Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
Coming of age in a post-9-11 America was an eye-opening experience that I have no intention of reliving in my 30s.
And yet, the hatred against Muslim, and perceived Muslims, has reached another level altogether (again), from Republican governors opposing Syrian refugees to Donald Trump’s ridiculous call to end all Muslim immigration. And now the U.S. is looking into more stringent measures against the immigrant fiancé visa process, as if immigrating to the U.S. is not already hard to do.
The immigration reform crowd is unhelpful–they think they are better than this, when in fact, we all know just how they are: useless. Nothing new to be said here, so keep following the failed strategy of naturalizing people to vote for Democrats, who in turn, don’t do anything differently. I am falling asleep as I type. The point is that American democracy is an oxymoron, but I digress.
The media, and our Democrat friends would like us to believe that the right-wing is the real problem. That they are so much better than all this. That they are so much more enlightened because they support DACA now, or the non-existent unicorn that is DAPA. Insert more meaningless acronyms here. But the hatred and violent scapegoating of others is not any different from Franklin Roosevelt interning the Japanese, Andrew Jackson wiping out indigenous peoples, Barack Obama dropping drones on Pakistani children, and Jimmy Carter banning immigration from Iran.
There’s a lack of value for people of color lives here. The myths and legends continue: Muslims didn’t die in 9/11; were not among the first responders; are never the victims of mass shootings, and there is no active effort to wipe out Palestinians.
And if you are Muslim or perceived as a Muslim, you are fully expected to adopt respectability politics. Denounce violence done in the name of Islam, ridicule other countries, and faiths, and wave the American flag.
Then, there are the “We are all Muslims” crowd. I would rather not waste any time of these people. No, we are not all Muslims. Fact: Some of us, especially those of us with turbans, beards and brown skin, are perceived as more Muslim than others.
Friends from abroad often ask me why there is so much anti-immigrant sentiment in America, when it is supposedly a country of immigrants. After all, it was supposedly built by immigrants (and chattel slavery), but they don’t necessarily like newer immigrants who do not assimilate or bow down to their idea of integration. Perhaps, they feel immigrants will do what they did to the original inhabitants of this land: wipe them out. There’s a lot of insecurity and projection. They hate immigrants, because we are different from them. Because we are not like them.
Yes, we are different. I have no problem with that. Our food has more flavour; our movies are more colourful; our skins more beautiful; and our tongues are far sharper. And thank goodness for all that. Because really, who would want to be like this?
Everyone is supposed to be better than this. Few are though.
I’ve had a few “fans” — right-wing extremists and some immigration reform advocates — target my home in California.
Last week, someone by the name of “Mauricio Carvallan” posted some of my home addresses online hurling false accusations of “document fraud” and “harboring illegal aliens” along with anti-gay, and anti-Muslim signs. Then, on Saturday night, someone called my home in California asking for my immigration status. My uncle answered the phone, and the person refused to identify himself, insisting on finding out about my immigration status.
If the objective is to threaten and intimidate my family members, all of whom are here lawfully and most of whom are citizens of the U.S., I think the target is a bit ludicrous. If the objective is to harass me, unfortunately, someone needs to do better research.
There are other similar incidents of stalking and harassment that I’ve been subjected to throughout my stay in the U.S. Prior to the incident last weekend, some immigration reform advocates also posted my home addresses online, with false accusations about me organizing a border crossing and voting, in order to incite threats and intimidate.
I don’t see these as isolated incidents but evidence of systemic abuse we are subjected to as queer immigrants in the U.S., and the workings of white supremacy. I have put a tracker on the home phone, multiple trackers on who visits my website, and I’m posting here for the record.
In the meanwhile, if my “fans” wants to find out where I am, just come to Northwest White House lawn where we’re stationed this month, asking the President to deliver administrative relief.
In their newly released book, The Triple Package, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld propose that some groups are naturally better than the others due to certain cultural traits they possess. I was on HuffPost Live to discuss the book, and to debunk its central notions, which you can watch here:
If the embed link is not working, you can also watch it here.
Some quick points I’d like to reiterate that are also mentioned in the video:
1. Amazed about the publicity and attention that this book is receiving because it is saying nothing new
Whiteness and white supremacy has been predicated on classifying and ranking racial and cultural groups over history, and demarcating some of these groups as less than the other. And discriminating against the people who are supposedly lower on the totem pole. It’s just the same old racism, repackaged as the triple threat.
2. The Triple Package is ahistorical.
Speaking of history, I think the arguments that Chua and Rubenfeld make are very ahistorical. If hard work is the way to success in this country, then descendants of slaves, and migrant workers should be the richest and most successful people. Why are they locked out of prosperity? Rather, Rubenfield and Chua gloss over the fact that the wealth of some groups has been based on the exploitation, looting, plundering over other racial and ethnic groups – the indigenous people were mostly wiped out, black people were enslaving, and now incarcerating at highest numbers. What’s most problematic is that it provides a justification for racial and cultural discrimination – some groups of people are just not as good as others.
3. Perpetuates the model minority myth, which then justifies anti-black racism
Indian population in the U.S. tends to be higher-income because they mostly migrated as “high-skill” workers, and already had education and class privilege that allowed them to migrate and achieve success in U.S. However, there are over 300 million Indians living in poverty in India. And then there are many Indians who are actually not doing so well in the U.S. How does Chua account for that? She just appears to be perpetuating the model minority myth – which is predicated on anti-black racism. These cultural groups are “making it” in America so why can’t black people do so? That’s the implication of The Triple Package.
4. Dangerously suggests that we have moved beyond racism, which is simply not true
I think success is mostly systemic. It is predicated by affinity and closeness to whiteness, environmental factors such as the neighborhood someone grows up in, and class—the wealth of parents – and social connections that someone has as a result of their class and race.
For more critiques of the book, check out this post by friend, Scot Nakagawa.
In a shockingly poor decision, the Indian Supreme Court has reversed the July 2009 ruling of the Delhi High Court decriminalising gay sex between consenting adults. In doing so, India’s Supreme Court has recriminalized gay sex in India, rendering almost 20 percent of the global LGBT population illegal.
Overturning a High Court decision, the Indian Supreme Court upheld Indian Penal Code 377, an archaic and barbaric law that criminalizes “homosexual” acts:
377. Unnatural offenses — Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Western media and LGBT organizations are already demonizing India as “backward” after this ruling, which does not make life easier for Indians who are gay and lesbian abroad, and conveniently casts the West as an arbiter of freedom. In fact, the New York Times took a potshot at Asian countries as a whole in reporting about India’s tragic decision, perhaps forgetting that gay sex was illegal in parts of the United States only ten years ago. Because LGBT people have been marginalized and mistreated for so long, many people in the West mistakenly see some forms of “gay rights” as a marker for progress or modernity. Anthropologist Akshaye Khanna articulates this quite well:
We are seeing, in several parts of the world, a cynical appropriation of the discourse of sexual rights and sexuality by right wing and reactionary agendas. In Western Europe, North America and Israel, we see the phenomenon of ‘homonationalism’, where LGBT discourse is being used in deeply racist—usually Islamophobic—groups. In East Africa, the question of sexuality has come to be the central question in discourse about the nation – where notions of ‘Africanness’ have come to be tied to the position on homosexuality. This centering of the question of sexuality is always a way of diverting attention from political and economic questions relating to the control over natural resources, or instances of corruption.
While people in India and across the world are mourning and expressing outrage at the ruling, and shaming the entire country, it is important to note that Indian Penal Code 377 is a relic of British rule and colonialism. Contrary to the sexual puritanism and homophobia that the British wrote into the law while colonizing India, Indian and Hindu culture is enriched with queer sensibility. It is rather ironic that the British are finally getting ready to start allowing same-sex marriages next year, while their retrograde policies in former colonies continue to harm and hamper peoples lives. The Indian Supreme Court ruling is a reminder that the Indian people cannot rely on courts to strike down an injustice rooted in colonial oppression, and that colonial ideas remain ingrained in a so-called post-colonial country.
However, colonial-era law or not, many Indians are rightly outraged by this decision from the Indian Supreme Court, which should have outlawed colonial-era discrimination, instead of punting the question of sodomy to the Indian parliament. Thus far, the Indian parliament has remained non-commital on the issue, sparking more outrage on social media and across the country. In a display of vibrant democracy, Indians are taking to the streets both in India and abroad in protest of the ruling. That hardly seems backward and regressive to me.
Funnily, while LGBT organizations in the U.S. expressed disappointement at the decision, they have rarely ever expressed the same sort of outrage about queer immigrants who are criminalized and locked up in detention at home. Claudette Hubbard, a long-time lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who escaped Jamaica after facing persecution for being gay, has been locked in an ICE detention facility for two years now. Viesca, a transgender detainee at El Paso, Texas who won her credible fear interview, reported constant degradation and harassment from guards, and finally agreed to her own deportation yesterday. Kumar Jagdish, a gay asylum seeker from India, has been detained at El Paso, Texas since June, 2013. You won’t hear these stories in the mainstream media, because they do not show a flattering image of the United States as a beacon of hope or democracy. After all, detaining and deporting thousands of immigrants daily is not a marker of modernity any more than criminalizing homosexuality. Frankly, I am disappointed in all of us.
As for Section 377, the law is clearly an abomination. While Section 377 has rarely been used to criminalize gay persons in India, Indian queer liberation activist Kaveri Indira reports that there are many enforced laws on the books that cause less nationl and international outrage, such as Karnataka Police Acts, which criminalizes hijras, gender transgressives and transgender persons. Perhaps it is time to take the outrage, and pour it into the threats and daily assaults against queer and transgender persons of color that are far more real and tangible in both the U.S. and India, than this poor Supreme Court decision.
I don’t usually give a damn to what DC immigration groups do because ain’t nobody got time for that. That is true until someone tries to re-write my history. And that is precisely what straight, white, cisgender and clueless male Frank Sharry, who is best known for running several failed political campaigns, does in his racist Washington Post column.
The columm is racist because it marginalizes the existence and work of queer undocumented youth. The column is also racist because Sharry is essentially implying that the people of color immigrant rights movement learned tactics from the white gay movement, which is highly problematic and inaccurate. And as a straight male, Frank should shy away from ever using phrases like “It is time to go gay on their ass” because that is just plain old heterosexism (and inappropriate).
Now, the Washington Post was willing to post his 1800-word vile and depraved white racist ignorance, but unwilling to post our response, which was written with the input of over a dozen past and present immigrant youth leaders. The beauty of the massive social media network and presence that we’ve built is that we don’t need racism-enabling networks such as the Washington Post to respond with truth.
This column was initially titled “Frank Sharry Didn’t Build That.” But he isn’t important enough to be a title in anything I write so the response is how queer undocumented youth built the immigrant rights movement.
Because we did.