‘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.

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