On Wednesday August 17th, six undocumented youth were arrested in Chicago carrying out an action to fight the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program called Secure Communities. We, and hundreds of other community members, walked out of a public hearing after the cops refused to let dozens of community members inside, demanding an end this program. The next day the White House announced that 300,000 cases of people in deportation procedures would be reviewed one by one.
So many of our Facebook friends posted articles congratulating Obama on taking a step forward, claiming a victory and rejoicing. And while some of us also rejoiced, others of us, viewed it in a different light.
The announcement is not a bad thing. However, the past and present record of this administration and ICE in terms of ‘discretion’ places real doubt about whether this discretion will actually take place. Now, more than a month after the announcement, cases of people in deportation proceedings continue to come to light.
- Take the case of Manuel Lopez, a 24 year old husband and father who got put into deportation for not collaborating with ICE (of course that’s not what Immigration is accusing him of). Yes he has a record, but he did what he needed to to fix it a long time ago and now he is being denied the right to fight his case in court. He is currently in detention. When is the so called ‘discretion’ going to come into play for him?
- Or the case of Nadia and her mom Nazmin, who are currently in deportation proceedings because a judge mistyped some information she needed and decided to deny them the opportunity to reopen their case. Where is their ‘discretion’?
- Or even the case of Javier Santos, a man who was stopped for missing a light above his license plate. He is the sole provider for his wife and two children, and a third child on the way, and yet he is still in detention, being pressured to sign a voluntary departure by ICE. When is this ‘discretion’ going to come for this family?
- Not to mention Sandra Lopez, a 20 year old woman who was deported once and decided to return to her home in the US (the home she has known since she was 3 days old) only to be arrested and placed in a detention center in Arizona, where she remains today. Where is her ‘discretion’?
These are just a few of the cases, with countless more coming to light, where ‘discretion’ has not been applied. There are many unanswered questions about the process: When and how will discretion be applied? Who will monitor that it is happening and actually do something if it is not (besides us, because i can tell you we will be watching and continuing to act)? Will people have to remain in jail/detention while waiting (as is happening now)?
And one of the most important questions: Who is a “criminal,” a “danger” to the U.S.?
Are we a danger because we are willing to challenge the conceptions and laws of this country? Shaking beliefs and stereotypes through peaceful yet disruptive actions? To quote Alaa Mukahhal, “Dear DHS, ICE, and every immigration officer who would love to see me deport myself, please wipe that ugly smug smile off your face, because I’m about to rewrite every rule you spent your life enforcing.”
I guess we are a danger to the established biased and racist ways of thinking, to the discriminatory institutions, to an unresponsive government and to a society that disrespects and exploits its members and eco systems. But what’s more dangerous, is not taking action and waiting for change to come. It won’t, unless we put pressure on the system.
So we continue to fight. To challenge. To exist. Because we are not afraid any more. Instead, this fear that we were forced to live with growing up has turned to anger. Anger at the lack of change. Anger at the “Wait until the next election. Everything will be fine.” comments. Anger at the criminalization of our parents for only seeking a better life. This anger is what pushes us to fight and to create the change we want to see.
We, as undocumented youth, use our anger and frustration to fight the stereotypes of our people, to push for just laws, and to fulfill that “American Dream” that our parents came looking for. Giving up now would be giving up on them and their sacrifices.
So thank you president Obama, but this isn’t a victory yet. Our victory will come when there is no such thing as a second class citizen, when 12 million people are not forced to live in the shadows, and when we can walk down the street without fearing for our lives. Only then, will it be a victory.
[update: Matias Ramos, who was previously listed in the article has been given a six month stay since thursday, but of course a stay does not guarantee much.
Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, Cindy Agustin