Undocumented

What Makes a Citizen: reflections on identity, bureaucracy and responsibility

I hold two passports, but I have lived for long periods in four countries.  In my first country, the country of my birth, I was young; I contributed nothing to my country.  I was, however, a citizen.  When I moved to country number two, I became a civic organiser, I founded three cultural organisations that …

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Trans Rights and Official Identity

For individuals whose identities fall outside of socially accepted norms, life can be difficult; for those whose identities fall outside of legally recognized identity options, sometimes even more so. The recognition of who we are as individuals is widely viewed as a fundamental human right…at least in the abstract. Most leading international organizations, including the …

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Why Being Forced to Leave Your Home is So Harmful

Descriptions of the harms experienced by refugees very often refer to terrible events that cause them to flee their homes, the horrors they experience while in flight, and the horrors and alienation they experience when they reach places of relative safety. The horror and alienation of the refugee experience is devastating. It’s hard to believe …

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Treatment of North Korean Escapees in China

North Korea remains one of the most secretive countries in the world. While the country is often mentioned in the media for its military capabilities and nuclear threats, the human rights issues and humanitarian challenges faced by the North Korean people receive less attention. The people of North Korea suffer serious human rights violations, including …

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The Dilemma of the Undocumented in India: Thoughts from the National Register of Citizens

In order to distinguish between genuine citizens – those who have documents, and those who lack sufficient documentary proof to demonstrate citizenship – a unique exercise of preparing a National Register of Citizens (NRC) was undertaken in the Indian state of Assam. A fundamental division between individuals whose legal status is secure and those whose …

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Temporarily Out of Service: A Story of Tibetan Refugees

I have three papers. The blue book called RC (Registration Certificate) with my fingerprints, a sepia photo, and other details that say I was born in India and lived all my life in this country. The second one, also issued by the government of India, the Yellow Book – IC (Identity Certificate), is my travel …

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Reconsidering Criminalization: Undocumented Immigration, Racism, and Sanctuary in the United States

In the United States, as in many other countries, the undocumented exist in two simultaneous worlds. In one, they are a part of the social fabric of their communities, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family. In the other, they are perpetual outsiders, marginalized “illegals” who are demonized as criminals, burdens on the economy, and threats to …

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Dead of Summer: Producing Migrant Death at the Borders of Europe and the US

In early June of this year, I visited the local headquarters and workshop of a street vendors union and social justice organization in Barcelona, Spain. Most of the vendors, who are known throughout Spain as “manteros” for the mantas/blankets they use to display the goods they sell, are from sub-Saharan Africa. Street-vending in the informal …

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Undocumented Unraveled

Documents, it seems, are states’ best friends. They can be placed on top of heavy moral issues, burying them effortlessly under their officious weight. Worldwide there are said to be more than 11 million ‘undocumented’ people. In the context of international migration and asylum seeking, being ‘undocumented’ can have devastating consequences for one’s chances to …

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