Having lived undocumented most of our lives and having seen our family members and community experience what it means to be considered “illegal” in this country, we understand the importance for legislation and a change in the immigration laws. However, the current atmosphere in Congress, focuses on militarization, criminalization, and surveillance, without addressing the real needs and experiences of the over 11 million undocumented people living currently in the United States.
We write this statement in response to the idea of “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” and more importantly, our commitment to efforts of fighting for our rights as undocumented people moving forward. Under the bill proposed by the Senate, titled the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 and other legislation currently being discussed by the House, the “path to citizenship” takes over a decade – leaving our communities in limbo, limiting health-care access, not granting access to federal assistance – from job training to housing to food, not addressing the inhumane conditions present in detention centers, and leaving millions of people out.
We cannot support anything that will not give our parents what they worked decades for or what they deserve as humans of this planet, by the time they’re in their mid 60s and nearing 70.
Our parents deserve first and foremost labor rights and medical services for their contributions to this country and they cannot wait past the age of retirement to “earn” these right. We cannot support a bill that through a guise of ‘national security’ will lead to the criminalization of our families and community as well as an increase in deaths at the border – included are our brothers and sisters, mothers, and ourselves. We cannot support a bill that will continue to mean immigrants in our communities have less rights than other workers.
We cannot accept this bill, or any bill, that does not begin to address the reasons for our migration, including international trade agreements that favor industrialized nations at the expense of developing nations and the people that inhabit them, exploitive international labor practices, human trafficking and violence that has a great deal to due with U.S. militarization. It additionally expands on the currently existing hierarchical system of ranking and excluding immigrants based on race, class, gender, sexuality and countless other social markers.
The political reality is that politicians, regardless of their political party, will shape and mold their messaging around what is in their best interest. We hear excitement over a bill from the community, excitement over any bill, but we all know that no bill can give us the rights and dignity we deserve. Laws are only as strong as those that can use them, and even though our communities are incredibly strong and resilient, we are divided.
It is out of respect for our community, and accountability to them, that we come out as strong advocates, not for the bills being discussed, but for the undocumented.
All current and future generations of immigrants deserve the right to work, live in safety, travel, be healthy, and to participate fully in the society that we have helped to create. In many cases, the erosion of these rights has not taken the form of “comprehensive” federal legislation, but through the action of politicians and employers at the local, state, federal and international level. In response, we challenge people to think of multiple ways to defend the rights of immigrant communities that include more than legislative solutions, and that do not position the Senate and House bills as the only way moving forward.
Our criticism of this political process is based on our opposition to its elements, which continue to dehumanize, divide, exclude and attack immigrant communities. We reject the attempt to divide and weaken our movement for it is only through united action that we can defend and assert our rights.
We must recognize that this bill and other efforts like it are part of what is dividing our communities. Undocumented youth, undocumented parents, and undocumented workers of different levels of education and specializations are being placed at different ends of the spectrum for “qualifying” and receiving certain privileges under this bill and this has been the continued narrative. We need to rise beyond these divisive tactics and affirm our perspective of what reform and human rights looks like through our actions. Let’s work to create the world we want to live in.
In moving forward, we will continue to work on both local and national initiatives that re-envision and redefine what comprehensive and what reform looks like. True reform will only happen through the work of undocumented people and not under the agendas of political parties that benefit greatly from incarcerating and deporting OUR undocumented bodies. We must build partnerships in order to tackle the many issues, both locally and nationally, that are not included in this bill and in conversations around “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” and we encourage our communities to continue to build with us.
Thank you for your support. More to come.
The Immigrant Youth Justice League