Monthly Archives: July 2008

83% Blame Government for 'Illegal Immigration' not Immigrants

In a new poll by Rasmussen Reports, 32% of likely voters polled expressed anger over “illegal immigration” whereas 39% said it was just another one of the issues.

However, only 12% of people blamed immigrants for coming here–an overwhelming 83% held the federal government responsible for inaction and being lobbied by ‘special interest groups.’ It is indeed true that the federal government is unlikely to make any new immigration laws until after elections–increasing border control, passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Agjobs and the DREAM Act–are issues that the government would much rather ignore than tackle effectively.

Survey questions revealed that 43% of Americans thought that the government allowed immigrants to retain the culture of their home country while 32% thought the government encouraged them to fully embrace American culture with 26% unsure. It is unclear whether this issue contributed to voter anger and dissatisfaction.

How can ‘illegal immigrants’ be encouraged to assimilate into American culture? The obvious answer is to stop driving them underground and encourage them to become a part of American society. And yet, the expectations of the American public with regards to assimilation disregard history and the processes of cultural change. A first generation of immigrants hardly assimilate or integrate, even though studies suggest that they are assimilating and integrating in larger numbers than the first wave of European immigrants in American. It is usually the second-generation that adopts American culture much more readily than the first.

Americans want immigrants to adopt American culture–and there is nothing wrong with that desire. However, cultural change is a process and not something that should be ‘forced’ upon people. In itself, culture is also not a fixed immutable object–it is open to change, much like American culture that is an amalgamation of immigrants from many walks of life and continues to change.

There are studies that suggest the harmful side-effects of ‘assimilation’ — adopting American habits and behaviours, especialy diet, is particularly degrading for immigrant health according to a Smith College-led study.

“Simply put: the longer an immigrant lives in the U.S., the heavier that immigrant becomes. Scholars theorize this weight gain as due, in part, to acculturation,­ the adoption of U.S. diet and physical activity habits,” said Park. “Although in the popular imagination, acculturation is thought to be a positive factor for immigrants, in many arenas of health, acculturation has been shown to have a negative effect.”

Surely, we must be welcoming towards immigrants and encourage everyone to speak English. But there is no harm in learning foreign languages and eating healthier foods–it wouldn’t make us less American or threaten our sovereignty. After all, we are a nation of immigrants and adopting parts of other cultures into our own is ultimately very American.

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Ontology, Space and Radical Politics

The Spaces of Democracy and the Democracy of Space Research Network invites you to:

Ontology, Space & Radical Politics, 4-5 August 2008

August 4th: Radical Politics Today, Community Forum

Long Beach Public Library, 101 Pacific Avenue, Civic Center Plaza, Long

Beach, 90822, 6-8pm

Panelists: Gilda Haas | Strategic Action for a Just Economy, Los Angeles; Laura Pulido | American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California; Goetz Wolff | Harry Bridges Institute, San Pedro & University of California, Los Angeles

Moderator: Jon Pugh| Director, The Spaces of Democracy and the Democracy of Space Network & Geography, Politics and Sociology, University of Newcastle

August 5th: Ontology, Space & Radical Politics, Workshop

Karl Anatol Center, California State University, Long Beach, 9am-430pm

Speakers: Nigel Thrift | Vice-Chancellor, Warwick University; Edward Soja | Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles; Lawrence Berg | Geography,

University of British Columbia; John Paul Jones III | Geography and Regional Development, University of Arizona; Sallie Marston | Geography and Regional Development, University of Arizona; Keith Woodward | Geography, University of Exeter; Liz Philipose | Women’s Studies, California State University, Long Beach; Mary Thomas | Women’s Studies & Geography, Ohio State University

Moderator: Deborah Thien| Node Director, The Spaces of Democracy and the Democracy of Space Network & Geography, California State University, Long Beach

For further information about these events, or to reserve workshop space, please contact Deborah Thien at

Flyer available in PDF format here:

or here:

Please circulate widely, with thanks.

Deborah Thien, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography

Book Review Editor, Emotion, Space & Society

Node Director, Spaces of Democracy, Democracy of Space

California State University, Long Beach

Telephone:         (+1) 562-985-7072


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"Mann Tu Talbat" – Language and Meaning – TRANSLATION

Alright, so I am trying to understand this song called “Mann Tu Talbat” which is in Hindi, English and Arabic. I am having trouble with the Arabic part. Some say “Mann tu Talbat” means “I want you” whereas others say it denotes a double meaning or confusion like “I want you but I don’t want you too” ?? I usually detest translating language to understand it because you really cannot outside the cultural context in which is exists. Anyone who speaks Hindi (or a non-Latin language) knows what that means — there are some words and meanings that just do not translate over into English.


My buddy from UAE has kindly offered some translation. Thank you Sam!

Wainik inti  —Where Are you
Wainik inti  —Where Are you
ye noor al Aaien — Oh light of my eyes
Wainik inti  —Where are you
Ta’aali hayati  —Come here my Life
Ta’aali Aayouni —Come here my Eyes (like the one for whom his eye searches…or like the one his eyes are on..or even light of his eyes..justa  different word this time)
Ya Mafi Galbi — Oh the one without a heart (He’s saying this is a sense of “dont u love me? dont u have a heart?”)
habbikiiii – My Love


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Checklist for Graduate Students

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Indian women will appear as exotic nurses in an American mini web series of 50 episodes.

Can I say, Finally? It is too that most of Hollywood does not portray women in a positive light. I can already hear protests all the way from the regressive people of India who cannot even take the new modernized version of the Mahabharata without thinking of the “good ole days.” Psssssssssssst.

Oh, “exotic nurses?” Please. What on earth is that supposed to mean?

The series’ being produced by a California-based production company named ‘Big Fantastic’ is a prequel to best-selling author Robin Cook’s latest medical thriller, Foreign Body, which is centres n medical tourism in India.

Its producers have revealed that the novel’s storyline will pick up from where the web series ends on August 4.

As regards its plot, the producers have revealed that the women are taken in by a group of “young, cut throat medical entrepreneurs who hope to train them and cultivate their nursing skills for their own mysterious ends.”

Cook has himself supplied the outline for the prequel, the episodes of which have been filmed in Los Angeles and Delhi.

Cast member Rachna Khatau has revealed that she is playing a free-spirited Indian woman named Samira Patel, who grabs an opportunity to chase the American dream.

She admits that her character “gets a little wild” when she tastes the freedom offered in America.

Shamita Dasgupta, who heads the New Jersey-based South Asian women’s rights group, Manavi, says that the series promises a “parade of scantily clad brown bodies of Indian women”.

“As an immigrant from India and a feminist activist in the South Asian American community, my first reaction is to say, hurray, at least I will get to see some faces that look like me. Also, I rejoice that a few Indian actors are getting visible jobs,” the BBC quoted her as saying.

Her second reaction was, however, more guarded.

“Here we go again, I say. Historically, Hollywood portrayed Asian women as mysterious, bizarre and strange and contributed a lot to their being perceived as such. Now, Indian women are being exoticised and presented as sneaky murderous intrigue-mongers,” she said.

“The ‘Indian’ characters in Foreign Body are nurses, who are as far away from any care-giving mission or characteristics as possible. These women will be unleashed in the US to wreak havoc in the health care community and perhaps even in the system. Could this be a sign of the dominant community’s palpable alarm at the increasing health care tourism to India? Most likely,” she added.

Another actress Pranidhi Varshney, who portrays a girl born and raised in India in the series, said that she did not have any qualms about playing a “sexy Indian nurse”.

Both Khatau and Varshney said that their families had been supportive of their new roles.

Khatau, who claims that her parents have not missed a single episode of the show, said that the producers had the option of converting the project into a film.

Though Varshney and Khatau have not read any of Robin Cook’s books, they are eagerly awaiting his latest thriller.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian News International.

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Testimony of Maher Arar – Extraordinary Rendition by U.S. Immigration Officials

This is the PITS. It is a gross violation of human rights, a misguided and miscalculated effort at WHO-KNOWS-WHAT?!

Published in the June 17 – Globe and Mail, Canada

On my way home to Canada from a family vacation in September of 2002, I was stopped and interrogated at JFK Airport in New York. Within two weeks, against my will, the U.S. government sent me to Syria, where I was tortured and detained for a year before being released back to Canada without any charge being filed against me.

Following a request by a U.S. congressman shortly after my release, the inspector-general of the Homeland Security Department launched an investigation. Early this month, Richard Skinner released a much-anticipated report on the actions of U.S. immigration officials surrounding the decision to send me to Syria.

Despite the limited scope of the investigation and the refusal by key decision-makers to be interviewed, the heavily redacted public version of the report points to the important fact that the decision to send me to Syria was made at the highest levels of President George W. Bush’s administration. The report found that the decision to send me to Syria was made before, and without regard for, the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s assessment that I would likely be tortured there.

Mr. Skinner’s report clearly establishes that what happened to me was a rendition in disguise. Mr. Skinner found that on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2002, the government prepared the “operations order” to remove me and sent flight clearances to Rome and Amman, so the United States could fly me on a private jet. These actions were taken before my six-hour interview with the INS concerning my fears of being tortured in Syria, before the INS concluded it was likely I would be tortured there and before the INS received supposed ambiguous “assurances” that I would be protected.

In other words, my fate had already been decided – the “immigration process” meant to safeguard me from torture was a sham.

So far, these high-level officials have evaded accountability and public scrutiny of their own wrongdoing by keeping me on their watch list, thereby attempting to keep the focus on me. The U.S. government claims to rely on classified information to keep me on the watch list – information that New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler has seen and called “nonsense,” and that Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has seen and confirmed that it does not justify keeping me on a watch list.

The Canadian government has already apologized and launched a full public inquiry. It is only my hope that the U.S. government follows Ottawa’s example and rights its wrongs by at least conducting an independent investigation examining the actions of all officials who shipped me off to Syria like a parcel without regard for my basic human rights, international law or the U.S. Constitution.

I would like to commend the efforts of the U.S. House of Representatives foreign affairs and judiciary subcommittees trying to get to the bottom of what happened to me. I appreciate their courage in standing up for justice and reminding Mr. Bush’s administration that America is a country of the rule of law. It is my hope that through their persistence and good work, the full truth will eventually come out.

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Assimilation makes you fat and other facts – Reject "Assimilation" Part 2

In the study, researchers examined information on more than 13,000 New Yorkers from all five of the city’s boroughs, who voluntarily had their height and weight measured. The data, collected at community-based health centers and hospitals between January 2000 and December 2002, was used to calculate each person’s BMI.

For Hispanics, whether the neighborhood is largely English speaking or not is an important predictor of body size. The less English spoken in a neighborhood, the less weight gain occurs, according to researchers, whose findings appear in a recent issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

“Simply put: the longer an immigrant lives in the U.S., the heavier that immigrant becomes. Scholars theorize this weight gain as due, in part, to acculturation ­ the adoption of U.S. diet and physical activity habits,” said Park. “Although in the popular imagination, acculturation is thought to be a positive factor for immigrants, in many arenas of health, acculturation has been shown to have a negative effect.”

The new study supports earlier research that found that weight gain is most consistent and significant among Hispanic immigrants to the U.S., who face a particularly high risk of obesity and attendant health problems even when socioeconomic status is taken into consideration.

The link to the study can be found here. I wish journalists would clearly cite the actual source of study because oftentimes it takes a while to search and find it and only the most interested users bother to go to the source of information.

I can actually attest to this sparingly, since the study only seems to hold true among Hispanic immigrants and I am not. I gained about 40 pounds since I started residing in the United States without any changes to my height or level of physical activity. I have shed about 15 of those down to 115 in the past year after getting more health conscious, but the point is that Americans do consume foods with higher calories. And the more we “assimilate,” the more we tend to consume “American foods” on the go instead of ethnic, home-cooked meals which are generally and broadly-speaking, healthier. I don’t think the morale of the story is that we should hide out in our own ethnic enclaves–but that mirroring American consumerism and diet is the wrong way to go.


Supporters of cultural assimilation beware–Encouraging and pushing for assimilation i.e. “English-only” can be contradictory. According to the research of Tomás Jiménez, an assistant professor of sociology at UC San Diego:

That efforts by opponents of illegal immigration to stamp out the ethnic identity of immigrants and their descendents, and to emphasize assimilation, backfire… Nonimmigrant Mexican-Americans who were already largely assimilated feel a closer connection to their Mexican identity when they see it as under attack.

“People who feel the country is fractured by ethnicity may be doing more than anyone to harden ethnic identity,” he said.

The study holds up when compared to conflict theory. When a minority culture faces attack from the dominant culture, it resists or pushes back.

While we are on the topic of assimilation and “illegal immigration,” is it not strange that the biggest proponents of assimilation are also the ones that prevent avenues for immigrant assimilation–Studies show that being undocumented is a barrier to assimilating.

As Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor explained in The Washington Post: “If you’re in the country illegally, a lot of the avenues of assimilation are cut off to you. There are a lot of jobs you can’t get, and you can’t become a citizen.”

Therefore, if we want our immigrants to assimilate, should we not ensure that they have the necessary institutional support to do so? Otherwise, it is ridiculous to expect migrant workers to speak American-English.


One last note. Americans DO NOT speak English but a bastardized version of it. Over the past decade, my English has actually deteriorated. I used to be a spelling bee champion and nowadays I let the Firefox browser correct my spelling. Same goes for my grammar. It is not correct to say “Who are you going to the movies with?” but rather “With whom are you going to the cinema?” Besides the error of ending in prepositions, I use way more passive language than I used to — we used to be graded down for “passive usage.” Most Americans have no idea as to what that means! Anyway, I am no fan or supporter of any “pure language” theories so the deterioration of English does not bother me. What does bother me is this:

Lets learn to speak English first, eh?

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Filed under Ethnic Studies, Immigration, Racism