any facts throughout this post will refer to what is in the book – changes could have been made to policies since it was printed and I haven’t noted any changes unless I’ve been certain of them.

In Targeted, award-winning radio journalist Deepa Fernandes weaves together original research with history, political analysis, and powerful first-person narratives. From the deadly desert crossing to the jail cells holding detainees, she documents the hidden human struggle behind the immigration debate. Herself an immigrant twice over, she is uniquely positioned to share a perspective rarely understood by the pundits from either party. She arms readers with the facts and takes them on the harrowing journey that is everyday life for the hundreds of thousands who’ve dreamed of America – then follows the shocking corporate profits won in the business of Homeland Security.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part contains five chapters which discuss the various immigration tracks, the way they have changed from the early 1990’s to mid-2000’s, and talks about the costs of these changes on lives. The second part examines the industrial complex and big business surrounding the creation of and maintenance of homeland security and detention, and the rise in white nationalist hate groups and anti-immigration sentiment in the US and the concomitant effect on national and state laws. Fernandes provides personal stories throughout the book to highlight the ways in which the policies affect real people and humanize the issue. As she says in the prologue:

As I delved into past and present immigration policy, I learned that one cannot divorce real people and their stories from policy. I have therefore documented the actual experiences of immigrants, noncitizens, and immigration workers to illustrate the impact of the policies. Only by understanding their impact can one evaluate who is benefiting from them, and if they are serving their intended purpose. (page 31)

One point that Fernandes makes throughout the book is the fact that the country is divided into two experiences. If two men are accused of, say, smoking marijuana or driving without a license and one is a citizen while the other is a permanent resident they will both be charged, they will both serve their sentence, but at the end, while the one holding a passport will go on with his life, the permanent resident is put into immigration detention and eventually deported. The vast majority of deportees are not violent criminals or terrorist threats, they are people who have had status issues or been accused of low level crimes. For example, entering the country with a false document gets you detained and charged, and can get you deported – even if you came in with false documentation because you are seeking asylum and had no access to valid documents from the country persecuting you. And that charge can, of course, hurt your asylum case.

Fernandes covers so much ground in this book. She talks about the reasons for migration and the effects of neoliberal policies on economics and job prospects in home countries. She covers the racism and classism inherent in border policing, as evidenced by the differing treatment of the borders along Mexico and Canada (Canada has the Rainbow Bridge and the Peace Bridge, Mexico has walls and unmanned drones and vigilante groups patrolling). She talks as well about the rise of non-citizens as the fastest-growing prison population. And about government ineptitude such as poor record keeping, not abiding by its own rules, and inaccuracies in databases and records which all cause further harm to noncitizens. And the ways in which companies benefit from cheap labor thanks to the ways that H-1B visas are set up. Each topic is woven expertly into the accounts of various specific people as well as into the overview of policies as they relate to specific groups of noncitizens.

In talking about the immigration-industrial complex, the author talks about the creation of the Department of Homeland Security – and the big business interests who were a part of crafting its existence. The private prison industry was failing prior to 9/11, and is now once again booming. Companies which have shown a clear lack of regard for human rights or for safety and security are granted huge government contracts, usually due to extensive lobbying and by recruiting former government employees and members to their boards and staff. Much of these contracts, although touted as being against terrorism, are truly used only to round up immigrants and noncitizens, make money off of their detention, and deport them. Along the way large amounts of information is gathered – and did you know that the Privacy Act doesn’t apply to those who are not citizens or private residents? So the vast amounts of personal information being collected on immigrants is actually subject to no privacy laws.

The hardest chapter to read was the last one, which talks about the rise in white nationalist hate groups and the rise in anti-immigration sentiment in the US. At the time of writing it was pretty bad, although there was some hope of things improving. While there were some improvements in the time since the book was printed, knowing what is going on now made it all the more difficult to read. Fernandes does a great job of outlining individuals and groups who had a hand in moving the country to the right on immigration, and their hate group and racist ties. This is especially where I want to see more recent scholarship because it seems so necessary!

Although there was some repetition of facts and figures (and occasionally of anecdotes and of actual sentences), the book definitely succeeds at painting a broad overview, as well as a detailed examination, of the changes to immigration brought about by 9/11 and the human toll of those changes. She clearly shows the rise in private prisons, the vast sums of money being made by corporations, the shift from bills targeting terrorism to successes touting immigrants detained, and the rise of white-nationalistic sentiments and policies around the country. I hope that one of my upcoming reads on the topic does this good a job but is more current. Although, with the sweeping changes underway now, even books published earlier this year might already start to seem out of date.

* Earlier this year I posted my thoughts on Reece Jones’s Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move and Aviva Chomsky’s Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal. The links will take you to the specific posts. I’m working my way through a number of books on immigration policies, borders, and refugees just for my own interest as a bit of a personal project. 

Weekend Links

As could probably be guessed about someone who writes posts online about books, and effuses regularly on twitter about books and other things (cats! baking! Buffy! etc!), I spend a fair amount of time on the Internet. Through the course of a week I come across interesting articles, and I thought I’d share a few with you, dear readers.

(Alternatively, I could just be sharing for myself so that I can find them back some day if no one else is reading. HAH!)

Do you ever feel a bit discouraged about what is going on in the world and what you can do to resist? Enter Do A Thing by Shannon & Jane, a daily letter to your inbox which lists one action you could take for the day. They range from calling your representative about a specific issue, starting a daily thought journal, donating to a specific cause, and so on. I originally heard about this from Rebecca, and despite being US focused, I still find it interesting and helpful.

One article that was referenced in Do A Thing is this handy article called How To Be A Good Online Friend by Rose Eveleth on The Last Word on Nothing. It gives great advice for how to respond when a friend is dealing with online harassment. It covers some of the worst of what not to say, as well as ideas for how to help. Always useful when being feminist / female / any marginalized identity on the internet.

It’s always sad when a fave does or says something especially problematic. I’ve been a long time fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and have loved all of her books (especially Purple Hibiscus). Her recent transphobic comments, and subsequent clarification that just dug herself in deeper, were disappointing. Bitch has a great article by Aqdas Aftab on Adichie’s comments, her recent work, and racism, transhopbia, and colonialism in feminism. Aqdas says we should “allow these fraught histories to complicate our readings of our favorite books, to suspend our monumentalization of feminist figures, and to disrupt the binaries that limit our evolving feminism”

And, one from the vault (because it’s always good to revisit good articles):

The Guardian had an interesting post just over two years ago by Mawuna Remarque Koutonin on how the term expat is used exclusively for white people, while everyone else is called an immigrant or migrant. It’s an interesting examination of language and privilege, and especially timely considering my current reading project on borders, immigration policies, and refuge.

ALSO a bit more good stuff.

WATCH: The Skin We’re In, a documentary on anti-black racism in Canada by Charles Officer, following Desmond Cole. It’s 45 minutes and incredibly important – take the time to watch it. (I think the video is only watchable in Canada, but it is also on YouTube!) Below is the trailer:

LISTEN: This week I heard about Lizzo, who is a Minneapolis based artist. Worship is my new fave, but Bitch linked a video to her whole SXSW set through NPR. Her set is amazingly body-positive and sexy and just everything.

What are you reading / watching / listening to this weekend? Share your good stuff with me please! 😀

Documentary Days: Asylum and Refuge Movies from Hot Docs 2016

It might not surprise you, given my love of non-fiction, but I’m also an avid fan of documentaries. This post has been sitting in my drafts folder since April 2016. I figured I might as well post it, as I am reading a number of books on borders, refugees, and immigration policies. The post wasn’t completed, and I haven’t modified or updated it, so it only provides partial thoughts on these films. 

Each year Toronto hosts Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary film festival. It is my favorite week of the year, and I usually try to take it off of work and see as many movies as I can. This year I saw 42 movies in 10 days…. it was glorious! One major theme running through my selection at Hot Docs this year was that of asylum and seeking refuge. The theme cropped up on different days and in various screenings, following current and past stories. Here are just a few:

On opening night, I saw director Eva Orner‘s Chasing Asylum. Using hidden cameras and interviews with asylum seekers and detention center workers, Orner takes us inside Australia’s controversial detention facilities on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Nauru. When it’s become a crime to be a whistle-blower at either location – even for a doctor or social worker to report a sexual assault – this hidden camera footage gives us an inside look at the detention facilities at how the asylum seekers are being treated and at the policies in place.

Through interviews with current and past employees – mainly social workers, though also a former director and a former security adviser – Orner highlights the human consequences to the government’s policy in terms of the mental and physical health deterioration of those in detention. As well as detailing the human cost, and the lack of compassion shown by those in the government, it also highlights the absurdity of the fiscal cost of the programs. The absurdity of paying such ridiculously high figures per asylum seeker in detention versus what could be spent on improving conditions in home countries, or on resettlement, truly highlights the willingness of the government to pay any price possible to keep those in need out, and treat the desperate with callousness and cruelty rather than compassion.

Screening with Chasing Asylum was director Natasha Pincus‘ Missy Higgins: Oh Canada (you can watch at that link). This five minute short film is a song, performed by Missy Higgins, accompanied by animation of the story of Alan Kurdi, the young boy whose family was denied asylum in Canada and who subsequently drowned while crossing the Mediterranean sea, as well as by images drawn by refugee children of their fears and their hopes. It is a truly heartbreaking story, and is only more heartbreaking in this form.

George Kurian‘s The Crossing uses hidden cameras and phone calls to follow a group of middle-class Syrians as they take their chance escaping Egypt for Europe. The group includes journalists, an engineer, and a musician, as well as children. They risk smugglers and death at sea in a cramped and dirty boat, only to arrive and realize that the asylum process is not as they had hoped. Throughout the ordeal the individuals talk about what it means to be a refugee, and what refuge means to them.

The film offered a close up view to what some refugees face. At the same time, we know that this is a solidly middle class group. The fact that this is a privileged experience of seeking asylum makes it even more heartbreaking when you read about how many are displaced and in need of refuge.

At Home in the World by director Andreas Koefoed followed children in a Red Cross school for refugee children in Denmark. Children come to this school as their families asylum cases are being heard, and here they learn the language and begin to get used to the new culture. It highlights the effects of asylum seeking on children, and both their resilience and their struggles as they cope with being in a new country.

Lastly, one film which explored the idea of refuge within your own country was When Two Worlds Collide by directors Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel. This film shows on the ground footage of clashes between the government of Peru and Indigenous Peruvian minorities who are clashing over the government’s attempt to open up protected tribal lands to corporate clear cutting, mining, and drilling. The film explores both sides of the conflict and displacement that can occur within one’s own country.

Thoughts on Violent Borders by Reece Jones

Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move by Reece Jones provided a high level overview of borders and the structural and literal violence they cause in various different ways. It examines the actual death toll at borders (40,000 in the last decade alone), as well as the violence caused by less examined issues such as the unequal access to wages and labor regulations and the unequal impacts of environmental change and loss of resources through over-exploitation. The blurb calls it “A major new exploration of the refugee crisis, focusing on how borders are formed and policed”.

The state is a boundary-making institution that legitimizes the exclusion of others from land, resources, wealth, and opportunity through legal regimes and military power. States make exclusive claims to land and resources, define who has access by creating and monitoring social boundaries of belonging, and enforce these exclusions with legally sanctioned violence, such as the right of the police to use force. The structural violence of borders is at the foundation of the state in its role as a collector, protector, and exploiter of resources and labor. (Page 164)

Violent Borders begins with an examination of current borders and their trends to militarization around the EU, the US, and various other places including India, Bangladesh, and Australia. Through these examples, we see the death toll caused at these borders as people desperate to escape war and poverty attempt to cross them. Here we see the most obvious and reported upon violence caused by borders – individuals shot trying to cross, or dying during their journey, and the ways in which the border enforcement directly envisions and plans for theses deaths. For example, forcing migrants on the US-Mexico border to more remote and dangerous areas where death tolls will be higher and which, officials and planners imagine, will make people decide the risks aren’t worth it.

Using the example of Andrew Carnegie, Jones next shows how free movement during a specific point in the past allowed those experiencing poverty and the loss of jobs, in large part due to industrialization, to move elsewhere for better opportunities. As states have moved to create immigration policies, the industrialization of countries outside of Europe leaves the poor and newly jobless with no escape possible as there are no settler-colonies accepting immigrants. This highlights the ways in which so-called developed nations benefited previously from free movement and benefit now from restrictions on movement. A history of border creation through the ages from the Magna Carta, which allowed for free use of the public commons, through to the current age of private property and fences highlights the ways in which the wealthy have long benefited from these borders.

Borders, which currently affect the movement of people but not goods, impose limits on free markets which results in violence in terms of low wages, lack of regulations, and so on around the world. Workers in the US were historically able to agitate for better working conditions and create unions because the majority of goods came from within the border, meaning that any regulations were applied broadly across all competitors. The increasing globalization of goods allows companies to now get around these regulations and laws, which aim to protect workers, because state borders constrain the regulations and wages, but not the goods.

…while global institutions like the WHO and free trade agreements allow corporations to operate across borders, regulators and workers are contained by them. (page 132)
As long as labor is contained by borders and not protected by basic labor and environmental standards, the systems of exploitation will continue regardless of whether individual companies change their practices. (page 138)

Borders also allow states the ability to focus on resource exploitation and extraction within their own areas in disregard of global impacts. The expansion of exclusive economic zones in the sea is leading to increased resource exploitation – despite the popular theory of the “tragedy of the commons”, history shows that states look out for their own interests at the expense of global needs. Border walls disrupt animal habitats and change water ways and migration patterns. Borders make impossible any true action on climate change as each state looks out primarily for its own interests rather than global interests.

The structural violence of borders concentrates the negative impacts of borders on more vulnerable places and contains the affected people to those areas through movement restrictions at borders. (page 153)

Thus, the book argues: borders have been created, borders cause violence, and the only legitimacy that they have is that which we give them. Jones ends with three ideas and options for moving forward to a world allowing free movement of people and access to resources and opportunities. Jones argues that those in a privileged position are currently privileged in part due to their exploitation of others, and free movement as both a human and civil right is necessary. He also argues for global regulations on working conditions, which would improve job conditions around the world and create more jobs everywhere, including Europe and the US. Lastly, he argues for global environmental protections and responsibilities as well as limits on free property.

The exclusion of others from resources and opportunity is based on the idea that the in-group should be protected no matter what, with little regard for what effect it might have on the other and without questioning why there is a distinction between “us” and “them” in the first place. Rather than hard lines around nations of people and their homelands, political borders are systems for controlling land and resources and limiting the movement of people. The “nations” they enclose are not long-term historical realities, but new political communities that developed with the emergence of states and borders. (page 168)

Overall a well-written examination of the visible and invisible violence caused by borders, and a look at how we can envision and create a more just and free world. My only complaint is the comparisons of serfdom and current global working conditions to slavery. I understand the modern-day slavery movement and the ways in which the working conditions, low wages, and lack of options are termed slavery, but it also seems disrespectful to historical slavery which was a completely different thing – forced work, being sold as chattel, no wages, no changes for escape, families being torn apart. What is termed modern-day slavery, in my opinion, should have a different name.

A recommended read and it seems like this will be a great introduction for my current reading project on borders, immigration policies, and refugees. I’m looking forward to see how these themes interact with the topics of my next reads.

*This was the ONLY one of the seven books I looked into regarding borders, immigration policy, and refugees which my library had in general circulation. Many of the others were there, but only a reference copy. Very disappointing, especially in this current political climate, as reading on this topic seems especially relevant.