Deportation Porn

Okay so last Wednesday Canadian Border Security Agents (CBSA) raided construction sites in Vancouver for illegal migrants. They interrogated and handcuffed migrants and undocumented workers, and removed them in black unmarked SUVs (don’t even get me started on what black unmarked SUVs might feel like for refugees and other traumatized people from home countries with organized crime). Now some are facing deportation.

The unusual feature of this raid was that the CBSA was accompanied by TV cameras for a Canadian show called “Border Security” that airs on the National Geographic Channel. Some of the undocumented migrants signed the release forms, but in a context where many did not speak much English and were experiencing a terrifying event. If I’m ever being deported, nobody get me to sign anything.

Dianna Thomson (no relation) – the Canadian spouse of a man facing deportation to Honduras – and others affected have started a campaign demanding that the National Geographic Channel cancel the show “Border Security” immediately. Their point is that this show is exploitative and humiliates vulnerable people for entertainment. You can sign their petition here.

I agree – but the topic weighed on me heavier than that. It’s not just that this group of undocumented workers are exposed on Canadian television. It’s that we are given another uncomfortably familiar image of migrant Other bodies as fearful bodies that should be policed and controlled. Reality television is all about fear and security. Safely removed and mediated by screens, we can watch people different from ourselves become a site of fear, we can feel reassured that “we” are not like “those” people. And we can forget that the difference between “us” and “them” is only sustained by recent histories, colonialisms and erasures.

My father was an illegal immigrant. In New Zealand, during the 1970s Pacific people faced a period know as the Dawn Raids, which is marked on our cultural consciousness, and informs the work of every New Zealand Pacific writer, artist and scholar I know.

So one generation out from being “illegal” I find it both abhorrent and predictable that migrant bodies can become a site of spectacle and fear-mongering at thin neoliberal times, when all of us are facing the need to travel across multiple borders.

It’s even more discomforting for me because while I geek out about National Geographic documentaries about the natural world, it kind of brings forward the lingering ghost of the ethnographic gaze on non-white bodies. The way people from the Pacific, Africa and Asia were represented back to the white folk. No doubt so that they could feel the thrill of fearful bodies, much like ‘Border Security’ intends for it’s Canadian viewers.

Let’s stop Deportation Porn.

Advertisements

One thought on “Deportation Porn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s