As our community tries to make sense of the Trump administration and the escalating hostility towards immigrant communities it's important to look back to move forward.
Professor Jimmy Patiño’s research examines the effects of immigration in the 20th century. His forthcoming book, Raza Sí, Migra No, focuses on the developing political consciousness of Chicana activists as they focused their advocacy against an increasingly violent Border Patrol during the 80s and 90s.
Professor Vichet Chhuon has been actively involved with a Minnesota campaign called ReleaseMN8, which was organized in 2016 to fight the deportation of Cambodian Americans and bring visibility to unjust immigration policies. His writing on this has appeared in a number of forums including the Huffington Post, MinnPost, and Angry Asian Man. His research has focused on Cambodian American identity and academic engagement, and how youth of color feel known in school.
Jimmy’s research and applied to insights offered through Vichet’s recent advocacy allows us to understand how the past speaks to the present and offer some perspective on, “where the deportation regime is at.” We also wanted to expand how immigration works by comparing and developing a dialogue between the Latino and Asian experience. Their conversation can be best described by Jimmy as recognizing “the limits of respectability or assimilation politics.”
While our conversation was expansive we acknowledged how Trump’s deportation regime is rooted in the mechanisms that were created under the Obama administration. As we continued to explore the unique textures of immigration we were reminded that Asians are the only racial group to date not permitted to enter the US as prescribed by immigration law. Vichet argues that the removal and lack of complication of this fact from the popular imagination is an example of the whitewashing of history by not acknowledging how much Asians were thought of as unfit, thus challenging the contemporary “model minority” narrative.
In the end, all communities of color are well served to examine their relationship to respectability because as Jimmy describes, “ in our communities there are also folks who are down to play the game to get into the club”. The better we can defend against these tendencies the stronger our movement can become.
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