As an immigrant and advocate for immigration reform, nothing upsets me off more than when I hear people who look like me complain and say, “President Obama is doing immigration for Latinos, but has done nothing for Black people.” It’s a rather myopic view of what is in fact a very complex situation. Sadly, many are of the ill-formed opinion that becoming documented is just as simple as going to the DMV and waiting in line.
If only the process was that simple, but it’s not. This type of rhetoric frustrates me. But I’ve come to realize that this country is chock full of ignorant people, who are easily influenced by the racist anti-immigration movement. And what’s even more frustrating when I hear this garbage? That said ignorance belittles the collective efforts of grassroots activists intent on seeing change; many of whom are undocumented themselves.
These are people who are willing to put their lives on the line who risk deportation and possible separation from their families. These are people like Verónica Bayetti Flores, an immigrant and queer woman of color, who was arrested in New York City recently. What was her crime? Standing alongside undocumented youth ion hopes of Governor Andrew Cuomo implementing New York’s version of the DTREAM Act. A measure that will at the least give people brought here as children a temporary respite from fear of deportation and a life of American normalcy.
Here is what Veronica had to say:
I am a queer immigrant writer, activist, and artist. I’ve worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color, and helped to lead social justice efforts in Wisconsin, New York City, and Texas.
Today, I stand as an ally to undocumented youth in the effort to demand the passage of the New York State DREAM Act, which has the potential to radically transform undocumented young people’s access to education in New York. In preparing for today’s action, I re-read the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail; the powerful lessons of this open letter remain relevant today. In it, Dr. King assures us that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, and that it must be not only demanded by the oppressed, but demanded now. That, although those who have not suffered from racial injustice too often claim that the time is not right, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
Justice has been denied to undocumented immigrants for too long. I am doing this today because I am a reproductive justice activist, and I know that education impacts access to health care. I am doing this today because I am queer, and I know that queer youth of color in New York are disproportionately poor and unable to afford housing, much less the rising costs of higher education. I am doing this today because, as an immigrant who was not eligible for financial aid when I applied for college, I know that most will not have the luck and the privilege that I had when I was still able to access the education has been integral to my success and happiness.
The comprehensive immigration reform being discussed in Congress will not address many of these concerns, and will leave much to be desired. State efforts like the New York DREAM Act remain critical in to the path toward justice for undocumented youth. Today, I demand that Governor Cuomo make this bill a priority. He needs to know that he does not have Latinos and immigrants in the bag if he has his eyes set on a presidential run in 2016: we need action, and we are watching.
Listen to her in her own words:
… immigration reform benefits the country.
When immigration reform does indeed become a reality and the ink that is the signature of President Obama has dried. It would be because of the hard work of people dedicated to change. It would be because those of us involved were able to build consensus by telling our stories. It would be because the people like Veronica were able to humanize an undesirable underclass of people in this country, also in pursuit of the American Dream.
As our political leaders debate and wrangle with the task of immigration reform. It’s important to know that while there is no shortage of ignorant talk when it comes to the issue. There are m,many courageous individuals who get it, who are standing up and speaking out in the interest of social justice. Not just social justice, but also human rights. Because believe it or not, immigration is indeed a human rights issue as well.
Still don’t get it?
Watch the following: