Le 14 septembre 2017,
L’actualité française m’invite à évoquer la “base”, ces dites “petites gens”…on peste contre ceux qui manifestent, des avis émergent, avec une certaine facilité manichéenne (tort, raison / noir, blanc).. et si on regardait notre réalité partagée sous un nouvel angle ?
La forme pyramidale, on la mobilise souvent pour définir une hiérarchie, un système, un management. C’est clair, identifiable…du langage commun (universel 🙂 ?).
Revenons un instant sur la symbolique du triangle : selon Wikipédia :
“Le triangle est également le symbole de la stabilité, utilisé par exemple dans le symbole de la Sécurité civile […] symbolise également la trinité dans la religion du christianisme. Le triangle est aussi le profil de la pointe de flèche, le symbole de la direction, de la détermination, de la pénétration. C’est le profil de l’aile d’un deltaplane ou du Concorde, des avions de chasse modernes. Dans certaines sociétés traditionnelles, c’est le symbole de la femme, car c’est la forme de la pilosité pubienne ; par exemple, le foyer (feu) entretenu par la femme est constitué de trois pierres.”
D’ailleurs, Franck Lepage l’utilise pour revenir sur une idée forte et une démonstration qui suscite une réflexion intéressante : Intervention de F.Lepage sur la démocratisation des élites (cliquez sur “intervention..” pour visionner) avec ce constat : 1% d’enfants d’ouvriers à l’Université en 1945 / 1% d’enfants d’ouvriers à l’Université en 2009. En effet, le savoir doit être et rester accessible, mais de manière cohérente et profitable pour tous pour instaurer un climat productif, épanouissant car équilibré, respectable.
Dans l’entreprise, finalement, c’est la même chose. Se fonder sur la base est bien la clé de toute réussite de projet, surtout si celui ci est d’ordre collectif. (clin d’œil à une belle rencontre organisée ce jour avec une personne partageant cette vision ;)). Pour moi, on ne réussit rien en imposant ou en manipulant. Bien au contraire, ce climat va générer méfiance, démotivation, mal être. On le sait, ce type de faits non seulement coûte très cher à l’entreprise, mais aussi et en premier aux collaborateurs, et à ses proches et amis. C’est sphérique. Nous sommes tous liés d’une manière ou d’une autre. Quand vous mettez à mal un individu, vous ébranlez aussi tout son environnement. La responsabilité est donc réelle.
A l’inverse, quand vous portez une attention sur la personne, que vous l’écoutez ET l’entendez (au sens “comprendre”), que vous lui donnez la place et l’importance qu’elle mérite, que vous reconnaissez son identité, ses forces, vous nourrissez en elle des sentiments d’une puissance inouïe. Vous lui permettez de rayonner, et donc d’impacter son environnement d’une manière parfois dépassant même vos projections en tant qu’observateur ou accompagnateur.
Elle déploie des talents, met en exergue une créativité débridée, mobilise et inspire son entourage, s’engage, prend des initiatives, SE RÉVÈLE.
Besoin de formaliser : un nouveau métier est apparu : chief happiness officer. (cliquez sur le lien ci dessous pour accéder à la vidéo) :
“Le responsable de la qualité de vie au travail, sorte d’équivalent du Happy RH dans des organisations soumises à une réglementation forte, a, quant à lui, émergé au sein des entreprises il y a un an et demi.
«C’est aussi le cas des entreprises qui veulent travailler leur marque employeur et qui veulent affirmer au marché de l’emploi et aux candidats que le bien être est un vrai sujet de préoccupation au sein de leur entité. Le message consiste à dire : si vous venez chez nous, vous serez mieux que chez le voisin.»“(source : http://www.jobsferic.fr).
La formule est simple : plus d’engagement, plus de résultats économiques, plus de capacité d’innovation, plus de “victoires”. Le chiffre s’allie à la qualité, et n’oublions pas que tout part de l’humain. C’est l’humain qui crée la valeur.
L’énergie humaine circule tout le temps et s’alimente de sentiments que vous CHOISISSEZ de vivre. Au lever chaque matin, vous vous posez inconsciemment la même question. Certains le savent déjà, mais 2 forces dictent nos choix et donc notre attitude, tout en influençant notre personnalité : l’amour et la peur. Soit vous optez pour la peur, la peur de soi vous manquant d’être vraiment vous mêmes, d’oser, de vous dépasser, la peur de l’autre, des autres, qui vous conduit à le rejeter (alors qu’il ne vous a rien fait et qu’il pourrait même devenir votre premier allié ou partenaire), à le juger, à l’isoler. Et l’AMOUR, qui lui, se caractérise par l’ouverture, la confiance, la sérénité, le don, le partage, la bienveillance, la reconnaissance. Ce choix est déterminant.
Pour moi (par extension, chez MKommConseil), il est vital de revenir à l’essentiel : l’amour. L’amour de soi, des autres, de son métier, de son art, de vos rêves…
Comment ? Par le diagnostic sur site, des ateliers sur mesure, et des surprises 🙂 ! en utilisant les outils PH (non RH ;)), comme la formation, l’accompagnement, le recrutement nouvelle génération, et le journalisme valorisant l’image de marque, l’identité remarquable de l’entreprise grâce aux salariés : particularité de MKommconseil L’agence qui ose combiner les 2, et dépasser les frontières 🙂 normal, on adore voyager et on est sensible à l’innovation et aux tendances !
L’enjeu en entreprise : dévoiler la parole dissimulée et recréer un dialogue réel, authentique, utile pour les uns ET les autres, pour les salariés comme pour l’équipe de direction, ou l’entrepreneur s’il agit seul.
Pourquoi je suis aussi convaincue de cette méthode ? Je me dévoile un peu plus à vous avec l’envie de vous faire profiter de mon expérience terrain : j’ai vécu une épreuve en 2008 en tant que salariée, qui m’a marquée et m’a donnée une vision tout autre de l’humain, sa nature, mais aussi le travail, l’entreprise, le rapport de force… Le harcèlement vous change à jamais, vous déstabilise et en même temps, vous renforce de manière durable, viscérale, profonde. Cette expérience vous donne de nouvelles priorités, une nouvelle vision des rapports humains. Vous comprenez que :
* l’attention est l’ingrédient n°1 d’une relation saine, pérenne, durable,
* le respect des émotions, des sentiments est un gage de solidité et de qualité relationnelle,
* l’équipe n’existe que par et pour les individus partageant une même vision, des objectifs et des valeurs,
* Plus vous forcez et imposez, moins vous obtiendrez de résultats probants et surtout adaptés,
D’autres enseignements sont dans “les tuyaux”, mais je voulais vous communiquer l’essentiel.
Aujourd’hui, la mission est de taille au regard des impératifs sociétaux, organisationnels, humains, qui se dessinent dans nos sociétés “modernes”. L’interculturalité, c’est cela aussi : retrouver et redonner du sens collectif via la responsabilité individuelle et le BONHEUR d’être ou devenir SOI.
Vous aimez cet article ? Partagez et soyez animés d’un sentiment positif, l’amour, celui qui nous permet de créer, vivre ensemble 🙂
Page Facebook : @MKOMMCONSEIL cliquez ici pour s’abonner à la page FB où vous retrouverez nos actualité, de l’information sur les RH, la communication, la diversité, mais aussi nos épisodes “2 chiffres RH en 4 mns”, en version expérimentale, le temps de parfaire la présentation (graphisme et vidéo en cours).
Auteure : Mélinda KHIARI, CEO MKOMMCONSEIL, Agence RH RP spécialisation interculturelle (recrutement, formation, journalisme) https://www.mkomm-conseil.fr
Published over fifteen years ago in 1991, Colin Holmes’ ‘A Tolerant Country?’ poses a question that is as relative today as it was then.
Holmes starting point is what he sees as the internalised celebratory vision of Britain as a tolerant country and British people as inherently decent and tolerant of immigrants, refugees and minorities, a self-presentation about which Holmes is clearly dubious.
A few years ago at the height of the refugee crisis it was repeatedly argued that Britain has a long and respected history of providing a haven for refugees. This included repeatedly statements from Theresa May’s Home Office about Britain’s “proud history” of granting asylum, statements which, to use Holmes’ terms, help to “puff up national pride.” Such statements are often accompanied by assertions of Britain’s tradition of liberty and toleration, characteristics that are also set out by the UK Government as ‘British values’. In an independent “review into opportunity and integration” last year, for example, Dame Louise Casey explained that she had approached the review “with an absolute belief that we are a compassionate, tolerant and liberal country.” These characteristics, it seems, continue to be celebrated as core features of Britain and her people.
That such value and importance is placed on tolerance within political and public narratives, and is a central tenet of British Citizenship education, must surely be considered a noble and moral effort. However, the general conception of toleration as a benign ‘good’ ignores some its key characteristics, while also obscuring some worrying characteristics of contemporary British society.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.” To tolerate, therefore, is not to affirm or accept the Other ‘as-different’, but to “conditionally allow” that which is essentially unwanted or deviant. In other words, when we ‘tolerate’ something or someone, we believe it/they is objectionable.
Writing in the British context, Professor Bridget Anderson explains that individuals can be considered ‘tolerated’ citizens, but still not be ‘good’ citizens. These are the people ‘we’ put up with but do not necessarily want, whose beliefs or practices we object to but which ‘we’ allow, albeit conditionally.
In the UK, ‘Britishness’ is often celebrated and positioned as good, as moral, liberal and tolerant, in direct contrast to other (and especially non-western) cultures. In fact, it is often the perceived in-tolerance of the Other – particularly but not exclusively in relation to gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights – that provides the grounds for exclusion. This is the relative dimension of tolerance that Holmes talks about; the idea that ‘we’ are more tolerant than ‘them’ and are therefore morally superior.
Professor of Political Philosophy Wendy Brown, describes tolerance as a civilising discourse, explaining that even while it is in many ways emancipatory, it is also subordinating, and has “dark and troubling undercurrents.” This, Brown explains, is because tolerance is always implicated with power, and is frequently used to consolidate the dominance of those already in positions of relative power. For example, when ‘we’ position the Other as illiberal, immoral, backward and/or in-tolerant, we are also able to attribute value to ‘our’ selves, emphasising our own moral agency and superiority, and consolidating our power and dominance as ‘tolerate-rs’ over the ‘tolerate-d’.
The limits of tolerance
In its conditionally, tolerance has limits and in recent years British politicians, including former Prime Minister David Cameron, have suggested that Britain has in fact been too tolerant of ‘different’ beliefs and practices. Although support for UKIP has declined since the EU referendum, support for anti-immigration parties and policies in recent years suggests that when it comes to immigration and ethnic and religious diversity many in Britain have reached the limits of their tolerance. If anything, they argue, Britain has been far too tolerant.[i] This seems particularly true when it comes to Britain’s Muslim communities.
In their comments about tolerance, both Casey and Cameron chose to focus attention on Britain’s Muslim communities in ways that expose the continued significance of the ‘host’/ ‘guest’ metaphor that traditionally characterised UK immigration and race relations policy. Despite the fact that 47.2% of Muslims in the UK were born in Britain and 73% state their nationality only as British, Muslims are frequently constructed as ‘guests’ who have abused their ‘hosts’ tolerant hospitality, rather than fully-fledged substantive British citizens in their own right. They, along with many other migrant and/or minoritised groups, seem to have been granted only conditional tolerance, positioned as people to be tolerated rather than people who themselves tolerate.
Britain’s leaders continue to celebrate the country’s tolerance as both accepted reality and unquestioned good. The idea that ‘we’ are a tolerant people not only “puffs up” national pride, as Holmes’ puts it, it also makes us feel better about our behaviour in relation to the Other. Whether that means turning a blind eye to refugee crises across the world, forgetting the violence of Empire, or critiquing the practices of migrant and minoritised groups, the “celebratory myth” of British tolerance acts as a buffer for any guilt or responsibility we might feel and allows ‘us’ to speak and act with a virtuous morality so often denied to the Other.
When people talk about tolerance they often do so as if tolerance is a benign good in society, and yet, at the heart of toleration lie feelings of disapproval, distaste and aversion. Tolerance is not so much about respect and acceptance as avoidance and silence; not welcome and embrace but conditionality, marginalisation and continual exclusion. How did such a half-hearted, lukewarm image of society become the aim?
Anderson, B. (2013). Us and them?: the dangerous politics of immigration control. Oxford University Press.
Brown, W. (2006) Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Empire and Identity. Princeton University Press.
Brown, W. and Forst, R. (2014) The Power of Tolerance. Columbia University Press.
Holmes, C. (1991) A Tolerant Country? Immigrants, Refugees and Minorities in Britain. Faber and Faber.
[i] According to Philosopher Karl Popper, the paradox of tolerance is that “[i]f we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”
German schools currently receive newly immigrated children without knowledge of the local language in so-called ‘Vorbereitungsklassen’, ‘Sprachlernklassen’ or most commonly ‘Willkommensklassen’ – Welcome Classes. The basic idea is to group newly arrived children together to allow them to learn the German language in a supportive and non-competitive environment for up to one year before they join the regular school system in the grade appropriate to their age.
There is no reliable data of how many children across Germany currently attend Welcome Classes. This is because children and adolescents of school-going age who have recently arrived in Germany without knowledge of the local language are often forced to remain mobile. Every child below the age of 18 years has the right to one year’s worth of language learning, regardless of his or her residency status, before entering a regular class. But during the process of applying for asylum, for example, families may still be required by authorities to move between places. A rough estimate says that 300,000 children joined Welcome Classes in 2016.
Created first in 2011, Welcome Classes have become part of almost all regular primary and secondary schools to give the high number of refugee children that arrived in 2015 and 2016 access to the education system. The classes’ set-up is different in each individual school however, as the decentralised German education system leaves implementation largely to the sixteen separate federal state governments.
A study into current approaches to language instruction of newcomers across the country identified 15 different models. They are distinguished along several dimensions, namely their focus on language acquisition vs. subject matter learning, the segregation vs. inclusion in regular classes, and the time and modality of transferring over into regular classes (phasing vs. fixed cut-off). This means that some schools have created Welcome Classes that are completely separate from regular classes and teach exclusively in German, while others try as much as possible to include new immigrants in subject matter classes with the regular students from the start and give them supporting German language classes at the same time. Between these two, there are various combinations of segregated or inclusive approaches with different ways to eventually transfer children into regular schooling.
In Berlin (one of the 16 federal states of Germany), most schools have Welcome Classes that clearly separate students who have grown up in Germany from newly arrived ones. A recent sociological study criticises the way Berlin primary schools organised this segregation. The authors point out that Welcome Class teachers are paid less and often work on temporary contracts despite bearing heavy responsibilities, e.g. they initially had to draft their own curriculum and come up with aptitude tests that determine the students’ transfer to regular classes. Concerning children’s interaction, the study found that Welcome Class students are prevented from practicing their new language because they rarely spend time with German-speaking kids. On top of this, they are seen as a distinct group by the rest. In this environment, everyday scheduling conflicts over facilities can create negative perceptions of Welcome Classes as “out groups”. Hence the authors of this study strongly suggest a turn to inclusive schooling, which they say will benefit language acquisition and social integration.
However, inclusion in education has an increasingly bad name in Germany. Just ten days ago, the state election in another part of the country , North Rhine-Westphalia, brought a painful defeat for the governing coalition. The outgoing education minister in that state was blamed for a failed inclusive schooling reform, concerning children with disabilities. Parents criticised her for granting children with disabilities the right to join regular classes without making sure that each class has a supporting teacher who helps deal with additional challenges.
Although this is of course a different type of inclusion in education, the issue shares characteristics with second-language acquisition: children require a kind of attention that is additional to regular, academic learning. Children who are just starting to learn the local language, much like those with disabilities, can be seen to be ‘slowing’ the pace of subject-matter learning. There is a danger that parents of German-raised children may see the need to ‘protect’ their learning environment ‘against’ newly immigrated children if they were to be included in regular classes on a larger scale without giving them adequate support. Naturally, mainstream parents have a vastly greater political weight, as they outnumber refugee or immigrant parents who mostly don’t have the right to vote. Thus, while researchers recommend taking a more inclusive approach, its implementation might be more costly and more complicated than the current segregated model of language learning in Welcome Classes.
In addition, there is also the view that initial language learning for newcomers in separate classes can have its own positive effects. A colleague who worked in the field in Finland explained to me that a limited period of separate schooling can be beneficial, under the right circumstances. He pointed out that if German Welcome Classes were to be resourced appropriately, kids could learn well in a protected environment and transition over to regular classes when they are ready, avoiding stigmatisation along the way.
In the end, the success of separate language learning hinges on the intensity of support given to each child. Similarly, a greater effort in social diplomacy is critical to the success of the inclusive approach. The willingness to provide appropriate resources is key to all conceivable models of schooling. Either way, there is a need for specialised teachers whose skills include both second language instruction and an understanding of migrant children’s experience. Right now, it is up to the state governments across Germany to provide the means that enable each individual school to come up with a successful blend of separation and inclusion. This, of course, requires a willingness to take the needs of newly arrived children seriously regardless of their parents’ eligibility to vote.
Cover image by Ruper Ganzer under CC license.
In May 2016 the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court, upheld the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal, confirming that UK citizens who had been living outside the country for more than 15 years would be unable to vote in the EU referendum the following month. This decision came after two British citizens – one 94 year old man who, in 2016, had been living in Italy for 35 years, and one 54 year old woman, resident in Belgium for 29 years – challenged the 15 year limit on overseas UK citizens to vote.
The Supreme Court’s decision confirmed that around 2 million UK citizens were ineligible to vote in the referendum, despite being among the most likely to be affected by the result. Although the government has since claimed that it will set about scrapping the 15 year rule, this will not happen in time for the ‘snap election’ this coming June. Meanwhile, UK law means that around a million Irish and Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK (and Gibraltar), did have the right to vote in the referendum, and will again have the right to have a say in June. At the same time, EU citizens (without British citizenship) living in the UK were not entitled to vote in the referendum, regardless of residency.
The past few years have seen a series of elections and referenda on what are important national issues, ones with the potential to change the very state of the nation and to shape its future. Both the Scottish independence and Brexit referendum were about the nation, about who ‘we’ are and, perhaps more importantly, who we want to be. The electorate was constructed differently in each case in ways that reveal, to some extent, who and want is understood to constitute the nation. Notably, in Scotland only those resident in Scotland were able to vote and Scots living outside Scotland were denied a vote, reflecting a very particular construction of the Scottish nation.
In a recent keynote talk at the University of Sussex, Dr Blanca Garcés Mascareñas spoke about ‘deservingness’, asking who is perceived as deserving of rights. Citizenship is generally understood as ‘a status of membership in a particular political community that entails equal basic rights, legal obligations and opportunities to participate actively in political decision making‘. The right to political participation, to vote in elections (or to choose not to) is often assumed to part of being a citizen. Yet the reality is that not all citizens are able to vote and not all voters are citizens.
In some cases, the construction of the electorate needs to be read in its historical context. Therefore, while Garcés Mascareñas outlined how deservingness is based on family, residency, vulnerability, presence and employment, deservingness may also be based on historical and colonial connections. In what some have described, not un-problematically, as a ‘hangover from Empire, Irish and Commonwealth citizens’ rights to vote are linked to the histories of British imperialism.[i]
Many long-term residents and UK tax payers were unable to vote in the UK’s referendum as a result of their citizenship status, just as they are excluded from voting in General Elections. Some people born in the UK who had never lived anywhere else were also excluded from voting. As a friend with Italian citizenship, but who was born in the UK, recently complained, she is unable to vote in elections and referenda in the UK, where she understands things and is invested in the country’s present and future, but is able to vote in Italy, a country in which she has never lived and has no knowledge or interest in politics.
While many more UK residents, and most notably EU citizens, are allowed to vote in local elections, being excluded from voting in national elections has enormous potential to affect an individual’s relationship with a country. Having your rights restricted to the local scale, for example, could be read as sign that you are part of the town or city, but not (and perhaps never) the country. And being denied a vote after 15 years outside the UK (5 in Canada, 25 in Germany, etc.) essentially cuts you off as someone no longer relevant, whose ties elsewhere are seen as mutually constitutive of material and emotional connections or investments ‘back home’.
Besides the very real effects that diasporas can have on election outcomes, the right of emigrant citizens to vote has an important impact on individual and collective identities, and feelings of belonging on different scales. Whether or not someone actually votes – and just because people can vote doesn’t mean that they do[ii] – having the right to vote is meaningful for feelings of identity and belonging. It reproduces the idea that your voice matters, that you have a role to play, that you (still) belong and have a stake in that society. For anyone who sees themselves as having a stake in society, the denial of a vote is emotionally significant.
The point is that whether or not someone have the right to vote not only reflects what society is (or thinks it is); it is actually productive of both society and nation.
In many countries, including the UK, governments are keen to maintain links with their citizens abroad. Whether for economic, development, political or cultural reasons, diasporas are valued by states across the world who want to tap into their resources or embrace lost members.
In the last year the UK, Irish and Canadian governments (and probably others) have all looked to expand the rights of overseas citizens. However, over-expansive emigrant citizen rights can also create problems, for example where there is an overrepresentation of ‘non-stakeholders’ in domestic politics as a result of external voting. In Ireland, which currently forbids almost all emigrant voting but has an enormous diaspora for its size, there are certainly fears about the effect that diaspora voting could have on domestic politics.
External citizenship requires a careful balancing act but, as increasing numbers of people live in countries to which they do not have citizenship and develop new and multiple ways of constructing identities in relation to collectivities, it is a balance that is only becoming more important.
The reality is that states now represent political communities that extend beyond their territorial borders, a phenomena Political Scientist Rainer Baubock calls external citizenship. What this external citizenship looks like varies from country to country, both in terms of the duties and obligations of citizens and the rights afforded to them, in ways that not only reflect but produce the national community of belonging.
Ace Project. Voting from Abroad. https://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/va/onePage
Driver and Garapich (2012) ‘Everyone for themselves’: Non-national EU citizens from Eastern and Central Europe and the 2012 London elections. Paper for the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (EPOP) Conference, University of Oxford, 7-9 September 2012. www.sociology.ox.ac.uk/materials/documents/epop/papers/EPOP_article_garapichdriver_SEPTEMBER_07_mg.pdf
Finch, Andrew and Latorre (2010) Global Brit: Making the most of the British diaspora. IPPR. Available at: www.ippr.org/publications/global-brit-making-the-most-of-the-british-diaspora
Sigona, Gamlen, Liberatore and Kringelbach (Eds.) (2015) Diasporas Reimagined Spaces, Practices and Belonging. Oxford Diasporas Programme. www.migration.ox.ac.uk/odp/Diasporas%20Reimagined%20full%20book%20low%20res.pdf
[i] The right to vote is reciprocal in the case of Ireland.
[ii] In the 2010 UK election only around 14,000 of the millions of British citizens living abroad registered to vote. Even in Brazil where of-age emigrant citizens must vote (Brazil has a system of compulsory voting which includes Brazilian emigrants), they do not necessarily do so.
So-called “sanctuary cities” have been all over the American news since Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” on January 25. Cities like San Francisco and Seattle are suing the federal government over the EO, while some Republican lawmakers are supporting it. Trump himself has criticized sanctuary cities for “caus[ing] so many needless deaths.” But many pundits and politicians alike seem to be confused by the numerous misconceptions surrounding this ubiquitous topic.
While there is no universal definition for a “sanctuary city,” the term generally refers to cities or other jurisdictions that limit the extent to which local law enforcement authorities will assist in federal immigration enforcement operations. Some common sanctuary policies include prohibiting local law enforcement officers from arresting people for immigration violations, restricting local responses to immigration detainers (explained more fully below), barring local police from inquiring about someone’s immigration status, and limiting federal immigration agents’ entry into sensitive locations like schools, hospitals, and courts. Sanctuary jurisdictions often engage in community policing initiatives that aim to enhance trust and relationships between law enforcement and all members of the general public, regardless of their immigration status.
But contrary to what Trump and countless others seem to believe, and perhaps what the name “sanctuary cities” implies, these jurisdictions are not some sort of safe haven where non-citizens are free to commit crimes and wreak havoc with zero consequences. Individuals who commit crimes in these jurisdictions, regardless of their immigration status, are still subject to criminal penalties and can still be detained or deported by federal immigration authorities if found to be inadmissible or deportable under the Immigration and Nationality Act. People living in “sanctuary” jurisdictions can still be deported for having entered the U.S. unlawfully or overstayed their visas, regardless of whether they’ve committed any crimes or not. So-called “sanctuary” policies merely restrict whether, how, and when state or local law enforcement officials will actively participate in immigration enforcement – a responsibility that is reserved under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government in the first place.
And being a sanctuary jurisdiction does not automatically mean that state or local officials do not have any contact with federal immigration enforcement. For example, even most sanctuary cities send fingerprints of individuals charged with crimes to be checked against federal immigration databases. From 2008 to 2011, this was done under the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Secure Communities program. In November 2014, after many lawsuits and much criticism, “S-Comm” was replaced with the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), under which arrested individuals’ fingerprints were still shared with DHS, but DHS would only seek further enforcement action if the person fell into one of its newly defined enforcement priorities. In his memo replacing S-Comm with PEP, then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson included a footnote listing eight separate lawsuits over the program and recognized that “the reality is [Secure Communities] has attracted a great deal of criticism, is widely misunderstood, and is embroiled in litigation; its very name has become a symbol for general hostility toward the enforcement of our immigration laws.” Despite this controversial history, Trump mandated in his EO that PEP be discontinued and Secure Communities be reinstated once again (and simultaneously eviscerated DHS’s enforcement priorities).
Some of the most controversial and misunderstood policies commonly practiced within sanctuary jurisdictions relate to immigration detainers. When DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is made aware (whether through S-Comm, PEP, or some other mechanism) that a person suspected of an immigration violation is incarcerated in a state or local jail or prison, ICE can issue a detainer to the local/state facility. A detainer authorizes that facility to hold an individual up to 48 extra hours (excluding weekends and holidays) beyond when s/he would normally have been released, to allow ICE an opportunity to come pick the person up and transfer him/her to federal immigration detention.
Importantly, and contrary to common belief, a detainer is not a mandatory order that the person continue to be held or be transferred to ICE custody. Compliance with detainers is completely voluntary. Forcing or compelling state and local governments to comply with detainer requests would violate the 10th Amendment’s anti-commandeering principle. So, after a number of lawsuits, many jurisdictions have decided to place limits on when or whether they will honor such detainers. For example, some cities will only comply when someone has actually been convicted of a crime (rather than just charged or arrested), or when the person has been convicted of certain types of violent or serious crimes (rather than minor traffic violations). Therefore, when sanctuary jurisdictions decide to limit when and whether they will honor detainers, they are not acting illegally and are merely exercising discretion.
After all, despite what Trump and many Republican members of Congress claim, states and counties have many reasons for declining to honor detainer requests. Local jurisdictions have to bear the additional costs associated with holding individuals for extra time pursuant to detainers. There are also concerns that detainers may be issued without probable cause – and as a result, many local jurisdictions are understandably reluctant to hold someone without having probable cause to do so, in violation of the 4th Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
Nevertheless, Trump’s EO directs DHS to publish a weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report (DDOR), including “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” This is a blatant attempt to shame sanctuary cities for exercising their constitutional rights, and for choosing not to spend their limited resources on immigration enforcement activities that are supposed to be handled by the federal government.
The EO also seeks to expand another controversial program known as 287(g). Under this program, DHS deputizes state and local police officers to actually act as immigration enforcement agents – asking individuals about their immigration status, issuing detainers themselves, or issuing Notices to Appear (NTAs) that formally begin the removal (deportation) process. But government studies have shown that ICE has not provided sufficient guidance or oversight to its newly deputized proxies, resulting in many localities sweeping up people who had committed misdemeanors or minor traffic infractions instead of the more serious criminal offenders who ICE claimed were targeted under the program. 287(g) has also been criticized for allowing or even encouraging racial profiling and for creating yet more significant expenses for localities.
Many state and local police departments dislike programs like Secure Communities, detainers, and 287(g) not only because they are so expensive but because they make law enforcement agencies’ jobs considerably harder. Victims are more afraid to report crimes and witnesses are less willing to testify against offenders when they associate criminal law enforcement with immigration enforcement. Law enforcement officials from all over the country oppose such measures because they diminish the trust that their community policing initiatives have worked so hard to build up over time. And of course, police are responsible for protecting the safety and security of everyone in their communities – not just the U.S. citizens.
Recent immigration raids at courthouses and other sensitive locations have led to increased fear among immigrants (particularly survivors of domestic violence) and outcry from their advocates. But none of this has stopped Trump’s efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities. In addition to the “name and shame” tactics of the Declined Detainer Outcome Reports, the EO makes such jurisdictions ineligible for federal grants (though many mayors have spoken out in solidarity with immigrants and have vowed to fight the order – hence the lawsuits mentioned above).
This is all part of a broader attempt to stigmatize immigrants and demonize both non-citizens and anyone appearing to help them, beginning at least as far back as Trump’s declaration that Mexicans are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists” when announcing his presidential candidacy in 2015. Not only does the EO mandate the weekly report on “criminal actions committed by aliens” (regardless of whether those charges eventually lead to convictions), but it also mandates the creation of a federal Office of Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) to “provide proactive, timely, adequate, and professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens and the family members of such victims.” There already exists an Office of Victims of Crime within the federal Department of Justice, so the creation of this new, unnecessary duplicate office is just another way of suggesting that non-citizens commit crimes more often than others, and/or that such crimes should be taken more seriously than those committed by U.S. citizens. Yet studies have shown that non-citizens do not commit more or more violent crimes than U.S. citizens. And sanctuary jurisdictions report “significantly lower” overall crime rates than other areas.
Following the overall pattern of these early months of the Trump presidency, this EO has generated much criticism and cries of unconstitutionality. (In fact, ICE has already “temporarily suspended” the weekly DDOR only three weeks after publishing the first reports because of multiple inaccuracies.) The administration should prepare for yet more legal battles in the coming months.
It’s taken me a while to appreciate the art of the quilt. When I was young, I associated quilts with infants, women’s groups, and the olden days—none of which interested me very much. Quilts didn’t feature prominently in my family, though two stand out now. My mother made a quilt for her grandchild, my brother’s daughter. It was the only one she ever made, but it’s beautiful, a geometric masterwork in hues of pink (her favourite colour). In my New Zealand home, I have only one quilt with family connections: a lap quilt, given to me by my older sister after her wedding. It was one of ten or so made by a group of ladies at my sister’s church from the colourful fabric used as tablecloths at the wedding reception. Composed of five-inch squares of pink, purple and yellow flowers with a pretty lilac backing, it’s a lovely memento of an important day in our family’s history. And, on cold New Zealand evenings, it’s also useful: it’s wrapped around me as I type this.
I started coming round to the artistic side of quilting last year, on a visit to my home state, Nebraska. I was in Lincoln for a conference, and there was a reception at the university’s International Quilt Study Center & Museum. Housed in a striking, twenty-first-century building—not the setting you’d expect for the homiest of textiles—the core collection offers a history of the American quilt, from the earliest decades of the republic to the present day. In recent years, the museum has added works from some fifty countries, gradually broadening its collection’s focus from national to international. Having grown up an hour north in Omaha, and having too often imagined my state as a parochial backwater, I was quite moved by the museum’s global outlook and its celebration of a household craft as versatile art form. It made me ponder how hard it is to see the wonders in one’s own back yard—or, in this case, front parlour. There were space quilts and avant-garde pieces, demonstrating how the quilt has become a canvas for contemporary artists. Not surprisingly, however, quilts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries most appealed to me: works that commemorated not only personal or family stories but also national history. I began to think that there isn’t a better artistic metaphor for the encounter of memory, family, and nation.
And migration. For what else is a traditional quilt but the fragments of previous lives, worn out and no longer sustainable, now reassembled and stitched together to create a new whole for a new life? This idea came home to me last November, when I visited “Making the Australian Quilt 1800–1950” at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. The exhibition brought together some eighty quilted objects— bed covers, of course, but also rugs, tea cosies, and dresses—that reveal an important thread running through Australia’s immigrant history. As I wandered through the exhibition, early quilts, reflecting colonial Australia’s ties to Britain, gradually ceded space to works that celebrate native flora and fauna. The British lion made way for the Australian kangaroo; ANZAC mementoes replaced Queen Victoria. A large room celebrated the wagga, an Australian patchwork blanket made from grain bags and coloured with fabric scraps, while the final works suggested the belated influence of American tastes on Australian quilters.
Any visitor to the exhibition must have been struck by a central paradox: these intricate, idiosyncratic objects, made to be spread across a loved one’s bed or wrapped around one’s shoulders, will never again be used the way their makers intended them to be used. Of course, collectible quilts are not so unusual in this sense: think of all the Christian devotional paintings, the Buddhist or Hindu religious sculptures removed from churches, grottos or temples, now displayed in museums, utterly out of their intended context. But it seems especially regrettable (if necessary) with quilts: objects meant, above all else, to be touched.
The most famous object displayed in the exhibition—perhaps the most famous textile in Australia—was the Rajah quilt. This remarkable work, roughly eleven square feet in size, was created by British and Irish convict women on their three-month journey aboard the Rajah from Woolwich (east of London) to Hobart in the colony of Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania) in 1841. As I noted in a previous article, the British began dispatching convicts to their colony of New South Wales in 1788. By the time the last transport ship arrived in January 1868, more than 160,000 convicts on over 800 ships had been carried from Britain to the Australian colonies. The practice was slowing down by the time the Rajah brought 179 women to their new homes. Indeed, transportation to New South Wales had stopped altogether in 1840. Increasing numbers of free settlers were finding their way south, and these new colonists did not want convicts for neighbours.
In this unwelcoming climate, it was all the more important for new arrivals to have employable skills. The Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845) attempted to aid convicted women, teaching them patchwork while they awaited transportation in London prisons, and giving them supplies to create quilts during their long voyage. By the time they arrived, they would have honed their needlecraft skills and also produced quilts to sell. Though Fry and her assistants helped thousands of women from 1817 to 1843, the Rajah quilt is the only known survivor of this grand programme.
Perhaps this isn’t so surprising. Since they weren’t family mementoes, the quilts would have been sold to strangers who put them to use and wore them out. And, given the stigma long attached to transportation, the creators of such beautiful objects would have probably preferred to avoid such questions of husbands, children or grandchildren like, “Where did you learn such skills?” and “When did you have the time to complete such an elaborate quilt?”
The Rajah quilt is something of an exception, too, since it was no common quilt. Upon arrival in Hobart, the women of the Rajah presented it to Jane, Lady Franklin, the wife of Sir John Franklin, a famous Arctic explorer and, from 1837 to 1843, the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land. Soon afterwards, it disappeared from view and was only rediscovered in Scotland in 1987, when the National Gallery of Australia acquired it.
In some ways it seems unfortunate that a grand presentation quilt is the sole survivor of Fry’s remarkable enterprise, since the work was done to empower poor migrant women and to offer them a new life from the fragments of an old one—not to create display pieces for their wealthy transient patrons. In other ways, the Rajah quilt stands as an extraordinary vestige of, not one family or nation, but the British empire: created by a group of impoverished British and Irish women as a gift to the wife of a celebrated British explorer, decorated with flowers, birds, and geometric designs that suggest a Persian rug, carried on a ship whose name refers to a king or prince of India.
What did the makers think of their achievement? When I look at the Rajah quilt, I imagine a group of strangers, sitting together in the poorly lit hold of a crowded ship, thinking with regret of a homeland they would never see again, anxiously anticipating a new life on the other side of the globe. Perhaps as they pulled needle through fabric they told their life stories and made friendships that lasted for years. Perhaps they felt anger and injustice as they created a masterpiece for a privileged couple whom they had never met, and would probably never meet as equals. Experts say that small stains on the Rajah quilt may have come from pinpricked fingers, and that errors in the stitching suggest the work of novice makers. I’d like to think that those imperfections suggest humanity, individuality, and maybe just a flash of rebellion.
These are not the usual emotions we associate with quilts, and this is one of the reasons why the Rajah quilt is such a remarkable and ambiguous work. It suggests the rich possibilities of the medium, and it challenges us to look again at the handmade objects around us.
The quilts in my life have no such ambiguity stitched into them. When I think of the quilt my mother made for her granddaughter, I think I know how love can be transposed into material form. And when I feel my sister’s quilt around my shoulders, I think of the affection the makers felt for her and her husband, and the pleasure these women felt in getting together to share, talk, and argue while making something beautiful. As I wrap it around myself on a rainy night (like tonight), it brings me a little closer to my far away family and a former home.
Last month, a federal judge in Colorado granted class action status in a lawsuit alleging that private prison company The GEO Group, Inc., forced immigrant detainees to work in a detention facility. While the case is ongoing, it comes amid ever greater concerns regarding the future of immigrant detention in the United States.
The suit, known as Menocal et al. v. GEO Group, was originally filed in October 2014 by a number of attorneys coordinated by Towards Justice, a Colorado-based nonprofit that provides direct legal services to low-wage workers. The suit was brought by nine named plaintiffs, all of whom had previously been detained in the 1,500-bed immigration detention facility run by GEO Group in Aurora, Colorado. The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs and other detainees held in Aurora worked in the facility under GEO Group’s ‘Detainee Voluntary Work Program’ – cleaning the facility’s medical unit and other areas, doing laundry, preparing and serving meals, and performing landscaping and barber services, among other jobs – and were paid just $1 per day for their labor. The detainees were also allegedly forced to comply with the center’s ‘Housing Unit Sanitation’ policy, which required six randomly selected detainees to clean the “pods” in which they lived each day, for no compensation at all. The plaintiffs allege that they were threatened with punishments, including solitary confinement, if they did not complete their assigned tasks. As such, the lawsuit alleges that GEO Group violated Colorado’s minimum wage laws, as well as the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act which prohibits forced labor or “modern-day slavery,” and that the private company GEO Group was unjustly enriched by these unlawful practices, which “violated principles of justice, equity, and good conscience.” GEO Group moved to dismiss the case, but in July 2015 Judge John L. Kane partially denied that motion – while he agreed that Colorado’s minimum wage laws include an exception for prisoners (who are not considered employees), he allowed the plaintiffs’ forced labor and unjust enrichment claims to move forward.
Now the judge has granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, meaning the eventual outcome of the lawsuit will affect not just the nine named plaintiffs but all immigrants who have been detained at the Aurora facility since October 22, 2004. In his order certifying the class, Judge Kane remarked that the detainees “are uniquely suited for a class action,” as “[a]ll share the experience of having been detained in the [Aurora] Facility and subjected to uniform policies that purposefully eliminate nonconformity.” Attorneys for the detainees rightly hailed the class certification as a landmark achievement, noting that “[t]his is the first time that a private prison company has ever been accused of forced labor, and this is the first time that a judge has ever found that the claims can go forward under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the bans in federal law on forced labor.” They estimate that as many as 60,000 current and former detainees may be affected by the eventual ruling.
GEO Group has denied the allegations and asserted that it complies with all federal regulations and standards. While U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) itself is not a party to the lawsuit, the ‘Voluntary Work Program‘ operating in GEO Group’s Aurora facility is a nationwide ICE program.
While this is the first lawsuit of its kind, this is far from the first time that detainees and advocates have complained about conditions in private immigration detention facilities. Multiple reports and lawsuits over the years have charged ICE and the private prison companies with which it contracts to have engaged in human rights abuses such as providing substandard medical care and rotten food to detainees, physical and sexual abuse by detention center staff, and insufficient investigations into unexplained detainee deaths. Much of the recent litigation has centered on family detention facilities – the largest of which (in Karnes and Dilley, Texas) are run by GEO Group and fellow private prison company CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), respectively.
Concerns about the use of detainee labor in immigration detention facilities are not new either. The $1 per day pay rate was set in the 1950s, when detention cost about 80¢ per person per day. Today, immigration detention costs about $164 per person per day. And those higher costs provide all the more incentive for these private companies to save money any way they can – perhaps by engaging in illegal forced labor practices. The New York Times reported three years ago that paying detainees nothing, or at least well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, saved the government and private prison companies $40 million or more each year – savings that are especially important to private companies who have shareholders to answer to. It should also be noted that, unlike criminal prisoners who are incarcerated and sometimes work for substantially reduced wages after having been convicted of a crime, immigrant detainees are held for alleged violations of civil immigration law and are detained while their immigration court proceedings are ongoing; many individuals are ultimately able to stay in the U.S., either because they already have legal status or because they qualify for humanitarian immigration relief.
Alternatives to detention (ATDs), which involve releasing detainees and providing them with case management services to ensure their appearance at their immigration court hearings, have proven to be effective while also drastically reducing costs – sometimes to as low as 17¢ per person per day. But releasing more detainees to ATD programs would reduce the need for large privately run detention centers, shrinking the profits of companies like GEO Group, which reported almost $1.9 million in revenue in 2015.
And the Trump administration has thus far shown no interest in reducing the number of immigrant detainees in this country either. To the contrary, several of the President’s earliest executive orders dealt with immigration enforcement policies and mandate the construction of additional detention facilities “immediately,” in order to have room for the greater numbers of noncitizens deemed to be enforcement priorities and subject to detention under the new regime.
Most likely anticipating these developments, private prison companies have been big Trump supporters – GEO Group donated $250,000 to his inauguration, after previously donating $225,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC during the campaign. CoreCivic similarly donated $250,000 to the inauguration as well. Stock prices for the two companies have also soared since Trump’s election – GEO Group has increased by 98% and CoreCivic by 140%. That trend is likely to continue, as Trump’s new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, recently rescinded a prior Obama administration memo to phase out the use of private prisons for criminal inmates. While that memo did not specifically deal with civil immigration detention, it seems rather unlikely that this administration will move forward with a Department of Homeland Security subcommittee’s recommendation that the government move away from private immigration detention as well.
Hence the importance of the class action lawsuit. While likely to remain pending for some time, this could be the first case in which a private prison company is forced to halt illegal labor practices. If GEO Group is made to either pay its detainees a fair wage, or else hire actual paid staff to perform the jobs currently handled by detainees, it could cost the company millions of dollars, potentially changing practices in other GEO Group-run facilities in other parts of the country as well. Perhaps hitting private prison companies in their wallets will achieve what appeals to morality have not been able to – a decrease on our country’s reliance on private immigration detention, or even a reduction in immigrant detention period.
Cover image by Justin Valas under Creative Commons License.