The place of immigrants in the U.S. has always been fraught, with immigrants simultaneously serving as inspiring affirmations of the American dream and as scapegoats for an endless list of social ills. But since Trump’s election in 2016, hostility toward immigrants has reached a level unseen in recent years. From families being separated at the border to the “Muslim ban” to proposals to eliminate the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship, immigrants are facing increased hostility in their everyday interactions and heightened threats due to anti-immigrant government policies. Along with these developments, immigrants and their allies are mobilizing and responding to threats in innovative ways. This dialogue brings together scholars and activists to ask what immigrant rights activism looks like in this moment, how it is changing, and what it can teach us about activism in times of increasing threats.
This month, we have a great assortment of essays. Thanks to our wonderful group of contributors on this topic:
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
“Applying social movement concepts to immigration activism”
Martinez, Lisa M. 2005. “Yes we can: Latino Participation in Unconventional Politics.” Social Forces 84(1): 135-155.
Mora, Maria De Jesus, Rodolfo Rodriguez, Alejandro Zermeño, and Paul Almeida. 2018. “Immigrant Rights and Social Movements.” Sociology Compass 12, no. 8
Zepeda-Millán, Chris. 2017. Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization, and Activism. Boston, MA: Cambridge University Press.
News media up to the midterm elections were saturated with images of Central American immigrants traveling north in “caravans,” with images of an impending “invasion” of criminals or terrorists who would threaten the safety and security of most Americans. In the midst of the panic, the Department of Homeland Security even issued a fact sheet about the caravan that listed concerns about criminals traveling north, asserting that there were 270 individuals with criminal histories along the caravan route. The U.S. President would regularly announce to a public already primed to fear crime and criminals filtering through the southern border that the invaders needed to be contained. The administration’s response was Operation Faithful Patriot, comprised of the deployment of up to 15,000 active-duty military troops to Texas, Arizona, and California. And even though the broadcasting of such alarmist declarations decreased dramatically immediately after the midterms, the Commander in Chief did order 5,600 American troops to be deployed to the border, where they will remain waiting for the “caravan” to arrive. Authorities have used tear gas on the migrants who have tried to set foot on U.S. soil to seek asylum.
With much of the national media attention directed at the Trump administration’s (1) increasingly restrictionist policy measures, such as: the travel ban from predominately Muslim countries, family separation, and the potential denial of birthright citizenship, (2) it’s xenophobic and racist campaign advertisements, and (3) it’s punitive use of ICE, which recently set records in both deportations and detainments (see here), one might be forgiven for overlooking the relatively quiet resurgence of grassroots nativist mobilization occurring along the U.S.-Mexico border. Since Trump’s election, national news outlets like the Washington Post (see article here) and local outlets like the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson (see article here) have documented the return of armed citizen patrol groups to the U.S.-Mexico border. Proximately spurred by the Trump administration’s portrayal of migrant caravans as an invasion, citizen patrol groups feel a renewed sense of urgency and purpose.
In 2015 Donald Trump sent shockwaves throughout the Latino and immigrant community when he launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. Since entering the Oval Office, Trump has continued his attacks by issuing multiple anti-immigrant executive actions, promising to build a wall on our southern border, pardoning a sheriff criminally convicted of racially profiling Latinos, ramped up immigrant detention, attempted to end DACA and, most recently, sought to ban thousands of Central Americans from legally applying for asylum. Accordingly, Donald Trump is arguably the most anti-Latino U.S. president in contemporary American history. Given that his assaults against Latino immigrants—and by extension the larger Latino community—show no signs of abating, in this blog post I reflect upon research I recently co-authored (with Sophia Wallace of the University of Washington) on how the U.S. immigrant rights movement initially responded to the Trump Administration.
No matter what happens at the polls, scholars and activists and those in between will be telling a story about the significance of the results. With the nail biting and revelry, it will be imperative we not succumb to historical amnesia and instead to face the role of race and racism in social movement organizing and in electoral politics. Further, narratives in which a woman winning means all women win is historically inaccurate. Women in formal politics differ: Senator Hillary Clinton is a woman. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is a woman. Stacey Abrams, the Georgian gubernatorial candidate, is a woman. But they clearly have different life experiences and political commitments. The long-studied gender gap in voting is not a story about all women, but rather it is, like many other unmarked stories, a submerged story of White people. To understand the relationship between movement organizing and formal politics we need to expand intersectional analyses of identity and power in our research and how we tell the stories of movements.
In the post-Trump era, tools like Resistbot and Countable seek to make political engagement easier and more readily accessible to broader audiences. These tools predetermine which political stakeholders users should contact and ensure that collective action efforts to reach elected officials become automated. Recently, I presented in a course alongside a professor and founder of a new kind of tool that hopes to centralize and simplify many of the processes of collective action. Betsy Sinclair, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, developed an online platform she hopes will allow any citizens to start a “micro social movement.” Magnify Your Voice is described as “…the solutions platform for civic, environmental, and political initiatives near you. Create a new project, or join one to help make change in your neighborhood and beyond.” With Magnify, anyone can create a profile and post a project. Take for instance asking faculty to make election day “A Day Off For Democracy.” This particular project seeks to mobilize university members to cancel class and pressure their university president to make election day a holiday. The project has 49 members who support the initiative and 11 who have already taken an action such as cancelling class on election day or emailing their university president. Several are also part of related growing efforts through https://www.educatorpledge.com/ and http://www.adayofffordemocracy.com/. Continue reading