We begin this statement by honoring the communities who walked these lands before us, and who continue to guard them as its most knowledgeable caregivers – the Ojibwe and Dakota peoples of Minnesota, “The Sky-Tinted Water” or “The Cloudy Water.” We thank those whose land has welcomed us, and we honor their struggle for self-determination and for dignity. We follow their lead as they remind us we must first honor the land that holds us and offers us nourishment on a daily basis.
As you know, anti-immigrant powers have come together to challenge DACA, and President Trump plans to make an official announcement on September 5th. We have no faith in a man that time after time has decided to side with racists, white supremacists, and anti-immigrant nationalists.
In good faith, DACA recipients gave the federal government information about the institutions where we/they study and work, submitted our fingerprints, and shared every little detail of our lives in exchange for some peace of mind, a deferred deportation, and access to a renewable two-year work permit that has allowed many of us to prosper and reunite with our families. Through the years, DACA proved to be not only a pro-immigrant program, but a pro-education, pro-prosperity, pro-innovation and anti-crime initiative with a minimum cost to taxpayers and overwhelming support due to the positive impact in communities across the nation. Resonating with our very own Paul Wellstone’s reminders that “we all do better when we all do better,” immigrants proved this to be true given the opportunities granted by DACA.
President Trump ran and won an election by using immigrants and refugees as the scapegoats of hate, racism, and bigotry. Apart from being inhumane and immoral, his proposed blueprint for mass deportation laid out on February 21st, 2017 is also expensive. The administration needs a lot of resources in order to fulfill the promise of a wall, of increasing it’s immigration detention daily bed quotas to almost 52,000, as well as other measures that will continue to further the criminalization of immigrants. Congress goes back to session on September 5th, the same date that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton set as a deadline for President Trump to rescind DACA, and the day media has declared President Trump will make public his decision on the fate of 800 000 people.
We are also deeply concerned about the divisive messages taking central stage as DACA is challenged. These messages continue the oppression of our parents and DACA holders by repeating time and time again that these youth were “brought here by their parents through no fault of their own.” We are very clear: not only DACA holders have no fault on their/our own, also our/their parents and the rest of the undocumented population are clear that we have lived in a global crisis in which trade agreements and wars for profit and resources have exploited, marginalized, pushed out and derooted millions of black, brown and API people from their land of origin, who in order to survive and prosper, had to take a leap of faith and risk it all to come to this country. We reject the notion that we have to further the lies of white supremacy in order to get public support of the American people, and a pathway trough the legislative process.
We denounce the history of anti-immigrant sentiments that have severely impacted immigrants of color, and we affirm that the current xenophobic climate is experienced by all communities of color in a variety of ways – this is not exclusively a Latino issue. African and API immigrant communities have been under attack for far too long; African and African American people have a long history of struggling for citizenship rights, during slavery and after abolition. The Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese people from migrating to the U.S. for over fifty years. Muslim immigrants are facing renewed Islamophobic initiatives similar to those seen after 9/11, exemplified by the recent Muslim ban. Immigration laws have been used to uphold structural racism and cis heteronormativity, and have restricted formal channels of migration to people with limited financial resources. For far too long, race, class, and gender have been used to perpetuate the practices of exploitation through immigration laws, and we denounce that these conditions are all undeniably connected to the global imposition of the interests and will of the billionaire classes.
It is no secret that Donald J. Trump ran a campaign fueled by racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic messages, but what has been largely obscured is the reality that his message relied on old tactics to use communities of color as scapegoats to blame for all of the problems this country faces. In his inaugural speech he painted powerful images about the uncertainties faced by this country’s working-class and working-poor communities; as he named these uncertainties, he denounced terrorism and immigration as the targets to be fought. This is a time-tested divide and conquer tactic that keeps the country’s working-class and working-poor white communities from recognizing the struggles they share with their people of color and non-white immigrant counterparts. While he lamented at the visions of “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” as of July of this year, his administration has proved to be notoriously anti-union and has produced the fewest net new jobs this country has seen in the last seven years (L.A. Times, July 3 2017). As he claimed to worry about “an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge,” he nominated affluent socialite Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education, a nominee with a record of favoring the privatization of K-12 education; this privatization has often failed to serve all students, particularly those coming from working-class backgrounds. In addition, there have been efforts to cut federal grants and programs in higher education that have historically promoted the social upward mobility for working class/POC. Trump’s false commitment to promoting “all knowledge” is best exemplified by his practice of calling lies “alternative facts.” The alternative fact here is that President Trump is committed to improving the conditions for the most vulnerable communities in this country; he is certainly not committed to any actions that close the racial and class gaps that threaten young and old Americans across our nation. From threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act to attempts to dismantle unions and workers’ benefits, we know Trump only stands on his own side.
Moving forward, we are guided by the visions of hope that many of us learned from our parents. We are most grateful for their courage in bringing us to this country in search of opportunities for a better life; we thank them, and honor their sacrifices, as we move forward with their unapologetic desire to offer us a life of dignity and prosperity. We are fueled by a desire to offer our parents a safe and peaceful retirement in their advanced years, and to care for them as they cared for us when we were too little to care for ourselves.
We are thankful to our elders in the movement, to all those who stood up and followed their call to grace and have inherited us stories, lessons, and resilience. We are grateful to stand on the shoulders of freedom fighters and generations of survivors who learned how to pave the way when there was none, and who crafted the path with all the tools they had – often times risking their own lives.
If you are somehow affected by the immigration system, we invite you to join us; you are the only judge on when and how to show up when the time is right for you, send us a message, there are many ways to get involved. One thing we need to say, silence won’t protect us. And while we know you are hurt and the weight on our shoulders feels great and unbearable, know that you are not alone, and that our organization will continue to build power for immigration and education justice having all of us and our families at the center of our work.
If you are not but you have been moved to action, we ask to stand up in solidarity by following the next steps and signing up to our actions here. We know our struggle is not new, but it is also far from being over. At the end of the day we are not only fighting for DACA and the dignity and respect for all immigrants; we will also continue to organize, mobilize, and disrupt with our allies who, like us, are looking to secure humane and dignified living conditions for ourselves and our children under a transformed economy that works for all of us, not only a few.
In solidarity and justice,
Emilia Gonzalez Avalos
***Prepared in partnership with Idalia Robes de Leon.