No One Is Illegal

It’s funny how the classes you teach stay in your mind — long after the classes have ended. Your successes and failures as a teacher make you think about what it means to be teaching, what your goals are, what you hope to accomplish.

Twice now I’ve taught the ‘literature of immigration,’ and I’m still thinking about different aspects of the course. It’s interesting: When I was a student, I connected with the formal aspects of literature. I feel that now, in my classes, students connect more readily with the political aspects of the books I teach (in the non-creative writing classes).

Anyhow, just the other day, I wandered into Microcosm Publishing — the awesome bookstore and zine emporium that’s just down the street from us here in Portland, Oregon.  Besides being wonderful, Microcosm also had this excellent book, “No One is Illegal,” by Justin Akers Chacon and Mike Davis. And reading it made me remember the immigration lit class, and how I was yearning for an intellectual framework for the books we were studying.

See: My mind works in themes, sure. Rock ‘n roll novel, immigration literature — they are handy organizational principles for a class. But beyond this, I often strive to find a solid intellectual framework for discussions, a body of information that you can take away, that feels tangible and rigorous. Does that make sense?

I hope so.

I think that this idea — there is no such thing as an illegal immigrant — needs to be circulated more broadly. It needs to enter the public dialogue, the mainstream. Because it seems to me that the notion that our public services will be somehow overwhelmed by waves of immigration unless we “crack down” and “reform our system” is ludicrous.

From page 95: “This pattern of exploitation, violence, and attacks on immigrants is playing itself out in country after country. The scenario of orchestrated campaigns targeting immigrant communities (particularly those of color) is playing itself out with Moroccan immigrants in Spain, Eastern Europeans in England (including, incidentally, Latvians in Ireland), Turkish migrants in Germany, and Koreans in Japan. In the United States, a similar process has been underway since September 11, with the detention, deportation, and racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims providing a precedent for racially and politically motivated attacks on Mexican migrant workers…”

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