“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.
Contemporary movements across the world remind social movement scholars to rethink the role threat and grievances play in collective action. Recently, several movements have emerged in response to threats. From the occupy movement, and indigenous water rights mobilizations, to local environmental racism battles and immigrant rights social movements, marginalized and excluded social groups are mobilizing against increasing threats within their communities (Mora et al. 2017). Threats are defined as the negative conditions that inspire mobilization; although scholars have given more focus to political opportunities, threats were originally given the same weight as political opportunities (Tilly 1978). Some of the key threats that mobilize communities are environmental, economic, erosion of rights, and state repression (Almeida 2003; 2018). Continue reading
This year saw numerous episodes of mobilization by immigrants and non-immigrants alike. In Sweden, protesters mobilized against police in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Stockholm. Protesters in Cologne, Germany organized against the anti-immigration party, the AfD. London protesters held an event at the U.S. embassy in London against Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” And, protesters in the U.S. mobilized against Trump and his administration’s views and positions on immigration with “A Day Without Immigrants.” Continue reading
During the height of immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border into Arizona that resulted in hundreds of immigrant deaths and mass deportations, I travelled with a group of college students participating in a weeklong immersion trip focused on immigration injustices. We met with religious activists in the United States, talked with service providers at religious shelters in Mexico, and shared dinner in church buildings with recently deported immigrants. We were led by a faith-affiliated organization born in the 1980’s Sanctuary Movement that is mostly staffed by religious persons and housed in a building laced with religious imagery, from crosses to a portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
This past June, President Obama took executive action to defer the deportation of “Dreamers”: undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, are under 30, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, and have no criminal records. The policy represents a small but important victory for immigrant rights activists, many of whom are religious. Their religiosity is worth noting for two reasons. First, in an age when the dominant public image of religion is often politically and theologically conservative, this serves as a reminder that “progressive religion” is not an oxymoron. Second, increasing immigration to the U.S. is transforming American religion, altering dominant traditions through the integration of new immigrants and diversifying the general landscape through the growth of religious traditions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Some estimates suggest that 40 percent of Catholics in the U.S. are now Mexican or Latin American immigrants.1 This religious context forces even majority-native-born religious groups to recognize the suffering of immigrants in their midst, evidenced by efforts like the Catholic Justice for Immigrants campaign. Continue reading