Mobility, Expulsion and Claims to Home: Migrant Organizing in an Era of Deportation and Dispossession

Lecture | February 28 | 12-1:30 p.m. |  2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues)

 Monisha Das Gupta, Professor of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

 Center for Research on Social Change, Center for Race and Gender, Asian American Studies

The virulence and pervasiveness of immigration enforcement have fueled migrants to organize in heterogeneous ways. My research about and activism in the movement during the last eight years have evolved into an engagement with a strain of anti-deportation organizing which takes up the cause of the most indefensible of immigrants and refugees -- those labeled criminal aliens. Non-citizens, who are branded with this label, are both legal permanent residents and undocumented. Ninety-two percent of all migrants caught in the dragnet of interior enforcement in 2016 were categorized as “criminal aliens.” What activists term “crimmigration” has become the most effective tool to remove migrants from the interior.
In this talk, I examine the relationship among mobility, forced removals, and claims to space by analyzing how high school-age members of Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) in Long Beach interrogate the school to prison to deportation pipeline. They link the criminalization of Khmer refugees to the legacies of United States’ wars in southeast Asia and the failures of the US refugee resettlement program. The “refugee voice,” which youth leaders learn to use in their communities, resets the dominant frameworks deployed to advocate for immigrant justice. By naming the waves of political trauma Khmer refugees in the United States experience, the KGA youth offer strategies that weld together gender justice, refugee justice and youth justice from an anti-carceral and anti-deportation perspective.

 crsc@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813