Thursday, December 20, 2018

“Politics of Immigration” Co-author Featured in Swiss Weekly

Jane Guskin is quoted extensively in an article run in August by the Swiss German-language newsweekly WOZ. The full article is available in German at

Below is a translation of the section where Guskin is quoted.

The "Coming Out" of an Undocumented Immigrant

Ever since Donald Trump became US President, the eleven million paperless people have been living in greater fear than ever before. A lot is at stake, especially for undocumented youths like Cecilia.

By Caspar Shaller, WOZ
August 16, 2018
...Many [undocumented immigrants] have had bad experiences with going public, says Jane Guskin. She researches global migration at the City University of New York, has been active in the asylum rights movement since the 1980s, and is co-author of the book The Politics of Immigration, which is considered a standard leftist reference book on US immigration policy. She suggests meeting in a Bengali restaurant in Queens, the urban district with the highest foreign-born population density in the country.

"When Daca was introduced, there was great skepticism in the community," says Guskin. "To qualify, you had to tell the state where you live and work, where you go to school." Many were afraid that this information could be used against them. "It turns out they were right," says Guskin grimly. "Some people go to the immigration office for their annual appointment and are picked up and deported by the ICE agency!"

American media are full of reports of the consequences of this uncertainty: Mexican citizens storm the consulates to renew their passports so they can quickly leave the US in an emergency. The head of a large New York hospital reported at a press conference that migrants were shunning health care institutions. Instead, they would place injured or sick relatives in front of the emergency room door and run away. And because the hurdles are high, the number of new applications for Daca has fallen sharply. "It costs $ 500 to apply. How can you pay for it if you have to work off the books?" Guskin asks. In addition, the forms are so complex that only lawyers can fill them out.

Anyway, Daca is just a poor compromise, says the longtime activist Guskin. There is no path to naturalization. No one is really willing to improve the legal situation of migrants. For decades the Republicans have been presenting themselves as protectors of an idealized America "from the foreign hordes," but in practice they have shown increasing interest in allowing a steady influx of cheap labor -- "completely disenfranchised, of course," says Guskin. "No one sets up a union or demands a minimum wage if the boss can threaten to call the immigration police."

This deception of the xenophobic Republican base was one of the reasons for Trump's electoral success. The Democrats, on the other hand, like to see themselves as defenders of minorities. But in reality, hardly any concrete action followed the inclusive rhetoric. At most there might be some little goodies before elections, if Democrats wanted to secure the votes of Latinos and Latinas. This is one of the reasons why many young migrants feel that the concept of "Dreamers" has become politically exploited. In the last elections less Latinas and Latinos voted for Hillary Clinton than expected.

"Obama, a Democrat, was the president who has deported the most people in US history," says Guskin. During his tenure, more than three million people were expelled. These mass deportations, the extension of the prison system and the militarization of the borders do not make Obama appear in the eyes of many migrants as the savior he is for many liberal Americans. He even introduced a fingerprint for migrants. The director of a migration organization told the New York Review of Books magazine: "Obama built this machine and then handed the keys to a maniac."...

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