A friend’s reflection On DAPA: “Pain in our hearts”

I post an email my friend Carlos sent (and requested we share) on the day the U.S. Supreme Court decided to defer justice for over 4 million undocumented immigrants.

I sometimes wish I could just look away from struggle I see north of the border, in the same way our pain post-deportation has been ignored by the movement en el otro lado, on the other side. Not because I lack empathy, but because I feel I should be focusing on addressing a situation in Mexico that is worsening as consequence of a crisis trifecta: (1) failed US immigration and deportation policies, (2) a failed US immigrant movement, and (3) a failed Mexican state. But then, I remind myself that when there is no justice for one person it means there is no justice for all.

Furthermore, our struggles are so intrinsically connected that this situation is a painful reminder for immigrant advocates to look beyond their U.S. bubble, and I was quick to remind them of that in a recent Facebook post:

 

The bottom line: A paradigm shift is required when facing a collective crisis. Carlos, who is a long time immigrant justice organizer, invites you to consider an alternative to harvest, Cosecha(r), a movement. Political negotiation is no longer a viable strategy. It is time to shake the status quo.

Cosecha-MC
“When our political power is not enough, we have to use our economic and labor power” Credit: Movimiento Cosecha – Harvest Movement

 

I am hopeful that this can pave the way for a collective justice fight that can unite our parallel struggles across borders.

 


Hello Friends,

As many of you know today is a day of anger and rage for the undocumented community. The supreme court pretty much stalled our possibilities of legalizing temporarily over 4 million people. Out of those 4 million people, 2 of them were my aunt and uncle that were the first people in my family to come to the US over 20 years ago, they are still undocumented and they would have qualified though my 18 year old us born cousin.

I juts want to share that I’m tired of having dinner with them and telling them that they have to wait longer, that this is another failure for our movement. No more, no más. That is why we are working to really change the political weather for my people in this country and I need your help.

You know what I’m doing, Cosecha, people on the street love hearing about the boycott, the strike, permanent protection for their families and the ability to have dignity and respect through struggle.

Please support us by signing up to our list serve, we are going to be taking a summer of actions(and you have to be engage!) and donate to support a movement not owned by the democratic party but by the people.

But mostly please take tonight to think about those families, have them on your heart with us, pray for them and wish the movement luck, we certainly need it.

Carlos

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FWD.us: You don’t need hypothetical deportees when there are over 2 million real ones

Do I really exist?

This happens to be the existential question I ask about myself when I read about the type of U.S. campaigns launched in favor of immigration reform, because they completely disregard my existence.

As I was weaving through the headlines in Mexican and U.S. publications of what appeared to be a Pope Francis vs Trump fight over the pope’s comment of the unchristian-like campaign of the leading Republican candidate, I stumbled upon the following NBCNews article that began its headline with ‘You Deported Me’. I immediately thought, “wow, FINALLY!” we start hearing about the stories of deportation in the immigration debate in mainstream media, and coming directly from deportees.

But my excitement was short lived when I read the rest of the headline “… Campaign Highlights Undocumented Asians” which reinforced what I know about the immigration advocacy efforts in the U.S. We don’t exist for them – but this is a new low. Now they resort to talking about hypothetical deportees because they lack perspectives of real ones.

FW-campaignYou-deported-me

 

To give them some credit, as you read the rest of the article and learn about the FWD.us pro-immigration campaign, you understand that the underlying message is about what it means for undocumented immigrants to live under fear of the threat of deportation. Yes, it is a real one and I definitely understand it, I lived under that fear for 20 years.

However, there is an astronomical difference between living under the fear of deportation and actually going through one. To speak of these two as if they were the same and at the same time fail to include the voices of the deported, it shows a disregard for the over 2 million people and their families that have been affected by the deportation policies under the Obama administration.

Please stop talking about hypothetical deportees and get closer to real life deportees.

America: The Land of the Free?

After what has been considered a historic moment in immigrant rights’ history, many in this movement are forced to deal with this question: “Do you support the Immigration Bill approved by the Senate?” I dare to say I am not the only one at odds with the long-awaited reform proposal. On the one hand, it opens the door to a pathway for legalization. On the other hand, its strong focus on security is a result of a misguided public debate on immigration.

There is an underclass of people currently living on the margins of society. Circumstance has pushed millions to immigrate to a country that has refused to recognize them as human beings with full rights while informally welcoming their labor and benefiting from it. A country that for decades has turned a blind eye to an undocumented status when it serves its best interest but when asked for equal treatment and fairness of a community that has been in the shadows, it has only responded by criminalizing it. It is a place where the most basic activities such as driving, attending school, and going to work have become inaccessible at best or a trigger for detention and expulsion in its harshest form.

Without reflection, in a near automatic fashion, opponents of immigration reform would respond, “It is a country of laws and they should be enforced” as a way to justify the treatment of its undocumented residents. Separating families and destroying lives that have been built for decades through deportation seem a fair punishment for such a “crime” of unlawful presence in this paradigm. If these laws we are so eager to uphold are criminalizing the most basic and essential aspects of the daily lives for over 11 million people, then isn’t it time to question whether they are working?

Under this bill, the DREAMers (undocumented youth) is the only group that sees an immediate path to permanent residency by meeting certain age and educational requirements. Perhaps the group that has received the most sympathy in this debate, as they never made a choice in living a life without legal status. Nevertheless, they along with their families have been facing the fear of loosing everything. It is such predicament that has led this vulnerable group in a position where they feel they can’t demand for fair treatment and to accept out of necessity, a flawed reform proposal known as Senate Bill 744.

Unfortunately, the parents and relatives of these DREAMers might never be able to adjust their status in a permanent manner due to the imposition of unattainable border metrics as a prerequisite in addition to strict requirements to maintain a temporary status. Family separation would continue with this Senate bill. Nonetheless, these same immigrants at risk of losing their temporary status at any moment, would still be required to pay income taxes and contribute to the American economy without receiving any public benefits like basic healthcare only available to permanent residents. This seems like one-sided deal and far from what the immigrant community has been fighting for decades.

View of the U.S. from Tijuana/San Ysidro Border
View of the U.S. from Tijuana/San Ysidro Border

On top of that of that, we have the southern border, the Berlin Wall of North America that will receive $40 billion for its militarization; A profitable enterprise for private prisons. Taxpayers will only see their public dollars go to waste in a fence that will witness an exacerbated humanitarian crisis that migrants currently face along the border region.

A security driven immigration proposal demonstrates that the public debate has been derailed by xenophobia rather than an understanding of the migration phenomenon. The criticism should also extent outside the U.S. It is irresponsible for emigrating countries such as Mexico to remain on the sidelines and watch the development of immigration policies that have distorted a human rights issue into a political negotiation gimmick. Migration is not only the concern of the host country as it should involve international dialogue, collaboration, and agreement. We do it for trade. Aren’t human beings as important?

It would be a shame that what immigration advocates refer to “comprehensive reform” would result in disappointment. Unfortunately, for an undocumented immigrant, such disappointment would be very costly as it might come in the form of a deportation. Can American do better? Only if the immigrant community demands it. The DREAMers and their movement have shown us it can be done.