Friday, January 27, 2017

There Have Already Been Deportations in the Bronx; Thoughts on Current Challenges from Eileen Markey

I love this description of my community. It's the analysis I use when I explain to people how the Bronx began to recover. Immigration (and community organizing and massive government investment) was key. 
And many of us are outraged, obviously, by Trump's xenophobia, racism and general wretchedness. But the Bronx has been under a deportation regime for several years with deporter in chief Obama who deported more than 2 million people (nationwide) while in office. 
Places like the amazing Bronx Defenders (legal services) have been swamped, scrambling to delay deportation orders and find ways to keep families together under Obama. A few years ago a retired appeals court judge and Robin Hood Foundation and others came together to launch the Immigrant Justice Corps, an infusion of lawyers posted to community organizations across the city to help staunch the flow of people caught in Obama's dragnets. 
The thing is, while ICE indeed conducts raids and delivers years-old removal orders in person,  they don't come for immigrants with pitchforks and torches in a way that neighbors can romantically and cinematographically resist. It's bureaucratic. It's an arrest on a drug charge, a plea and then suddenly a series of immigration court dates- often stretching over years. 
There was a long campaign to get ICE out of Rikers, but I don't believe it is completely won. My friends who work as immigration lawyers saw most of their deportation-at-risk clients deported under Obama. It was heart breaking. Clearly we are under more threat now from an administration that doesn't even share Obama's belief in a multi ethnic America. But if we are going to be able to fight we need to have clear eyes. 
When Trump talks about deporting people who have been convicted of crimes he's talking about continuing an Obama administration policy, that was made possible by the 1996 immigration reform signed by Bill Clinton. I remember marching on D.C. against that law as a sophomore at Fordham. 
More relevant for us, I think, is to know this: Trump is not going to come and "round up" all the immigrants in a way that we can easily see and chant down.  It happens slowly and invisibly and therefore needs to be fought by sharing information, by speaking out loud about status in order to remove shame, by offering to accompany our neighbors to court, by referring neighbors to legitimate nonprofit lawyers who can help them and by educating across ethnic groups about these issues. We need to organize 'know your rights' seminars in our schools and workplaces and places of worship. We need to educate each other about what is possible and where the levers of power are to make legal change. And we need to acknowledge and fix the divisions between groups in the Bronx.  Because I don't live around many white people, I don't hear much white racism (I'm not saying it doesn't exist and I do believe it utterly shapes the structures of our society, etc). What I do hear is vile anti immigrant talk from African Americans, ugly anti Black talk from Latino immigrants and Islamophobia from everyone. The times the Syrian student who lives with us has been accosted and called a terrorist, told "we're going to get you" it hasn't been a white person talking. 
Anyway, I write all this to say, yes, Doc, that's a heart-warming vision of the Bronx but the devil is in the details and in the suspicious between ethnic groups - and the blue print for how to resist or not resist Trump's immigration plans are in how we did and didn't resist Obama's. 
We've been complacent.

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