Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
I am cross-posting this letter, which was initiated by DRM Action Coalition, and signed by over 80 immigrant youth leaders. You can probably still sign on here in solidarity.
Open Letter to the Immigrant Rights Movement: Our Families Can’t Wait
Dear Friends and Allies in the Immigrant Rights Movement,
We are writing this letter to open a dialogue about the direction and strategy of the immigration reform campaign in the New Year. For us, this is not a question of ideology, but our own and our families’ lives. We hope that this letter will agitate your thinking and that we can move together in a new direction in 2014.
First, we want to recognize the collective work of our movement last year. From lobbying members of Congress, to infiltrating detention centers, to stopping individual deportations, we have each done our part to make this movement stronger and to advance the rights of the immigrant community. We want to thank you, every person and organization, that has dedicated themselves to this cause.
Despite all the hard work that we did last year, we cannot ignore that we did not win a legislative policy change. In the same year we lived through close to 370,000 undocumented immigrants being deported by the Obama administration. We saw toddlers carry signs asking for their parents to be released from detention; we saw families taken in the middle of the night after a simple knock at the door; we saw ICE taking parents while working, and then labeling them as felons. Their only crime was to work to provide food for their family. As leaders, we need to have the humility to reassess our strategy and make changes when something is not working.
How did we get to this point where we haven’t passed immigration reform? Entering 2013, we felt confident. We were all on a high from the 2012 elections. We were sure that the Tea Party’s defeats, including Mitt Romney’s loss due to his “self deportation” stance, would finally move the Republican Party to act on immigration legislation. Like you, we, DREAMers, undocumented youth-led and parent-led organizations, remember feeling confident that we could achieve immigration reform with a path to citizenship for all eleven million undocumented immigrants.
While the Senate immigration bill was not perfect, we were hopeful that its passage meant we were halfway there and that a bipartisan deal was taking shape in Congress. The logic at the time was that passing the Senate Bill would increase momentum to pass it in the House. This, however, did not happen.
Looking for a way to keep the pressure, a number of organizations asked Democrat leadership to introduce H.R. 15 in the House with the hopes that it would pressure Speaker Boehner to allow a vote or introduce his own legislation. While we thank these organizations for doing what they thought was right at the time, unfortunately, it was a miscalculation. Speaker Boehner refused to bring the Senate bill to the floor, and no Republican had the courage to introduce their own bills. Despite all of our efforts, we didn’t have the power to get the Speaker to bring up the Senate bill.
Democrat leadership, meanwhile, has established hard lines like “citizenship or nothing,” making it politically impossible for both parties to come to the table on a real solution. Blaming Republicans for killing CIR became good propaganda for the Democratic Party, and alienated the few Republicans who were interested in moving legislation forward.
At the end of the year, as Congressmen went home for recess, we were left with nothing for our families. What could we tell the people in deportation who kept calling us, even on Christmas Eve? Tens of thousands of parents across the country spent their Christmas behind bars in cold jail cells in detention centers, the hopes of immigration reform fading from their hearts. Tens of thousands of peoples tried to make the best of Christmas, but couldn’t really smile because a loved one was missing. People like the Zuniga family, whose son Joel was deported. Joel’s mom Marypaz said the food didn’t taste the same and she didn’t feel like putting up Christmas lights this year. People like Naira, who’s husband Ardany was deported in the middle of the night the week before Christmas. While a group of us held vigil outside of Florence detention center, ICE snuck Ardany out the back to deport him. Naira was left with her 2 year old son and newborn daughter, fighting back the tears so that the children could enjoy Christmas morning.
Lupita Arreola, Erika’s mother, Mario Montoya, Reyna’s father, Mario Andrade and Hareth’s father are all still in deportation proceedings. How many more will it take before we stop this? How many more families will be torn apart? How many more children traumatized?
We don’t know what’s going to happen in 2014, but we know that the status quo is unbearable. We cannot stand by and watch another 2 million people get deported while we try to pass an ideal immigration reform.
As people who are directly affected, we ask you to revisit your strategy:
1. Focus on a practical legislative solution for immediate relief for families, even if it doesn’t include a special path to citizenship. Our families and communities need relief now, not ideological hard lines.2. Allow bills that are already amenable to citizenship for Dreamers and legalization for parents without blocking existing citizenship channels. We will not accept a proposal that blocks, bans or bars citizenship.3. Use our power and political capital to call on Democrats and the President to expand administrative relief and stop unjust deportations. NDLON has already laid out what this could look like http://goo.gl/DZjaeN4. Focus on advancing substantive policy this year, not on advancing the electoral efforts of the Democratic Party. Let go of HR 15 and SB 744 and focus on winnable pieces of legislation in the House. No, we will not take ‘just anything.’ We want to see the Republicans proposals on the table and then we will decide if its good for our community or not.
As undocumented advocates, we do want citizenship rights. We believe that this is our country, and our family’s home. We do want to be able to vote and voice our opinions. We cannot, however, wait for that to happen while our families are being persecuted. Walking away with nothing is not an option for us; “citizenship-or-nothing” is not an option. We can’t ask our communities to wait for “citizenship” while we see our mothers, our fathers and our children being taken from our homes by immigration. We can’t wait while we see our families being taken into detention centers for months and even years while our children are being traumatized.
Through this letter we are asking that you stand with us. Fight with us for immediate relief for our families. Let’s together hold President Obama accountable for every deported parent. Let’s find a way to work with both parties to find an immediate solution, even if it’s a solution that doesn’t include a “special” pathway to citizenship.
Together lets achieve a level of peace for our families and our communities, a peace that will allow us to live free from persecution, that will allow us to live, work, travel like a human being. We want our mothers to see their parents, to be able to hug them and not arrive to visit their grave. We want to be able to drive without the panic of seeing a police officer in our rearview mirror. We want to be able to live knowing that we will come home and see our children at the end of the day.
Once we achieve this level of relief/stability, there is no question that we will keep fighting for more- for what rightly belongs to our families. Our families are not conformist. Our mothers crossed borders, risked their lives for something better. We need to survive but will never settle, we will always fight for the betterment of our families.
This is a shameless plug for a queer undocumented friend of mine who is doing research on queer immigrants and sentiments of belonging. I hope that everyone can take the time to participate and support Marco in his endeavor because he is one of us.
Mi nombre es marco antonio flores. I am currently an Undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley working with Professor Mel Chen and Evelyn Nakano Glenn, in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.
I have been offered to take part in a research program that has enabled me to attain funding for undergraduate research with self-identified queer undocumented immigrants. By drawing from personal narratives I hope to engage my piece, with how queer undocumented immigrants experience home – exploring a theoretical framework that allows for the body as a site of home. This work concerns how queer undocumented immigrants come to experience their undocumented status in relation to their queer identity.
I would like to invite anyone who is interested.
Through this piece, I hope to engage in discussing experiences of displacement and (be)longing by conducing one-on-one interviews with queer undocumented immigrants. It is important for me to share that all the information I am given by those interested in being part of this project will be kept confidential.
For those who are interested in participating, please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In return for your time, I will be able to provide a $20.00 gift card for a place of your choice.
In addition, here’s this — http://sentimentsofbelonging.tumblr.com/
Please take the time out to get in touch with Marco for his research project. As a queer-identifying undocumented immigrant, I feel like we are a hot commodity, especially in the academic world. Academics, artists and film-makers are salivating over us and trying to gain access to our communities. And most of the time, they characterize us erroneously. It thoroughly annoys me because we have our own academics and intellectuals who are confined in limbo but who could also do a better job of writing about us. We don’t need a “We Are Americans” or a “Papers” because we can research, write and produce our own work. Besides, it is glaringly erroneous: not all undocumented immigrants identify as “American” and not all undocumented immigrants are without papers.
I would much rather support and elevate individuals who are part of our communities and don’t try to fit our bodies in particular categories and their own notions of how and where we belong.
I am fasting officially starting tomorrow. Since I am ill already, lets see how long I hold up. The gym hours may be reduced but I am allowed to drink water. The Diwali sweets may have to wait. Going for 3 days for now.
For everyone who enjoys my writing ranging from fiction to non-fiction, please take a moment to sign this pledge and support immigrant rights, support me. We desperately need to stop the ICE raids, the deportations that tear apart families and destroy the futures of so many hard-working people who have committed no crimes. We need Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the DREAM Act to bring millions out of the shadows. And if it takes a ‘fast’ to get this movement going, so be it.
In the study, researchers examined information on more than 13,000 New Yorkers from all five of the city’s boroughs, who voluntarily had their height and weight measured. The data, collected at community-based health centers and hospitals using this this body fat analyzer between January 2000 and December 2002, was used to calculate each person’s BMI.
For Hispanics, whether the neighborhood is largely English speaking or not is an important predictor of body size. The less English spoken in a neighborhood, the less weight gain occurs, according to researchers, whose findings appear in a recent issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
“Simply put: the longer an immigrant lives in the U.S., the heavier that immigrant becomes. Scholars theorize this weight gain as due, in part, to acculturation the adoption of U.S. diet and physical activity habits,” said Park. “Although in the popular imagination, acculturation is thought to be a positive factor for immigrants, in many arenas of health, acculturation has been shown to have a negative effect.”
The new study supports earlier research that found that weight gain is most consistent and significant among Hispanic immigrants to the U.S., who face a particularly high risk of obesity and attendant health problems even when socioeconomic status is taken into consideration.
The link to the study can be found here. I wish journalists would clearly cite the actual source of study because oftentimes it takes a while to search and find it and only the most interested users bother to go to the source of information.
I can actually attest to this sparingly, since the study only seems to hold true among Hispanic immigrants and I am not. I gained about 40 pounds since I started residing in the United States without any changes to my height or level of physical activity. I have shed about 15 of those down to 115 in the past year after getting more health conscious, but the point is that Americans do consume foods with higher calories. And the more we “assimilate,” the more we tend to consume “American foods” on the go instead of ethnic, home-cooked meals which are generally and broadly-speaking, healthier. I don’t think the morale of the story is that we should hide out in our own ethnic enclaves–but that mirroring American consumerism and diet is the wrong way to go.
Supporters of cultural assimilation beware–Encouraging and pushing for assimilation i.e. “English-only” can be contradictory. According to the research of Tomás Jiménez, an assistant professor of sociology at UC San Diego:
That efforts by opponents of illegal immigration to stamp out the ethnic identity of immigrants and their descendents, and to emphasize assimilation, backfire… Nonimmigrant Mexican-Americans who were already largely assimilated feel a closer connection to their Mexican identity when they see it as under attack.
“People who feel the country is fractured by ethnicity may be doing more than anyone to harden ethnic identity,” he said.
The study holds up when compared to conflict theory. When a minority culture faces attack from the dominant culture, it resists or pushes back.
While we are on the topic of assimilation and “illegal immigration,” is it not strange that the biggest proponents of assimilation are also the ones that prevent avenues for immigrant assimilation–Studies show that being undocumented is a barrier to assimilating.
As Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor explained in The Washington Post: “If you’re in the country illegally, a lot of the avenues of assimilation are cut off to you. There are a lot of jobs you can’t get, and you can’t become a citizen.”
Therefore, if we want our immigrants to assimilate, should we not ensure that they have the necessary institutional support to do so? Otherwise, it is ridiculous to expect migrant workers to speak American-English.
One last note. Americans DO NOT speak English but a bastardized version of it. Over the past decade, my English has actually deteriorated. I used to be a spelling bee champion and nowadays I let the Firefox browser correct my spelling. Same goes for my grammar. It is not correct to say “Who are you going to the movies with?” but rather “With whom are you going to the cinema?” Besides the error of ending in prepositions, I use way more passive language than I used to — we used to be graded down for “passive usage.” Most Americans have no idea as to what that means! Anyway, I am no fan or supporter of any “pure language” theories so the deterioration of English does not bother me. What does bother me is this:
Lets learn to speak English first, eh?
+++++I hail from the Fiji Islands; My favorite food is Chinese; I root for Italy and Juventus when it comes to football; I am disappointed when India loses a major cricket tournament; I love Pakistani music with Jal as my most favorite band; L-word star Jennifer Beals is my idol while I think Indian soapstar Anita Hassanandani is the most beautiful woman in the world; my best friend lives in Australia; ‘God Bless Fiji’ is the only national anthem I can recite, barely; the Bay Area is my home and Chicago is my favorite city. My likes and dislikes know neither borders nor boundaries+++++
During my incredibly short time as a pro-migrant blogger, I have seen many articles on calls for new immigrants to assimilate, deriding the more recent wave of transnational identities, and studies that show immigrant assimilation rates, just to name a few.
From a personal perspective, as someone who was born and brought up in the Fiji Islands, I was taught that we must not expect or encourage “assimilation.” In fact, the word has negative connotations in my country of origin, helped by a social studies curriculum that puts plularism over assimilationist integration from an early age. So it is baffling to me, when “assimilation” is seen in a positive light in the United States, almost uncomfortable in fact. Assimilation is synonymous to losing cultural identity, which I find completely unacceptable, especially when it is touted as a prerequisite for U.S. citizenship.
Sociologist Robert Parks maintained that assimilation was inevitable in a democratic and industrial society after undergoing the “race relations cycle” (contact, conquest…assimilation, fusion). Park has been criticized for not giving a timeline as to when assimilation is complete. We have absolutely no way of ascertaining when assimilation has occurred if we go by Park’s theories.
On the other hand, Milton Gordon has a seven-part subprocesses of assimilation theory, going from cultural acculturation to structural assimilation (integration) to marital assimilation. By no means is this theory solid–individuals and groups can jump around the subprocesses and not follow it in any certain order.
Sociologists think that contemporary immigrants would undergo segmented assimilation. See this for more.
Unlike what Parks or Gordon let on, the process of assimilation in itself, is not LINEAR, which is a very important point to take into account. When different cultures inter-mingle, they borrow characteristics from one another–If the United States was a case of an “assimilationist society,” we would all have the traditional English breakfast of bacon and eggs and scones for snacks. But we enjoy our various ethnic foods, different dressing styles, and the ability to curse in several different languages.
We must seek PLURALISM not assimilation.
On this $2 note from Fiji that I carry around in my wallet, we can see from left to right: a young Muslim boy, an older Chinese man, an indigenous Fijian, a Rotuman woman–probably representative of other Pacific Islands as well, and an Indian woman.