Category Archives: Immigration

The Latina/o/x Role in the 2016 Political Race

This week we feature Latina/o Studies scholars and writers Lisa Magaña, Christina Bejarano, and Daisy Hernández on the role of Latinas/os/x in today’s political climate and how the 2016 election will affect Latina/o/x lives.

Christina Bejarano, University of Kansas

Latinos play an increasingly important role in today’s political climate, both in terms of their increasing presence in the political environment and their growing voting power in the elections.  Latinos are a key voting bloc of swing voters that are courted by both political parties and they are forecasted to play a pivotal role in upcoming elections.  This particular election has brought a heightened sense of importance to the Latino vote.  However, this increased political attention comes with both negative and positive ramifications for Latinos. 

Word "vote" painted on fence

Photo by Flickr user H2Woah! Taken August 5, 2008. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The current political climate provides several clear issues of importance for Latino communities, which can be an additional motivator for Latinos to participate this election.  Latinos are concerned about multiple issues including their top concerns on immigration reform, improving the economy, and creating more jobs, as well as providing quality education and health care.  This election has also emphasized the need to address mounting anti-Latino and anti-immigrant discrimination in the country, as well as police violence and inner city tensions.  Many Latinos acknowledge the negative repercussions of the Trump campaign, which has created a more Continue reading

Stigmatized Markets: Los Angeles Street Vending Kids Working and Restoring a Dignified Self

By Emir Estrada

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgbGSYmLgmQ

The video in the link above depicts the public humiliation of a child street vendor in Tabasco, Mexico. Three officials stand tall next to him as he inconsolably and powerlessly follows through on their command to dump on the street the merchandise he carried on a small straw basket. Once he empties the basket, the officials turn away and leave him on the floor to collect his merchandize. This incident took place in Mexico, but this also happens in our own backyard, here in the U.S.

When I watched this video, I was working on an academic article based on original research I conducted in 2009 to 2012 with street vending children and their families in Los Angeles, CA.  Street vending is a popular economic strategy for poor, undocumented and Spanish monolingual Latinos in Los Angeles. During my study, I spent two and a half years with various street vending families and conducted 66 interviews with children between the ages of 10-18 and their parents. I also accompanied several families while they sold goods on the streets. Continue reading

Eugenicist Views Take Center Stage in Election Season

photo of eugenics poster that warns viewers to check for supposedly defective hereditary seed

“Eugenics” by Gennie Stafford. Photo of poster in Jewish Museum. From Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Laura Briggs

Many have been writing in recent days about when Donald Trump started sounding like a fascist. Business Insider Australia even dug up a quote from Ivana Trump in an old Vanity Fair article that claimed that Donald kept Hitler’s speeches by his bed, a statement he didn’t deny. Political science scholar Matthew McWilliams found that the single most important characteristic that predicted Trump support was authoritarianism. Yet an influential Vox article by Dylan Matthews back in December denied that Trump’s politics were on the fascist spectrum, and seemed to halt the momentum of those who had begun raising the question after Trump argued for banning Muslims at the border (initially including U.S. citizens). But Matthews’ doubtful claims that Trump doesn’t advocate violence or overthrowing the Constitution, and his apparent ignorance of the fact that Hitler was elected notwithstanding, the answer for some of us was: we heard Trump as a fascist from the day he announced. He couched his anti-Mexican racism in eugenic terms that day, back in June. He (in)famously began his speech by saying:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Much has been said about this except the most obvious: it implies that most Mexican immigrants are men and that most of those men are rapists. Where does this notion of the “Mexican rapist” come from? Especially since it’s profoundly wrong. Rape is an overwhelmingly male crime, but he offers no proof for the outrageous claim that Mexican men are rapists and overlooks the fact that the majority of migrants from Mexico to the United States are women. Or at least have been since the 1990s. While some say that gender balance has shifted since 2008 (when net migration began to approach zero, with as many Mexicans leaving as arriving), if you add women together with children, men are still a minority of Mexican migrants.

Trump is, no doubt, aware that there are Mexican migrant women in the US—after all, they do a disproportionate amount of the cleaning in the resorts and office buildings that Trump has built his fortune on (and he recently even threw out a woman from one of his rallies, asking “Are you from Mexico?”).

But demographic accuracy wasn’t really what he was after. Trump strummed an old string in US American politics by seeming to defend a violated, victimized (white) womanhood from a racialized other, recalling the old lynching narrative (also resuscitated recently by Maine Governor LePage, complaining about “drug dealers” who go to his state and impregnate “white women”). But by changing the demon of the story from an African-American to a (foreign) Mexican rapist, he shifted it in a direction that would be familiar to fascists everywhere—a eugenic one. It was about the need to protect an imagined (white) volk and their homeland not just from foreigners, but from the wrong kind of reproduction. White women being impregnated by Mexicans. As Mary Romero and others who have been tracking groups like Mothers Against Illegal Aliens have noticed, this image of the Mexican rapist might be a new note in national politics, but it is deeply familiar one from extremist, white nativist groups in Arizona and elsewhere. As he talked about the need to shore up borders, build walls, and “make America great again,” Trump was also invoking the foreign threat to white womanhood, white reproduction, and white children in a way that many of us recognized from the frontiers of eugenic racism in places like Arizona. The Washington Post and Senators may only know about David Duke and the KKK, but Latina feminism has been tracking an account of white reproduction and the Mexican threat.

This wasn’t immediately obvious in the national conversation, though, because virtually everyone who responded to Trump last June was willing to agree with him that Mexican migrants are (all) men. The American Immigration Council (AIC) quickly released a report that responded to Trump in detail, finding that only 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18 to 39 years old were incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of native-born males. It added, “The 2010 Census data reveals that incarceration rates among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population are significantly lower than the incarceration rate among native-born young men without a high-school diploma. In 2010, less-educated native-born men age 18-39 had an incarceration rate of 10.7 percent—more than triple the 2.8 percent rate among foreign-born Mexican men, and five times greater than the 1.7 percent rate among foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men.” The AIC data, in turn, were duly broadcast by the media, including the Washington Post fact checker (which gave Trump “four Pinocchios” for lying.) These figures reveal the falsity of Trump’s statements, but they also point to the problem of criminalization and incarceration of young people that the Black Lives Matter movement has again brought to the fore in our national consciousness.

While Trump merely implied that Mexican immigrants were all men, the AIC report was explicit. It looked at male crime data, and the Post and other media outlets accepted this without comment. All agreed to take it for granted that all Mexican (or Central American) immigrants are men.

While there is a white supremacist wing of the Republican Party that has been demonizing Mexicans for a long time—think of Pat Buchanan’s 2000 presidential run on an anti-Mexican platform—the “Mexican rapist” was from a white nativist playbook, to the right of Buchanan’s. Trump’s Hitler-isms remade the Jewish racial-religious threat to the homeland into two, the Mexican racial threat and the Muslim religious threat.

The significance of Trump’s invocation of white nativist eugenics was invisible last summer because feminism is only occasionally important to the national political debate. When he calls women “dogs” or “cows,” or complains about Megan “blood coming out of her whatever” Kelly, commentators can get a whiff of his misogyny. But the unspoken “white women” at the back of his “Mexican rapists” comment (or the complete invisibility of Mexican and Central American women to anybody) aren’t seen or heard by the media. But not only Latina feminists, but feminist scholars of Hitler, Franco, and some Latin American conservatisms have noted the importance of this foreign/national reproduction story to fascism consistently. Scholars like Leila Rupp, Gisela Bok, and Mary Nash have written about the political significance of Aryan or Spanish women having many babies, the banning of contraception and abortion, and the centrality of eugenics as a reproductive politics to fascist visions of the future and its population. (It’s telling in this regard that Trump is alone among the current leaders in the Republican field in carving out a rape exception for banning abortion.) Trump’s specifically reproductive racism, an account of the relationship of gender and race that tells a story of the appropriate white female reproduction of the nation, is a way of thinking that resonates deeply with feminist accounts of fascism and womanhood. But this hasn’t emerged in the national discussion about Trump’s candidacy because most begin from the same assumption he did: Mexicans are men.

We might say that Trump, who’s never been accused of the usual “dog whistle” subterfuges of national Republican candidates when it comes to his racist pronouncements, blew a dog whistle of his own about what we might call the race-and-gender politics of the “Mexican rapist” comment. While it’s difficult to get a handle on Trump’s politics because of a pervasive sense that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying—after all, when did Trump care about immigration or criminalizing abortion before he was running for President—it doesn’t matter whether his positions represent his deeply held beliefs or not. He is running on becoming popular—populist—with deep political cunning. He is deliberately building a new strain of American fascism in a way we haven’t seen since the 1930s and Huey Long and Father Coughlin and their Jewish threat.

While many have argued that Trump is allowing a full-throated and proud white racism to crawl out from under the rock where it has been relegated (allowing only a more genteel, less explicit racism on the national stage), I would go further and say he is building it. The 20% of South Carolina Trump supporters who have told pollsters that it was a mistake to end slavery, the Nevada supporters who rattled off a fantasy of the mass-murder of Muslims to Nation reporter Sasha Abramsky—these, I suspect, are new developments. These are flames fanned by things like Trump’s repetition of the old imperialist canard of Pershing in the Philippines at the turn of the century dipping bullets in pigs’ blood and shooting Muslim insurgents there.

The Republican Party is now in full freak-out mode that it is on the verge of selecting a nominee who plays games about whether he will denounce David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan—denouncing him one day, claiming he doesn’t know who he is the next. While the G.O.P. has certainly been racist in recent years—think of its obstructionism toward Obama, the “birther” craziness, the recent attempt to cast a shadow of illegitimacy over his nomination of a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the denunciation of Syrian and Mexican immigrants—the party has always maintained a thin veneer of deniability that allows a handful of people of color and a lot of white folks to maintain their party membership without shame. It seems genuinely to be news that Trump’s position is unapologetically racist, and arguably fascist.

It’s just possible that if they had listened to his announcement speech with feminist ears—had heard the “Mexican rapist” canard as the eugenic claim it was—Trump’s fascism would have been obvious a long time ago.

Laura J. Briggs is Professor and Chair of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass Amherst. A widely recognized historian of reproductive politics, Briggs has published three books: Somebody’s Children: The Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption, (Duke University Press, 2012); Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (University of California Press, 2002); and International Adoption: Global Inequalities and the Circulation of Children (NYU Press, 2009, o-author with Diana Marre). Briggs has also published  numerous articles on empire/transnational history of the U.S. in Latin America; reproductive politics and race and sexuality; adoption; and immigration/migration. Recent articles ahve been published in International Feminist Journal of Politics; Feminist Studies; Frontiers; Scholar and the Feminist Online; American Quarterly; American Indian Quarterly; Scripta Nova (Barcelona). In 2012 she created the academic blog site Somebody’s Children: A Blog about Adoption, ART, and Reproductive Politics, where she offers incisive commentary informed by her extensive research.  Professor Briggs has a long history of activism both within institutions and in the community, especially on issues of immigration, and is a collective member of the Tepoztlán Institute for Transnational History.

“Dreaming of Utopia in a Pragmatic Present: Works by Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñíguez in Conversation with Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia”

By Ryan King

Introduction

In response to grassroots pressures and organizing by undocumented communities, various U.S. federal and state agencies are enacting new immigration policies for the first time in decades. Almost all of these recent policy changes are highly pragmatic and offer limited administrative relief.

Undocumented communities, organizations, and artists actively critique these limited forms of administrative relief. In this article, I look to how two undocumented artists, Jesús Iñíguez and Julio Salgado, demonstrate the pressing need for administrative relief while remaining critical of its troubling limitations. I situate Iñíguez’s and Salgado’s contributions with José Esteban Muñoz’s meditations on gay pragmatism and queerness as two binary approaches to politics. Muñoz offers important perspectives on dreaming, political action, and compromise. Throughout this article, I consider how Iñíguez and Salgado queer how Muñoz approaches the politics of gay pragmatism vs. queerness. Iñíguez and Salgado urge their viewers to consider what types of liberation are possible in the present moment and also highlight the need to push meanings of what can be considered possible in the present moment.

For context, let us consider two programs of administrative relief. The first program is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has been administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security since June 2012. DACA provides temporary deportation deferral for undocumented residents who entered the country under the age of 16 and meet a lengthy list of additional criteria.[1] The second program is California Assembly Bill 60 (AB 60), which has been administered by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) since January 2015. AB 60 permits eligible undocumented residents in California to apply for driver licenses. Both of these programs provide important yet limited administrative relief for undocumented communities.[2] Neither of these programs provides a pathway to citizenship; they may be productively contrasted to attempts at broader (but still limited) legislation, such as the DREAM Act.[3]

I center my discussion on three works produced by Iñíguez and Salgado. These works visualize utopian dreaming, the pragmatic urgencies for administrative relief, and the difficulties that arise from participating in pragmatic politics from a critical standpoint. The three works are: Homoland Security, a digital drawing by Julio Salgado[4]; episode one of Undocumented and Awkward by Iñíguez and Salgado; and episode eleven of Osito, also a collaboration between Iñíguez and Salgado.

  1. Homoland Security by Julio Salgado

Homoland Security (see http://juliosalgadoart.bigcartel.com/) reshapes and re-imagines the presently-militarized U.S.-Mexico border. In this futuric border scene, programs like AB 60 and DACA are not necessary because this border privileges movement and aesthetic performances of queerness — important especially for Trans and Queer migrants of color whom are among the most marginalized by present border conditions.

As Muñoz writes, “The present is not enough […] The present must be known in relation to the alternative temporal and spatial maps provided by a perception of past and future affective worlds.”[5] The present temporal and spatial maps at the border are saturated with security and militarization, yet the absence of security culture in this drawing is striking. By depicting a border scene absent of security and militarization, Salgado takes to task Muñoz’s call that “the present is not enough” by re-imagining spatial and temporal maps in this utopic border scene. Importantly, Muñoz also links “homosexual pragmatism” with homonormativity.[6] In this drawing, Salgado rejects pragmatic immigration politics and homonormativity through the non-homonormative bodies he draws. The horizon is prominently displayed in this drawing, which can be read as a provocation to consider Muñoz’s conceptualization of “queerness as horizon.”[7]

“Homoland Security” works to represent the grassroots dreaming of undocumented and UndocuQueer, organizers, communities, and artists. This drawing is legible as a heuristic piece that reflects futuric politics which are grounded in a consciousness of the past and present; a politics that uses this consciousness to push what is possible in the present moment.

The following cultural production outlines how the day-to-day benefits of DACA and AB 60 complicate the refusal of these programs based on a political premise.

  1. “Episode 1” of Undocumented and Awkward by Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñiguez[8]

Undocumented and Awkward by Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñiguez is a comedic web series that examines how being undocumented creates uncomfortable, unsafe, and awkward moments.[9] This episode was produced in late 2011, about three years before AB 60 took effect.

Far from Homoland Security’s utopic border, the episode opens in a nondescript parking lot outside of a bar. Jesús is on the phone. It becomes clear that he is being stood up on a blind date because he could not enter the bar where they were supposed to meet (the bouncer did not accept his consular ID card as valid identification). The phone call ends when Jesús’ date cancels the date because Jesús could not enter the bar.

While Jesús is on the phone, an intoxicated couple passes in front of the camera on their way to the car. The couple communicates that they both have had too much to drink but will drive home anyway. In contrast to Jesús, the couple take for granted their privileged access to a state ID card. This scene points to the cultural, rather than simply pragmatic, need for administrative relief (such as AB 60) that would provide undocumented residents with reliable identification.

DACA and AB 60 open possibilities for Jesús to access the legitimate state ID card that he lacked in this episode. Administrative relief, a form of pragmatic politics, is a method of resolving everyday needs and desires. Importantly, Jesús rejects a normative, assimilationist desire to become like the intoxicated couple (what Muñoz characterizes pragmatic politics).[10] By maintaining that pragmatism does not inherently equate to normativity and assimilation, this episode of Undocumented and Awkward bridges gaps between gay pragmatism and queerness in Cruising Utopia.

Episode 1 of Undocumented and Awkward makes it more difficult to characterize pragmatic approaches as incongruent with futuric, utopic politics associated with queerness. The next cultural production will continue to wrestle with this uncertainty and offer insight into what it feels like to participate in pragmatic politics while maintaining a politics of queerness and utopic dreams.

  1. Concluding thoughts: “Dat DACAmented life” from Osito, by Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñíguez

The final cultural production, “Dat DACAmented Life,” is an episode of Osito. Osito is also a web series focusing on Salgado’s and Iñiguez’s experiences as undocumented Bay Area residents. This episode was published in February 2015, several years after episode one of Undocumented and Awkard. In the time that elapsed between these two cultural productions, both Salgado and Iñíguez applied for and received DACA in their personal lives. This episode offers some of their reflections on DACAmented subjectivity. This episode further complicates an easy separation between gay pragmatism and utopian queerness.

As the episode opens, Jesús and Julio are sitting on the couch in their home and talking; they are trying to reconcile their utopian dreams with their participation in DACA. Jesús and Julio communicate that DACA was won through the struggles of many undocumented organizers – the two emphasize that people are not “given papers,” but that these papers were demanded, fought for, and won. They comment that the terms of DACA are a serious disappointment when compared to the dreams and goals of undocumented residents and organizers. Both Jesús and Julio mention not wanting to participate in DACA because their parents, along with many family, friends, and community members are excluded from DACA. Jesús states that:

“A whole bunch of us, we wanted to be idealistic and revolutionary and not apply for DACA in solidarity with our parents and people over thirty and anyone else who wouldn’t be eligible.” [11]

Julio replies to say that he felt the same way, but his family did not support this point of view and urged him to apply for DACA. Jesús and Julio both express reservations and sadness about participating in DACA because the program serves the federal government’s pragmatic bottom line rather than the utopic dreams that they and so many others fearlessly fought to materialize. The collective is important in this scene and relates to Muñoz’s discussion of the “not yet conscious” in Cruising Utopia.[12] In the reading that I am proposing, Salgado and Iñíguez are expressing a deeply futuric politics that is not yet here. The potentiality of this utopia is eminent, and their melancholic state is reflective of the lack of this politics in the present. Additionally, both Jesús and Julio clearly lament their increased privilege at the exclusion of many of their loved ones.

These three works by Salgado and Iñíguez demonstrate the struggles felt by social actors whose pragmatic politics are intimately tied to the utopian. These cultural productions demonstrate that it is indeed possible to participate in pragmatic politics while understanding that, in the words of Muñoz, “queerness is always on the horizon.”[13] Salgado and Iñíguez make note that doing so is difficult, especially when the present moment offers them limited choices to do otherwise. This arc of cultural productions demands that pragmatism and queerness be viewed outside of a binary. Considering these politics as linked, rather than opposed, allows for more grounded, nuanced approaches to how communities, organizations, and artists are working toward collective approaches to liberation.

References

Iñíguez, Jesús and Julio Salgado. “Dat DACAmented Life.” Osito. 11 February 2015. Accessed via <www.youtube.com>. Also available on <www.dreamersadrift.com>.

Iñiguez, Jesús and Julio Salgado. “Episode 1.” Undocumented and Awkward. 8 November 2011. Accessed via <www.youtube.com>. Also available on <www.dreamersadrift.com>.

Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York University Press (2009).

Salgado, Julio. “Homoland Security.” accessed via <https://queer170.wordpress.com/about-the-course/>.

Endnotes

[1] Information on DACA may be found here: http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca

[2] Information on AB 60 may be found here: www.ab60.dmv.ca.gov

[3] Information on the DREAM Act may be found here: https://nilc.org/dreamsummary.html

[4] Homoland Security is available for purchase from the artist at: http://juliosalgadoart.bigcartel.com/

[5]Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There or Queer Futurity. New York University Press (2009). pp. 27.

[6] Ibid. Muñoz. pp. 30.

[7] Ibid. Muñoz pp. 32.

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XbnTK6udQA

[9] All episodes of the web series are available online at no cost to the user. To find the videos, please search for the Dreamers Adrift channel on YouTube or visit www.dreamersadrift.com directly.

[10] Ibid. Muñoz. pp. 20.

[11] ibid. Iñíguez and Salgado. “Dat DACAmented Life.”

[12] Ibid. Muñoz. pp. 20.

[13] ibid. Muñoz pp. 11.

Ryan King is a graduate student in the Feminist Studies Department at University of California, Santa Cruz.  He is primarily interested in the politics of desirability and intimacy in virtual spaces and the politics of space and movement in contexts of neoliberalism and gentrification. He has thought through these research interests in two major research papers to date. The paper “Re-imagining Bodies, Reifying Borders: The Politics of Desirability and Space on Grindr” examines how and why GPS technologies, borders, desirability, visibility, white supremacy, transphobia, ableism, and further factors construct a “citizenship of desirability” that Grindr users participate in to access their desires. The paper “Dreaming of Queerness in a Pragmatic Present: Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñíguez Complicate the Divide Between Queerness and Gay Pragmatism in Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia” takes a look at how undocumented artists speaking for themselves offer insight into the challenges and possibilities of using their agency to access rights in a DACAmented age that distributes administrative relief unevenly within undocumented communities.