Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Night and Day

The message, in Nepali, listed Mr. Chhantyal’s disappointments and failures. He had lapsed in his Hindu faith and become obsessed with following the political turmoil in Nepal online. He feared that his asylum hearing, scheduled for December, would result in deportation because of traffic violations, foiling his plans to send for the wife and two young children he had left in Nepal five years before. More...
More evidence about the fears that the current immigration system instills in people and the tragic outcomes it produces.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Left and Right for Immigrants and adoption

New Jersey Church Works with U.S. to Spare Detention, from the New York Times mentions how immigration isn't a divisive left versus right issue. As the article illustrates, the clergy have largely been supportive of immigrants and sympathetic to our plight. This is only logical as all religions teach compassion and advocate for justice. This is where the conservative religious institutions and the progressives meet. The exact interpretations and actions often diverge, but on this issue there's surprising agreement between the usually contentious groups. Other examples of times that people of such a breadth of beliefs came together are the fight to end slavery, segregation, apartheid, and adoption.

White Urban Liberal Yuppies (WULY is a term I coined and suggested for Urban Dictionary. What do you think about it?) and the Christian Right want to save children. The former from living a life of poverty, toil, and exploitation. The latter from heathens and eternal damnation. Both see their motives as selfless, righteous, and justified. Although I welcome the allies, I question their real reasons.

The Christians who work with immigrants may or may not actively proselytize to those they're helping,, but  it's interesting that the immigrant communities here are far more Christian than their countries of origin. Korea is about fifty percent Christian but the Korean American community is between 80%-90% Christian. China barely registers Christianity among its population yet here significant Chinese Church communities exist. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation yet the article is about Christian Indonesians. Adopting children because their birth families and countries aren't Christian enough creates a justification for separating children from their families instead of advocating for reforms that could keep families together. It stifles discussions about family planning, support for single mothers, social safety networks for poor families and, indigenous solutions. It even judges native institutions as inadequate because they're measured against First World norms such as nuclear families and material measures.

WULY people also think that they're doing "what's best for the children". They see children who will not have a chance at an education and want to provide them with that. They see children who will have to go to work at an earlier age than they did and think that it's terrible. They will want to save "just one child" from a horrible life or an early death. What they don't really acknowledge is that they're creating a system that caters to their consumerism. Everything they want, the can buy. Just as the only reason that prostitution exists is because there are customers, the adoption industry, not orphaned children, exists because there are First Worlders who will pay for kids. And the argument about "saving one child" and "making a difference for one child" also doesn't stand up to scrutiny. When a system is bad, we should work to abolish the system. Helping individual slaves escape might have helped individuals, but if they were recaptured, they'd be sent right back south. Ending slavery, not the Underground Railroad, removed a race from bondage.

Liberals also advocate for immigration reform because They should have a better life. They have been wronged by US foreign policy.  They have great restaurants and beautiful cultures. They're poor, ignorant and noble. They don't know how to advocate for themselves. They're oppressed by the system. We should help Them.

Both the Right and Left think they're doing the right thing for "orphans" and immigrants but I'm wary of people with such motives yet we need allies. They have so much more power than we do. How can such differences be reconciled?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Illegal (sic) Immigrant Students Publicly Take Up a Cause

Another large group of involuntary immigrants are advocating for their rights. People who came to the US with their parents as children, and are now unauthorized to live in the U.S., hope that the DREAM Act will give them the rights that they deserve. The New York Times article can be found here.

If it passes, the DREAM Act would create a way for immigrants to become permanent residents if they arrived in the U.S. before they were 16 years old, have been living here continuously for 5 years, do not have a criminal record, and have graduated from high school or have a GED. They would then have temporary residency during which they would have to complete at least a 2-year college degree or serve in the U.S. military for 2 years. Support the passage of the DREAM Act by joining the United We DREAM coalition.

International Adoption and Immigration

International adoption is one of the ways that immigrants enter the United States. Although some adoptees and adoptive parents would rather pretend that we are not immigrants, we share a lot with other immigrants who come alone or with their blood relatives.

Similarity in legal status
The majority of us are issued visas permitting us to enter the U.S. because an immediate relative is sponsoring our migration, just as the majority of non-adopted immigrants are. This is true even if the “relatives” are not legally related to us until the adoption is finalized. If we came to this country before the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was in effect, we were permanent residents, or green-card holders, before we were naturalized (if we did change our citizenship from our original one to that of the U.S.) If we do not have U.S. citizenship before we turn 18, we also must pay approximately $1500 to be naturalized.

Some of us did not change our citizenship, so like all other non-citizens, we are deportable. Adoptees have been deported because they were not naturalized when they committed minor offenses. In extreme cases, even citizenship may possibly be revoked.

Cultural similarities that adopted and non-adopted immigrants share
If our features show origins in Asia or the Americas, we always will be perpetual foreigners. We will have to legitimize our Americaness to doubters who believe “American” means white or Black. We will hear racist insults and ignorant comments. We are just as likely to be profiled by authorities or become victims of hate crimes as non-adopted immigrants.

As adults we may prefer to live apart from the mainstream and within ethnic enclaves with others who share our nationality. These communities offer a respite from dealing with racism and stereotypes. They also supply cultural necessities. But often these neighborhoods lack the best amenities like parks, good schools, proximity to work, access to transportation, quality retail stores, well-stocked supermarkets, and other services which cater to the privileged.

Some of us may need to learn English when we arrive here. Like other children who immigrate to the U.S., our success in school may depend on good services for English language learners. If our communities include large populations of immigrants, services are much more likely to be in place, better equipped and experienced in providing language support for newly arrived school-age international adoptees.

The immigration debate and the adoption community
The anti-immigrant tone of the nativist side of the debate hurts adoptees. Xenophobia does not distinguish adoption-based immigration from other family based immigration. Hateful rhetoric citing unauthorized immigration and undocumented foreign nationals creates a hostile environment for any immigrant who may “look illegal”. For those of us from Asia and Latin America, this is especially true.

Joining the cause for immigrant rights
For these reasons and more, the international adoption community should engage in the discussion about immigration. We should be activists and advocate for immigration reform that is fair and humane. We should demand reform which ensures a way for all immigrants to enter and live with dignity in this country. This includes authorizing the undocumented, creating fair family reunification legislation, and support for immigrants once they arrive here.