In the early hours of a winter day in 2017, “Laura” — a Montclair, New Jersey resident and single mother of four — received a visit from the local police, responding to a household dispute that had taken place hours beforehand.
The police took Laura to Montclair jail, where they inquired into her immigration status. Laura refused to reply to a question about her “papers.” That evening, she was transferred to Essex County Jail, which has a contract to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees.
Three days later, she was taken into ICE custody and detained at Elizabeth Detention Center in Union County, where she would remain imprisoned for three and a half months.
I first heard Laura’s story through my work addressing conditions in detention centers and advocating for policies to stop detentions and deportations. I’ve met hundreds of families whose lives are thrown into chaos, who spend months or years in detention, and who get deported to countries they haven’t seen in decades.
Often it’s a chance encounter with law enforcement that sets these events in motion. Because of this, I spend a lot of time trying to keep ICE out of our communities.
As the abuses perpetrated by ICE gain widespread attention, so too do the calls to abolish the agency. But while we’re working to end ICE long-term, we also have proven, effective methods to reduce the harm they’re causing now. These include robust sanctuary policies that end the collusion with local law enforcement that ICE relies so heavily on.
ICE is notorious for racial profiling, human rights violations, and for a lack of accountability and transparency.
In 2017, immigration enforcement activities went up 30 percent nationally, and 42 percent in my state of New Jersey. This means more New Jersey immigrant communities are being torn apart. It means that New Jersey is losing important labor force and tax contributions. It means taxpayers are footing the bill for costly and immoral immigrant detention. And it means more children will grow up without their parents.
This pattern is being repeated in states all over the country.
Here, we’re using sanctuary policies to protect our communities from these abuses. This March, after years of public pressure, Hudson County ended its controversial partnerships between local law enforcement and ICE. Cities like Newark and Jersey City — where many residents are foreign-born and may have family members with no or pending immigration status — have adopted strong and meaningful policies to not collaborate with ICE.
Hundreds of localities are considering, or have passed, sanctuary policies to preserve privacy, protect data, ensure access to services, and cut ties with the federal government’s increasingly aggressive immigration raids, detentions, and deportations.
For Laura and her family, policies like these could have helped prevent the devastating consequences of her incarceration. While detained she lost her job, and her children were forced to stay with her abusive partner. Though Laura is out on immigration bond, she still hasn’t reunited with her children and is living in poverty.
And she’s now facing deportation.
The good news is that sanctuary policies work. According to a study by the Migration Policy Institute, the majority of ICE arrests rely on some form of collaboration with local law enforcement, and jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with the agency see arrest and detention numbers go down.
Here in New Jersey, I’ve seen the destruction caused when ICE is allowed to operate unchecked, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done — in coalitions across the state — to protect the rights and lives of all New Jersey residents. Thousands of others are campaigning hard in other states, too.
Until the federal government stops its relentless persecution of immigrants, it’s up to us to provide refuge in whatever ways we can.
Trump craves good press from the ‘fake news’ media – just look at his White House newsletter
August 16, 2018
Even as he decries the news media, President Donald Trump actively seeks its approval.
Assistant Professor of Public Communications, American University School of Communication
Joseph Graf has donated money to Democratic Party candidates and causes.
American University School of Communication provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Mainstream press coverage of President Trump has been unfavorable. Thomas Patterson found that 80 percent of stories in the first 100 days of the administration were negative in tone.
The president has attacked the media as “fake news” and journalists as “the enemy of the American people.”
The president’s anti-press assaults are so frequent and potent that newspapers across the United States banded together August 16 to publish simultaneous editorials defending the press’s important watchdog role in democracy.
But for all the president’s complaints, he also craves validation from the media. Trump has given exclusive interviews to The New York Times and, in addition to loving Fox News, reportedly watches CNN and MSNBC every morning.
Trump’s quest for good press is particularly evident in the White House newsletters, a daily email update sent to anyone who cares to subscribe online.
White House spam
As a scholar of media and politics, I have followed the White House newsletters since the Obama administration began sending them in 2009.
The White House Communications Office produced more than 2,000 newsletters during President Obama’s eight years in office. They announced his daily schedule, made official policy statements and provided a regular diet of sleek presidential photos. At times, the Obama newsletter offered behind-the-scenes stories about life inside the White House.
The Trump administration has continued the practice. Its daily email is called 1600 Daily or West Wing Reads, depending on the content and the day. Occasionally, a newsletter entitled Resolute Reads appears.
I’ve never met anyone else who pays the White House newsletter much attention. But I read and analyze every email.
Trump’s need for good press
The White House newsletter is a useful window into the Trump administration – just not necessarily in the way its editors may intend.
Early in Trump’s term, when the president cycled through four communications directors in six months, the newsletters mirrored the chaos in the White House.
They looked amateurish. Links didn’t work. The layout was cluttered and busy, and included unconnected, disparate events. Mimicking Trump’s voice, they referred to everything related to the president as “successful,” and there were constant references to making America great again.
Screenshot of an amateurish White House newsletter from Feb. 8, 2017.
By mid-2017, as the administration settled in somewhat, the newsletter began to look more professional. At that point it began to offer new, unintended insights into the administration, showing the president’s strong desire for good press.
The nearly 600 newsletters produced so far under Trump have included hundreds of references to positive news stories.
Of those, my analysis finds, roughly half of the clips cited were from mainstream outlets like The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC and CBS – all publications that have been targeted in angry presidential tweets.
Between a third and a half of all media references in the White House newsletter tout glowing comments from conservative media like the Washington Times, Washington Examiner and National Review, Fox networks and conservative blogs like The Daily Signal and Daily Caller.
Occasionally, the newsletter has included praise for Trump’s immigration policies from Breitbart, a controversial far-right website that espouses white nationalist views.
Evidently the White House newsletters must sometimes scour local papers to find anything nice said about the administration. West Wing Reads has cited an article from Illinois’s Belleview News-Democrat about Ivanka Trump visiting a community college there, and Redding, California’s Record Searchlight about Cabinet secretaries inspecting areas damaged by forest fires.
The Obama administration never tooted its own horn in this way. Occasionally, its newsletter linked to op-ed pieces from administration officials, but generally Obama’s email updates were not designed to trumpet coverage that made the administration look good. Rather, they served as a source of information about policy, public affairs and White House events.
Sometimes, in its search for positive coverage, Trump’s newsletter has even mistaken satirical criticism for authentic praise.
In March 2017 1600 Daily praised a Washington Post article by Alexandra Petri called “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why,” which slammed the president for proposing massive budget cuts to federal agencies like the Department of State and Environmental Protection Agency.
That misstep lead to some rare media attention to the White House newsletter.
The White House propaganda machine
For three months in 2017, the newsletter had the odd habit of republishing the administration’s own Twitter posts as if they were news stories from the press.
Usually, it would publish a screenshot of a tweet by or about the president from a government account, including congratulatory tweets from the White House itself celebrating the president for traveling overseas, and write about it.
Sometimes, it published a retweet of the president’s tweet by a Cabinet member or other senior staff – for example, when Vice President Pence retweeted the president’s tweet about a positive article from the Wall Street Journal.
The effect of all this tweeting and retweeting was that the White House newsletter functioned as a Trump propaganda machine. Each pro-Trump tweet become another media point to be published, shared and spun as praise for the administration.
How the president communicates
Presidential scholars say that the White House’s official communications efforts reflect the personality and governing style of each president.
My academic reading of the White House newsletter supports that view. This daily email is a window into the Trump administration, laying bare the chaotic first months, the promotion of the Trump brand and the president’s erratic communication style.
Mostly, though, the White House newsletter reflects this administration’s complicated relationship with the news media. Despite press secretaries and a president who deride the journalists for their negative coverage, this White House also wants the validation and credibility that comes from media praise.
And it’s looking far and wide to find it.
Black and biracial Americans wouldn’t need to code-switch if we lived in a post-racial society
August 17, 2018
Chandra D.L. Waring
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Race and Ethnic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Chandra D.L. Waring does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Boots Riley’s new film “Sorry to Bother You” does anything but apologize.
In telling the story of Cassius, a young black man who becomes an extraordinarily successful telemarketer after he starts using his “white voice,” it showcases the magnitude of racial and class oppression.
Colloquially, Cassius’ use of a “white voice” is known as code-switching, and the film highlights something that most African-Americans could probably tell you: The ability to code-switch is often a prerequisite to becoming a successful black person in America.
As a race scholar and sociologist, I’ve studied biracial Americans who engage in code-switching. I found that the ability to deftly code-switch has some real advantages. But it also has its fair share of pitfalls.
More broadly, it has led me to wonder what the persistence of code-switching tells us about race, opportunities and making connections in America today.
Adapting to the dominant culture
Code-switching is the practice of interacting in different ways depending on the social context, and it isn’t limited to race. Most of us interact differently when hanging out with friends than we would during a job interview.
However, due in large measure to structural inequality and centuries of segregation, different cultural norms and ways of speaking have emerged among white and black Americans.
But because dominant culture is white, whiteness has been baked into institutions as natural, normal and legitimate. So there’s much more incentive for people of color to code-swich – to adapt to the dominant culture to improve their prospects. White people rarely, if ever, feel this same pressure in their daily lives.
For this reason, the notion of a person of color deploying a “white voice” in the workplace (or anywhere in American society) isn’t a new phenomenon.
Biracial people create somewhat of a different dynamic due to their backgrounds. Often they have to navigate groups that are either all white or all black. In each instance, they’re outsiders who need to send certain signals – or avoid certain landmines – to fit in.
In my research, I explain how black and white biracial Americans deploy what I call “racial capital.”
I interviewed 60 black-white biracial Americans and asked them how their lives were shaped by race. I soon realized that they seemed to be pulling from a repertoire of resources in order to break down racial barriers and establish in-group membership among whites and blacks.
I categorized this repertoire into four areas: knowledge, experiences, meanings and language.
The language category involves code-switching.
For example, one of my interviewees bragged about her ability to code-switch: “To some people, I’ll say ‘He was handsome!’ versus ‘He fine as hell, girl!’ And I think I’m the baddest because I can talk to this group and that group in the same way that they talk.”
But this doesn’t always work. One person I interviewed explained that when he didn’t dap properly at his predominately black barbershop, the other patrons laughed at him and treated him like an outsider.
Other times, people are “caught in the act,” meaning people witness them interacting differently in ways that are shaped by race. This makes others question their authenticity, which ultimately jeopardizes any connection.
One participant in my study told me that he is perpetually self-conscious about code-switching out of fear that someone would witness his behavior and question his authenticity.
Another participant echoed his concern: “I feel almost bad sometimes when someone sees [me code-switch],” she said, “because they are like ‘What’s going on?’ Especially my boyfriend – he’ll be like ‘Who are you?’”
And one person I spoke with said that it was “humiliating” when others saw him code-switch because people “just don’t understand.”
These are the costs of code-switching, and my participants continually risked being misunderstood and treated as outsiders.
Because of societal pressures, it’s a risk black and biracial people are clearly willing to keep taking.
An oppressive script
Code-switching would not be necessary if white privilege hadn’t been embedded in every social institution in American society for centuries. More and more, researchers have been able to show how racism has been rooted in how American society is organized.
In the workplace, black people face more obstacles to career advancement and a growing racial wage gap. In education, schools in poor black neighborhoods receive less resources, while teachers mete out disproportionately harsh disciplinary treatment for students of color. In politics, we see a lack of proportional representation among elected officials and recently witnessed the election of a president who routinely disparages people of color. In entertainment, there is a lack of diverse, nuanced, fully human characters of color. Even in religion, deities have been whitewashed.
Despite this documented reality, there are those who think that racism in America is a myth, that reverse racism is a threat or that our society is largely colorblind – a convenient way to avoid grappling with the severe discrepancy between societal values like equality and the reality of structural, inter-generational inequality.
I argue that there would be no need for racial capital if we were truly in a “post-racial” society – that is, a society where race carried no meaning.
Why would black and biracial Americans feel compelled to change the way they interact – the words they use – if race no longer mattered?
Although my study is about biracial Americans engaging in code-switching to bond with whites and blacks – and “Sorry to Bother You” is about a mono-racial black man engaging in code-switching to perform well in his job – for everyone involved, code-switching serves the same purpose: to create a connection that will generate opportunities.
Yet the fact that code-switching is blatantly referred to as the “white voice” in the film underscores the power of whiteness – and the persistence of white privilege.
Even though we are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, we are seeing racial tensions rise. Rampant racial inequality is evidence that white privilege continues to prevail.
In the film, Cassius’ manager fervently urges him to “stick to the script.”
There is no room for individuality, nuance or variation, which precisely captures the oppression of being compelled to code-switch.
Whiteness is the script, and code-switching is merely a strategy to adapt.
Race relations will continue to deteriorate unless our society’s script undergoes some serious revisions.
Lost and found in upstate New York: ‘Lost Boys’ nonprofits latch onto a new objective closer to home
August 17, 2018
Assistant Professor of Public Administration, University at Albany, State University of New York
Ph.D. Candidate, Binghamton University, State University of New York
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Binghamton University, State University of New York
University at Albany, State University of New York
Binghamton University, State University of New York and University at Albany, State University of New York provide funding as founding partners of The Conversation US.
Nonprofits help immigrants and refugees who settle in the U.S. in many ways. They encourage naturalized newcomers to become citizens, for example, and advocate for more humane detention conditions.
We are scholars who research why people give their money to, and volunteer for, what they believe to be good causes, including giving out of grief. We became interested in what happens when refugees themselves start their own nonprofits.
The organizations we studied began as personal projects of the founders. Most of these groups support educational efforts in the childhood villages of the Sudanese exiles known as Lost Boys in what now is South Sudan. As the political climate around immigration and refugees intensifies, we find that these groups are beginning to play new roles as platforms that highlight the contributions refugees are making to their local communities here in the U.S.
Activist John Dau, a former Lost Boy, taking part in an art project that raised awareness about genocide and mass atrocities. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Lost Boys’ international nonprofits
The Lost Boys of Sudan were traumatically separated from their families as children during the country’s second civil war which started in the late 1980s and went until 2005. They lived in refugee camps in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya for a decade.
In 2000, some 3,800 Lost Boys were resettled in the U.S. through a program implemented by the U.S. government and United Nations Human Rights Commission. Lost Boys were resettled in dozens of U.S. cities, including Seattle and Boston, as well as in cities in upstate New York like Syracuse and Rochester.
Many of these resettled refugees are now adult U.S. citizens who have returned to visit to their homeland in South Sudan. Their experiences on these trips sparked an interest in starting several small international nonprofits.
For example, Sebastian Maroundit and Mathon Noi, two cousins who fled Sudan as children and now live in upstate New York, founded the nonprofit Building Minds in South Sudan.
Both were less than 10 years old when war came to their village and separated them from their families. They fled Sudan to refugee camps where they spent years before getting settled in Rochester.
After their first trip to South Sudan in 2007 to visit their surviving family members, they returned wanting to help their village and created Building Minds.
Its mission is “to provide educational opportunities for villagers in the Republic of South Sudan.” Like many small nonprofits, Building Minds raises money by tapping into donations from private individuals, as well as local Rotary clubs and churches.
The nonprofit built, at the cost of about US $304,000 funds raised over the course of several years, a new school in 2015 that serves over 900 boys and girls in their former village and works in conjunction with government to run it. It is currently the largest primary school in South Sudan.
It’s just one of several similar nonprofits based in upstate New York, all of which are volunteer-run and small-scale. Most rely on annual budgets of less than $250,000, which average around $50,000. Like Building Minds, these nonprofits tend to be fairly personal projects, often with only the founders and board members doing the work and no paid staff.
Other examples include HOPE for Ariang Foundation and South Sudan Initiatives, which are both based in Syracuse. These international nonprofits started by Lost Boys are good examples of a tradition of giving sometimes called “diaspora philanthropy,” the transfer of private donations back to a country of origin for immigrants and their descendants.
This form of giving is growing increasingly important as governments spend less on development aid and their assistance priorities change.
An obligation to support education
These organizations mostly serve Lost Boys’ childhood villages in what now is South Sudan through education projects, including building schools and teacher training. About a tenth of the 105 small international nonprofits active in upstate New York registered with the IRS were founded by Lost Boys.
We found that Lost Boys start these international nonprofits out of an obligation they feel to remember and commemorate their families in South Sudan through development projects in their home villages. Establishing a nonprofit to serve their homelands became a way in which they make meaning of their own losses and struggles, and those of their families.
The transition from being a Lost Boy refugee to a U.S. citizen, who is educated and employed, includes emotional struggles such as depression or anxiety, and the stress of not knowing whether or not their families in Sudan survived.
The Lost Boy founders consider education as a key to their emotional survival. That’s reflected in the goals of many of the nonprofits these Lost Boys founded: The opportunity to gain an education is woven into all aspects of the nonprofits including their mission statements and development priorities.
A new role?
Amid the Trump administration’s restrictions on immigration and refugee arrivals, these nonprofits are beginning to embrace a broader objective: highlighting the contributions that the Lost Boys, and refugees more generally, make to their local communities.
In particular, through local speaking engagements Lost Boys not only are garnering support for their international projects, but are sharing their stories to audiences that need to witness how a refugee has made a good life for himself in their community.
This kind of message from refugees will show more Americans that refugees value the opportunities that they have had in the U.S. “What I have learned in my life in the U.S. is that education is life,” Maroundit explained. He believes that “education could lift the children in my village as my education in America has done for me.”
Through the work of these international nonprofits, the Lost Boys who founded them and their local supporters are poised to inform their communities about the contributions refugees are making in the U.S.
Chia-Chia Wang is the organizing and advocacy director in the American Friends Service Committee’s Newark, New Jersey office. Distributed by OtherWords.org.