Iowa: the home for immigrants

From Iowa, the home for immigrants by the Iowa Board of Immigration:

Native American populations in Iowa were conveniently “reduced” to make room for white settlers according to the text in this Iowa immigration advertisement from 1870.

The lowas, next to the Sioux, were once the most numerous and powerful of all the tribes between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. But before leaving the “Beautiful Land” to join their fortunes with other remnants of their race beyond the Missouri, they were reduced by wars, whiskey, and small-pox, to about 1,300 souls.

Whiskey: A gift from the white man
Small-pox: A tactical tool for genocide
Wars: This is what happens when other populations of Native Americans are bumping into your nation because of territorial moves/flight due to white settlement, murder, rape, etc.

Perhaps it is time to re-frame what happened to Native American populations in Iowa. “Leaving” just sounds a bit like a lie when you know what really happened.

When we consider that Iowa is the youngest sister of the seven—that the moccasin marks of the Indian are scarcely yet obliterated from her soil—we can justly claim that the above comparison reflects great credit upon her, and that she has achieved an enviable rank among the great agricultural and stock-producing States of the Union.

Wow. They didn’t have any issue with saying that Native American populations were literally being “obliterated.”

I guess it should be no surprise that my hometown actively celebrates Columbus Day… especially when you grow up in a whitewashed system that frames Native genocide as “leaving”.

If you ever wonder why present day Iowa is made up predominantly of white people, look no further than this:

The present English edition of this pamphlet is 35,000 copies. We also print in German 15,000 copies; Norwegian, 6,000 copies; Swedish, 4,000 copies, and Holland 5,000 copies.

The Iowa Board of Immigration targeted people in predominantly white parts of the world. Iowa’s whiteness is not an accident. It is an institutionalized (by the state) system of privilege for white people that is at the core of present-day Iowa. A discussion about present-day Iowa that is devoid of this context is a discussion that is devoid of awareness and reality.

Iowa, the home for immigrants

Iowa: whiteness romanticized

Driftless - Stories from Iowa
via Driftless: Stories from Iowa

Driftless: Stories from Iowa, is a MediaStorm project that features stories from rural Iowa from the point of view of photojournalist Danny Wilcox Frazier. Frazier, a white guy from Iowa City, Iowa, frames Iowa from a majority white, romanticized point of view.

I was raised in Southeast Iowa near Iowa City and have been to a lot of the towns that are featured in Frazier’s project. The project is split into distinct sections: Family Farm, Town Bar, Jumping Rock, Migrant Labor, Country Butcher, and Harry & Helen.

Kalona and Conesville are a couple of the towns that are featured in the project. I grew up in that part of Iowa – East of Kalona and West of Conesville. The film includes many of the things that most people associate with Iowa: farming, cows, hogs, cornfields, gravel roads, guns, tractors, and white people. Associating Iowa with white people is not a difficult thing to do as the latest U.S. Census numbers show that Iowa is 94% white. However, Iowa is not 100% white and I think that Frazier is barely aware of this fact.

Frazier’s interviews in the piece construct rural Iowans as being all white and that people of color, predominantly Latinos, are “newcomers” or semi-permanent residents. People from Mexico immigrated to Iowa as early as the 1800’s. Frazier’s subjects who are older than 50 are all white and are depicted as “true Iowans.”

Whiteness is romanticized. The video clip titled “Migrant Labor” and the transcript of the video provides ample fodder for critique:

Continue reading Iowa: whiteness romanticized

California targets undocumented immigrants

[audio:http://ericstoller.com/blog/audio/california-racism.mp3]

The state of California has done a horrible job of managing its budget. Perhaps it’s due to having Conan the Barbarian as its governor. Perhaps it’s due to a lack of responsible budget governance. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that whenever the economic status of California is undergoing a gloomy situation, the state likes to target its marginalized populations as the reason for why things are the way they are….

For example:

As the state tries to dig its way out from under a massive deficit, some say cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants should be part of the solution. One proposal would stop welfare payments even to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. via NPR.

The majority of undocumented immigrants in California are Latino. According to the quote from NPR (via an unattributed proposal) the suggestion was made to eliminate welfare payments to U.S. citizens because their parents are undocumented immigrants. That seems to be just a tad bit illegal and racist.

You are a citizen of the U.S., however, because your parents are brown and undocumented, well, we just want to lump you all together and penalize you. What??!!

If you are born in the United States, then you are legally entitled to all of the privileges that accompany being a citizen of the U.S. Apparently, Californian’s have just decided to stop veiling their racism and come out with an overtly discriminatory proposal that targets immigrants of color. Also, the parents of these U.S. citizens contribute ridiculous amounts of money to the Californian economy. California is targeting marginalized populations and using lies to attempt to pass and/or create overtly racist public policies.

Papers the Movie

Papers the Movie:

Papers is the story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18 without legal status. Currently there are more than 1.8 million undocumented children who were born outside the U.S. and raised in this country. 65,000 undocumented students`graduate every year from high school without “papers” and find the door to the future slammed shut. In most cases, it is against the law for them to go to college, work or drive. Yet they have no path to citizenship.

Continue reading Papers the Movie

Pass the DREAM Act

via Change.org

Pass the DREAM Act – Support Higher Education for All Students

The problem: Many American students graduate from college and high school each year, and face a roadblock to their dreams: they can’t drive, can’t work legally, can’t further their education, and can’t pay taxes to contribute to the economy just because they were brought to this country illegally by their parents or lost legal status along the way. It is a classic case of lost potential and broken dreams, and the permanent underclass of youth it creates is detrimental to our economy. Former Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch has said: “In short, although these children have built their lives here, they have no possibility of achieving and living the American dream. What a tremendous loss for them, and what a tremendous loss to our society.”

The solution: The federal DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), is a bipartisan legislation that would permit these students conditional legal status and eventual citizenship granted that they meet ALL the following requirements:
–if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16, are below the age of 30,
–have lived here continuously for five years,
–graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED
–have good moral character with no criminal record and
–attend college or enlist in the military.

Why should you care? There is no other pathway to citizenship for these students. Besides the injustice of punishing children for the alleged transgressions of their parents, throwing away the talent we have invested in from K-12 and accruing losses in human and financial capital by deporting talented students is bad public policy. The Social Security Administration has recently stated that we need a net increase of 100,000 immigrants each year to ensure Social Security solvency. Passing the DREAM Act would actually help solve the Social Security crisis by creating a larger taxable base of educated Americans that are already in the United States. It would also free some of the backlog that currently plagues the legal immigration system. Also, the DREAM Act in its latest form, does not grant in-state tuition to any student.

Endorsements: Since 2001, almost a 1000 organizations have officially endorsed the bill. Barack Obama has stated that DREAM Act beneficiaries are “American children for all intents and purposes” and has called this a top priority.

Tell President-Elect Obama to pass the DREAM Act in 2009. See DreamActivist.org to get more involved.


Dream ACTivist

(MA Graduate Immigrant LGBT Student), San Francisco, CA

The Sanctuary on Postville, Iowa

The Sanctuary - a new on-line community where human-rights, civil-rights, and progressive activists will be discussing issues of concern for all those interested in humane and practical immigration reform, migrant-rights, human-rights, and the greater struggle of all who those have left friends and family behind to start new lives in new lands

The Sanctuary has in-depth accounts and critical analysis of what happened in Postville, Iowa:

On Monday, May 12, 2008, at 10:00 a.m., in an operation involving some 900 agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a raid of Agriprocessors Inc, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant located in the town of Postville, Iowa.

Start with this post for a comprehensive examination of what went down in Postville:

The True Story Of Postville

Erik Camayd-Freixas, an interpreter, speaks about the proceedings against undocumented immigrants arrested at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa:

Continue reading The Sanctuary on Postville, Iowa