Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) is an undocumented-led group that fights deportations and criminalization of Black, Brown and immigrant communities in Chicago and surrounding areas. Donald Trump’s administration ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on September 5 and since then there has been renewed discussion of possibly passing the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
The DREAM Act is making headlines again. As a group that began with a focus on the rights of young undocumented people, it’s important to us that such legislation clearly helps more than just a small portion of undocumented people. We want to make sure that any immigration reform doesn’t also lead to immigration enforcement crackdowns and deportations for many of the community members who were left out of DACA. The DREAM Act could benefit the roughly 897,605 individuals who are currently recipients of DACA, but it does nothing to address or provide any relief for the majority of our community which is preyed upon by both ICE and police. In fact, Democrats are bargaining for the DREAM Act with Trump in exchange for greater immigration enforcement, which would create a more dangerous border and ensue chaos on the immigrant community as a whole.
Our lives are complicated, not static nor inspirational. Our experiences are varied, and navigating the world as a person who is undocumented is contingent on many factors. We are Black, Brown, indigenous, queer, gender non-conforming, differently abled, poor, and Muslim. Some of us also have criminal records. Not having a path to citizenship does not create a singular experience. The ways in which we are treated in the United States is informed by the multiplicity of our lives.
When having conversations around the DREAM Act, it is important to acknowledge the distinctions made between who is eligible to benefit from it and who will have a greater chance of being deported because of it. The risk of being placed in deportation proceedings increase twofold once a person is criminalized, sometimes without even knowing it (i.e. being placed in a gang database).
The issue of who is left out and persecuted is also something that should be understood in the context of criminalization of people of color. In Chicago, Black and Brown communities are over-policed and thus have a higher probability of interacting with law enforcement and being criminalized simply for existing.
For someone like Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, who was placed in the Chicago Police Department’s gang-database simply for hanging out with friends on a particular street in Chicago, being criminalized has resulted in six months of detention and four children without a father. To ICE it does not matter that CPD placed him in their gang database as a member of two different, and opposing, gangs. It does not matter that thousands of Black and Brown people are on this list without even knowing it.
Our lives are simply not valued by ICE or CPD. CPD’s database exists in a clandestine manner and is therefore incontestable for those who are placed in it. Wilmer is just one example of the millions of Black and Brown people who are criminalized and disposed of by a system only interested in profiting from our detention. For example Corrections Corporations of America, which runs for-profit detention centers, gets paid about $150 per detainee from the government.
Having our community arbitrarily divided into those deserving of rights and those who are expendable reflects a system that never was meant to acknowledge our community’s full humanity in the first place. To place impossible standards on 11 million people is delusional, and to ignore the consequences of criminalization is irresponsible.