Why abuse and neglect of immigrants proliferate in ICE detention, by Prof. Jennifer Nájera

Why abuse and neglect of immigrants proliferate in ICE detention, by Prof. Jennifer Nájera

Publications

Ethnic Studies Prof. Jennifer Nájera published a Los Angeles Times op/ed entitled, “Why Abuse and Neglect of Immigrants Proliferate in Ice Detention.” Excerpt below:

The conditions of detention continue to worsen. In 2017, a nonprofit group filed a complaint against the Department of Homeland Security for sexual assault, abuse and harassment in ICE detention facilities. The Adelanto detention facility in San Bernardino County was listed among the top five facilities in the country with the most sexual assault complaints.

In 2018, people all over the country watched in horror as ICE agents forcibly removed migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Audio recordings of children crying for their parents and images of kids in cages caused a moral dilemma partially resolved by courts that ordered reunification. But many of these families, though reunited with their children, remain in detention. The cruelty of their condition was revealed in heartbreaking drawings by migrant children released by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The recent whistleblower complaint has prompted a call for an immediate investigation by more than 170 members of Congress. It demonstrates yet again the shortcomings and failures of the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. We need an agency that understands this country’s complex immigration history and the needs of our communities. Central to that mission should be treating migrants with basic human rights.

Read the full article here. Photo by the Associated Press.

Trump’s ‘historic bloc,’ like fascist movements, unifies groups with opposing interests, by Prof. Alfonso Gonzales

Trump’s ‘historic bloc,’ like fascist movements, unifies groups with opposing interests, by Prof. Alfonso Gonzales

Publications

Ethnic Studies Prof. Alfonso Gonzales published a Los Angeles Times op/ed entitled, “Trump’s ‘historic bloc,’ like fascist movements, unifies groups with opposing interests.” Excerpt below:

Although the base of the Trumpian bloc is overwhelmingly white and male, 26% of Latinos support Trump over Biden. Many conservative Latinos identify with macho political posturing, pro-2nd Amendment rhetoric, simple law-and-order solutions to complex problems, demonization of the left and disdain for the Black Lives Matter movement.

This bloc, under the “Make America Great Again” banner, requires its supporters — particularly subordinate groups — to accept a degree of cognitive dissonance in submitting to the emotional appeal to a mythical moment of American greatness. For many of the white working class, that moment is before the rise of the civil rights movement, Latino immigration and multiculturalism, the idea that diverse people should have representation and rights in pluralist society.

For right-wing Latinos, this means ignoring both the historical and the contemporary injustices inflicted on their community, such as the lynching of Mexicans by the Texas Rangers in the 1920s, the deportation of at least 1 million Mexicans in the 1950s, the separation of children from their parents at the border or the alleged coerced hysterectomies of Latina migrant women in immigration detention centers now.

The point of the MAGA slogan is to bury history with its deep class and racial disparities and to conceal the crises of our time: savage inequality, climate change, pandemics and racial conflict.

Racism and xenophobia have historically provided the ideological glue that has kept the white working class supporting the most rabid sectors of the capitalist class and from seeing their fate linked with racial others and immigrants. Even during the current economic disaster, it is easier for many working-class whites to identify with the Trumpian bloc, led by a billionaire rooted in the transnational capital class, than to have a sense of solidarity with Latinos or Black people.

Historic blocs of the right emerge precisely at that moment when the left is strong and when the right decides to stop playing by the rules of liberal democracy, the system for resolving conflicts through representative government and respect for individual rights.

Read the full op/ed here. Photo by Oli Goldsmith via CC 2.0

Feminist Praxis in Ethno-Fiction, by Prof. Emily Hue

Feminist Praxis in Ethno-Fiction, by Prof. Emily Hue

Publications

Ethnic Studies Prof. Emily Hue published, Feminist Praxis in Ethno-Fiction, a review of the film, Nobel Nok Dah, for the Society for Cultural Anthropology. Excerpt below:

Transnational feminist ethnographic film collective, Ethnocine, comprising Emily Hong, Mariangela Mihai, Miasarah Lai, and others, creates a compelling time capsule that deftly weaves between feminist oral history, the ethno-fictive, and touches of the cinematic avant grade, in their short film, Nobel Nok Dah (2015). The film is succinctly named for three Karen women refugees from Myanmar and reflects these women’s stories after their encampment at the Myanmar–Thai border, and subsequent resettlement in the central upstate New York; journeys that also precede Myanmar’s first civilian government elected in 2015 after decades of military rule.1

During the initial years of this ongoing political transition, international aid for refugees and displaced ethnic minority communities in encampments on the Thai–Myanmar border was surreptitiously cut with the rationale that it would be safer for refugees to return to homes from which they fled military violence. However, as noted in the Asia Times, as of April 2019, many Karen refugees and internationally displaced people who returned in post-election years have struggled to re-establish livelihoods amid continued land grabs. In 2019, armed conflict in southeastern Myanmar has also increased, forcing thousands of those recently returned to flee their homes once more. Additionally, international ire around ongoing massacres of Rohingya peoples in Myanmar has cast further doubt on the country’s claims to political transition.

Amid these upheavals, the filmmakers have shed a distinct light onto the microcosmic ways in which cataclysmic world and regional events have shaped recent refugee migrations. Ethnocine necessarily intervenes into topics and approaches not often covered or integrated into films about Southeast Asian communities for U.S. audiences.

Full review here. Photo above by Emily Hong, Miasarah Lai, and Mariangela Mihai.

 

‘Vivitos y Coleando’: The Cultural Politics of the Paisa Periphery, by Prof. Adrián Félix

‘Vivitos y Coleando’: The Cultural Politics of the Paisa Periphery, by Prof. Adrián Félix

Publications

Prof. Adrián Félix published a review of Charros: How Mexican Cowboys are Remapping Race and American Identity, by Laura Barraclough. Excerpt below:

Octavio Paz once wrote about the zacatecano poet Ramón López Velarde that “irony is his rein and the adjective his spur.” Not so for Barraclough, who is more of a straight shooter; her writing is neither flowery nor poetic, careful not to over-stretch charro metaphors in her prose. However, my main critique of this book is not in its form but rather in its method. True to her formation as a geographer, Barraclough opens the conclusion by stating: “Hover over virtually any city in the U.S. West using the satellite view of a web mapping service, and you will almost certainly spot the distinctive keyhole shape of at least one lienzo charro” (196). Her argument about “place-making”, “vernacular spaces” and “ranchero landscapes” on the “metropolitan fringe” is an important one, as “lienzos offer an important space for cultural affirmation and transnational collectivity” (196) and an “invocation of a shared rural Mexican ranching past left behind” (197). As is the central argument that positions charros as the “original cowboys”: “Asserting the historic presence of ethnic Mexican ranchers and vaqueros as the ‘original cowboys’ in the region that became the U.S. Southwest, they have transformed core narratives of American identity centered on the cowboy, ranching, and the rodeo” (200). Yet for all her focus on “scalar dynamics” and “scaling up”, it would behoove Barraclough to descend from the bird’s eye view, and the historic “long view”, and scale down. It is the task of the ethnographer to, as charros put it, “entrarle al ruedo” (“enter the rodeo ring”), with all of the political ethics that implies, plunging into the depths of the paisano periphery. This, however, would require oral histories and deep ethnography, something Barraclough entirely avoids. Those who are up to the task will find charros not as long-gone historical figures but as living, breathing, flesh-and-bone denizens of the paisano periphery, with all of our contradictions, as the charro adage goes, vivitos y coleando. Alive and bull-tailing.

Read the full review here. Photo courtesy of Al Rendon.

The Migrant Phantoms of the Pandemic, by Prof. Adrián Félix

The Migrant Phantoms of the Pandemic, by Prof. Adrián Félix

Publications

Prof. Adrián Félix published an op/ed, “The Migrant Phantoms of the Pandemic,” in Latino Rebels. Excerpt below:

The climbing death toll of COVID-19 has brought to light an often-overlooked end-of-life ritual among Mexican migrant communities in the U.S.:the repatriation of deceased compatriots from the U.S. to their ancestral homelands in México. Among the many unforeseen tragic consequence of the outbreak, the pandemic is disrupting this long-standing postmortem return migration. Ironically, this immobilization of Mexican migrants in death is symbolic of how they have been excluded in life by the Donald Trump and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) administrations on both sides of the border.

As the contagion has careened through the planet —painfully laying bare the racial disparities of public health— newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times have paid homage to the migrant victims who have been deprived of a proper posthumous homecoming due to the disease.

“Along with intense emotional anguish and a sudden economic void from the loss of crucial providers, their families must endure another blow,” writes the LA Times about families in México grieving their deceased loved ones in the U.S. “The crisis has made it almost impossible to ship bodies back to Mexico for burial.”

In a similar elegiac tone, the NY Times writes of Mexican migrants who have succumbed to the pandemic in New York City: “For the area’s Mexican immigrants —a community already hit hard by the virus— the pandemic has brought another cruel change. Mexican families typically send bodies home, for flower-strewn Catholic burials, and to give relatives the chance to glimpse their loved ones again after long separations.”

In the wake of COVID-19, the NY Times ominously states, “that sacred rite has come to a halt.”

In my 2019 book Specters of Belonging: The Political Life Cycle of Mexican Migrants, I trace these posthumous repatriations across the México-U.S. border and unearth their political significance for México-U.S. migration. As political scientist Osman Balkan so hauntingly puts it in a different ethno-religious migratory context: “Death in the diaspora also raises existential questions about the meaning of home…the act of burial serves as a means to assert belonging, attachment and…loyalty to a particular group, nation, or place.” The necropolitics of this practice reverberate across international boundaries, for, as Balkan asserts, “Experiences with racism, discrimination, or xenophobia generate a feeling of perpetual foreignness, which follows individuals to the grave.”

Image above: The San Isidro cemetery, that the city’s authorities ordered temporarily closed to the public to keep crowds away as a measure to limit the spread of COVID-19 disease, is seen from the air in Mexico City, Sunday, May 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Mutual Aid Spotlight, Interview with Prof. Alisa Bierria

Mutual Aid Spotlight, Interview with Prof. Alisa Bierria

Publications

Prof. Alisa Bierria was interviewed by the Black Agenda Report about mutual aid as an organizing practice. Excerpt below:

 How does this work fit into the broader struggle for change you are working on? How does it mobilize for change rather than merely being a “band aid” on a harmful system?

I was a member of the #FreeBresha participatory defense campaign to free Bresha Meadows, a Black girl who was only 14 years old when she fatally shot her physically and sexually abusive father. Bresha attempted to get help from multiple authorities before the shooting, all of whom failed to help her. So, she acted on her own to defend her life. In a recent interview, Bresha said it never occurred to her that she would go to jail. She thought it would be obvious that she was acting in self-defense, and everyone would agree.

It’s remarkable and powerful to me that Bresha thought it would be obvious that jailing her for saving her life would be out of the question. Because the principle of punishment occupies so much of our instinct here in the U.S., this is, disturbingly, incorrect. I think “reason” is a landscape on which mutual aid can have a profound impact. Bresha’s story reveals that mutual aid in the form of defense campaigns has to be about more than decarceration and more than ensuring material needs are met; mutual aid is about creating a radical shift in what we think is reasonable to expect. In the participatory defense campaigns I’ve worked on, we’ve used a number of strategies — media advocacyartpolitical educationresearchforegrounding survivors’ narratives of their own lives and choices — to make a case that incarcerating survivors for navigating conditions of violence is actually horrifying,  doing so should be out of the question,  and freeing incarcerated survivors is an obvious moral imperative.  Mutual aid has the potential to transform “common sense.”

Do you think mutual aid work has any special or particular role in the current conditions/crises?

In light of the pandemic, we have seen an extraordinary emergence of mutual aid strategies around the world.  These efforts provide opportunities for people to support each other and be provided with what they need, build community networks, and participate in political education, all key components of mutual aid praxis. They also shine a light on life-saving mutual aid work that existed before  the pandemic. For example, organizations like the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP)  have been able to respond quickly to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons because, through decades of supporting, learning from, and building networks with people across prison walls, their members have built an infrastructure of relationships and skills that challenge the health crisis of prison itself. Mutual aid practices address immediate and ongoing needs while equipping us to recognize and respond to future needs.

 But I’m also interested in how people have used the crisis to ask important questions about capitalism. For exampleif states can release  thousands of people from jails to avoid worsening a pandemic, do we even need jails at all? Does the current  rent-strike  raise questions about whether rent is necessary to have housing? Does the  suspension  of federal student loan payments suggest that it’s within our reach to permanently cancel multiple forms of debt? Also, the way the pandemic has shone a light on the ease in which the U.S. treats immigrants, poor people and people without stable and safe housing, incarcerated people in all forms of lock-up, elders and disabled people, Black women, etc. as essentially disposable may not be surprising to many of us, but is always devastating. Under Covid-19, we’ve learned more about vulnerability, collective capacity, and how things that seem permanent (good or bad) can actually become quickly unsettled. I’m hoping we can use those insights to take a fresh look at things like Universal Basic Income, prison abolition, profound racism in the healthcare industry, disability justice, and safe and accessible housing.

Art above by Josh MacPhee

Opinion: My grandpa was a ‘Dreamer’ who crossed the Rio Grande, by Prof. Jennifer Nájera

Opinion: My grandpa was a ‘Dreamer’ who crossed the Rio Grande, by Prof. Jennifer Nájera

Publications

Prof. Jennifer Nájera published an op/ed, “Opinion: My grandpa was a ‘Dreamer’ who crossed the Rio Grande,” in the LA Times. Excerpt below:

After a dangerous crossing, my grandpa began to work for a farmer in the lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas — for free. He figured that if he could show how hard he could work, the farmer would give him a job — and he did.

A year passed and my grandpa sent for his family. My grandma and my three eldest aunts crossed the Rio Grande in the middle of the night, the three little girls hiding under a blanket in a small boat. My oldest aunt remembers that they would peek their heads up from time to time to ask for food as they crossed the river. We must have looked like little birds, she told me.

During the 1940s and 1950s, there was a lot controversy around the bracero program. Many claimed that it was spurring undocumented immigration. The government increased the presence of the Border Patrol and authorized its agents to conduct immigration raids, including the so-called Operation Wetback in 1954, to send people back to Mexico.

At the same time, powerful farm lobbyists were able to negotiate rights for farmers who wanted to keep their work forces stable through a process of “drying out,” or selective legalization. Sometimes this occurred en masse, and at other times in smaller groups. In south Texas where my family lived, the Immigration and Naturalization Service periodically granted “exceptions” to farmers in the early 1950s to legalize their workers.

This was how my grandpa and his three eldest daughters gained legal status. It would take longer for my grandma, because she had contracted tuberculosis and was not eligible for legalization until several years later.

My mother, born in Texas, was a natural-born citizen. Their family in 1950s Texas was very similar to those mixed-status families of today — parents and elder children who were undocumented and younger children who were U.S.-born citizens. Fortunately for them, the political climate at that time enabled them to adjust their status because it was more attuned to the region’s economic needs. Today, a similar policy for migrant workers and their families would cause a political uproar, even though we all know that it would make economic sense and would provide long-needed humane immigration reform.

Image above: The parents of “Dreamers,” like generations before them, journeyed to America to seek safety and a better life for their families. (Los Angeles Times)

Eradicating the e-Word: Musings on Myaamia Language Reclamation, by Prof. Wesley Leonard

Eradicating the e-Word: Musings on Myaamia Language Reclamation, by Prof. Wesley Leonard

Publications

Prof. Wesley Leonard published an article, “Eradicating the e-Word: Musings on Myaamia Language Reclamation,” in World Literature Today. Excerpt below:

Notions of Native American languages “disappearing,” “vanishing,” or “become e——” reflect broader and powerful colonial logics that render Native Americans into objects of history and deem illegitimate anything that misaligns with dominant society’s ideas about “authentic” Native American cultures and languages. Through this line of thinking, speaking a Native American language doesn’t necessarily count as evidence of its vitality. Even after twenty-five years of myaamia language reclamation, some scholars continue to describe myaamia with the e-word, and somebody always reverses the corrections I make to the Wikipedia entry for myaamia. (As of this writing, it includes the e-word, though there is ironically also mention of myaamia’s “revival.”)

It’s true that there are many Miamis who have not learned to speak myaamia, and perhaps never will. However, they now have some connection to their language and can choose to learn it. This is tremendously important given the historical context: not long ago, the more common situation in my community was a lack of connection to myaamia, and even the minority who felt connected to it didn’t have access to it. When focusing on Native American and other Indigenous languages, as often occurs in theories of language endangerment and recovery, people easily miss this and similar details. Reclamation requires that one ask whether community members feel connected to and have access to their languages. Reclamation intervenes in the underlying causes of Native American language shift rather than in the languages themselves.

One of the major underlying causes of myaamia language shift was two forced removals of my ancestors—first from the original Miami homelands in Indiana to Kansas, and later to Oklahoma (then Indian Territory). There are accounts of my ancestors taking handfuls of Indiana dirt with them, which is not surprising given that Miami culture significantly reflects a relationship with these homelands. Today, in addition to reconnecting to original homelands by having language programs there, my community addresses dislocation from land by using land-based pedagogies to teach myaamia and by naming new Miami spaces in myaamia. I keep in my own house a gift from our tribal chief: a vial with dirt from Indiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Photo by klaxtonphoto / Flickr

Tweaking the Traditional: Spotlight on Prof. Gerald Clarke

Publications Video/Audio

Palm Springs Life published a profile on Prof. Gerald Clarke and his Palm Springs Art Museum online exhibition “Gerald Clarke: Falling Rock.” Excerpt below:

The dirt road leading to the home and art studio of Gerald Clarke begins at State Route 371 in Anza, a mountain community 40 miles southwestof Palm Springs. Flanked by the Cahuilla Casino and the Cahuilla Band of Indians’ modest tribal offices, the narrow path is the inconspicuous gateway to a 19,000-acre reservation steeped in centuries of history but populated with only about 50 houses; two-thirds of the tribe’s 300 members live off the reservation. Clarke knows every sliver of this land, every critter and every plant — the stinging nettles (“They sting like hell, but we eat those”), tobacco (“We have songs about it”), elderberry trees (“The berries are edible, you can make flutes out of the wood, but the leaves, they’ll kill you”).

“T.E.K., they call it: traditional ecological knowledge,” he says.

Clarke also knows every lingering remnant of the tribe’s history here — the Catholic church (originally a schoolhouse) where a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer was fatally shot in 1909, the hot springs where his family bathed until they got running water in 1986 (“My dad would say, ‘People in Palm Springs pay hundreds of dollars to do what you’re doing.’ ”), the old ramada where tribal members once sang bird songs, and the cemetery where he and the men of the tribe still dig graves by hand. “Burial came with the Catholics,” he says, adding that traditional cremation is returning to favor.

Although he and his sister grew up in Hemet and Orange County, his father, Gerald Clarke Sr., picked them up on weekends and hosted them for summers on the reservation. “I grew up doing the cowboy stuff,” the younger Clarke says. “I learned early on that stereotypes are bullshit. My grandpa and my dad were hardcore Indian cowboys.”

For his part, Clarke was passionate about learning. He went to college and earned master’s degrees in painting and sculpture from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He became an educator, knowing all along that his heritage would eventually lead him back to the reservation. “From the time I was very young, I knew it was my role to take over the ranch after my dad died,” he says. That day came in 2003, when Clarke was teaching studio art at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. He gave up his position, returned to the ranch, and began teaching part time at Idyllwild Arts, where he later became chairman of the visual arts department.

“The house I live in is 100 years old; my grandpa built it and ran things. He passed away, and my dad ran things. And now I’m … shopping for a bull,” he says, driving by a pasture and pointing out one of two steers he and his brother-in-law will butcher, providing his family with meat for a year.

Clarke has emerged as a tribal leader, and he’s back on the tenure track as an assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside. But neither he nor his tribe is stuck in a time warp; the reservation has plenty of modern amenities: a bright-white internet repeater towering on a hillside, a softball field situated across from a new ramada, solar panels on several rooftops, and Clarke’s art studio, a Quonset structure he built two years ago.

Read the full article here.