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Tuesday, October 27, 2009


-Paper overview and deadline
-Mandatory Blog Entries Due next week no later than November 3, 2009 by 4:15 p.m. (to earn particpation credit)
-Coming to America (cont'd); Deportation Policy in America (Cont'd)
-Guest Speaker Farah Choudhury and her autistic son, Umair.

Nicole P. said...

As we have learned, the history of US immigration policy is the product of politics and economics, and thus often arbitrary. We have analyzed the laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the 1924 Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, and most recently IIRIRA and NSEERS, and have hence found them draconian. But is there light at end of the tunnel for immigrants traveling to the U.S. today?

After listening to Farah Choudry’s story today, I saw a glimmer of hope. After all, according to Ngai, Umair would not have even been considered for entry into the US in the late 1800s, a time when immigration law was least restrictive in all its history : 1875 law still banned mentally disabled, diseased, or “insane” persons (Ngai 59). Maybe America has progressed. Not only was it remarkable that Umair was granted asylum for autism when there are no immigrant visas; moreover, his mother and brother were granted asylum when they were not necessarily in any foreseen danger as healthy individuals in Pakistani society. Clearly, the judge of the immigration courts showed a great sense of compassion and exercised his or her power as generously as current law allowed. This case gave me great hope for the future of immigration reform until I discovered that it did not set precedent.

I often feel this catch 22 when discussing immigration news. Just today, 100 Democrats sent a letter to President Obama calling for immigration overhaul. Rep. Guitierrez’s bill on immigration reform will be revealed within a month; the issue of immigration is expected to take the limelight in March.

Such small steps towards transformation can give us glimmers of hope. Unfortunately, the past has taught us that they may only be fool’s gold. After all, immigration was the hot topic in 2006—the “healthcare debate of 2009”—but the debate then did not yield results, only a reinforcement of the status quo. Will this happen again in March 2010? With local elections occurring in April, it unfortunately is a likely result. But what would happen if we re-imagined immigration? If we ended deportation? If we recognized immigrants as visible and vital contributors to American society and economy? We can only hope to find out.

Joey said...

I agree with Nicole that our immigration system is in a sad state. Draconian laws and policies set forth by a bunch of men eager to appease the ignorant majority. Much of what happens in Washington seems to take us backwards, to times when things were even worse for immigrants coming to the US, instead of taking us forward to a new era of inclusion and acceptance of people who want to improve their lives.
Farrah Choudry's story offered some hope that there are still good people in the world (and that some of them even work for the government!). But, as Nicole said, it did not set any precedent and so cannot really help anyone else who is in a similar situation.
The unfortunate fact is that Professor Helt is right: immigration policy is a product of politics and economics, and not at all about humanity. People who come to the US fleeing obstacles in their home countries are faced with even larger obstacles when they arrive. Getting through the extensive immigration process requires immense amounts of time, money, and patience, and even then may not produce the desired result: US citizenship. And even if it does end in a green card, the people still have to live with the shadow of the federal government and the specter of ICE over them. Don't appear to put one toe out of line or you might be sent packing, to return to a place where you haven't lived in decades and where you know no one.
We can only try to be optimistic about Rep. Gutierrez's bill. Nicole is probably right that the elections in April will keep the bill from gaining any ground, but let's hope that we're wrong.

1:57 PM

Cassandra said...

I really enjoyed Farrah’s visit to our class. I found it incredibly inspiring that she continues to advocate for an improved immigration system despite her difficult circumstances. I think it is a testament to the immigrant spirit and there is no doubt in my mind that not only does she deserve to be in this country but she is a great asset to our society.
As I was listening to the NPR report about Farrah’s case I found it difficult to agree with one of the commentator’s opinions that Umair’s asylum cannot be considered a precedent-setting case. I think it is wrong to not acknowledge that laws are evolutionary by nature. The Choudry’s case reminded me of another case, Matter of Kasinga (1996), where a Togolese teenager fleeing Female Genital Mutilation and forced marriage was denied asylum partly because gender was not accepted as grounds for seeking asylum in the U.S. The BIA ended up reversing the IJ’s decision and Kassindja was eventually granted asylum. Like Farrah Choudry, Kassindja went on to become a powerful advocate for immigration reform. Although the Matter of Kasinga ruled that gender could qualify as grounds for seeking asylum, the BIA stated that the case should not be seen as a precedent for future cases. Despite this, today gender is a widely accepted as a ground for seeking asylum. This gives me hope that in the future perhaps mental disabilities will also be accepted across the immigration system as a means to seek asylum despite the fact that some do not believe it should be.
The Choudry’s case also got me thinking about the flaws in the immigration system itself. There are various irregularities and broadly defined laws that are purposely left vague so they can be interpreted on a case by case basis. For example asylum law broadly defines the term ‘persecution’ and what constitutes persecution in asylum cases. ‘Membership in a particular social group’ is also broadly defined and as a result has evolved drastically in the past 15 years (now including gender). The immigration system is flawed in this aspect as laws are becoming increasingly difficult for IJ’s to interpret in the face a changing immigration population.

3:56 PM

Ana Caridad said...
Last week I attended a Conference in which various individuals who have attempted to enter the United States illegaly shared their experiences. Amongst these were Men from Honduras and El Salvador who have suffered severe injuries, and have been maimed by the trains on their journey through the Mexican territory.
As we have discussed in class the US has a broken immigration system, and we usually focus on the issues illegal aliens face in the United States, forgetting the journeys and the hardships they had to put up with on their way to attain the "American Dream".
For thousands of illegal immigrants from Central America, the long journey to the U.S. starts in Mexico's Southern border, on the groaning back of a freight train they call The Beast. The journey from the border between Mexico and Guatemala, and the Southern borden of the United States is approximately 1,400 miles. Many of the travelers who take the train are children. . More than 90,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended by authorities at the Southwestern border in 2007. The freight train is known as the beast for it has killed thousands on its passing. Immigrants must often bribe private guards and police stationed along the tracks. Many stowaways are too tired to hold on to the train and fall, losing limbs.
Jorge Guevara, a 21-year-old Salvadoran, who participated in the Conference, said he first rode the train to the U.S.-Mexico border in 2001 and saw 20 people crushed, and probably killed, when cars derailed. He fled and never found out what happened.
Since President Felipe Calderon took office two years ago, Mexico has added more soldiers and federal police on its border with Guatemala and more immigration and military checkpoints thoughout the south.

Recently HBO Documentaries brought the issue to light in it's documentary "Which Way Home", that follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train called "The Beast." Putting a human face on the immigration issue, director Rebecca Cammisa reveals some of the reasons kids resort to drastic and dangerous measures, among them: bringing an end to long-term separation from their parents; escaping life on the streets; lack of jobs or educational opportunities at home; and hopes of a better life north of the border.

2:55 PM

Map said...
I am reading a lot about how flawed, out-dated and draconian the immigration system is, and this is undoubtedly true. However, I feel that in order to achieve reform one needs to not only define how unfair or wrong something is, but to offer reasons why and further, a solution. In this regard, I think Nicole’s comment, “But what would happen if we re-imagined immigration…If we recognized immigrants as visible and vital contributors to American society and economy?” is very important. The answer is invariably politics and economics.
What would happen if we re-imagined immigration? According to the political reasoning, I think the answer to this question would invariably be considerations of limited resources and the ways in which citizens and those who are undocumented should not have to compete for them as one supposedly, inherently has a right to them and the other does not. Secondly, many terrorist attacks are directed at the western world, of which the US is a part. If there were more lax or no immigration laws terrorism would be more widespread.
With these arguments out of the way the question still remains are immigrants without documentation a hindrance to economic prosperity? It would seem this is a fallacious argument as it is proven that undocumented immigrants are as much a source of economic stimulus as anyone in the US. Further, a person who owns a car or pays bus fair, buys food at the grocery store, pays taxes etc. is far more valuable to a failing economy than one who is policed, detained, imprisoned, and transported back to their country of origin. Why is it that the US insists on turning the former into the latter?
Upon even the slightest examination it would seem clear that it is not so much a matter of politics and economics as the economic portion of this argument is not based in facts. The answer is clearly an issue of politics, but what politics does this refer to? The fear of terrorism? This could be solved by policing and monitoring, though not detaining all immigration. What then? Once again it comes back to fear of the unknown or more accurately, the draconian laws and views clung to by the patriarchal collective of people who have long held the power in American society. This is the reason that there needs to be an immigration overhaul but it should start by providing facts about immigration instead of cleaning to stale fears of the “other.”

5:01 PM

Oliver Judd said...

Greetings fellow immigration bloggers! I find it difficult not to repeat what others have already said regarding immigration history, policy, and Farah. I will therefore detail my personal beliefs on immigration and immigration policy.

As an immigrant myself, I can see why people come to America and why they want to stay here. It truly is the land of opportunity. But this poses the question of who gets to share in that opportunity and on a more practical note, how many people can we fit in this country before it becomes too crowded for that opportunity to exist any more? This is the very real question of immigration and should influence policy more politics and economics should.

It is my belief everyone has the right to come to America. If you can prove that you will be a productive member of society, then you have a right to share in that dream. After all, that is what America is all about: happiness built on the back of hard work. So why should those who can prove that they will work hard not share in that dream? That is what immigration policy should focus on. Because in the end, if we aren't fighting to extend the American Dream to as many people as possible we are doing an injustice to the founding fathers and the ideals this country was founded on.

11:19 AM

Erin said...
I think that Joey makes a good point when she discusses the fact that immigration policy and deportation may force people to return to places that they no longer consider their home, where they no longer consider themselves part of the culture.

The issue of being a hyphenated American does not depend on one's legal status, but none the less has huge implications. When people discuss the issue of undocumented immigrants, there are those that advocate for mass deportation. But what are the social implications of this policy? Beyond forcing people to return to economically or socially unstable areas, deportation displaces people from a culture that they may now consider their own.

An important example of this, I think, is that of undocumented youth in the United States. These are kids that, having crossed the border with their parents illegally when they were extremely young, have spent their entire lives in the United States. In Plyler vs. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled that undocumented minors had the right to a fee k-12 education. So, these children have grown up, literate in English, but probably not their first language that they speak at home, more immersed and a part of American culture than the culture of their "country of origin."

When these children are deported, they return to a situation worse than when they left because they are returned to a country and a culture they know very little about.

While I think it is true that immigration policy can never be as humanitarian as we would like it to, such situations still merit our attention and the attention of the courts. If we are to have a just immigration policy, it must consider the impacts upon those that it most profoundly affects - the immigrants.

12:24 PM
Kasia said...
I agree with all the comments made so far. I attended an Immigration conference during which we discussed immigration issues that we are faced with today. From the conference, things we have learned in class and other sources I've come to some conclusions. Statistics show that over, 59% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats support some sort of immigration reform currently, which means there are a lot of people supporting the cause. I think that when stepping forward with immigration reform we need to have clear goals in order to write truly effective legislation and the following are what i think are the most important goals. First, any legislation must have a national and humane approach to immigration. It must protect both citizens and migrants, needs to reflect national values, needs to protect the family. We must increase the number of visa's for migrants. We should remove the bars to admission we have in place now because they are ineffective and generally not considered by migrants who make the choice to remain in the US undocumented. We need to facilitate the adjustment of status for undocumented workers instead of making the process more difficult and convoluted. We need detention reform because the current system is costly, ineffective, humiliating and borders on human rights violations. Lastly, we need to eliminate the concept of "aggravated felonies" which currently evokes a permanent bar on becoming a citizen regardless of permanent status. I think that if we keep in mind all those things we can truly find a solution to our 'broken system" and move forward with a system which can benefit everyone.

2:02 PM

Madeline Louise said...

I agree with the comments that have been posted about the need for reform. However, I feel as though there will be a lot of resistance from a confused public. When we talk about allowing medical visas a big fear in the minds of the public is that these immigrants are going to get healthcare for free and they will be the ones paying for it. Also the ever apparent media will have no trouble finding horror stories to broadcast. An example is in the Time magazine passed around in class there was another man in the article with Umair, a schizophrenic man who attacked and killed someone (a believe a family member but I’m not 100% sure) he is now trying to receive asylum because he will be facing persecution within his own country. The article was comparing Umair and all other immigrants seeking safety and health treatment in the United States with a killer. I think that it is excellent that Farah’s story got so much attention so that some of the public that is confused as to why some people immigrate to the United States can also become more compassionate and hopefully more open to the idea of immigration reform.

2:45 PM

Jessica said...
We have learned this semester that immigration policy is a creature of politics and economics, and this has left us with a system that we can all agree is broken.

I agree with Kasia about the kinds of reforms that are needed; we as a society need to leave racism (and its political implications) out of policymaking and adapt a realistic and pragmatic approach to reform. Things like fences along the Mexican border and quotas have no place in a modern society.

While this may seem too idealistic, I agree with some of the comments above that such reforms are possible. There will probably always be a radical minority that opposes pragmatic policy reform in favor of racist fear-mongering, but the truth is that it makes the most sense (economically, politically, socially, and morally) to implement comprehensive reforms like those outlined by Kasia. Our society can't afford to let this issue get any worse.

3:19 PM

Alanna said...
I think we can all agree that the US immigration system is broken and that immigrants are unfairly targeted in the US today. Although the specific flaws of the system are innumerable, I think the clearest and most significant problem is the fact that the government agency charged with handling immigration operates on an adversarial basis and not on an advocacy basis. Essentially, I think that the post-9/11 restructuring of the immigration system which abolished the INS and replaced it with the DHS is utterly ridiculous and non-sensical. It is perhaps analogous to a situation where the Department of Education is put under the control of a law enforcement agency simply because of a few school shootings or because of gang activity and violence within public schools. As with this example, a few isolated security threats does not mean that immigration should be placed under the control of agencies ill-equipped to represent the interests of immigrants. Although, I don't disagree that DHS should work together with the department of immigration to help secure national security interests, I think that objectively speaking, immigrants need and deserve a government body that is capable and willing to work in their interests. Subjectively speaking, the current arrangement makes even less sense given that the US is a nation built on immigrants. In fact, many of the loudest opponents of immigration are second or third generation immigrants themselves.

However, what is most disheartening about this current arrangement is the fact that it illustrates that anti-immigrant sentiment is not only a product of an "ignorant minority" of Americans, but is also the mindset of a collection of educated, powerful elites responsible for putting immigration under the guise of national security. In so doing, they have tragically asserted a government position that all immigrants are assumed to be enemies until proven otherwise. In this sense, it seems as though our own government is sanctioning if not promoting the xenophobic attitudes that plague American society today.

Finally, given the current "broken" state of our immigration system, could the money we spend be better spent targeting problems in the countries from which many immigrants flee? Perhaps the US could serve as a better ally for immigrants by working more closely with the UN to establish more humanitarian missions and aid to refugees and asylum-seekers. Perhaps the solution is working to give immigrants less of a need or incentive to come the US rather than working so hard to keep them out. Although this is undoubtedly easier said than done, the US government must do something to become more of an advocate for immigrants and less of an adversary.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009




"[D]eportation is . . . exile, a dreadful punishment, abandoned by the common consent of all civilized peoples. . . . That our reasonable efforts to rid ourselves of unassimilable immigrants should in execution be attended by such a cruel and barbarous result would be a national reproach."

--Judge Learned Hand, 1929


Joey wrote in response to a recent comment:

Joey Harmon said...
Wow. I think that rant is one of the more ignorant that I have heard in a long time. It's important to get "facts" from sources other than Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
What should all of the people who have been living here "illegally" do? Should they all be sent back to their countries of origin en masse because they don't have a piece of paper? And if one of these people without that ever-important piece of paper gets sick, should we just let them die because "it's not our problem"? It's absurd to even think like that. These are not practical solutions. Our immigration system is BROKEN and sending people away from the US is not going to fix the system. E-verify is not going to fix it. People need to stop thinking that's it's just an economic issue or just a political issue or just an issue about one group of people and realize that these are real human beings we're talking about here, not just numbers or statistics. They deserve the chance to live a better life and to give their children a better life ("Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"). The US is a country of immigrants, built and made strong by immigrants. What has changed? Is it that the face of these immigrants has changed and our old xenophobic roots have come back? Do we only want immigrants if their skin is the right color or if they speak the right language (i.e. of European/Germanic descent and language)?
Basing immigration policy on fear, politics, or economics without practical, feasible solutions is just going to create more problems. And don't you think shipping out all of the "illegal" immigrants or just letting them all die without healthcare on Main Street USA will be expensive, not to mention morally bankrupt?