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2017 Conference - Coerced Protection
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By contrast with normal asylum procedures, litigation over the status and welfare of immigrant children reverses the sometimes routinized suspicion with which asylum applicants are often greeted by bureaucracies, instead superimposing the rights of children over or aligning them directly with the obligations of the law. The result is often a contradiction: an asylum seeker wants entry to a nation state and certain rights internal to it, whereas the bureaucracy presupposes that the asylum seeker deserves no such benefits. A minor child sometimes wants to be free of the „benefits“ of normalized and sometimes coercive legal status inside a state, whereas the bureaucracy insists on conferring them via what I call coerced protection. This at least is the situation I have seen repeatedly in my sporadic interpreting work with speakers of Tzotzil, an indigenous Mayan language from Chiapas, Mexico. I will outline several disparate such cases with slightly different legal and genealogical configurations involving minors from indigenous families detained inside the United States, to concentrate on the special conceptual, ethical, and practical difficulties involved in trying to convey parental and children’s „rights“ in these trying and emotionally exhausting circumstances. I will also describe obstacles to explaining the situation of affected children to relatives back „home“ in Chiapas. My conclusions relate not only to ideologies of language and communication in such proceedings, but also to sometimes covert theories of race, person, and childhood.
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