The 15-Year Prison Sentence Is Over

The statute of limitations on being undocumented is over. As of August 1, 2014, I am a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

The actual process was easy, but that is probably because I’m an attorney. Last December, we had a 7 minute interview to prove that we had a bona-fide marriage. After that, I requested that DHS move to terminate proceedings, which they did quite gladly. I finally applied directly with the USCIS for a green card in mid-April. On August 1, 2014, we had the actual green-card interview, which lasted 10 minutes before the Immigration Officer changed my status in the system.

People have asked me how it feels. It actually doesn’t feel any different. I don’t have any sudden outpouring love for this place. Maybe once I’m out of this country, I’ll realize how good I have it, and feel like coming back.

Or not.


New Year ShoutOuts

Friends of this blog, Julio and Jesus, gave a shoutout to all the important work done by the immigrant rights community. Julio also released his much-awaited Las Visionaries set, in dedication of all the queer women he admires (mostly writers and artists, including yours truly). Speaking of art-work, check out 22 Powerful Images By DREAMers: A Window Into Life As An Undocumented Immigrant In America featuring a lot of work by Alberto Ledesma, and Julio Salgado. Much love and peace to all of you artists, writers, musicians and visionaries!

While we are busy doing shoutouts, I would like to make a shoutout to the federal district court judge who reaffirmed the Obama administration policy granting officials the authority to search our laptops, citing a controversial premise that makes people living or traveling within 100 miles of the border eligible for a suspicion-less police check. Here is a useful infographic about your rights when you interact with a police officer. It looks simple on paper, but lets be real, when approached by a police officer or ICE agent, some of us have more privilege to assert these rights than others.

Another shoutout to climate change, which new studies show is worse than we previously thought. Hopefully, the warning bells are loud and clear that this should be a top national and global priority, starting with compensation, and relocation policies for the victims.

Mandatory immigration readingThe Deported: Life on the Wrong Side of the Border for Repatriated MexicansIN 2013, THE DREAM 30 FOUGHT TO COME HOME by David Bennion, Fewer Crossing But More Deaths at the Mexico-U.S. Border, and Whatever Happened to Comprehensive Immigration Reform by Aura Bogado at Colorlines sums up the debacle, wins and defeats better than any list.

I love writing and reading year in reviews. My favorites from 2013 include: The Top 10 Most Racist/Privileged Things White Feminists Did in 2013, Top 10 Queer and Feminist Books of 2013, 10 Racial Justice Wins for 2013, 10 Best iPhone Apps of 2013 and the 50 Best Free iPhone Apps.

Reviews in American History: Deportations

I just submitted another paper for publication, a draft version of which is available on SSRN. It is a literature review of a book by Deirdre Moloney, National Insecurities: Immigrants and U.S. Deportation Policy Since 1882.

Abstract: Despite immigrant‐friendly rhetoric, President Obama has deported more immigrants than any other President in history, with a whooping record of almost 2 million deportations in the past 6 years. This seems quite contrary to America’s self-identity as a nation of immigrants and a beacon for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” While the politics of 9/11 have led to the conflation of immigrants with national security issues, the whooping number of people deported by the son of a Kenyan immigrant can only be fully understood through a legal history of U.S. immigration policy, and specifically, U.S. deportation policy. Quite simply, the gates to the American dream have not always been open to all. Throughout history, U.S. deportation policy has been governed by larger social trends and social mores. In National Insecurities: Immigrants and U.S. Deportation Policy Since 1882, Deirdre Moloney explores the intersection of race, class, gender and religion in constituting United States deportation policy, and contextualizes deportation in the larger social trends of the times, with an emphasis on immigrants and immigration advocacy groups. It is through the social and legal history that Moloney charts that one can begin to understand current immigration policies, which serves to exclude immigrants on the basis of arbitrary crimes, subject immigrants to mandatory detention without procedural due process, punish employers for hiring undocumented immigrants while conducting record numbers of deportations.

I think Moloney wrote a decent book, although a major shortcoming of the book is that she leaves out much of the legal history about immigration and citizenship pre­‐1882. Race was explicitly used to define eligibility for admission and citizenship in 1790 when citizenship was limited to white property–owning men. Moloney does not focus on U.S. deportation policy pre­‐1882, which limits her ability to draw the vivid comparative connections that other scholars, such as Daniel Kaanstrom in Deportation Nation, have drawn between Fugitive Slave Laws and the current deportation regime. The acceptance of diluted legal protections for an unpopular minority may have allowed the same fate to befall immigrants later. However this flaw, only slightly detracts from a thought‐provoking legal and social history of U.S. deportation law. Anyone interested in U.S. deportation policy since 1882 should grab the book, or in the alternative, read my thorough review of it.

Not One More Deportation

Ju Hong challenges the President on deportations

Ju Hong challenges the President on deportations

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.

. . . We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

— Martin Luther King, Letter From the Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Immigrant rights leader, Ju Hong, has been the subject of much derision in mainstream media circles for interrupting the President during his last speech on immigration reform. However, he is a hero among the undocumented. I am proud to call Ju Hong, a graduate student at my alma mater, San Francisco State University (SFSU), a comrade in the struggle.

Ju sparked a debate among legal experts on whether or not the President can stop deportations on his own. President Obama’s answer was quite evasive. Immigration attorney Matthew Kolken has stated that it is beyond clear that the President has the power to stop some deportations. In fact, that is precisely what the Obama Administration did with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), backed by dozens of legal experts. He also did the same for widowed spouses of U.S. citizens, though in smaller numbers. And most recently, he extended parole in place for the family members of active, reserve and former U.S. army members. These are unilateral actions to stop deportations from someone who says he doesn’t have any power to stop deportations. Even the Editorial Board at New York Times wrote an article in favor of Hong:

Mr. Obama then cut him off and began a misleading ad-lib about how halting deportations would be illegal. While the president cannot throw out whole sections of immigration law to bypass Congressional inaction, he does have discretion in choosing how to enforce it wisely. Mr. Obama was firmly within the law when he selectively halted deportations for some immigrants brought here illegally as children and for spouses and children of service members and veterans. He can undoubtedly expand administrative efforts to protect other immigrants left stranded by legislative failure.

Earlier today on Al-Jazeera International, Neidi Dominguez, a leader from the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, and I held down the fort for Ju Hong, and many others in the community who have put their lives on the line and engaged in civil disobedience actions over the past few years. Hong’s call to the President to stop deportations resonated with many in the immigrant rights community who have made the same demand through sit-ins, stopping deportation buses, locking themselves to the gates of detention facilities and so on.

These actions serve to not just place a spotlight on our communities that are devastated by deportations. These actions also empower us to let go of the fear of our unauthorized presence in this country, and become unafraid and unapologetic. As Neidi stated on Al-Jazeera, getting arrested could have meant deportation for her last year, but she would face it on her own terms. When the Obama Administration executed a notice to start my deportation, it was on my own terms. Alas, I still yearn for a home and family I have not seen in almost 15 years.

Civil disobedience actions are the theatre of the oppressed–a performance to make a larger political point. Across the country, members of our community are openly and directly challenging policies that are tearing our families apart, at detention centers, out on the streets and even at the border. We are tired of seeing parents separated from their children, and we are simply not willing to take it anymore. Whether or not we get any type of immigration reform from Congress, it is very clear that we have created a fundamental paradigm shift and fostered a major cultural transformation of our people into “undocumented and unafraid.” We are here, many of us are queer, and we are not going away.

Criticizing people such as Ju and Neidi for escalating serves as a tactic to further oppress our communities, and perpetuates violence against already vulnerable migrant bodies. Those with more privilege than us tend to forget that the “undocumented and unafraid” come from some of the most vulnerable communities, and we carry many traumas. It takes not just boundless energy, but persistent courage, to live and breathe in this country on a daily basis.

Taking part in the theatre of the oppressed is the only way the politically deaf will not only hear, but listen to our voices. The calls have reached a fever pitch, transformed into a chorus, and will only grow louder with each passing day.

Not One More Deportation.

Community Voices – “CIR is Full of Lies”

David Buenrostro, Adrian James, Jahel Ramos

I have maintained a personal blog for six years now. I want to be more purposeful in terms of elevating authentic voices, and directly impacted persons in their struggles for justice. I’ll try to feature a Community Voices blog every Friday to highlight and showcase writing of interest to me, and possibly my readers. Please feel free to send me articles, blogs and news I should highlight and elevate.

Lets start off with the hot topic. Luis Serrano, a member of the Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) from Los Angeles, penned an article earlier this week where he reveals some immigration reform lies:

Lie #1:  “We can pass just and humane immigration reform.” Key words: just and humane. It’s important to know that historically when immigration bills enter the Senate, then the House, they don’t get better, they gain bad amendments like a hippie volkswagen bus gets stickers. The context is that the bills we’ve seen enter the legislative arena, already come heavily compromised. You can see the result with the SAFE act (Strengthened and Fortified Enforcement Act) which would make post Immigration Reform undocumented presence in the U.S. a crime punishable with jail time and long term detention imprisonment. Also, amendments on border militarization would devastate border communities, as Christian Ramirez, director of San Diego’s Southern Border Communities Coalition told The New York Times, “This amendment makes border communities a sacrificial lamb, in exchange for the road to citizenship.” There’s nothing humane or just about this.

Both Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), who have been part of pushing immigration reform legislation in the House in previous years, have announced that comprehensive immigration reform is dead for the year as the House will embark on piecemeal reform. For a real unbiased assessment of the situation, I would advise people to read Tania Unzueta’s article from last year on How I stopped believing in CIR and learned to love ‘piecemeal’ legislation. Jaisal Noor over at TruthOut did an interview with David Bacon on how Immigration reform requires dismantling NAFTA and protecting migrant’s rights.

There is a new multi-million dollar push by beltway organizations and New York foundations to target 9 Congressional Republicans in an effort to pass S. 744 or H.R. 15 – the immigration reform proposals, making it crystal clear that the push for immigration reform this year was always a cynical electoral ploy to win seats for Democrats, and not do anything for immigrant communities.

While people wait for reforms, Customs and Border Protections (CBP) continues to maintain that they will shoot to kill anyone who throws stones at them. Since 2010, the CBP has killed at least 8 people who threw rocks at them, including a young 14-year-old Mexican boy.

Revered MIT linguist, Noam Chomsky, chimes in on how the U.S.-Mexico border is cruel by design:

Border crossings themselves are the acts of desperate people. You have to go miles through the desert with no water. It’s long treks in the heat during the day and freezing cold at night—and there are armed militias roaming around trying to hunt people down. I know personally a Guatemalan-Mayan woman who crossed the border half a dozen times while pregnant. Finally, she made it on the seventh try. I think she was seven or eight months pregnant and was rescued by solidarity workers who brought her to Boston. There are plenty of other cases like that—terrible cases. Families that are torn apart. Basically, these people don’t want to be here. They want to be back home, but conditions there have been made so awful that they can’t survive.  They are torn from their families, they can’t see their children; they can’t see their grandparents. They live and die apart. It’s a terrible situation

Jesús Iñiguez responds to Gaby Pacheco’s controversial post on The Huffington Post, In God We Trust Immigration Reform, in which she claimed to have apologized for breaking the law while lobbying in Congress:

Perhaps she didn’t realize it at the moment, but with two words, Gaby effectively rendered the whole “Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic” movement as primitive, savage and backward, full of people incapable of understanding their place in this bureaucratic system that she believes is too big to fail, reformed or not. I mean, why on earth would you be apologetic for having a political mis-identity pressed onto you by something entirely external from you? We didn’t choose to be undocumented. There are too many complex factors to consider when talking about this whole immigration debacle, and chalking it up to the will of God is just a new way of accepting the whole notion of modernized Manifest Destiny as the architect of this situation of ours. All the God talk effectively muzzles us from addressing the large scale pillaging that’s been happening all around us for centuries by other God-fearing and adhering folks.

After winning the fight for driver’s licenses in California and Washington D.C., local organizations are energized to carry on the fight at those levels. The New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) will be renewing its push for the New York DREAM Act soon, as more organizations and organizers turn to state and local battles with nothing happening on the federal level. The New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers are organizing a campaign to stop ICE raids in their community, and stop the deportations of their loved ones. To that end, they have asked organizations to sign on to stop the deportation of New Orleans parents and laborers who are caught up in ICE raids.

So how we do move forward on the national level? Legalization For All has been blogging for a while now about pushing for an expansion to the DACA program:

There is a growing demand in the Chicano, Mexicano, Central American and Latino communities for the president to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to all undocumented. Why is the government deporting people who might be eligible to legalize under a future immigration reform bill? Ultimately, what is needed is legalization for all undocumented. But with no legalization law on the horizon, partial steps such as Deferred Action would help the undocumented. They would be able to work legally and would not be subject to ICE raids. Deferred Action also doesn’t have all of the bad elements of the Senate CIR bill, which would further militarize the border, increase workplace repression, reduce family reunification and end the diversity visa program that brings in about half the immigrants from Africa.

That sounds like a plan.

What I’m reading this week: The Dreamers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate by Walter Nicholls and Reform Without Justice by Alonso Gonzales. I’ll review them both soon.