Prompt 27: Katniss’s father is an undocumented worker, Peeta is a sympathetic federal agent sent to investigate or an employer willing to do anything to help. [submitted by @567inpanem]
Author’s Note: I’m late (as usual) but I went for the second option on this one. I jumped at this prompt because of my own feeling about this whole situation. Hope I didn’t hijack a lovely prompt by being politically didactic. I relied on my experiences with my family regarding picking fruit and the migration of workers as they follow the different harvest, together with the research on how the ICE conducts raids in this current political climate. It’s a different world from when my grandfather was a migrant worker.
…A series of events unfolded within the expanding context of the United States imperialism that contributed to the migration of workers from Puerto Rico to Hawai'i. In 1899, Hurricane San Ciriaco devastated more than half of the island of Puerto Rico. It left thousands of Puerto Ricans, who were dependent on subsistence farming, destitute and in search of work. Meanwhile, the Chinese Exclusionary Act, adopted in the United States in 1882, prohibited Chinese workers from entering any part of the United States. Consequently, recruiters of the Hawai'i Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) began to look for non-Asian experiences sugar cane cutters from domestic territories. Puerto Rico was considered a prime territory for cheap, non-Asian labor, and the annexation of Puerto Rico, Hawai'i, Guam, and the Philippines by the United States in 1898 facilitated the transfer of Puerto Ricans from one U.S. territory (Puerto Rico) to the other (Hawai'i).
Between 1900 and 1901, 5,000 Puerto Ricans left the port of Guánica to immigrate to Hawai’i. It was a long and difficult journey. The first stop of the trip by sea was to New Orleans; the second, by rail, was to San Francisco. The trip was longer than they were told, they were not given proper clothing and medical attention promised on the way to Hawai’i, and the travel conditions were crowded and unsanitary. As a result, almost half of the Puerto Ricans escaped en route… Not only did Puerto Ricans escape and refuse to get back on the ship in California, but the first act of protest of those who continued on to Hawai’i was to seize control of the vessel that was to transport them to other islands in Hawai’i…
Although Hawai’i was a territory of the United States when Puerto Rican immigrated there, in the early part of the twentieth century it was still not a democracy. Hawai’i was managed by an oligarchy of five elite families who controlled it as if it were their personal fiefdom. These families constituted the HSPA. Members of the HSPA were enraged by the negative publicity and by what they considered audacity of the half-starved Puerto Rican peasants to protest their treatment. They implemented numerous strategies to control them. One of the successful strategies they had tried on earlier group was to promote a negative social image of Puerto Ricans as aggressive, and to stereotype them in the local newspaper as temperamental knife wielders. The HSPA also exploited existing differences among the various ethnic groups and invested considerable resources in creating and perpetuating animosities among the workers…
The HSPA used the strategy of scattering ethnic groups throughout the archipelago to prevent them from deriving power in numbers. Although he workers toiled alongside other ethnic groups in the field, they were housed in segregated quarters on each planation, a tactic put in place by the HSPA to keep workers under control and in competition with one another. As Michael Haas notes, ‘One of the ways that the plantation owners fostered interethnic conflicts was by intentionally recruiting Puerto Rican as ‘scabs’ to break up successful union strikes carried out by the Japanese workers in the early part of the twentieth century. Moreover, in contrast to the Chinese and Japanese workers who immigrated before them, Puerto Ricans did not have a government official in Hawai’i to represent them. This may have occurred because once they left, the Puerto Rican government did not want them to return; they were perceived as part of the overpopulation problem that the U.S. government officials had proclaimed in 1899…
- Iris López, “Borinkis and Chop Suey: Puerto Rican Identity in Hawai’i, 1900 - 2000,” The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives
well here’s some book-relevant thoughts about Fantine anyway (prompted slightly by @barricade–girls !)
We get really frustratingly little about Fantine’s life in the book, pre-Tholomyes, and it’s delivered in such small sentences; but the bit of a past Hugo suggests for her is REALLY intriguing and suggests so much about her determination and sense of adventure even before anything else about her story happens? Like
We know she’s an orphan, or abandoned; anyway she grows up literally on the streets, like the gamin/es in Paris. She’s abandoned so young she doesn’t even have a NAME; “Fantine” is what some stranger called her. Unlike the gamins in Paris, Fantine is in what seems to be a smallish town. M-sur- M doesn’t seem to offer its street children half as much of a community amongst themselves–totally plausible, in a much smaller town. So for Fantine’s childhood, we can look at the momes…and then subtract a good portion of the community resources and kid-community culture and support.
Her adolescence, though, seems to have been better. We’re told she worked on a farm. A totally believable career move for a poor kid living near rural/agricultural areas!
Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age
In the generations after emancipation, hundreds of thousands of African-descended working-class men and women left their homes in the British Caribbean to seek opportunity abroad: in the goldfields of Venezuela and the canefields of Cuba, the canal construction in Panama, and the bustling city streets of Brooklyn. But in the 1920s and 1930s, racist nativism and a brutal cascade of antiblack immigration laws swept the hemisphere. Facing borders and barriers as never before, Afro-Caribbean migrants rethought allegiances of race, class, and empire. In Radical Moves, Lara Putnam takes readers from tin-roof tropical dancehalls to the elegant black-owned ballrooms of Jazz Age Harlem to trace the roots of the black internationalist and anticolonial movements that would remake the twentieth century. From Trinidad to 136th Street, these were years of great dreams and righteous demands. Praying or “jazzing,” writing letters to the editor or letters home, Caribbean men and women tried on new ideas about the collective. The popular culture of black internationalism they created–from Marcus Garvey’s UNIA to “regge” dances, Rastafarianism, and Joe Louis’s worldwide fandom–still echoes in the present.
Thousands of temporary foreign workers will become undocumented on April 1 despite pending immigration and work extension applications. What is the Canadian government doing about this?
I just had a conversation with a Filipino temporary foreign worker, who told me a story that is similar to stories told by thousands of other folks, especially in Alberta. Like most temporary foreign workers, he came to Canada after being promised by his labor brokers and (future) employer that there is a possibility that he would be able to get permanent residency under the Alberta Immigration Nominee Program (AINP) provided that he worked hard. And work hard he did, withstanding harsh working conditions and years apart from his wife and two sons, with the hope that he can bring his family with him to Canada. After years apart, he was able to bring them with him and his employers sponsored his AINP. And then…nothing…
His work contract, like thousands of others, expires on April 1. Though he is working right now, he is aware that he has less than two weeks to receive news about his application. After April 1, he will become undocumented. Although then Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced that 1000 folks whose AINP applications are pending will be given one year extensions while they wait for their papers, no one knows what will happen to those who weren’t given extensions.
At the heart of the matter are issues of equity and belonging. Contrary to the virulently racist rhetoric scapegoating temporary foreign workers for ‘stealing’ Canadian jobs, nearly all of the temporary foreign workers who came to Canada did so while following a stringent process that guarantees that the employer made every attempt to hire Canadian workers first. While this process can and has been abused, the checks that have been put into place make sure that employers really did try to hire local workers. Talk to small business owners in big cities and small towns and they’ll say the same thing: that they’ve put job ads up for months with no responses; that the folks they have hired from their cities and towns leave after a few weeks; that problems of declining populations (especially true in small towns) mean that there simply aren’t workers. Consider also the jobs that most temporary foreign workers do: many work in the food and hospitality industries and do jobs that a lot of Canadians would deem dirty, degrading, and dangerous. And though I completely agree that better wages and better working conditions would make these jobs more attractive to Canadian workers - and thus eliminate the need to hire temporary foreign workers - the simple fact remains that even improved wages and working conditions are not enough to incentivize Canadian workers to be part of these industries.
And though I also agree that we need to further consider whether Canada should be part of a structural system facilitating the brain drain of workers from developing countries, for the moment, there are very pressing human needs that are faced by temporary foreign workers and their families. So while I will happily discuss issues of ethics and morals of labour migration, for now, we need to consider the empirical realities of how thousands of temporary foreign workers are going to be undocumented in two weeks. This not only means that they cannot work, this also means that they cannot access city services. In some municipalities that do not have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, this also means that the children of temporary foreign workers who are going to school will be asked to stop their education by April 1. So the questions we, as Canadians, need to ask ourselves are the following: is deportation really the answer? What are our obligations to temporary foreign workers who have spent years contributing socially and economically to our communities, who are effectively part of Canada, and who have come here to seek better lives? They work in jobs that Canadians do not want to do; they come here, pay taxes, and engage with their communities; they work in industries where there is a permanent and on-going need.
If you wish to discuss these issues further and you are in Alberta, consider attending the following conference:
And if you would like to support temporary foreign workers and prevent them from getting deported on April 1, please sign this petition: