A Past Resurfaced: Memories of Survival and Escape from the Khmer Rouge

In the summer of 2014, my grandma began digging into the old pile of long-forgotten photographs she hoarded in our backyard shack and placed them into old, reused picture frames. Within the following year, she gradually filled and decorated her bedroom walls with the photos. As soon as we thought she was done displaying old photos, we would be surprised to discover the endless amount of photos she had tucked away for all of these years. The series of pictures displayed on her bedroom wall appears to be the first time in decades that our old family photos had resurfaced since we arrived in the United States after escaping the Khmer Rouge's genocidal regime. When my grandpa passed away in the … [Read more...]

Imaginary Dangers, Real Victims: A Lawyer and a Historian on the Real Facts about Trump’s Executive Order

Donald Trump sees danger everywhere. They are the stabby Dreamer hiding a machete under her graduation gown. They include the Iranian family doctor ready to undermine America by over-prescribing pain killers. Most dangerous of all, the Syrian child promising to grow up and work for the lying mainstream media. Of course, Trump is not alone in blaming these people for the current state of America; many in fact do share his view of a dangerous world. What is striking about the moment is the willingness of the Executive to exercise his authority to directly and visibly take protections away and prosecute those he sees as a threat to the nation. Trump’s travel ban regarding refugees and … [Read more...]

What We Can Learn from America’s Other Muslim Ban (Back in 1918)

President Trump’s January 27th Executive Order attempted to ban the entry of nationals from seven Middle Eastern countries and suspended the resettlement of refugees unless they are “persecuted religious minorities,” a terminology that is itself selectively deployed to refer to Middle Eastern non-Muslims in general, and Christians in particular. This policy has correctly been understood as part of Trump’s campaign promise to create a ban on Muslim travel to the United States; the order is currently facing legal challenge in 9th District Federal Court. As a scholar of Middle Eastern migration, I am stunned by this administration’s unwillingness to engage the expertise of refugee resettlement … [Read more...]

Getting Past the Bad Math of the #MuslimBan

As someone who studies global migration for a living, it has been hard to choose where to begin when it comes to denouncing Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration and refugees.  Where to start?  There is, of course, the Order’s bedrock of Islamophobia: Trump has ignorantly conflated Islam with terrorism. And then there’s the constitutional angle: the Order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, among other things.  Or we could counter with the fact that more than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed national origins bans with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Or the statistical “probabilities” generated by think tanks: The CATO Institute says that your chance of being … [Read more...]

A Brief History of Sanctuary Cities

As everyone with a twitter feed already knows, Donald J. Trump is no friend of immigrants. In a spate of hot-headed executive orders this week, he slammed the door shut on refugees, banned visitors from seven Muslim countries, and promised to build a “Great Wall” physically separating us from Mexico. But his wrath extended past Mexican day laborers and Muslim asylum seekers to take aim at the traitors within. In an executive jeremiad, Trump torched “sanctuary jurisdictions” for “willfully” violating federal law and causing “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.” To such harmers of the Republican Fabric he threatens to withhold all federal funds, … [Read more...]

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

"[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

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

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

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

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...]