Suburban Ideals vs. New Realities: Informal Housing in South Gate

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"[T]he idea that movies and stars inspire people from the world's pockets of desperate poverty to undertake treacherous journeys across oceans and borders to this city of immigrants is fatuous," writes UCLA's Eric Avila. "Immigrant understandings of the city rely upon the concrete aspects of urban growth: labor markets, employment opportunities, housing availability, and preexisting networks of family and community."(1) Indeed, the hard economic realities of life drive immigration - and internal migration for that matter -- and it is the intersection of these realities and the culture of immigrants themselves. This is particularly true in regard to family structure and informal economies … [Read more...]

No Escape from New York: Revisiting Jacob Riis, New York and Urban America at the Library of Congress

"Jacob Riis", Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Two years ago, Washington Post journalist Paul Schwartzman drove war photographer Seamus Murphy and a quiet, black-haired, “poet/musician” on a “windshield tour” of Anacostia, Washington D.C. They toured East Capitol Street “where the city had replaced a notoriously violent housing project with mixed-income townhouses, created under a federal program known as Hope VI”; took in the future Homeland Security Headquarters to be located at what had been previously St. Elizabeth Hospital, a large mental health institution; and generally explored “the darker side” of the city, Schwartzman wrote recently. Of course, that quiet, dark-haired woman in the back seat turned out to be P.J. Harvey, one … [Read more...]

How the GOP Is Shredding North Carolina’s Moderate Image – and Threatening Its Economy

A scene from a "Moral Monday" protest in Raleigh, 2013

When it comes to attracting businesses and jobs, the state’s far-rightward shift is simply bad branding Republicans in North Carolina have been busy remaking the state in the last three years, slashing education spending, restricting rights to voting and abortion, and curbing environmental regulations. Yet nothing has captured international attention quite like HB2, a law that bars local communities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances and denies transgender people access to the restroom of the gender they identify with. Such legislation is part of a nationwide movement to roll back LGBT rights, but not every state has responded in the same way. For instance, Georgia’s Republican … [Read more...]

Dysplacement and the Problem of Place in the (New) New South

All that and a bag of chips

It’s not everyday that a new single drops from Barbara Fields, the masterful historian who has spent decades trying to disabuse those credulous types known as “scholars” about their dubious notions about race.  Indeed, Fields has always been the epitome of quality over quantity, having authored or co-authored a handful of books since the 1980s (as well as several influential essays that are read by grad students the world over).  So when Fields, as president of the Southern Historical Association, offered her address last Fall at the SHA convention in Little Rock, it is an occasion for careful attention. As Comrade Suarez pointed out, it is noteworthy that a writer and teacher who is so … [Read more...]

Yellow Peril in a Globalized Tijuana: The Dog-Meat Incident, NAFTA, and Chinese Immigrant Labor

Lo Yen City

In October 2015, while in Tijuana’s Moustache Bar listening to anarcho punk from Mexico City, Pomona, and Riverside, I ran into a familiar Chinese woman in the bar’s patio. This Chinese woman who did not identify herself by name to me, can be seen frequently throughout Tijuana in her daily vending routes, especially in El Centro (downtown) and the Pasaje Rodriguez. Pushing her cart and shouting, “Chun-kuuuun! Chun-kuuun!”[1] she sells chicken, vegetable, and shrimp egg rolls for twenty and thirty pesos each, the equivalent of a dollar-fifty and two dollars. She has even caught the eye of the San Diego Reader, who identified the 31-year-old vendor as Liang Yanfen.[2] Many people coming from … [Read more...]

Congressional Conflicts: 50 Years since Hart Celler, the Long Arc of Legislative Immigration Politics

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In a recent New York Times editorial, Nicolas Kristof returned to an old saw, one he visited in 2006: the Asian American Model Minority paradigm/stereotype/myth (the latter part all depends on your individual inclination). Needless to say, a white guy wading into such waters elicited some reactions, both in 2006 and over the weekend. Anyone following prominent Asian American academics – Ellen Wu, Erika Lee, Arissa Oh, among others on Twitter could gauge that reactions were less than favorable: Lee even appeared on NPR to discuss the matter of immigration and “Model Minority” tropes over the weekend. During the roughly three and half minute discussion, the University of … [Read more...]

A Law of Unintended Consequences: The Ironies, the Tragedies, and the Triumphs of the 1965 Immigration Act

American Committee on Italian Migration Records, IHRC159, File 62, University of Minnesota

On October 3, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed what became, in retrospect, one of the most influential pieces of legislation not only from his own administration, but in the post-1945 history of the nation. “This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives, or really add importantly to either our wealth or our power,” the President told an audience of dignitaries, politicians, and other on lookers at New York’s Liberty Island. “Yet it is still one of the most important acts of this Congress and of this administration.” Indeed, over the past decade or two, it has become … [Read more...]

Donald Trump’s (and America’s?) Latino Problem: Oranges, Immigration, and Labor in Southern California

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 11: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters during a political rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump spoke about illegal immigration and other topics in front of an estimated crowd of 4,200. (Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty Images)

When Donald Trump bellowed his now-famous screed against immigration, accusing Mexican migrants of crime, disease, and more or less undermining America, howls could be heard across the nation in response to what many saw as racist, cynical demagoguery. For California and Los Angeles, his comments hit home particularly hard. After all, this past June it was announced that in July 2014, at nearly 15 million, Latinos surpassed whites as the state's largest ethnic group. Of the 55 million plus Latinos nationally, California's share of Hispanics ranked first among all other states, with Los Angeles County tops within the Golden state.1 From piñatas to the unmentionable, Mexicans and Mexican … [Read more...]

Innocents Abroad: Reimagining the Immigrant Frontier in “Slow West”

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“He was an officer.” “Wearing a dress don’t make her a lady. He ain’t soldier least no more … injun slayers.” “Wearing a dress don’t make her a lady,” Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) tells his new mentee, Scottish 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Indeed, the first dialogue exchanged between the two in the new western, Slow West could serve as the film’s coda. Things are rarely what they seem, expectations do not often meet reality, and the stories we tell ourselves, whether about love, identity, or history, frequently obscure unpleasant truths. Cavendish had travelled from “the cold shoulder of Scotland to the hot baking heart of America,” Selleck tells viewers in the … [Read more...]

Indiana GOP Rep. Decries Creeping “Ving Rhames-ification” of America

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Mark Lawson, a Republican lawmaker from Evansville, spoke out on Tuesday against a trend that he sees as threatening the future of the United States.  President Obama's executive order allowing some 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country was a gross violation of the separation of powers under the Constitution, Lawson said on the floor of the State House.  He also referred to the recent announcement of Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential bid, saying that it did not matter whether a Democrat or Republican won in 2016. "If America keeps allowing thieves and criminals to run rampant over our laws and Constitution," Lawson said, "there won't be much of a Constitution left when the … [Read more...]