The Anti-Trump Resistance Must Not Fall Into the “Good” Vs. “Bad” Immigrant Trap

With renewed focus on the DREAM Act it’s important that any immigration reform benefit all undocumented people.

Organized Communities Against Deportations September 27, 2017

A one-year-old clings to his mother after she turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents on December 7, 2015 near Rio Grande City, Texas. She and her son were escaping the violence in El Salvador. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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.

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 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.

Orga­nized Com­mu­ni­ties Against Depor­ta­tions (OCAD) seeks to stop depor­ta­tions in our com­mu­ni­ties through mobi­liza­tion, advo­ca­cy and edu­ca­tion. OCAD emerged out of the work of the Immi­grant Youth Jus­tice League and since 2012 OCAD has led pub­lic cam­paigns to stop depor­ta­tions in Illi­nois. OCAD helps fam­i­lies fight depor­ta­tions of loved ones by con­nect­ing them to the prop­er legal venues and infor­ma­tion that can make the dif­fer­ence between stay­ing in this coun­try or get­ting deported.
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