Video: Post-Detention Experiences of Central American Asylum Seekers in the United States 

Professor Cecilia Menjívar holds the Dorothy L. Meier Social Equities Chair and is a professor of sociology at UCLA. She specializes in immigration, gender, family dynamics, social networks, and broad conceptualizations of violence. She has authored and edited multiple books, including Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America. A John S. Guggenheim Fellow and an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, she is currently president of the American Sociological Association.

  • Transcript

    Adrian Pantoja: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Racial Justice Initiative speaker series. I am Professor Adrian Pantoja; I am the chair of the Racial Justice Initiative. I’m also one of the Associate Deans of Faculty here at Pitzer College.  

    The Racial Justice Initiative was established by President Melvin Oliver, a noted scholar and sociologist on race in America. The goal of the Racial Justice Initiative is to address issues of racial violence and justice through rigorous analysis, applied research, and activism. Our speaker today, Cecilia Menjívar, perhaps best exemplifies this idea of the scholar-activist in the pursuit of racial justice. Professor Cecilia Menjívar holds the Dorothy L. Meyer Social Equities Chair and is professor of sociology at UCLA. She specializes in immigration, gender, family dynamics, social networks, and broad conceptualizations of violence. She has authored and edited multiple books, including “Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America.” She is a John H. Guggenheim Fellow, an Andrew Carnegie fellow, and is president of the American Sociological Association. So welcome, Cecilia. I’ll turn it over to you. I know you have a PowerPoint. After the PowerPoint, we will open it up to Q&A and I will read the questions that are submitted through the chat or other methods. Thank you. 


    Cecilia Menjívar: Thank you so much, Adrian, and Pitzer College for inviting me to share my work with you. I wish we could have done this in person because I’m just I’m very close to where you are. So, it feels surreal to be doing this, but this is fine. I thank you for the opportunity.  

    Today I’m going to share one slice of a larger, a much larger project with my former graduate student and now, assistant professor of sociology at Wake Forest University, Andrea Gomez-Cervantes. We have been doing an ethnography in one small rural town in Kansas. And that larger project is about relations between immigrant newcomers who, in that town, are primarily with the Malong of Mayan origin, and the residents of the town. So that’s the larger project. But within that project, the therapy has been going on for about three plus years, four years almost. And within that larger project, we decided to focus one paper, attention to something that emerged in the course of doing our work. And that is, we started to see more and more women arriving as asylum seekers following the trend that we see with Central American women from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at the border. And with the Central Americans in general, arriving today at the border, who are mostly seeking asylum and turning themselves into the Border Patrol. So, we tended to see the same trend reflected in our study. And so, as we are pulling a thread in an ethnography, we started to dig more and more into the experiences of women who are seeking asylum. Many of them have fled gender-based violence in their home countries and are seeking asylum in the United States, and what experiences are through these asylum process. And so today, I’m going to share this one slice of the project that focuses specifically on the experiences of Guatemalan Mayan women who seek protection in the United States, and how they go through the entire process from the moment they enter through their lives in this small town in rural Kansas, to also highlight the gender and race aspects of how the system is structured, in how it is experienced.  

    So let me share my screen. (Am I sharing my screen?) So, what we’re going to draw attention to today is on not experiences in detention, per se, but experiences post-detention, because our argument is that detention expands beyond the physical contours of physical detention facilities.  

    Just to give you a quick overview of what the asylum system looks like, in 2017, about 26,000 people were granted asylum, but that year, there were over 280,000 asylum applications filed. So, fewer than 10% of asylum seekers were granted asylum. This has not changed very much with the new administration in Washington; things have remained mostly the same with a few changes, but mostly the same. And about 47% of these asylum seekers are women. Our main argument here is that we know from the immigration scholarship that there has been a merging of criminalization of criminal law and immigration law that some scholars have referred to as “crimigration.” And so, we know that from the general migration literature, what I argue is that that also happens in the asylum system, that that same criminalization that we see more generally, also happens within the asylum system. So, asylum seekers today are especially from Central America who arrive at the border, are criminalized in very similar ways, as immigrants more generally. And we argue that women are criminalized, women seeking asylum are criminalized through an interwoven network of social control created by law, the justice system, and private corporations and the carceral state. 


    In this work, because the women we met in the ethnographic study were from Guatemala, were Mayan women from Guatemala. We focused our attention on them, which gives us the opportunity to explore how race and gender intertwine as these asylum seekers are criminalized, as they enter the system. We know that the detention, the detection, detention and deportation, the entire enforcement system has been primarily focused on immigrants from four countries; from Mexico with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, or 90% of those entrapped in the system are from these four countries. Most of them are men, almost 80% of those immigrants and asylum seekers entrapped in the system are men from these four countries. And so, the question was why then focus on women if most of those entrapped in the system are men, and we argue that it is this focus on women and poor women, indigenous women, allows us to unearth and bring to light that racialized and gender aspects of this continuum of punishment, that I will share with you in a moment, why we call it a continuum of punishment. We want to call attention to the lesser-known, the lesser discussed racialized and gender aspects of the system by focusing on Mayan women who are going through the system, this punitive system. 

    Let me come back because I think one  So, this is good to make a little parenthesis here to briefly mention what this means for Central Americans. Central Americans have a long history of forced migration, of migrating to seek protection in the United States and elsewhere. Beginning in the 1980s, when they started migrating en masse in relation to the civil wars that were being fought in the region, with Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, but also Honduras, with the military bases there, created conditions for mass migration from the region. Where even after the conflicts ended, and the peace accords were signed, migration continued and even increased after the conflicts formally ended because conditions, structural conditions that actually gave rise to migration in the first place, never changed. And, in fact, new forms of violence and new forms of inequality were created. And so there was even more impetus for people to leave the region.  

    And so they, Central Americans, especially from these three countries, but also from Nicaragua, and we can talk about that in the Q&A, especially from these three countries have a very long history, a 40-year history of migrating for reasons connected to multiple forms of violence, state violence, political violence, structural violence, not just poverty, but structural violence that has existed in Central America historically, but that have been amplified and have created conditions for Central Americans to migrate to other countries in the region, and also to the United States. And so, I would like to note that Central American migration cannot simply be classified as economic migration, because these are not migrants from the region, and not only people seeking better working conditions or higher income, higher wages, or to improve their financial conditions and their families. There are other factors in place that have propelled these migrations. And those factors have to deal with the various forms of violence that have been placed in the region. So, they’re not really economic, or labor migrants, as we know, as we understand this flow. And today, more recently, in the past several years, there has been an increase in violence, in different forms of violence in the region as well, that have amplified the impetus for migration.  

    So, for instance, we find that today, men flee generalized violence, but also economic dislocations. And women also flee generalized violence, but there are very specific forms of violence that affect women. These are gender-based violence. This is gender-based violence that women flee from, and that’s actually my other area of research. So, if you have questions about that, I’ll be happy to go into that. But for women, even though they flee gender-based violence, gender is not a recognized category for protection under asylum law. So, when they flee gender-based violence and come to the United States, in turning themselves into Border Patrol agents to present themselves as asylum seekers, a process is unleashed and gets underway to prove that they are indeed deserving of protection. But the bigger, the big question that takes a whole process to address. So, I’m at this point, and again, men also flee conditions of violence, also flee poverty and dislocation and a combination of all of that. But I’m focusing from here on out on the specific experiences of women. So Central American women asylum seekers at the border, when they present themselves as seeking protection, they enter this bureaucracy of asylum that is structured very similarly to the general immigration system, the immigration enforcement system. And so much effort is placed to determine whether people are actually Bonafide asylum seekers or are not. There’s quite a bit of effort and energy in transforming asylum seekers, people seeking protection, into suspects of crime. And that’s what this process of criminalization actually means. So, they enter the bureaucracy of asylum, but they also enter the bureaucracy that criminalizes them in the process. And this means entering detention facilities, but also post detention, an entire system of surveillance and in control that we see in what are called alternatives to detention programs.  

    So, this is what Andrea and I want to call attention to, this continuum of punishment that intersects with race and gender. And I will show you how that happens. So, because we are conceptualizing these experiences as experiences of being criminalized, as experiences of criminalization, we have made parallels with the general experiences of women of color in the carceral state. And so, we see some parallels, we’re not arguing that women of color in the US prison system, in the carceral state, as the same as the asylum seekers, but because the asylum seekers have been criminalized, we see some parallels and we are arguing that they follow some similar experiences. So, community corrections in the general criminal justice system, we argue that they look very similar to those alternatives to detention programs that we see among the asylum seekers, where the state control extends into the homes, into the communities, through surveillance mechanisms, that keep people, even though they have left the physical confines of detention, keep all those who have passed through these confined spaces embedded in the system through technologies of control. But also, like the experiences of people who go through the criminal justice system, especially people of color who got through the criminal justice system, they’re the women who got through this, the asylum seekers who go through the system also remain indebted to the system because of the monetary costs that are associated with remaining under state surveillance and control. And we use the work of Alexis Harris here, who has written extensively on the costs of remaining embedded in the justice system.  

    Just to give you an example, and just give you an idea of the vastness of this system of surveillance and control for immigrants, but so much of it has focused, has concentrated on asylum seekers. So, for instance, there are over three million, and all these statistics come from a report that Audrey Singer wrote and published through Brookings, is fascinating. Over 3 million people are under ICE surveillance at any one point, but only 2% of them are in detention. So, the people who are under surveillance and under state control through mostly to two companies, the private prison companies that control most of it, 80% I think, of immigrants who are in detention or under the specific control, or in facilities owned by these two corporations, 2% are in detention, but the rest are controlled today through a large web of technology. And so, Audrey calculated that there were over 100,000 people enrolled in alternative to detention programs in 2019. The overwhelming majority of them have no criminal conviction. And something to note is that their alternative to detention programs have enrolled many, many, many more immigrants. And most of them are Central Americans. Because then after two detentions, ATD  [alternatives to detention] expanded right at a time when there was a political surge of Central American migrants arriving at the border in 2014. And that’s also when more detention facilities were extended contracts, and more have been built, as well. So, to the point where Audrey again, Audrey Singer calculates that there are now those enrolled in alternatives to detention, the number has increased by about 280%, from 2015 to 2019.  

    Alternatives to detention programs, what we mean by that is all forms of GPS monitoring, the ankle bracelets, but also telephone reporting, smartphone surveillance application apps, but also in-person check ins and Andrea actually took to the ICE offices, some of our study participants. So, we’re probably familiar with GPS monitoring systems, but then there’s more than that. I’m just going to very briefly mention who we interviewed and how and where. And, as I mentioned earlier, and this, my comments today are based on this ethnography that we have been conducting in Kansas, in a small town in rural Kansas. It’s an ethnography, so we have been talking to almost everyone in town, but formal interviews with 19 asylum seekers, most of them K’iche’ and Chuj, and I want to stress these differences, because I don’t want to lump indigenous Mayas as one group because just in Guatemala alone, there are 20 different Maya groups with their own languages and their own customs and everything.  

    So, I just want to stress that it’s two Maya groups that we have in our study. Because we didn’t do, we didn’t do field work inside detention facilities, what we did to get a sense for what experiences of asylum seekers in detention facilities are, we interviewed lawyers who work with, who represent asylum seekers inside detention so they are able, of course, to visit clients in detention, and so we interviewed them. And so, we interviewed 11 lawyers who have quite a bit of experience in the field and through them, we learned what experiences inside detention facilities are. So, we found that we call these encounters between the asylum seekers in the bureaucracy and the system that criminalizes them. So, we identified four encounters, and what happens at entry and interviews at entry, detention, when they are released and are, remain embedded and indebted, then the contacts in the encounters they have through those programs of alternatives to detention. 


    So, at entry, we have first day, they go through an interview with the person who they turned themselves in. And after that they have a “Credible Fear” interview, too. And both of these, again, are meant to make sure that they don’t have frivolous claims, and so they are double checked. So, for instance, if there are inconsistencies between the first interview and the Credible Fear interview, that can be grounds to decline the request for asylum. What we know of each of these encounters is how gender and race interact for each of these encounters as well. So, for each of these encounters as well, so, for instance, gender, I will argue that gendered and racialized mechanisms push Indigenous women into particularly challenging predicaments. At this point are entering due to anti-indigenous, anti-language discrimination, not only on the part of just the agents who are taking in the claims, but very often by other Latino agents who interview them in Spanish. Very often, the women reflecting the structural violence, they come from the inequalities, they very often don’t speak Spanish, and they’re not literate in Spanish. And so having these two interviews in Spanish, not in the language, their own languages, adds considerable tension and fear. And sometimes there are inconsistencies that lead them to not have their claims, to decline their asylum application. This actually happened to one of our study participants, and she gave an incorrect, not an incorrect, an inconsistent date for an incident that happened to her in Guatemala. And so that gave the officers enough grounds to deny her asylum application. For these, she had already spent a year and a half living in the town on an alternative to detention program, because she had been released on one of those programs. I’ll tell you, why we can’t determine who gets released, and who gets released on what program, we still have not been able to figure that out.  

    And then there is detention. Again, this slide doesn’t come from our direct observations. This is indirect observations through the 11 lawyers we interviewed in lieu of doing an interview, of doing the ethnography in the detention facility. So, these are like prisons, detention facilities utilize the space, time in isolation to control regulating activities and behaviors, very much like a prison. A colleague of mine always reminds me if it’s like a prison, it’s a prison. And so, this is what happens when, in those detention facilities. I wanted to show you pictures of 25 of them, I think. They are distributed throughout the country, these detention facilities, and so they operate throughout. But most of these asylum seekers are placed in those that are not too far from the border, although they can end up easily in other facilities across the country. They are limited, they have limited access to visitation, they are isolated from family, they do, they can use phones, of course, but very limited. They have very limited use of any communication, sometimes even the lawyers cannot access their clients in detention. Fewer than 1% of indigenous asylum seekers receive translation in their own languages. And we have found that that is a major problem for these asylum seekers. 


    The next encounter in the process is when they leave detention. And this is where we start in our project, where the attention where our, most of our work begins, because this is when they, when asylum seekers leave detention. So, whether asylum seekers are going to be a flight risk, which is a little bit ironic in this case, because remember, that these women have fled their countries, have left, have gone through harrowing journeys to get to the United States. So, if there’s anyone who would not be a flight risk, would probably be these women. In any case, ICE officers have to determine whether these asylum seekers constitute flight risks and accordingly, need to be placed in any of these alternatives to detention programs, or more than one. In addition, and this is where the racialization of Central Americans come in, Central Americans have been found in this study, have been found to be perceived as dangerous in general, regardless of criminal record, because of an association with gangs at much higher rates than non-Central American immigrants. In fact, Emily argues that it’s about 68% higher likelihood that Central Americans are going to be perceived as criminals, as dangerous, as gang members, and that creates, that sparks suspicions on the part of ICE officers and also activates more control and more civilians as they leave detention. And so, some are, and this is what we have not been able to determine, who is allowed to leave on bond and who is allowed to leave on only alternatives to detention, who is allowed to leave on which types of alternative to detention programs, is not really clear.  

    So, bonds are key to keeping asylum seekers embedded and in debt because they are very costly. The average bond has increased about 50%, I think, in the past five years. And today, they range from $500 to $25,000. We had another one of our study participants, her husband was actually already in Kansas, and had to borrow money from everyone in the community to be able to pay for her bond. What this translates into is that this woman starts life in the United States already deeply in debt and in the end, embedded into the, basically the criminalized asylum system, that will keep her under surveillance. So, these are the programs that some of our participants in this study were placed in.  

    We find that alternatives to the ATDs parallel community corrections in the general correction system because they bring surveillance and control to immigrants’ homes and manifest in gendered ways. 46% of immigrants in ATDs are placed in electronic monitoring devices. This data also come from the report that Audrey Singer did. 42% are placed in telephone monitoring; many experienced a combination of these multiple forms of monitoring, telephone and ankle bracelets; ICE visits and telephone monitoring. Some are only on one program. And again, we don’t know how that’s decided.  

    One of our study participants told us that as the ICE officer was explaining to her how to adjust her ankle monitoring, explained to her in English, in Spanish, that this was meant to surveil her. It’s a  [unintelligible] feeling; they can surveil you. And so, the women, of course, and the men who are placed in this, in any of these ATDs, are very well aware that they are being watched, that every move is controlled if they don’t charge the batteries of the monitoring devices, that’s a violation. If they don’t call in when they’re supposed to call in through the telephone monitoring, that is a violation. So, and they know that because it’s in their everyday lives. It interferes in what I mean by agenda in raised intersection as they experience this ATDs, is that it interferes with what the women and men, but the women would like to see, would like to do, the things that they expect to do at home for the family. So, for instance, Francisca, she’s a 21-year-old K’iche explain, because the ankle monitoring, at least the ones that she was placed on, and had to be charged every eight hours. And sometimes she had to run from work to home, to plug herself to the wall to be able to charge the battery because if that battery dies, that’s a violation, because it alerts the ICE office that the person might have escaped. And so, she said, “How could I walk like that? I was plugged into the wall, and how am I going to cook if I was plugged in there? It was charging, I was cooking, it was hurting me a lot.” So, I just mention this because to give you a sense of how these devices and how this surveillance technologies interfering in the daily lives of the women and what they would like to do in their daily lives.  

    So these ATDs constrict women’s mobility within the home, in their mothering, in what they would like to do at home for their family members. But also outside, going to work, some of them have to wear, they have to wear the ankle monitors all the time. And so sometimes that’s very visible. And that is something that we noticed when we started to pay attention to the ankle bracelets. Previous research showed that these electronic monitoring devices were a source of stigma for immigrants, or others started to see them as maybe having to do something with the law. Maybe they had done something, they had committed a crime and that’s why they were wearing this EMD. What we noticed in Kansas is that these have become, because they’re more and more asylum seekers out on this monitoring devices, they have become the more normal, they don’t raise the suspicions of crime that previous research has observed. But they do signal the presence, the potential presence of ICE, which has, of course, an effect on social relations, because no one wants to be on ICE’s radar. And so, someone wearing an ankle monitoring is almost like calling attention, and calling the attention of ICE and so in any of the fears with people’s relations with others. 


    Women have to adjust their clothing. For instance, some women, attended a church where they had to wear dresses, they had to ask permission to wear pants because they wanted to cover their calves so that they wouldn’t show the EMD. And Indigenous women, and Indigenous men also, seem to be more visible, in some ways to ICE; ICE has targeted them in other contexts. And so that also is something to note. Telephone monitoring: for us, it showed the omnipresence of ICE, not only the presence of state control and surveillance. These are not, they don’t have the physical presence of an ankle monitor. But this is a more internalized presence of ICE and state control of the immigrants’ lives because these are random phone calls from ICE. And you get a, we were actually at the home of a woman who received the phone call; she had to go back. So, we were trying to figure out how she could go back. And it’s a prerecorded voice and asks the person, the woman, to repeat a certain series of numbers. The problem is that, again, some of the women are not fluent in English. But also, even if the recording is in Spanish, it’s very difficult for them to write down all the numbers that they have to repeat back and so it becomes very difficult for them to do this little exercise, just to check that they are still in the country. That’s the idea here. And not answering those phone calls, failing to call back, constitutes an infraction.  

    The problem also in this is probably a problem about a place in geography. In rural Kansas, cell reception is not very good. And most of the Guatemalan immigrants in our study lived in trailer homes. And somehow, the metal of the trailer home made it very difficult for cell reception. So, for instance, we were visiting this woman and she asked us to please sit with her by the window of the trailer home because that’s the only place with better cell reception. And she couldn’t afford to miss a call from ICE so they have to always be available. Because if they get a call from ICE and they don’t answer the phone, it may trigger a visit from ICE that nobody wants. So again, it’s a form of reminding them that they are being controlled, under watch, surveillance control. In face-to-face check ins, from that town it takes about three hours to get to Kansas City. And it takes quite a bit of effort and time to comply with ICE check ins that happen once a month for most people. And I can tell you a little bit more about that, because I think we are, I don’t want to go over too much. What this also means is that people who are placed in these ATDs who leave detention and are still remain tethered to the system and live in limbo. And there are about 1.2 million people who are waiting for an asylum court date. And this backlog keeps on growing because, for multiple reasons. We had one study participant who had been waiting for three years for a court date and he (this was a man) had been wearing the ankle monitor for three years. 


    So, in the case of women, women wait during the time they have to do to check in, to receive phone calls, to do all these things that are required them, they also live, they also work, they have families, but they do so within this very present system of surveillance and control. At the same time that they remain embedded, they remain indebted, too, because now they have to pay the money they borrow for the bond, for instance, or for the ride to go to the ICE check ins once a month. And so, the economic costs, especially for women who tend to have fewer opportunities for regular employment, are quite dire.  

    Just to conclude, some concluding thoughts, this continuum of punishment that we are calling attention to, that occurs in the asylum system, there’s a continuum of punishment that starts with the first interview and follows the women all the way through to their lives in limbo, as they wait for court, for the court cases, for their court appointments. And the web of surveillance, controls, debts, incurred by being placed in an ATD and parallels with women of color experience in the criminal justice system through community corrections. This web of surveillance envelops the women’s family members and coworkers, but it also includes in their mothering work, household dynamics, employment and everyday practices and behaviors. And remaining embedded through surveillance and indebted through fees and money that have to pay exacerbates power imbalances along race and gender lines, because women have fewer economic opportunities to repay and to maintain themselves in this system of surveillance. I will stop here and wait for some questions. Thank you. 


    Adrian Pantoja: Great, let’s go ahead and take down the PowerPoint so that — Well, I want to you know, fascinating presentation. It’s going to take me some time to process everything that you’ve laid out. I was thinking about Michelle Alexander’s work, where she talks about different time periods where individuals are criminalized and the criminalization slavery continues, but it is just repackaged. There’s a new language. There’s a new framework that’s out there, and we don’t quite recognize its oppressiveness until much later when we realize how millions are caught up in the system. There are some celebrations going on right now in terms of the decline in the inmate population. But I see that the new repackaging is these alternatives to detentions. And I’m just stunned at the number of individuals that are caught up, criminalized, and they’ve committed no crime. They’re victimized, yet they’ve  already been labeled as criminal, and through some little misstep, now get caught up in this this web. We’ve seen this repeated in American history.  

    So, I guess my question to you is the new face of criminalization, now these alternatives to detention schemes and are in many ways, these Mayan women are often what others have referred to as the canary in the coal mine, the most vulnerable ones that are signaling to us. This is something that we are caught up in now, and others are going to start getting caught up in this system, these alternatives to detention. What do you see as happening here; is this new? A new framework, a new criminalization that’s taking place? 

    Cecilia Menjívar: I think it is, I think it is a new, an expansion in a different way, in a way that is, that seems more benign, because it is not detention. As my colleague always tells me, prison-like is prison. So, it is alternatives to detention programs. Detention facilities don’t attract the same attention, for instance, as deportations or as other forms that we register as more criminalized. In this case, there’s so — to backtrack a little bit. For instance, we know that deportations declined during the Trump administration, which people want to understand, why that? Detention, and alternatives to detention, increased considerably. Because the more, because the immigration system and the asylum system have been brought closer to the criminal justice system. And so that is one area for the criminal justice system to expand. In the area of immigration, in the area of asylum seekers, where private companies have found it quite profitable to maintain and expand. Those alternatives to detention programs are managed by the same companies, the same two companies that also manage the private detention facilities. And so, there’s quite a bit of economic interest, I don’t want to narrow it and simplify it that way. But at the same time, it’s difficult to ignore the power that that has in this expansion. And the detention facilities in all of that will continue. But we also see this expansion in the, in this seemingly more benign, seemingly softer forms of criminalization, even for asylum seekers. 

    Adrian Pantoja: I’m thinking back in the 1980s where there was this euphemism of low intensity conflict, whether it was high intensity for the people on the ground, you might call it low intensity conflict. (Exactly.) I feel like this is — okay, it’s not deportation, it’s not incarceration, but it’s still a form of violence, is still a form of psychological torment. And so, you’re going to be hearing a lot more of this. 

    Cecilia Menjívar: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. It’s not exactly — the parallel is very apt. It’s not low intensity. It’s not like this intensity conflict for the people who suffer; and the same here, is not more benign, to be placed, yes, of course, they are outside detention facilities. And that makes it more benign and more humane to be placed in an alternative to detention program. But those alternative detention programs have these consequences for people; economic, social, and psychological, too, of course, 

    Adrian Pantoja: Let me ask you a political question because this stood out as something that I want to look into a bit deeper. Obama was once referred to as the “deporter-in-chief” because of the high levels of deportations that occurred under his administration. You seem to suggest, and you signal, that the asylum denial rates have not improved under Biden or have not, you know, the asylum claims and the denial rate, that it seems that under Biden, is more of the same. Is that what you’re telling me, telling the audience? 

    Cecilia Menjívar: Yes. And what we have found, especially when you take a longer historical view of the integration in the asylum system, is that really regardless of the administration in Washington, the criminalization of immigrants has continued to escalate, to amplify into new areas, to envelop more areas of life, more categories of immigrants. And that has happened across the board. Really, it doesn’t really matter who’s in Washington at that time, which political party is in Washington, because it was President Clinton, actually who signed the 1996 law that unleashed the criminalization of immigrants and the detention and what we see today. And so, each administration contributes some, contributes to expand the categories of immigrants who are criminalized, continues to add more crimes to the aggregated felony category, for instance, that envelops more and more people under it. And now, for instance, even giving a check with no funds may be turned into a felony, and having a felony today, it’s a deportable offense, and definitely detention. So, each administration has contributed to amplify that. And of course, President Obama became known for deportation. But that’s not the only thing. He opened detention facilities for families. He claims, he started placing; it was not him, but his administration started placing families in detention. And in really the expansion of alternative to detention, we started to see that under President Obama and it just escalated. So, the architecture really, for what the Trump presidency did, was already in place. It was just expanded and multiplied, but it was already there. 

    Adrian Pantoja: Yeah. We have a minute left, and I’ve got to ask this question. You know, the presentation, it was hard, it seemed distressing. I want to end on an optimistic note. What are some (and I want to end on hope), what are signs of resistance that are happening among the women themselves, clever ways to resist this criminalization or within the community? Have you seen any kind of resiliency or something that they try to evade this to some degree? 

    Cecilia Menjívar: Well, probably not resilience or resistance the way we understand because there’s not much people can do when they must live under surveillance. But it’s not just about the Guatemalan Mayans who are placed under these programs, because it’s all Central Americans. But in the case of Guatemalan Mayans, they have survived for so long, so many assaults in their own countries. So, I think they are prepared to continue to resist in their own way. In state violence that continues in different guises and manifestations. So, I think they will, of course, manage, and then they manage absolutely in their everyday lives. They do whatever they can to get ahead, but still living under surveillance. So yes, I know it’s hard but my other area of research is violence so I cannot escape this. 

    Adrian Pantoja: Well, thank you, Cecilia, for this presentation. I was a young man when I read your book Fragmented Ties. I’m older now, but I’m still learning. I still feel like a student every time I talk to you. There’s so much wisdom, so much information and knowledge. So, thank you for this presentation, and I look forward to continuing this conversation. 

    Cecilia Menjívar: Absolutely. Thank you again, thank you so much to Pitzer for the invitation, and I look forward to continuing, definitely. Take care.