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When The U.S. Banned Chinese Immigrants, This Mexican City Gave Them A Home

Omar Bárcena/flickr

For many Mexicans, Chinese New Year comes and goes with little fanfare. But there’s one city in Mexico that will be celebrating Chinese New Year in earnest. Mexicali, which is located in Baja California, MX, is home to the largest Chinatown — a.k.a. La Chinesca — in Mexico. It is estimated that nearly 5,000 citizens of Chinese descent currently live in Mexicali, though that number used to be larger. In fact, Mexicali was once a Chinese majority town. Here’s a little background on Mexicali’s Chinese community.

When the U.S. signed off on the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, Chinese immigrants were banned from entering the U.S. for a decade.

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CREDIT: Laura Perkins/Youtube

Thanks to overwhelming anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.S. at that time, the U.S. closed its borders to Chinese immigrants. Some Chinese immigrants were able to migrate to the U.S. through Mexico. However, many stayed in Mexico, usually finding work in labor-based projects.

During this time, Mexicali provided a sanctuary for Chinese citizens, who provided the workforce necessary to keep the region competitive.

By 1910, Mexican resentment of Chinese immigrants had begun to increase.

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CREDIT: RICK QUAN / YOUTUBE

The governor of the Baja region, Estaban Cantú, showed Chinese workers preferential treatment for their willingness to work on cotton plantations for low wages. Because Chinese immigrants provided cheap labor, they were favored over Mexican workers, which created a wealth gap between the two cultures. Naturally, tensions between the two groups led to the Chinese being persecuted by Mexican citizens. Some were only chased out of Mexico, while many others were slaughtered.

Chinese immigrants living Mexicali were also not used to Mexico’s summers. To cope, they began building underground tunnels and rooms to escape the heat and violence from locals.

CREDIT: VICELAND / YOUTUBE

Thanks to Mexicali’s reasonably hospitable environment and flooding that made underground living impossible, the Chinese eventually moved back above ground, creating “La Chinesca.”

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By this time, there enough Chinese immigrants living in the Mexicali area that they entered the political world, and they even formed their own union: Asociación China de Mexicali.

Today, Chinese influence in the town is easy to observe.

Credit: omaromar / flickr
CREDIT: Credit: omaromar / flickr

Tourists in Mexicali can take guided tours to explore the extensive underground network where these Chinese immigrants lived. Vice even wrote a full piece about one of these underground tours, which you can read here. There are many reminders that despite one-time persecution, the Chinese that endured have left their lasting mark on Mexico’s history.


[H/T] Notes from the Mexicali Chinese Underground


READ: The Origin of Some of Your Favorite English Words is Surprising

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Detention Officers In Louisiana Allegedly Attacked Detainees Holding A Hunger Strike Over Conditions

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Detention Officers In Louisiana Allegedly Attacked Detainees Holding A Hunger Strike Over Conditions

Christopher Winton-Stahle / Getty Images

The things that take place behind the doors of detention centers are often a mystery.  Undocumented immigrants disclose some things while immigration officials say another. The media is rarely given a chance to see what the facilities are like, and when they do, they don’t always get the whole picture. That is why advocates of these people are sometimes the only ones that not only get to visit the people inside, but they can also share with the public what is going on. Such is the case with an organization called Freedom for Immigrants who disclosed some incredibly awful events that took place at a detention center. 

This weekend, more than 100 immigrants were attacked inside their detention center while they were protesting with a hunger strike.

 Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants, a non-profit based in California, reports that immigrants detained at the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, were attacked with excessive force by guards because they would not disperse during a hunger strike protest. The detention center is located in a remote area in Louisiana less than two hours west of Baton Rouge.

Freedom for Immigrants said that 115 immigrants had been on a hunger strike for five days, protesting their prolonged detainment.

Credit: @UUSC / Twitter

That is when guards pepper-sprayed them, shot at them with rubber bullets, tear-gassed, beaten, and placed in solitary confinement. They also report that the inmates were blocked from contacting their families or attorneys.

“When an individual in detention goes on hunger strike, it means the person is willing to put their body on the line just to be heard,” Sofia Casini, Southern Regional Coordinator with Freedom for Immigrants, said in a press release. “Multiple hunger strikes happening simultaneously are no coincidence: they are indicative of the desperation and suffering that immigrants are facing inside these human cages.

An ICE spokesperson confirms that the inmates were pepper-sprayed.

Credit: @EMc_42 / Twitter

Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, told BuzzFeed that the incident took place saying, a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening.” He added, “After repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

However, he said that no one was injured, which contradicts the images that were released from the incident.

Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants notes that several other hunger strikes are taking place at various detention centers around the country, including at another facility in Louisana. They report that at least 1,396 people have taken part in a hunger strike and 18 detention facilities since May 2015.

The assault against immigrants got so bad that an ambulance had to be called.

Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Mother Jones reports that they can confirm the assault took place as several detainees sent lawyer Lara Nochomovitz text messages. Here’s what some of those messages said: 

“There are lots of cops who came from another prison, they beat up the Cubans, they pepper spray them and handcuff them.”

Another said, “There’s even an ambulance here. Help us please this is ugly!” 

Lt. Bill Davis of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office told that publication that the incident was only a small disturbance and said the group consisted of only 30 people. He also added that the person that was taken in an ambulance was suffering from anxiety issues. 

People who are imprisoned use hunger strikes to bring attention to the cruelty taking place inside.

Credit: @Haleaziz / Twitter

In some cases, detainees go long periods of stretches in a hunger strike protest, but officials have been known to force-feed them by using tubes. 

They do this to get the attention of officials and of the media to inform them about the injustices that are going on inside. Sometimes it is their only form of communication since they are unable to speak to family. 

Yanet Diaz is the aunt of Lisvani Perez Serrano who was transferred from Mississippi to Louisiana. She told Freedom for Immigrants that he passed his asylum interview and was granted parole. They informed him that he would be released in 15 days, but that never happened. 

“They haven’t informed him about his case, and he is constantly being threatened. He and the other detained men had no other option but to go on hunger strike.”

The National Immigration Law Center said that it is not surprising that ICE hasn’t officially reported about what took place at the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairiesince they lack transparency and oversight. They said they are demanding answers and accountability.

READ: Immigration Detainees Joined Prisoners Nationwide To Strike Against Living Conditions And Very Low Wages In Prisons

Neighbors Formed A Human Chain To Prevent This Man From Getting Deported And It’s The Most Beautiful Act Of Humanity I’ve Seen

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Neighbors Formed A Human Chain To Prevent This Man From Getting Deported And It’s The Most Beautiful Act Of Humanity I’ve Seen

DailyKos / Twitter

Although the planned Trump ICE raids didn’t happen on the scale that many were expecting, there are still many heartbreaking stories of people being rounded up, arrested, detained, and even deported. However, in some cases entire communities have come together to fight back against ICE and to protect people from illegal arrests.

Case in point: this story out of Tennessee in which vecinos, advocates, and legal activists came together to protect a father and his son from an illegal ICE raid.

A group of vecinos created a literal human chain to protect their neighbor from ICE agents.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Hermitage, Tennessee community members rushed to a neighbor’s home to protect him and his son from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents early Monday morning, at one point forming a human chain around the van where the family had been stuck so they could safely exit into their home.

It started early Monday morning when ICE officers followed a man’s van and tried to pull it over. After the van’s driver pulled into the driveway of a house, the officers blocked him in. The man remained inside the vehicle and alerted local advocates and neighbors, the affiliates said.

ICE had come to arrest a man but the neighbors formed a chain to allow him to get into his home and then helped him drive away.

Credit: @dgordon52 / Twitter

A crowd gathered, with witnesses recording the tense scene on their cell phones and bringing supplies to the parked vehicle. Neighbors brought gasoline to keep the van running and food and water for the man and his 12-year-old son, who were holed up inside. “While there were immigrant advocate community members present, it was clear that a major thrust of the citizen response was being driven by the immediate neighbors of the man and child in the van. … It was striking to watch neighbors deliver food, water, and gasoline to help their neighbor stay in his car,” Nashville City Council Bob Mendes said in a statement describing what he watched unfold

ICE officers eventually decided to leave “to de-escalate the situation,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told CNN. Coxsaid he wouldn’t say “who the agency’s target or targets may have been so as to not compromise a potential future operation that would seek to arrest the individual at a different time and place.”

People were full of emotion once the story broke.

Credit: @odetteroulette / Twitter

With all the bad news in the world, many people have pretty much lost faith in ever hearing anything good again. So when the story of a group of people coming together to protect a man and his son from an ICE arrest broke, many were overwhelmed. It showed to many that even in the unlikeliest of places good people doing good things do still exist.

Like seriously, we dare you to watch this video and not at least get goosebumps.

When they form the chain so the man and his son can get to their car…omg it’s so powerful to watch a community spring into action.

Some took to Twitter to call for more of this community action.

Credit: @UnitedWeDream / Twitter

Many advocacy organizations used this story as an example of community-driven efforts to fight back against Trump’s racist immigration policies. Actions like this one protected a family from an illegal arrest. The agent’s warrant wasn’t legally sufficient to arrest the man and had it not been for the quick action of the community, ICE would of gotten away with it.

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