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.


Day Without Immigrants

Today, immigrants across the country have decided to miss work, skip school, and not shop as part of the “Day without Immigrants” protest. The protest aims to demonstrate the true nature of the economic impact of immigrants in the workforce and in our everyday lives.

Below are some additional titles that share the contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy.

And learn more about how to integrate immigration topics into lecture discussion by using an Immigration Syllabus to foster a broader understanding of immigrants’ impact on U.S. society.

Share using #DayWithoutImmigrants.


Studying Religion in the Age of Trump

This post is adapted from the introduction to a special Forum, Studying Religion in the Age of Trump, published in the Winter 2017 issue of Religion and American Culture. Enjoy free access to the Forum until March 10, 2017. For more RAC content, become an individual subscriber or ask your library to subscribe on your behalf.


There are many ways to interpret the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. From appeals to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments to attacks on the establishment and political correctness, alongside more traditional topics like abortion, religious freedom, and ethics, enough subterranean shifts occurred to flip some states red and elect a populist president.

What role did religion in play in these events? How might this election cause us to rethink some seemingly settled conclusions about religion and politics, religion and race, and religion and gender, among other topics? Finally, what might we learn from the election of 2016 that will alter our questions and further our work over the next several years?

To consider these essential questions and implications, the editors of Religion and American Culture invited prominent scholars across multiple disciplines to share their perspectives via brief essays or “thought pieces.” All of them have published on subjects that have helped us understand different aspects of religion and American culture in ways that shed light on the nature of religion in politics and public life.

Now, more than ever, is an appropriate moment for us to look back at how we arrived at previous conclusions, question which interpretations might suitably be shaken up, and consider where our fields might fruitfully go in the coming years. The scholars and pieces featured in the Special Forum include:

The Redoubt of Racism: The 2016 Presidential Campaign, the Origins of the Religious Right, and Why It Matters
Randall Balmer
Professor of Religion, Dartmouth College

 The Prosperity Gospel and the American Presidency
Kate Bowler
Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity in North America, Duke University

Redefining Evangelicalism in the Age of Trumpism
Anthea Butler
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

An American Contrareformatio
Maura Jane Farrelly
Associate Professor of American Studies, Brandeis University

Return of the Monolith? Understanding the White Evangelical Trump Vote
Wes Markofski
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Carleton College

The Hidden Injuries of Class and Religion
Robert Orsi
Professor of Religion, Northwestern University

Reckoning with American White Christian(ist) Patriarchalism and Multicultural Liberalism
Jerry Z. Park and James Clark Davidson
Associate Professor of Sociology, and Graduate Assistant in Sociology of Religion, Baylor University

The Trump Victory and American Evangelicalism
Matthew Sutton
Professor of History, Washington State University

Priorities in Immigration
Grace Yukich
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Quinnipiac University


What Happens to Undocumented Children & Families in the Trump Era

By Susan J. Terrio, author of Whose Child Am I?: Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody

U.S. Border Patrol apprehension of migrants, Rio Grande Valley Sector near McAllen, Texas. Photo by Michelle Frankfurter.
U.S. Border Patrol apprehend migrants near McAllen, Texas. Photo by Michelle Frankfurter.

Academics, advocates and legal scholars here and abroad expressed alarm at the campaign rhetoric of then presidential candidate Donald Trump, who promised to build a wall on our southern border to keep out “illegals,” to ban Muslims and to create a federal registry to track them, to end humanitarian protections for undocumented youths brought to this country as children, and to round-up and deport 1.9 million unauthorized immigrants. Now in office, Trump is delivering on those promises with a rash of executive orders fueled by his own vision of the nation and a false sense of urgency regarding the threats posed by foreign workers, criminal aliens, and Muslim terrorists.

I wrote Whose Child Am I? to emphasize the dangers of creating two parallel but separate federal systems to manage the increasing numbers of unaccompanied, undocumented Central American and Mexican children who were apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities after fleeing violence at home: preemptive detention in closed facilities and monitored programs and placement in deportation proceedings in immigration courts. I also noted the conflict of interest created when one branch of the government assigns itself as a child’s legal guardian while another branch prosecutes that same child for violating immigration law. Undocumented children currently have no right to funded legal representation in court and are subject to arbitrary placement and release decisions while in custody. The limited rights and humanitarian safeguards they enjoy in federal detention are offset by due process violations, detention with no set endpoint, limited access to pro bono attorneys, and the fear of deportation after release.

Terrio Whose Child Am IAs my book was going to press in 2014, migratory flows of unaccompanied children and undocumented families from Central America exploded. We witnessed desperate migrants running to, not away from, Border Patrol agents. The U.S. has treated this violence-driven refugee crisis as if it were an economic migration problem. The Obama administration responded to the arrival of unprecedented numbers of undocumented children and families with enhanced enforcement and heightened deterrence policies designed to prevent their entry and to remove them rapidly. These included expedited processing that stripped them of basic constitutional protections and exposed them to abuse, the outsourcing of the violent interdiction, detention and deportation of Central Americans to Mexico and Guatemala, and the rapid expansion of detention facilities in the U.S. for both unaccompanied minors and families with children. Despite these policies, in 2016, a record number of unaccompanied minors crossed the border and were detained-77,674.

The large-scale detention and deportation regime can only be expected to continue as Trump’s recent executive orders call for a border wall, robust collaboration between local and federal authorities to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, sanctions against sanctuary cities, and tougher procedures for admitting refugees. We would do well to remember the terrible costs of vicious nativism and anti-immigrant rhetoric in our history. We need to use verifiable facts to expose the Trump administration’s exaggerated threats that justify increasingly restrictive policies and muscular border control.

 


Susan TerrioSusan J. Terrio is is Professor of Anthropology at Georgetown University. In addition to Whose Child Am I?, she is also the author of Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice. 


How Workers Became Criminals Overnight

By Sarah Bronwen Horton, author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers

A phrase tucked into President Trump’s January 25 immigration executive order makes millions of undocumented workers into wanted criminals. The order states that anyone who has engaged in “willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency” is a priority for removal. Chillingly, this phrase can apply to any undocumented immigrant who presents fake work authorization papers and signs a government form—the I-9—, which is required to apply for a job. With the stroke of a pen, President Trump has transformed 8 million undocumented workers—5% of our workforce—into deportable “criminal aliens.”

In industries like agriculture, federal immigration enforcement and the prospect of workplace raids already depress working conditions and enable workplace abuses. By transforming undocumented workers into criminals, Trump’s executive order further jeopardizes their working conditions. It tips the scale even further in employers’ favor by allowing them to reap the benefits of a workforce fearful of being implicated in fraud.

The irony is that a close examination of undocumented immigrants’ workplace conditions shatters the myth that they are “identity thieves.” It is no secret that in industries dependent upon undocumented labor, many supervisors collude with their workers to ensure they are hired. Yet in farm work—an industry that employs the most vulnerable workers—some supervisors go so far as to make workers’ employment conditional upon their working the valid documents of supervisors’ own friends and family.” In They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields, I describe the way that labor supervisors themselves have learned to profit from this arrangement, even as they make their friends and family money.

Employers have a great deal to gain from engaging in document fraud. There is evidence that supervisors gave workers work authorization documents in several of the massive workplace raids at the end of the Bush era—at Pilgrim’s Pride and Agriprocessors, Inc. in 2008. By masking the identities of their undocumented workers, supervisors are able to disguise the presence of “illegal” workers and hide the crime of their hire.

President Trump’s executive order is but the latest in a series of policies since the 1990s that conflate hard-working immigrants with “criminal” scourges. Yet in reality, employers—along with the private prison companies who helped finance Trump’s campaign—reap tremendous profit from undocumented workers’ vulnerability. I wrote my book in large part to show how such criminalization has undermined working conditions for immigrants and those who work alongside them. If President Trump uses his executive order to target undocumented workers for the mere “crime” of working, this would be a gross miscarriage of justice indeed.


Sarah Bronwen Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver. Her work was recently featured in an interview on Colorado Public Radio. Learn more at http://www.sarahbhorton.com/.


Integrating Current Events in Your Courses: Immigration and Latino Studies

Latinos have been integral in the shaping of the U.S. yet their identity is constantly brought into question.

In the wake of the November presidential election and the impending inauguration of Donald Trump, how can you integrate discussions on immigration—particularly from Latin American countries—into your classes?

Help your students understand the effects of today’s political climate. Find new titles for your courses on Immigration or Latino Studies below and click on each title to quickly and easily request an exam copy. Review our exam copy policy. And feel free to email us with questions–we’re here to help!

Select Titles for Your Courses on Immigration and Latino Studies

Almaguer.NewLatinoStudiesReader

The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First Century Perspective edited by Ramon A. Gutierrez & Tomas Almaguer

“[This reader] brings together the most innovative scholarship being generated within history and the social sciences and is surely to become a standard within Latina/o studies courses.” —Raúl Coronado, inaugural President of the Latina/o Studies Association

“They integrate historical, social scientific and cultural studies approaches, which is rarely done in readers.”—Patricia Zavella, UC Santa Cruz

 

Gonzales.LivesInLimbo

Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America by Roberto G. Gonzales

“Superb. . . . An important examination of the devastating consequences of ‘illegality’ on our young people.”—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her

“It will stand as the definitive study of the undocumented coming of age in our midst. It is a book every teacher, every policymaker, indeed every concerned citizen should read and ponder.”—Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, coeditor of Latinos: Remaking America

 

GutmannLesser.GlobalLatinAmericaGlobal Latin America: Into the Twenty-First Century edited by Matthew C. Gutmann and Jeffrey Lesser

“A superb sampling of the cutting edge in connecting approaches across subfields, such as gender studies, Latin American Studies, ethnic studies, and area studies.”—Jerry Dávila, University of Illinois

“The volume is the perfect book for class use in a variety of settings.”—Miguel Angel Centeno, author of State Making in the Developing World

 

 

Boehm.Returned

Returned: Going and Coming in an Age of Deportation by Deborah Boehm

“[Deborah Boehm] challenges sterile depictions of deportations in the media and political debates. This urgent book is a must read.”—Cecilia Menjívar, author of Immigrant Families

“A stellar and nuanced ethnographic exploration of the impact of deportation on Mexican families on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. It is a critical addition to existing work on transnationalism and migration, and required reading for academics and policy makers.”—Susan J. Terrio, author of Judging Mohammed

HighCreatives_ads_rev22 Higher Education


Religion & Immigration in America

The presidential campaign of 2016 will long be remembered for a number of things, perhaps most prominently for its focus on immigrants. Amid Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s call to build a massive wall along our southern border and to halt Muslim immigration, the foreign-born were thrust into the eye of the election storm. But American history is filled with such instances, which is what one might expect of a nation of immigrants (Kennedy) and a nation with the soul of a church (Chesterton). To help us stand back and understand the longer story of religious immigrants’ relationships to other aspects of American life, we offer a special virtual issue featuring five excellent pieces from Religion and American Culture—one Forum and four articles.

READ THE SPECIAL VIRTUAL ISSUE

The artiScreen Shot 2016-10-28 at 1.20.47 PMcles gathered in this virtual issue address immigration across a variety of historical contexts and religious groups: the differences between the religious aspects of the old immigration and the new immigration; the conversion of Irish immigrants from Catholicism to Protestantism in America; how marginalized religious groups strive for national belonging through community service; the transnationalism of the lived religious experiences of many Mexican and Mexican American Catholics; and the revitalization of urban Christianity by collaborative relationships between existing congregations and Asian, Latino, African, and Caribbean immigrants since the 1960s.

These pieces situate immigrants at the heart of American religious life. In doing so, they reveal new and important understandings of the relationship between religion and other aspects of society, which is the purpose of Religion and American Culture. We encourage those studying religion and American culture through the lens of immigrant and transnational faiths to send us your work, as this subject continues to define who we are—and not just at election time.

—Philip Goff, Editor of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis


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/


Making Los Angeles Home: The Integration of Mexican Immigrants in the United States

by Luis Escala, author of Making Los Angeles Home: The Integration of Mexican Immigrants in the United States with Rafael Alarcon and Olga Odgers

This guest post is published during the American Sociological Association conference in Seattle. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on August 23rd.

In recent times, the topic of migration has had a key role within media coverage of the US elections, particularly the case of Mexicans in the US. In this media frenzy, the anti-immigrant narrative has gained considerable significance, emphasizing the allegedly undocumented status of all this population, as well as their never-ending mobile character. While this narrative has gained considerable support among the public, much less attention has been paid to the opinions of sociologists and other scholars who have emphasized not only the contributions of Mexican immigrants to American economy and society, but also the sometimes subtle, sometimes invisible efforts carried out by them to integrate into this nation. This book aims to document the experience of many of these immigrants in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, a key destination point for millions of immigrants from all over the world, as well as to examine and explain the different ways in which this integration takes place.

For the authors, this experience involved multiple complexities that were beyond the traditional approaches on immigrant integration at hand, which led them to analytically split this concept into four different dimensions (economic, social, political, and cultural integrations), aiming to highlight the different traits and paces they involved among Mexicans in the LA region. By the same token, given that immigrant integration involves a process, we considered in our study not one but three different cohorts of Mexican immigrants, from three different regions of origin, whose arrival in LA took place at different times, thus facing different circumstances throughout the Angeleno history during the second half of the twentieth century. In addition, as Mexican scholars who work and live at the Mexican city of Tijuana, in between the American and Mexican Californias, we were aware of the multiple ties these migrants kept with their region and nation of origin, an aspect that definitely shaped their integration experiences.

But why is this important? While different politicians, anchormen, and even scholars have targeted these ties, together with their low socio-economic status, poor educational attainment, and extended undocumented status of Mexican immigrants to portray them as eternal aliens, living self-contained lives that run parallel to American mainstream society, the fact is that becoming Americans have gained considerable centrality for them. Gone were the times when circular migration between Mexican hometowns and a vast array of Californian cities was dominant, and those who arrived before or during 1986 IRCA legalized their status, and the settlement process of these immigrants took place in a vast scale. And even for those Mexicans who arrived later to the US, their aspirations and life projects were oriented towards settling in their new places of destination and integrate into their new societies. The fact was that by the last couple of decades of the twentieth century, the context of Mexican migration to the US had considerably changed, due in part to new immigration policies in the US and their severe enforcement but also to the significant rise of crime and violence in Mexico.

Throughout our interviews, Mexican immigrants provided compelling stories on the ways in which they and their families aim to integrate to the different spheres of their lives in Los Angeles. Working long hours in increasingly precarious jobs, these men and women portray not only the vast array of predicaments they cope with and their strategies to deal with the inherent challenges of living in a hugely extended metropolis, but also their aim of settling down and their quest to become one more in American society. Nevertheless, this aim involves a process that is necessary to examine in detail, for all the complexities it entails: on the one hand, they procure the preservation of their traditional culture; but, on the other, their life courses as immigrants in a new society have led them to a significant redefinition of their social and cultural boundaries.

In this sense, our book comes in handy to an array of audiences in an era in which Nativisms have amplified a particular image of Mexican migrants in the US, while obscuring or even neglecting the relevance of their aspirations to integrate into American society. Both activists and interested readers in the subject, as well as faculty and students in different fields of social sciences will find expert analysis and opinions on the socio-economic and demographic data on the immigrant population of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region, but most of all they will find persuasive arguments through the voices of the Mexican men and women interviewed for the writing of this book.


Rafael Alarcón has a PhD in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley and is a professor and researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Luis Escala has a PhD in sociology from UCLA and is a professor and researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Olga Odgers has a PhD in sociology from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales-Paris and is a professor and researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte.


Brexiteers and the Sheer Cliff into the Unknown

This post was originally featured in Social AnthropologyAnthropologie Sociale, the journal for the European Association of Social Anthropologists, and has been reblogged with the permission of the author and Social Anthropology.”

by Ruben Andersson, author of Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine Migration and the Business of Bordering Europe

Amid Brexit hysteria, the academic temptation may be to hide behind the ‘expert’ mask so derided by the nasty Leave campaign. But besides their dismissiveness, there’s a bigger problem looming for UK-based scholars: our deep personal involvement. As an ‘EU migrant’ studying migration, I’m also caught up in the free fall of Brexit – comically depicted by the New Yorker in the shape of John Cleese silly-walking off the white cliffs of Dover, yet frightening all the same as the world around seems consumed in panic.

Andersson.IllegalityInc

Instead of offering ‘expert analysis’ on migration, then, I’d rather write about the emotional charge of this political moment. Let’s start with anger: at the prime minister and his selfish, simplistic referendum; at the mendacity of Brexiteer politicians now covering their tracks; and at UK newspapers that have spouted hatred of migrants and Europe for years only now to cash in on the turmoil. Next follows a rather continental Schadenfreude. Gloat at the dimwits! Look what you just did! However, chuckling at the madness on Twitter does not protect against another emotion – anxiety, roiled into fear. Which other countries may jump off the cliff towards the 1930s-style mayhem on the rocks below? And where do I stand in this migrant-bashing season as a white northern European? The Murdoch-owned Sun publishes pictures of East European shops while Polish migrants are attacked and called ‘vermin’; research colleagues receive hate mail while ‘foreign-looking’ people are abused in the street. Meanwhile, employers (including my own) assure ‘non-UK staff’ that they remain valued. I have lived in London longer than I care to remember yet never before have I felt that invisible line drawn between my colleagues and myself. A chill wind sets in – this is visceral and real in a way that I until now have experienced vicariously, through the undocumented African migrants among whom I have worked.

This emotional dislocation mirrors that of my enfranchised neighbours. Set aside the racism fanned by the media and politicians, and it is clear that both sides’ anger, gloating, anxiety and fear keep feeding off one another. One Twitter meme reads: ‘Of course foreigners steal your job. But maybe if someone without contacts, money, or speaking the language steals your job, you’re shit.’ In this callous rejection, repeated everyday in myriad forms in class-divided Britain, fear can easily be whipped into hatred.

Yet as we’re all buffeted by political emotions, social science remains curiously underinvested in exploring them. This includes ‘migration studies’, where academics including myself often veer towards the bigger picture, assuaging fear by numbers or offering detailed critiques of migration policy. This is all fine, but we also need a broader lens. Not in the least, we need to craft a better ethnographic understanding of how anger, anxiety, fear and hatred blow through communities, of who fans the flames and who reaps the whirlwind. We need deeper analyses of how destructive emotions globalise and propagate, and how they attach to objects and people: be they refugees, borders, ‘EU migrants’ or Brexiteers stepping over that sheer cliff into the unknown.


Ruben Andersson is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of International Development, London School of Economics and Political Science, and an associated researcher at the Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University.