(un)documentation & (dis)identification

Where and for whom is the undocumented immigrant*?

*Here I mostly speak of myself (even if I use plural indicators) and this is not intended to generalize to every other experience, although if it does, great!

Where?

To discuss where I am, I want to situate myself as both within and between boundaries of social identity and geographic space.

One of the clearest truths I felt growing up was that documentation (i.e., a green card or citizenship) was a very salient and crucial form of recognition. Legitimized as a human member of society not just in the eyes of the law, but socially too. Lacking documentation has acted as the removal (or better yet, withholding) of recognition, forcing a state of disidentification where one must manage (and in doing so, co-opt) invisibility while living outside of the boundaries of legitimacy. This state is felt as a loss, as a long-term disorientation where identity is ungrounded and shifting and illegible within current modes of racio-ethnic-national understandings. The only constant is social illegibility, but even this itself is changing through the national construction and proliferation of deservingness and merit (e.g., DREAMers and DACA) that draws a tangible benchmark for receiving a piece of humanity and the societal rewards that follow.

However, in that space between legality, merit, and recognition, there is freedom to re-orient the boundaries of recognition. Current strategies in the fight for immigrants accept these benchmarks by fighting for indiscriminate assimilation. They contort and bend and fold themselves to embody the model minority, to live a recognizable life. But what good is a recognizable life if it requires you to cover up the people behind you? We must take advantage of this unstable state of disidentification to make a nonDREAMer life livable, to pry open eyes and national discourses to the value of the unseen. We must shake off any doubts we have when we say that we value the life of the “criminal“, that we value the life of those who invisibly survive and thrive in the U.S. in ways that aren’t considered excellence, that we value the life of the deported and the future undocumented.

And as we negotiate identity through discourse, undocumented identity is also geographically ungrounded and seems to be nowhere and everywhere at once. I’m not in Mexico, but I am. I’m am in the United States, but I’m not. I may step on the same physical ground as you, yet I wade through alternate social matrices that place me everywhere and nowhere. I believe some line of research has deemed this third culture, but if I don’t belong to the first two, how can this be my third?

For Whom?

If intersectionality refers to the invisibility and vulnerability of living within the overlaps of oppressive structures, then (un)documentation is a battleground where legality, nationalism, racism, sexism, queerantagonism all collide to produce highly invisible yet malleable targets. This malleability is a product of a group that by design is not meant to be publicly heard or seen. This means we’re mainly constructed by media think pieces on legality (towards whichever image is useful at the time) and by the few times our stories get told on a wider scale. Yet why is this invisibility by design? What is the function of having a physically recognizable yet socially unrecognizable body of people?

The answer I’d like to emphasize is that we form the basis of identity for the documented. We solidify others’ identities by being The Other. If they can point to what they are not, they can recognize each other as worthy of societal participation. You can see this by the many existing technologies for enforcing otherness. It happens legally through I.C.E raids, deportation, criminalization, and the impossible bureaucracy of formal citizenship. It happens psychologically through aggressive stereotypes and mistreatment and by stripping our ability to fully ground ourselves to previous and current cultural frameworks and geography. It happens politically through disenfranchisement – the literal instantiation of silence – and economic depravation. And while we exist for others, we don’t get to exist for ourselves. We cleave away at our being, cutting and cutting until we’re recognized by everyone but ourselves.

So…

Where is the undocumented immigrant?
Mangled through the glorifying lens of merit AND rendered invisible through violent acts of forced miscrecognition.

For whom is the undocumented immigrant?
For those who seize recognition.

whiteness in statistics

I’ll set the context so people see where I’m coming from. I’m an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, have lived here in the U.S. for 21 years, and my family learned english as a second language. You can say I understand the immigrant/foreign experience intimately. This morning I scrolled through Facebook and came across a question on a statistics forum I follow Psychological Methods Discussion Group. You can read the transaction here (I scrubbed the Middle Eastern woman’s name but kept the repliers’ names for accountability).

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There’s lots to deconstruct here.

Here we have a Middle Eastern woman who asked for help about a vague problem in a group whose title invites these sort of questions. Could her question have been more wordy, sure. Is it often that people who are non native english speakers ask questions that can’t directly lead to an answer? Sure. But that’s not the issue at hand. Daniel Lakens and colleagues (Robin Kok, Jazi Zilber, etc; all white presenting, many northern European) took it upon themselves to be the arbiters of the English language and deride this woman’s approach to finding resources. (Jazi Zilber is particularly troublesome given his self-pronounced experience with non native speakers).

When I read through their disgusting mocking of the lack of english proficiency, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Not only is it racist to assume that a person of color is lacking proficiency in language (as insinuated by their comments on her punctuation not being used in any language), but the accusation of a mental disorder for a simple question is gross. Yes, I was very aggressive -but think about the context: I’m a graduate student publicly fighting established researchers on their racism + I grew up in poor neighborhoods where physical violence and pointed call outs was the way to handle these problems + it’s sickening to see individuals disrespected. I follow Daniel Lakens and that group because I think they make great points about statistics in psychology. But here is some more context: this particular group has already been embroiled in the big fight about tone policing, with its members being particularly sharp about their academic critiques of others’ work. Generally, I agree with their main points about being vocal of unsound science, but this thread has fallen into an unacceptable domain. See, groups like this are full of psychologists and statisticians, who are “liberal”, and mainly (from what I see – and I read most posts) white. This means there usually aren’t checks and balances to keep their ignorant racial insensitivity in check. If there are people of color, they are far and few in between and clearly unwelcome unless they abide by white academic’s classist and racist rules of engagement. Not everyone in a non-english-dominant country can afford or has access to english education. And even when they do, it doesn’t mean they can hold it above others. Let’s take a look at the english of the man who cast his stone about english proficiency, here a video of one of his talks.

So to recap, we have a white northern european, with that english proficiency, and his fellow bullies jeering a middle eastern nonnative speaker’s english. I learned english as a child, so I grew up highly proficient, but it infuriates me to imagine my mom or my younger self coming into a room titled “HELPFUL DISCUSSIONS” asking a question only to be mocked for a) coming to ask for help and b) how we asked for it. If they didn’t know what she was asking or if they knew of a better forum, they could have asked in a non condescending manner or pointed her in a better direction. Instead, they took it upon themselves to completely ostracize the woman and subjugate her to shitty unnecessary comments. They clearly lack the humility it takes to provide help to those who most need it, I would hate to see him teach minorities. Uli was right, you can ignore the question or patiently engage. Don’t be an ass and try to masquerade it as benevolence.

For those who asked for evidence of how an instance like this could be racist, please read the following paper of the year in the scientific journal Language by Sharese King that delineates how racism manifested in the judgments of a witness’ testimony in the Trayvon Martin case who spoke in African American Vernacular English.

Here is an excerpt:
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I also highly recommend the ending of that paper delineating steps for how to fight linguistic racism (in the courtroom), stay woke. In addition, there is emerging field of raciolinguistics.

Here is an excerpt from the blog post “Why we need raciolinguistics“:

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The other aspect of this is something I have wanted to write about for a long time. The tone policing and suppression of minority voices. There’s been plenty of times on these forums that I have seen sexist (a man sarcastically dumbing down his remarks to a female professor as if she didn’t understand, it was clear he was wrong), transphobic (a man repeatedly enforcing gender binaries when transgender individuals were also relevant to the topic), and racist comments that go unchecked (like above). Or if they are checked, they are fought back against. Whether these instances are due to explicit prejudicial mindsets is unknown, but what is clear (to me) is often people don’t understand (or care to understand) how what they are saying is oppressive (which further necessitates for them to shut up and listen to critique).

Here are the replies I received:

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Now we have a white northern european telling an undocumented Mexican in the United States what counts as racism. So I guess his motto is he can criticize others on their academic work, but he’s immune to critiques on his smug elitism, racism, and classism online. I knew when I commented I was jumping into their bro-den (they usually stick up for each other there), so I was ready for the backlash. However, what I received was far more unsettling. Daniel Laken’s threat to my academic future for calling out a problem he’s propagating is 100% unacceptable. Personally, I’ve fought so many damn obstacles to get to where I am, I don’t have a narrow minded view of success – if a post like this where I expose racism in my field limits my future jobs, then those are places I wouldn’t want to work at. What is the point of a forum or of all these surveys regarding the diversity within the field if not to bring up these issues? How is a graduate student supposed to address what they see as an injustice from established researchers? When it’s not about the research itself, but rather their toxic character, should a student stay silent? Should targeted established individuals be threatening students into silence? I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to find out.

As a psychologist, this type of public interaction is an embarrassment to the field that studies human minds and needs to be addressed. Is this the reputation we want? Stuck up elitist white psychologists/statisticians who would rather spend time making fun of a help seeker than being mindful and patient or at the very least just not engaging?

To conclude, can someone with clinical developmental psychology experience help this woman? It may not be fruitful, but at this point she’s owed this much. (Update: she has been helped and apologized to)

Also, and this is actually the main point: fellow scientists, do better.

Joel Martinez

For a look at how whiteness defends itself (disguised as scientific inquiry) when a person of color speaks out, take a look at many of the responses in the following thread: https://www.facebook.com/groups/psychmap/361454210898174/

Makes you wonder about the state of this field. Some loud people on that thread (actual practicing psychology researchers) lack basic knowledge of racism, whiteness as a structure and mentality, and minority experience. They lack self awareness to take a step back and see what they’re defending. They were happy to disregard accountability for their friend. They flaunted complicity by pretending there was no issue, that we minorities just need to toughen up. They felt entitled to belittle/discredit/attempt to mechanically quantify the perceptions of racism of a minority. They transferred blame to me as the aggravator for calling out an injustice with a quickness. They gladly fought over whether it was racism or classism as a theoretical issue or whether I was calling him racist rather than focusing on the real experience that occurred. One of my favorite replies accused sensitive academics like me of inciting right wing populism across the world.

These are the tactics used by whiteness to maintain superiority and gas light minorities into submission. (With regards to charges of sexism, there is definitely something to be said about the lack of inclusivity in my approach and it’s something I learned from this situation and will correct in the future. Still doesn’t negate any of the points I have made here).

I limited my engagement in the debate because I had no idea where to even begin, there was so much ignorance of the critical conversations we have in the U.S. regarding race relations, the large and small forms of racism, and the improvement of minority treatment – no easy place to start. The moderators tried to keep it middle of the road, a “sanitized” look at the situation, but people got nasty defensive. Some responders prioritized their “objective” need for evidence over the fact that as minorities, we perceive microaggressions differently (otherwise their legitimacy wouldn’t be questioned). This ends up becoming a colorblind analysis, which may explain why they can see a bunch of white people make fun of a POC’s English and not register it as racism. This also places their lack of experience with racism as the benchmark and minority experiences needing “evidence” of racism to be taken seriously (ironically, the kind of evidence that one builds through personal experience with racism). What an eye opening insight into the nonprogressive mindset of some fellow psychologists. For social psychologists (the field that discovered implicit prejudice), I’m surprised that how they spoke about racism sounded like they expected it to only look like a confederate flag wearing white guy yelling the n word. I clearly struck a chord, and I have a feeling this won’t be the last discussion about this topic given their lack of understanding. There’s a LONG way to go.

One final point, many people supported my post through likes but generally stayed silent (though big thank you to the ones that did jump in). I received private messages of support for bringing this topic to light and if you look at where the support of most people of color lay, it was in likes for this post. Interestingly, they could easily see the racism that the people mentioned above couldn’t. That’s what mattered to me, that it resonated with them. However, to my fellow researchers of color and allies, you need to find confidence in your voice and fight for each other. Social norms matter, and currently they suck bc they allow situations like this, but we can change that. We shouldn’t let people tell us what constitutes racism when they’ve never been on the receiving end of it and we will not be told that our perceptions of racism are imaginary. We finally have a voice and this is the growing pains of battling for visibility.

DO BETTER AND STAND TOGETHER.

social mindfulness

Peer-Reviewed Research + Books

My goal here is to aggregate academic resources on social justice. It will be a one page source for scholarly perspectives on social justice. Keep in mind this page is under construction, when I have more time I will fill it with content. Also, it has a focus on issues that I have had immediate experience with or a need to learn, but it will be expanded to include other topics.

The following are links to pages that have already aggregated important publications in list form.

Below I will list individual papers/books and summarize the take away message. I’ll try to find open links to them.



Racial Discrimination

History


Forms & Norms

Frameworks

Colorblindness & implicit

Language

Colorism

Incarceration & cop interactions

Politics, Housing, & Income

Academia

Racialization


Privilege


Costs & Consequences


Perception


Conflict Management



Queer Issues

Identity


Racism


PrEP


HIV


Social Action


Nature/Nurture



International Considerations

Immigration


Immigrant Health


Immigrant Crime


Immigrant Education


Field Research



Economic Class

Authority


Rank


Poverty


Inequity


Consequences



Ableism


Other Sources

Here I will aggregate different sources like blogs or fiction that I have found insightful on the same issues above. Given that these are more author-driven pieces, doesn’t mean I agree 100% with everything they write, but rather, they are on this list because they provide insights that help conceptualize an issue.

Race/Ethnicity & Discrimination

History


Forms and Norms


Identity


Privilege


Perception


Conflict Management


Measures



Queer Issues

Identity


Racism


Medical


Activism



International Considerations

Immigration


Identity


Policy



Economic Class

 

Critical Theory

statistics+

On this page, I will aggregate issues related to statistics proper.  For a developed resource page on mixed regression models, go here. This page will cover facts about other statistics – effect sizes, bayesian analyses, homo/heteroskedasticity, etc. Given the need to run high powered studies to output worthwhile science, I will also be collecting links and papers here regarding: how to run power analyses, the concepts behind them, simulations, and general information about them along with issues of replication and reproducibility of analyses.This page is currently under construction.

Error management

  • Family-wise error rate: Link

T Test

Degrees of Freedom

Testing Variance homo/heterogeneity

Effect sizes

NHST

Moderation/Mediation

Confidence Intervals

Likelihood statistics

Multivariate methods

Correlations

Bayesian

Power

Reproducibility

  • The following site is a tutorial for how to structure your analysis stream to make it more reproducible. Link

Measurement

Replication

P Hacking/QRPs

Machine Learning

  • Machine learning in neuroscience: Link

Signal Detection Theory

PCA & EFA

SEM

hidden minority

I participated in a campaign for the Princeton Hidden Minority Council aimed at raising awareness for what it means to be a first-generation or underprivileged minority going to Princeton. I think it’s important to be exposed to our perspective and the typically unspoken problems we face here in this privilege bubble. Here is my submission:

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You should check out the website http://www.princeton.edu/~phmc/

You should also check out the album and the other submissions (link). I think they raise important points regarding family, identity, achievement, struggle.

J

undocumented and capitalistic?

I have to return to this topic because it keeps coming up: how should/would/could oppressed individuals in the U.S., who need to partake in the economy and system to get ahead, navigate this identity? How should/would/could we participate in the oppressive system we belong in without propagating it? Are we “capitalistic” if we choose to do so?

When you’re an undocumented individual in the U.S., you are given a fabulous selection of three possible life trajectories: stay under the radar, work the system and see how far you can get, or get deported back to a country you either ran away from or never truly lived in (note: the second one comes with a high risk of the third). Given the large risk that comes with public visibility, our experiences tend to be hidden from public discourse. As such, we haven’t had an honest conversation for what it means for an undocumented individual and engage the public on social issues in the U.S.

Here, I raise a couple of starting points that I think are worthy of discussion:

  1. Survival strategies should not be confused with supporting oppressive systems
  2. It takes privilege to be able to fight for social justice in the U.S.


Survival strategies should not be confused with supporting oppressive systems

Given the glamorous opportunities of silence or deportation we have available to us, it is not surprising most of us stay in the shadows. I know an extended network of people back home that are undocumented, but have adapted to living under the table. It’s a life, but an invisible life, whose beauty and struggle gets lost in the mix that is U.S. political discourse. While Black Lives Matter have the opportunity to forcefully fight for their rights because many of them are citizens, our situation calls for more subversive engagement given the risk of deportation and losing the life we have here. With the recent momentum of DACA and the Dream Act, more and more of us have found the courage to proudly and loudly proclaim our spot in society. And now we even get to witness beautiful moments where Spanish-only speakers are able to publicly engage with presidential candidates about our plight. However, change occurs slowly and many of us still have much to lose. Especially given the fragile status of current DACA recipients, since the program can be yanked at any minute leaving us free-falling from all we have accomplished in the past 4 years since DACA began. As such, some of us who aspire to change the system decide to play the game and work the system (see my first post for this discussion). I call this survival. We survive by blending in when needed. We survive by resiliently moving past the endless obstacles the U.S. immigration laws set before us. We survive by subversive assimilation. This is a strategy brought born out of limited freedom and limited power. Yes, we engage in the capitalistic environment in which we live in, but only because we need a better future for ourselves and our families. We believe that the more of us who reach places of power, the better we can build an inclusive future. Some won’t agree with this strategy and consider us capitalist/part of the problem because we are still participating in an oppressive system, but that brings me to my second point:

It takes privilege to be able to fight for social justice in the U.S.
Nothing angers me more than people with legal status in the U.S. thinking they have input on how we run our lives, on whether we should participate in a capitalist system, on how we support our own people. Do they have to worry about their family or themselves being arrested and deported if they engage in visible protests? No. Have they felt the struggles of growing up undocumented and navigating a space where following their ambitions could lead to drastic life costs? No. It takes privilege. They have the ability to engage in far wider forms of social justice (loud, forceful/aggressive, international) because they don’t have the daily worry that they will be ejected from their current, and often only, home. It’s ironic. It’s intersectionality. Oppressed citizens have more privilege to lawfully fight for justice than undocumented people. I’m not saying it can’t be done. There are very brave individuals fighting for the Dream Act and undocumented rights and putting their lives directly on the line. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that working the system can be just as subversive. Working the system is the dangerously underprivileged individual’s safe route to joining the fight. This daily struggle to become safely visible does narrow our focus towards ourselves and our families and our communities within the borders of the U.S. Like I said before: attention and money are limited resources, which forces one to prioritize (especially the underprivileged with less money and more basic needs to attend to). Those who have resources (such as citizenship privilege or wealth) have a better foundation for rejecting current social structures and and breaking the status quo because they are less dependent on the system. Moreover, the U.S. system affords them the legal freedom to do so (the Bill of Rights)… some protections which technically include undocumented individuals, however deportation trumps all. Our lack of status leaves us dehumanized and disenfranchised, socially and politically, and easily relocated like garbage. Despite our active participation in the interconnected economy of the U.S., we remain slaves to the political whim of those who hold the golden ticket of citizenship.

Returning to the first point, to shame an undocumented individual for neglecting the broader effects of “capitalistic or imperialistic” thinking and living is to shame them for not having enough resources, for depending on the system, AND neglects to put the onus on those with actual power and investment in social stratification. It’s like pointing fingers at the bottom of the hierarchy and ignoring the weight of the full structure.  Ultimately, however, we don’t have to follow specific rules or ideologies to be a progressive, caring, productive minority.

Social discourse has failed to include undocumented voices and this lack of visibility has emboldened people to feel that they can take a superficial glance at our thoughts and behaviors and judge. That’s how stereotyping works: your categorization of individuals is a function of familiarity. However, I hope through these posts that the pressures and goals and costs and decisions that we (I) face as undocumented individuals will start to clarify our unique issues as excluded minorities in this country.

Note: I’m slowly building my thoughts about my identity here in the U.S. and welcome disagreement or other points of views. I readily accept that my experience is not prototypical, but I do speak out forcefully (and less nuanced) to provide a strong message of representation for undocumented individuals.

the double-edged sword of minority success

I find solidarity in Beyonce’s message in Formation. Not just the pride in our Texan roots \m/, but her call to “stay gracious” since “best revenge is your paper”. There has been a lot of backlash, most interesting was the wariness from people who feel Beyonce only represents capitalism. Inherent in these opinions is a stigmatization of minority success and lifestyle that demands certain requirements for it to be palatable. In other words, people have normative ideas about how a minority should behave when they reach high status positions, otherwise they’re evaluated negatively. There is a sense that they must always be supporting their community 100% of the time and not be focused on their own success. However, I argue, this overlooks and minimizes the work and strategic decision making it took to reach that success and influence.

I’ll shift focus from Beyoncé to minorities who are in positions of being on the come up from unprivileged origins as I have encountered criticism of normal everyday minorities who reached success but haven’t graciously given back to the community from which they came. Typically the name given to these individuals is “sell outs”, which suggests that they are considered out-group members instead of representing an advancement of their group.

I will reason through this with my own experience since this strikes home: I come from very poor background, lots of stuff happened in between, and now I find myself with an impossible opportunity that only occurs in feel-good movies, as a student at an Ivy League institution. I’ll be honest, my CV won’t be filled with many (if any) lines showing that I have returned the opportunity to others from my Mexican Houston community (a point I will return to).  The beginning of my timeline is fundamental as I had a longer route to pass to reach my current position (relative to others), however just as important was the stuff in between. I was a motivated undocumented Mexican boy with assimilationist dreams, I wanted to drive and have a job and everything that was only available to my American peers. My journey was a passioned fight filled with countless decisions and actions that required me to think about myself and focus on my advancement. Individuals who lack the struggle many minorities face don’t have a clue about the day to day experience of forging your path. Even now, while at Princeton, my undocumented status threatens to destroy everything I have built every two years when my DACA work permit needs renewal (a looming fear in case the next president is republican).

Given that attention and money are both limited resources, there is surely a resource competition between becoming successful and giving back to the community. I chose to advance myself first. Doesn’t mean my community isn’t on my mind, however. It’s about setting myself up so that I’m in a better position to provide help in a larger scope. Much like Beyoncé did. She has set herself up on one of the highest positions in this culture to be able to drop Formation like a bomb on an international scale and continue to be successful and provide aid to her community. The critique that I, or other minorities, are not giving back (whether now or in the future) only serves to shame our sweat-filled path. As one of my favorite commentators on race issues, Kat Blaque, said:

“We can always talk about people who do that. People who don’t speak [out about issues]. To me it’s survival. I think for the longest time I had this idea that I would play the game and then break it up from the inside. But where I am now, I have established myself as someone with certain positions and ideologies. People can take it or leave it.” [Link]

Am I a “sell out” if I play the game while I pull myself out of my oppressed situation? No one would know what my intentions were once I reached a successful platform unless they asked. Same with others, we don’t know what they have planned and, nonetheless, representation in successful positions matters. Most importantly, everyone with similar experiences will choose a different strategy for advancing themselves and their community. Some will play the game, others seek to destroy it. None of these strategies are wrong, they are survival. When it comes to my priorities and values, there is too much to gain (for myself and others) and too much to lose to not engage (and staying conscious while doing so). I, and hopefully others in my position, will continue to “stay gracious” because I also believe the best revenge against a society/judicial system that actively works against your life and success is your success (however you choose to define it).