‘Deportation Nation’

The ICE age: ICE for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal agents that will swoop down if they think your citizenship is irregular. Suspense, surprise, and a certain arbitrary striking power are essentials in the ICE process. It’s the hallmark of the early Trump Era in police work, though it’s not exactly new. 

President Obama deported more migrants than all the presidents before him: locking many thousands of people up for nothing worse than lacking ‘papers.’ But in the Trump era, there’s now a special emphasis on the fear of “crimmigration”: the supposed overlap between illegal acts and an illegal status in the U.S.

Why put that criminal brand on mostly hard-working, tax-paying family people who get in much less trouble, in fact, than U.S..-born citizens? And why now, when the tide of migration is mostly going out?

We’re joined this week by Daniel Kanstroom, author of Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American Historytracks the story of how a supposed nation of immigrants decides who stays and who’s gotta go. He says we’ve reached a crisis point under Trump, but the crisis has been building for thirty years.

Mary Waters, sociologist at Harvard, is increasingly concerned by the parallels between mass deportation and mass incarceration. She termed the phenomenon “crimmigration.” In order to resist this system, she writes, “we need a model of a social movement that is not based in civil rights, because we have defined millions of people living in this country as being outside of civil society.

Roberto Gonzales spent 12 years following the lives of undocumented teenagers in Los Angeles. His heart-breaking account in Lives in Limbo paints a tragic portrait of squandered potential and unrealized dreams. For undocumented teenagers, adulthood marks a transition to illegality — a period of ever-narrowing opportunities. One teenager named Esperanza lamented to  Roberto: “I would have been the walking truth instead of a walking shadow.”

We also spent sometime digging into the stories of undocumented immigrants here in Boston. You can here some their voices in our Soundcloud playlist list below


You can also read the transcript of our conversation with “Amber”—a longtime WBUR caller and undocumented immigrant—here on our Medium page.

[lead illustration by Susan Coyne]

Guest List
Daniel Kanstroom
professor of law at Boston College and author of Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History
Mary Waters
professor of sociology at Harvard and author of Inheriting the City: The Second Generation Comes of Age 
Roberto G. Gonzales
assistant professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education and author of Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America.

Related Content

  • incompleteness theorem

    You have to provide a transcript of Amber’s poignant testimony. It would be a crime not to ..Please, let’s not compound the crime that created the terrible circumstances under which she and her fellow undocumented Americans live.

  • A in Sharon

    Before we condemn America too harshly and praise Europe we should remember what truly happened last summer. Very quickly the fences went up all across Europe. Merkel quickly reversed course and the flow was stopped. Merkel now finds herself fighting for her political life. The EU is now bribing Turkey to stop the flow. Canada? A very simple search of what Canada expects from immigrants can be found.

    You may be asked questions about your:
    language ability
    family members
    work experience
    income and/or net worth
    details on any job offer
    I believe in the dream of an immigrant nation. I also believe you don’t welcome people into your house during a family squabble. We need to unite around a balanced and reasonable program. Immigration advocates please advise us what our policies should be beyond the romantic embrace of dreams and ideology.

  • Pete Crangle

    On Private Jet, Trump Explains New Immigration Plan:

    Let us understand what is under assault with this administration: Amendment XIV, Section 1

    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was selected to dismantle section 1 of Amendment 14. Stephen Bannon may now have to find another fellow traveler/useful tool to work this over. Once natural born citizenship standing is stripped away, anyone’s standing is contingent.

    Thank you Chris and big thanks to all these speakers. We need these people, and we need to hear their testimony.

  • The sadness of rationality:

    The current immigration program is to brutalize and criminalize these people as a way to deter them from coming to this country; a wall is the least onerous proposal being put forth by the xenophobes.
    Building a wall is seemly the most humane approach.

    My nephew dropped his first two 1,000 pound bombs during his F/A-18E’s maiden flight. Both were direct hits on an ISIS control center in Mosul. I know civilians were killed, 1,000 pound bombs are indiscriminate.
    Drones are the best way to kill people.

    Close friends voted for Trump. I can’t discuss it with them but I know one day they will apologize for their vote. I will accept that apology and immediately change the subject.
    The distance between us now, will then be closed.

    Rationality is a sad enterprise…..

  • WoozyCanary

    Fan of ROS, and great show. Amber certainly makes an eloquent case about the ramifications of immigration policy on the ground and the state of the fearful white (dwindling) majority, but she seems uniformed and deluded about Obama.

    Her descriptors included: “…classy, …adult, …sophisticated, …charming, …elegant, the best we could have given you”

    Well, hardly.

    She is evidently unaware that Obama deported at least as many, and possibly more immigrants (depending on how the classifications are accounted for) than his predecessors. Or that he denied a record number of Freedom of Information Act requests. Or that he significantly deepened the security and surveillance state which is now in the hands of Trump. Or that he appointed corporate lobbyists to high government positions after promising not to do so. I could go on.

    Obama was a smoother talking—yes, perhaps, sophisticated and charming—liar than the average president, i’ll give him that.

    That Ms. Amber overlooks the troubling aspects of his very mixed record diminishes her credibility for me.

  • Potter

    I’ve been listening to Amber almost as long as I have been listening to Chris: her rants, her complaints about this country, her plight, always she was right but I resented hearing it. This time she sounded much softer and sadder. This time I feel sad for us all, including her. She is as American as we are, as American as I am. And I am not sure I want to be at this point. Obviously she cares about this country a lot. I wish she could just feel she is American and that the legality thing is not everything. But maybe I am foolish and that it is. I can’t know. Half of us, or more, do not feel this way about immigrants, we don’t want them outta here, deported. All of us are immigrants— even native Americans for goodness sake. What is this nonsense?

    But with Trump, one man, a lot of looming ugliness is now out of the closet. Hopefully this will make us better eventually. This is not who we are. It’s not who a good number of us are. Nor is this the version of America we want to be a part of. So hang in there immigrants…help us. Often immigrants know more about what this country is really about.

    It was said today, something I was listening to, that the idea is to scare immigrants to self-deport, to scare them from even wanting to come here. John Kelly was talking about separating women from their children. This reminded of Nazi Germany. A scare tactic. Don’t let them win.