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Students for Immigrant Justice

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One of the most important things I have done throughout my time at Bryn Mawr is help to start the Students for Immigrant Justice group on campus, and to push for immigrant rights both at Bryn Mawr and around the country.  My contribution is small and paltry compared to what some of my classmates have done – many of whom are immigrants themselves – but I still feel like my small steps of solidarity mean something.  Last spring, in February, 2012, a plenary resolution calling for the just treatment of undocumented students at Bryn Mawr was postponed.  One of the main changes we were calling for was a statement from the Admissions office stating their willingness to receive applications from undocumented immigrant students.  After plenary, our student group started a campus-wide petition, and got enough signatures to convince admissions to add a new page on undocumented applicants on their website.  Much of our campus work has been paralleled with larger rallies, protests, and sit-ins looking at national immigration policy, and the unfair treatment of people incarcerated in federal detention centers.

One of the most fascinating things to me about immigration to the US is the mass cognitive dissonance that exists here –framing immigrants from the global south as invaders to a supposedly white nation, and conveniently forgetting who is actually native to the land.  Immigrants who come to the US through both legal means and without official documentation are subject to discrimination and derision from society at large.  I often think about the work of Ronaldo Munck, an immigration scholar, who explains that “migrants can be and are also viewed as a threat to cultural identity and security.” In my opinion, this is such a silly fear in the US setting, considering that our cultural identity has long been an evolving mix of different cultural traditions.  Undocumented immigrants, in particular – even children! – are often referred to as “illegals,” stripping them of any humanity, and instead replacing their identity with a marker on whether they followed proper bureaucratic means to get here.  Rarely is a thought given to the justness of those laws immigrants are asked to follow.

But Munck has also focused my attention on another irony: the fact that deregulated, free, markets are strongly encouraged when it comes to capital and goods, but greatly feared when it comes to labor.  But he never really answers how this can be possible Yes, there has always been incredible amounts of racism and xenophobia in the US, and yes wealthy nations want to maintain power as principle of sovereignty.  But so much of the rhetoric surrounding immigration presents a zero-sum game where either immigrants take a certain share of money or US/EU/etc citizens do.  So some of this fear and sense of threat clearly comes from deeply felt economic fears, but the same people being terrified of free-flowing labor tout neoliberal economic principals.  So what explains this hypocrisy?  If we love neoliberalism so much, why not just allow for freedom of movement and let the markets dictate where immigrants end up?


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