**NOTE: This Op-Ed was originally supposed to be published in the Arizona Informant, however they ran an incorrect article. Here is the correct version of the piece.**
We Don’t Belong on the “Border Security” Bandwagon
By Tia Oso, BAJI Arizona Organizer
In a state like Arizona where so many could potentially benefit from Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the notion of increasing “border security” is an insidious misnomer and consummate distraction. Currently politicians such Governor Jan Brewer and Senator John McCain are advocating for more mechanisms to “protect” the border, but for those who live in border communities this is not their preference.
As a person born and raise in Arizona I’ve been disturbed when I’ve heard the preoccupation with border security that’s being championed by conservative forces. These cries often have racialized connotations and seemed unfounded, especially because there is a 600-mile border fence and more U.S. Border Patrol presence in recent history. And so I organized a delegation of African Americans from Arizona and California to visit the U.S. – Mexico Border.
This delegation was hosted by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration’s Phoenix Chapter. What we discovered was that there was a humanitarian crisis occurring in the U.S. Mexico border region, leaving migrants to navigate harsh desert terrain sometimes leading to their death. We also found that the term “Border Security” is code for increased funding for law enforcement. This includes surveillance cameras, watch towers, twenty foot high steel fencing and Border Patrol agents on foot, patrol cars and bicycle have “secured” Nogales into a militarized zone.
Just as in the Black community, an emphasis on law enforcement to keep people “safe” equates to harassment, humiliation and degradation of the people in these communities, and for some, death at the hands of enforcing officers or vigilantes.
Recently, several young, unarmed teens on the Mexican side of the Border were shot and killed by U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents, for allegedly “throwing rocks”. Their deaths at the hands of USBP is an unsettling reminder of the many unarmed black teens killed by police officers in cities throughout the U.S. under unjust and illogical circumstances.
Inhumane rhetoric paints entire groups of people as “illegal” and a menace to society. This kind of dehumanizing perspective leads to policies that degrade and disenfranchise entire communities. And in some cases leads to violence and death. What’s worse is that this is not new. What is being experienced in border communities also occurs in urban areas with majority black and brown communities daily. Hyper-policing and extrajudicial measures leads to unsafe communities. And sadly with all the emphasis on enforcement the root causes of migration and urban social ills go unaddressed.
Discourse that addresses why millions of Mexicans migrate from Mexico due to “fair trade” agreements that have ravaged their economy, is left out of the discussion. So too are the cuts to public education funds, outsourcing of manufacturing and other middle class jobs, and the War on Drugs have left black communities impoverished also being left out of the discussion.
Today, many black immigrants, from the Caribbean, Africa and parts of Latin America, are now making the journey across the US-Mexico border to often due to the backlogs in the U.S. immigration system and unjust international trade policies. Border security apparatuses also impact these asylum seekers, refugees and those who are simply seeking to work and provide for their family.
An irrational focus on Border Security is a distraction from the real issues of exploitation of migratory communities. The U.S. – Mexico Border is the most safe it has ever been, and crossings are at an historic low. Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation must prioritize citizenship, address backlogs and protect the human and civil rights of immigrants. Our communities must promote an end to racial profiling period, and take the lead in supporting policy that reflects our values of racial and economic justice for all.
Tia Oso, is the Phoenix-based Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) Arizona Organizer. She is a native to Arizona and a long time social justice advocate.
Post by Terence Courtney, BAJI Southeast Organizer
As we witness the haggling between both political parties in Washington D.C. about their vision for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), we increasingly see the need for US born and Immigrant people of African descent to be more visible and vocal on this issue. Often immigration policy makers do not envision the experience of Black people when they think about who’s affected. They do not take into account the particular experience of African descended immigrants who come from countries in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa itself. We are invisible to them. This is why we at BAJI believe that it is urgent that we work within the Black community to develop more internal organization that leads to the creation of a perspective on Immigration deeply rooted in our lived experiences. We must also create more movement infrastructure to significantly increase the effectiveness of alliances that cut across cultures.
This need was clearly exhibited in the April 10th Immigrant Rights March that took place in Atlanta, Georgia. The event itself was a muscular display by mostly the Latino community, with solidarity support from Atlanta’s labor community and a plethora of progressive non-profit organizations. March participants put forth the right messages. We demanded justice from the Obama administration and all law makers. No more detentions. No more deportations. A real and just pathway to legalization and citizenship, were the demands. However, even though black people were present, we were not there as an organized and distinctive body with our own agenda as it relates to the future of Immigration Reform. To significantly increase and maximize the power of such events, we need to have a parallel movement of African descended people fighting with the Latino community against the oppressive forces that subjugate us all. This is what we at BAJI are building towards in the south. In Atlanta and elsewhere we will be escalating our call to progressive black people to come together to dialogue about this issue, and take action. We need to develop a black agenda for Immigration. For too long our Latino sisters and brothers have had to carry a disproportionate amount of the weight for this struggle, and this must change if we are to truly have policies based on Social Justice, Economic Justice, Racial Equity, and Human Rights.
Places like Alabama have done quite a bit to advance alliance building across cultures to bolster the progressive fight against Arizona style anti-immigrant legislation. We want to help this go further. In the coming weeks while congress works out its plan, we will do the same through outreach, education and organizing. Building on the efforts by local institutions and organizers, we wish to intensify Black participation in this movement and do what we can to help amplify a Black perspective, while strengthening Black/Brown partnerships.
The south is so important to the future of Immigration reform because of the presence of majority of the US’s black community and as a gateway to the global south. Moreover, the south remains a place of intense white supremacy; leading the nation in the implementation of retrograde laws against Immigrant families. Our work in the south is just beginning. The road will be long and difficult. But we are committed to a struggle for justice and plan to work with people in the south to dismantle this growing tool of oppression.
After years of non-action and adverse action from differing political groups, persuasions and governmental entities, the issue of immigration almost immediately gained more serious national attention following the re-election of President Barack Obama.
While most people think primarily of Hispanics and Asians when the topic of immigration comes up, there are number of people of African descent that fall into the immigrant population as well.
“Blacks only make up around 10 percent of the immigrant population,” said Opal Tometi of the Black Alliance, citing United States Department of Immigration statistics. “Yet, Blacks are five times more likely to be detained or deported.”
Tometi spearheads a network of groups that address issues of immigration and other such rights for Blacks, and does so on a worldwide basis.
The immigration issue has seen many changes and developments over the years, but it has typically been driven by a key interest—American corporate and business needs.
Corporations have always sought to exploit cheap labor while American laborers have sought better wages as immigrants have challenged them for jobs.
Race and ethnicity have often been a bedrock component of American immigration, including the slave trade, the Chinese railroad workers, and Hispanics in agriculture. Laws tended to change once usefulness has been absorbed or because of challenges.
In 1790, Congress passed a law allowing the naturalization of free White persons, a racial requirement for American citizenship, which remained on the books until 1952. In 1907, the U.S. and Japan entered into a diplomatic agreement—not bound by law, yet adhered to—where Japan agreed to only emigrate educated or business-engaged Japanese, and Japan would also withhold skilled and unskilled laborers, along with those affected by mental or physical disabilities. President Theodore Roosevelt agreed to desegregate California schools in exchange. This reversed a practice where Asians in Northern California were educated separately from the larger student population much as Blacks were in the South.
The Immigration Act of 1917 added a literacy test and designated Asia as a barred zone, allowing only Japanese and Philippine immigrants. A barred zoned limits the number people allowed to come into the U.S. from a certain area.
Race was further embedded in immigration law in 1882 when Chinese were prevented from entry into the U.S. for decades by the Chinese Exclusion Act. The act was repealed in 1943 during World War II as the nation warred against the Germans and Japanese because, some historians say, Chinese were needed for military intelligence against Japan.
At one time, American immigration was limited to a certain number of people per year pursuant to federal law, and was considered as enforcement and aid to American culture, democracy, national defense and security.
It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965, which was encouraged and only made possible by the Civil Rights Movement and the ensuing Voting Rights Act of 1965, that race-based immigration admission was replaced by criteria that involved skills, profession or by family relation to U.S. citizens.
Currently, the White House and the Senate Bipartisan Committee on Immigration Reform have both drafted plans that include an eventual pathway to permanent citizenship for the thousands of people who entered the U.S. illegally, but they don’t yet agree on details. Both do, however, agree that applicants pay fines, taxes, wait in line behind current green-card applicants, and learn to speak English.
Many hardline Republicans, however, have been less willing to consider permanent citizenship.
The Bipartisan Policy Center, a quasi-outside governmental advisory group (a think tank that advocates for bipartisan solutions to government problems) has enlisted Republicans Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, to team with Democrats including Henry Cisneros, former HUD Secretary and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
The committee is chaired by Rebecca Talent, former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). This bipartisan panel will also look at issues such as increased border enforcement, issuance of green cards for students that graduate with degrees in science and math in effort to draft further detailed proposals on which both parties can agree. It will forward recommendations to Congress and the president.
Black immigrants largely have not been mentioned in the immigration discussion, because the emphasis has been on immigrants of Hispanic and Asian heritage.
Many obvious and obscure issues surround immigration reform that include the rights of dreamers (the American-born children of illegal immigrants) and farm workers, who make up a large portion of the immigrant population. Other issues surround students who may or may not be in America legally, some who arrived with their parent or parents as babies or small children, some who came on their own as minors, and those who are in America on temporary status.
“The time for immigration reform is long overdue, and we applaud the president . . . for proposing a common sense, compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform plan that provides a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently reside in the United States,” said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten in a statement. “The president’s blueprint for reform and the U.S. Senate bipartisan framework shows an understanding that our nation has always been enriched by immigrants and strengthened by the diversity they bring. His proposal strengthens our borders, ensures (that) immigrant children can go to school without fear, keeps families together, and promotes safe and secure jobs for all workers. His continued support of the Dream Act gives dreamers the chance to dream by giving hard-working students who play by the rules an opportunity to pursue a college degree.”
While the subset of issues regarding immigrant children has many different facets, dreamers have a good outlook because most Americans are empathetic to children and the Dreamer cause. Some other groups have not received the same attention or empathy.
“The president’s immigration reform proposal contained no surprises,” said Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) Executive Director Gerald Lenoir in a published statement. “President Obama proposed a broad legalization program with few details. It is very positive that he includes agricultural workers in the legalization program, but it is disappointing that he made no mention of providing permanent legal status to the thousand (s) of immigrants who have Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforcement Departure Status. It is also a concern that the president wants undocumented immigrants who qualify to go to the back of the line, which means that the legalization process will take years and years. And those deemed criminals will be left out altogether.”
“The president also promised to continue down the path of more militarization of the border that has caused a record number of deaths in the desert,” he continued, “and more detentions and deportations that have split families apart and caused great hardships. This is unacceptable. The president’s proposal fails to address the root causes of migrants, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has allowed U.S. corporate farmers to dump low-cost corn and other agricultural products into the Mexican economy, forcing millions of Mexican farmers who cannot compete to leave their farms and migrate to the United States.”
“The Black Alliance for Just Immigration and its partner organizations in the Black Immigration Network (BIN) and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights will fight for a fairer and more just immigration policy that prioritizes human rights above discriminatory enforcement policies and that places the highest premium on family reunification and a much broader legalization program,” Lenoir concluded.
Not all of the organizational members of the BIN totally agree with Lenoir and BAJI. For the sake of clarity and also in fairness, NAFTA was instituted under former President Bill Clinton, and although controversial and contested, many credit the agreement in part with aiding the country’s ability to recover from the economic downturn and near recession left by the former President Bush that Clinton succeeded.
Tometi is the network coordinator of the BIN steering committee and also works with Black Alliance.org. She believes that the growth of immigrant detention has been influenced by federal enforcement activities that historically target people of African descent.
“The fact is that Black immigrants make up 10 percent of the foreign-born population,” Tometi said.
“African immigrants are the most highly educated of all immigrant groups in the U.S., yet, Black migrants in general face unprecedented adversity and are often forgotten in the immigration debate.
What’s worse (is) Black immigrants who are out of status (do not have current green cards, work visas or other similar documentation) are being detained and overrepresented in immigration detention despite their small numbers in the larger population.
“This mirrors the similar type of overrepresentation of African Americans in the criminal justice system. The impact of racial profiling across the board impacts all Black communities regardless of where they were born. And this is very pronounced in a city like New York City where Jamaicans, Haitians and Dominicans have the highest deportation numbers. This ultimately means thousands of families being torn apart and fragmented communities.”
“The notion that we need to increase border security is rooted in fear,” Tometi continued. “As a person originally from Arizona who lived in Tucson for some years, I know that increased border patrol is not what is needed. There are several reports that show the increased militarization of the border has led to hundreds of deaths over the years as well as unprecedented levels of violence in border towns. People there feel as though the border patrol has invaded their towns. Residents are at risk of being profiled every day just because of how they look or their accent. Families who have had roots in these areas for generations are now being subjected to harassment because they all of a sudden don’t look ‘American.’
“Additionally, increased border security doesn’t just include the U.S./Mexico border,” Tometi continued.
“It includes any port of entry to the U.S. This means airports, all states that are along any coast, and the U.S./Canadian border. This type of escalation in enforcement has implications (for) U.S. Citizens and migrants alike. We see the Congressional Black Caucus as major advocates for just immigration reform.
CBC members are in tune with their members and know that comprehensive immigration reform will impact Black immigrant and African American constituencies.
“Members know about the types of injustice (that) Black immigrants face. It’s great to see the visionary leadership that is coming from CBC members such as Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Representative Karen Bass, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, and Representative John Conyers. They get the issues and have listened to members of the Black Immigration Network from throughout the country.”
“Our network is hopeful that President Obama will become more in touch with his own family’s story of migration and be found on the right side of history,” she continued further. “More than comprehensive immigration reform, I want just immigration reform. This means full citizenship for all of us. Whether (that means) prioritizing temporary status holders to keeping Black immigrant families (together), eliminating the practice of mass incarceration through enforcement, or promoting economic justice, sensible immigration reform is ultimately about a citizenship that goes beyond legal status. It reflects a people’s right to pursue the universal ideals of happiness and freedom, regardless of how people have arrived.”
Law enforcement organizations such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Customs say residents along the U.S./Mexican border face increased danger posed by the growing influx of drug trafficking. Drug cartels have become larger and typically employ illegal emigrants from Mexico and others to transport drugs. Further danger is prevalent because cartels also widely add to the steady army of pedestrian border crossings by either forcing or paying otherwise harmless border crossers (known as mules) to carry drugs.
Another illegal element is that of human traffickers. This practice is also common with Asian immigrants.
The United Farm Workers (UFW) has a large stake in any legislation that is proposed because it mostly, if not solely, represents the largely populated migrant farm workers in America, who comprise a major portion of immigrants, especially in California and the Southwestern states. UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez joined President Obama at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nev., on Jan. 29, as the president laid out his proposed plan for immigration reform.
“We take heart from three commitments firmly articulated by President Obama in his address,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “Now is the time to move swiftly forward on a new immigration process in reality and not just preachment, a process that brings long-overdue recognition to hard-working, tax-paying immigrants whose hard labor and sacrifice feed all of America and much of the world.”
“We are cheered by the president’s insistence on a clear and unequivocal road map to citizenship,” he continued. “We join President Obama in being encouraged by the bipartisan framework outlined by the senators. We also applaud the president’s vow that if Congress does not act in short order, he will move forward with his own bill based on the principles he has outlined, and insist on a vote.”
Bruce Mirken of the Greenlining Institute was soberly optimistic, but says “the devil is in the details. There are a few basic principles that we think are essential,” he said. “One of them is that there has to be a true path to citizenship. Another is that there really has to be an emphasis on family reunification. The rules now can force families to be separated for years before they can be reunited and safely in the country. We are very skeptical about the suggestions for a guest worker program, which basically sets up a group of second-class citizens—workers who are really dependent on the employers who brought them here and essentially have no legal bargaining power or legal right to organize,” said Mirken. “This is a situation that is bad for them and bad for workers in general.”
“There is a whole range of issues that need to be dealt with in a humane way,” Mirken concluded. “I think (that) it’s safe to say that there will be a segment of business people who will always try to get as much work out of people for as little as they can, and give workers as few rights as they can. They and their pet politicians will try to use this as they will other issues, anti-union efforts, etc., to try to tilt the playing fields in their direction. Just calling something comprehensive immigration reform doesn’t necessarily make it a good deal. It’s got to give people some dignity.”
Post by Tia Oso, BAJI Arizona Organizer
BAJI Arizona organized a group of Black activists, health practitioners, artists and educators to attend a one day tour of migrant justice organizations in south Tucson and a brief trip to the Arizona/Mexico Border. The focus of the trip was to expose these community members to the situation near the border and reflect on the humanitarian abuses, various forms of resistance and the reality of “Border Security” and highlight the way that racial justice and human rights have been compromised in the efforts to “protect” Arizona’s border. We had the opportunity to learn beyond political rhetoric and posturing.
Our first visit was with Tierra Y Libertad. Located in the heart of the barrio, Cesar of TyLO shared their view of the oppression, exploitation and marginalization of Mexican families in the community by capitalism, racial profiling and criminalization. The way that TyLo resists is in a transformative way, by making sustainable, affordable living, health, community pride, political education and empowerment the foundation of their work. Beyond reactionary demonstrations, by taking ownership of the barrio, TyLO shows that true people power has a foundation in love and unity. Cesar mentioned the lives of people like Rosa Parks as inspiring role models for how each person should strive to take the movement into their own hands. The content of TyLO’s work is so deep and the scope so wide, yet with a simple outlook. The impact and change their vision has created is felt concretely in the lives of the families in the community. Transforming the hearts and minds of the most effected and creating the life you want, that is powerful.
At Southside Worker Center, we learned about a unique model where day laborers are protected by an organized structure that holds employers accountable, while inside the center, those waiting for work participate in educational workshops. With an ultimate goal of having the center run and led by the worker’s themselves, Southside has built a network of trust and integrity among its members. Recently one of their organizers, Raul Ochoa literally laid his life down to block a border patrol agent from detaining a worker (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/02/19/Hundreds-protest-arrest-of-activist/UPI-33771361285065/ ) and was subsequently arrested. This truly inspiring act of bravery and selflessness epitomizes what true movement building is about. Family and friends that you would risk your life to save.
Derechos Humanos is a group of women that have dedicated the last 20 years to promoting respect for human and civil rights and fighting the militarization of the Southern Border region. In that work, they have pioneered the unenviable practice of dealing with the loss of life as a result of border crossing and the militarization of their communities. Bodies found in the desert. People killed by Border Patrol. Pregnant women shackled and under surveillance. As we paused for a moment of silence in recognition of the thousands of lives lost, and I wondered to myself, will their deaths be in vain? But, the women of Derechos have dedicated themselves to making sure that they have not.
As we approached Nogales, I was struck by the stark militarization of the small border town. Surveillance cameras and towers, high steel fencing splitting the small town in half and Border Patrol cars and agents everywhere. While viewing the spot where a young, unarmed teen in Mexico was shot and killed by a border patrol, I was struck by how similar his death is to the many dozens of unarmed black teens killed by police officers in cities throughout the U.S. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/08/border-patrol-shot-mexican-teen-jose-antonio-elena-rodriguez-autopsy_n_2646191.html).
Although our visit educated and enlightened me, I find myself plagued by questions. What is this all about? Systemic forces, economics, militarization and governmental interests collaborate to rip apart the lives, safety and security of everyday people. Why? Whose interest does it serve? What will it take for us to see the reality that the same battle is being repeated in all our communities? How do we assert our rights as human beings to be free from this oppression? I firmly believe the answer to these questions lies in our collective unity, especially and specifically as people of color.
The tour expand awareness and understanding around the complex situation around border migration and the nature of enforcement. We will also take time to discuss the migration of people from other countries of origin, how they experience enforcement and how we can build solidarity among these communities to raise a voice of resistance and work for change
BLACK IMMIGRANT RIGHTS GROUP EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT POTUS IMMIGRATION REFORM PLAN
[Oakland, CA – January 29, 2013] As President Obama issues his plan on immigration the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) , Gerald Lenoir issues the following statement:
The President’s Immigration Reform proposal unveiled today contained no surprises. President Obama proposed a broad legalization program with few details. It is very positive the he includes agricultural workers in the legalization program, but it is disappointing that he made no mention of providing permanent legal status to the thousand of immigrants who have Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure Status. It is also a concern that the president wants undocumented immigrants who qualify to “go to the back of the line”, which means that the legalization process will take years and years. And those deemed to be “criminals” will be left out altogether.
The President also promised to continue down the path of more militarization of the border that has caused a record number of deaths in the desert and more detentions and deportations that have split families apart and caused great hardships. This is unacceptable.
The President’s proposal fails to address the root causes of migrants, like the North America Free Trade Agreement, which has allowed U.S. corporate farmers to dump low cost corn and other agricultural products into the Mexican economy, forcing millions of Mexican farmers who cannot compete to leave their farm and migrate to the United States.
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration and its partner organizations in the Black Immigration Network and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights will fight for a fairer and more just immigration policy that prioritizes human rights above discriminatory enforcement policies and that places the highest premium on family reunification and a much broader legalization program.
Blog post by Terence Courtney, BAJI Southeast Regional Organizer
As I approach 2013, I can’t help but reflect on 2012 to help jump start conceiving of future strategies that will advance the mission of BAJI (Racial Equity, Economic Justice, & Immigrant Rights) next year. This time of year seems to call us to it. I ask myself what have been some common themes from the victories and failures that have fundamentally affected the forward march of our cause? What have been some powerful tactical approaches that changed the dynamics for creating social justice? Are there historical roots and corollaries that will help inform a theory I can learn from and apply today? These are deep questions. And while I can’t say I say I know all the answers, I believe I am starting to see some patterns.
December 13th 2013 will mark the one hundred tenth birthday of Ella Josephine Baker. Baker was an outstanding and extraordinary civil and human rights organizer who is often overlooked when we talk about leaders from the Civil Rights era. With a career that covered some of the most turbulent periods in US history (the 1930’s through 80’s), Ella Baker worked with and helped found some of the most iconic organizations in black American history. When we think of organizations like the NAACP, the SCLC, SNCC, and others, we have to place Baker as powerful agent for change in their pantheon of heroes. She often would travel throughout the south –alone- organizing people to fight Jim Crow. And this was during a time when it was extremely dangerous for black people to organize alone, especially black women.
Besides her heroism, Baker was brilliant theoretician. She developed a method of organizing that was set apart from what was traditionally being done. Her model of organizing called upon a more collectivized and egalitarian process that in many ways radically challenged the status quo, and gave people a vision of bettering their lives without falling into traps. And from what I see in the successes over the past year -one way or another- the lessons that Ella Baker taught so many years ago are alive and working.
Consider that Baker’s theory for change called upon 3 main elements: (1) Focus on grassroots organizing, or organizing that is rooted and springs forth from a community and their concerns, where they get to make decisions about their lives; (2) Prioritizing the people in that community who are most impacted by the issues, because they have the most at stake; and (3) prioritizing the use of Direct Action, to destroy fear and seriously challenge unjust powers. And one group in the Immigrant Rights struggle that has achieved victory by –perhaps not consciously- using the Ella Baker model is the Dream Activists. I’m very impressed by these young people who have changed minuses into pluses by going deeper.
Being undocumented, many Dream Activists are illegible to vote, and they live under the constant threat of imprisonment and deportation. Yet, they have not let those hurdles stop them from making real change. Like black people under Jim Crow who similarly found themselves disenfranchised, Dream Activists found that they had more than one way to improve their lives; they began to organize their communities, prioritize those most affected by the attack on Immigrants, and utilize direct action. As one blog written on the Dream Activist website says, they got Back to Basics. And doing this enabled them to bypass the morass of Washington DC, and force the hand of Obama; making him sign an Executive Order called the “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” And whereas many groups would have rested on the laurels of this improvement, the Dream Activists that I’ve spoken with are not placated by the Order, its small scope, or expiration date of Feb 28, 2013. They know that if they can achieve this victory, there is more to come if they keep doing what they’re doing.
My hats off to them, and I think Ella Baker would be proud. So, it seems to me that there are some lessons the rest of us who are concerned with Immigrant Rights, Human Rights, or even Civil Rights can learn, or re-learn from Dream Activist and the Ella Baker model. As the centrists and right wingers continue to try to chip away at our voting rights, we need to keep in mind that we secured our voting rights by using direct action, and it perhaps by using these lessons we can protect past gains, and fight for more.
Post by Aja Minor, BAJI Program Associate
Since 2011 the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) has fought against ICE collaboration with local law enforcement and programs like “S-Comm” (Secure Communities) in coalition with several organizations in the East Bay. Our allies at San Jose Branch of the NAACP have joined the fight and have created a resolution calling upon President Obama, Department of Homeland Security and Congress to end “S-Comm” and programs like it.
The Resolution cited the many problems with “S-Comm”. Though these programs were created to target “serious” criminal, 70% of the people caught in this dragnet have no criminal convictions or committed minor traffic violations. The programs lack of regulation, guidelines and due process incentive racial profiling, eroding trust with local police, making our communities less safe. Victims of crime, survivors of domestic violence, and youth have been swept into deportation proceedings by “S-Comm” after calling the police for help.
Rev. Moore of San Jose NAACP is looking for NAACP Branch Presidents to join local campaigns to in “S-Comm” nationally, challenge and modify the agreement in California with the Trust Act, and aid local officials in protecting their 10th amendment right, and not honor detainer policy.
NAACP is providing a great example of how the African American population can get involved in the fight for immigrant rights. The Obama administration attack on the rights of immigrants is an attack on every Americans civil rights. An attack on people of color, regardless of their origin, is an attack on us all.
Download BAJI’s flyer –
ICE’s Secure Communities & the Black Community
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration and groups all across the U.S. are calling upon the Department of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program – like the still-ongoing Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program it created in 2007 and immediately grant visas to the 105,000 Haitians already approved
Before the January 20120 earthquake, Haitian democracy was and is still being subverted by the actions of the United States, France and other Western nations. As a result, Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. The earthquake was a devastating blow to the country. Like Katrina in New Orleans, the disaster in Haiti uncovered the underlying racism and economic exploitation that the people of Haiti have been suffering for centuries.
And like New Orleans, where black people were being demonized, criminalized and marginalized by the police, U.S. government, U.N. authorities, rightwing pundits and the U.S. media. There is much talk in the media about the endemic corruption in Haiti. Yet, there is no discussion about U.S. complicity in condoning and supporting dictators, US backing of the 2004 overthrow and kidnapping of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the democratically elected president of Haiti. Nothing is said about the long history of U.S. corporations exploiting Haitian workers in the foreign-owned sweatshops and factories. Despite billions of dollars in donations, 80% of the Haitian people are still living in poverty. Millions of unemployed and impoverished Haitians resided in and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince in substandard, earthquake-prone housing
Prior to the earthquake, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had approved the immigrant visa petitions of 105,000 Haitians. They must wait years longer in Haiti due to the visa backlog. This needs to happen immediately. And it can happen!
BAJI Phoenix was invited to present at the Phoenix College NAACP/Black Student Union weekly meeting and chose to educate the students and staff on this little known but very influential period of Black History. Faced with life as 2ndclass citizens that daily faced the threat of violence and dehumanizing treatment in the South, not to mention a decimating boll weevil attack on King Cotton, millions of Blacks packed up and left the South in search of greater freedoms and booming economic industry in the North, the Midwest and West. The lively followupdiscussion featured varied insights. Especially strong opinions were shared around the idea that recent immigrants to America, particularly Latino, are facing similar persecution under “Juan Crow” legislation and social norms today . I was not surprised to hear young black people say things such as “why do we have to hear about this?” and“illegal is illegal”. There is a disconnect and gap in our historical knowledge as a culture. The U.S. school system and society at large allows for a limited and very narrowly defined outlook on the history of Black people in America. Many of the students did express appreciation for the presentation and commented that it had opened their eyes to the similarities in which White Supremacy and discrimination has effected and continues to affect people of color.