Organizing: January 2012 Archives
In deportation defense work, immigrant rights organizers can work most effectively to stop a deportation when they collaborate with a reliable immigration attorney. Viewed from another perspective, an attorney can often better serve his or her client with the help of organizers. However, complications can arise with this type of collaborative work.
In recent years, collaboration between organizers and attorneys has most commonly involved Education Not Deportation (END) campaigns to stop the deportation of undocumented youth. END cases were rare before the summer of 2009. Now the federal government routinely agrees not to deport undocumented youth who would qualify for the DREAM Act, were it to be enacted, and who reach a certain threshold of visibility and public support. (The government routinely deports tens of thousands of DREAM-eligible youth who remain invisible to the public--and even some who have strong public support.)
I have worked on several END cases since 2009 as an immigration attorney. In my experience, an END case has the best chance of success when an attorney works closely with organizers and the client's existing support network. Attorneys have access to and relationships with immigration officials that organizers and family members usually lack. Organizers have the trust of the community and are not afraid to directly challenge the government. Organizers, attorneys, and others worked together on the early END cases and created the existing END model. Organizers and attorneys are better able to stop deportations when they work together.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Communication between the attorney and organizers sometimes breaks down, to the detriment of the client. Attorneys sometimes have a limited view of what is possible in a given jurisdiction, failing to acknowledge successes in similar cases elsewhere. Attorneys can be too cautious, apprehensive of damaging delicate relationships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys or deportation officers. Out of habit, attorneys can shut supporters and organizers out of the case, foregoing the collaborative model for a "what I say goes" approach. It's worth taking a closer look at how and why these problems arise, and what can be done to address them.
I greatly value the work that Immigrants' List does, and encourage folks to donate to them. We need more pro-migrant PACs like Immigrants' List, and we need more money for them if we ever hope to have a pro-migrant impact. Of the ten heroes Immigrants' List cites, I agree with their selection of the other nine heroes. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), however, has to be one of the worst pro-migrant politicians in the country. That is to be distinguished, of course, from some of the worst nativists in the country, like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
There are few more difficult people to write about than the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (gotta give the man all his titles). MLK has long since become more about the people invoking his name, than about the man himself.
If I were to recommend one short article to read on MLK, today, it would be this 2005 Harvard Crimson article written by Brandon Terry, a friend, and one of the wisest people I know. He writes about the intellectual strands of MLK that have been long forgotten, namely "elements of Third World radicalism, black nationalism, and Marxism." Brandon also gives one of the best recommendations I can hope to give, on this day, to those who are interested in learning about the real MLK. Read the book "A Testament of Hope," a collection of MLK's writings which has effectively become my MLK bible.
I should end this post here. I'm tempted to say that if you haven't read through "A Testament of Hope," you have no business writing or even thinking that you know what MLK is about.
Yesterday, Cecilia Muñoz got promoted, and another 1000 people got deported. The Obama administration deports over a thousand people, every day, more than any administration before by many counts. The Obama administration tells us most deportees are criminals, nativists say it's not enough, but the truth is the vast majority of those being deported are noble people, heroes even, who are seeking a better life for themselves and for their families, and who make those they live among better off.
If the idea of over a thousand deportations a day doesn't strike you as cruel, make no mistake, only a violent system can forcibly remove that many people a day. Economic, psychological, spiritual, and physical violence are all involved, from the terror migrant communities live in, to the moment ICE agents bust down the doors to peoples homes, to the horrific conditions in which people are imprisoned, to the shackles and drugs used to force people onto planes. If you've gotten to know just one person caught in our broken immigration system you'll know the violence that these laws are doing to the strangers among us. It's the law, nativists will say, but as the wise have said for as long as imperfect human laws have existed, an unjust law is no law at all.
Increasingly, the Obama administration has made Cecilia Muñoz the face of this violent and unjust system and I say that without condemnation.