Sunday, December 29, 2019

Bernie Sanders’ Immigration Platform

Bernie Sanders’ campaign released the senator’s immigration platform on November 7. The candidates’ immigration plan is easily the most progressive and most detailed presented by any candidate in this election cycle, and represents a significant advance over Sanders’ stance four years earlier.

Predictably, media coverage focused more on electoral strategy than on the important immigration issues raised in the platform. The immigration issues that the media did discuss were generally the ones the political class considers hot-button questions—abolish ICE? open borders? decriminalize unauthorized entry?—not demands for amnesty and a repeal of  the 1996 laws, the demands that have the greatest impact on immigrant families and communities.

The Sanders platform has the potential to be far more than an electoral ploy. While not perfect, it’s a major step towards getting a wider public to rethink the United States’ entire approach to immigration. 

Below we describe some of the best media coverage.

Vox’s Nicole Narea and Tara Golshan produced a fairly comprehensive summary of the platform in their article, “Bernie Sanders’s immigration plan puts the rights of workers into focus.” As the title indicates, Narea and Golshan note Sanders’ emphasis on undocumented immigrants as workers who are denied their labor rights. The Vox writers also note Sanders’ support for amnesty and his pledge to end Trump’s anti-asylum measures, notably MPP/”Remain in Mexico,” by executive action. But they don’t mention two other major commitments: to repealing the 1996 immigration laws and to addressing the root causes of immigration in US foreign policy.

In The Nation, John Washington’s “Bernie’s Immigration Plan Is Good” makes several important points. While the Vox coverage treats Sanders’ emphasis on labor rights simply as “part of his signature issue of workers’ rights,” Washington also notes that immigration and labor exploitation “cannot be untangled,” just as immigrant rights can’t be treated separately from the struggle against racism. Another important point from Washington: the Sanders platform was largely written by immigrant rights activists rather than by politicians and think tank analysts. Strangely, though, he omits any mention of the platform’s positions on repealing the 1996 laws and on turning back Trump’s attack on asylum.

Bernie Sanders’s New Immigration Proposal Is Incredibly Strong,” by Daniel Denvir in Jacobin also passes over the asylum issue. However, Denvir stresses the organizing potential of the platform’s platform on workers’ rights: “by emphasizing that immigrants are core to the working class rather than a threat to it, Sanders strengthens the multiracial coalition that is this country’s only hope for transformative change.” Denvir also notes that the Sanders approach addresses the US government’s role in creating the conditions that force people to leave their countries. “[W]e must remake the global economy and deliver economic justice,” Denvir writes, “so that people are free to not migrate and stay put if they choose.”

Bernie Sanders’s immigration plan: a response from the front-lines of struggle,” by Lupita Romero at Puntorojo also stresses Sanders’ commitment to addressing the US foreign policies that lie at the heart of much immigration here. Romero, who is an undocumented immigrant herself, emphasizes a point that Washington makes: that Sanders' platform “is the only one truly tapping into the demands of the immigrant rights movement and the popular sentiment for defending and strengthening civil rights.”

But Romero also brings up an issue missed by most coverage: that Sanders’ platform can be used as a starting point for grassroots organizing "through and beyond" the 2020 election. “[C]oalitions and organizing committees should be formed now.” Romero writes. “We should be calling for the abolition of ICE and the DHS, for the repeal of the ‘Illegal Immigration Act of 1996,’ and for active opposition to US intervention in Latin America.”

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Media Step Up MPP Coverage—What's Next?

Asylum seekers in Mexico. Photo: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./Texas Tribune
Dara Lind, an investigative reporter covering immigration at ProPublica, noted in a tweet on November 22 “how mind-boggling it is that the mass pushback of people to Mexico, in conditions like this & staggering rates of crime victimization, hasn't become a major news story/outrage magnet yet.”

Lind was referring to the administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also known as “Remain in Mexico.” After a slow start near the beginning of the year, MPP has now forced some 60,000 asylum seekers into Mexico to wait for their claims to be processed—more than the total number of immigrants the U.S. is holding in immigration detention. MPP is one of the most significant of the administration’s efforts to end the asylum system that the U.S. created in 1980.

Lind is right: MPP has failed to spark the level of outrage that met the family separation policy in June 2018. There are various reasons for this, including the program’s initially slow rollout and the political class’s focus since September on the Ukraine crisis, but there are hopeful signs, especially in the corporate media. The past few weeks have brought a number of powerful articles on the subject, along with op-eds, opinion columns, a report from Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office, and an hour-long presentation on NPR’s This American Life. Some of this coverage is listed below.

So what can we do to bring more attention to this ongoing atrocity?

The recent media reports can be a useful tool in reaching out to activists. MPP is actually the biggest and cruelest of the Trump administration’s many attacks on migrants: protests would be inevitable if more people understood this. Influential politicians could also help. Sen. Merkley and Rep. Nanette Barrgan have brought attention to the issue: imagine the impact if Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who are both on the record opposing the program—sent out a few tweets highlighting the horrors of MPP.

Recent Articles and Other Reports on MPP/“Remain in Mexico”:  

“In scathing manifesto, an asylum officer blasts Trump’s cruelty to migrants,” Washington Post, November 12, 2019:
“Merkley Releases Sweeping Report on Trump’s Gutting of Asylum, Including Direct Evidence of Grave Whistleblower Concerns,” Senator Merkley press release, November 14, 2019:
“Tents, stench, smoke: Health risks are gripping migrant camp,” AP, November 14, 2019:
“US Border Officials Pressured Asylum Officers To Deny Entry To Immigrants Seeking Protection, A Report Finds,” BuzzFeed News, November 15, 2019:
“The Out Crowd,” This American Life, November 15, 2019:
“Asylum officers rebel against Trump policies they say are immoral and illegal,” Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2019:
“Migrants stuck in lawless limbo within sight of America,” AP, November 17, 2019:
“‘Remain in Mexico’ policy faces internal critiques at House hearing,” Roll Call, November 19, 2019:
“My city used to welcome refugees. ‘Remain in Mexico’ means we can’t anymore.” Washington Post, November 19, 2019:
“In squalid Mexico tent city, asylum seekers are growing so desperate they’re sending their children over the border alone,” Washington Post, November 22, 2019:
“At Migrant Camp in Mexico, Crowds and Complaints Swell,” Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2019:
“Desperate Asylum-Seekers Stuck In Mexico Are Sending Their Children Across The US Border Alone,” BuzzFeed News, November 25, 2019:
“For Migrants In Nuevo Laredo, ‘Remain In Mexico’ Means Remain In Danger,” Texas Public Radio, November 27, 2019:
“Immigrants Sent Back To Mexico Are Not Getting Adequate Health Care, And Doctors Are Worried,” BuzzFeed News, November 27, 2019:
“New from the Mother Jones Podcast: Trump Is Winning His Border Wars. For Now.” Mother Jones, November 27, 2019:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Viewpoint: Vote No on the PSC-CUNY Contract: 7K or Strike

By Jane Guskin, Labor Notes
November 7, 2019
The Professional Staff Congress, American Federation of Teachers Local 2334, reached a tentative agreement in October on a new contract with the City University of New York (CUNY). The agreement covers 30,000 workers at the university, including part- and full-time faculty, professional staff, lab technicians, graduate employees, and more. Below we publish a piece arguing for a no vote on the agreement. See the argument for a yes vote here.

What’s wrong with the PSC tentative agreement?

The proposed contract capitulates to New York state’s austerity budget for public higher education, hurting CUNY students and workers. While the PSC leadership is enthusiastically promoting this proposed agreement as a victory, its salary gains remain far below the original bargaining demands. Concessions like an increase in adjuncts’ workloads and elimination of our seniority salary steps would be difficult to reverse in future contracts.[…]

Read the full article:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Open Forum: The Politics of Immigration, Questions and Answers

Join authors Jane Guskin & David L. Wilson for a participatory discussion of themes from their book, The Politics of Immigration.

Thursday, November 21, 2019
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

In The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers, Guskin and Wilson explore the intersection of migration, race, labor, politics and social change. The authors will share insights and selections from the book while engaging the audience in an interactive exchange of ideas. Bring your questions and an open mind.

Organized by:
Free and open to the public, but RSVP here:

Sunday, October 6, 2019

They Fled Gang Violence And Domestic Abuse. An NYC Immigration Judge Denied Them Asylum

[This article is a useful answer to people who cite asylum denial rates to claim asylum seekers are all economic immigrants, that they're coached, etc. WNYC’s Beth Fertig  shows how the systems stacked against migrants, even the ones lucky enough to have legal representation.—TPOI editor]

By Beth Fertig, WNYC
September 26, 2019
Seventeen year-old Josue and his mom, Esperanza, were visibly drained. They had just spent more than four hours at their asylum trial inside an immigration court at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, answering questions from their attorney and a government lawyer. We are withholding their full names to protect their identities because they’re afraid.

“It was exhausting,” said Josue, whose angular haircut was neatly combed for the occasion. In Spanish, he told us the judge seemed nice but, “you feel bad if you don’t know if you are going to be allowed to stay or if you have to go.”[…]

Read the full article:
Josue and Esperanza. Photo: Beth Fertig/WNYC

Thursday, October 3, 2019

They Say They Support “Legal Immigration.” They Don’t.

Pro-immigrant banner at Mets game. Photo: Rise and Resist
The evening of September 7 protesters from Rise and Resist dropped a banner at a Mets game reading: “Immigrants Make Baseball Great.” When they tweeted out a video of the action, the usual suspects responded with tweets about “legal immigrants.”

This is a standard response from the right wing. The irony is that for the past two and a half years the Trump administration’s focus has been on cutting legal immigration. The travel ban was about excluding legal immigrants who were Muslim. The measures against asylum seekers target people exercising their legal right to apply for asylum (which they have even if they “entered without inspection”). The “sh--hole countries” remark was about legal immigrants from African countries. So it’s blatantly dishonest for the right to bring up legality when the goal is really just to exclude certain people.

We need to keep exposing this hypocrisy every time we encounter it.

But is this really worth the effort? Many people simply use the term “illegal” as a code word to disguise their racism; they give themselves away when they say someone “looks illegal.” But some are actually confused and think they are upholding an idea of the United States as a “nation of laws,” and it’s important to keep the issue clear: the right wing’s agenda is limiting all immigration—legal or otherwise—by poor people of color.

Note: John Oliver has provided an informative guide to the Byzantine process for getting legal immigration status. 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Employers increase their profits and put downward pressure on wages and labor standards by exploiting migrant workers

[This article from the Economic Policy Institute makes a crucial point that’s often missing from discussions of immigration: U.S. workers aren’t harmed by the presence of undocumented workers and guest workers; the problem is the super-exploitation of foreign-born workers, and the solution is ending the policies that enable this super-exploitation.—TPOI editor]

By Daniel Costa, Economic Policy Institute
August 27, 2019
In recent decades, far too much of our immigration policy apparatus has ignored the interests of workers—immigrants and U.S.-born workers alike. This apparatus has instead been weaponized to suppress wages for employers’ gain. Immigration is an area of policy where a few simple solutions could result in major improvements to labor standards for all workers—but these solutions are blocked by low-road employers who benefit from today’s anti-worker system.

To be clear, the challenge posed to U.S. workers is not the simple presence of migrant workers in the labor market; instead, it is the legal framework that makes these workers exploitable.[…]

Read the full article:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Ursula Levelt, Presente!

Ursula Levelt, 1959-2019
[Our friend Ursula Levelt died of cancer on July 7. In addition to her work for labor rights, Ursula was a powerful advocate for immigrants—here in the United States and in her native Netherlands. Below is a tribute from Transit Workers Union Local 100, where she was legal director, along with a link to an article Ursula wrote for openDemocracy in 2014.TPOI editor] 

TWU Mourns Ursula Levelt, Retired Director of the Local 100 Legal Department

TWU Local 100 sadly reports the passing of long-time in-house attorney and labor activist, Ursula Levelt.  She died on July 7, 2019 of cancer in her beloved Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  She had moved back there recently to spend her final days in the place of her birth.  She was 60 years old. Her husband, Bill, informed the union of her death, saying: “Ursula was dedicated to the labor movement and to TWU Local 100.  She remembered the many friends and comrades there that she had worked with and fought for over the many years.”[…]

Read the full obituary:

Can “the people” truly set the agenda?

By Ursula Levelt, openDemocracy
May 21, 2014
Although the human rights movement has long been a project of elites, many are working to change this story. Earlier on openGlobalRights, James Ron and colleagues argued that to combat the movement’s elitist slant, human rights organizations should foster grassroots movements worldwide, and human rights in general should be more mass-based. In contrast, Felipe Cordero noted that human rights groups need the support of powerful people and should work with elites as much as possible. Amnesty International’s Steve Crawshaw argued we should not falsely polarize elites and the masses; both are needed, and are mutually dependent.[…]

Read the full article:

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The US Has “Disappeared” More Than 42,000 Migrants. Where’s the Outrage?

Trump’s most insidious immigration program is operating under the radar

By David L. Wilson, Truthout
September 14, 2019
The most successful of Trump’s anti-immigrant measures up until now — and possibly the most vicious — hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves.

In operation since late January, Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), originally called “Remain in Mexico,” allows the U.S. government to push most non-Mexican asylum seekers into Mexico once immigration officials have cleared them to make an asylum claim. As of early September, the number of people forced into Mexico under MPP had reportedly risen to more than 42,000.[…]

Read the full article:
Immigration protest, Grand Central, NYC. Photo: Karla Ann Cote/Nurphoto/Getty Images

Friday, August 23, 2019

ICE Raids Benefit Bosses by Creating Fear in Workers

ICE raid in Los Angeles. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/LAT via Getty Images
In 2000, an immigration official admitted that the authorities rarely detained undocumented workers “unless the employer turns a worker in, and employers usually do that only to break a union or prevent a strike or that kind of stuff.”

David L. Wilson, Truthout
August 23, 2019
On August 7, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents carried out coordinated raids at seven agricultural processing plants in Mississippi, detaining 680 immigrant workers. Officials told The Washington Post that the operation was “the largest single-state workplace enforcement action in U.S. history.”

The massive operation generated terror in immigrant communities already traumatized by a massacre targeting people of Mexican origin in El Paso, Texas, days earlier, and much of the U.S.-born population was outraged by images of detained workers’ sobbing children.

As has happened after workplace raids in the past, news accounts noted that the employers remained free while their workers were led off to migrant jails in handcuffs.[…]

Read the full article:

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Understanding Trump’s Deportation Raids

[The Trump administration says mass deportation raids will start on June 23. This article from shortly after the 2016 elections seems relevant now. It explained that as a government with only minority support, Trump’s administration would need raids as a way to distract attention from its failures to fulfill the president’s populist promises.

In fact, the White House has carried out a number of mass raids in cities and has restarted the huge workplace raids from the George W. Bush era, although the 2016 article overstated the White House’s ability to carry these raids out. Partly this has been due to the administration’s own incompetence, but a more important factor has been popular resistance—which may have a major impact on this new round of raids. (The article also has a factual error: John Kelly was the third general to head up immigration services, not the second.)—TPOI editor.]

Trump’s Deportation Machine

By David L. Wilson, Jacobin
December 19, 2016
Like so much about the incoming administration, president-elect Donald Trump’s intentions for undocumented immigrants remain unclear. But he seems likely to go forward with a substantial program of “getting them out of our country.”[…]

Read the full article:
Photo: nflravens / Flickr

Friday, June 14, 2019

If San Pedro Sula Is Murder Capital of the World, Who Made It That Way?

One of San Pedro Sula's poorest barrios.  Photo: David Bacon
[Many people here continue to say they sympathize with Central American asylum seekers but that horrific conditions in their countries aren’t a U.S. problem. Here veteran journalist David Bacon focuses on just one city, San Pedro Sula, and the way U.S. policies have in fact made it "a vast, American-owned sweatshop."—TPOI editor]

By David Bacon, The American Prospect
June 13, 2019
A 30-second search on the internet produces at least two dozen stories from U.S. newspapers and other media about San Pedro Sula in Honduras. "Honduran City is World Murder Capital," announces Fox News. Business Insider calls it "the most violent city on earth."  In an attempt to explain the motivation for migrant caravans traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border, NPR labels it "one of the most violent cities in the world."

This wave of media attention has been going on for at least half a decade, as tens of thousands of Hondurans arrive at the border seeking refuge. President Trump's rhetoric portraying the caravans as a threat has focused even more attention on this Honduran city.[…]

Read the full article:

Thursday, June 13, 2019

James D. Cockcroft, 1935-2019

Cockcroft addresses Mexican electric workers in 2009. Photo: Heriberto Rodríguez
[Our friend James Cockcroft, author of numerous books on Latin America and other subjects, passed away on April 16. Below are links to an obituary from his website and a tribute from his brother George Cockcroft, the novelist who writes as Luke Rhinehart.—TPOI editor]

James Donald Cockcroft, 83, of Montréal, QC, passed away on 16 April, 2019, after a hard fought battle with bladder cancer.

James was born on October 26, 1935 to Donald Griswald Cockcroft and Elizabeth Lillian Powers in Albany, NY. After attending Albany Military Academy, he attended Cornell University, graduating in 1957 in Philosophy and English, then receiving his M.A. at Stanford University, 1964 (English) and his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1966 (Sociology, History, Political Science, with a Latin America /U.S./ Europe/ Development focus).[…]

Read the full obituary:

Well, my brother Jim edged me out to the finish line today, dying of stage 4 bladder cancer. Jim and I were about as close as two brothers can ever be, both in childhood and in later life even after we both had established families.

We were close in childhood because our father died when we were both under nine years old, leaving us with only each other to play sports and spend our time with, having no other male figures to relate to.[…]

Read the full post:

Monday, May 27, 2019

Families For Freedom: What Will the Strategy Be?

Families For Freedom Newsletter
May 24, 2019
On the immigrant rights frontline, in this current landscape, it is seriously difficult to win and to hold down that win, solely with a legal strategy. For when we do gain a win, the system finds ways to take it back or neuter it. There needs to be a parallel political strategy, which cannot just be of the electoral type, and it must be intentionally informed by those who are, and will be, directly affected by any result of the strategy, to bring true value to it. As obvious as that may seem, we more often than not, have found ourselves “attacking walled cities” according to Sun Tzu’s (Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher) analysis on strategies.

Metaphorically, our “walled cities” are the Courts, which are being fortified at an accelerated and alarming rate with some hardened and odious men and materials, none more so than at the Supreme Court. The somewhat muted response that followed the Supreme Court’s recent decision on Nielsen v. Preap gives sound to the belief that Justice Alito’s superfluous analysis laid a minefield that would prevent or pervert any other attempt to get that close to their wall again.[…]

To read more, subscribe here.
FFF and CAAAV marching during National Day of Action (2018-6-30)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

La Colusión del Presidente Trump con la Migración Forzosa/Trump’s Collusion With Forced Migration

La Colusión del Presidente Trump con la Migración Forzosa
Por Elvira Arellano
18 de mayo, 2019
El padre Alejandro Solalinde estuvo en Chicago el fin de semana pasado para dar una plática sobre su nuevo libro, un libro que recomiendo que todos mis lectores lean. El largo y duradero compromiso de Solalinde con los migrantes, acompañado por su fe inspiradora, lo han convertido en una voz integra en la confusión y ruido del punto muerto entre los migrantes centroamericanos y la inhumanidad de la administración de Trump.

Acordamos que es necesario hallar una nueva manera de dirigirnos al asunto de la migración centroamericana, e inclusive nuevas maneras de proteger a las miles de familias obligadas a huir de Honduras por la combinación de la violencia del gobierno y de los narcotraficantes, y la política económica de hambre.[…]

Trump’s Collusion with Forced Migration
By Elvira Arellano
May 18, 2019
Alejandro Solalinde was in Chicago this week speaking about his new book—which I highly recommend to all my readers. Solalinde’s long and enduring commitment to migrants, accompanied by his inspiring faith, have made him the voice of integrity amidst all the noise and confusion of the current stand-off at the border between Central American migrants and the inhumanity of the Trump administration.

We agreed that we must find a new way to address the issue of Central American migration and new ways to protect the thousands of families forced to leave Honduras by the combination of government and cartel violence and starvation economics.[…]

Lea el artículo completo/read the full article:ón-del-presidente-trump-con-migración-forzosa-coleman

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Taxing Students and Promoting “Merit-Based” Immigration: The Connection

Does Trump want skilled immigrants... (Photo: Platt/Getty)

On May 17 President Trump used a Rose Garden speech to promote changes to the immigration law that would reduce the number of family-reunification green cards (which Trump calls “chain migration” visas) available to foreigners while increasing the number of employment-based green cards (“merit-based visas,” according to Trump). In other words, the United States would bring in many more highly educated immigrants than currently.

Many or most would undoubtedly work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

On the same day the New York Times happened to run an article by Erica L. Green explaining how the GOP’s massive 2017 tax package “drastically raised the tax rate on so-called unearned income for children with assets and young adults in school”—that is, basically for “[s]tudents with large financial aid packages.” The article refers to the new tax burden on poorer college and graduate students as an “unintended consequence,” but in fact the same reporter pointed to this likely consequence back in November 2017, before the tax bill became law.

It may be a coincidence that Green’s article came out on the same day as Trump’s “merit-based immigration” speech, but the reality is that the two GOP policies are closely linked, as Politics of Immigration co-author David Wilson explained in November 2017. The tax burden discourages U.S.-born youths from enrolling in higher education while intensifying employment-based immigration “would bring in a still greater proportion of [foreign-born] college graduates,” he wrote then.

"In other words, people who match the profile of the students driven out of careers in science and technology by the House tax bill. Are the Republicans seeing these immigrants as replacements for US-born STEM workers? replace US STEM workers? (Photo: Piacquadio/Getty) 
"Of course this seems to contradict the politicians’ often expressed concern for 'middle-class Americans,' but it makes a lot of sense from the point of view of corporate America. After all, producing a homegrown physicist or software engineer requires a considerable investment of resources; immigrant STEM workers come with an education that was largely provided by their countries of origin, often at public expense."

Read the full article here:

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Excerpt: What Happens to Immigrants Accused of Backing the MEK?

John Bolton with MEK leader. Photo: Sipa USA via AP
Recent coverage in the New York Times and other media has highlighted the connection between U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and a radical Iranian group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Many U.S. political figures have been associated with the group over the years, even though the U.S. government listed it as terrorist organization from 1999 to 2012. Apparently none of these political figures have suffered any consequences for their friendship with the MEK, which pays very high speaking fees. But what happens to immigrants accused of MEK ties?

We deal with this question in chapter 8 of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers, “Are Immigrants a Threat?”

U.S. immigration officials detained the Mirmehdi brothers, four Iranians living in Southern California, for nearly four years, claiming they were members of a terrorist group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Two of the brothers had attended a June 1997 demonstration in Denver organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCR), a coalition linked to the MEK. It wasn’t until four months later, in October 1997, that the State Department added the MEK to its list of terrorist organizations.

The NCR continued to enjoy the support of at least two hundred members of the U.S. Congress, even after the State Department added the coalition to the terrorist list in 1999, claiming it was another name for the MEK. When the NCR held a rally in front of the United Nations in New York in September 2000, Missouri’s two Republican senators sent a written statement of solidarity that was read aloud to the crowd. One of the two senators was John Ashcroft, who became attorney general in 2002 and fought to block the Mirmehdi brothers’ release on bond. A Justice Department spokesperson later claimed Ashcroft’s statement of solidarity did not “intend to endorse any organization.”

The Mirmehdi brothers were finally released in March 2005, a month after Ashcroft left office and as their case began to draw wider media attention. “This shouldn’t happen in the United States,” Mostafa Mirmehdi said of his family’s ordeal. “If it took place in Iran, I would expect it, but I came here for freedom.”

[We’re occasionally posting excerpts from the second edition of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers. You can order here or from your favorite bookseller.]

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

More Than 200 Immigration Policy Changes Under Trump: MPI

In just two years, the Trump administration has made more than two hundred policy changes affecting immigration, according to a 41-page report written by Sarah Pierce and published by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) this month. These changes—implemented in areas where the executive branch can act without Congressional approval—constitute “one of the most assertive agendas on immigration in modern times,” Pierce writes.

Some of new policies, like the Muslim ban and the separation of families, have received widespread coverage, but most have garnered little attention; the media and even immigration policy experts have been overwhelmed by the sheer number. Many of the changes, including the ones overlooked by the media, have serious consequences for immigrants and their communities. Examples include former attorney general Jeff Sessions’ imposition of industrial-style speedup on immigration judges and his efforts to limit their ability to exercise discretion.

While most of the changes appear aimed at limiting immigration—a major goal of the administration—others seem merely petty and cruel. For instance, a December 2017 memo “eliminates prior language instructing judges to use the ‘best interests of the child’ standard to ensure that a case involving a minor takes place in ‘child appropriate’ hearing environment.” In other words, judges are not supposed to make allowances for the infants and toddlers that current immigration law forces to attend court hearings.
The report, Immigration-Related Policy Changes in the First Two Years of the Trump Administration, is an invaluable resource for anyone concerned about immigration policy and it effects.

Download the full report:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

A Progressive U.S. Policy Must Extend Beyond Open Borders

Opening the borders is a realistic policy proposal, but we need to view it as inseparable from the broader progressive agenda.

By David L. Wilson, Truthout
April 13, 2019
Two recent articles — by Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times and Khury Petersen-Smith in Foreign Policy In Focus — make the case that U.S. progressives need to embrace open borders as a policy. Petersen-Smith adds that they should support it “without apology.”

It would certainly seem natural for leftists to support the right to migrate. After all, the socialist movement’s historic slogan has been “Workers of all lands unite,” and its anthem is “The Internationale.” But in the past few years, a number of people on the left have come out against the concept.[…]

Read the full article:
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Monday, April 8, 2019

Two New Articles on Open Borders

Scare stories about “open borders” get published a lot; some even claim to be from the left. Here are two recent articles that make actual progressive arguments for open borders.

Brianna Rennix’s “The Case for Opening Our Borders” is generally excellent, but it’s mostly about sensible immigration reform proposals the Democrats might be persuaded to adopt. Actually opening borders requires more: looking at migration’s root causes and their relation to US policies affecting neighboring countries. Suzy Lee’s piece makes the important point that support for immigrant rights is crucial for all working-class organizing, contrary to the restrictionist ideas of labor bureaucrats in the Gompers model. But she seems to miss the fact that a major source of downward pressure on the wages of native-born workers is anti-immigrant measures like raids and employer sanctions—measures that, ironically, are sold to workers as a way to reduce immigration.
Photo: No More Deaths
The Case for Opening Our Borders
Democrats cannot have it both ways. If you oppose jailing and exiling people for crossing an invisible line, you must be in favor of significantly opening our borders. Fortunately, that’s fine.

By Brianna Rennix, In These Times
March 21, 2019
Democrats and Republicans have long forged a de facto policy consensus on immigration. Yes, Democrats condemn Trump’s wall and his family separation policy, but they pivot to talk about security and control in ways indistinguishable from GOP talking points.

On January 3, their first day in power, House Democrats passed a spending bill that included$1.3 billion in new border fencing, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) touted as “smart, effective border security.” […]

Read the full article:

The Case for Open Borders
…[A] call for open borders based on appeals to morality and liberal values will not attract workers motivated by economic concerns. This essay shows the possibility of a strategy calling for open borders and immigrant rights based on workers’ material interests, not just moral pleas.

By Suzy Lee, Catalyst
Winter 2019
The politics of immigration poses one of the most important challenges to the US left today. While the public discourse, with demands for a wall or the panic over a migrant caravan, may be hyperbolic, it only sharpens venerable themes that have structured the debate for a half-century: a nativist movement that sees immigration as a cultural and economic threat, set against an immigrants’ rights movement that argues for a more inclusive and liberal orientation.[...]

Read the full article:

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Ignore the Evidence: the “Invasion” Story, Continued

The Hype. Montage: BBC
Unauthorized immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border is now the lowest it’s been in the past 25 years, Center for Migration Studies (CMS) demographer Robert Ewing wrote in February, citing reports from the CMS and the Pew Research Center. The current undocumented population is estimated at 10.7 million, down more than a million since 2010.

We might expect this finding to appear in a few headlines, especially at a time when President Trump has declared a national emergency on the basis of a supposed security crisis at the southwestern border. Instead, the U.S. media went with headlines like “February had highest total of undocumented immigrants crossing U.S. border in 12 years.” Some of the articles did note that even with the one-month increase, border apprehensions remain dramatically lower than they were in 2000, but this was unlikely to offset the effect of the headlines.

And few noted a point made by University of Illinois at Chicago Latin American and Latino Studies professor Adam Goodman in a twitter thread: many of the undocumented immigrants were asylum seekers that government agents turned away at ports of entry, “forcing them to (a) wait in precarious conditions and in violation of domestic and international law, or (b) or cross the border without authorization.”

“By inflating apprehension statistics,” Goodman goes on, “officials simultaneously (a) create the notion of a surge or invasion at the border, (b) call attention to the need for additional funding, and (c) celebrate DHS's ‘accomplishments.’” The administration then releases the “inflated statistics with hope that mainstream media outlets will pick them up, in turn reinforcing [the administration’s] desired political narrative.” If the media take the bait, the government sends out “inflammatory email blasts citing media reports of the inflated statistics [it] circulated as evidence of a CRISIS AT THE BORDER that constitutes a national emergency.”

Unfortunately, there’s an ongoing problem with the corporate media allowing the White House to create hysteria about asylum seekers at the border—despite Trump’s routine assistance that the “fake news” media are mistreating him. In reality, Trump owes a lot to the media outlets: all the way through the 2016 they failed to push back on repeated claims by all the GOP candidates about a wave of unauthorized immigration that had actually ended in 2008.

The Reality. Graph from Center for Migration Studies
Meanwhile, Trump shows no sign of toning down his anti-immigrant hate speech even after an Australian white supremacist murdered 49 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques. The killer had justified the massacre as a way “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.” At the White House the next day the U.S. president echoed this rhetoric: “People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, referring to unauthorized migrants crossing the southwest border.

Trump also discounted the dangers posed by violent white supremacists. “I think it’s a small group of people,” announced the white-supremacist-in-chief.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Students, the Sixties, and How to ‘Fail Better’

By David L. Wilson, MR Online
March 13, 2019
You Say You Want a Revolution: SDS, PL, and Adventures in Building a Worker-Student Alliance, Edited by John F. Levin and Earl Silbar (San Francisco: 1741 Press, 2019), 364 pages, $18.95.

In pop culture versions of 1960s activism, student radicals are often depicted as spoiled upper-class kids rebelling against their privileged parents, engaging in random acts of violence, and despising the nation’s wage-earning majority. In reality, the 100,000 or so youths in the student movement were largely drawn from the lower middle class, and some from the working class; their parents were frequently in general agreement with their children’s politics; the period’s radical activism was much more about leafleting, petitioning, and tabling than about confrontations with the police; and far from rejecting the country’s workers, a significant part of the movement considered finding ways to approach this class a central political issue.

You Say You Want a Revolution: SDS, PL, and Adventures in Building a Worker-Student Alliance is a useful introduction to the actual experience of many or most of the student activists a half-century ago.[…]

Read the full article:

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

“Resistance at Tule Lake”: Screenings 3/10/19 and 3/28/19

On February 19 communities across the country honor the 77th anniversary of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans. Here's a note from Konrad Aderer, who created Resistance at Tule Lake, a documentary covering little-known aspects of the incarceration. We’re also including information on two screenings of the film next month and on ways people can use it for education and organizing.—TPOI editor

Since our official release for home and educational purchase in October, we have sought to keep pushing the boundaries of who knows about and engages with the history of Japanese American resistance. So far, more than a dozen universities and libraries have purchased Resistance at Tule Lake, including three University of California campuses! We are continuing our educational outreach so that this film is available in many more of the approximately 600 Asian and Asian American Studies departments in the U.S.

This will require continued work and creativity through 2019 and beyond. We can still use your help in bringing Resistance at Tule Lake to a wider audience. Please take a few moments to write a review on Amazon and Netflix, or iTunes.—Konrad Aderer

Screening at Oakland Asian Cultural Center
Resistance at Tule Lake Film screening

Sunday, March 10 at 2:00pm

 388 Ninth St. Suite 290
Oakland, CA

Director and educators to present film at National Council
on Public History conference
“Teaching about World War II-Era Detention and Prison Centers:
A Screening of Resistance at Tule Lake”
with director Konrad Aderer, and educators Cathlin Goulding and Freda Lin

Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 3:30pm
 Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, Connecticut

Visit us at! For further information, inquiries and screening requests, contact director-producer Konrad Aderer at

Monday, January 28, 2019

Why don’t the media fact-check “amnesty” claims?

"The practice of citing conservative agitators is often characterized as “bothsidesism,” but here the news outlets only presented one side—the one on the far right—without even a hint that the claims might not have a factual basis."

By David L. Wilson and Jane Guskin, MR Online
January 28, 2019

On January 20 Donald Trump actually said something accurate about immigration.

Anti-immigrant pundits like Ann Coulter were attacking the president because he appeared to be offering to extend DACA protection for three years. They took to the airwaves and social media to denounce any DACA extension as an “amnesty.” “No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer,” Trump tweeted back, and for once he was right.[…]

Read the full article:

Photo: David Bacon