At the Precipice of Walls and Registries

Understanding the Gendered Policy Implications for Immigrant and Refugee Communities

A year from now, will we look back on 2017 as the year of The Wall? The Muslim Registry?  Sanctuary cities? Of even greater detention and deportation? Undoubtedly, questions of migration, resettlement, and immigrant rights—which figured prominently into the 2016 Congressional races and Presidential election—will continue to be the subject of headlines and debate as legislative battles unfold.

As we begin this project, these questions remain elusive, but fiercely urgent. How federal and state policies around immigration and resettlement will be taken up by the incoming Congress and Presidential Administration remains a source of anxiety for the millions potentially impacted by these measures. At the beginning of this year then, 2017 promises to be a year of crucial political shifts and contestation, with profoundly gendered implications and ramifications for immigrants and refugee communities.

  • Unless legislation is enacted to guarantee their human rights, LGBT immigrants undergoing deportation will continue to face abuse in detention centers.
  • If a Muslim Registry is created, we can expect even greater racial profiling of men from Muslim-majority countries.
  • If the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed, immigrant relief for same sex couples will no longer be possible.
  • If the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) is repealed, then immigrant women (and men) who are victims of domestic violence may lose an important avenue towards documented/legal status.

Alternately targeted and praised during the campaign season, the communities and individuals at the center of these exchanges were still only visible in highly limited and distorted ways: as demographic, security, and economic threats, or as genuflecting and unquestioning enlistees in the mythology of the American Dream. Both depictions are caricatures, and unhelpful in understanding the diversity of experience, as well as the material, social, and legal challenges faced by different immigrants and refugee communities.

Our section will provide scholarly analysis alongside original analysis and commentary of gender issues from both members of immigrant and refugee communities and the professionals working alongside them, in order to amplify community voices. Our contributors will feature the perspectives and experiences of individuals and communities that are often at the center of political polemic, but invisible in actual policy-making roles. These contributions will be published bi-monthly.

Immigration and refugee issues speak to the heart of nation building by raising questions of who belongs to the nation. But more importantly, they also affect the fastest growing demographic in our society. Our section brings a gendered lens into the issues facing immigrant and refugee communities. By addressing how gender intersects with race, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, and class, we also hope that our analyses will shed light on the complexity of the lives of those marked by difference, including undocumented families, LGTBQ communities, refugees, and guest workers. We will highlight existing and proposed policy initiatives that disrupt families, and communities and have a domino effect that will be felt locally, nationally, and internationally.

In the months to come, we will examine the gender implications of actual and potential policy changes, including the termination of the 22-year Cuban policy known as “wet foot, dry foot,” the potential elimination of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the H1-B visa program, the potential implementation of a Muslim registry, the movement to create sanctuary policies for cities and college campuses, and the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico Border. We recommend the following materials in preparation for the conversations to follow.

—Nimo Abdi, Blanca Caldas Chumbes, Bianet Castellanos, Kale Fajardo, and Roozbeh Shirazi

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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