Roundtable - Late-Breaking
Reviewed by: AAA Late-Breaking Review Committee
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Migration and displacement
Secondary Theme: Race and social justice
The second year of the Trump regime has seen an accelerated assault on immigrant and refugee rights. This assault ranges from the expansion of blatantly racist and exclusionary language in mainstream discourse to increasingly cruel policies such as zero tolerance, family separation, the dismantling of asylum categories, denial of credible fear interviews to potential asylum seekers, and efforts to overturn the Flores decision restricting the detention of child migrants. While much public attention has focused on recent arrivals and asylum seekers, the crackdown has also targeted immigrants and refugees who are longtime residents, as well as U.S. citizens. Advocates working in immigrant and refugee rights have pointed out that many of these tendencies are, in some ways, continuations of past policies, yet the extent and maliciousness of these assaults are unprecedented, and have created strong public outcry and resistance.
This roundtable brings together anthropologists who work with immigrant and refugee populations in a number of different arenas, including immigrant workers’ centers, children’s shelters, expert testimony in asylum cases and medical assistance and refugee resettlement. While much media coverage and public discourse has focused on the criminalization of Central American and Mexican immigrants, our roundtable will attempt to broaden the focus by including participants who work with other populations also affected by these policies. Together, we will explore the ways in which the current policies and practices have shaped the contexts in which we work and created both practical and ethical challenges for us as both advocates and engaged scholars – many of us with longstanding ethnographic engagements with specific immigrant communities. An overarching question for many of us is: how do we work with a highly racialized system that criminalizes entire categories of people and seems designed to “discipline and punish” immigrants and refugees? Is there a contradiction between helping specific individuals or small groups of individuals, and striving to dismantle the system? How do we address the politics of complicity?
Patricia Foxen, Lisa Maya Knauer and Ashley Kistler have all been expert witnesses for Central American asylum seekers, on issues ranging from domestic violence and sexual assault to persecution of indigenous human rights defenders. Foxen will also discuss the sudden spotlight on shelters housing unaccompanied children and those separated from parents at the border, while Knauer will discuss the impact of “zero tolerance” on the organizing efforts of immigrant workers in the low-wage economy against wage theft, sexual harassment and other workplace abuses.
Michelle Munyikwa will discuss her work with refugees and immigrants in the Philadelphia area, ranging from medical assistance to recent arrivals to medical affidavits for asylum seekers from a variety of ethnic and national backgrounds. Julie Kleinman will examine the experience of Malian deportees and its effects on their political commitments post-deportation. Edward Murphy will consider the case of Honduran deportees, ICE, and the limits of the politics of sympathy. Josiah Heyman will discuss his work with those who have been stopped at the U.S./Mexican border, before they can even make a claim for asylum.