Daily Notes on Literature, Pop Culture & Media, and Academia

Asian Americans and the Arizona Immigration Law

Posted by litdaily on August 23, 2010

Asian American Writers’ Workshop has demonstrated great leadership in organizing “Wordstrike” a writers’ initiative protesting Arizona’s SB1070…more>>

The writers’ statement boycotting Arizona’s anti-immigration law is notable because it recognizes the power of language that the state uses to deny the undocumented immigrants their humanity and human rights. More importantly, the statement also remarks on another related law passed in Arizona HB 2281, which did not get sustained attention in the mainstream media compared to SB 1070. HB 2281 makes illegal the offering of any ethnic studies courses, or academic courses that focus on any specific racial group or that promote ideas of ethnic solidarity. The writers’ statement recognizes the centrality of arts and culture to conflicts about belonging in America: there are certain histories and literatures that are recognized and marked as American and others as not American or even un-American. Thus, for those who say that arts and artists should be dissociated from activism, the writers’ statement suggests that because culture is often central to politics as demonstrated by this situation, artists are already a part of the political realm.

For Asian Americans, the topic of immigration presents a unique opportunity to understand how their own histories are intertwined with those of Latinos. While Black-Latino dialogue initiatives have received attention in public conversations and academia, Asian Americans have lagged behind in the discussion. There are two significant starting points for this discussion that have been overlooked in the mainstream coverage of Latino immigration debate and Arizona’s anti-immigration law so far. First, the fiction that illegal immigration is restricted to the Latino community masks the fact of illegal Asians in the U.S. Statistical estimates range from about 220,000 Indians to about 1 million Asian Americans living in the U.S. illegally. Second, the media and public are increasingly relying on the rhetoric of “national security” in discussing undocumented immigrants. This rhetoric clearly overlaps with the language being used to criminalize South Asian Muslims. These two aspects point to the connections that can provide the foundation for a sustained dialogue and lasting solidarity between Asian Americans and Latinos in America.


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