Organizing: April 2010 Archives
I don't know how we are going to do this time around. Maybe we will get to stop all the deportations of dreamers. Maybe we will pass CIR. Maybe we won't get legal status. If we don't, it will officially mark the beginning of the Great Latino Depression. I got sick to my stomach watching Fox News today, and seeing the complex anti-immigrant narrative being built. Kidnappings in Mexico, trouble at airport security screenings, live coverage from a burning house in Phoenix, AZ. There is a political campaign already well underway in the right-wing network.
I'm not sure our story can compete, the way we are telling it.
Next time we get a media request to write an op-ed or appear on TV, we gotta send Carlos, not Ali. Rachel, not Deepak. Olga, not Clarissa. Samantha, not Angelica. Tania, not Josh. Mohammad, not Markos. Faby, not Kent. Tolu, not Shu. Adey, not Marielena.
It's not about the dream kids. Kids no more: the things we have done and the things we have seen turn girls into women and boys into men. It's about getting these young women and men of the dream generation to the forefront of the movement. That's how we are going to change the way Americans analyze the question of our lifetimes: immigration.
The U.S. public is not ready for comprehensive immigration reform on the terms on which it is currently being presented. The story is wrong and the players are wrong. The story is built on the nativist narrative of the past 30 years, that the U.S. is a sovereign nation with an obligation to enforce its borders, and that Mexicans and Central Americans show particular disregard for U.S. immigration laws. The players in the current presentation are politicians and advocates, not the immigrants and family members who immigration policies affect.
That is why most politicians and most of the public doesn't care about immigration reform.
First because they don't understand the real story: the focus on border security and the dumbfoundingly complex immigration legal system is this generation's manifestation of the perennial American effort to exclude nonwhites and first generation immigrants from civic and economic participation. (More broadly, this represents the perennial human effort to exclude people who are different from themselves.) And the current focus on Mexicans and Central Americans is no accident. After the U.S. Congress shut down transatlantic immigration in 1924 in a fit of nativism, Mexicans were permitted free, illicit entry to provide American agriculture and business with a cheap, exploitable workforce. Central Americans entered the picture in the 1970s and 1980s as U.S.-supported governments killed their citizens and scattered large numbers of refugees to the wind.
Second, the public doesn't know the right players, namely all the undocumented activists Matias mentions and more. They don't know them because they often pass as citizens. Or are forced into the shadows by the fear of lifelong exile from their families and communities.
But these things are changing, as DREAM Act-eligible immigrants, or "Dreamers," come out of the shadows to take their rightful place as leaders of the immigrant rights movement. Now, will the immigrant rights movement let them lead? This question will be moot once Dreamers realize they don't need to ask permission.
Harvard College Act on a Dream has been trying to meet with Sen. Brown since he was first elected at the beginning of the semester. We were told that his office was a mess the first couple of months, but we were finally asked to fax our meeting request to his office. We sent the fax on March 5, 2010.
After not getting a commitment to a meeting for over a month, we were forced to take our meeting request public. We joined forces with the Student Immigrant Movement to set up an online petition which already has over 100 signatures (please sign it if you haven't done so, yet). The online petition resulted in coverage from the AP, and now our request is all over the web. We were happy to hear through the AP that his office has received our meeting request and will shortly ask for more information from us.
Still, it's going to take a lot more than an AP article and a hundred petition signatures to secure a meeting with Brown. Here are some things you can do to help:
- SIGN the petition at change.org and ask all of your friends and family to do the same, especially if they are Massachusetts residents.
- CALL Brown's D.C. office (202-224-4543) and his local office (617-565-3170) to ask whether or not Brown will meet with us before April 17.
- JOIN the Facebook group and ask your Facebook friends to do the same
- HELP us fight any misinformation or nativism that you see online regarding our meeting request.
It's taken me much too long to do this. Better late than never.
People have been asking me for these stories ever since our coming out event at Harvard on March 10, 2010. Through Harvard College Act on a Dream, we were able to secure permission to publish three of the anonymous stories we read, publicly. Here are the links to the stories I just published on Citizen Orange:
To get a better sense of where these students are coming from, I recommend you read Elizabeth Pezza's excellent piece in the Harvard Crimson on living in the shadows at Harvard, which I reviewed here.
Harvard, Class of 2009
Teachers, counselors, administrators, community members, and elected officials ... You, ALL OF YOU, LIED to me.
Every time you told me "hard work pays off," every time you said, "if you try your best, you can succeed," and every time you advised me, "believe in yourself and you can make all your dreams come true," you LIED to me.
When Elizabeth Pezza approached Harvard College Act on a Dream about writing a feature story on undocumented youth for the weekly Harvard Crimson magazine, Fifteen Minutes, my first reaction was that I hope it's better than the FM piece that was written about me:
"Altar, Mexico. That town is crazy," says Kyle De Beausset '08.For those that didn't catch it, Guatemala is not in South America. I've actually never been to South America, I'm sorry to say, even though I was just a few months shy of being born in Ecuador.
But De Beausset is not talking about the kind of Mexican crazy that happens when you mix margaritas in your mouth on the beach at 10 a.m.
Instead, he's referring to the last stop on his journey documenting the experience of South American migrant workers trying to make it to the United States.Shifra Mincer - Harvard Crimson (3 May 2006)
It's not just inaccuracies I was worried about, though. FM often tries to put a sort of "fun" tone into articles that I just didn't see working well with undocumented students at Harvard. After multiple assurances from Pezza that she wouldn't use that tone, as well as the assurances of trusted pro-migrant students who knew her, I had faith that she would do a good job.
Nineteen-year-old Julio Martinez was released from immigration detention on Thursday after two weeks of intensive organizing on his behalf by supporters in Kentucky and Chicago. As in other cases of Dream Act-eligible youth around the country, Julio's local community refused to accept the harsh laws that mandated his deportation after growing up in the U.S. Julio's crime was missing a court date as a child, something over which he had no control. Absent the efforts of Julio's supporters in Kentucky, including members of his church, friends of the family, local college students, and organizer Erin Howard, he would have been deported already just like the thousands of Dream Act-eligible youth who have slipped under the radar.
But Julio's lawyer, Rachel Newton, says he is not out of the woods yet. While he is not detained right now, he is still in removal proceedings and under a very real threat of deportation. First, the immigration judge handling the case must agree to reopen the removal order Julio received when he was nine years old, no sure thing. Then, "[o]nce the case is reopened, Julio still has to convince the judge that he is eligible for and should be granted some form of relief from removal," according to Newton.
"These cases are very hard to get approved, even under better circumstances."
From Flavia at DreamActivist yesterday:
Today, Julio is on a church retreat, catching up with his family and friends. This wonderful outcome is a direct result of the outpouring of support from his Frankfort, Kentucky community, his representatives Congressman Chandler and Senator Bunning, and you, DREAM Act students and allies from across the country. Today we see our tremendous collective power, we express our gratitude for Julio's release, and we thank Julio's congressional represenatitves. But most important of all, today we say this fight is far from over and we resolve our determination to keep Julio from being deported. After his 12-hour drive home to Kentucky, Julio thanks us all with this sentiment: "I am so happy I am out. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel. And I will be in touch with you all very soon because this is not over; its not over for me nor all the DREAMers waiting to truly be free."
Julio still faces deportation despite all of our best efforts. With few legal options remaining to him, we must ensure he stays in his community united with his family. Senator Bunning and Congressman Chandler must introduce a private bill on Julio's behalf into congress. They will not do this without feeling the pressure, without every single one of us - yes, you too - calling them and hearing our sense of urgency. If they do not act now, their efforts will have been futile. Make sure your message is heard loud and clear - We thank you for all of your support so far, ensure justice and keep Julio reuited with his family - introduce a private bill on his behalf NOW!
Below are the contact numbers for their offices:
1) Senator John Bunning: (202) 224-4343
Ask Senator Bunning to introduce a Private Bill for Julio immediately. Julio is an outstanding young person who knows no other home but the United States. His case has exceptional circumstances and he should not be forced to leave his home and his family.
3) Call Congressman Ben Chandler: (202) 225-4706
Ask Congressman Chandler to introduce a Private Bill for Julio immediately. Julio is an outstanding young person who knows no other home but the United States. His case has exceptional circumstances and he should not be forced to leave his home and his family.
Julio still needs our support, but his release represents a tremendous victory for Julio's supporters in Kentucky and the Dream Act network that helped organize to stop his deportation.
Julio's case affirms my belief that most Americans with little prior knowledge of the immigration system who get to know a local Dreamer and understand that there is nothing that person can do to avoid deportation under current law respond with disbelief and anger. They mobilize to stop a deportation. Even politicians who typically fall on the enforcement side of the debate respond favorably to that kind of community engagement, Senator Bunning's support of Julio being a case in point.
This is a primary reason organizers and advocates should turn efforts away from the chimera of comprehensive reform in 2010, the elusive silver bullet that the Democratic leadership persistently refuses to move on, and work to pass the Dream Act this year.
Pass the Dream Act. Pass it now.