These podcast episodes contain audio from Lowell Talks community discussions. During these programs, we invite local experts to talk about a relevant issue. With each episode, you will be hearing a question and answer segment with a ranger followed by clips from the larger discussion.
Allison 0:12 Hello and welcome. My name is Allison Horrocks and I'm a park ranger at Lowell National Historical Park.This is a recording of a discussion that we call Lowell Talks. Once a month, we gather together in a shared community space and have a conversation about a topic of contemporary relevance and historical value. During this discussion, which you’ll hear a recording of, we met together in December 2019 to talk about Crimmigration. Crimmigration is the intersection of the criminal justice system and immigration. Guiding our conversation was Dr. Jose Jorge Mendoza, a professor at UMass Lowell. During this recording, you’ll be hearing some of our initial conversation and then some of his answers to audience questions. Let’s get started.
The first question that I was able to ask of Professor Mendoza was about this idea that the United States is a nation of immigrants. Where does it come from, and what kind of work does it do?
Mendoza 1:31 interesting about the phrase nation of immigrants historically, we have to be careful there’s a historian in the audience will correct me if I'm wrong. The phrase itself was was not used as as a phrase of, you know, appeal is not embraced. In fact, when people originally used the phrase nation of immigrants, they meant it as a kind of warning. They were it came out of the xenophobia of the second half of the 19th century. The politicians or anyone who talks about immigration say, we have to be careful, we're becoming a nation of immigrants. We don't want to become a nation of immigrants. Because the nation as we tend to think of as states or countries, nation is a people. And nations are supposed to have this, this connection to territory. They come from the volk, in this German sense, they come out of the territory as attachment of the territory. And so what do you do? When you have come to the Americas and you want to start a nation, you have to kind of tell yourself a story develop a narrative about what it is to be the United States as a nation. You know, I won't get too much more in history. But if you look at the Gettysburg Address, that's part of what like Abraham Lincoln is doing. He's trying to give you a story of, of the American nation. If we always were a nation of immigrants, as is often said, one of the things you might want to ask is why is our issues of immigration completely missing in the constitution? There's really no mention of immigration, the only thing that comes close and we should be careful not to conflate the two is there is there's a little clause that says, and we will not look at the importation of people again until like 1808. And the only reason it was there is because we're punting on the issue of slavery and the slave trade. But really, there's not much that the issue of immigration doesn't come up. And part of the reason is because back then you had the opposite problem, you actually wanted to have more people come in, as opposed to keeping people out. And so when, when people start worrying about immigration, it's closely tied to the notion of whiteness, and who counts as white. In 1850 people of African American descent did not qualify for US citizenship, people of Native American descent do not qualify for citizenship and people of Asian descent do not qualify for citizenship. So why were people so concerned about the fact that the United States was going to become a non-white nation? They were concerned about that because folks from from Ireland, folks from Southern and Eastern Europe were not considered white, they were considered alpine and Mediterranean races which the best science of the time considered to be degenerative mongrel races not truly white. And so when you trace the phrase nation of immigrants, you begin to trace this idea of American whiteness. So when does this phrase transform? When does it become a positive thing? It becomes a positive thing. After about the 1930s, when the Irish and the southern Eastern Europeans are becoming white, they get sucked into whiteness, because of this fear that the United States was going to become a minority majority country, that we're going to have more non-whites than whites. So what's one way of avoiding this, you can segregate non white populations, you can eliminate non white populations, but you can also take some of those borderline population sites, the southern Eastern Europeans and the Irish and bring them into whiteness. And now you have to change your narrative. Now it's not we're going to become a nation of immigrants. Now you embrace it, and it's a double move. See, we're not racist, right? Like those Nazis. We're a nation of immigrants. We embrace everybody. Right and people who can't be part of the melting pot, it's not our fault. We're a melting pot. Those who don't belong in the melting pot have probably done something they probably have a bad culture, a bad upbringing, there's something that makes them not want to be part of, of the melting pot. Now, the danger of using the nation of immigrants phrasing is because it kind of covers over that history. The other worry I have we'll talk about with crimmigration is it lends itself to the good and bad immigrant narrative. So the so it quickly lends itself, hey, we're a nation of immigrants. immigrants are good and we tend to focus on the good immigrants, if you look at the dreamers are kids who kids or even adults who came to the United States, as children were brought that states they probably didn't even know that they unlawfully entered some of them find out at the age of 16 that they don't have status because they try to get driver's licenses. They find out why they don't have status, what happened and usually folks who they call them the dreamers because that there's a dream act that the tricep been around for almost 20 years now trying to regularize their status. One way to make this argument is talking is typically focusing on the valedictorians like the most perfect of these folks. And it's hard to argue against these folks. They've done everything right. What I'm going to try to talk a little bit about today are folks who maybe haven't done everything exactly right. And I still think those folks deserve to have their status regularized. And I think it's just kind of dangerous to fall into the good immigrant bad immigrant narrative, because we tend to play up the good immigrant. And it's great for those folks. But then in some ways, we kind of sell out these other folks. And then that's why I think the phrasing, I've kind of gone on a rant but the phrase itself nation of immigrants, when you start unpacking these things, and looking at them historically, you start to see all these things play out.
Allison 6:46 Thank you. Yeah. And that gives us a great opening to talk a little bit more about what this phrase means and where it comes from. And something you mentioned, just to give folks the backstory on where this event came from. This summer, we did a screening The film 13th, which is about the 13th amendment, and the ways that that has actually really opened up the United States to putting more and more people in the carceral system. So in prisons, under parole, probation and all these things, and immigration was covered, actually extensively in that the way that all these things are tied up together. So how is it at immigration today is part of the criminal justice system? What are those connections?
Mendoza 7:28 One of the first immigration laws we passed, was in 1875, called the Page Act. What we wanted was we wanted labor, we wanted labor that was vulnerable. But after the Civil War, you can't have slaves anymore. So they went for what was called quote unquote coolie labor. This has a whole long history, that trace that goes all the way back to the Opium Wars with with China, we basically cut up China into four different quadrants. And one of the deals was the British could export quote unquote, coollie Labor from China, to the United States. And so this was you started seeing an increase in that labor, especially in places like San Francisco, you had a gold rush. You had people from China coming and doing the work. What folks didn't want was to have these folks as part of the nation. So one way you keep folks from being part of the nation is you prevent their women from coming. Now, you could just absolutely say, well, we don't want women to come. Or you could say, look, we don't want women because they're prostitutes. So if you trace the origin of exclusions, they actually tend to be very gendered. And they tend to focus on morality, and they tend to use things like well, these these women would not come to the United States for any other reason than to be prostitutes. And so you just want the men. That's all you want. Turns out, that wasn't enough. You had the men come and even keeping the women out some of the men were staying. So we passed the Chinese Exclusion Act for for speaking in the 1800s 1880s. These acts though had to be constantly renewed So not only were you excluding folks, but you had to renew them like every 5-6-7-8-9-10 years and they would add things every time they renew them. The first version of these acts gave you a kind of voucher, which said, Look, if you're already lawfully admitted to first really took away people citizenship made them legal, permanent residents, and then they said, Look, we'll give you a voucher. If you want to go and visit your family in China and come back. You've got this like, exit come in voucher. This guy Chao Che Ping was literally on a boat back from China to the United States. With his voucher. They changed the rules on him. He gets to San Francisco and this guy's like detained for weeks in a Port of San Francisco cannot be administratively disembarked? This case goes all the way to the Supreme Court. It seems like a pretty clear cut case. You can't just change the rules on you. And then you know, ex post facto, what the court argued was that immigration is different. It's a different kind of power that the Federal Government has. It's a power that it has unconditionally, and cannot be reviewed judiciously by the judicial branch. It can exercise it in any way it sees fit. And so just because they changed the rules of the game, that was no big deal, because he had no real Chou Che Ping had no real standing in court. You can't sue the federal government to change its immigration policy. The policy is made by the legislative branch and the executive branch and the judicial branch stays out of this. This is going to be important for crimmigration because what that means is that immigration courts, this is going to be weird. immigration courts are not part of the judicial branch. immigration courts are part of the executive branch. And in this way, when it comes to immigration, the federal government is judge, jury and executer of this of this rule. Now, this is an insane amount of power. It's called the Plenary Power doctrine. It's been upheld, it's still upheld. So we've taken away the racist provisions. But that's been Congress did it. But the actual justification is still on the books. So plenary power can trace itself back to this racist immigration case. Lots of other cases went before went after they all kept failing. This guy Geary with I think has a street named after him in San Francisco passed an amendment to the Chinese Exclusion cases. In 1892, it's 1892 passes an amendment, it just puts all these gross things into the Chinese Exclusion Cases. It says that if you are Chinese, you cannot serve as a witness to court to to witness for trial cases. So you have cases where the only witnesses to a murder are people of Chinese descent. They come and say this person did it. And that's inadmissible because you cannot be a witness. In these cases. They add an amendment that says if you are illegal permanent resident of Chinese descent, you must carry with you proof that you are here lawfully. It's the first "show me your papers" amendments in the United States. Wong Wing is caught without his papers.
The other thing they added though, was not just that you will be deported if they would give you a year hard labor. So not only would you be deported, but they would give you what's essentially a criminal punishment. Now this is where it gets interesting. So this goes before the Supreme Court. Wong Wing says you can't do this to me without a trial by jury. You're doing you're gonna deport me and you're going to have me serve a year of hard labor. I should have a jury of my peers or a jury in general convict me. Supreme Court agreed with him half the way he still gets deported. But they don't give them the one year hard labor because this is the interesting point. They said well, the heart one year hard labor that is a criminal punishment, and the only way the federal government is allowed to exercise so much control over this one particular area, namely immigration is because immigration itself is not a crime. So being present unlawfully is not a criminal offense, and you cannot use it. But here's the other Flipside. They can't give you a one year. hard labor, hard labor, but being removed is not considered punishment. It's called it's just an administrative procedure. So there is a weird balance here, which is in the area where the federal government has this much absolute power. It can't therefore exercise these kinds of criminal punishments and where it can exercise, criminal punishments I give to your hard labor or put you in jail, then you're entitled to the the amendments, that you have a right to a jury, right to an attorney, or you're supposed to be a nice little bounce. You have this much power. You can't do this to folks, if you can do this to folks, then you'd have protections in these ways. Crimmmigration messes this up. And we've allowed it to slowly creep in. It's got three aspects. And typically they're not seen as coming. When you see each of these by themselves. You're kind of like what's kind of weird, but if you see them functioning as a system, it's actually very scary. in one respect crimmigration is when these criminal convictions you're convicted of a crime, then have immigration consequences. The second one is kind of the opposite where immigration violations come to have criminal punishments. And the third aspect is when tactics that are allowed to be used for either law enforcement or for immigration get muddled together, and so you can use one for the other. You can, for example, if you if you are part of a part of one of these secure community programs, and you're a police officer, you can stop someone on suspected immigration violations. And then if you find something else on them that then you can use it for criminal prosecution. You see, this creates this kind of way of circumventing a lot of your protections. You said, Well, here I'm act, I'm acting as a proxy as a kind of deputized immigration enforcement agent. And in these duties where I have these rights to stop anyone asking for their papers, I found this other thing, which I would have not been able to find if I was just acting as a regular police officer. A couple things really quickly. Here's some of the troubling statistics about that first aspect, criminal convictions having immigration consequences. Well, the first hundred years between 1875 pay jacked up until 1980, you had only 70,000 immigrants deported for criminal offenses. In 2013. Alone, you had over 200,000. Now what why is the case because the laws have been changing the rely on really vague terms such as crimes involving moral turpitude? What do you think that means? Whatever each of you think it means. That's what different judges thinks there is no real defined definition. aggravated felony. It sounds terrible. But it could be it turns out to be very much anything else. And the worst part is it started getting used retroactively. So you had folks who would not have been who there was, there was a case of a man who was a Cambodian refugee from Cambodia. Come to United States at the age of one or two. Does something stupid, hangs out with the wrong folks, finds himself in a shopping mall. He's about to get jumped by a rival gang. He takes his gun shoots it in the air doesn't shoot anybody just shoots like a warning shot to get people away from him. That was stupid. Does six months of prison pays you know pays his dues to society at the age of 34 applies to become a US citizen because he hadn't done that yet applies become a US citizen. This law been passed in 96 He goes, he applies. I said, Well, you know what, 15 years ago, you did something really stupid. You are now removable. This this man who left Cambodia at the age of two gets deported back to Cambodia.
So what are some of the problems with this? And so if you look at the literature, and this connects back to 13, I'm not supporting this necessarily, but the but the first one is that it alters the process of procedures of how you get a trial. Unfortunately, the way things are set up now, close to 96% of all criminal cases are done by plea agreement, you plea out of them. This is the way it's set up between prosecutors and defendants, because it streamlines the the whole system, you go they accuse you of a crime. You say, Well, look, I'm poor, I can't fight this. I'm innocent. But I'll take the six months probation because I just don't have the time to be in jail takes six months. Now, that's fine if you're a citizen, but plea agreements count as convictions for immigration purposes. So now imagine if you're an immigrant, he I'm not even talking about an undocumented immigrant, if you're just an immigrant, now, the criminal justice system is much different. Because you can't take that play, you have to now fight it. And now the way the criminal justice system is set up, it's set up to punish people who don't take plea agreements, if you don't take plea agreements, they're gonna throw the book at you. And so you end up in this really bad catch 22 you end up with parallel and unequal systems of justice, for citizens and for immigrants. And again, I'm not talking about undocumented immigrants. I'm sorry about immigrants in general face a whole different system. So different rules. The second one I think is kind of obvious with the case of the Cambodian immigrants I told you about, you get basically punished twice for the same crime. You've paid your dues, right? We all do ?bonehead things. Right. But should you be deported for this? I don't think so. I think that's actually cruel and unusual. That's been an argument that other folks have made. And lastly, and this is another one that I'm iffy about, but when you think of, you know, President Trump's favorite, favorite gang, SM, 13, some other future, that gang started as a gang in Los Angeles and got exported to El Salvador, and now it's come back. And so there's a sense that what you do with your immigration policy is you force countries that are poor and can't sort of fight back, you kind of empty out your prisons in some way, by exporting some of those criminals, to those other countries. I'm iffy about thinking of it in this way. But there's been a lot of literature saying, look, there's a sense where you send folks to states that they don't have quite the institutions to deal with, with some of these more dangerous folks, you actually are exporting crime to some of these areas, especially when we're talking about people who, you know came to the US at the age of one or two. These are our folks. The second part, so, criminal punishments for immigration cases. So I told you this should already be disallowed. But beginning in 1929, what we started doing was we started making unlawful entry and especially unlawful reentry, a crime. It is now, if you are deported from the United if you enter the United States are caught and deported. If you try to unlawfully re Enter again, you could face up to 20 years in prison, which is which almost no one gets to that, but you could face up to 20 years in prison. But what this has done, so look in beforehand turnout, and this was not a crime. 1993 about 5% of all criminal cases had an immigration offense as a more serious offense. This more than doubled in four years got up to 13% by 1997. In 2010, it more than tripled almost quadrupled to 46% Today immigration law violations constitute the largest category of federal offenses. What worries me about this and should worry you about this is go back to that Wong Wing case. These immigration convictions are not arrived at by a by a by a court of the judicial branch. It's a court that is under the executive branch. So again, the executive branch has judge jury and executer in these cases. So it's so you get convicted as being unlawfully present by a court that's being done that is under the same branch that's going to exit it's going to execute the punishment. So it's, it's circum. It's able to punish you criminally, without having convicted you in a Judicial Court. And very last one.
I've already started talking about some of these tactics, but what should worry you are some of the things that we do. The Wong Wing case said we could not imprison anybody you could do paying somebody but not imprison them. We have, especially now dramatically increased the number of people we hold in jail like situations we had about five less than 5000 daily. Now we pay for 35,000 beds a night. Secure community programs have created this weird, you know, are police officers also the immigration agents? What about your school teachers? Do they have to report parents who are whose report parents who are undocumented who are bringing their citizen children to our schools? How about doctors do they have to report if they treat undocumented immigrants. The other thing that should worry you is these are two Supreme Court cases still in the books regarding Ponce and Martinez Fortin. Both of these cases. The Supreme Court has said you can't be racist when you're a police officer, but you can use race when it comes to immigration. So what this means is combine this one we'll see Your committee type procedures, if you're a police officer, and you're just sure that this person is is guilty, or you see somebody a person of color, like I just know that got something on them. I know I'm going to stop them because they look Mexican. And it's actually okay to stop them if they look Mexican, because you're performing an immigration check, which you could not do if you're just doing a routine a police check. And so all these things come together just to really worry you within 100 miles of the border, which includes water so includes like the ocean, the Border Patrol can do all kinds of things that if it was done by a police officer would violate your rights, but they can do it within these hundred miles. And what's weird is doesn't seem like a lot, right? Something like two thirds of Americans live within this hundred mile region. So in this way, is a how crimmigrations come to be why you should worry about it. And it's subtle. If you just look at particular cases and policies that have been passed, you can't see you have to kind of stand back to see the forest of what's being called crimmigration in these three aspects, they work together. And again, even if you don't have much sympathy for immigrants, you should worry about the federal government having this much power over over citizens.
Allison 24:23 So before we open up to a general discussion, one other element that we wanted to add to this, and I think that's been really helpful about everything you've said, so far is working very big picture, right? We're looking at how systems function. So another piece of this, as you've just introduced is the piece of racism and bias and prejudice. So one thing that you've written extensively about is what's called Juan Crow. And some of you may be familiar with Jim Crow, which was the system of laws and regulations that came after the Civil War, really as a social means of controlling people of color, but you've written about Juan Crow and what that means for our world today So can you tell us a bit about that?
Mendoza 25:03 So so Juan Crows kind of kind of tongue in cheek and kind of provocative writing because everyone should be against Jim Crow. You can't you don't know anymore these days. But, but but so Juan Crow's provocative in that way, what it, what it's pointing out is what you used to have a lot of folks come from Latin America and a good place like San Diego, Los Angeles, Texas, finding a lot more immigrants going to the old parts of the old confederacy now and with secure community type programs, and you know, see something, say something type programs, suddenly you have a lot of Latinex folks who are facing discrimination. And these are these could be folks who have been living it for generations face being looked at, it's not American. There was a very interesting book written by PD Thomas. It's called Down these Mean Streets. And in part of that book, PD Thomas, who's a New Yorican, and so we As a citizen people forget to Puerto Rico is, you know, not a state. But if you're born in Puerto Rico, you're a citizen he's New Yorican and goes, you know, Kerouac style traveling travels in the south, gets to the south. And what's interesting about this book is he doesn't give you much of a description of what he looks like. But he's actually Afro Caribbean and has a brother, his brother is white lope white looking white passing was he has black features, but when he's in New York, in the story, you don't even think about it till he gets to the south. So now him and his brother are in this bar in the south, and things are starting to go bad. So what is PD Thomas do? He starts emphasizing he's not much of an accident, such as he said, like I started emphasizing, like a Spanish accent in my in my English, and very quickly, that kind of defuses things like Oh, he's not really black. He's you know, Hispanic. Things have kind of changed now. So one of the things that sociologists have looked at in Places like fascinating places like Atlanta, in Atlanta, they've had immigrants from the DR come to Atlanta. And they've actually found that they are better off in this. This might just be particularly Atlanta, they are better off emphasizing their blackness over their latinus. They have more access to resources and things like that people don't suspect them of being undocumented. Right, the more the more you your language has kind of a Spanish tinge to it, then you start being suspected as maybe being undocumented. But if you pass, not so racially black, but the embrace the African American culture, if you understand the difference in race and ethnicity in that sense, so the racially Black will try to pass as African American and that's worked out better for them. immigrants from Guatemala, come to Atlanta, and again, they try to avoid their their Latinex Latin Latin American Heritage culture and start emphasizing their indigeneity they start emphasizing their native americanness. as they are, most of the folks who come from Guatemala are Native American back racially Native Americans, they embrace their native american backup, again, as a way to kind of shield themselves from being seen as potentially undocumented as not belonging. So my point of the story is, it's interesting how the more we have increased enforcement, both both of these things could be good or bad. But what I'm saying is that the difference in take a PD Thomas, the story I gave you before how in, you know, 50 years ago, 60 years ago, PD Thomas was emphasizing his Latin Americanness, to try to shield himself from the racism of Jim Crow. And now the aspect is, I want to get away from this Latin Americanness to not be suspected of being undocumented and I'll embrace these other races, which before would have been seen as a kind of social step down. Now you kind of embrace them as a way of covering. And so that's the phenomenon of Juan Crow. That's happened. So it's a it's more of a descriptive aspect and definitely the normative kick that's in most of my work. is looking at enforcement and all the ways that they those things violate our moral principles and our political rights.
Allison 29:06 Thank you. So for the remainder of the time that we have together we really like to run this as a community conversation and to hear from as many people as possible. And one of the things that kind of helps that is if everyone has a chance to speak at the very beginning and just to identify yourself and then if you don't mind sharing it, where you say you're from then you ask that and why you say that you're from that place.
Mendoza 29:31 Great question. Um, it's all context dependent. Sometimes I know what people are asking. So I say Mexico, but I'm not born in Mexico, not really from Mexico, but in certain context. I know what they're asking. I just tell them what what they're what they're looking for. But it normally I say San Diego, America's finest city.
Allison 29:50 Starting with this next clip, you'll be hearing Professor Mendoza's answers to audience questions. We've selected just a few to give you a sense of what the community conversation was like. This first answer addresses an audience member's question about the court case Korematsu versus United States.
Mendoza 30:07 As you I was putting this thing together, I promised to do three slides and quickly morphed into something else. One of the slides that got removed was the was gonna be a third case that's going to look at Wong Kim Ark, it does come up, what was decided was you cannot lose your birthright citizenship. So naturalization has its own deal. What so we, if I'm not mistaken, the Constitution got ratified in 1789. Every state had finally signed or it migh have been -79. Either way, the very first act that gets the very the very first act gets passed after that is a Naturalization Act. The question is, well, who's going to get to count as as as as a naturalized citizen? So we've got everyone who's here now you get it. And what they said then, and this was an effect until the 1940s, and it's only because of world war two and the Nazis have this change. Because people were pointing to us and say, aren't you like Nazis, up until the 1940s. To be a naturalized US citizen, you had to be a white person in good standing to be naturalized, but you could still be a natural born citizen. So that's why they got that's how people got retroactively lost their citizenship was they said, well, you're not you're not a white person in good standing. You were born in China, you can't be a citizen. But people who were born the United States kept their citizenship and this was this was especially important for the Japanese community, who would put a lot of their land in the name of their children. But then we quickly found out in 1944, that didn't matter because the federal government just coming you know, this was still this is the moment the most ironic things so when the Supreme Court said that the the Trump's Muslim ban was legal. One of the things that they finally retro actively did away with was the Karamatsu case, which was the Japanese internment Case it's kind of a weird sort of, it's ironic with the think of it so Karamatsu is now off the books. But up until about a year ago, it was still in the books. So, now I'm just kind of ranting, but yes, the citizenship issue came up, and the 14th amendment holds up. But but that holds up only if you're born in that is born to US parents. So for a lot of these folks, They were neither they neither had US parents, nor were they born in the US, but their children got citizenship and the Wong Kim Ark, that's when the government tried to take away Walmart citizenship, wonky Mark got to keep his citizenship. And that's that's I'm not gonna make any more predictions because my predictions have not been well with last year's I find it hard. I noticed they'll talk about I find it hard for them to go back on it, but Stranger things right. Also, the Karamatsu case was so Karamatsu was a US citizen. Born your natural born US citizen was put into an internment camp during World War Two sued and said you could not have done this to me. And Supreme Court said yes we could. And so that's that that case stood so what so even though presidents have apologized, Japanese community said lay what we did was kind of messed up. Turns out it was messed up. It was awful, but it was not illegal. And when in and justice just to kind of throw it in, when they when they ruled on Trump's Muslim ban, they explicitly they explicitly explicitly renounced the Karamatsu case. So now it's it's been overturned, which tends to happen. So like, like Plessy versus Ferguson, justified, separate but equal, it's not so you get the Brown decision that overturns that decision. Similar, Karamatsu. Karamatsu was was the law of the land, but it'd be hard to intern people now politically you would think but the the the recent case overturned that
Allison 34:02 from here, a lot of our conversation was about detention in the United States, both the legal basis and where people are actually being held today,
Mendoza 34:10 detain these many folks indefinitely. We pay for 35,000 beds every day. And they're almost all filled up. What we're now doing though, is so you can always you can always export these sorts of things, or you can externalize costs. We are it turns out that we are at a zero when it comes to immigration from Mexico itself. So there's as many people as many Mexican nationals going back to Mexico, as there are Mexican nationals coming into the knighted states. Most of the folks who are coming from Latin America come from Central America. And what we've done is we worked out a deal with Mexico, and Mexico is now essentially housing folks you have what looks like refugee camps. I was just I was just in El Paso in May that look like refugee camps along the border, but they're not on the US side. They're on the Mexico side. They're doing something that I think is funny. We're doing something, frankly illegal. If someone comes and asks for asylum, you can't then send them to a third country and have them wait for their case there. But somehow because we are we are it's happening. I think it's disgraceful. But if you push someone what they will probably tell you, we're not doing this. Mexico's doing it Mexico is the one is putting them in these, these conditions.
Allison 35:24 This portion of our conversation was about white supremacy. Professor Mendoza has written several papers on the connections between white supremacist ideologies and immigration policy.
Mendoza 35:35 What white supremacy is strange because a lot of the white supremacy that we're seeing now strength otherwise Mercy Mercy that was very nationalistic, right, Make America Great Again, you see, like the Brexit, it's got a very, so there's a there's a way of looking at white supremacy today. And think of it as just a very nationalistic project. Each nation has its own sort of white supremacy. But if we stand back, I think there is a system of Global white supremacy and protecting the goods for white part of of the globe. It's not a coincidence that the people who are being displaced by climate change are displaced by all these other things, war and so forth are people of color. It's not a coincidence that they're trying to get into countries that are predominantly white, because those ones are the ones who are protected from these sorts of things. And it's not a coincidence that when it comes to things like crimmigration, if you talk to a lot of folks who have never really thought hard about immigration, they said, Well, look, doesn't sound that bad, doesn't affect me. I walk around the street and I've seen no change. You know, I'm friendly to cops. When cops pull me over, I just I'm nice to them. I don't understand what the problem is. And it's because you're walking around as white so the the burdens aren't equally distributed. My theory is if we could design a system where the burdens were equally distributed through crimmigration this would end in an instant, in an instance if it was not people of color, but predominantly white folks who were fleeing from something like This, then you have a whole different narrative but Grapes of Wrath you read that and you're like these Okies, let's, you know, do it to it. The Grapes of Wrath are happening everywhere to folks and and and you know where's where's that story and then they're not seen as heroes they're seen as lawbreakers.
Allison 37:16 I have a question for you along those lines because as you were talking, the genre that kept coming up in my mind was Fugitive Slave narratives, and thinking about the ways that you know, 160, 170 years ago, people reading who hadn't experienced slavery up close for the first time people reading about what those experiences actually looked like, books like Solomon Northrop's, Twelve Years a Slave, it changed conversations it changd people's awareness, wondering like, what can we all be doing better as a culture to excavate out an understanding like where do we get those narratives today?
Mendoza 37:50 That's a good question. I'm a philosopher of the critical theory tradition. So I'm very critical. When it comes to, you know, what should we do? It's a hard question i. And I think I think I'm not answering your question because I'm thinking about it. This is this might be a bad example. Maybe that's what you're looking for. There's a book called The right to stay home by David Bacon. He's an activist, he writes this book. It's about 11 stories are very short. And then the each chapter tells a story about a global trend. And what's interesting is all these folks he's following are performing the same labor they have always been performing this guy's always been growing tobacco and working in, in tobacco, just growing tobacco, cultivated tobacco, but because of global forces, the jobs leave. I think he's I think he was from Nicaragua. They come the United States guy is still in North Carolina, working tobacco fields. But now he's undocumented, which makes him even more vulnerable. There's nothing exceptional about this guy it's just he's just doing his thing and following the the labor where it takes him so so I think part of it is talking about immigration in a way where it's not like idiosyncratic people making idiosyncratic decisions. Like I just sort of want to live here now. So I'm just gonna go, there are these like forces that push people away, it's hard to leave, like the place you grew up the friends that you have. So what's powerful to me was the title of the book, I was very provocative. The Right to Stay Home, suddenly losing that right to be able to stay home is disconcerting. And I think that's different than when you think of, or at least the way I think immigration typically gets framed is well get in line, take a number, do as though these were just individual idiosyncratic decisions, when really it's all these forces that are pushing and attracting you to certain places. And then you I think that if you're successful in telling that kind of story, I think people, if they have a heart are much more sympathetic. And the other thing to think about is just your citizenship, which, for me has always been we're both my parents were undocumented. Most of my family is still in Mexico. And yet I'm the golden child. Because of where I was born, I did nothing to earn the passport that I have, I did nothing to earn it. And for an academic, it's really disconcerting. Anytime you think of like all the stuff you have to do, and you get and then they're like, I have this thing that allows me to get into over 144 countries visa free. I feel like the kid that won the Willy Wonka ticket, I did nothing for it. I just show up. I you know, if I want to go to Nicaragua tomorrow, I just buy a plane ticket show up and say, USA, and walk right through and I've done nothing to earn this. And so I think with most Americans, their view is you know, well, I work hard. I've earned this. I worked hard on this. And yet the thing that has created all kinds of advantages for you, globally, is something you've done nothing absolutely to earn.
Allison 41:00 This last portion of our conversation is about a few different topics, including quotas and where they come from, as well as some of the larger contradictions that are bound up in immigration policy. Professor Mendoza also explains at length, how some portions of the visa system work, and why so many people end up overstaying their visa, often with serious consequences from the criminal justice system.
Mendoza 41:23 Yeah, I mean, after 1965, we set up so we had quota systems before were supposed to reflect the national composition of the United States. And they purposefully took the 1890 census when they did this, even though we had the most of visas in there when they had the quota system, but what they had in the Americas, and this goes all the way back to like the Monroe Doctrine and so forth. They had open borders up until 1965. So the border patrol in 1929 is set up mostly to try to catch folks from China trying to come up from Mexico. In 1965, they placed they placed these caps and so Everyone gets 20,000 visa say, Now, imagine if you are coming from Denmark, you have 20,000 visas that's coming from China. Everyone's equal, they get 20,000 visas notice that the equality here is unequal in some sense and this creates a backlog for a lot of places. So some places have almost no backlog. So you can apply and come in places like Mexico, India, all these other Filipino Philippines, all these places have huge backlog. So unless you have a close family member, there is no path for you in your lifetime, to do it the right way. And even with family members, it will be like a decade or so before you can uh where you could lawfully immigrate. So So anyways was that just add to your point it's a it's a weird situation where it's it depends on where you come from. The diversity lottery is another interesting aspect. It got brought in because the worry was we're getting too many non white folks coming. So originally diversity lottery was set up to bring in specifically Irish folks to come to the United States. Most people come with diversity lottery system now actually come from Africa, at least at least 40% of undocumented immigrants enter lawfully, which which which goes back to this crimmigration issue, because it's actually is not a crime, to be out of status to be residing, it's out of status that you can, then the they can deport you, because that's an administrative move. But it's actually technically it's still not a crime, to be out of status in the United States. And because in part of the reasons, because of what you pointed out, there's a lot of folks who have actually gone out of status and don't even know this now put in place or bars. So if you were undocumented, I think it's got to be under a year or maybe maybe six months. If you're undocumented for a brief time, then they might put you like on a one to five year bar, but if you have taken longer than that, they put you on a 10 year bar, which means you can't even apply for 10 years. So a lot of these folks who you know came they know they came they came unlawfully they know what they're doing, you know, they came on unlawfully had to felt the pressure came work, try to find ways to get their status regularized just don't have any they have no, no way of getting their status regularized. lawfully overstayed their visa, that's my, my mom. My mom never crossed a border unlawfully. She always had like a tourist visa, but she overstayed her visa became an undocumented immigrant, if she were caught and deported Now, now, she would be subject to a 10 year ban so she could not even apply for 10 years. Now what that means is, I can't even apply for her now she's gotten regularized become a citizen, but even I could not apply for and say, Look, that's my mom, close family member I want to apply for her. Okay, she has to serve her 10 year ban, and then you can apply and then you get put in line. It's unbelievably harsh. I mean in any other area This is What blows my mind? You talk to conservatives about how much power a government should have. And it's like, you know, rein those guys in, I don't, trust government. When it comes to immigration, it blows my mind how much power they want to give the federal government and how like vindictive and powerful it could be like when it comes to this thing. And this, again, this is going on rant. But this is what makes me think it's not the people these contradictions make their brain explode is that a lot of what's motivating This has got to be something like white supremacy, even at a subconscious level, because you can't hold these kinds of contradictions in your head. And the only way you can really make sense of this is if it's not really principles necessarily that are in conflict here. It's a system of white supremacy that you kind of intuitively understand and want to keep in place.
Allison 45:49 This concludes our recording of our December 8 Lowell Talks program. We hope that this provoke some thoughts for you some questions, and if you want to look any further into this program, Please be sure to visit our firstname.lastname@example.org/lowell Thank you
Immigration is in the news almost every day. UMass Lowell Professor José Jorge Medoza presents a revealing review of the history of our immigration laws starting with the 1875 Page Act. This community conversation includes a discussion of enforcement policies, which are under the Executive branch of our government, not the Judicial branch, and detention today. Listen in on this timely and relevant discussion of how immigration intersects with the criminal justice system. Recorded 12/8/19