Week 3 – “Quien Sabe?”: Deportation and Temporality Among Transnational Mexicans

Week 3 – “Quien Sabe?”: Deportation and Temporality Among Transnational Mexicans

This article brings to light a very important topic, and although a little difficult to follow at times, I think it presents a reality through a slice of life, based on a long history of migration between the United States and Mexico.

As the author states, migration between the U.S. and Mexico, at least along formal programs goes back to the end of WWII with the introduction of the Bracero program.  This program can be seen in parallel with the guest-worker programs in Germany and Switzerland during the same time period, even though the type of work done was different. Many temporary worker programs continue to exist in one way or another throughout the globe.

Before continuing with the analysis, it’s worth noting the Obama administration oversaw the highest number of deportations, ever. It’s too soon to see what this new administration will do, but it doesn’t look like it will get better. At the same time, it’s worth noting that since the beginning of the ‘great recession’ in 2007-8 until today, net migration (the difference between people coming-in and leaving) between the U.S. and Mexico is at zero. Moreover, if statistics can tell the future, “Asians Now Outpace Mexicans In Terms of Undocumented Growth” (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/asians-now-outpace-mexicans-in-terms-of-undocumented-growth/432603/). Regardless of where in the world migration shifts from and toward, the United States, it seems, will continue to attract a large number of migrants (documented and undocumented).

This article is a result of ethnographic work carried-out by the author, and although she does not go deep into her ethnography, she does explore and analyze how this concept of ‘deportability’, not only affects those directly affected by the removal process (a euphemism for deportation), but also families and communities on both sides of the border.

The very real dualities of un/certainty and im/permanence, although I would say part of all migrants, be them international students, bankers, IT personnel, etc., but having to contend this un/certainty as an undocumented individual, couple, family, or as a mixed-status family creates a daily tension of ‘losing your whole world’ as one of the people interviewed for the study asserted.

The author presented the deportation, or the concept of deportability through a prism in which we expand the view of how a removal affects an individual, but just as important, family and community.

I found this aspect of the article defining since, for the most part, even though families and communities are always affected, most of the time, the focus is placed on the individual ‘removed’ through a prism of criminality.

Walking the fine line between a generational project that is migration and deportation, which voids a person’s future, as the author argues, presents a clear case of how the power of the nation-state is very present in everyday life.

Deportation, or ‘deportability’ also contributes to un/certainty within families, especially those of mixed status (some are U.S. citizens, while others maybe permanent residents, and others yet, undocumented), while at the same time, it creates a fear within communities that could impact future generations since it is possible families could remain as mixed status perpetually.

Since the issue of ‘deportability’ is a real threat, many cities in the U.S. have become what are known as sanctuary cities, where local police are prevented from asking people stopped, or arrested from their immigration status. This however is changing with Trump administration, which has vowed (we’ll see if it happens) to cut-off federal funding sources from cities that do not comply. For example, Texas just passed a law that makes local police check an individual’s immigration status even if not charged with a crime. Time will tell how this plays out.

What do you guys think of the article?

28 thoughts on “Week 3 – “Quien Sabe?”: Deportation and Temporality Among Transnational Mexicans”

  1. I think the statistics you posted are important, Felipe, because it goes to show that the “immigrant threat” is not growing, just the fear of it is. One can assume it is due to the populist public opinion gaining more power and instilling the fear of the foreigner in receiving nation-states.
    It would be very interesting to see what the Trump administration will do in regards to the Mexican immigration, especially as it was such a crucial part of his campaign. At the moment it does not seem as if anything remotely close to Trumps’ promises (the wall and Mexico paying for it) will happen, but it does manage to increase hatred towards Mexican-Americans.

    Uncertainty and perplexity during the deportation process as well as afterwards seem to be the text’s guideline, but immigrants must have taken this constant state of fear into account when they immigrated, at least the ones subjected to deportation.
    I cannot imagine myself living in such a state, where I cannot face any state authorities, be a publicly proclaimed citizen, or enjoy the most basic rights other citizens have and rely on. You’d have to live on the run, feeling like a fugitive as a constant state so of course fear and insecurity would fill your and your family’s lives. I doubt this is the life they imagined for themselves before arriving to the U.S, as if they are still waiting for a migration reform to take place any day now. Do you see yourselves deciding to lead such a life?

  2. What struck me while reading this article is the following: how can a country based on (im)migration, develop to be so systemically racist and anti-other? On a similar note, why, compared to many other western nations, does the U.S. have such strict visa issuance policies combined with incredibly high costs?

    It is impossible to imagine the stress endured by illegal immigrants (this article does a great job at explaining the lasting scars caused by deportation), but it must be obvious, especially to those enforcing the law (e.g. DHS officials), that a healthy society can never be formed by people who are living in constant fear of being detained and deported, and that this must simultaneously have a negative impact on the lives of the legal residents in the surrounding area.

    Towards the end of the article, Lucia is quoted as saying: “You [Americans] want us in your country,
    but then you throw us out.” While spending a summer in Long Island, New York, I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of this reality. Much of the landscaping work for the massive houses in the Hamptons is done by Mexican immigrants, many of whom are in the U.S. illegally. The wealthy homeowners in this part of the country enjoy the relatively affordable landscaping work provided by the many immigrants, yet this is the same country which is removing hundreds of thousands of these illegal immigrants every year. Essentially, it is very disturbing once you realise that immigrants are tolerated and have a chance to stay only if they provide a service to the powerful and wealthy, white permanent residents. After all, who is going to trim all the privet hedges if the immigrants are forced to leave Southhampton?

    Tal, I am sure that many migrants carefully consider their options and spend a lot of time thinking before moving. What I often like to forget is what it means to migrate. That you are not only faced by the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but you are simultaneously leaving behind everything you have built up in your life up to that point. Even after just 15 months of being back in Berlin I could not imagine how it would affect me if I now had to leave all this again in order to start anew someplace else. That being said, I would argue that the fewest migrants uproot their families and entire social structures unless they have absolutely no alternative.

    1. From what I can tell is that the US does not have an immigration sustem per say. What it does have is a patchwork of laws that overlap and/or negate each other sometimes, which makes it even more difficult to navigate. Here is an interesting article about what is taking place right now. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/08/us/legal-immigrants-who-oppose-illegal-immigration.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fus&action=click&contentCollection=us&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

      This is not to say that any one country has a great immigration system. For example, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have been accused of cherry picking with the points system that they work with.

  3. I liked the text by Deborah Boehm very much. So far I had never read a text for the university that took a light and rather essayistic tone without loosing its scientific or investigative value. I’d like to know if this is a common case in texts that take an ethnographic approach, or if it is just the particular style of this author.
    I think that particularly when it comes to the phenomenon of migration from Mexico to the United States in recent years, there are an awful amount of factors that weren’t mentioned in the text which need to be considered in order to fully understand the issue. These factors should be taken into consideration, for they can help answer questions like the ones Tal Yeshurun formulated at the end of his commentary to the text. Only one of these issues, the one I as a Mexican consider the most pressing when it comes to the causes, the process, and the consequences of migration from Mexico to the United States, is widespread organized crime and violence.
    It is estimated that after 11 years, the ongoing armed conflict between the Mexican government and the Drug Cartels has claimed about 170.000 civilian victims, and that round about 30.000 and 50.000 people have been forcefully disappeared (El País https://elpais.com/especiales/2016/guerra-narcotrafico-mexico/). The constant threat of violence together with the absence of the rule of law and a reliable police force in many parts of the country have made an estimate of 35.000 people forcefully abandon their homes, according to the National Commission of Human Rights, leaving entire villages abandoned (link for the article below). Even though the academic and political discourse have kept themselves from using the term “refugees”, I believe that in some cases in Mexico, one can indeed talk about a forced exodus from entire families.
    The grim reality is that the frightening uncertainty that is very well presented in the text by Deborah Boehm is, for some people, a sadly positive tradeoff to the sense of uncertainty and danger that is present in too many parts of Mexico itself. The people from rural communities in deeply corrupted and conflicted states like Sonora, Michoacán and Sinaloa sometimes have to decide wether they or their children want to be involved in the activities of the reigning Cartel and be vulnerable to the constant conflict, or if they want to leave, sometimes to the United States. Even though, as Felipe already posted, numbers in recent years of irregular migration from Mexico to the U.S. have dropped, the nature of irregular migration itself makes it hard to have precise numbers and data for empirical analysis.
    Furthermore, human rights violations and networks of human trafficking are other enormous problems for Mexican and especially undocumented Central American migrants passing through Mexico, which I think are also very important to take a look at.

    1. Hi Alonso, many Anthropologists take a first person approach to their research, while at the same time not losing sight that it is a piece of research that they are publishing. I find it very insightful to combine quantitative analyses with ethnographic ones; it opens up new avenues and insights.

  4. I found this text very interesting, i really liked how author highlighted problem of deportation by exaples based on the inteviews.It is always important to know what is going on, i mean every country has an amount of people who are trying to get in or out of the country because of different issues: standarts of life, money, health,work.
    It was surprising for me, that even after 12 years of working on the territory of another country people could be caught and be deported, even the whole family is still living there. That there are raids to finde (im)migrants.

    I can tell an example about “deportability” about the fear of being beported. Back home my flat is located in a block building, so there are a lot of flats, and the location is pretty close to city centre, i am living on the 7th floor and on the 10th floor there is a flat that belongs to let’s say “housemaster”, a guy who is taking care of area arounfd the house, children playgrounds and etc, for the past 4-5 years it is a guy from ex-USSR country, a really nice guy, who always help to bring stuff in the house and who does his job really good. For the passed 3 years maybe, he is living with his family and friends, who are illegal there, so basically on the flat that is about 50-60m2 there are from 5-10 people living. After a half a year after they started to live there police came to the flat and asked for documents, after what his family was deported, but they managed to come back after a while, so now whenever im coming home, they are so scared even to say “hi” in the hall, they barely take elevator in case not to meet anybody, sometimes they walk by stairs all 10 floors instead of taking elevator.
    i found it rediculous his children are allowed to go to school as soon as they pay school fee, but on the other hand they still can be deported, they perfectly speaks language and really polite people, but government still can not provide them any support.
    THat’s what amused me, while reading ,even in German guest-workers program in Germany it was agreed that they are allowed to bring family with them after some time. How such developed countries and im bot speaking only about US, it happening all over the world can be so short-term vision.

  5. The text reminded me very much of what is currently happening to Afghanis in Germany. Although their reason for migrating is different and they haven´t been in Germany as long as many Mexicans have been in the US, I do see some paralles. The EU and Afghanistan have recently signed a treaty in favor of sending Afghanis back to their homeland and granting financial support to the Afghan state for taking them back. Afghanistan has been declared a “safe country of origin” by the Bundesregierung and thereby enabled the “deportation” (and I´m using the word in brackets because I think it has a very different connotation in Germany) of Afghanis whos asyl-apply has been denied. It´s true that fighting has stopped in some regions but not all of Afghanistan is safe now. And here the parallels set in: Some Afghanis have lived in Germany for years, have jobs and given birth to their children on German soil and now they´re being removed and send back to a country to whichs lifestyle the´re not used anymore. They have to adapt once more. In the case of US-born Mexicans it´s even worse – they´ve never experienced how it is to live in Mexico. Of course one could say that it´s hard to keep track of unregistered people, that they are a burden for administration and that we can´t take unlimited care of people who aren´t a legal part of our society, that the selections aren´t done randomly that mainly single males are taken back. Some states like Schleswig-Holstein have become sanctuaries and stopped the removals. But no human being deserves to live in fear; the fear of being taken back to a country that isn´t their home anymore, a country that may cause a thread to their lives. Especially when we need these people for our economies.

  6. I found this week’s text by Deborah A. Boehm on deportation and temporality among transnational Mexicans to be really eye-opening in a way, because as a reader I was deeply moved by the the personal experiences of Mexican nationals with deportation, and the always present fear of being noticed as undocumented and, as a result, being “removed” from the US.

    The text was also eye-opening in a way that it pointed out how deportation, “deportability”, and temporality affect not only the individual being deported, but whole families and transnational networks and communities. I think this is an issue many people are not aware of.

    The narrative of analyzing deportation, “deportability”, and temporality through a lens, which focuses on the individual, and not on numbers or an anonymized mass of migrants, is a powerful approach, because it strips away the anonymity and distance, which people not directly affected by these issues often feel when being confronted with this topic, and turns it into a highly personalized recount of individual experiences that will likely arose deep feelings in the reader. I wish that more studies on issues of deportation among transnational groups would take this approach, because I feel like more people would be made aware of the traumatizing personal experiences with deportation, and maybe the on-going debate on deportation laws would be steered in a different direction.

    For further research, I would be interested in the psychological consequences the constant fear of being deported has on the individual in the present, but also on future generations.

  7. In her paper, Deborah A. Boehm considers the uncertainty and insecurity that accompanies the deportation and deportability of Mexicans in the United States.

    First of all, I liked the concept of “deportability”, “the possibility of deportation and the accompanying fear”. I think it is a very important concept in migration studies and the definition hits the nail on the head. I found it interesting and very important to see that not only undocumented migrants are affected by deportability and processes of removal but that even (documented) family members and communities are impacted by it. (“Through social relations, deportability can be transferred to those who are legally in the U.S., including U.S. permanent residents and even U.S. Citizens”). Also, even without having entered the U.S., people can experience deportability, and even children (U.S. citizen) of unauthorized migrants may be constructed as “alien”. I am wondering in which way children are (negatively) affected by this.

    As she took an ethnographic approach, conducted interviews for her study, and told the narratives of several migrants, her paper reads almost like literature. Like this, it was easier to see things from their perspectives, feel the hardships, uncertainty, confusion, the omnipresent fear, and understand how deportation devastates families and is often the result of a chain of miseries.

    I also found it interesting that deportation not really reduces undocumented migration but that it is used as a method to control migrants and spread fear among them and their families.

  8. This week’s text by Deborah Boehm presents some very interesting strategies to describe the issue at hand, of which I can here only analyse a few that struck me most. The technique of using individual narratives, including code-switching (from English to Spanisch and back) is emotionally engaging and creates authenticity, while at the same time, Boehm actually uses the individual narratives and voices as a metonymy, representing the huge community of transnational Mexicans moving back and forth between the two countries. This approach has, I find, both advantages and disadvantages. While in a way presenting an ‘efficient’ manner of tackling the topic (as many of your comments have already mentioned, most of you engaged with the text on an emotional level, thus maybe paying more attention and in any case altering your way of ‘scientific’ reading), it also raises questions about representivity (if that category exists). I suspect that the interviews were originally held in English, yet Boehm maintains the code-switching employed by her interviewees and even employs it as an analytical category or metaphor thereof. Yet we as readers cannot know for certain when exactly code-switching was employed or if the author has otherwise altered the interviews, leaving us (up to a certain degree) in uncertainty about the ways of communication between the author and her employees. From a linguist perspective (my major is Spanish), code-switching presents a communicative strategy that, in many cases, is employed by speakers for a reason (if even unconsciously). So, it would be interesting to know Boehm’s motivation to employ it a s communicative strategy herself.

    Another point I would like to focus on is the category of ‘deportability’, which I find fascinating. Paradoxically, the “implementation” of deportability (Boehm 2009: 363) is not deportation itself. Rather, deportabily is a permanent category that is essentially eliminated if it comes to the point of deportation itself (until, at some point, the whole process starts over due to “return” migration to the U.S.). The implementation of deportability, in contrast, consists in the state creating the permanent atmosphere of uncertainty and fear that Boehm plasmates throughout the text. Thus, deportability links to the “undocumented migrant’s status as outside legal processes” (ibid.) and is a form of concretization of this status which seemingly points to even more concrete, real processes (namely, deportation). It is, however, not a concrete category, but is rather defined and characterized by its very lack of concreteness. Deportability can, if at all, only be eliminated by deportation itself – as Boehm points out, even transnational Mexicans with permanent U.S. residency or citizenship can always be touched by it in some way or other.

    One last point I would like to address is (and this is a hypothesis) how the categories created by this implementation of deportability are reproduced throughout Mexico itself. As migrants from South and Central America move through Mexico towards the U.S., Mexican authorities are heavily criticized for the manner of dealing with these, in many cases undocumented, migrants. This draws on the notion of Latin America as a “corridor” that Felipe mentioned in the first session (which I, obviously, haven’t quite understood yet and am only speculating about). One could read Mexico exactly like this, as a form of corridor for migrants from other countries travelling to the U.S.. The Mexican state, in its attempt to control these migratory flows and enforce state authority, reproduces categories that transnational Mexicans, in turn, experience when trying to migrate into the U.S. As Boehm poignantly explicates, migrations are historic processes and thus, categories also need to be historicized. In this sense, speaking of ‘reproduction’ might be problematic as it implies, to a certain extent, originality, which might not exist in the context of migration. I would like to leave these two ideas (namely, the reproduction of U.S. border processes and categories at the southern Mexican border, and the critique vis-à-vis this notion) open for discussion.

    1. Correction: l. 13 should of course read “interviewees”, not “employees”. Sorry about that!

    2. I think your insight about the linguistic dimension of the text by Boehm is very important, especially since the text moves away from a traditional academic discourse through its tone without loosing its scientific aspirations.

      You yourself noted that using the term “reproduction” can be a bit problematic. Just like you, I see many parallels between the deportations undertaken by the U.S. authorities to Mexican immigrants and the deportations undertaken by the Mexican authorities to Central American migrants, and I also consider that these are definitely worth taking a look at.
      Nevertheless, talking about a reproduction of the categories that transnational Mexicans experience in the U.S. goes a bit far, and overlooks many differences in the situations that the Central and South American migrants experience in their passing through Mexico.
      The text left the point very clear that the treatment of U.S. migration authorities towards Mexicans can be abusive, intimidating and even violent. While these statements are true, they are unfortunately barely comparable to the treatment that Central American migrants receive in their passing through Mexico. Already on a very superficial and institutional scale, while Mexicans receive regular advisories and assistance by attorneys and the Mexican consulates in the U.S., as is narrated in the beginning of the text by Boehm, Central American migrants are virtually on their own when going through Mexican territory. Mexico is one of the countries where the Human Rights of migrants are violated the most, and unfortunately that goes from the side of the drug cartels that get their hands on them as much as from the Mexican authorities that are sometimes corrupted and steal from them, torture them, or even deliver them to human trafficking networks. The amount of denunciations that the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) receives each year is only considered to be a small amount of the total Human Rights violations against migrants in Mexican territory, and the lack of interest of the Mexican authorities could very well be seen on the irregularities of statistics that different federal agencies had regarding the number of migrants reported as disappeared. (https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/blogs/observatorio-nacional-ciudadano/2015/12/2/violencia-hacia-migrantes-centroamericanos-en-su)
      Like you, I see parallels between both groups, and unfortunately Mexican migrants are condemned to a very similar sense of uncertainty and restlessness as Central American migrants. However I think that, while the situation of Mexican migrants in the U.S. is bad and leaves much to desire, the situation of Central American Migrants in Mexican is appalling and needs to be improved with much more precedence.

      1. Hey Alonso,
        thank you so much for your comment and criticism! I definitely agree with you on the point that both situations are very different from each other – different in many dimensions. The topic of migration through Mexico is complex and the situation is, in many cases, terrible.

        I would, however, put forth two points to your comment. First, I think it is (both epistemically and ethically) difficult to compare both situations in the true sense of the word. On the one hand because comparing misery with misery (better/worse) is ethically difficult in itself – on the other (more empirical) hand because you would have to define criteria with which to compare. And as you stated yourself, data on the subject is difficult to obtain and to evaluate.

        What I wanted to get to is actually a bit different, whereas still very problematic, the more I think about it. I’m thinking ‘reproduction’ more in an abstract sense, in a dimension apart from the concrete circumstances (here it gets difficult – probably, this abstraction is impossible and/or wrong). I guess that this idea would not only apply to Mexico or the US, but basically to every country where migration is a topic in the 21st century (and thus probably, essentially every country in the world). I’m very interested in the way Boehm works with the category ‘deportability’, and that’s actually what I’m referring to with the term ‘reproduction’ – I think it would be advisable to find another term for this. What I had in mind was that many migrants while moving through Mexico have the ultimate aim to arrive at the northern borders – which in turn motivates them to enter Mexico from the south in the first place. Maybe, a good picture to describe my thoughts would be that of a chain reaction – and whether this applies or not is definitely open for discussion. This led me to the term ‘reproduction’ in the sense that categories applied to migrants at the northern border (not only Mexicans), actually extend themselves throughout the whole space of the country Mexico itself and even further south, even though actors and circumstances differ.

        I’m not sure if I made this any clearer. In any case, it was definitely neither my intention to trivialize the situation for Central and South American migrants nor to make excuses for Mexican policy.
        I’d be glad to stay talking on this subject! Saludos!

  9. I think the article you shared about the rising proportion of illegal Asian migrants in US is very interesting as it makes me question why there is so much emphasis on US deporting Mexican migrants specifically and not e.g. illegal Asian migrants.

    While I understand that the experience of being a deported migrant is very horrific, is there really no way for a Mexican to become an official and permanent resident of the United States?

    After reading this article, I have doubts about the overall effectiveness of migration management strategies in the US. It was quite apparent to me that purpose of making migration regulations and deportation proceedings so confusing and humiliating is meant to serve as deterrence against future illegal migrants. Migration offices are taking advantage of the migrants’ (general) low level of literacy and capitalizing on it to generate fear of the unknown amongst Mexicans.

    I question the effectiveness of this approach because according to all the accounts given by the deported Mexicans, such shaming/confusion tactics are not always effective as many are motivated to go back to see their families who are still in the US. Net migration of Mexicans into US might be zero but I wonder what was the bigger cause of such statistics – the increasingly harsh deportation practices or the “great recession” which reduced the economic prospects of working and moving to the US. Unless the US finds a way to uproot entire family trees, Mexicans will still find their way back to their loved ones. And if it is impossible to uproot entire Mexican family trees from the US, perhaps other long-term solutions should be explored.

    For Singapore, state benefits for different types of citizens are very clear and very rigorously implemented. Unwanted migrants are gradually driven out of the country by making it difficult to live in the country. This might be difficult to implement in the US due to the federal state system (and the size of the country in general) but perhaps something along this line can be explored.

    Mexican migrants (legal or not) have definitely contributed greatly to the greatness of America today and it is a shame that Americans do not treat them with more respect and appreciation. Creating a life of fear for Mexican migrants is not a long-term solution to the migrant issue. It might even backfire against the US, as these migrants, in a bid for survival, are motivated to bend the laws to protect the lives that they have built for themselves in the US.

  10. I found this text very insightful! Compared to a rather tedious and sophisticated migration article I read by De Genova for another class just yesterday, this one here was tremendously well written, making it very easy to get an idea of the issue.

    When it comes to the United States, I think that at this point, there is barely anything that can surprise me, not even the fact that a nation which arose from a flow of immigrants many decades ago is now so hostile towards them. What DID strike me regardless is the fact that relatives of an undocumented migrant who themselves are legal in the United States can (suddenly) become illegal by association. This just seems so inhumane and unjustified although politics has never seemed to be fair in the first place. At least in Germany, as I was able to research, parents of children who are legal German citizens cannot be sent back to their home countries. That is most likely done under the absolutely legitimate assumption that a child needs its parents, regardless where these are from!

    On the other hand, one must admit that laws concerning migrants (or any other laws for that matter) cannot be simply abolished, just to make it possible for people to come and go anywhere, making a good life for themselves even though that may sound like the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective. That was probably NOT even the point of the article but it STILL made me think about the question: What is the alternative? And I wish that more people, more scholars with access to significant resources and influencing power would ask themselves the same question. I read so many texts in other classes that point out what is wrong with current regimes and situations around the world but in my opinion there are not enough articles out there that actually think about and suggest solutions to current problems. Pointing them out creates understanding for sure but is that enough? How do we make a change?

    I think that while certain regulations need to stay in place for the sake of order, there is serious need for a reformation of these! Migrants who are undocumented but have lead full lives, meaning were able to get a job, get a house, have adjusted themselves to the society, have started families etc. should absolutely be able to gain legal status in the US. People who intend to be law abiding citizens deserve to be treated as such, including being able to obtain legal documents with less or without any restrictions than there seem to be now in the US.

  11. I felt that Nico made a really good point above, on how the US, which is primarily built on the basis of immigration, could develop such racial attitudes and perceptions? This led me to consider the history of the US (with a particular consideration of its relations with its Latin American neighbours) and the form by which such discussions of migration and deportation tend to take place. Alongside the text that Prof Felipe has shared with the statistics of Asian immigrants, this led me to question why there is still this general focus and perception of illegal immigrants and this connection that tends to be made between illegal immigrants in the US and Mexicans or Latin Americans. Is this the result of a racial discrimination and stereotyping that has become entrenched in American society? This clearly goes beyond the statistical data is showing, especially when the number of Asian immigrants is rising, and yet, there is still no significant protests or targeting of those racial groups when it comes to illegal immigration.

    This also led me to consider another point, about the reason why this phenomenon is studied so much and experiences such political and media attention, particularly in the United States in relation to Mexico. Although the author appears to portray economic prospects and the security threat in Mexico as the main reasons driving the illegal migration, is there a reason why this is such a major phenomenon in that part of the world? Are there any other parts of the world that experiences such a significant focus and emphasis on illegal migration as well, and if so, why has there been relatively less attention on migration in those areas?

    1. I think the focus on this part of the globe is so strong because of the 24 hour news cycle in the US, coupled with a fear placed on its citizens by an ‘invasion’ that is supposed to come one day. The fact of the matter is that this type of migration goes on all over the place. We take a look at the migration going on in the Mediterrenean, not only with the civil war in Syria, but with the people making their way up to North Africa from the sub-Saharan region. There was also a big issue in Australia with the boats until the Austalian government decided to rent out islands in Papua New Guniea to hold would be migrants. There is also the vast migration that takes place between Russia and the former Soviet Republics (most of it is illegal).

  12. Week 3
    Because I do not want to repeat what my classmates already wrote I would like to complement the article with some “checked facts” and the perspective of migration as a political currency.

    Boehm´s article is over 10 years old and some factors have changed.
    Today Mexicans no longer represent the majority of illegal migrants in the USA (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/04/25/525563818/mexicans-no-longer-make-up-majority-of-immigrants-in-u-s-illegally). In this article, one of the reasons the author presents this demographic change is “`A lot of Mexican unauthorized migration was related to family and friendship linkages between people in Mexico and immigrants in the U.S.,(…) But those connections may not be as strong as before since fewer immigrants have been crossing the border” This is interesting, because in the next article we will read about “Networks-Mediated Migration”, some principles that explain these relations will be presented.
    My second point is directly related to the fact, that Mexican migrants are returning to Mexico (voluntarily or forcedly). Their return is being contemplated in the policy- agenda of some politicians, who see a lot of potential supporters in the migrant community. An example of it is “Juntos Podemos”, a program launched by a candidate running for governor of Mexico State (Estado de México: a very large State in Mexico, viewed as an important election, because it is a reference for what might be the result of the presidential- election next year). The candidate has been accused of receiving over one thousand million pesos (estimated to be 5.2561 million dollars) out of the public treasury for “Juntos Podemos”, and not being able to explain how has it been expended, in other words: misappropriation of public funds (more info -sadly only in Spanish-: https://www.proceso.com.mx/477161/morena-denuncia-a-vazquez-mota-ante-la-pgr-juntos-podemos and https://contralacorrupcion.mx/juntospodemos/) . This is just an example of how migration influences all sorts of aspects of the public life in Mexico and may be used as alibi for corruption and demagogic proposals.

    Regarding the horrible conditions that central and south Americans must face in Mexico while traveling to the USA, there is an interesting documentary named “Viacrucis Migrante”. The format resembles a lot Boehm´s article. The documentary will be soon screened in Berlin, and the director Hauke Lorenz will be there to respond to questions and talk about the migrants` collective situation. I really recommend you to go if you can (more info: https://www.lateinamerikaforum-berlin.de/veranstaltung/viacrucis-migrante-kreuzweg-der-migrant_innen-beim-kirchentag-do-25-05-2017-19-uhr-auenkirche-gemeindehaus-wilhelmsaue-119-10715-berlin-wilmersdorf/)

    Have a nice week guys!

  13. Hey everybody,

    first of all, like Alonso said before, I liked the fact that the text is based on a ten years conducted fieldwork in the frame of Urban Anthropology. The Examples of the fieldwork made the expierence of undocumented migrants even more close, visual, touchable and led to a more personal reflexion.The ethnographic perspective was helpfull in regard that it helped visualize the persons- the men, women, families, children- behind this abstract and anonym categorie of “migrant`, “undocumented“ migrant or so called `illegals“- I think that a lot of times, as it is mentioned in the text, it is forgotten that these are people and not some “subjects“ that are labeled `undocumented` or `illegal`.

    In general the text made me think again of the vulnerability, migrants and undocumentaded migrants in special are exposed to.Undocumentaed migrants in many cases do not have basic rights granted and don`t appear in the system for what, to a certain degree, they are invisbile and at the same time ironically always exposed to an posible observation. Altough a person is in a country without valid documents, the person should count with basic rights.Also there occurs in many cases and not just in die U.S., in Germany and elsewhere, a criminalization of people without the right documents- but as we all know and as the text has shown and proofed people with no valid documents don`t necesarilly comit crimes or are criminials, trafficants etc.

    Of course I do not agree with deportation as a method not a bit and especially not with the humilating way deportation is performed, but if there unfortunately exists deportation in the present day the way it exists, the persons at least should count with the right to know about what will happen next in the case of arrestment etc. and the steps of the process of detention or even `deportation`- have to be transparent. And most important- the treatment has to be in a human way. That is a basic human thing. I feel that the humilating character of such procedures of so called removals just support a perception of undocumented migrants as people that deserved be treatened like this even more.

    “Contradictable transnationalism“ made me think of the special and contradictable relationship betwenn Mexico and the USA- that I also experienced many times in conversation with mexican friends and during several years in Mexico. It`s logic that this strange and complex relation brings a strange and unequal transnationalism in many cases.There is of course a reason why there exists so much illegal migration especially in the case of Mexico and the USA, but not just Meixcans crossing the border: the unequal status and unequal power relations of that two countries and even more Latinamerika and th U.S., that are connected with events in the past and enduring til the present day.

    @Thanks to Arranza for these actual data- it is always good to have in mind the exact time a text was written and then, in case, actualize the information.

  14. As other students stated before I also really liked the lingual structure of the text with its ethnographic parts and those of an analysis.
    I also found it really interesting how Boehm created the temporal aspect of migration with its influence from the past, present and the future as context for the background of his protagonists. With migration being omnipresent in a society, it’s clear that there are massive effects on itself and the indiviuals living in it. In the text Maria Tapias is quoted with the “embodiment of social suffering” what is called “expressions of social reality” by Boehm and is embodied in the local language.
    Those mechanism of deportation are nation-state products and in Germany, as mentioned before, there is no critical difference to the deportations in the US. As also mentioned, there are deportations to countries like Afghanistan and “we” also send people back to the balkan where their lifes are highly at risk because they are homosexual or part of a ethnic minority for example.
    I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a state of permanent insecurety and what feeling must that be if you know that your life is in danger if you are sent back?

  15. Rhetorical figures, when analysing a discourse, are always a practical tool for reaching a better understanding of things. This is a very common technique in ethnographic work, just as visual elements (images, music, videos, etc.), yet the most interesting aspect of it, is that of intertextuality. Taking “¿Quién sabe?“, a very beloved refrain in Hispanic communities, out of its common usage and context, draws a contrast, pointing out a difference on the discussed subject, in this case the situation of un/certainty and im/permanence of transnational Mexicans between Mexico and the U.S. The difficult task assumed by the refrain along with the interviews is to deliver the sensitivity of the matter at a humane level, which is often overlooked by scientific texts, especially regarding phenomena as migration, where the word “flow” makes it hard for us to distinguish faces or names in this people’s ocean moving around the world.
    Another moving aspect of the text were Felipe’s and Rodrigo’s eagerness to act as good citizens, observing a law, which does not even consider them as subjects of rights. When an individual is not a citizen, he/she’s not a subject of rights and surely isn’t a subject of duties. Therefore, it’s necessary to address the real dilemma, which is a problem of definition: How are human rights to be define if their effective enjoyment is conditioned by the so called nation-states and their established borders? I think it’s actually urgent to attend this question, otherwise we run the risk of stagnating on a fruitless discussion.

  16. Hey everyone,
    Sorry that I’m joining so late this week, but I was in Bonn at a block seminar and have just arrived back to Berlin.
    As you guys already mentioned, I also appreciate Boehm’s ethnographic work and her engagé writing style. Her study was probably the most personal and almost novel-like academic work I have ever read which nevertheless provided a well-established essence of the everyday life of the deportados.
    I found it shocking, how deportability per se defines the lives of not only undocumented Mexican immigrants but also of documented family and/or community members as well as how state policies in general on a macro level affect communities or even individuals on a micro level. Hereby, I see some parallels to the current so-called “migration/refugee crisis” in Europe, as both immigration and asylum are individual rights, they are however often shaped and effected by broader state policies treating people as a whole community instead of engaging with their individual situation.
    Boehls’s study and fieldwork also present well the “dead-end” feature of deportation and the doubts and uncertainty (deportados have to face) created in a bureaucratic policy framework and executed by state power. The volunteer work of activists in Reno also shows a very similar pattern: As state policy-makers have failed to provide the basic conditions for the adequate legal integration of newcomers, civil society has to take action to compensate the enormous deficit state actors left behind in the area of immigration.
    Also, as for the situation of Central-American immigrants coming through the Mexican-American border, I can recommend you the movie Sin Nombre which presents this macabre journey and the most important motifs in question such as gang violence and the train journey through whole Mexico.

  17. As Aron mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed her heavily literary writing style. Not only that, but her obvious closeness to the community of transnational migrants she has been working with translated great in the text and made it easy to connect with the studied subjects.

    This topic is personally close to me since many members of my extended family back in El Salvador are also what she refers to as “mixed-status”: some have been deported, some are living in the US without documents, some are permanent residents, some are US citizens after over three-decades of residence. As others mentioned in the comments, the article deserves to be updated. I find it is particularly urgent to look at deportation under Trump in the past few months through the perspective of the author, especially regarding her notion of “deportability”. The transferability of deportability to documented migrants has taken up a whole different meaning as la migra gains more and more “freedom” to remove migrants under the current administration. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/25/us/ice-immigrant-deportations-trump.html) “Dreamers” – who albeit must live with a degree of uncertainty – have been facing deportation.

    On a more personal and informal note: Another part that struck me as I reflected on my own cultural experience was the massive influence that these uncertainty and fear that plagues everyday life has. As a kid I would sing La Jaula de Oro by Los Tigres del Norte with my cousins and uncles from L.A. and Las Vegas. It was only recently that I understood the meaning of the chorus of the corrido: “¿De qué me sirve el dinero / si estoy como prisionero dentro de esta gran nación? / Cuando me acuerdo hasta lloro / Que aunque la jaula sea de oro / no deja de ser prisión”. It practically describes what the author presents foucaldian notion of “generalized punishment” as an effect of deportability on migrant communities.

  18. In my comment, I would like to focus on two aspects which are not taken much into account in the text: the discourse of „illegality“ that is created by the US-American State and the identity that is formed through it, not only within the Latinx/Mexican community, but also within the „bolillos“ or white US-American citizens with no latinx background.
    First of all, what I liked about the article is that it presented the topic through the eyes of deported people, and thus creates empathy with them for the reader. As a person with an own migration history, I could relate very well to the studied subjects.
    While reading the article, I was surprised about the different terms and hierarchy that is created with the discursive and material practices of the State. The practice of deporting, raiding and creating a „perepetual state of unpredictability“(p. 354) affects some members of the community more directly tan others. Distincions are constantly made between documented and undocumented immigrants, and whole families are divided in these cathegories. The constant fluctuation and transnational biographies include people whose home country is the USA, and others whose country is Mexico (p.368). Many legal and buerocratic terms are used to describe migrants and their status („alien“, „un/documented“, „deportable“ etc.). Although this was not shown in the interviews, I assume that these distinctions, which are not emic for immigrant communities, are used or internalized by the same community. As the article shows, deportations do not only affect the deportees, but also their families and their whole community (p.357). I argue that, although this is undoubtedly true, for those that are deported, being documented would be a great privilege. These distinctions are not made by the community themselves, but by the agencies of the State, and this legal basis reached its peak under the Obama administration, where approximately three million people were deported from US territory. However, in the official discourse, these deportations were given legitimacy by using the term „felons, not families“ and with the obviously wrong term „voluntary returns“, which de facto is not voluntary. The rise of ultra-nationalist and right-wing movements, and with it of hate crimes against Latinxs and other minorities, shows that this State discourse, of division between „good“ and „bad“ immigrants, of „documented“ and „undocumented“ has a real and material effect on immigrants‘ lives.
    I especially was surprised about the term „alien“ which creates a very strong otherness towards people that, in some cases, are not strange to the US at all. This othering takes place first of all on State level, where the immigration laws are made. But through the enforcement of these laws and mass media, both immigrants and US-citizens are familiar with this term. For the first, it shows them that, even if you have lived in the US for nearly two decades, like Felipe (p.358), you would most likely never be truly American. For the others, the „Americans“, the discrimination against immigrants is normalized through the media and the legitimtion of deportation practices. This „hierarchysation“ becomes dangerous not only for the deportees, and the rest of their communities, as Boehm argues, but also for other immigrants and People of Color who live in constant risk of being the victims of racist attacks, which also have to be taken into account.
    Finally, I would like to comment on the relationship between temporality and locality that affects immigrants with transnational biographies and ties. Legal statuses, socio-economical conditions (e.g. low harvest, p. 366) and personal reasons (e.g. health reasons, p. 364) put many immigrant in a constant state of travel, of not being neither (from) here or there. Pedro and Lucia refer to the US as their sons country, because he has the citizenship (p.368). But do the US-citizens see him as “one of them”? My own experience as a second generation immigrant is quite similar, while my family see myself often as „their German cousin/nephew/grandson“, people here in Germany often ask me where I am from or when I will go back to my homecountry. Because family members often travel between their country of origin and residence, temporality and locality are itself often redefined categories. This has an effect on the identity of the individual that becomes a fluent category and is defined over and over in a constant process, which is not only influenced by ones own temporality and locality, but also by othering and acceptance within the communities where one moves.

  19. The way Boehm is giving an insight view to her fieldwork, methotically as well as linguistically is helping to understand, what it means to be „illegalized“ or beeing labelled „deportable“. The emic approach of qualitative research, by talking with subjects of the field are in my opinion, as important as working with statistics and numbers in quantitative studies.

    While reading the text i was unintendendly comparing with the situation of refugees in germany, which of course is not comparable. One issue of beeing a refugee in germany is the fact, that one has to wait a lot before she/he is getting the right of residence or after that a working permit.
    That constant state of waiting, notknowing and powerlessness can be very frustrating, especially after fleeing your country of orign.

    Though, i cant imagine what it means fearing to get „removed“ possibly every moment. How can one have a structured life and be part of a functioning community or social structure while hoping not te get „ripped out“ of their world, every moment?!

  20. Another text which shows the cruelity of our time.
    I like the ambiguity in the term “deportability”, which captures the feeling/threat regarding the possibility of actually being deported in a very good way. This is exactly what I desribed in my comment on week 7 about the fear of refugees aroused by the CDU/CSU statements against a stop of “deportation”. Despite nothing was decided or transacted (“deportation”), solicitude and disquiet immediately became perceptible even more (“deportability”).

    Because this texts belongs to the more current ones I would like to fall back on a comment from Andrés on week 2, when he stated that „we need to ask ourselves, as (future) scientists, what effect our studies can have on the political discourse and the shaping of our societies.“, and which is in my opinion of the utmost importance.
    In this sense I think that the approach that the (sub?)discipline of engaged anthropology is undertaking at least promises success. Anthropology itself is by defintion engaged but the inherent engagement of an anthropologist in the field of engaged anthropology focuses even more on the real actions and outcomes on the basis of the field‘s skills. In my first semester I was quite disappointed by the discipline because it appeared soley academic, but the reading of newer approaches offered me a lot more.

  21. I found this text particularly interesting because it linked personal experiences with scientific contextualisation. What comes out of this text is the broad uncertainty and fear in the everyday life of the community, especially in families with mixt statuses. For instance, the example of Felipe who was arrested while the matriculation process of his car.
    As explained by the author, it shows “the potency of state power in everyday lives”, which I found, was a very interesting point. « This is a form of disciplining on the part of the state, “generalized punishment” (Foucault 1977: 73) to monitor individuals, and by extension, the social body »
    As others did, I found that Nico made a very good point saying the US are an immigration country.
    Finally, statistics being often used (or hidden) to political ends, I didn’t know that there was a decline of “returns and a rise of deportations. Following the American debate on immigration, I observe that this fact is almost never underlined.

  22. This paper, written by Deborah A. Boehm and published in 2009, discusses the issue of the deportation of Mexican citizens from the United States. Boehm first saw a change in the discourse of rural Mexicans between the years 2001 and 2008. In fact, between these two dates, a considerable number of migrants were sent back to their country of origin. Nevertheless, even the former deportees are considering a migration north as a possible option for their uncertain future.
    Boehm’s interest goes to a so-called “anthropology of removal” (Peutz, 2006) and based her research on a rancho in the state of San Luis Potosi in Mexico. The DHS distinguishes the concepts of “removals” and “returns”: while the first one is equivalent to a deportation, the second one is based on a voluntary decision to go back to the country of origin. However, since the legal ramifications of “removal” are more strictly defined, record highs are reached in the number of deportations (319,382 in 2007).
    “Migrant ‘illegality’ is lived through a palpable sense of deportability, which is to say, the possibility of deportation, the possibility of being ‘removed” from the space of the state” (De Genova). Even in the most common situations of daily life, life is uncertain since raids take place regularly and in all kind of locations (while waiting for children in front of their school, at work etc.). Above all, migrants residing in the US need to avoid arrest and detention, since the procedure is standardized and leads to a removal. Boehm relates different stories of migrants, in which the humiliation of a deportation is made obvious: in some cases, the migrants “removed” spent most of their lives in the US and are now forced to build a new life in an (almost) foreign country. Plus, there appears to be a leitmotiv sentence in the testimonies of deported migrants: they are “not sure what happened” after being arrested, the procedures are blurry and the migrants concerned don’t know if they had a trial, and are not being told for how many years they aren’t allowed to go back to the US. In this case, is the deportation officially registered as a “removal”? It is likely that it will be counted as a voluntary “return” in the statistics, thus distorting the data.

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