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

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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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

Photo: Bryan Cox/Getty Images

A bombshell report published in The Guardian alleges that ICE officers are using torture to force Cameroonian asylum seekers to sign their own deportation orders. The report paints an even starker picture of Immigration and Customs Enforcement–an agency that is already widely criticized as corrupt and inhumane.

The deportation documents the immigrants have been forced to sign are called the Stipulated Orders of Removal. The documents waive asylum seekers’ rights to further immigration hearings and mean they consent to being deported.

The asylum seekers allege that the torture in ICE custody consisted of choking, beating, pepper-spraying, breaking fingers, and threats on their lives.

“I refused to sign,” recounted one Cameroonian asylum-seeker to The Guardian. “[The ICE officer] pressed my neck into the floor. I said, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ I lost my blood circulation. Then they took me inside with my hands at my back where there were no cameras.”

He continued: “They put me on my knees where they were torturing me and they said they were going to kill me. They took my arm and twisted it. They were putting their feet on my neck…They did get my fingerprint on my deportation document and took my picture.” Other witnesses recount similar violent experiences.

Experts believe that the escalation of deportations is directly related to the upcoming election and the possibility that ICE might soon be operated under a different administration. The theory is that ICE is coercively deporting “key witnesses” in order to “silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability.”

“In late September, early October of this year, we began to receive calls on our hotline from Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants detained in Ice prisons across the country. And they were being subjected to threats of deportation, often accompanied by physical abuse,” said Christina Fialho, executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, to The Guardian.

Many of the Cameroonians who are in the U.S. to seek asylum have legitimate claims to danger back in their home countries. Many of these Cameroonians come from an English-speaking minority in Cameroon that are violently target by the government there–some have died. The violence has been condemned by The United Nations and Amnesty International.

As with many immigrant stories of people who are seeking asylum, these immigrants’ lives are in danger in their home country. They are coming to the United States for a better life. But instead, they are faced with the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whom they claim brutally mistreat them.

According to report, the U.S. is deporting entire airplanes full of asylum-seekers back to their home countries–deportations that have not been given due process and have been authorized under duress.

An ICE spokesperson contacted by The Guardian called the reports “sensationalist” and “unsubstantiated” while roundly refuting the claims. “Ice is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody. Ice provides safe, humane, and appropriate conditions of confinement for individuals detained in its custody,” she said.

Read the entire report here.

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The Man Who Created ICE Is Now Releasing A Book To Honor Immigrants

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The Man Who Created ICE Is Now Releasing A Book To Honor Immigrants

George Bush Presidential Center

The 43rd president, the man who literally helped create Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is now releasing a book meant to honor immigrants to the U.S. Cue the massive eye rolls.

As president, Bush oversaw a massive expansion of the country’s deportation apparatus and his policies directly impacted the lives of millions of people in the United States, with and without documents.

So it was no surprise that as Bush announced the new book, social media was quick to point out the blatant hypocrisy and tone deaf messaging the former president is sending. It’s all nice and good that he may have had a change of heart on immigration – particularly after seeing the destructive policies of the current president – but many are pointing out Bush will be making potentially millions of dollars of the backs of the very people he once demonized.

George Bush is releasing a book highlighting stories of immigrants to the U.S.

A new book by former President George W. Bush will highlight an issue which now sets him apart from many of his fellow Republicans — immigration.

The book includes 43 portraits by the 43rd president, four-color paintings of immigrants he has come to know over the years, along with biographical essays he wrote about each of them.

“While I recognize that immigration can be an emotional issue, I reject the premise that it is a partisan issue. It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us,” Bush writes in the new book’s introduction, noting that he did not want it to come out during the election season. Bush has not endorsed Trump or his presumptive Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“My hope is that this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.”

The book will serve as a companion to an upcoming exhibition at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

Credit: Penguin Random House

“Both ‘Out of Many, One’ and the exhibition of the same name will include bold, principle-based solutions that comprehensively address the current debate on immigration,” according to Crown. “At the heart of the recommendations is the belief that every year that passes without reforming the nation’s broken system means missed opportunities to ensure the future prosperity, vitality, and security of our country.”

Bush has become a dedicated portrait painter and best-selling author since leaving the White House. His memoir “Decision Points” has sold more than 3 million copies, and his other books include “41,” about his father, former President George H.W. Bush; and a collection of paintings of military veterans, “Portraits of Courage.”

He will donate a portion of his “Out Of Many, One” proceeds to organizations that help immigrants resettle.

Although he may be friends with the Obamas, Bush has a terrible record on immigration.

Credit: Tom Pennington / Getty Images

Apart from Donald Trump, few presidents were as intertwined with immigration than George Bush, which has led to swift blowback on social media. Critics have been quick to point out the blatant hypocrisy with the president’s new series, since his administration created US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly known as ICE, which has cracked down harshly on undocumented immigration under Trump.  

And although Bush has on occasion criticized the state of immigration policies under Trump, it doesn’t make up for his hurtful policies as president.

In 2018, on the day after the Trump administration issued guidance for asylum seekers at the border that threatened thousands of individuals with being turned away before they could plead their cases in court, Bush said he was “disturbed” by the immigration debate taking place in the United States. Bush has also praised the nation’s immigrant history as “a blessing” while calling for comprehensive reform.

Bush’s own record on immigration isn’t totally black and white either. Many point out that the former president did introduce a bill that would have included a pathway to citizenship for 17 million immigrants in the U.S. However, the bill was defeated with bipartisan support because many Democrats felt it didn’t offer enough protections and many Republicans said it was illegal amnesty.

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