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Over 30,000 migrants, including rape and torture victims, are detained in the UK in the course of a year, a third of them for over 28 days. Some detainees remain incarcerated for years, as Britain does not set a time limit to immigration detention (the only country in the European Union not to do so). No detainee is ever told how long his or her detention will last, for nobody knows. It can be days, it can be years.
In mid-February the Public Broadcasting Service aired a four-hour documentary entitled The Italian Americans, an absorbing chronicle of one immigrant group’s struggles and successes in America. It has received rave reviews across the country. For all its virtues, however, the film falls short in at least one important respect.
Migrant farmworkers plant and pick most of the fruits and vegetables that you eat. Seasonal crop farmers, who employ workers only a few weeks of the year, rely on workers who migrate from one job to another. However, farmers’ ability to rely on migrants to fill their seasonal labor needs is in danger. From 1989 through 1988, roughly half of all seasonal crop farmworkers migrated: traveled at least 75 miles for a U.S. job. Since then, the share of workers who migrate has dropped by more than in half, hitting 18% in 2012.
Monica Brown is the author of several award-winning children’s books, including the Marisol McDonald series, and is a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University. Brown recently spoke to KNAU Public Radio about the power of dehumanizing language after a politician used the word “deportable” to refer to an immigrant. She has allowed us to reprint her comments below, and you can hear her radio segment here:
Deportable. The prefix de signifies removal, separation, reduction or reversal, as in deforestation or demerit. De reverses a verb’s action, as in defuse ordecompose. De is not often used with a noun, but it was last week. That’s when Republican Representative Steve King referred to one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests as “a deportable.” He tweeted it.
When I heard this description of 21 year old Ana Zamora, a hardworking college student and DREAMer, it felt like a blow to the chest. When President Obama enacted his 2012 executive order on immigration, Ana Zamora wrote him a thank you letter. She said, “I am finally a person in the United States…”
Not according to Representative King. To him, she is a deportable.
I am a bilingual Latina whose mixed ethnic heritage lets me embrace the multiplicity, complexity and beauty of the Americas, North and South. It pains me to see the way Latino bodies are often marked with the mantle of illegality, and to witness the way immigrant children of the Americas are made objects to reject, a class of “deportables” if we were to use King’s terminology. I suggest we don’t.
In migrating to the United States, Ms. Zamora’s parents brought with them their dedication to family, hard work, and dreams of a better future for their children. Ms. Zamora is the embodiment of those dreams. Chicana sage Gloria Anzaldua once described the U.S.-Mexico border as a “1,950 mile-long open wound.” It is a place of conflict, confrontation and pain. The term “a deportable” rubs salt in that wound by devaluing and dehumanizing a young woman who represents the very best of our country.
As a professor of English and children’s author, I know words matter. Within my community, an immigrant without documents might be described as “sin papeles.”Without papers. It is a legal status they lack, not who and what they are.
Thankfully, many have come to understand that, in the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “no human being is illegal.” Today I’d like to state, unequivocally, that no human is a deportable, either.
Last year was an important year in the field of public health. In 2014, West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, experienced the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus in history, and with devastating effects. Debates around e-cigarettes and vaping became central, as more research was published about their health implications. Conversations surrounding nutrition and the spread of disease through travel and migration continued in the media and among experts.
We’ve chosen a selection of articles that discuss public health issues that arose in 2014, their effects on the present and implications for the future.
Header image: US specialist helping Afghan nomads by Sfc. Larry Johns (US Army). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The headline reads: “Border State Governor Issues Dire Warning about Flood of Undocumented Immigrants.” And here’s the gist of the story: In a letter to national officials, the governor of a border state sounded another alarm about unchecked immigration across a porous boundary with a neighboring country. In the message, one of several from border state officials, the governor acknowledged that his/her nation had once welcomed immigrants from its neighbor, but recent events taught how unwise that policy was. He/she insisted that many of the newcomers to his/her state were armed and dangerous criminals. Even those who came to work threatened to overwhelm the state’s resources and destabilize the social order.
Indeed, unlike earlier immigrants from the neighboring nation who had adapted to their new homeland and its traditions, more recent arrivals resisted assimilation. Instead, they continued to speak in their native tongue and maintain attachments to their former nation, sometimes carrying their old flag in public demonstrations. Worse still, the governor admitted that his/her nation seemed unwilling to “arrest” the flow of these undocumented aliens. Yet, unless the “incursions” were halted, the “daring strangers,” who are “gradually outnumbering and displacing us,” would turn us into “strangers in our own land.”
Today’s headline? It could be. The governor’s fears certainly ring familiar. Indeed, the warning sounds a lot like ones issued by Governor Rick Perry of Texas or Jan Brewer of Arizona. But this particular alarm emanated from California. That might make Pete Wilson the author of this message. Back in the 1990s, he was very vocal about the dangers that illegal immigration posed to his state and the United States. As governor, Wilson championed the “Save Our State” ballot initiative that cut illegal aliens from access to state benefits such as subsidized health care and public education. He campaigned on behalf of the initiative (Proposition 187) and made it a centerpiece of his 1994 re-election campaign.
Wilson, however, was not the source of the letter cited above. In fact, this warning dates back to 1845, almost 150 years before Proposition 187 appeared on the scene. Its author was Pio Pico, governor of the still Mexican state of California.
The unsanctioned immigrants about whom Pico worried were from the United States. Pico had reason to be concerned, especially as he reflected on events in Texas. There, the Mexican government had opted to encourage immigration from the United States. Beginning in the 1820s and continuing into the 1830s, Americans, primarily from the southern United States, poured into Texas.
By the mid-1830s, they outnumbered Tejanos (people with Mexican roots) by almost ten to one. Demanding provincial autonomy, the Americans clashed with Mexican authorities determined to enforce the rule of the national government. In 1836, a rebellion commenced, and Texans won their war of secession. Nine years later, the United States annexed Texas. And now, claimed Pico, many officials of the United States government openly coveted California, their expansionist designs abetted by American immigrants to California.
In retrospect, the policy of promoting American immigration into northern Mexico looks as dangerous as Pico deemed it and as counterintuitive as it has seemed to subsequent generations. Why invite Americans in if a chief goal was to keep the United States out? Still, the policy did not appear so paradoxical at the time. There were, in fact, encouraging precedents. Spain had attempted something similar in the Louisiana Territory in the 1790s, though the territory’s transfer back to France and then to the United States had aborted that experiment. More enduring was what the British had done in Upper Canada (now Ontario). Americans who crossed that border proved themselves amenable to a shift in loyalties, which showed how tenuous national attachments remained in these years. From this, others could draw lessons: the keys to gaining and holding the affection of American transplants was to protect them from Indians, provide them with land on generous terms, require little from them in the way of taxes, and interfere minimally in their private pursuits.
For a variety of reasons, Mexico had trouble abiding by these guidelines, and, in response, Americans did not abide by Mexican rules. In Texas, American immigrants destabilized Mexican rule. In California, as Pico feared, the “daring strangers” overwhelmed the Mexican population, though the brunt of the American rush did not commence until after the discovery of gold in 1848. By then, Mexico had already lost its war with the United States and ceded California. Very soon, men like Pio Pico found themselves strangers in their own land.
Featured image credit: “Map of USA highlighting West”. CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
The political controversies over immigration intensify across Europe. Commonly, the arguments centre around its economic costs and benefits, and they reduce the public perception of immigrants to cheap workforce. Yet, increasingly, these workers are highly skilled professionals, international students, and academics. Their presence transforms not only labour markets but also the production of knowledge and, in the end, it changes the way we all perceive immigrants and immigration.
US American scholars were first to draw attention to how immigrant scholars influence the academic field. The historian of migration Nancy Foner claimed a decade ago that the increasing group of students and faculty who study and work abroad — immigrants to the United States — heavily change the way immigration is perceived in social sciences. Immigrant scholars — according to Herbert J. Gans, a German-born American sociologist — contributed to the paradigm shift in American migration studies, from assimilationist to retentionist approach. They did so, because they were ‘insiders’ to the groups they studied; they were immigrant researchers researching immigrants.
A century ago, public interest (and funds) fueled studies on immigration by sociologists, demographers, economists and historians. The results of their studies were widely spread by journalists, novelists and mass entertainment industries. Now, budget cuts in higher education, and the increase of impact-seeking funding of the European Union, foster the concern about the societal benefits of social sciences. Paradoxically, the public interest in research on immigrants seems to fall, and academics apparently lose their capability of influencing broad publics and the politics in Europe, the boats on Lampedusa being a symbol of this problem.
For scholars who reply to short-term concerns of national public policy, the urgent question is the effectiveness of transfer of knowledge between academic and other systems that is driven by the hope for formulating better policies. Some scholars are yet reluctant to actively participate in public debates because they see their scientific objectivity in danger. The position of those scholars researching immigration who are immigrants themselves is no less ambivalent: they may play the ‘ethnic card’ to secure funding for research and access to people whom they want to study. Financial reasons may compel many to do research in their native country and they also meet the suspicion of fellow academics that tend to suspect they might lack scientific distance and objectivity.
What societal roles are available for immigrant researchers researching immigrants? Too often we look for answers to this question by tracking the processes of policy decision making, by investigating the “big-P”-politics. We are used to thinking of production of ideas and texts as separate from the impact we think they will have. Yet the way that knowledge is being negotiated during the production of texts is a key to understanding the role migration researchers studying immigrants play for the society.
Let us imagine a research situation, an interview, which is undoubtedly the most widely applied technique for conducting systematic social inquiry: a researcher typically asks questions and listens carefully to the stories the respondent tells. While one of them may say less and the other more, they interact. Interviews are interactional, and during this situation, both the researcher and the researched subject negotiate the meaning they assign to norms, values, ideas, other people, their behaviour, etc. Let’s assume both parties in this situation are immigrants. From my personal experience as an interviewer and immigrant, I recall multiple research encounters during which my interview partners prompted me to confirm their views: “you surely know, you are also an immigrant” or “you do understand me, you are also from Poland”. They presume that because of our common origin, we have a lot in common, that being an immigrant might bring us together, foster mutual understanding of problems, or even make us share the same norms and values.
But common origin does not produce ‘common individuals’, and each migration trajectory is different. It matters that I am born in Warsaw in a middle class family, have university education and work as a professor at a German university while my research subjects come from rural areas in Poland, left school early and perform manual jobs in United Kingdom. Each time I ask a question and they answer it, each time I prompt them — seemingly impersonally and in a highly controlled fashion — to continue narrating, my interview partners and I question the latent national and ethnic categories of commonality. Unintentionally, in the course of such research encounter, when confronted with misunderstandings or incomprehension, we revisit our gendered, ethnic, class, or professional identities.
For most researchers, such experiences are common and obvious. But they reflect on them in a self-referential fashion, addressing the issue to colleagues subscribing to journals on methodology of qualitative research. They aim at improving the quality of research but the meaning of this self-reflection is deeper and should be communicated to wider audiences.
It matters that when the researcher is an immigrant herself: it influences the research process, the access to research subjects and funding, and the way results of the studies are interpreted (because the researcher is sympathetic, or empathetic, to particular problems of her respondents). More importantly, immigrant immigration researchers are capable and predisposed to reveal the artificiality of fixed categorisations assigning people to places on the map and positions in social hierarchies. When they do so, they show us a possibility for new, better, modes of societal integration. In countries like Germany that have long been shaped by low-skilled immigration and public discourses around it, there is a minor but growing interest in the perspectives of immigrant researchers. Through stronger engagement in dialogue with wider audiences, the immigrant researchers can accelerate this trend. This much needed change of perspective has a chance of becoming mainstream if immigrant researchers talk about their work and research experiences with more self-confidence.
Migration Studies is an international refereed journal dedicated to advancing scholarly understanding of the determinants, processes and outcomes of human migration in all its manifestations, and gives priority to work presenting methodological, comparative or theoretical advances.
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Image credit: Visa application. By VIPDesignUSA, via iStockphoto.
“Larry and Friends is a captivating story about immigration and integration told in both English and Spanish language versions. The protagonist, Larry the Dog, is a juggler from Brooklyn and his friends are a diverse set of animals from all over the world. The story recounts why the characters end up relocating to New York City, how they became friends with Larry and how life has taught them a thing or two.”
“Every day should be a happy day. At least that’s what Larry the dog thinks.”
Today is Larry’s birthday. All of his friends, from all over the world, arrive to celebrate. Living in New York has given him the opportunity to meet and befriend so many creatures that are both interesting and unique in both body and spirit. As Larry is making last minute preparations for his birthday celebration, the doorbell rings. “Ringadingadong!” Who could that be this early?
It is Magda, the Polish Pig. Magda is Larry’s partner, very good at organizing, and she should be able to help Larry get all his last minute decorations ready for the party. Not long after, “Ringadingadong!” Henrick, the Irish Hare has arrived bearing a birthday gift for Larry: a special song he wrote just for Larry. Henrick is fond of craic, which means having a fun time with good conversation. All through the evening the doorbell rings, “Ringadingadong!” New and old friends from near and far show up at Larry’s doorstep, all with a unique skill, family background, and a gift for Larry. The reader learns about each guest, barely finishing before the doorbell rings, “Ringadingadong!”
Larry and Friends is a fast moving introduction to some amazing and definitely unique characters, all Larry’s friends, all ready to celebrate his birthday. Each character has a unique story relating to finding their way to New York and the job they do—most all are in the entertainment industry in one way or another.
Cecilia, the Peruvian Llama, was destined to be sheered her entire life for the benefit of the local artisans, who created things from her wool. Not willing to endure such a hard life Cecelia jumped the fence, and kept running until she reached New York, never looking back. Now she sings at the club Silencio and wears fancy clothes, none of which are made of llama wool by Peruvian artisans.
Gugu, the African Zebra is a grass expert. With only one male zebra—one stallion—allowed per family, Gugu had to leave his home. He decided to go where no other zebra as ever gone—New York City. He is now the lead percussionist at the Apollo Theater. As with the other guests, Gugu has a motto that keeps him going. For Gugu, it is, “Aim high. Look how well it worked for me!” Also very superstitious, Gugu knocks on wood.
Twenty-one anthropomorphic animals, including Larry, gather in a small apartment in New York. Everyone has gathered to celebrate Larry, but in his or her own way have celebrated themselves. The illustrations have amazing color, are bright, cheerful, and extremely detailed. The illustrated page immediately strikes you with the passion of the artist. My guess is the animals, the illustrations, arrived first and then the story found life.
Each animal displays his or her talent, origin, or new lifestyle. It is too bad there is not a story involving these characters—all or some—other than an introduction, which is really all Larry and Friends is. The introductions are interesting, some are educational, and all are entertaining, but not in a real story kind of way. After a dozen ringadingadongs, Larry and Friends becomes rather tedious.
Kids can still learn a lot about immigration, friendship, and family. More than that is the spirit each character exudes that has kept them on top of his or her world, happy, motivated, and philosophical. Many of the character’s life mottos are worth repeating. Here are three:
“All knowledge is worthless, unless it is shared.” ~ Bernard, the French Gargoyle
“Where there is adversity, there is opportunity.” ~ Rimshi, the Tibetan Yak
“The important thing is always to be yourself, no matter who stares at you” ~ Laila, the Iranian Cat
The story, as told in the first page, is a birthday party, but readers are not invited to the party. Readers get the guest list. As unique and interesting as these introductions to Larry’s friends may be, they do not amount to a real story. The running theme of a birthday party holds these individuals together. The real story begins and ends with each new character. After all 20 are present, have told their story, and given Larry a gift, the actual celebration begins with food and drink, birthday cake and whatever else a group of interesting people with varied backgrounds do at such gatherings. When the party begins, the book abruptly ends. The reader is not invited to the actual party. Seems unkind.
The Spanish economy roared along like a high-speed train for a decade until it slowed down dramatically in 2008. Only recently has it emerged from a five-year recession. But the jobless rate has tripled to 26% (four times the US level) and will not return to its pre-crisis level for up to a decade. Why is this?
(1) The economic model was excessively based on the shaky foundations of bricks and mortar.
Between 2000 and 2009, Spain accounted for around 30% of all new homes built in the European Union (EU), although its economy only generated around 10% of the EU’s total GDP. In one year alone (2006), the number of housing starts (762,214) was more than Germany, France, and Italy combined. After Spain joined the euro in 1999, interest rates were low, property was seen as a good investment in a country with very high home ownership (85%), and there was a high foreign demand for holiday and retirement homes due to the 60 million tourists who visited Spain annually.
When the property bubble burst, jobs were destroyed as quickly as they had been created. As construction is a labor intensive sector, its collapse reverberated through other areas of the economy. Between 2002 and 2007, the total number of jobholders, many of them on temporary contracts, rose by a massive 4.1 million, a much steeper rise than in any other EU country and more than three times higher than the number created in the preceding 16 years. Since 2008, more than 3 million jobs have been lost, around half of them in the construction and related sectors.
(2) Labor market laws were too rigid.
Spain has a dysfunctional labor market: even at the peak of the economic boom in 2007, the unemployment rate was 8%, a high rate by US standards. At the hiring end, Spain’s labor market laws were very flexible, largely as a result of widespread use and abuse of temporary contracts, but at the firing end, severance payments were higher than in comparable countries. This made employers reluctant to put workers on permanent contracts. The reforms approved in 2012 by the conservative government of the Popular Party, which returned to power at the end of 2011, lowered dismissal costs and gave companies the upper hand, depending on their financial health, in collective wage bargaining agreements between management and unions. The reforms have yet to have a discernible impact on job creation. They have, however, lowered the GDP growth threshold for net job creation from around 2% to 1.3%. The Spanish economy is expected to grow by more than 1% this year.
(3) The property sector caused a banking crisis and corruption to flourish.
The 45 regionally-based and unlisted savings banks, which accounted for around half Spain’s financial system, were closely connected to politicians and businessmen. Many of them made reckless loans to developers and were massively exposed to the property sector when it crashed. The reclassification of land for building purposes and the granting of building permits, in the hands of local authorities, created a breeding ground for corruption. Bad loans soared from 0.7% of total credit in 2007 to more than 13%. The European Stability Mechanism came to the rescue of some banks in 2012 with a €41 billion bail-out package in return for sweeping reforms. The number of savings banks has been reduced to seven, with high job losses. Spain exited the bail out in January.
Spain was ranked 40th out of 177 countries in the latest corruption perceptions ranking by the Berlin-based Transparency International, down seven places from the year before. Its score of 59 was six points lower than its previous score in 2012, in a numerical index where the cleanest countries are those closest to a score of 100. Spain lost more points than almost every other country, topped only by war-torn Syria.
(4) The education system is in crisis.
The education system is holding back the need to create a more sustainable economic model. One in every four people in Spain between the ages of 18 and 24 are early school leavers, double the EU average but down from a peak of one-third during the economic boom, when students dropped out of school at 16 and flocked in droves to work in the construction and related sectors. Almost one-quarter of 15-29 year-olds are not in education, training, or employment. Results in the OECD’s Pisa international tests in reading, mathematics, and scientific knowledge for 15-year-old students and for fourth-grade children in the TIMS and PIRLS tests are also poor. No Spanish university is among the world’s top 200 in the main academic rankings. Research, development and innovation spending, at 1.3% of GDP, is way below that of other developed economies. In these conditions, the creation of a more knowledge-based economy is something of a pipe dream, and the brightest young scientists and engineers are emigrating.
(5) Spain received more immigrants in a decade than any other European country.
Immigrants were lured to Spain when the economy began to expand rapidly. Their number soared from more than 900,000 in 1995 to 5.7 million in 2012, the largest increase in a European country in the shortest time. They were particularly needed in the construction and agricultural sectors, as there were not enough Spaniards prepared to work in them. At the peak of the boom in 2007, more than half of the 3.3 million non-EU immigrants in Spain worked in the construction sector. When the economy went into recession, immigrants bore a large part of the surge in the unemployment, as many of them were on temporary contracts and were the first to lose their jobs. The jobless rate among immigrants (37%) is much higher than that for Spaniards (24%). Immigrants only began to return to their countries in significant numbers in 2012 and Spain’s population declined by 500,000 in 2013, an unprecedented fall in the country’s modern history.
William Chislett is the author of Spain: What Everyone Needs to Know. He is a journalist who has lived in Madrid since 1986. He covered Spain’s transition to democracy (1975-78) for The Times of London and was later the Mexico correspondent for the Financial Times (1978-84). He writes about Spain for the Elcano Royal Institute, which has published three books of his on the country, and he has a weekly column in the online newspaper, El Imparcial.
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Image credit: “Palacio Real” by Bepo2. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.
Immigration it seems is always in the headlines. While UKIP and others make political waves with their opposition to European free movement, immigration is said to be one of the biggest issues of voter concern. However, the issues that make the headlines are only a tiny part of the picture. Restricting immigration is treated as an uncontroversial objective. Some air time, though less, is given to the damage done to migrants by restrictive laws and policies. Very little attention is given to the damage done to the social fabric by those same laws and policies, and to the reality that measures targeting migrants have an adverse effect on all of us.
In the last months of 2013 and the first of 2014 the Immigration Bill made its way through Parliament. Surprisingly, as immigration was a dominant political theme at that time, its provisions received minimal media attention. Provisions of the Immigration Act 2014 include:
All rights of appeal against immigration decisions are abolished, except where the decision is to refuse international protection or where removal would breach the Refugee Convention or the appellant’s human rights.
Banks and building societies are prohibited from opening accounts for individuals ‘who require leave to enter or remain in the UK but do not have it’.
Driving licences may not be issued to those who require leave but do not have it.
Charges for health care are to be levied on all migrants.
Landlords will be subject to penalties if they let property to individuals who ‘require leave to enter or remain in the UK but do not have it’.
The abolition of rights of appeal against immigration decisions comes after years of attrition of immigration appeal rights, and it is only this previous attrition that reduces the impact of these new measures.
Interestingly, an earlier episode of attrition of appeal rights was commented upon by Tony Blair in 1992:
“It is a novel, bizarre and misguided principle of the legal system that if the exercise of legal rights is causing administrative inconvenience, the solution is to remove the right. […] When a right of appeal is removed, what is removed is a valuable and necessary constraint on those who exercise original jurisdiction. That is true not merely of immigration officers but of anybody.”
Some effects of s.15 Immigration Act 2014 can be predicted:
There will be no independent remedy for an individual who has suffered due to a mistake.
There will be less incentive to improve Home Office decision-making.
Studies, work, and life plans of migrants and their families will be disrupted.
Employers and universities may lose employees and students.
Judicial review will likely proliferate.
When a student’s studies are prematurely ended or a specialist worker has to leave the country, not only they but others around them are affected. As well as the employer or university, friendships, treatment plans, agreements with landlords, voluntary work obligations, all are disrupted. Migrants do not live in isolation.
Most of us can accommodate to misfortune, but injustice is harder to live with. If our friend, our student or our colleague has not been able to put their case, what is the effect on our confidence in our own system of government? There is no right to be heard. Does this not have an impact on our belief in what are famously described as ‘British values’?
The prohibition on holding a driving licence, opening a bank or building society account not only affects the person who cannot get access to these basic features of ordinary life in the UK, it also affects the person who must decide whether to issue a licence or open an account.
A bank or building society employee must now assess a potential customer’s immigration status. Whether they wish to do so or not, the staff member is exercising a form of internal immigration control.
Bank and building society accounts have become essential to live ordinary life in the United Kingdom. People will be denied access to these facilities on faulty grounds. Bank and building society employees will find that their relationship with their customers has changed from service to scrutiny. All of us will be subject to immigration status checks.
The measures restricting access to private tenancies, bank and building society accounts and driving licences are not, as such, immigration control. They are penalties on those already resident. They apply not only to government matters but also to purely commercial and private transactions. They insert mutual surveillance into social relationships.
It was revealed by Sarah Teather MP that the government working group some of whose policies found their way into the Immigration Act was called ‘the Hostile Environment Working Group’. In the Immigration Act we are being recruited to the project of the hostile environment. We are required to treat other people as disentitled, not to a government benefit, which in the end we know is determined by government, but to a private facility. This asks us to change our perceptions of each other, and as such is hostile to us all.
Gina Clayton works on European asylum and migration projects, including reports for the Fundamental Rights Agency and the AIDA database, chairs refugee charities in South Yorkshire, and is an OISC adviser on asylum law. She is the author of Textbook on Immigration and Asylum Law.
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Image credit: Gavel. By Kuzma, via iStockphoto.
As media coverage has intensified around the events of children crossing the U.S. border, many educators and families are wondering, “What should we tell our students?” For some children, this may be the first time they are learning of these countries. But for many others, these events may involve their own heritage or depict their families’ experiences. Using books to talk about the recent events can be an opportunity to learn about a new region and help children see the cultures and people beyond these events.
We’ve put together a list of 11 books (many of which are bilingual English/Spanish) that teach about the emotional journey families and children must undertake along with the physical journey. These stories allow children to see each other and themselves in characters who are living life to the fullest and refusing to let any obstacle stand in their way.
Whether you are looking to explore the themes of the DREAM Act, learn more about the journey of one’s own family, or see America from a different angle, these books reveal the complexities, challenges, joys, and surprises of coming to a new place. Join these characters as they share their challenges and excitement in moving to a new culture and new school, helping their families adjust, and juggling their home culture with a new culture.
Amelia longs for a beautiful white house with a fine shade tree in the yard, where she can live without worrying. In this inspirational tale, Amelia discovers the importance of putting her own roots down in a very special way.
Chico and his family move up and down the state of California picking fruits and vegetables. Every September Chico starts at a new school again. Often other children pick on him, but Chico’s first day in third grade turns out to be different.
José loves helping Mama, but when Mama is sent back to Mexico for not having proper papers, José and his Papa face an uncertain future. Author René Colato Laínez tackles the difficult and timely subject of family separation with exquisite tenderness.
Ana Patino is adjusting well to her new life in the United States, but her mother is having a difficult time because she doesn’t speak English. After mama agrees to take English lessons, her sense of confidence and belonging grow.
Amada overhears her parents whisper of moving from Mexico to the other side of the border—to Los Angeles. As she and her family make their journey north, Amada records her fears, hopes, and dreams for their lives in the United States in her diary.
The award-winning team of Lucia González and Lulu Delacre have crafted an homage to Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian. Through Pura Belpré’s vision and dedication, the warmth of Puerto Rico comes to the island of Manhattan in a most unexpected way.
It is Danilito’s first day in America and he is scared. He has heard that some Americans are not friendly to foreigners. In addition, he does not speak any English. Danilito’s worries disappear when Papa leads him on a magical trip of discovery.
Miles away from their home in El Salvador, Xochitl and her family make a new home in the United States, but nothing is the same. It is not until her family decides to start a flower nursery in its backyard that Xochitl begins to learn the true value of community in their adopted country.
Poet Juan Felipe Herrera shares the story of his migrant farmworker childhood. The farmworker road was the beginning of his personal road to becoming a writer.
Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
You might as well know my weakness. It’s ice cream. Any flavour, most kinds, regardless of country of origin. I am extremely ice cream tolerant and I wonder if Bob Graham had similar thoughts when he penned his latest picture book masterpiece, Vanilla Icecream.
Vanilla Icecream is an eloquently articulated tale about a young curious sparrow whose world revolves around a dusty truck stop in the heart of India. He enjoys his existence and relishes his freedom with the blithe objectivity of all wild things until one day his pluck and appetite hook up with fate, which escorts him south across rough seas and through dark nights, eventually delivering him ‘into a bright new day’.
Unperturbed by his new environment in a different land, the truck stop sparrow chances upon a new eating hole and Edie Irvine, a toddler whose young life is inextricably changed forever because of him.
Graham’s dramatic narration of the little sparrow’s epic journey stuns you with its beautiful brevity and makes you want to follow the courageous new immigrant and know if Edie’s and his paths will ever cross again. This is a largely self-indulgent desire on my part as I get quite caught up in Graham’s snapshots of life, wanting them to never end. Nonetheless, end they must and this one’s delicious denouement is as immeasurably satisfying as a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
There are numerous wordless pages in this picture book as Graham shapes much of the narration visually with his splendid, slightly sassy, culturally sensitive illustrations. Graham has the unique, unaffected knack of suffusing modern day nuances with old-fashioned appeal into his pictures that draw the eye of young and old alike deep into the story in spite of the apparent simplicity on shown on the page.
This story allowed me to sift through memories, mostly glorious of my own ‘firsts’ and it reminded me of my daughter’s wonderment when discovering her first time, life-changing tastes, notions, and realisations. What Vanilla Icecream evokes in you depends entirely on your own memories and attitude towards new people and new experiences, and your fondness for ice cream of course. However, you will be hard pressed to find a better way to introduce the complex ideals of human rights, fate, and immigration to young ones where a lightness of touch is more readily comprehended than harsh dry facts. As Amnesty International UK proclaims through its endorsement of Vanilla Icecream;
‘…we should all enjoy life, freedom, and safety. These are some of our human rights.’
Vanilla Icecream is quite simply a stunning picture book. Quiet and unassuming in its appearance. Complex and multi-layered enough to warrant spirited discussion with 3 to 103 year olds.
We all know that the sea is a dangerous place and should be treated with respect but it seems that Australian politicians have taken things a step (possibly even a leap) further. From sharks to asylum seekers the political response appears way out of line with the scale of the risk.
In the United Kingdom the name Matthew Flinders will rarely generate even a glint of recognition, whereas in Australia Captain Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) is (almost) a household name. My namesake was not only the intrepid explorer who first circumnavigated and mapped the continent of Australia but he is also a distant relative whose name I carry with great pride. But having spent the past month acquainting myself with Australian politics I can’t help wonder how my ancestor would have felt about what has become of the country he did so much to put on the map.
The media feeding frenzy and the political response surrounding shark attacks in Western Australia provides a case in point. You are more likely to be killed by a bee sting than to be killed by a shark attack while swimming in the sea off Perth or any of Western Australia’s wonderful beaches. Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the sea and coastline every weekend but what the media defined as ‘a spate’ of fatal shark attacks (seven to be exact) in between 2010-2013 led the state government to implement no less than 72 baited drum lines along the coast. Australia’s Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, granted the Western Australian Government a temporary exemption from national environment laws protecting great white sharks, to allow the otherwise illegal acts of harming or killing the species. The result of the media feeding frenzy has been the slow death of a large number of sharks. The problem is that of the 173 sharks caught in the first four months none were Great Whites and the vast majority were Tiger Sharks – a species that has not been responsible for a fatal shark attack for decades.
The public continues to surf and swim, huge protests have been held against the shark cull and yet the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, insists that it is the public reaction against the cull that is ‘ludicrous and extreme’ and that it will remain in place for two years.
If the political approach to sharks appears somewhat harsh then the approach to asylum seekers appears equally unforgiving. At one level the Abbott government’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policy has been a success. The end of July witnessed the first group of asylum seekers to reach the Australian mainland for seven months. In the same period last year over 17,000 people in around 200 boats made the treacherous journey across the ocean in order to claim asylum in Australia. ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ has therefore ‘solved’ a political problem that many people believe simply never existed. The solution – as far as one exists – is actually a policy of ‘offshore processing’ that uses naval intervention to direct boats to bureaucratic processing plants on Manus, Nauru, or Christmas Island. Like modern day Robinson Crusoe, thousands of asylum seekers find themselves marooned on the most remote outposts of civilization. But then again – out of sight is out of mind.
The 157 people (including around fifty children) who made it to the mainland last week exemplify the harsh treatment that forms the cornerstone of the current approach. After spending nearly a month at sea on an Australian customs vessel they were briefly flown to the remote Curtin Detention Centre but when the asylum seekers refused to be interviewed by Indian officials they were promptly dispatched to the island of Nauru and its troubled detention centre (riots, suicides, self-mutilation, etc.). Those granted asylum will be resettled permanently on Nauru while those refused will be sent back to Sri Lanka (the country that most of the asylum seekers were originally fleeing via India). Why does the government insist on this approach? Could it be the media rather than the public that are driving political decision-making? A recent report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that the vast majority of refugees feel welcomed by the Australian public but rejected by the Australian political institutions. How can this mismatch be explained? The economy is booming and urgently requires flexible labor, the asylum seekers want to work and embed themselves in communities; the country is vast and can hardly highlight over-population as the root of the problem.
There is an almost palpable fear of a certain type of ‘foreigner’ within the Australian political culture. Under this worldview the ocean is a human playground that foreign species (i.e. sharks) should not be allowed to visit. The world is changing as human flows become more fluid and fast-paced – no borders are really sovereign any more. And yet in Australia the political system remains wedded to ‘keeping the migration floodgates closed’, apparently unaware of just how cruel and unforgiving this makes Australia look to the rest of the world. What would Captain Matthew Flinders think about this state of affairs almost exactly 200 years after his death?
From sharks to asylum seekers Australian politics seems ‘all at sea’.
Since 1 October 2013, the United States has detained over 57,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing the border from in an attempt to escape severe violence. Makeshift immigration shelters emerged, with emergency responders providing medical attention and care. Meanwhile, the government must now identify a response to what is now considered a humanitarian crisis, with an estimated 90,000 unaccompanied minors expected to cross the border in 2014.
Do we have a moral obligation to offer asylum or refugee status to people escaping violence or political persecution? What if they are children?
Should the children be deported to their families? If not, where will they go? Who will care for them?
Who bears the financial responsibility for meeting their needs?
The country seems split in its views. While most do not outright say these children should be returned to a country where their lives and well-being are in danger, concern remains about the country’s ability to sustain support for them physically, socially, emotionally, academically, and occupationally. In polls, some Americans say displaced families place a burden on housing, health care, and other public service industries, whereas as the majority believes they should be allowed to stay if it is unsafe for them to return home. As the debate continues, many of these children have arrived at the doors of our local schools hoping to enroll with minimal information or supports, with more anticipated to arrive as the new school year begins. Meeting their educational needs will be difficult, and according to the Department of Education, mandatory.
In May, the Federal Department of Education published Guidance on enrolling students regardless of immigration status. This guidance outlined the legal requirements concerning school districts’ responsibilities to enroll all students, regardless of immigration status. They did not include guidance in reference to provision of essential services that would lead to a successful education experience for these students. What is clear from this guidance, however, is that local school systems will be responsible for enrolling and educating the surge of students using local resources.
Immigrant and refugee students who arrive at the school house door after leaving their homes have typically experienced multiple adverse events prior to leaving and multiple adverse events during their travels. These adverse events can be traumatizing to students, not to mention navigating an unfamiliar country, sometimes with a completely unfamiliar language and low literacy, without parents or immediate family support available (resettlement stress). This often leads to serious disruptions in their access to education and their mental status upon arrival. Educators and school support personnel can mitigate some of the issues associated with these adverse events, and perhaps are among the most equipped and qualified to do so.
Many school districts and agencies have wide ranging experiences with displaced children. While the majority of children of immigrants are US-born citizens, over 15% are first generation immigrants, among which over one-third cross the border as victims of trafficking or seeking asylum. It’s safe to assume that many school districts have enrolled these students at some point. Even beyond immigration, following Hurricane Katrina, schools absorbed a high number of displaced students amidst extremely stressful conditions. Schools provide stable educational opportunities, exposure to trusting adults, an opportunity to interact with peers, and access to school employed mental health professionals. Many districts have partnered with communities to develop comprehensive supports and services to ease transitions and mitigate the effects of potentially traumatic experiences.
No matter what the circumstances that led displaced students to classrooms, there are a few strategies that can be implemented that will help in providing support to help these students learn and adapt positively to their new environment. As with many traumatized students, school personnel have to reframe the presenting problems as a result of their experiences rather than an indication of something being wrong with the child. For example, they must:
develop a structured daily routine as a foundation for support
connect students with other children of immigrants enrolled in schools (it is reasonable to expect that most schools in the country have displaced or immigrant families already in the community)
recognize and build on strengths, such as strong family ties, optimism, strong socio-centric values, resilience, and cultural diversity
acknowledge potential stigma associated with mental health supports
engage family or extended family as much as possible.
Providing these supports and other strategies require a coordinated effort between all school staff, including teachers, administrators, and specialized instructional support personnel. Doing so goes beyond a legal mandate from the Department of Education; it’s a moral and ethical obligation to provide the best available supports to all children, especially those with the greatest needs.
Robert Hull ED.S., MHS. is a school psychologist in Prince Georges County Maryland, He has worked for over 30 years in schools addressing trauma concerns. In addition to his degrees in School Psychology he also holds a graduate degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. Eric Rossen, Ph.D., is a nationally certified school psychologist and licensed psychologist in Maryland. He currently serves as Director of Professional Development and Standards at the National Association of School Psychologists.
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Image: International School Meals Day at Harmony Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring, MD by USDA. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.
What an amazing week to see the response of last Sunday’s post and hear what many of you are facing, doing, and aspiring to in schools and communities. In addition to using children’s books to initiate conversations, deepen background knowledge, and humanize the events, here are eleven teaching resources to help you provide the best information, context, and perspective for your students.
Colorín Colorado is a free bilingual service that presents information, activities, and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English Language Learners. One of my favorite sections is “Reaching Out to ELL Students and Families” because it gives explicit tools on how to create a welcoming classroom environment, learn about our students’ backgrounds, and reach out to parents of ELLs.
Educators For Fair Consideration (E4FC) offers educator guides to support teachers and school staff in supporting undocumented students in school and beyond graduation.
Colorlines contributes award-winning daily reporting, investigative news, and analysis on issues of race with a subsection devoted to child migrants. They also have a campaign, Drop the I-Word.
The Library of Congress has curated thousands of resources, especially primary sources and online exhibitions, on immigration in the United States providing critical historical context to current events. I strongly recommend checking out the presentation, Immigration: The Changing Face of America, where students can read the immigration history of specific ethnicities and races, and the Themed Resources: Immigration, where students can study the contributions of American immigrants.
The staff at the Latin American and Iberian Institute (University of New Mexico) have created and organized thematic guides, lesson plans, and news articles for issues related to Latin America available at the Latin America Data Base.
Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides award-winning educational materials to teachers, including immigration-themed units and lessons.
Border Crossers has prepared a list of resources for adults to learn how to teach and talk about race and racial justice with students.
Accompanying the two PBS documentary series, Latino Americans and The New Americans, are rich lesson plans and activities for grades 7 and up to explore the diverse experiences of coming to America.
Latin@s in Kid Lit has an extensive list of children’s literature for those looking for more beyond our eleven book list, as well as interviews and teaching ideas.
The MY HERO Project enables students to create, share, and discover stories, audio, art, and films that promote tolerance, peace, and diversity. Teacher resources are available at MY HERO Teacher’s Room.
From news stories about unaccompanied minors from Central America to invisible workers without legal standing, immigration continues to stir debate in the United States. The arguments framing the issue are often inflected with distorted ideas and words. We sat down with Hiroshi Motomura, the author of Immigration Outside the Law, to discuss this contentious topic.
You use the term “unauthorized migrants” instead of “illegal” or “undocumented” immigrants. Why this choice of words?
This is a topic that is so controversial that even the labels provoke deep disagreement. The words “illegal” or “undocumented” often reflect very strong views. Because my goal is to explain what makes these debates so heated and then to analyze the issues carefully, I start with neutral terms, like “unauthorized” and “immigration outside the law.” I reach some firm conclusions about the nature of unauthorized migration and the best policy responses, but I try hard to work through the many arguments on both sides, acknowledging my own assumptions and taking all views seriously. This effort requires that I start with neutral terms.
What was the influence of the landmark 1982 US Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe on our current discussion of immigration policy?
Plyler was pivotal. The Court said that the state of Texas couldn’t keep kids out of public schools just because they are in the United States unlawfully. It was a 5–4 decision, and we can debate whether the Court would come out the same way today. But Plyler it is much more than constitutional law. Plyler turned on three questions that remain at the heart of controversy. First, what does it mean to be in the United States lawfully––is “illegal” or “undocumented” more apt? Second, what is the state and local role in immigration policy? Third, should unauthorized migrants be integrated into US society—are they “Americans in waiting”?
Many unauthorized migrants are Americans in waiting, meaning that their integration into American society should be recognized and fostered. Unauthorized migrants have contributed to US society, especially through work, often over a long period of time. Their contributions justify lawful immigration status and a path to citizenship. An argument that is just as strong, though less often heard, is that unauthorized migrants have come to the United States as part of an economic system that depends on them — to be tolerated when we need them and exposed to discretionary enforcement when we don’t. These two arguments aren’t mutually exclusive, and both find support in history and the reality of today’s America.
Can unauthorized migrants currently assert their rights within the US legal system?
Unauthorized migrants can assert rights in many settings. They can sue if an employer refuses to pay them. They have a right to due process in the courts. In many states, unauthorized residents are eligible for driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. They are not relegated to oblivion. Why not? These rights recognize in small ways that unauthorized migrants are Americans in waiting. To be sure, broad scale legalization proposals in Congress attract a lot of attention, but mini-legalizations take place every day in settings where decision-makers at all levels of government acknowledge the place of unauthorized migrants in American society.
What have state and local governments done to address immigration outside the law?
The state government authority was at the heart of Plyler, and the state and local role has been controversial ever since. States and localities have tried to enforce federal immigration laws directly or indirectly. Arizona’s SB 1070 is a prominent example. At the same time, other states and localities try to integrate unauthorized migrants, through driver’s licenses, ID cards, and access to higher education, and by curtailing cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Does federal immigration authority displace both types of state or local laws? I think not. The compelling reason to limit state and local enforcement is preventative––so state and local officials can’t enforce immigration laws in ways that are selective and discriminatory. This concern doesn’t apply when states and localities recognize or foster the integration of unauthorized migrants.
A version of this article will appear in the UCLA School of Law alumni magazine.
Immigration is an inflammatory matter and probably always has been. Immigrant groups, with few exceptions, have to endure the brickbats of prejudice of the recipient population. Emigration, by contrast, hardly troubles people — but the departure of one’s people is not a trifling matter. I wonder why these differential responses occur. It seems to me that humans are highly territorial and territory signifies resources and power. Immigration usually means sharing of resources, at least in the short-term, while emigration means more for those left behind and brings hope of acquiring even more from overseas in the long term. This might explain why those most needy of settled immigrant status — asylum seekers, the persecuted or denigrated, and the poor — are most resisted while those least in need of immigration status, such as the rich, are often welcomed.
Notwithstanding, consternation about migration it is rapidly leading to diverse, multiethnic and multicultural nations across the world. Many people dislike the changes this brings but it is hard to see what they are to do except change themselves. The forces for migration are strong, for example, globalization of trade and education, increasing inequalities in wealth and employment opportunities, and changing demography whereby rich economies are needing younger migrants to keep them functioning.
Whether you are a migrant (like me) or the host to migrants it is wise to remember that migration is a fundamental human behavior that is instrumental to the success of the human species. Without migration Homo sapiens would be confined to East Africa, and other species (or variants of humans — all now extinct) would be enjoying the bounties of other continents. Surely, migration will continue to bring many benefits to humanity in the future.
My special research interest is in the comparative health of migrants and their offspring, who together comprise ethnic (or racial, as preferred in some countries) minority groups. There is a remarkable variation in the pattern of diseases (and the factors that cause diseases) among migrant and ethnic groups and very often the minorities are faring better than the recipient populations. Probing these patterns scientifically, especially in the discipline of epidemiology, which describes and interprets the occurrence of disease in large populations, helps in understanding the causes of disease. There are opportunities to apply such learning to improve the health of the whole population; migrants, minorities and settled majority populations alike.
Let me share with you three observations from my research areas that help illustrate this point, one concerns heart disease and diabetes, another colorectal cancer, and the third smoking in pregnancy. Coronary heart disease (CHD) and its major co-disease type 2 diabetes (DM2) have been studied intensively but still some mysteries remain. The white Scottish people are especially notorious for their tendency to CHD. Our studies in Scotland have shown that the recently settled Pakistani origin population has much higher CHD rates than white Scottish people. Amazingly, the recently settled Chinese origin population has much lower rates of CHD than the white Scottish people. These intriguing observations raise both scientific questions and give pointers to public health. If we could all enjoy the CHD rates of the Chinese in Scotland the public’s health would be hugely improved.
Intriguingly, although colorectal cancer, heart disease and diabetes share risk factors (especially high fat, low fibre diet) we found that Pakistani people in Scotland had much lower risks than the white Scottish Group. This makes us re-think what we know about the causes of this cancer. In our scientific paper we put forward the idea that Pakistani people may be protected by their comparatively low consumption of processed meats (fresh meat is commonly eaten).
Might the high risk of CHD in Pakistani populations in Scotland be a result of heavier tobacco use? The evidence shows that while the smoking prevalence in Pakistani men is about the same as in white men, the prevalence in Pakistani women is very low. Smoking in white Scottish woman, even in pregnancy, is about 25% but it is close to nil in pregnant Pakistani women. This raises interesting questions about the cultural and environmental circumstances that maintain high or low use of tobacco in populations. These observations raise public health challenges of a high order — how can we maintain the cultures that lead to low tobacco use in some ethnic groups while altering the cultures that lead to high tobacco use in others?
The intermingling of migrants and settled populations creates new societies that provide innumerable opportunities for learning and advancement. While my examples are from the health arena, the same is true for other fields: education, entrepreneurship, social capital, crime, and child rearing to name a few. This historical perspective on human migration, evolution and advancement can benefit our health, as well as providing a foundation to contextualize the challenges and changes we face.
Heading image: People migrating to Italy on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea by Vito Manzari from Martina Franca (TA), Italy (Immigrati Lampedusa). CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Immigration policies in the US and UK look very different right now. Barack Obama is painting immigration as part of the American dream, and forcing executive action to protect five million unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Meanwhile, David Cameron’s government is treating immigration “like a disease”, vowing to cut net migration “to the tens of thousands” and sending around posters saying “go home”. US immigration policies appear radically open while UK policies appear radically closed.
But beneath appearances there is a strikingly symmetrical gap between talk and action in both places. While courageously defying Congress to protect Mexico’s huddled masses, Obama is also presiding over a “formidable immigration enforcement machinery”, which consumes more federal dollars than all other law enforcement agencies combined, detains more unauthorized immigrants than inmates in all federal prisons, and has already deported millions.
While talking tough, the UK government remains even more open to immigration than most classic settler societies: it switched from open Imperial borders to open EU borders without evolving a modern migration management system in the interim. Net migration is beyond government control because emigration and EU migration cannot be hindered, family migrants can appeal to the courts, and foreign workers and students are economically needed.
So these debates are mirror images: the US is talking open while acting closed; the UK is talking closed but acting open. What explains this pattern? The different talk is no mystery: Obama’s Democrats lean Left while Cameron’s Conservatives lean Right. But this cannot explain the gaps between talk and action. These are related to another political division that cuts across the left-right spectrum: the division between “Open and Closed”.
Different party factions have different reasons for being open or closed to immigration. On the Left, the Liberal Intelligentsia is culturally open, valuing diversity and minority rights, while the Labour Movement is economically closed, fearing immigration will undermine wages and working conditions. On the Right, the Business Elite is economically open to cheap and pliable migrant labour, while the Nationalist Right is culturally closed to immigration, fearing it dilutes national identity. Left and Right were once the markers of class, but now your education, accent and address only indicate whether you’re Open or Closed.
Sympathetic talk can often satisfy culturally motivated supporters, but economic interest groups demand more concrete action in the opposite direction. So, a right-leaning leader may talk tough to appease the Nationalist Right, but keep actual policies more open to please the Business Elite. A left-leaning leader may talk open to arouse the Liberal Intelligentsia, but act more closed so as to soothe the Labour Movement. These two-track strategies can unite party factions, and even appeal to “strange bedfellows” across the aisle.
US and UK immigration debates illustrate this pattern. The UK government always knew it would miss its net migration target: its own 2011 impact assessments predicted making about half the promised reductions. This must have reassured Business Elites, who monitor such signals. Meanwhile for the Nationalist Right it’s enough to have “a governing party committed to reducing net migration” as “a longer term objective”. It’s the thought that counts for these easygoing fellows.
So, the Conservatives’ net migration targets are failing rather successfully. The clearest beneficiary is UKIP – a more natural Tory sidekick than the Lib Dems, and one which, by straddling the Closed end of the spectrum, siphons substantial support from the Labour Movement. Almost half the UK electorate supports the Tories or UKIP; together they easily dominate the divided Left which, by aping the old Tory One Nation slogan, offers nothing concrete to the Labour Movement, and disappoints the Liberal Intelligentsia, who ask, ‘Why doesn’t a man with Miliband’s refugee background stand up for what’s right?’
Maybe Miliband should have followed Barack Obama instead of David Cameron. Obama knows that the thought also counts for America’s Liberal Intelligentsia. For example, Paul Krugman writes, “Today’s immigrants are the same, in aspiration and behavior, as my grandparents were — people seeking a better life, and by and large finding it. That’s why I enthusiastically support President Obama’s new immigration initiative. It’s a simple matter of human decency.”
It’s also a simple matter of political pragmatism. Hispanics will comprise 30% of all Americans by 2050; many of those protected today are their parents. Both parties know this but the Democrats are more motivated by it. They have won amongst Hispanic voters in every presidential election in living memory, often with 60-80% majorities: losing Hispanic voters would be game changing. But the Republicans just can’t bring themselves to let Obama win by passing comprehensive immigration reform. Just spite the face now: worry about sewing the nose back on later.
Obama’s actions secure the Hispanic vote, but more importantly they pacify the Labour Movement. Milton Friedman once argued that immigration benefits America’s economy as long as it’s illegal. For ‘economy’ read ‘employers’, who want workers they can hire and fire at will without paying for costly minimum wages or working conditions. In other words, Friedman liked unauthorized immigration because he thought it undermined everything the Labour Movement believes in. No wonder the unions hated him: he was a red flag to a bull.
Luckily Obama’s actions don’t protect ‘illegal immigrants’. Those protected have not migrated for over five years, long enough for someone to become a full citizen in most countries, the US included. They are not immigrants anymore, but unauthorized residents. And once they’re authorized, they’ll just be plain old workers: no longer enemies of the Labour Movement, but souls ripe for conversion to it. For the real immigrants, the velvet glove comes off, and an iron-fisted border force instills mortal dread in anyone whose dreams of being exploited in the First World might threaten US health and safety procedures. To be clear, Obama’s actions protect the resident labour force from unauthorized immigration.
So, Obama’s talk-open-act-closed strategy is working quite nicely for the Democrats, throwing a bone to the Labour Movement while massaging the conscience of the Liberal Intelligentsia – and even courting the Business Elite, who would rather not break the law just by giving jobs to people who want them. So even if they don’t revive Obama’s standing, the executive orders are a shot in the arm for the Democrats. It’s Hillary’s race to lose in 2016 (although come to think of it, that’s what The Economist said during the 2007 primaries…).
In sum: the politics of international migration reveal a new political landscape that cannot be captured by the old categories of Left and Right. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are talking one way on immigration but acting another, so as to satisfy conflicting demands from Open and Closed party factions while wooing their opponents’ supporters.
So are Left and Right parties dinosaurs? Not necessarily. Things may look different in countries with more parties, but I suspect that the four factions outlined above will crop up even in countries led by multi-party coalitions. We need more studies to know – if this framework works in your country, I’d be interested to hear. Another interesting challenge is to understand how these patterns relate to the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment – a question touched on by a recent special issue of Migration Studies.
To commemorate International Migrants Day this year, OUP have compiled scholarly papers examining human migration in all its manifestations, from across our law and social science journals. The highly topical articles featured in this collection are freely available for a limited time.
Featured image credit: Immigration at Ellis Island, 1900. By the Brown Brothers, Department of the Treasury. Records of the Public Health Service. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Manz's mother is an alcoholic, a sometimes painter who is still reeling from a stillbirth. His dead father was crazy. Manz's best friend has an abusive father.
Manz and Jed get a job over the summer at a local ranch where Manz meets Vanessa, one of the kitchen worker. Only, when Manz hears about Operation Wetback*, he starts thinking that the government is starting it up again. Even though Manz is a citizen, US-born of a white citizen mother, the voices in his head tell him everyone else is in on it, tell him that the government will ship him to Mexico, unless he can stop it.
As the voices grow louder and louder, Manz can't stop them, can't not do what the tell him. He doesn't realize that no one else can hear them.
On the surface this is an ISSUE NOVEL. Paranoid Schizophrenia! Alcoholism! Domestic Abuse! Immigration! Dead babies!
But, in execution, told through Manz's eyes it's not heavy-handed. It's just the way things are. The real story is Manz's worsening condition. Anderson does a good job of letting the reader know what is "real" and what isn't. Part of this is that she does a good job of setting everything up before Manz starts to lose his grip on reality.
It's a fast-moving, compact book. I like the ending-- there's resolution, without it being super-tidy.
Interestingly, I just saw this photo on another book jacket--American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar. Same cover photo, different nationalities. Hmmm...
Operation Wetback was a pretty extreme anti-illegal immigration/deportation program in the early 50s.
ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA a few year ago.
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Not long ago, I passed a roadside sign in New Mexico which read: “Es una frontera, no una barrera / It’s a border, not a barrier.” This got me thinking about the nature of the international boundary line separating the US from Mexico. The sign’s message seemed accurate, but what exactly did it mean?
On 2 February 1848, a ‘Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits and Settlement’ was signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo, thus terminating the Mexican-American War. The conflict was ostensibly about securing the boundary of the recently-annexed state of Texas, but it was clear from the outset that US President Polk’s ambition was territorial expansion. As consequences of the Treaty, Mexico gained peace and $15 million, but eventually lost one-half of its territory; the US achieved the largest land grab in its history through a war that many (including Ulysses S. Grant) regarded as dishonorable.
In recent years, I’ve traveled the entire length of the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border many times, on both sides. There are so many unexpected and inspiring places! Mutual interdependence has always been the hallmark of cross-border communities. Border people are staunchly independent and composed of many cultures with mixed loyalties. They get along perfectly well with people on the other side, but remain distrustful of far-distant national capitals. The border states are among the fastest-growing regions in both countries — places of economic dynamism, teeming contradiction, and vibrant political and cultural change.
A small fence separates densely populated Tijuana, Mexico, right, from the United States in the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector.
Yet the border is also a place of enormous tension associated with undocumented migration and drug wars. Neither of these problems has its source in the borderlands, but border communities are where the burdens of enforcement are geographically concentrated. It’s because of our country’s obsession with security, immigration, and drugs that after 9/11 the US built massive fortifications between the two nations, and in so doing, threatened the well-being of cross-border communities.
I call the spaces between Mexico and the US a ‘third nation.’ It’s not a sovereign state, I realize, but it contains many of the elements that would otherwise warrant that title, such as a shared identity, common history, and joint traditions. Border dwellers on both sides readily assert that they have more in common with each other than with their host nations. People describe themselves as ‘transborder citizens.’ One man who crossed daily, living and working on both sides, told me: “I forget which side of the border I’m on.” The boundary line is a connective membrane, not a separation. It’s easy to reimagine these bi-national communities as a ‘third nation’ slotted snugly in the space between two countries. (The existing Tohono O’Odham Indian Nation already extends across the borderline in the states of Arizona and Sonora.)
But there is more to the third nation than a cognitive awareness. Both sides are also deeply connected through trade, family, leisure, shopping, culture, and legal connections. Border-dwellers’ lives are intimately connected by their everyday material lives, and buttressed by innumerable formal and informal institutional arrangements (NAFTA, for example, as well as water and environmental conservation agreements). Continuity and connectivity across the border line existed for centuries before the border was put in place, even back to the Spanish colonial era and prehistoric Mesoamerican times.
Do the new fortifications built by the US government since 9/11 pose a threat to the well-being of borderland communities? Certainly there’s been interruptions to cross-border lives: crossing times have increased; the number of US Border Patrol ‘boots on ground’ has doubled; and a new ‘gulag’ of detention centers has been instituted to apprehend, prosecute and deport all undocumented migrants. But trade has continued to increase, and cross-border lives are undiminished. US governments are opening up new and expanded border crossing facilities (known as ports of entry) at record levels. Gas prices in Mexican border towns are tied to the cost of gasoline on the other side. The third nation is essential to the prosperity of both countries.
So yes, the roadside sign in New Mexico was correct. The line between Mexico and the US is a border in the geopolitical sense, but it is submerged by communities that do not regard it as a barrier to centuries-old cross-border intercourse. The international boundary line is only just over a century-and-a-half old. Historically, there was no barrier; and the border is not a barrier nowadays.
The walls between Mexico and the US will come down. Walls always do. The Berlin Wall was torn down virtually overnight, its fragments sold as souvenirs of a calamitous Cold War. The Great Wall of China was transformed into a global tourist attraction. Left untended, the US-Mexico Wall will collapse under the combined assault of avid recyclers, souvenir hunters, and local residents offended by its mere presence.
As the US prepares once again to consider immigration reform, let the focus this time be on immigration and integration. The framers of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo were charged with making the US-Mexico border, but on this anniversary of the Treaty’s signing, we may best honor the past by exploring a future when the border no longer exists. Learning from the lives of cross-border communities in the third nation would be an appropriate place to begin.
“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.”
When the Mayflower—packed with 102 English men, women, and children—set out from Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1610, little did these Pilgrims know that sixty-five days later they would find themselves not only some 3,000 miles from their planned point of disembarkation but also pressed to pen the above words as the governing document for their fledgling settlement, Plimouth Plantation. Signed by 41 of the 50 adult males, the “Mayflower Compact” represented the type of covenant this particular strain of puritans believed could change the world.
While they hoped to achieve success in the future, these signers were especially concerned with survival in the present. The lives of these Pilgrims for the two decades or so prior to the launching of the Mayflower had been characterized by Separatism. Their decision to separate from the Church of England as a way to protest and to purify what they saw as its shortcomings had led to the necessity of illegally emigrating from the country of England and seeking refuge in the Netherlands. A further separation was needed as these English families realized that the Netherlands offered neither the cultural nor economic opportunities they really desired. But returning to England was out of the question. Thus, in order to discover the religious freedom they desired, these Pilgrims needed to remove yet again, which became possible because of an agreement made with an English joint-stock company willing to pair “saints” and “strangers” in a colony in the American hemisphere.
Despite the fact that they were the ones who had recently arrived in North America, the Pilgrims taxed the abilities of both the land and its native peoples to sustain the newly arrived English. Such taxation became most visible at moments of violent conflict between colonists and Native Americans, as in 1623 when Pilgrims massacred a group of Indians living at Wessagussett. Following the attack, John Robinson, a Pilgrim pastor still in the Netherlands, wrote a letter to William Bradford, Plimouth’s governor, expressing his fears with the following words: “It is also a thing more glorious, in men’s eyes, than pleasing in God’s or convenient to Christians, to be a terrour to poor barbarous people. And indeed I am afraid lest, by these occasions, others should be drawn to affect a kind of ruffling course in the world.” As his letter makes clear, Robinson clearly hoped the colonists would offer the indigenous peoples of New England the prospect of redemption–spiritually and culturally–rather than the edge of a sword. The Wessagussett affair, however, illustrated such redemption had not been realized. From at least that moment on, relationships between English colonists and the indigenous peoples of North America more often than not followed ruffling courses.
While an established state church isn’t a main threat nearly 400 years later, some of the Pilgrims’ concerns still haunt many Americans. Like those English colonists preparing to set foot on North American soil, we remain afraid of those we perceive as different than us–culturally, racially, ethnically, and the like. But the tables are turned. We are now the ones striving to protect ourselves from a stream of illegal and “undocumented” immigrants attempting to pursue their dreams in a new land. Our primary method of protection? Separatism. Like the Pilgrims we often remain unwilling to welcome those we define as different. We’ll look to them for assistance when necessary, rely on their labor when convenient, take advantage of their needs when possible, but we won’t welcome them as neighbors and equals in any real sense nor do we seek to provide reconciliation and redemption to people eager to embrace the potential future they see among us.
Ruffled courses persist as the United States wrestles with how it ought to treat those men, women, and children who, like the Pilgrims of the seventeenth century, are looking for newfound opportunities. As we remember the voyage of the seventeenth-century immigrants who departed England on 6 September 1610 and recall their many successful efforts to establish a lasting settlement in a distant land, we do well to celebrate not only their need to separate but also their dedication to “covenant and combine [them]selves together into a civil body politic.” The world has enough ruffling courses and perhaps needs the purifying reform modeled by the Pilgrims and the potential redemption those like John Robinson hoped for as they agreed to work together for the common good. In short, one would hope that a people whose history was migration from another land would be more welcoming than we often are, especially in our dealings with the immigrants and the impending immigration reform of our own day.
Richard A. Bailey is Associate Professor of History at Canisius College. He is the author of Race and Redemption in Puritan New England. His current research focuses on western Massachusetts as an intersection of empires in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, fly fishing in colonial America, and the concept of friendship in the life and writings of Wendell Berry. You can find Richard on Twitter @richardabailey
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Image credit: The Mayflower Compact, 1620. Artist unknown, from Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.