France’s Other State of Emergency

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference from August 12 – 15 in Montreal, Quebec. #ASA17

By Jean Beaman, author of Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France

France has been under a state of emergency since the November 2015 terrorist attacks in several sites in the Parisian metropolitan region, including the Stade de France stadium and the Bataclan theater. Originally put into place by then-President Francois Hollande, it has since been extended about six times. Current president Emmanuel Macron has proposed extending the state of emergency until November of this year—two years after the November terrorist attacks.

Why does this matter? Under the state of emergency, police officers are allowed to conduct searches without warrants, among other measures. And such measures have disproportionately affected black and North African-origin individuals. According to a recent Amnesty International Report, French authorities are increasing using emergency powers to restrict protests and demonstrations. This is the longest state of emergency in France since the Algerian War of Independence.

But France has another state of emergency – how it treats its racial and ethnic minorities. In my forthcoming book, Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France, I show how the North African second-generation is constantly treated as if they were not French even though they are, as revealed by the marginalization and racism they experience. The individuals I discuss were born and raised in France, are educated, and have achieved a middle-class status and upward mobility relative to their immigrant parents. Yet, they are still treated like second-class citizens, or denied cultural citizenship, because of they are non-white. France therefore has a growing of citizens who despite adhering to Republican ideology and doing everything “right” cannot be seen as fully French or be fully included in mainstream society. Much like second-generation Latinos in the U.S., they are continually asked, “Where are from?” and the answer, France, is never satisfactory.

Despite the defeat of Marine le Pen in the recent presidential election, racism and xenophobia have not gone away. President Macron was under controversy this past June for a joke he made about the boats that transport Comorian migrants to Mayotte, a French department off the coast of Eastern Africa. And police violence against black and North African-origin individuals is a growing problem, including the summer 2016 death of Adama Traoré in the banlieue of Beaumont-sur-Oise and the February 2017 beating and rape of Theo L in the banlieue of Aulnay-sous-Bois. Despite France’s emphasis on a cohesive national community, it remains uncomfortable and unsettled with the multicultural nature of its population.


Jean Beaman Assistant Professor of Sociology at Purdue University.

At publication date, a free ebook version of this title will be available through Luminos, the UC Press open access publishing program. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.


Tell The Children Not To Be Afraid

By Joanna Dreby, author of Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families

Over the past eight years of the Obama administration, there has been a record high number of deportations, more than under any other President historically. Researchers have recorded the impacts of such a focus on immigration enforcement, my own contribution documented in the book Everyday Illegal. Men, mostly from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean have been the primary targets of enforcement actions. Yet men live in families; they have wives and girlfriends and children, many of whom are legal residents or U.S. citizens. Immigration enforcement has torn families apart.

When a parent is deported, a child experiences sudden economic hardship along with the emotional trauma of having the state take away a parent one day to the next. These are the immediate impacts. But what of the aftermath? In some cases spouses or children decide to return to their deported spouses’ country of origin, in many cases forfeiting their rights as U.S. citizens to live freely in this country. In other cases, families live through painful separations and the on-going financial and emotional trauma that entails. The deported face many difficulties in finding employment in countries of origin: they rarely can make enough money to support family members living in the United States.

The consequence of a system that increasingly criminalizes immigrants goes beyond that of those who are the target of enforcement. There are rippling effects. One of those unintended impacts is that the young children in the immigrant families I interviewed often reported that they did not feel comfortable with the word “immigrant.” At times they misused it, telling me that immigrants are people who are “illegal” or “not supposed to be here.” I heard the same thing from unauthorized kids, from kids whose parents were legal permanent residents, and from U.S. citizens; the legal status of children’s own family members mattered, but the rhetoric about immigrants impacted children in all types of families.

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, there are a lot of unknowns. How much of the Obama administration’s policies will remain intact? Will Trump make good on his promises to build a wall? Will he revoke DACA or will it simply expire? Will the deportations increase or stay the course? We do not yet know what changes to immigration policy the new administration will bring.

Yet for children I believe that much damage has already been done. Policies that criminalize immigrants and the rhetoric behind them instill fear in children. It is the fear that a loved one will be taken away or those children’s rights to be in the United States will be questioned because they live in a family of immigrants. We saw these policies under the Obama Administration. And yet Trump’s campaign planted even more seeds of fear in children. This past week, children had their fears legitimized in the form of the Presidency. I expect many of the experiences I documented in Everyday Illegal to become ever more common. But perhaps too young children will also become more bold in confronting those fears in days to come, like 6-year-old Sophie Cruz who told the audience of hundreds of thousands at the Women’s March on Washington, in Spanish and English: “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed. I also want to tell the children not to be afraid because we are not alone.”


Joanna Dreby is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University at Albany, SUNY, and the author of Everyday Illegal and Divided by Borders.


An Immigrant’s Identity

The upcoming presidential election has once again brought immigration issues to the forefront of national discussion. From Donald Trump’s border wall to the near-daily stories we hear of racial profiling, candidates and citizens alike are discussing how the lives of Latin American immigrants in the U.S. are complicated by immigration law and reform.

An Identity for Work 

Sarah B. Horton, author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers discusses in her book the impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) on immigrants’ daily lives.

kidneys.hortonScholars of immigration law denaturalize migrant “illegality” by direct­ing our attention to how it is legally produced. Indeed, federal and state policies—specifically, IRCA and the exclusion of undocumented migrants from unemployment insurance—enable and encourage iden­tity loan. The passage of IRCA in 1986 criminalized the employment of undocumented workers, making it illegal for employers to knowingly hire such workers. With the aim of reducing employment as an incen­tive for migration, IRCA requires employers to personally inspect each employee’s documents proving their identity (usually a mica, or green card) and their eligibility for work (a seguro, or Social Security card). Employers must record this information on a federal I-9 form and keep a copy for three years. Although IRCA imposes sanctions on employers who violate its provisions, it contains a loophole that protects employ­ers from such penalties: it does not require them to verify the authentic­ity of employees’ documents. As a result, employers are considered to be complying with the law as long as the documents they accept “appear on their face to be genuine.” Thus while IRCA has done little to curb the employment of undocumented workers, it has created a thriving black market for fraudulent work-authorization documents.

In a Huffington Post article titled “The Hole in Trump’s Wall,” Horton discusses the issues in Donald Trump’s border wall plan. His plan includes mandating e-Verify for all employers. Horton notes that Trump’s “plan does not address the role of employers in getting around immigration laws and providing workers with the documents they need. In fact, just like employer sanctions before it, E-Verify is likely to worsen workplace conditions for all those who work in industries dominated by undocumented workers.”

Forms of Identification

Angela Stuesse, author of Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep Southwent deep into Mississippi’s chicken processing plants and communities, where Latin American migrants, alongside an established African American workforce, continue to work in some of the most dangerous and lowest-paid jobs in the country. Stuesse writes:

Scratching Out a Living StuessePermitted to obtain a driver’s license, I didn’t worry that at a traffic stop I might lose an entire month’s earnings to fines or be detained or deported. I might be pulled over because of my out-of-state license plate, but not likely because of my fair skin and hair. With a social security number, I had a bank account and thus didn’t have to worry that my only savings could be stolen from underneath my mattress. Despite my concerns that I would have a hard time finding affordable rental housing in Forest, I was ultimately able to find a two-bedroom house on an acre of land for far less than most poultry workers pay to share a dilapidated trailer. These privileges of race, class, and citizenship were palpable as I went about my daily life in Mississippi, fighting alongside others in their struggle to access such basic human rights as dignity on the job, a living wage, minimal health and safety protections, affordable housing, and the ability to help their families thrive.

In another Huffington Post article, both Stuesse and Horton discuss the dangers of “Driving While Latino” and the impact of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), which enables “state and local police to investigate, arrest and detain any noncitizen they believe has violated immigration laws—a responsibility previously reserved for federal immigration authorities alone. … This has created a gauntlet of immigrant policing that stretches across the country and operates through the intensified surveillance of immigrants as they go about their daily lives.”

What are your thoughts on current immigration reform?


Horton.photoSarah Bronwen Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver. To learn more about Sarah, please visit http://www.sarahbhorton.com/.

 

 

Stuesse-Author-Photo-2014-146x150Angela Stuesse is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Learn more about Dr. Stuesse here: www.angelastuesse.com/bio/


Immigrant Labor and American Progress

by Ryan Dearinger

This guest post is part of a series published in conjunction with the meeting of the American Historical Association in Atlanta. UC Press authors share insight into their research and stories that reflect this year’s conference theme, “Global Migrations: Empires, Nations, and Neighbors.” We hope these personal glimpses into their scholarship will inspire a broad community of readers. Come back for new posts every day between now and January 10th.

The Filth of Progress CoverImagine the struggle to build an American empire without the use of transcontinental railroads.

If ever public knowledge of a relevant historical topic was needed, it is now. Americans must develop a better understanding of the vital role played by immigrant workers in U.S. society. The historical evidence is clear and convincing. If racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity have always been woven into the fabric of our nation, it is high time that we learn from the experiences of these men and women. We should heed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once remarked that “whenever [people] are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth.”

A decade ago, as I began research on The Filth of Progress, which tells a nineteenth century story of the immigrants who toiled in the muck and mountains to build America’s greatest internal improvements, a fierce debate over immigration gripped the country, influencing politics at every level. Of course, that debate was about much more than immigrants. It encompassed race and ethnicity, culture, religion, labor, citizenship, and more. Today, in the midst of yet another election cycle, politicians and pundits, many of them angered by the increasing diversity of American society, are recycling stories peppered with fear and loathing. Audiences all over the country are interpreting these fabrications as histories, facts, and warnings. The similarities to the nineteenth century debates are eerie, involving only a different cast of characters. At long last, can we learn from our history and live up to America’s professed ideals?

No historian would dispute the fact that migrants from all parts of the world accelerated the building and expansion of America’s continental empire, its major industries and infrastructure. Yet diverse groups of immigrants have recently been depicted as anchor babies, losers, criminals and terrorists who, with no desire to assimilate, have a vested interest in taking Americans’ jobs. Donald Trump’s plan to “take back our country” and “make America great again” involves what he might call internal improvements. Yet he’s not talking about roads and bridges. He’s talking about walls, gigantic walls—physical and cultural ones. Trump’s conservative counterparts have echoed his calls to end birthright citizenship and create all sorts of obstructions to basic human rights. As global migrations to the U.S. continue and America’s political and economic empire expands throughout the world, too many of the nation’s leaders and citizens take pride in being the worst type of neighbors.

The hard-working armies of laborers who dug the canals and spiked the rails that eventually knit together a transcontinental United States were by and large immigrants. The Filth of Progress brings to the forefront the suffering of the Irish, Chinese, and Mormons, each group held in some degree of contempt by “free” and “white” Americans. While I weave a collective narrative of their survival on the economic fringes of society, the book also moves beyond the trenches of construction labor to address the popular writers, artists, and statesmen who performed the important work of celebrating progress. This work was most problematic, because it contested and rewrote history, distancing perceived outsiders from the fruits of their labor and from any scrap of credit or dignity. This was as wrongheaded as the contemporary notion that immigration should be restricted to protect the country and make it great again. Social scientists have thoroughly debunked the myth. Immigration has, in fact, long made America great, creating economic prosperity and cultural vibrancy unparalleled in world history.

As of 2012, over 40 million immigrants resided in America, among them 11.7 million undocumented. Economists have challenged claims such as Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz’s that immigration to the U.S. is an “economic calamity.” Towns, cities, entire regions and their industries have been transformed by the hard work of recent immigrants. Far from crippling economic progress, local and regional economies have benefited from population and consumer growth. Instead of driving down the wages of native-born citizens or taking their jobs, evidence suggests that previous immigrants, not white citizens, are the most at-risk population, for newer immigrants (particularly the undocumented) are funneled into substitutive positions in agriculture, landscaping, and other service industries where they are often willing to work for lower wages. Similar dynamics occurred on the country’s greatest canals and railroads of the nineteenth century—the much heralded symbols of American progress, built by immigrants and outsiders.

Ryan Dearinger is Associate Professor of History at Eastern Oregon University. The Filth of Progress: Immigrants, Americans, and the Building of Canals and Railroads in the West is available now.

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