Let’s take a deep breath.
Our harsh truth is that for decades both parties in the U.S. have failed to deliver true relief to immigrants in this country.
Today, I’m writing this love letter to you, because I see you and hear your outrage and disappointment we all have held, but as someone who has been in this fight for decades, I know that together we can overcome these dark times.
This letter is of love and of recommitment, a recommitment to stay in the fight until all of us have the freedom to thrive, to move freely and to live without fear of being caged or expelled from our homes.
The Biden-Harris administration is no different from what we’ve been forced to live under other administrations. It has been a year of empty promises, harmful bills, and unfortunately- detention and deportation are permeating our communities. We’re facing reckless actions from politicians, they say our borders are “being invaded”, they told us people from Central America “should not come”. We saw that nothing happened after Black Haitian immigrants were violently assaulted by Border Patrol agents… (sighs). But why does this keep happening to us!
The reality, my dear friends, is that white supremacy, racism and the idea that immigrants and people of color are disposable is deeply embedded in the immigration laws and policies that exist today.
But we can revoke these policies and change the way these policies are made, but it starts with a commitment from us in the movement to reject the crumbs that these political parties offer us. It starts with us raising the bar and demanding that immigration relief is provided to everyone regardless of criminal record, regardless of length of time they have been in this country, and regardless of whether people pay taxes or not. We need to stop measuring ourselves for the amount of contributions we make to this country, and start valuing ourselves as human beings who deserve to have freedom and live without fear, period.
We have been in this place before, under the Obama Administration, at the end of 2010 when the DREAM Act failed in the Senate and Congress refused to put immigration reform up for a floor vote. Back then, it seemed like victory was not possible however; we made a bold and courageous decision by taking the fight directly to the Obama-Biden administration by demanding administrative relief.
That courageous decision, to hold the Obama-Biden Administration accountable to the immigrant community during a presidential election year, led to most significant victory on immigration since the 1986 Amnesty – temporary protection for over 1 million undocumented youth.
This moment of political uncertainty will require us to be a bold and courageous movement once again. Like we were in 2011 when we demanded the Obama Administration to stop deporting undocumented youth or in 2014 when we took to the street and demanded #Not1More deportations. But this time, we have to do it better – we have to expand the fight and include those who have been left behind.
Today, not all immigrant communities are treated equally. Over time, our fight for dignity and respect for all immigrants has won the sympathy of the American Public for certain groups of undocumented immigrants such as DACA recipients and TPS holders, who have some level of protection for deportation. Our struggle for collective liberation has to include those with temporary protections so they can be fully legalized but it must go beyond that.
It must also include those who are disproportionately criminalized and targeted by this white supremacist immigration system. It must be centered around Black immigrants who are incarcerated, detained and deported at higher rates. It must be centered around trans-queer and non-conforming immigrants who are often misgendered harassed and placed in solitary confinement. It must be centered around those immigrants with criminal records whose criminal charges from years (and sometimes decades) ago are often used to justify detention, deportation and family separation.
Whether we continue to push congress on legalization or decide to go after the Biden-Harris Administration on administrative relief, once thing is clear: we have to be inclusive, otherwise lawmakers and the media will continue to exclude those we chose to leave behind. We can not expect Congress and Biden to include all 11 million undocumented immigrants and allow exclusionary narratives and policies that criminalize and divide the immigrant community to exist in our organizing spaces and become our legislative priorities. We can not continue to compromise our commitment to protect and legalize all immigrants in order to please the Senate Parliamentarian, Sinema or Manchin.
Biden has been in office for over a year, let our experiences, wisdom and learnings from the Obama years and those 3 million deportation remain fresh in our hearts and minds and commit to an inclusionary and radical fight, one we can be proud of. One that centers those have been constantly criminalized and left behind.