Saturday, May 28, 2011

Research Proposal - Organizing in Immigrant Communities

           As a member of student-labor solidarity group UW United Students Against Sweatshops, and having some experience working with migrant farm workers in my hometown of Davis, California, I am interested in community centers and community organizing among immigrants.  I want to know how these organizations get started, who starts them, how they thrive and how they can be a sustainable part of their communities. There are a number of organizations in the Seattle area that serve immigrant needs, including the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, and Casa Latina.  These are resources I can use to have a baseline for my research.  By looking at community centers in Berlin this summer, I hope to gain a better understanding of community organizing, seeing what aspects stay consistent place to place, and what must adapt  to suit the situation it faces.
            I have several questions which will help frame my research as I go.  I anticipate that my broad focus will narrow as I learn more about the topic.  First, what is the involvement of faith communities for organizing with immigrants in Berlin?  I know that here in Seattle and in California, immigrant networks receive much support from churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions.  I am somewhat aware of tensions present in Berlin regarding Muslim immigration, and wonder if there is a supportive, antagonistic or ambivalent relationship between Muslim immigrants and local or otherwise “German” faith groups.  I also wonder about education for immigrant communities.  How are Turkish or other immigrant children expected to integrate into German culture?  Do immigration networks provide services for adults to learn German and otherwise culturally integrate?  Another area of interest and currently of ignorance for me is documentation of immigrants.  I plan to learn more about German immigration law to know if they face similar challenges that undocumented immigrants have here: lack of mobility, threat of deportation, wage theft, mistreatment in the workplace, etc.  If so, what do immigration networks do to address these issues?
            Before departing for Berlin I will explore the resources available for immigrants here in the United States.  My preliminary research will include Casa Latina in Seattle, Seattle’s Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, and the Yolo Interfaith Immigration network in my hometown of Davis, California.  I will also try to educate myself on the specifics of German immigration law before getting there.

Preliminary Sources:
Dufour, Pascale and Pierre Monforte.  “Mobilizing In Borderline Citizenship Regimes: A
Comparative Analysis of Undocumented Migrants Collective Actions.”  Sage Journals
Online, 15 April 2011.  Web. 25 May 2011.
Ellermann, Antje.  States Against Migrants: Deportation in Germany and the United States.  New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Castles, Stephen, Peo Hassen, and Carl-Urlik Schierup.  Migration, Citizenship, and the
European Wellfare State.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Reflections on Excerpts on Sassen's "Guests and Aliens"

While I have a keen interest in US immigration, I came into this seminar with little to no knowledge of any European country's immigration policies. Having started reading about differences between policies and misconceptions about the nature of immigration, I find I am fascinated. I especially see parallels between immigration in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries and current immigration issues in the US. I am aware of the popular sentiment that Mexican immigrants and migrants are coming to the US in alarming numbers. Reading these selections made it clear to me that this reaction probably results from looking at the situation statically. Stepping back to realize patterns of immigration over long periods of time shows a very different picture than that of an inpouring of immigrants in greater and greater numbers. People immigrate and emigrate from different regions for different reasons. What I understood Sassen to say was that these reasons are most often structural rather than personal. Germany, France and Italy each developed a different immigration policy depending on its country's needs at the time. Looking at these historical examples while trying to understand our (the US's) own situation can help us to formulate more effective immigration policies than simply "closing the gates."

US immigration parallels Germany in the prejudice generated by public fear of increasing immigration. For Germany it generated Polenpolitik - laws intended to target the Polish immigrant population. For the US, this fear has been used to justify racial profiling in police work, airports and other public institutions. Sassen's analysis of French immigration highlighted the paradox of France's need for immigrants for military service and work with it's population's simultaneous dislike for the immigrant population. The US depends heavily on Mexican immigrants for agricultural and care work, while native US citizens hold immigrants in contempt. The Italian story of immigration in Sassen's work shows the reverse side of the previously mentioned trend: a country whose emigrant population was responsible for some of the most essential yet undesirable jobs, yet received little respect or gratitude for their labor.