Crime is a global phenomenon. From the most highly developed states to the least developed ones, crime represents a significant threat to social well-being. And because of its ubiquity, unsavoriness, and harmful qualities, criminal activity has the distinction of being a social event that is often blamed on the individuals who live on the fringes of a society. For immigrants, this tendency to place the blame of crime on the less well-off members of a society is particularly dangerous since they often find themselves occupying some of the lowest rungs on a nation’s social ladder. Unsurprisingly, the consequences of criminal allegations against immigrants are likely to be severe; such allegations are also likely to reinforce the strong and enduring belief found in many countries that immigrants bring with them high criminal propensities (Citrin and Sides 2008; Ousey and Kubrin 2009). more...
Today, the Central London County Court has delivered its verdict in relation to the British National Party’s [BNP] membership policy. Judge Paul Collins’ decision – whilst noting the BNP’s attempts to modify its constitution – found that the party recruitment policy was ‘still likely to be discriminatory.’
Since the proceedings have been initiated the BNP has removed any requirement for members to be white, although it retains many troubling conditions. For instance: the compulsory opposition to “integration or assimilation” of ethnic minorities into Britain, an explicit demand that members encourage and promote the “maintenance and existence of the unity and integrity of the indigenous British”, and an obligation to seek a reversal of immigration into the country. Alongside these demands, any individual who wishes to join the BNP is also expected to submit to a 2 hour long home visit by two members of the party (one male and one female) in order to ascertain their commitment to the BNP’s aims (and to identify any would-be saboteurs).
Perhaps understandably the BNP’s leader Nick Griffin has reacted to today’s events with belligerence, describing the ruling as ‘appalling’. However, it would seem that the Equality and Human Rights Commission are determined to bring an end to what many see as a dangerous political force with inherently racist policies.
The concept of immigration reform, like welfare reform focuses on symptoms and not the causes. Many of the policies involved in immigration reform are band-aids, temporary solutions rather than systemic alternatives. The New York Times recently reported on the failure of the Obama Administration to introduce a comprehensive bill designed to target immigration generally and immigrants specifically (see article below).
According to sociologist and immigration activist Grace Change, such reform bills reproduce/overlook three themes. First, the goal of ‘reform’ efforts is to continue to extract cheap labor to the benefit of the U.S. while minimizing the responsibility of the U.S. to the actual laborers. Second, reform emphasizes the need to “Americanize” and assimilate (i.e. a form of cultural imperialism). Finally, and perhaps most important, reform never addresses the policies and actions of First World countries such as the U.S. that have resulted in a “push-pull” wave of necessary immigration. U.S. economic and military actions overseas as well as development policies are the root cause of much of the debt, poverty, and structural inequalities in many of the countries that account for a large percentage of immigrants. (Disposable Domestics, Grace Chang, 2000)
In essence, immigration reform casts immigrants themselves as problems to be addressed, people who need to be assimilated or sent back to their native countries. Comprehensive reform should take into account the responsibility of the U.S. in (partially) creating the conditions in which individuals must uproot their lives, leave behind their families, their children, risk dying, and work in underpaid and precarious industries.
Immigrants’ stories of sacrifice and (re)settlement are often overshadowed by statistics about demographics like educational attainment, income, and family size; the stories themselves remain untold. A recent New York Times article explores the impact of these stories on the children of immigrant families. Each year sociologist and Hunter College professor Nancy Foner teaches a class entitled “The Peopling of New York” wherein she asks students to interview a close relative about recent family history. Given that many of Foner’s students are children of immigrant parents, the stories they collect often involve accounts of immigration and the sacrifices it entailed. Students are surprised to learn these stories, and many develop a new appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifices their parents made. Understanding the reasons why these stories are pushed aside upon arrival, and the effects of their telling, may have important implications for understanding the processes of both assimilation and identity formation for immigrants and their children alike.