Living the Dream

My take on Marco Rubio and the GOP’s sudden desire to have their own version of the DREAM Act is here. Mohammad and I were quoted in Florida Independent as being open to Rubio’s proposal, which is causing some heart-burn for advocates.

It is unclear to me what advocates expected from Senator Marco Rubio as they continuously attacked him on the issue over the past year. Of course he would introduce a watered-down version of the bill to make them go away and appear like someone who can offer a solution to the problem. The point is to take advantage of this moment like both parties have taken advantage of our lives over the past decade. Ultimately, there is a difference between solutions and relief. Legislative proposals will always be forms of relief. We are key to being the solution.

Over the last couple years, my role in this movement has shifted from active participant to tacit observer and adviser. Fed up by the non-profit industrial complex, I gambled with removal proceedings and right now, I seem to be winning. In the least, I’m living the quality of life that my mom would have wanted me to live. It is no longer my place to tell people how to fight for their own rights. My law school education also compels me to say that every case is different and one-size does not fit all.

I do ask that whatever you do, do it all the way and give it your best shot.

Remember When People of Color Used To Speak for Themselves?

GW Law hosts both sides of the marriage equality debate

It’s alright. I don’t either.

Only it isn’t alright. I’m tired of heterosexual, cisgender white men taking front and center stage on everything from reproductive rights to marriage equality to immigration reform. What makes them more qualified to talk about these issues than us? They actually sound pitiful. They are not a part of our community and do not understand the complex myriad of issues within them. Yet we continue to indulge and entrench their presence. And they always do more harm than good.

Discussions are framed from the vantage point of the white, heterosexual male. So when we talk about marriage equality, we end up talking about incest, bestiality and polyandry rather than draw attention to queer critiques of marriage (a more valuable use of time). I don’t understand how this benefits anyone besides those who see themselves as the guardians and gatekeepers of heterosexual marriage.

I’m calling it like it is. I’m done putting up with all instances of white heterosexual power and privilege.

Statement On Receiving A DREAM ACT Student Activist Scholarship Award

Today was supposed to be my first deportation hearing and overall, quite a stressful week, but it turned into a majorly good one when I came home last night to find a scholarship check in the mailbox from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), for service to the Latin@ community and specifically for being an “exceptional advocate for the DREAM Act.”

The letter was signed by Mr. Thomas Saenz, who I have only met briefly on one occasion but respect tremendously. For a long time, Mr. Saenz was the only leader in the mainstream immigration reform world to champion an LGBT-inclusive immigration reform as well as a standalone DREAM Act. Additionally, MALDEF has a long history of fighting legal battles for immigrant communities, especially undocumented students. They successfully fought and upheld instate-tuition for undocumented students in California, along with engaging in many other fights for immigrants and citizens across the United States.

I cannot deny the privileges associated with this award. A lot of my undocumented activist friends who have given up their day jobs and education to actively organize in their communities need the same kind of financial help. The fact that I have been able to continue my education despite substantial barriers is not a testament to my hard work, but simply a matter of luck and privilege. Essentially, we all need help and I hope other organizations can step up to the plate to provide some semblance of support.

The financial help comes at a time when I am unsure about how to meet law school tuition and cost of living for next semester, so it should help to alleviate the pressure on me tremendously.

For law students interested in serving immigrant communities in some legal capacity, MALDEF is now accepting applications for Summer 2012 Legal Interns for all MALDEF locations. Send a cover letter, resume, and a writing sample to jobs@maldef.org.

Happy weekend.

Selling Lal

This is my new campaign: I need a job.

Why do I need a job? My mom is really sick. She’s probably not going to last much longer at this rate. If I can’t get a job or financial support in the next few months, I will be forced to leave the country and go back to Fiji, where I’m likely to be persecuted for a myriad of reasons. It’s heartbreaking to admit that, but it is true.

I have a Masters in International Relations, working on a law degree, with lots of experience in organizing youth, shaking up national policy and running social media campaigns. My specialty is queer, race, gender and immigration issues, though I’m pretty knowledgeable about matters having to do with international political economy as well.

My work and commentary has been featured and quoted in stories for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, US News and World Report, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, as well as ethnic media outlets, documentaries and PhD dissertations. I’ve to regularly divert media calls and emails to other sources. I’ve also been published in academic journals. I’ve traveled to over 30 states and presented at dozens of conferences ranging from the American Association of Geographers to the International Studies Association to Netroots Nations. The list keeps growing.

I am insightful, resourceful, and solution-oriented with a great sense of humor. My ability to find humor in tragic situations is a real talent.

I can speak five different languages. Did you know that Fiji-Hindi is a language that was created by indentured servants from all parts of India so that people working under slave-like conditions on sugar-cane plantations could understand each other beyond their respective castes and cultures, share their lived experiences and traumas? I speak it.

I am direct, loyal and like to keep people honest and accountable. I do what needs to be done even if it means risking my life in order to get justice.

You get to check off a lot of boxes. The “women, immigrants, people of color, LGBT persons encouraged to apply” all applies to me.

I have legal work authorization, which is likely to be renewed throughout the long immigration court proceedings but an employer can easily sponsor me for an EB-2 or a H-1 with a waiver and get me out of removal proceedings.

Yes, you can actually help. Si se puede.

Resume (Updated: 7/29/2011). Please check out my Linked In for more details on education, work experience and specific skills.

Critique of Professional

Warning: This blog post is not professional. But it is real. Can you deal with it?

You say I’m “not professional enough.” I hear “you are not white enough.”

Profession-al. It’s such a capitalist word, imbued in the disciplining of our bodies, the appropriation of our words and time for a singular purpose. It’s a “civilizational discourse.”

Professional is the customer service representative who has to sound like an empty drone over the phone. Professional is the white executive of a multi-billion dollar company who lies under oath after wrecking our homes and gets a big holiday bonus at the end of the year. Professional is to hold in your true feelings and emotions, to not scream when you will be justified in your anger, to not cry when you need to cry. Professional is repressed. Professional is closeted. Professional is desexualized.

Pro-fessional is a constructed linguistic and cultural representation grounded in racist and sexist stereotypes in order to keep certain people in check or in line, while truncating our truths, marginalizing our histories and erasing our expressions of identity.

A dress pants (suit) is professional attire for an interview in America. A sari or salwaar kameez (suit) isn’t. And a hijab or burkha certainly isn’t. They call this unprofessional person a terrorist.

A “kid” or “petulant child” cannot become a “professional” without papers. Unprofessional becomes a slur that serves as reminder for the many ways in which this country truncates our growth. They call this unprofessional person an illegal. And they tell this “illegal” to keep her/his experiences as a janitor off the professional law school resume.

I’m unprofessional. It means I disrupt hegemonic universalizing narratives. It means I fight the injustice of disciplining and conditioning our minds to certain terrors and violence in our daily lives. It means I don’t conform to labels placed on my body. It means I don’t care if my truth is beyond your comprehension because I will still speak it. And it certainly means I dump the “model minority” stereotype in the dustbin only to reclaim it when I need to show whose the smarter one here.

Keep the violence and colonialism of “professional” off my words and body.