“It’s not just about deportations, it’s about deportability”

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by Jesse Landy

The Obama administration has deported almost 2 million undocumented migrants throughout the course of his presidency, averaging out to almost 1,100 immigrations per day. This process of deportation is horrific and draconian. Deportations tear families apart, disrupt communities, and force people to return to the danger that they had sought amnesty from in the United States. Undocumented immigrants are often forced into detention centers for an indeterminate amount of time while waiting trial without the guarantee of due process or legal representation. A variety of reports have revealed the unacceptable conditions of most of these detention centers, which resemble prisons, though many of the incarcerated have not committed a criminal act. Stories of lack of food, recreation time, and access to family within the centers emphasize the humanitarian crisis currently being perpetuated by the United States government in regards to undocumented migration.

An ICE raid takes place in Santa Ana, California.

The sheer number of deported immigrants is staggering, as are reports of the rampant physical, mental, and sexual abuse implicit in this process. Nonetheless, these two million deportations do not even begin to scratch the surface of the at least 11.2 million (as of 2010) undocumented migrants living within the borders of the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and it’s immigration subsidiary U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) do not have the money, power, or desire to actually physically deport all of the undocumented in the U.S. This is a sheer impossibility that would have unforeseeable and disastrous social, political, and economic ramifications on a national and global scale. Instead, this ramp up in deportations has a much more sinister goal, outside of the dehumanization and abuse of the deported. In reality, deportations feed into a social economy of spectacle. While many undocumented immigrants will not be deported, all must live in fear of random and abusive acts from government agencies and officials. This is meant to create an exploitable and oppressed pool of constant labor for the U.S economy. While conservatives attempt to prey on Neo-Malthusian concepts of scarcity in regards to undocumented immigrants, in reality, undocumented immigrants actually forfeit more in taxes than they receive in social benefits. And while they are subject to all negative aspects of the law, they receive none of its protection, including minimum wage, OSHA protection, and access to Federal Financial Aid, among many, many others.

The environment of fear constructed by U.S policing and surveillance penetrates the everyday lives of undocumented immigrants, who’s every action in public space must be premeditated and disciplined to avoid suspicion or inquiry. The border that divides citizen and non-citizen transcends its militarized location on the Mexican border, recruiting private citizens into disseminating these divisions. In some states employers and landlords are required to obtain proper documentation of citizenship, forcing private citizens to act as a veritable extension of the police, determining who can have access to what.

Here at New York University, our administrators take on this same responsibility in determining access based upon boundaries of citizenship. While our own school president John Sexton has announced support for both the Federal and New York State DREAM Acts, NYU still requires undocumented students to register as international students, even though they do not have international addresses and have lived in the United States for a large portion of their lives. This translates to higher tuition costs as well as lack of access to in-school scholarships and financial aid. Other private universities like Notre Dame, Dartmouth, Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago have already announced that they are open and financially accessible to undocumented students. Rather than furthering systems of extremely exploitative and oppressive labor, NYU has the ability to hold itself to its own standards of being “in and of the city”. With higher education becoming more and more necessary for equitable employment, NYU’s own policies work to prevent undocumented students from escaping the exploitation implicit in their non-citizen status. By offering more equitable access to higher education for undocumented students, NYU has the unique opportunity to begin chipping away at this unjust divide between citizen and non-citizen (and all of its social, economic, and political ramifications), while beginning to meaningfully address the human right to education.

Jesse Landy is a senior in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study concentrating in Human Rights and the Americas. He has been involved with the DREAM team at NYU for a year.

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