Category Archives: immigration

California Apologizes to Chinese Americans

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

waiting

Last week, the California legislature approved a landmark bill to apologize to the state’s Chinese American community for racist laws enacted specifically against Chinese immigrants as far back as the mid-19th century Gold Rush: California Apologizes to Chinese Americans.

The laws, some of which were not repealed until the 1940s, barred Chinese from owning land or property, marrying whites, working in the public sector and testifying against whites in court. The new bill also recognizes the contributions Chinese immigrants have made to the state, particularly their work on the Transcontinental Railroad.

It’s about damn time. Thankfully, the resolution moved relatively quickly through the state legislature since it was first introduced in February and promoted heavily by state assembly member Paul Fong.

Unfortunately, most of the direct victims of the laws in question have already passed away. Fong’s grandfather was held for two months at Angel Island, the immigration station near San Francisco where several hundred thousand Chinese immigrants were targeted and detained from 1910 to 1940.

Now, with the resolution passed, Fong plans to take the issue to Congress, where he’ll request an apology for the Chinese Exclusion Act, the only federal law ever enacted to deny immigration based exclusively on race or nationality. I fully support this effort, and hope Assemblyman Fong takes the issue all the way to passage in Washington.


Photo from ChinaDaily.com.cn of Chinese and Japanese women and children waiting to be processed as they are held in a wire mesh enclosure at internment barracks in Angel Island, California.

When Stereotypes Collide: the Persian Jews of Beverly Hills

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

At the airport bookstore, I immediately overlooked Bruce Willis’ and Emma Hemings’ smoldering stares on the cover of this month’s W. My attention went directly to the top left: “Meet the Neighbors: the Persian Conquest of Beverly Hills.”

Knowing the history of glossies and their historic portrayal of racial ethnicities more as props than as cover stories, I was simultaneously worried and intrigued—how would W fare as documenters rather than voyeurs?

A patio party introduces us to the Persians of Beverly Hills: with lounging guests, designer duds in the pool, and lavish tents, the spread is vaguely reminiscent of a harem bath scene combined with a Sultan’s caravan theme. The font for “The Persian Conquest” is done in an Arabesque font, with sinewy flourishes and random dots evocative of the Aladdin soundtrack. “Here we go,” I say to myself.

But reading the introduction, I learn that these aren’t just any Persians W is profiling—they’re Persian Jews, who are a large part of Los Angeles’ huge Iranian diaspora.

Continue reading

Desi Webs: South Asian America, Online Cultures, and the Politics of Race [Conference Notes]

by Latoya Peterson

These are the notes for “ Desi Webs: South Asian America, Online Cultures, and the Politics of Race.” The notes are from a paper by Madhavi Mallapragada, presented at the Texas A & M University Race and Ethnic Studies Institute’s Symposium exploring Race, Ethnicity and (New) Media.

  • Resist identifying South Asians as a knowable identity
  • Media produced by SA as well as media cultures that speak to them are major influences in web 2.0
  • Categorizes are informed by transnational sensibilities
  • What is the “Indian” being imagined in the construction of Indian American?
    • How is the web mobilized around categorizes and what are the politics around these identities.
  • Focusing on the term “Desi”
    • Derived from “desh” which means homeland
    • Term of self and community identification
    • 2nd and 3rd gen youth often collectively identify as desi
    • While desi is a pan-South asian term, it often means Indian
  • She points to the popular website desihits.com
    • Bicultural remixes uniquely reflect the reality of people
    • Overwhelmingly focused on bollywood
    • Centrality of Indian pop culture and politics
  • Mallapragada plays the video “You Are Not an Indian
    • In this video titled, “You are not an Indian,” a young male addresses viewers who like him are neither just American nor Indian but desi. Wearing a t-shirt with the word “desi” written prominently in Hindi across it, the young man points out that desis are not South Asians but of South Asia. People of South Asian origin in the United States commonly refer to each other as Desi. The term means “from the homeland” and simultaneously invokes one’s identity as South Asian but also as being “outside South Asia”. As the young man reminds his viewers, the difference is key. Being desi implies being critically engaged with the “realities” of India rather than uncritically celebrating the hype surrounding its contemporary global image as high-tech nation.
    • Video is important as it displays the process of reasserting identity against a current narrative – of reclaimation, of identification
    • The idea of desi is undergoing a renovation in South Asian community spaces
  • Desi is being articulated as brown racialized identity asserted against the American nation state
  • Continue reading

    When Systems of Oppression Intersect: Mental Health and the Immigration System

    By Special Correspondent Thea Lim

    Angry Asian Man reports on the story of Xiu Ping Jiang, a 35 year-old Chinese illegal immigrant diagnosed with a mental illness who has been stuck in immigration limbo for over a year. From the New York Times:

    jiang

    [Jiang] has spent more than a year in jail, often in solitary confinement, sinking deeper into the mental illness that makes it impossible for her either to fight deportation or to obtain the travel documents needed to make it happen, according to a pending habeas corpus petition that seeks her release. It contends that she is suicidal, emaciated and deprived of proper medical treatment.

    More distressing is the report of her first court appearance in the NYT, which led to her deportation order:

    Twice the immigration judge asked the woman’s name. Twice she gave it: Xiu Ping Jiang. But he chided her, a Chinese New Yorker, for answering his question before the court interpreter had translated it into Mandarin.

    “Ma’am, we’re going to do this one more time, and then I’m going to treat you as though you were not here,” the immigration judge, Rex J. Ford, warned the woman last year at her first hearing in Pompano Beach, Fla. He threatened to issue an order of deportation that would say she had failed to show up.

    She was a waitress with no criminal record, no lawyer and a history of attempted suicide. Her reply to the judge’s threat, captured by the court transcript, was in imperfect English. “Sir, I not — cannot go home,” she said, referring to China, which her family says she fled in 1995 after being forcibly sterilized at 20. “If I die, I die America.”

    The judge moved on. “The respondent, after proper notice, has failed to appear,” he said for the record. And as she declared, “I’m going to die now,” he entered an order deporting her to China, and sent her back to the Glades County immigration jail.

    As Angry Asian Man says:

    The situation illustrates the vulnerability of the mentally ill in the immigration system. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement keeps putting increasingly strict enforcement measures in place, more and more people with mental illness are being put into detention — and no one is really looking out for them.

    In a bizarre twist, the only reason Jiang’s case is getting attention is because she happens to have the same name as the ex-wife of Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese American who shot 13 people in April at a Binghamton immigration services center. In looking for Wong’s ex-wife, reporters stumbled across Jiang.

    Yet Jiang is by a long stretch not the first (or I imagine) the last immigrant of colour with a health issue to be forgotten within the double prejudice of a system that is both xenophobic and ableist. Continue reading

    Canada’s misplaced tolerance? Or your misplaced fear?

    by Guest Contributor Krista, originally published at Muslim Lookout

    Be prepared for some major eye-rolling in this article from the Calgary Herald. In it, Mahfooz Kanwar praises Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney (see here for why this is a bad idea), and berates Canadians that he perceives as not having “assimilated” enough. A Muslim originally from Pakistan, Kanwar spends the article extolling the perfection of Canada’s values and culture, and blaming all problems on those immigrants who bring foreign baggage with them into this happy utopia.

    Kanwar’s definitions of “Canadian” identity and values are disturbingly narrow. It seems to apply only to those values already existing among people living in Canada, who have good values such as “equality.” People who move to Canada, according to Kanwar, need to adopt Canadian values, and lose (or at least hide) anything they brought from their home country. At no point does Kanwar allow for the possibility that there might be Canadian values that aren’t so great, or that our actual track record for “tolerance” and “equality” isn’t exactly as impressive as we’d like to think. He also never acknowledges that there might be some “foreign” values that could actually enrich or improve Canadian society. Immigrants are called to adopt “mainstream” Canadian ideas and behaviours, and the assumption is that these must be necessarily better than the ideas and behaviours that immigrants brought with them.

    Kanwar also calls for all immigrants to be unquestioningly patriotic and undividedly loyal to Canada, which is not a standard that most Canadian-born (and white) Canadians are ever called to adhere to. He writes, for example, that “Those who come here of their own volition and stay here must be truly patriotic Canadians or go back.” As a white Canadian whose family has been here for several generations, I have never been told that I should “go back” anywhere, despite a history of acts that I am sure Kanwar would classify as deeply unpatriotic. I am disturbed at Kanwar’s argument that all immigrants should have to adopt an uncritical sense of national pride in order to belong here, and that there does not appear to be any room for immigrants to be at all critical of Canada (or of the overall concepts of patriotism and nationalism, which I would also argue are worth critiquing) if they want to be considered worthy of living here. Continue reading

    City Councilman Promoted Violent Anti-Immigrant Video Game

    by Guest Contributor Cara, originally published at The Curvature

    comic 3

    I just came across a post at Sociological Images about an outrageously racist flash video game called Border Patrol. They note that in the game, “you try to keep three types of Mexicans from crossing the border: drug dealers, Mexican nationalists, and ‘breeders.’” Video game site Kotaku — which thankfully also calls the video game racist — gives a highly similar description. As you’ll notice in the image above, which is of a heavily pregnant and barefoot caricatured woman crossing the border, she is also on her way to the welfare office.

    But you may also notice something else. Looking at the image, there are bullet holes in the sign that says “Welcome to the United States” (with a picture of a flag that seems to indicate an anti-Semitic message that the country is run by Jews — am I missing something?). The woman in the game also looks like her head is in the cross hairs of a gun.

    That’s right, in this game we’re not “stopping” Mexican immigrants from crossing the border without documentation by, oh, calling the police. Or by using another horrific and degrading option like catching them in a net to send them back over the border.

    No, players are shooting them dead. Continue reading

    Postmaster Refuses to Serve Non-English Speaking Patrons

    by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

    The Daily Mail has published an article about a British postmaster’s controversial move: He’s refusing to serve customers who don’t speak English. Complicating matters is that the postmaster, who works in a culturally diverse section of Nottingham, is of Sri Lankan decent. He became a naturalized British citizen 17 years ago.

    “I tell them if they don’t speak the language and they can’t be bothered to learn, then don’t bother coming here,” the Daily Mail quoted Deva Kumarasiri as saying.

    In making this statement, Kumarasiri ignores his background of privilege. For instance, later in the article, we discover that he learned English in school in his native Sri Lanka. This is an opportunity that scores of immigrants never receive.

    The author of the article doesn’t say what age Kumarasiri was when he began to learn English, but studies have shown that the younger a person is when introduced to a language, the better chance the person has of mastering it. So, if Kumarasiri was a minor when he learned English, he has an additional edge over the immigrants he accuses of not “bothering to learn” the language. And is it fair to say that the immigrants in his area haven’t bothered to learn? I could argue that Kumarasiri didn’t bother to learn English either. He had to speak English by virtue of being a student in a school that instructed him in the language.

    Throughout the article, Kumarasiri continues to make arguments that are downright shoddy. He resorts to using offensive clichés when he says, “If you don’t want to be British, go home.” Even when he puts more thought into his explanations for banning non-English speakers from his shop, his points are flawed. For example, Kumarasiri argues, “The fabric of the nation begins to unravel if we don’t all speak the same language.” Continue reading

    Interracial Marriage Rate Declines Among Asians

    by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

    The Washington Post has an interesting story on recent trends in interracial marriage in America — specifically, a decline in the rate of Hispanics and Asians marrying partners of other races in the past two decades: Immigrants’ Children Look Closer for Love.

    Sociologists and demographers are just beginning to study how the children of recent immigrants will date and marry. Conventional wisdom has it that in the open-minded Obama era, they will begin choosing spouses of other ethnicities as the number of interracial marriages rises.

    But scholars are coming across a surprising converse trend. According to U.S. Census data, the number of native- and foreign-born people marrying outside their race fell from 27 to 20 percent for Hispanics and 42 to 33 percent for Asians from 1990 to 2000.

    Scholars suggest it’s all about the growing number of immigrants. It seems that the large immigrant population fundamentally changes the pool of potential partners for Asians and Hispanics. Thus, the second generation is more likely to marry people of their own ethnicity.

    It’s not quite like it was before, when there were only two Asian kids in your school — you and this other boy/girl — and everyone thought you two should go together to the prom. Forced coupling. Now half the school is Asian, so it’s not such a big deal. Something like that.