The Nation‘s Robert Lovato published an article today linking the treatment of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the South to the treatment of blacks under Jim Crow:
Call it Juan Crow: the matrix of laws, social customs, economic institutions and symbolic systems enabling the physical and psychic isolation needed to control and exploit undocumented immigrants.
…[T]he surge in Latino migration (the Southeast is home to the fastest-growing Latino population in the United States) is moving many of the institutions and actors responsible for enforcing Jim Crow to resurrect and reconfigure themselves in line with new demographics. Along with the almost daily arrests, raids and home invasions by federal, state and other authorities, newly resurgent civilian groups like the Ku Klux Klan, in addition to more than 144 new “nativist extremist” groups and 300 anti-immigrant organizations born in the past three years, mostly based in the South, are harassing immigrants as a way to grow their ranks.
Meanwhile, a legal regime of distinctions between the rights of undocumented immigrants and citizens has emerged and is being continually refined and expanded. A 2006 Georgia law denies undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses. Federal laws that allowed local and state authorities to pursue blacks under the Fugitive Slave Act appear to be the model for the Bush Administration’s Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS) program, which allows states to deputize law enforcement officials to chase, detain, arrest and jail the undocumented. Georgia’s lowest-paid workers, the undocumented, now occupy a separate, unequal and clandestine place that has made it increasingly difficult for them to work, rent homes or attend school…Georgia’s estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants must think twice before seeking emergency support at hospitals or clinics because of laws that require them to prove their legal status before receiving many state benefits.
“This weekend alone we received more than 200 phone calls from people telling horrible stories of arrests,” said GLAHR executive director Adelina Nicholls of Mexico City. “There are hundreds of Latinos who’ve been hunted down like animals, taken to jail, and they don’t even know why or whether or not they’ll be released,” said Nicholls more recently. […]
One especially outrageous incident took place just west of Atlanta, in the rural town of Carrollton, last June. Emelina Ramirez, a Honduran immigrant, called local police to report that her roommates were attacking her, punching and kicking her in the stomach. Ramirez was pregnant. Locals say that when police got to Ramirez’s apartment, officers handcuffed her, took her to jail and then ran her fingerprints through a federal database. After discovering that she was undocumented, they contacted federal authorities as stipulated under ACCESS and GSICA. Ramirez was then deported. […]
High school senior Ernesto Chavez (a pseudonym) does not look forward to becoming one of the few undocumented students in Georgia to go to a university like Kennesaw State, which requires them to carry student IDs with special color coding, or to a college that denies them aid and forces them to pay exorbitant, nearly impossible-to-pay out-of-state tuition.
I just highlighted a few of the main points to give the gist; the actual article is much, much more detailed. It’s a worthy read.
I’m not sure how I feel about Lovato co-opting “Jim Crow” for the use of the immigrant rights struggle, though, as Jim Crow has its own very loaded–and very personal–history to the people that were affected by it (that was a huge issue I still have with Obama using “Si se puede” for his campaign). Chicana/os need to think of our own terminology to describe our own battles with cultural and institutionalized racism.