The racial injustices of mass deportation

—Tanya Maria Golash-Boza

[This article was originally published on CounterPunch.] 

Comprehensive immigration reform, it seems, is no longer on the political agenda. It is incumbent upon us (by us I mean people committed to immigrant rights and racial justice) to put it back on the agenda. And, the focus of that agenda should be the repeal of the 1996 laws: IIRIRA and AEDPA.

Between 2009 and 2013, I carried out a research project that involved interviewing 147 deportees in four countries. One of the deportees I met, who I will call Ryan, was living outside of Kingston, Jamaica in the house of a distant relative. I will share his story with you, as it is emblematic of many of the problems with immigration law enforcement in the United States and points to the need for reform of the 1996 laws.

Ryan moved to Brooklyn, New York, with his mother, when he was six years old. There, he finished high school and enrolled in college. Things were going well for Ryan until he made one mistake that would change his life.

When Ryan was about 20 years old, he received a phone call from a friend, who asked Ryan for a ride home. As they were driving home, they came across a police checkpoint. It turned out Ryan’s friend was carrying cocaine. Ryan and his friend were found guilty of drug possession and Ryan was sentenced to 18 months in boot camp. When Ryan was released, his fiancé, his daughter, and his mother came to pick him up from boot camp.

However, Ryan was not permitted to go home with his family. Ryan was a legal permanent resident of the United States. And, he had been convicted of possession of narcotics, and thus faced mandatory deportation to Jamaica. From one day to the next, Ryan’s life fell apart.

Ryan was deported due to changes in deportation law passed in 1996 that made deportation mandatory for certain crimes. Since the implementation of these laws in 1997, over five million people have been deported from the United States.

The current period is exceptional insofar as there has never previously been a time when so many people were deported from the United States.

Five million people since 1997. That’s a huge number. It’s over twice the sum total of all deportations prior to 1997. The details of these numbers are often the subject of debate. However, no matter how you slice it, we are in a moment of mass deportation and the effects of this policy are felt in communities across this country and throughout Latin America.

A recent Pew survey revealed that over a quarter of Latinos know someone who has been deported or detained in the past year. This means the effects of deportation are reverberating far beyond these five million individual deportations.

Last year, over 100,000 people who were living in the United States were apprehended by immigration law enforcement agents and deported to their countries of birth. That is three times as many interior removals as there were in 2003. An interior removal refers to someone like Ryan who was living in the United States prior to being deported.

Over the past decade, over 200,000 people who had lived in the United States for more than ten years have been removed from this country. That amounts to the city of Rochester, New York, being depleted of its population over the course of 10 years. Or perhaps more accurately, imagine every father in San Francisco being removed from the country.

Last year, about 100,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were removed from the United States. That’s ten times as many as the sum total of all parents of U.S. citizens removed between 1997 and 2006.

Not only is mass deportation on the rise, it also targets specific populations. About 90% of deportees have been men, and nearly all (97%) are from the Americas, even though about half of all non-citizens are women and only 60 percent of non-citizens are from the Americas.

Mass deportation happens often with minimal due process. In 2009, 231 immigration judges heard more than 300,000 cases – an average of over 1,200 per judge. Dana L. Marks, an immigration judge in San Francisco explained that asylum hearings often feel “like holding death penalty cases in traffic court.”

Immigration court is a bit like traffic court. It is an administrative court without the due process protections of criminal courts. In immigration proceedings, you have no right to legal representation. You can be detained without bond. You can be deported without a full hearing. Ryan, for example, never got to tell a judge that he had come to the United States when he was six, that he qualified for and had applied for citizenship, that he was a college student, that his daughter had just been born, or even that he had no family or friends in Jamaica.

The 1996 laws took away most of judge’s discretionary power in aggravated felony cases. Those convicted now face mandatory and automatic deportation, no matter the extenuating circumstances. Even legal permanent residents like Ryan who have lived in the United States for decades, and have extensive family ties in this country, are subject to deportation for relatively minor crimes they may have committed years ago.

How do we make sense of this? Why is the United States deporting more people than ever before? Why are black and Latino men targeted? And, why are deportation laws so draconian?

In my forthcoming book, Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor, and Global Capitalism (NYU Press 2015), I argue that mass deportation is best understood as an instance of racialized state repression, a practice that has a long history in this country.

The racialized and gendered nature of immigration law enforcement – specifically the targeting of black and Latino men – should be unsurprising to anyone familiar with the history of state repression in the United States. The enslavement of African Americans, the internment of the Japanese, and the mass deportation of Mexicans in the 1930s were all official state practices that targeted specific ethnic or racial groups.

In today’s political climate of colorblind racism, it is unacceptable to have a policy that explicitly targets one group. However, it is legal and acceptable to have a policy that – in its implementation – produces disparate outcomes. Insofar as deportation laws are colorblind in their language, it is legally permissible that they are discriminatory in practice.

It is thus well beyond time to change the course of history. We can start by repealing the 1996 laws.

Tanya Maria Golash-Boza is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced. She is the author of several books, including Immigration Nation (2012) and Race and Racisms (2015). Her forthcoming book, Deported: Policing Immigrants, Disposable Labor and Global Capitalism, will be published by NYU Press in 2015.

Ayahuasca and the spiritual natives

—Brett Hendrickson 

What do Lindsay Lohan, Sting, and hundreds of Brooklyn hipsters have in common besides their glowing personalities? They all sing the praises of ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic and psychedelic brew that has long been used by indigenous Amazonian groups. Ayahuasca sends its consumers into throes of reverie and feelings of spiritual connectedness. It also causes bouts of vomiting, which users lift up as part of the cathartic experience—the “ayahuasca cleanse.”

North American and European spiritual tourists being treated by a Peruvian shaman.

In its original Amazonian context, ayahuasca use is an integral part of the trances that shamans enter to carry out powerful transactions between waking life and other levels of their reality. The impetus for most of these trance journeys and transactions is healing of one sort or another, whether this be physical recovery from illness or the restoration of ruptured social norms. Shaman specialists take the ayahuasca in order to enter the visionary realm wherein they can do the important work of re-establishing balance, harmony, and health for their patients and communities.

By the mid-twentieth century, anthropologists who studied ayahuasca-using South American tribes were trying the drug for themselves and bringing back stories of its psychedelic properties. Soon, the growing counter-culture was experimenting with ayahuasca and other psychotropic plants common in Central and South America like peyote cactus and psilocybin mushrooms. Adding significantly to these plants’ inherent hallucinogenic properties was the ostensible authenticity and simplicity of indigenous people’s wisdom and spirituality.

The last few years have witnessed a rise in the popularity of ayahuasca use both on ethno-tourist jaunts to Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil, and in spiritual salons dedicated to the drug in the United States. It has become especially trendy among creative types like musicians and writers and also with young urbanites who might self-identify as spiritual seekers. Like-minded people have taken advantage of online social networking to gather with shaman/entrepreneurs who provide not only the ayahuasca but also a guided tour into a commodified form of indigenous spirituality.

A recent story in the New York Times describes such a meet-up in Brooklyn that featured a Colombian shaman, cups of ayahuasca, barf buckets, candlelight, chanting, drumming, and a $150 price tag. Others are not content with this kind of dabbling and have taken the plunge to remote South America to learn to have even more authentic experiences and perhaps become shamans themselves. A recent profile of one such individual describes a young Jewish man from Williamsburg who made various trips to the Amazon and the Caribbean where he received a new name from indigenous masters: Turey Tekina (allegedly “Sky Singer” in Quechua). After many spiritual adventures and self-discoveries, he “returned to Brooklyn, and turned his apartment into a temple for [ayahuasca] ceremonies. He has a steady flow of regular and new clients, all who learn of him through word of mouth.”

The history of Anglo-Americans who have dabbled in—or even appropriated—the religious and traditional medicines of indigenous people is long but remarkably constant. In almost every case, the white seekers are looking for healing and wholeness, but almost always in a such a way that critiques the complications and coldness of “Western” life and/or its “institutional religion;” utterly romanticizes indigenous people as simple and pure sources of unadulterated ancient wisdom; and can be easily commodified and thus sold in packages with other alternative medicines or therapies.

The latest craze for ayahuasca’s visions and vomiting is one more item in what sociologist of religion Wade Clark Roof has called America’s “spiritual marketplace.” When this particular trend passes, no doubt another will take its place in this unique form of American religiosity that privileges the sacred wisdom of the natives, as long as we can have it when—and how—we want it.

Brett Hendrickson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Lafayette College (PA). He is the author of Border Medicine: A Transcultural History of Mexican American Curanderismo (NYU Press, 2014).

Fighting for the “Mexican Dream”: Behind the scenes of border-crossing tourism

—Leah M. Sarat

About every six months or so, a news story emerges about an unlikely ecotourism event in Mexico: a border-crossing simulation that invites visitors to step into the shoes of undocumented migrants as they flee “Border Patrol” agents, hide in ditches, and dodge bullets while crossing through a reimagined U.S.-Mexico border.

Are you baffled yet? Perhaps offended by the thought of tourists making light of the migration journey?

That was my reaction when I first heard of the Caminata Nocturna, or “Night Hike,” in early 2007. I traveled to El Alberto, the indigenous town in the Central Mexican state of Hidalgo that stages the simulation, to learn more. The true story behind the event is one of creativity and resilience. It is the story of the “Mexican Dream”—that is, of a community’s pursuit of a sustainable future in the face of overwhelming pressure to travel north.

Residents of El Alberto dream not of reaching America, but rather of being able to earn a living right where they are. So committed are they to that vision that they have dedicated countless hours of unpaid work in order to make their town’s ecotourism park a success. At the close of the border simulation, tourists “arrive,” but not to an imaginary United States. Instead, they arrive at the base of a canyon whose sides are lit with hundreds of torches representing those who have perished during migration.

The message of the border simulation is this: the American Dream is not the only dream worth fighting for. Instead, members of the national community must join forces with members of the international community to fight for a world in which the fundamental right not to migrate will be available to all.

The bitter irony is that behind the scenes of the border reenactment, many of El Alberto’s residents find themselves with little option but to continue to undertake the perilous journey north. As they do so, many draw upon their evangelical Christian faith to confront the very real possibility of death at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Immigration solutions that militarize the U.S.-Mexico border without addressing the root causes of migration are not enough. Let us listen to El Alberto’s call for the “Mexican Dream”—and let us ask what sort of binational solutions can help make that dream a reality.

Leah Sarat is Assistant Professor of Religion at Arizona State University. She is the author of Fire in the Canyon: Religion, Migration, and the Mexican Dream (NYU Press, 2013).

Book giveaway: Open Veins of Latin America

Since its publication in 1971, Open Veins of Latin America has been translated into more than a dozen languages and has sold more than a million copies. Written by Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, the book chronicles five centuries of exploitation in Latin America—first by European empires, and later the United States. In it, Galeano argues that this “structure of plunder” led to the region’s enduring poverty and underdevelopment.

Now, according to a recent New York Times article, Galeano has disavowed the book. But has he?

In light of the controversy, we’re giving away a FREE copy of Open Veins of Latin America to three lucky winners. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and e-mail address. Winners will be randomly selected on Friday, June 6 at 12:00pm EST.

Is the Miss America pageant good or bad for women?

Earlier this month, the NYT’s “Room for Debate” blog featured a thoughtful discussion on the Miss America pageant and its role in today’s society. Now that this year’s pageant is over, we asked Megan Seely, author of Fight Like a Girl: How to Be a Fearless Feminist, to weigh in on the controversy in light of recent racial backlash faced by its first Indian-American winner. Read her piece below.
 

Miss America Colleen Kay Hutchins (R) looking at her trophy, September 1952.

I often hear the Miss America pageant defended as a great source of scholarship funds. Indeed, it is said that this year’s winner will receive about $50,000 in scholarship money. But given the fact that women receive fewer academic and merit scholarships than their male counterparts, despite overall higher grades; and despite the fact that there are fewer role models for women and girls in education particularly within Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); and despite the fact that women continue to confront pay inequity once they are in their jobs and careers, it is offensive that we defend and celebrate a ‘scholarship program’ whose main requirement is women meet a specific and narrow definition of physical beauty.

Some have recently argued that there have been gains for women of color, citing the very small handful of women of color who have been crowned. It should be noted that we have never had a Latina Miss America or a transgendered Miss America. And until the 1930s the official rulebook of the pageant required contestants to be “of the white race.” A rule that might officially be gone today, but is clearly still expected, judging by the blatantly racist response to the 2014 winner, Nina Davuluri.

There are women who love the pageant. There are participants who defend and celebrate what Miss America has meant to their lives. They argue choice in participating or watching or believing in the pageant. I don’t mean to dismiss these perspectives. But I do question, what is choice, in a culture that so deeply holds and reinforces a beauty standard that is then required for participation in the pageant?  Miss America deviates little from the thin, tall, heteronormative, and more than not, white ideal of beauty. Though there are a few who have successfully challenged the whiteness of the pageant, very little has changed. If we teach women and girls that their value is in their physical appearance, then it is no wonder that many turn to Miss America for validation.

I would hope that the winners would use their public platform to create change and impact the world.  But changing the pageant and the culture in which it exists is a far greater challenge. While women of color who become Miss America certainly defy the stereotypes of American beauty, they often do so while reinforcing the expectations of body size and appearance. There is still little, if any, diversity in regards to all races, ethnicities, cultural identities, body sizes, genders, sexualities, ages and abilities.  As long as this remains true, and as long as all women do not see themselves routinely represented and valued in every aspect of society, then we cannot justify the existence of this overtly misogynistic institution. Even if we celebrate the few women who have managed to stand out within it.  We cannot ignore the negative and harmful impacts this event has on thousands upon thousands of women of all ages who struggle to find their worth in a culture that emphasizes and rewards women’s physical appearance above all else. Girls are watching; we owe them more.

Megan Seely is a third wave feminist and activist, and author of Fight Like a Girl: How to Be a Fearless Feminist (NYU Press, 2007). She lives and teaches in northern California.

Words do matter in the immigration debate

Ediberto Román and Bobby Joe Bracy

[This post originally appeared on the Latinovations blog. Read it here.]

After decades of inaction, this week’s unveiling of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration proposal suggests that Congress may finally be prepared to reform our immigration system. It is of no surprise that this renewed vigor comes on the heels of a presidential election where an overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters rejected the Republican solution was self-deportation. Yet, despite this crucial and potentially transformative moment, Republican leaders, such as Senator John McCain, one of the Group of Eight, has continued to use of ‘illegal immigrant’ when addressing the subjects of reform. He and many other Republicans who oppose immigration reform continue to use the more provocative yet inaccurate term–“illegal alien”(a term still used by the federal immigration agency, ICE). Conservative Senator Jeff Sessions for his part derided the Gang of Eight’s efforts as “making nearly impossible for ICE officials to distinguish between ‘illegal immigrants’ eligible for legal status and those simply asserting they are amnesty eligible.”

Notwithstanding the insistence to label human beings as “illegal” merely because they have committed what under federal law is a misdemeanor, other important avenues of communication and education are beginning to change the heretofore tone of the debate. Just over a week ago the Associated Press (AP) came to a decision that has gone virtually unnoticed in legal and political circles. Yet the decision was profound. The AP “no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

A week later, USA Today made a similar decision to refrain from using the term, concluding that: “the term illegal immigration is acceptable, but do not label people as illegal immigrants, except in direct quotes. Undocumented immigrant, undocumented worker and unauthorized immigrant are acceptable terms — depending on accuracy, clarity and context… Do not use illegal or illegals as a noun. It is considered pejorative by most immigrants.”

While Fox News subsequently accused the AP of trying to influence immigration debate, the fact is the AP and the USA Today decisions were sound on several fronts, not the least of which is the accurate use of the English language as well as the legal and social impact of a discrediting imprecise term such as “illegal immigrant.”

Legal scholars have long recognized the inappropriateness of the use of the term. University of California, at Davis, Dean Kevin Johnson, for instance, observes: The most damning terminology for noncitizens is “illegal alien…‘Illegal aliens’ is a pejorative term that implies criminality, thereby suggesting that the persons who fall in this category deserve punishment, not legal protection.” Johnson further notes, “The illegal alien label…suffers from inaccuracies and inadequacies at several levels. [In fact,] many nuances of immigration law make it extremely difficult to distinguish between an ‘illegal’ and a ‘legal’ alien.”

Leading linguists agree, and last year a group of 24 scholars criticized the Associated Press’ previous assertion that the term “illegal immigrant” was accurate and neutral. These experts noted: “This misleading construction of illegality is tied to the circulation of troublesome stereotypes about the migration status of different ethnoracial groups. Specifically, assessments of illegality are often associated with unreliable signs of one’s migration status, such as language, religion, and physical appearance. These presumptions lead not only to law enforcers’ regular misidentification of people’s migration status based on wrongful assumptions about ethnolinguistic markers, but also to the broader public stigmatization of those markers.”

As the leading law dictionary, Black’s makes clear, no person, including an alien, is “illegal.” The word “illegal” is an adjective, or “a word … typically serving as a modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named.” Thus, no person, including an alien, is illegal. Accordingly, an alien is “a person resident in one country, but owing allegiance to another.” In other words, our laws regulate the legality of the “conduct” of persons, but do not attempt to classify human beings in such a manner. We do not, for instance, classify a seven year old that steals something as an “illegal child.” Such a label would not only be deemed absurd, but also morally bankrupt. Our laws have never gone as far as to make the persons involved “illegal.” The idea that a person might be “illegal” is thus not only inhumane; it is also grammatically inaccurate, as well as legally incoherent. There are simply no laws adequately governing the issue of “illegal personhood.” As Johnson points out, although “alien” appears repeatedly in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the term “illegal alien” is not once defined.

In sum, substances and other objects can be illegal, and conduct can be illegal—but a person cannot. As Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel aptly noted years ago, “No human being is illegal.”

The AP’s decision is couched in bedrock ethical and professional concerns about accuracy in reporting. As AP’s Kathleen Carroll explains…”Will the new guidance make it harder for writers? Perhaps just a bit at first. But while labels may be more facile, they are not accurate.”

Social justice and civil rights advocates have long fought similar battles over truth and accuracy, which is not an easy battle when facility makes ignorance so appealing. As the AP now calls for: Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

In other words: do your homework, and describe the action or conduct that is illegal.

The decision is the only fit response to critics who dismiss this issue as “political correctness” or “censorship.” The aim evidently was not to “censor” ideas or speech, but to be critical of terms that bury a great deal of important information. In almost any context, these questions are not only significant for reporting, but legally significant. People’s rights are in the balance. As a federal court recently observed in U.S. v. Cruz-Padilla, where the court held that the defendant was entitled to a new trial because the prosecution relied on the term “illegal alien” in their closing arguments in front of a jury. Citing the Supreme Court’s earlier decisions (holding that the Constitution’s “due process” clause prohibits the use of “racially biased prosecutorial arguments”), the Cruz-Padilla Court characterized the “improper” use of the term “illegal alien” as a “foul.”

Law and psychology experts likewise have long recognized, markers or labels, especially politically loaded negative labels, have the ability to shape public policy and laws. Such labels help shape what is described as implicit bias, or mental shortcuts that allow us to make negative associations of groups that are undeserving of such negative categorizations. Stereotypes, for instance, allow society to use mental shortcuts, or schema, to associate individuals with a discrediting quality. These discrediting qualities in turn make it easier for policy makers to enact laws that seek to protect us from those with such qualities.

Sadly, history is replete with such efforts. For instance, one of the first and easiest ways for the Third Reich to enact its laws and policies was to stigmatize the Jewish community with similar discrediting qualities. These efforts paved the way to pass laws and enact horrific policies to allegedly protect society from these dangerous contagions. The use of the label illegal alien has a similar social effect. It has labeled a group of persons, who under our criminal and immigration laws have committed typically nothing more than a misdemeanor, as a group of hardened criminals that we should fear and exclude. As more and more Americans are realizing, and opinion polls reflect such realization, this label conflicts with reality.

With the recent announcements by the AP and the USA Today, we hopefully begin a path of engaging in narratives based on accurate depictions, and not stigmatizing labels. No longer is it ethical or responsible to use the discrediting marker “an illegal human being”—if indeed it ever was.

Ediberto Román is a nationally-acclaimed scholar and an award-winning educator with broad teaching interests and an extensive scholarship portfolio. He is the author of several books, including Citizenship and Its Exclusions: Classical, Constitutional, and Critical Race Perspectives (NYU Press, 2010) and Those Damn Immigrants: America’s Hysteria Over Immigration (NYU Press, 2013).

Bobby Joe Bracy is a law student at Florida International University and an immigrant rights advocate. He is currently a research assistant for Ediberto Román, and the President of the National Lawyers Guild at FIU Law.

In memoriam: Hugo Chávez

—Michael D. Yates

The death of Hugo Chávez saddens those struggling for a better world. He was a great champion of the impoverished workers and peasants of both Venezuela and the world, and a steadfast and bold critic of the rapacious and murderous imperialism of the United States.

Monthly Review Press is proud of the books we have published on Venezuela, books which describe, analyze, and show solidarity with the Venezuelan road to democratic socialism. A key element in building a revolutionary, new society is to ensure the health of the people. This has been one of Chávez’s singular achievements; millions of poor Venezuelans have received (free) medical care for the first time. In cooperation with Cuba, Venezuela has begun to construct a system of patient-centered, decentralized, and preventive health care, a process examined in Steve Brouwer’s Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba Are Changing the World’s Conception of Health Care. Remarkably, peasants and workers are themselves trained to be doctors, in a work and study program pioneered by Cuba.

Under Chávez, Venezuela has striven to secure its political and economic independence from the United States, which has had a sordid history of intervention in the country and in all of Latin America. Not only did he help to engineer a strong economy not dependent on the United States, he never hesitated to challenge with words and deeds its imperialist practices. Given the implacable hostility of the United States to Venezuela, examined with great care by Eva Golinger in Bush versus Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, it is remarkable that Chávez remained in power, winning democratic elections and surviving a Bush-engineered coup. This is a testament to the depth of his revolution and the growing power of Latin American governments to steer a course independent of the United States, a power inspired by Venezuela.

Following the failed coup in April 2002, when massive popular protest propelled him back to the presidency, Chávez sat down with Marta Harnecker and provided insights into his own political trajectory and the nature of what he called “socialism for the twenty-first century.” His words were later published in Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution (Monthly Review Press, 2005).

While Monthly Review Press must sell books to remain in operation, our main purpose has always been to promote radical thought and action in the world. We have published books in which authors have expressed the deepest admiration for Hugo Chávez, but praise for a radical leader is never our goal; it is the empowerment of the masses of workers and peasants we want to help achieve. And yet, it must be said that our love for Chávez has been amply repaid.

In April 2009, at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad, Chávez arose from his seat, walked over to Barack Obama and handed him a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s classic work of the centuries-long exploitation of Latin America by the great imperialist nations (including, of course, the United States): Open Veins of Latin America. He inscribed the book, “For Obama, with affection.” As word of this spread around the world, the English edition of the book reached #2 on Amazon’s sales charts. This was a great boon to Monthly Review Press and to our distributor, NYU Press. We were inundated with emails and phone calls, and I remember having to quickly re-read the book (which I had used in my classes when I was a teacher), so that I could write and deliver, within one day, a review to an Australian magazine.

Let us hope that as the Venezuelan revolution continues and as the imperial power of the United States someday diminishes in response to popular revolt here, it won’t be necessary for the president of one country to give such a book to the leader of another. Because Hugo Chávez’s dream and that of every revolutionary person will have been realized… That there be no rich and poor, that there be no exploiter and exploited, that there be only one healthy and happy humanity.

Michael D. Yates is a writer, editor, and labor educator. He is Associate Editor of Monthly Review and Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press.

Announcing our Spring 2013 Catalog…

NYU Press Spring 2013 Catalog is now online, featuring an exciting range of new books in history, media studies, law, and more!

Highlights include:
TWO PRESIDENTS ARE BETTER THAN ONE: Making the case for a two-party, two-person presidency, this “pipe dream of a book” presents a “novel and provocative thesis worth hearing out” (Kirkus Reviews).

A DEATH AT CROOKED CREEK: Marion Wesson, author of best-selling and prize-winning legal novels including Render up the Body, combines drama and intrigue  with cutting-edge forensic investigation techniques and legal theory in this superbly imagined historical novel.

CAPITAL OF THE WORLD: Charlene Mires tells the dramatic, surprising, and at times comic story of hometown promoters in an extraordinary race to host the U.N. headquarters at a pivotal moment in history.

(You can also click here to access this catalog via our website, or find our catalogs available on Edelweiss.)

Stop the bleeding: Prescriptions to heal racial economic inequality in America

—F. Michael Higginbotham

Recently, Americans elected Barack Obama as President for a second term. When Obama began his first term, economic disparities between blacks and whites were alarmingly wide. Black unemployment, poverty, and homelessness were twice that of whites. Wealth accumulation for blacks was one twentieth of what it was for whites. A similar disparity existed for Latinos/as. During the last four years, the gap widened.

It’s important to recognize that racial inequality today is a reality. There is no such place as a post racial America. While the causes of racism are more complex than they were under discriminatory laws of the Jim Crow Era, today this divide is primarily caused by choices that result in economic hardship, housing isolation, education inequity, and criminal justice stereotyping.

One choice is exemplified in the story of Tim Carter and Richard Thomas, arrested in 2004 in separate incidents three months apart in nearly the same location in St. Petersburg, Florida. Police found one rock of cocaine on Mr. Carter, who is white, and a crack pipe with cocaine residue, on Mr. Thomas, who is black.

Both men claimed drug addictions, neither had any prior felony arrests or convictions, and both men potentially faced five years in prison. Mr. Carter had his prosecution withheld, and the judge sent him to drug rehabilitation. Mr. Thomas was prosecuted, convicted and went to prison. Their only apparent difference was race.

Another choice is reflected in the pattern of property ownership and the fact that whites continue to embrace the “tipping point” notion in housing integration. “Tipping point” bigotry inspired Jeremy Parady, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiracy to commit arson in a series of fires in a new housing development in Southern Maryland. Parady admitted that he set fire to this development because many of the buyers were blacks and the surrounding neighborhood was mostly white.

While these disparities have been persistent, they need not be permanent. As a long term strategy, let’s equalize funding for public schools, prohibit racial profiling, eliminate laws that have a severe racially disproportionate impact, redefine our notion of racism to include negligent acts, criminalize intentional acts of racism, and increase integration in neighborhoods and schools. Such changes would go a long way to reducing current racial inequities.

For now as a start, let’s pass the American Jobs Act which contains several components that would reduce racial inequality in employment. First, the act is aimed at revitalizing and rebuilding communities where unemployment has risen most sharply, especially urban areas. Many such areas have a high percentage of black unemployment. Second, the act is aimed at neighborhoods where the foreclosure rates are highest. This includes many areas with high concentrations of blacks. Third, the act is aimed at decreasing youth unemployment by creating summer and year-round jobs for impoverished teenagers and young adults. Many of these youths are black with little chance of finding employment under current economic circumstances.

Too many Americans are hurting under this extended economic slump. Blacks and Latinos/as have been particularly hit hard with unemployment near 15%. Healing the racial divide must begin soon. Stopping the bleeding in employment discrimination must begin now.

F. Michael Higginbotham is the Wilson H. Elkins Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He is the author of Race Law: Cases, Commentary, and Questions and Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America (forthcoming from NYU Press, March 2013).

Why “deferred action” isn’t enough

—Michael A. Olivas

Tens of thousands of undocumented students are making their way through college without federal financial support and with little state financial aid available—only to find that they cannot accept employment or enter the professions for which they have trained. Cases of undocumented law-school graduates who have passed the bar are surfacing in California, Florida, and New York, and more will soon surface in other fields, too, as unauthorized students graduate from college. Seeing this brick wall, a number of immigration law professors wrote a letter to the president, urging him to use the administrative discretion available to him, to help undocumented college students who find themselves in the worst of all possible worlds. It appears this call was heard when, in June 2012, President Obama announced an expansive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which is still in the implementation first phases.

Unfortunately, despite the excitement (and outrage from President Obama’s Republican opponents), this policy is not the stalled DREAM Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for some immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The President’s courageous decision could not have accorded any more than he did, as any true reform will have to come from Congress, which has been reluctant to take up even the modest DREAM Act, much less the more comprehensive immigration reform so needed.

Gov. Mitt Romney has indicated his determination to veto any version of the DREAM Act, and the 2012 GOP platform urges deportation of these students. In reality, the President’s adoption of a “deferred action” policy is, to a great extent, old wine in a new wineskin. The policy does not grant legal-residency status, as the DREAM Act would, but only defers deportation for a renewable two-year period. Announcing the policy shows new political will, but it does not change existing law or create additional discretion.

Forms of prosecutorial discretion, including deferred action, have been available for many years (originating in the John Lennon deportation case, in the early 1970s). Nothing substantive has been added to existing authority. Indeed, in June 2011, the government announced that it would focus on deporting known criminals (the “gangbangers” as President Obama referred to them in a recent debate)—and urged prosecutors to use their discretion in considering the cases of students who would qualify for the DREAM Act. DACA has made regular provisions for these students to receive work authorization. Bear in mind, too, that this administration removed and deported nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants in the previous year. Even with those metrics, and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, those who would further restrict immigration are not convinced that there has been enough enforcement—and see deferred action as a threat to the present situation. In August 2012, CIS employees filed suit to end DACA. There is a new application procedure, a good thing, and many details yet to be determined.

Deferred action is a vague and confusing process—and it will probably lead to unscrupulous notarios entering the picture. Under current regulations, individuals whose case has been deferred are eligible to receive employment authorization, provided he or she can demonstrate “an economic necessity for employment.” Deferred action can be terminated or renewed at any time at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. Many potential DREAMers will be hesitant to apply and “out” themselves to authorities, even in exchange for employment authorization, if the President is not re-elected. The delays occasioned by schools being overwhelmed with transcript requests make it clear that this has been a complicated and expensive process, one with uncertain contours. History may be on the side of the DREAMers, but they still find themselves in a cruel limbo not of their making, and with no clear way out of the thicket. This is a movement forward, and the program will transform many of the students’ lives for the better. But only the adults in Congress taking up immigration reform will truly serve their interests, and that of society.

Thirty years after the Supreme Court told us that undocumented immigrants deserve an education (Plyler v. Doe, 1982), we have yet to resolve this impasse. Deferred action is a step in the right direction, but until more cases are cleared and these students can take up work, it will be a program fraught with potential. While these students’ chances of being deported may be reduced, without employment authorization and a reasonable opportunity to regularize their status, they will still live in the shadows—with limited hope.

Michael A. Olivas is Professor of Law, University of Houston, and the author of No Undocumented Child Left Behind (NYU Press, 2102).

Reflections on NYU Press book banned in Arizona

—Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

The rapid growth of populations of color, especially relatively young groups like Latinos, has created a number of conflicts over schools and schooling. In Arizona, a successful program of Mexican American Studies in the Tucson school system drew the ire of state authorities who deemed it un-American and biased. Its defenders countered that it greatly boosted attendance, engagement, and graduation rates for hundreds of Latino schoolchildren who made up over fifty percent of the student bodies in many schools in Arizona, and was not at all unpatriotic or divisive.

The Tucson program had increased graduation rates from below half to over ninety percent, with many of the students, most from poor families, going on to college.  Taught by charismatic young instructors, many with degrees in Ethnic Studies from the University of Arizona, the program featured Latino history and culture, including works by well known author such as Rodolfo Acuna, Sandra Cisneros, Paulo Freire, Howard Zinn, and William Shakespeare. Students studied the great empires of Mesoamerica, the War with Mexico, and the colonization of Puerto Rico. They studied the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and the role of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Denver-based Corky Gonzales. They learned to play mariachi music, dance Mexican dances, and create poetry.

When Arizona authorities banned the program under a new bill (H.B. 2281) forbidding the teaching of ethnically divisive material and removed the offending textbooks to a distant book depository in front of crying students, the local Latino community exploded in indignation. A Texas community college professor organized a caravan of “libro-traficantes” (book traffickers) to smuggle “wet books” into Tucson, where they gave them away to bystanders from a taco truck borrowed for the occasion. Librarians and publishing houses across the nation donated copies of the banned books. Sympathetic Anglos wrote columns or spoke at teach-ins supporting the program.

Teachers who were fired or transferred brought a number of legal actions challenging the bill or book ban, which included works by each of the authors mentioned above, as well as our book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (NYU Press). This straightforward exposition of critical race thought had been in use in a number of the Tucson classes to explain racial dynamics in the United States. NYU proudly issued a new edition of this best-selling book in 2012 and was happy to donate copies to the beleaguered children of Tucson.

Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic are Professors of Law at Seattle University and have collaborated on four previous books, including The Latino Condition, Second Edition (NYU Press, 2010), The Derrick Bell Reader (NYU Press, 2005), How Lawyers Lose Their Way: A Profession Fails Its Creative Minds, and Understanding Words That Wound.

☞ Also, a special congratulations to @writerswriting, winner of our book giveaway of Critical Race Theory during last week’s Banned Books Week!

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week kicked off yesterday, marking 30 years of “celebrating the freedom to read.” The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (ALA) will be commemorating the 30th anniversary with their “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week” and a “Virtual Read-Out,” which encourages readers to share videos of themselves reading excerpts from their favorite banned book.

The cause is especially close to our hearts this year at NYU Press, as one of our books made the banned book list, just as it was being released in its second edition!

Following the Tucson Unified School District’s decision to entirely dissolve its Mexican-American Studies program, several books that had been part of its curriculum were banned. Books that made this list included Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, and NYU Press’s own Critical Race Theory by scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic.

We’d like to take part in the celebration this week and show our support in the fight against censorship! To start, we’re sharing this video reading below, uploaded by Colorado College Feminist and Gender Studies professor Heidi Lewis.

Do you have a favorite banned or challenged book? Let us know in the comments section!