Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
White nationalists have been vandalizing college campuses across the country, plastering ugly white flyers with basic fonts stating that “It is okay to be white.”
Yes, sometimes change begins with accepting yourselves. You should do what you need to do for that acceptance.
Instead of doing extra work to take down these wasteful flyers, maybe we should just add our own perspectives, as we have done above.
It’s okay to be white; better to be brown; and excellent to be black.
A very happy holidays to everyone, whatever your color or creed!
Recently, while traveling from Washington D.C. to sunny Florida, Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) sent me to secondary inspection at the airport. Apparently, my bag had an object that they could not identify.
They asked me to identify the object on the screen and I was baffled. It was deep in my 50 gallon backpack, and I could not remember what I had stuffed at the bottom.
The TSA officer asked me whether I was carrying sea salts. I didn’t know at the time what that meant, so I blurted out that I had been to the beach lately.
She looked at me like I had grown two heads, and asked me whether it could be bath salts. Again, I was confused and told her I had no idea what she meant. And even if I was carrying sea salts or bath salts, what was the problem with carrying salt?
The TSA officer started to unpack my bag, examining each item meticulously. Finally, she got to the bottom of bag and found the offending object:
My partner is a bananagrams lover, and I was carrying a brand new bananagrams pack that I had recently bought for her. The TSA officer did not appear amused, and asked me to break the seal. I told her it was a gift for my wife, which was probably not a good idea to blurt out either, but she insisted that I open the bag. So I opened it, and revealed a bunch of new tiles.
At this point, over 20 minutes had elapsed, and we were about to miss our flight. Taking pity on me, she finally packed my bag and let me scamper off to find my flight.
My partner, who is a white woman, had the job of carrying the bananagrams on the way back from Florida. She somehow got through the checkpoint without any trouble.
Pro tip: Give all your oddly shaped items to your white friends to carry at airport checkpoints. Alternatively, stop looking like a queer South Asian boi.
The system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect. – W.E.B. Dubois
Marissa Alexander will spend more time in prison for not killing anyone than the person who shot an unarmed, young, black man, Michael Brown.
The grand jury failed to indict anyone, much less Darren Wilson. When does that ever happen? That rarely ever happens, and in fact, it is very likely that the 108 day wait that Mike Brown’s family endured was not to make the decision, but to bury it.
But the amazing protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and the solidarity protesters around the country refused to let it go, refused to stand down in the face of injustice.
Racism is insidious, institutional and pervasive. We must acknowledge it before we can eradicate it. Last night, McCullogh proved that to the people of the U.S. Last night, the first African-American President of the U.S. fumbled and hammed through a half-hearted and ineffective speech. Where is his outrage as a black man in America?
People are outraged, and rightly so.
Much love and healing to Michael Brown’s family.
The struggle continues.
He can be known as the Abraham Lincoln of undocumented immigrants. But thus far, President Obama’s record on immigration is depressing and dismal.
For someone working on building a racial justice movement, one would imagine that a headline such as that would mean we are royally screwed.
President Obama is nearing 2 million deportations, and estimated to reach 3 million by the end of his term. That is a quarter of all undocumented immigrants in the United States. Many such persons deported have significant ties to the U.S. and many are spouses and parents of U.S. citizens. Even while the federal government was shutdown, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was deemed essential, and continued to deport persons at a rate of 1,100 per day, tearing apart black and brown families and communities.
As Congress emerges from the shadow of shutdown, the President has taken the opportunity to try and put immigration reform back on the agenda. While we desperately need some sort of immigration reform, many see this latest attempt as a way to divert attention from the record-breaking 2 million deportations under his Administration, and a way to pander to certain demographics for the mid-term elections rather than a genuine effort to undertake real reform before the next government shutdown on January 15.
But here is the real problem. In its current frame, the pursuit for comprehensive immigration reform is a complete failure for both racial justice and real immigrant lives. It is reform without justice.
One of the greatest victories of right-wing extremists such as the Tanton Network has been to push professional immigration reform advocates to adopt right-wing talking points. As such the entire immigration reform debate is framed along the binary of good immigrant and bad immigrants. Since 2005, immigration reform advocates have waged a national campaign for comprehensive immigration reform on the premise of exchanging a militarized border wall, privatized prisons and increased surveillance for a pathway to citizenship for a limited number of undocumented immigrants. Under the current frame, the 11.7 million who are undocumented and aspiring to be American have to “get right with the law,” “get in line,” speak English, pay fines, and pay taxes in order to gain some sort of legal status in the U.S. These are professional messaging points that bear no truth and no justice for immigrants.
Instead, the good immigrant and bad immigrant frames has hurt advocacy for racial and immigrant justice. For example, when immigration reform advocates hold up banners saying “We are Not Criminals…” they inadvertently buy into the notion that certain demographic groups are criminals. When they emphasize a pathway to citizenship at the expense of basic human right to live, work and travel, they willfully ignore what citizenship means for a young, black man such as Trayvon Martin. When they criminalize and exclude various categories of immigrants from the blueprint for immigration reform, they make it harder to ally with movements for criminal justice and racial justice.
Besides, most of the immigration reform agenda ignores and feeds into the real problem — many white people are petrified of the rapid demographic changes occurring in this country, mostly due to immigration from Latin American countries, which have been devastated by neo-liberal globalization policies. They do not like that the country is becoming more brown. However, instead of constructively talking about race and the devastation caused by U.S. foreign policies that lead people to move here, professional immigration reform advocates have tried to pacify these white racist fears with the discourse of “aspiring Americans.” The message is that the 11.7 million will just assimilate into the “melting pot” of the United States and won’t threaten white supremacy and white privilege.
Of course, it is beside the point that not a single undocumented person actually identifies as an aspiring American in real life. As Junot Diaz put it, we actually cannot be certain that people stop being immigrants. Perhaps many of the 11.7 million will integrate much like the previous amnesty, but not because the 11.7 million necessarily want to be American voters but because most of them just want to work, drive, travel, take care of their families and be left alone by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Yet, despite this salient assimilationist rhetoric, comprehensive immigration reform is not going anywhere. And that is mostly because the campaign messaging is predicated on a series of lies that does not inspire faith or confidence among undocumented immigrants who cannot relate to it.
The other strategy–placating to the extreme right-wing nuts at the GOP–does not help matters. Staunch defenders of President Obama’s terrible immigration record state that the GOP is the real problem and the reason why the President has had to take a tough stance against immigrants, ramping up enforcement numbers, in order to sell immigration reform to them on a bipartisan platter. However, if the recent government shutdown has shown us anything, it is that compromising with whiny hostage takers is a bad idea. In order to win on policy matters, well-meaning immigration reformers have to stop focusing on winning elections for the Democrats who bear just as much responsibility for draconian deportations and immigration detention system, and start focusing on playing both sides.
But comprehensive immigration reform is just one vehicle for those of us who are more interested in immigrant justice and less interested in winning elections for the Democrats. Our fight for immigrant justice is not just about Latinos — it is about everyone who is racially profiled and treated as second-class in a country that is supposed to be the land of the free and home of the brave. In order to cut through the current impasse on immigrant justice, immigrant rights and criminal justice movements, as in brown and black people, need to recognize their shared experiences, common goals and build a racial justice movement. Everyone pays lip-service to black/brown solidarity but it has not translated into anything meaningful for the thousands of black and brown persons who are increasingly incarcerated in our jails, prisons and detention centers. Without actively working and building alliances in black communities, non-black immigrant rights advocates threaten to isolate themselves from those with whom they have the most in common.
We have much in common with the black community and the movement for criminal justice. Sometimes, this solidarity is wrongly expressed by labeling immigrant rights as the “new civil rights movement.” This is yet another example of how mainstream immigration reformers have no racial justice compass. Instead of falling into the trap of calling ourselves the “new civil rights movement” and faking civil disobedience actions for history books, we need to build solidarity not on literal comparisons of our oppressions, but on our shared experiences with the system.
As undocumented persons, we are part of a community that is targeted, racially-profiled and criminalized in jails across the country. Various states such as Arizona and Alabama have tried to make our mere existence a crime. Prosecutors across the country seek criminal convictions for black and brown persons before trying to deport us. The Department of Homeland Security is currently building databases of young persons who are possibly “gang members” and running a “risk assessment” on every undocumented person in order to exclude such persons from immigration reform. It is impossible to rehabilitate ourselves and our communities out of such a situation by hailing that “we are not criminals” and “we are aspiring Americans.”
As such, immigration justice seekers need to have a critical dialogue on race and stop compromising with racists. Before all else though, we need the President and his latest nominee for DHS Secretary, Jeh Johnson, to stop the deportations.
Forget time is now. Time has passed.
The following is a guest post from Lindsay Schubiner, my partner.
Step 1. Make sure you have no responsibilities in life so that you can devote all your time to your god-given duty to let everyone know that some immigrants have political opinions and tell really funny jokes.
Step 2. Set up a virtual law office so that you can fool people into thinking you are a real lawyer. The other alternative is to set up a fake political party so you can convince people that you actually have some political clout.
Step 3. Don’t bother to learn about how real social movements operate. Surely these kids can be brought down by spinning their satirical jokes into accusations of cannibalism and anarchism.
Step 4. This part is very important. Find a prominent yet ignorant, weak-willed, and insecure white man. Manipulate him into providing you with cover for your, shall we say, “passionate” pursuit of information about undocumented youth.
Step 5. Be sure to choose your targets wisely. Excellent targets include:
- People who have nothing to lose;
- People who don’t make decisions about movement actions;
- People who don’t care about you or your far right-wing friends;
- People who are respected, supported, and, most importantly, well-connected;
- Poster children supported by prominent politicians who are champions of your cause.
Step 6. Attack these targets relentlessly. Make sure you know and read everything they have ever written, anywhere and at any time. Make sure you monitor all their online actions during every waking moment. Don’t sleep.
Step 7. Align yourself with the extreme right wing. Be sure to base your attacks on xenophobic, nativist, racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic stereotypes. Surely then, everyone will realize that immigrant youth are the enemy of comprehensive immigration reform!
Step 8. Make sure your attacks are outlandish enough that they provide countless hours of entertainment and fun for your targets.
Step 9. Make sure to publicly accuse your targets of serious crimes. Hopefully, the DOJ will see your accusations and do something! Don’t worry about those future defamation lawsuits. Pile it on! After all, you have prominent lawyer friends to defend you.
Step 10. Post online the addresses, photos, and personal information of your targets, along with some facts (well, you can stretch that part) that are sure to rile up the vigilante racists. Hope that they will do the rest of the work for you.
Step 11. When your targets file an order of protection against you for stalking, show up to defend your fundamental American right to stalk and harass undocumented immigrants in the name of immigration reform.
Step 12. Scratch your head and wonder why you haven’t brought down the immigrant youth movement yet.
Much love and peace.