Recently in Migrant Youth Category

I'm here in the land of eternal spring, Guatemala, thankful for the privilege that gives me the means and the ability to cross borders to be home with my family, this holiday season. My gift, this year, to those reading this, is one of my favorite Christmas songs--The Kinks' "Father Christmas"--The punk rock they helped inspire clearly shining through.

There's a lot to reflect on, this year.
I'm writing now to provide my assessment of the government's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process (DACA) as it unfolds.  Back in June, I wrote about my doubts about DACA based on the Obama administration's record of empty promises to the immigrant community.  While we still don't know for sure how this program is going to play out--no one has a work permit in their hand yet--developments since June 15 have been encouraging.  

Don't read this post if you are looking for detailed guidance on how to apply for DACA.  The most comprehensive guidance is on the (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) website:
  • FAQ
  • Form I-821D, with related forms and instructions  
    (if the links are dead, do an internet search for "Form I-821D" or "deferred action for childhood arrivals USCIS").

If you have specific questions about the application process, read the FAQ or consult with an immigration attorney.  If you have ever been arrested or had any contact with the criminal justice or immigration systems (including being stopped at the border, even if you were a child), consult with an attorney.  The government will likely end up deporting some applicants who have criminal convictions that disqualify them for DACA.

On August 3, USCIS issued additional guidance about the process, which they clarified again over the past week in the FAQ.  Here are some highlights:

jess-and-tania.jpgThe Obama administration has criticized the GOP's "attrition through enforcement" immigration policy framework while adopting it in practice. Undocumented activists have reduced their reliance on politicians and the advocacy community by strategically creating a quasi-legal status for people who publicly identify themselves as undocumented.

Attrition Through Enforcement

Immigration restrictionists have promoted an "attrition through enforcement" policy as a purportedly more humane alternative to mass incarceration and deportation. Instead of identifying, arresting, imprisoning, and deporting every undocumented immigrant in the U.S., the objective of attrition through enforcement is to make life in the U.S. so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they leave on their own. An aggressive campaign to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants estimated to live in the U.S. would be logistically and fiscally unworkable and would necessitate massive human rights violations.

Imagine armies of tens of thousands of immigration enforcement agents scouring the country for people unable to produce papers, internment camps set up to house millions of immigrants awaiting deportation, and millions of U.S. citizen children left parentless overnight. This would be the administration's current enforcement policy implemented on a much larger scale, causing severe economic and social disruption that would extend far beyond the immigrant community.

Restrictionists understand that the domestic and international public backlash from such a campaign would undermine their long-term goal of reducing overall immigration to the U.S. Restrictionists know it is impossible to fully enforce the laws they wrote and shepherded through Congress. Attrition through enforcement aims instead to drive out immigrants by creating a climate of fear and by steadily eroding basic rights. The concept is as pragmatic as it is reprehensible.

Led by the newly formed National Immigrant Youth Alliance, undocumented youth have continued to step up their efforts at civil disobedience. I haven't been as directly involved as I would have liked but even from afar it's clear that it hasn't been easy. Still I can't help but feel that the recent civil disobedience in Charlotte, North Carolina, just took a different turn. Read Domenic Powell's post of the NC DREAM Team over at

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was forceful, frequently pushing people, including non-participants and reporters. They also arrested Mohammad Abdollahi, Isabel Castillo and Viridiana Martinez, undocumented activists from Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina, respectively. Along with them, the police also arrested two paramedics. Other activists were picked off from the crowd for unknown reasons.
Domenic Powell - (6 September 2011)
Again, I can't say that I've followed or been present at every migrant youth civil disobedience but it's been my general impression that police are usually more deferential to migrant youth than was the case yesterday, in Charlotte, when it appears that they arrested people indiscriminately. This civil disobedience, of course, took place on the same day that the Democratic National Convention was announced to be a year away by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, and other local officials from Charlotte.

I'll leave you with Domenic Powell who speaks the truth with an unfettered tongue:
After signing the petition, I got this email from pro-migrant Mass. State Rep. Tim Toomey (D-Cambridge):

Dear Kyle,

Thank you for contacting me in support of the in-state tuition bill. I have been a long-time supporter of this bill and I am proud to be a committed supporter of equal access to higher education for all.
Mala at Vivir Latino has the news. If you haven't signed the petition for the California DREAM Act, yet, please do so. California Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign it, according to Leslie Berestein Rojas of Southern California Public Radio's Multi-American blog, but after Gov. Brown vetoed the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act it's hard for me to say that I expect him to do anything for the pro-migrant voters that got him elected.

CA7.jpgIn my inbox today from after another undocumented youth civil disobedience action led by DreamIsComing took place in San Bernadino yesterday:

Hi David

'You are lucky, you must be a citizen. . . aren't you?' the police officer at the jail asked Martha Vazquez, 22, just as she left an interview with ICE. Martha was one of the youth arrested hours earlier at the campus of San Bernardino Valley College.

The catch is that Martha is undocumented, in fact hours before she was at a protest publicly declaring her legal status. Everyone knew she was undocumented. The police and even ICE knew she was undocumented, but they all made a conscious decision not to turn her or any of the youth arrested over to ICE authorities.

The reason for this is simple, ICE authorities are scared of DREAM-eligible youth. If you are public, if you share your story and you are out then ICE is afraid of you. They are afraid to detain you knowing the backlash it would create in the community. They are afraid to come after you because they know we can effectively fight against our deportations and stop them.

This is the reason why we urge all undocumented youth to get active, the more active you are the safer you are. While in jail the youth met many other undocumented immigrants who were not as privileged as them, people who are still in jail and will most likely be detained by ICE.

ICE has power over our communities because they know we are afraid of them. Think for a moment, what would your community look like if the undocumented immigrants there were no longer afraid of being detained by ICE? If they no longer had that fear and could come out of the shadows everyday. Think about it.

We will continue to organize until we reach that point. We hope you will join us.

All of the work we do is completely volunteer run, unlike some organizations we are not funded by any foundations or corporations. If you enjoy or support the work we do please consider making a donation.

Thank you for your support,

Mohammad Abdollahi
co-founder of

The 2011 Citizens Medal will recognize U.S. citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service outside of their regular jobs, including individuals who meet the criteria listed at the bottom of this post. Nominations must be received by Monday, May 30, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

I nominated Mohammad Abdollahi, co-founder of and DreamIsComing and undocumented activist. Here is the application I submitted tonight:

Explain why your nominee should receive the Citizens Medal based on the criteria outlined here:

Mo has a demonstrated commitment to service in his community. He co-founded and has helped stop the deportations of dozens of other undocumented Americans through peaceful organizing.

Mo helped his country through extraordinary acts. He helped organize and was one of the participants in the first civil disobedience action carried out by undocumented activists in the United States who had no previous contact with immigration enforcement, at Senator McCain's Tucson office in May 2010. He then continued to organize further actions, along with other committed undocumented and citizen activists, to motivate elected officials to move the DREAM Act forward in 2010.

Mo's service relates to a long-term or persistent problem. The current immigration laws penalize those brought here as children, Americans in all but name, and mandate their exile. Elected officials have not found the courage to address this problem, so undocumented youth like Mo have taken responsibility for their own futures.

"It's much more like Egypt then MoveOn", is the comparison Roberto Lovato used to describe how migrant youth use social media as we prepared for our panel in the National Conference for Media Reform here in Boston.  It's an apt comparison, I believe.  Unauthorized migrant youth, or Dreamers (after the DREAM Act), have had to use social media differently then most in the U.S.  

This for two major reasons, I believe: (1) because of the widespread political violence, now escalated by the Obama administration, which has been unleashed on our communities (Yes, I count myself as being in community with migrant youth, as we all should), and (2) because only a few years ago there was not a single media outlet you could find that truly gave voice to undocumented youth.  What has sprouted up in resistance to that violence and systemic silence is truly unique, I believe, and it's good to see social media behemoths like Mashable start to recognize it.

Thumbnail image for Obama pensive.jpg

... therefore, the #1 goal of the immigrant rights movement should be to unelect Obama in 2012.

The defendant faces the following charges:

  • Assault: Obama has ushered in a reign of terror against immigrant families in the U.S., with almost 400,000 deportations in 2010, a new record. A generation of children in immigrant families, many of them U.S. citizens, experience the ongoing trauma (pdf) of knowing that their parents could be stolen away from them in the night, any night.

  • Fraud: Obama claims to oppose entangling local law enforcement in federal immigration matters while foisting the national racial profiling program called Secure Communities on localities around the country which does exactly that. He claims to oppose deporting Dreamers while his agencies deport more of them than ever before.
  • Theft: The Social Security Administration collects payroll taxes from millions of immigrant workers who never see a dime in retirement benefits and who are not eligible for SSI disability payments. Increasing numbers of undocumented workers are applying for Temporary Tax ID (ITIN) numbers to pay federal income taxes, yet they are excluded from all public benefits programs and instead are targeted for imprisonment and deportation by federal agencies funded by those same tax dollars.
  • Absence of remorse or rehabilitation. Instead of recognizing the immigration Policy and Political Traps into which he has fallen (or jumped), at every opportunity, Obama boasts of his record as Deporter in Chief. Feeling politically vulnerable as the child of an immigrant himself whose American bona fides have been challenged, he has responded by out-persecuting the persecutors. Like a schoolyard bully, he targets others to avoid being targeted himself.

The evidence is now before the jury, who will deliver the verdict on November 6, 2012. The jurors will not be as easily fooled this time around with promises the defendant doesn't intend to keep. He should hope he has a skillful defense attorney.

I don't believe he can pin these crimes on subordinates or co-conspirators. In the end, responsibility for terrorizing immigrant families rests with the Perpetrator-in-Chief. Unlike the detainees who've died in his jails or in the countries to which he's sent them, Obama's only punishment will be carried out at the ballot box, his only sentence a comfortable and lucrative retirement.

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