The terms ‘illegal immigrant’ and ‘undocumented migrant’ are bread and butter when it comes to state immigration policy, be it as part of the hostile environment in the UK, at the borders of Europe, in the US, or elsewhere. It’s worth reminding ourselves, as often as we possibly can, that these terms were invented for a reason, and that they are part of a system which is there to dehumanise people.
For someone to be deemed ‘illegal’ there must first be an assumption about what makes us ‘legal’. Is it having the right paperwork, or is simply being alive? For someone to be marked ‘undocumented’, having the ‘right documents’ must be the natural state of things, what allows most of us to exist peacefully. This is the function of borders, and the machinery around them – one so many-layered and impenetrable that it often keeps us from seeing how artificial it all is.
Next week, we’re delighted to be hosting the Scottish launch of ‘Undocumented Americans’ by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, an unforgettable piece of reportage and memoir. Karla will be in conversation with Leah Cowan, author of ‘Border Nation’. Here are two writers who urgently remind us of how borders are neither essential nor natural, but migration – people moving around the world for greater safety and better conditions for life – is.
We hope you’ll join us for what promises to be a vibrant, mind-expanding conversation, which may also inspire you to take action against the hostile environment in your own community. You can get your tickets HERE.
Below, we’ve listed some organisations doing stellar work on migrant rights, in Scotland, the UK and US:
The books in the list below are all based on experiences of being exposed to border rules, most of them from the perspective of migrants, but also written by people working for these systems, and studying them. They’re about the policies and the ways in which people are ensnared, the outrage and suffering, but also the resistance, the solidarity and the alternatives to belonging behind borders.