Immigration is also a feminist issue


4:43 pm - April 10th 2008

by Jess McCabe    


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Every single candidate for the London mayoral elections in May – even Tory Boris Johnson – supports an amnesty which would allow illegal immigrants living in the UK for four years or more to follow a “path to citizenship”, The Independent reported yesterday.

Last month Mr Livingstone called for a “fresh start”, with a one-off amnesty for migrants without “regular status”, in spite of his party’s stance. “Migrants contribute hugely to the economic, civic and cultural life of London and the UK,” he said. “To have a substantial number of them living here without regular status because of deep-rooted failings in the immigration system, some dating back over a decade, is deeply damaging to London as well as to them.”

This is really good news.

And particularly timely given this piece on AlterNet by Jessica Hoffman, calling on white feminists in the US to wake up and smell their privilege, and get to work on issues that intersect with racism, including immigration.

As Women of Color Blog and others have been documenting for ages, immigration is a feminist issue – and that doesn’t just apply in the US. Hoffman talks about how “women and trans and gender-nonconforming people are suffering gender-based violence at the hands of federal immigration officials”.

We know the same happens here in the UK.

The reason this is good news is not because one amnesty solves the whole problem, or even that it’s unproblematic. But the debate around immigration has been dominated by a right-wing, racist, xenophobic “keep them all out!” framing for way too long.

I can’t even remember the last time I saw a policy on immigration which wasn’t about making the rules tougher. Here’s hoping this is the first of many moves towards reform.

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About the author
Jess is editor of the online magazine The F-Word.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Debates ,Economy ,Mayor election ,Race relations

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Reader comments


For fear of death, I won’t hold my breath, not with an election almost visible on the horizon.

‘I can’t even remember the last time I saw a policy on immigration which wasn’t about making the rules tougher. Here’s hoping this is the first of many moves towards reform.’

You said it, sister.

Have you seen these guys, Feminists Against Borders? http://www.workersliberty.org/node/9154

Thank God. There I was thinking that immigration affected everyone, but you’ve put me straight.

I don’t think Jess’s implication is that it is only a feminist issue…. though its true that its not sufficiently looked through that framework.
I’ve amended the headline anyway.

I’m suspicious of all these proclamations, can’t help feel it’s just electioneering getting a bit out of control…

Yep, I don’t think immigration is only a feminist issue!! This was originally posted at The F Word, the online feminist magazine I edit. I was specifically framing immigration as an issue for feminists to be concerned with in that context… Obviously there’s more to it than that!

7. Luis Enrique

“But the debate around immigration has been dominated by a right-wing, racist, xenophobic “keep them all out!” framing for way too long.”

What is this ‘framing’? Do you mean that the debate has been dominated by right-wing, racist, xenophobia? That’s an empirical claim, and I think a false one. It probably reflects the blogs/newspapers I read but I have encountered lots of pro-immigration arguments, and some anti-immigration arguments that are not racist or xenophobic. Of course many who oppose immigration are racist etc. but I do not think they dominate the debate by any means.

Do you mean that debate is usually over (‘framed’ as a question of) how much immigration to allow (how many to ‘keep out’)? This argument usually being preceded by the benefits and costs of immigration. But that’s not a racist or right wing way of looking at the question – how else would a debate over immigration policy be ‘framed’? If you’re view is that we should allow lots of immigration, isn’t that still ‘framed’ in the same way (just reaching a different conclusion).

And if I was somebody who wanted to restrict immigration on non-racist or xenophobic grounds (I’m not) I would feel you’d ‘framed’ me as a racist and xenophobe.


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  1. Pickled Politics » Should there be an amnesty for illegal immigrants?

    […] immigrants? by Rumbold on 10th April, 2008 at 8:07 pm     Over at Liberal Conspiracy, Jess McCabe highlights that the three main London Mayoral candidates support an amnesty for illegal immigrants: […]





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