Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
I’m always fascinated with how Ruben Navarette hits the nail on the head but he’s actually not pinning two things together.
In due time, I’m sure the institutionalized youth part of the non-profit industrial complex will come out with some “strategic messaging” to counter this. They may even hit the nail on the head with some headline that resembles “we are fighting for our families and communities” and yet, fail to give a counter-narrative to Mr. Navarette.
Mr. Navarette is essentially right when he calls certain “Dreamers” entitled. There are certainly some in the so-called movement who think they are better than “the hardworking and humble folks who cut your lawn, clean your house or care for your kids.” He is also on the mark for noting that this entitlement exists because “Dreamers” are American. What he doesn’t divulge into is the entitlement that it takes for Americans to occupy a stolen land, make laws that exclude people from citizenship on the basis of race, gender, and sexuality, and demand that people assimilate to become a part of the fictionalized narrative of the American dream.
Why would anyone be surprised then, that some “Dreamers” act that very same way, with a better-than-thou mentality? They are mostly Americans after all. They are bound to have a “I am better than you” mentality. In order to become part of the fabric of America, “Dreamers” do need to show that they are better than the other kinds of immigrants. They need to show “exceptionalism.” And they need to show that they are not a threat to the establishment in order to become part of it. They need to show that they are essentially American. And in doing so, there will be people who get thrown underneath the bus.
But there is more going on here, in terms of entitlement. I’m sure that the same was said about the people of color who sat at the front of the bus to desegregate it, the people of color who took over lunch counter-tops at segregated restaurants and the people who wanted their kids to attend a whites-only school — “entitlement.” I am not drawing parallels to show that the situation “Dreamers” find themselves in is similar to segregation and apartheid. I am drawing parallels to show that minorities have historically been told that they are “not in their place” and think they are “entitled” when they start agitating for more than just crumbs.
Entitlement is not new or confined to Dreamers. This better-than-thou mentality comes from those in power. It comes from living in unequal conditions. And the history of oppression– ranging from lord and serf to master and slave to haves and have-nots–signals that such unequal conditions not only dehumanize and denigrate the ones at the bottom. They also dehumanize and denigrate the ones at the top, stripping them of both humanity and power. For real social transformation to happen then, certain people need to lose a lot of power that they feel entitled to and certain people need to gain power that has been historically denied to them. It is that entitlement to privilege and power at the top that prevents us from moving forward — not “Dreamers” with their demands to a pathway to citizenship.
Dear DC friends:
I now have a bunch of “Undocumented and Unafraid” books to sell, which celebrates the lives of our friends, Tam Tran and Cinthia Felix, and charts the undocumented youth movement. I contributed a piece for it on social media.
The books are only $10 each and I’ll even autograph them for you. Please email me if you want to purchase one:
If you are not in D.C., you can send your online order here.
Published: 10 Things You May Not Know About Deferred Action and Napolitano Appearing Before the House Judiciary Committee, declaring that Deferred Action Applications Will Be Available on August 15; with additional guidance out on August 1.
And more backdoor meetings with “stakeholders.”
President Obama’s directive to affirmatively issue deferred action to DREAM Act eligible youth is fostering a new generation of “undocumented and unafraid” students who will be spared from deportation. But it isn’t just young people who are coming out in throes. It is also our parents.
At the National DREAM Graduation in Washington D.C., which was the largest gathering of undocumented students ever, Alejandra Pimentel, an undocumented mother, addressed an audience of undocumented youth. She spoke about fighting her son’s deportation, and shared some great words with the young people in the room, telling us that her dream was our success and that we should never give up. She told us that because of us, she was undocumented and unafraid.
But Pimental is not the only mother who is coming out as undocumented and unafraid. Across the country, at community gatherings, workshops and town-halls about the new deferred action program, undocumented parents are showing up in large numbers with their undocumented and U.S. citizen children to gain some understanding of what the new Obama announcement does for them.
This bold new coming out by undocumented parents is ironic given that young undocumented immigrants have often been accused of being selfish for advocating for the DREAM Act as opposed to comprehensive immigration reform. Maybe we have always been right. Maybe piecemeal immigration reform is the way to go, adding ingredient by ingredient till everyone can share in the pie. Undocumented parents coming out of the shadows to seek some sort of status for their kids certainly cements our claim that our dreams were never selfish–they are in fact, tied to the dreams that our parents had for us in bringing us to this land of opportunity. And deferred action for DREAMers is emboldening them as much as young people into coming out of the shadows.
I was at JEB Stuart High School in Northern Virginia last week, helping my law firm conduct a workshop about deferred action for members of the community and over 400 parents showed up to listen intently, ask questions and seek help for their children. We stayed for over 3 hours and ran out of our materials. The next day, our phones at the office did not stop ringing.
While some organizations are discouraging young immigrants and their parents from seeing immigration attorneys regarding the new program, within the last week alone, we’ve told a DREAMer that he is in fact, a U.S. citizen, assisted someone in registering for the GED, discovered an in absentia order of deportation, discouraged a DREAMer from engaging in marriage fraud, and discovered a entire undocumented family that should have received their green-cards a long time ago. An undocumented mother told me last week after consulting with our law firm that she was finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. It is thus, critical, that we should straddle the fine line between warning people of scammers and notarios, while encouraging people to seek legal advice.
At DreamActivist.org, we released a FAQ explaining deferred action, which received over 10,000 downloads within a couple days. Well over a thousand people have emailed to ask whether they are eligible for the program and to request legal support for more complicated cases. For perhaps the first time, people who were not already “undocumented and unafraid” are coming out to seek legal advice regarding their immigration history, and that is a good thing that we should all encourage especially since it is quite likely that many people qualify for far more than just deferred action.
Additionally, the renewed coming out is not restricted to community forums and law firms. The USCIS has already stated that the parents of everyone granted deferred action will not be put into deportation proceedings, so there is nothing to fear by seeking information. The government agency reports getting over 75,000 calls concerning the program. They have hired over 100 new staff to process applications, which could take anywhere from 5 to 9 months. Despite criticism that DREAMers would take away jobs from American citizens, the new program is already creating jobs for Americans.
From undocumented and unafraid, we are increasingly becoming documented and unafraid. Immigration attorney, Andres Benach, has suggested that by applying and receiving deferred action, young immigrants and our parents will further integrate themselves into American society. We would have driver’s licenses, social security numbers, and jobs. We would be able to rent apartments, go to college, buy homes, pay more taxes, take care of our parents, invest in our communities, get married and have children.
As our roots grow, it would be much harder than it is now to uproot us from America and the appetite for the social disruption of deporting us will will decrease exponentially. Hence, even if a Republican such as Mitt Romney is elected to office, it is doubtful that she or he would order the deportation of millions of DREAMers, along with our families. Congress will have to act as it did with NACARA, and grant permanent residency to DREAMers living in an amorphous legal state under deferred action.
Thus, I believe that any future DREAM Act would be short, simple and sweet: anyone granted deferred action under the premises of the DREAM Act or anyone who was eligible for DREAM Act deferred action in 2012 shall be eligible for permanent residency.
If you haven’t come out as undocumented and unafraid, come out of the shadows. The only thing you have to lose is your chains.
Every June for the past 12 years, undocumented students from around the country have traveled to Washington D.C.to urge Congress to pass the DREAM Act, holding a “mock graduation ceremony” followed by lobby visits to their respective Congresspersons. This year was no different, with The National Immigrant Youth Alliance bringing over 500 undocumented students from at least 17 states down to the Capitol. And this year, we also had Andres Benach from Benach Ragland LLP, talk to a self-selected group of students about Obama’s deferred action policy, clearing up some misconceptions and dishing out great legal information.
Graduation has historically been a bittersweet event for many undocumented youth, unable to move forward. The “mock graduation” – now called the National Dream Graduation – symbolizes the estimated 70,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school every year, unable to pursue higher education because they lack papers. This year was a bit different. Due to the hard organizing work of many young undocumented people around the country, President Obama has issued a directive to not deport undocumented youth, and instead, allowed us to come forward affirmatively and apply for deferred action. While deferred action is certainly not enough, for the first time in history, many of these young people are graduating and will graduate with hope and dreams of a future. And even if they don’t graduate with high hopes and dreams of a future, I think Kemi Bello, a friend and undocumented youth from Texas, sums it up best:
“I urge you to challenge the traditional notion of the milestones we must meet in life in order to be successful. Whether it takes you 4 years or 7 to finish college, or you decide not to go at all, or are not able to go; whether you wear your “I Am Undocumented” shirt to the grocery store or have only told one person that you are undocumented; whether you are working 3 jobs or are organizing full-time – own your story, own your experience and never apologize for how different your life has turned out to be from some pre-determined ‘norm.’ For it is the uniqueness of our individual stories and experiences that makes our collective story as undocumented youth so powerful.”
And indeed, the event was one of a kind, with unique individual stories that did not fit the norm. Dulce Guerrero (GA), Viridiana Martinez (NC) and Cynthia Martinez did wonders MC-ing. Marco Saavedra from Ohio owned the room with his powerful rendition of Langston Hughes for the convocation. Alejandra Pimentel, a mother fighting her son’s deportation, shared some great words with us, telling us that her dream was our success and that we should never give up. Little J shared the poem he wrote for Michelle Obama that he couldn’t share it with her because he lacked a social security number. Alicia Torres had a vital message for everyone in the movement to nurture themselves so that they could be a source of positive energy. Even YOLO made it to the graduation, thanks to Vicko Alvaro from USAS.
And of course, 10 minutes before the start of the event, I found out that I had the honor (and terrifying duty) of delivering the commencement speech to 500 people. I would like to thank the person who let me hurriedly borrow his cap and gown for the ceremony! I decided that jaded activist humor was the way to go. It seems to have worked, or at least, I don’t have any displeased emails. Even the Pastor kindly told me later that he enjoyed my speech and that the Luther Church welcomes LGBT people.
The National Dream Graduation is usually the one of the only times when undocumented youth activists from around the country who work together virtually get to be in the same room with one another. I remember meeting Walter Lara, Maria Marroquin, Kemi, Bello, Cintia Felix and so many other impressive young people for the first time at my first National Dream Graduation in Washington D.C. in 2009. It seems like such a long time ago, even though it has only been three years.
This year, I saw some old friends for the first time in ages. I also met some new people such as young South Asian American immigrant activists Yves Gomes and Ashwini Jaisingh from Casa de la Maryland. My own partner spoke on behalf of her Congressperson! And I had the pleasure of running into Tim, a U.S. citizen, whose partner is languishing in detention in Michigan, highlighting the need for immigration relief for same-sex bi-national couples. I hope we are able to get his partner the help he needs so that they can continue to stay together. That would certainly be the cherry on top of the icing of a truly great event.
Most of my friends were riled up and denouncing the Supreme Court, SB 1070 ruling, which actually is not a bad decision, but a pleasantly good one. President Obama’s policies like Secure Communities (S-COMM) and his record-breaking deportation of over 1 million people is what deserves continued denunciation even as we welcome his decision to grant deferred action to an estimated 1.4 million young people.
And much like graduation from high school, we’ve made some progress, but the war continues.