Presentation on the state of the Migrant Rights movement
There are four historical pillars to the current immigration struggle:
1. “Who’s the illegal, pilgrim?” In 1492, the colonization of the original people of the Americas began. For a settler colony to suggest that it can document the original people and limit their traditional migration of the continent is a hypocrisy. No one is undocumented because our blood serves as our documents.
2. “We are here because you were there.” Migration of Global Capital – the idea that the resources of communities in one part of the world can make people wealthy in another part of the world. The same corporations leaving US workers unemployed take up shop in the third world, displacing people from their ancestral land into cities and then across the border.
3. Criminalization and stolen labor – The historic resolution of intra-white conflict is the criminalization of people of color. From Indian patrols and fugitive slaves to the disparity in sentencing of folks with 3 strikes policy to the prison industrial complex. The increase in detention and internalizing border patrol is an extension of this legacy. Migrant rights is more and more a criminal justice issue meaning that migrant rights groups have learning to do from the historic Black-led struggle against criminalization.
4. Climate Chaos – we’re heading into the largest migration in history due to our making large swaths of the planet uninhabitable at a time of narrowing the definition and protection of national identity.
There are two different and incompatible approaches to dealing with migration.
1. Legalization: granting full rights and inclusion for the 12 million+ who’s labor contributes to making this country run
2. Criminalization: treating those who have migrated to the US as criminals. This is the strategy of the right. One of attrition where they attempt to make life so unbearable for migrant communities (and anyone else caught up in their policies) that people “self-deport.” The poli/migra (or police/ICE collaborations such as 287g and secure communities) is a main strategy seen most clearly in Arizona but pushed by the Obama administration to apply to the entire country by 2013 where local law enforcement enforces federal immigration laws.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform has been the dominant strategy emanating from Washington which essentially concedes a large amount of right-wing demands such as fines, English requirements, and limited eligibility for citizenship in order to achieve some amount of progress toward legalization.
However, there is currently a shift away from the grand compromise strategy of Washington. Young people are courageously pushing for the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill to grant a pathway to citizenship for young people who attend college.
More so, the fight around the poli/migra and ICE access programs is the central fight for migrant rights. As seen in Arizona where Sheriff Arpaio raids communities in ski masks and has forced pregnant women to give birth in shackles, empowering local police to enforce immigration laws results in the terrorizing of migrant, indigenous, and communities of color more broadly. Instead of a conciliatory strategy of prayer and voting, communities are raising their voices with slogans like “Undocumented and Unafraid” or “Arrest Arpaio Not the People.”
While this has all been building for years Arizona’s SB 1070 galvanized the movement internationally. Now we see the battleground fairly clearly. There are 5 frontline states and 20 cities where SB1070-like policies are being seeded. In places where we can move forward, we will push for municipalities to opt-out of secure communities and refuse to collaborate with ICE. Where there is copy-cat legislation, we will support local groups’ defense.
This is a defining issue for our time and one that determines what humanity means for our generation. Ultimately, the migration fight is NOT a migration fight – it’s about the changing conditions of the United States where white people will soon no longer be a majority at the same time as more and more people within the United States are facing scarcity. The direction we choose for migrant rights is an answer to the question of how we are together as a people. Will we invoke historic resolutions to hardship and resolve the short-term needs of a few through economic opportunity via expanding border patrol and detention centers or will we stand shoulder to shoulder with those already at the bottom of the economic ladder and reimagine a new way forward based on mutual support and a recognition of our interconnectedness and the abundance that lies beyond the fences they build.