“Every single immigrant we have undocumented or documented, is a future American. That’s just the truth of it.” – Junot Diaz
April 5, 2014 was a national day of action for immigrant justice calling upon the President, Congress, and law makers to stop ALL deportations and to close ALL detention centers.
Over 2 million people have been deported since Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Many of us placed our faith in his campaign slogan of “Change You Can Believe In” and we felt honored by his use of the traditional chant of the farm worker struggle for justice “Si Se Puede” (Yes We Can) during his initial campaign and during his reelection. Overwhelmingly Latino Voters hedged their political capital and mobilized their respective communities to get out the vote in support of Barak Obama in the hopes that comprehensive immigration reform would streamline the process of becoming citizens in a dignified manner. Six years in, and the only thing we have seen is an exponentially growing assault on the fabric of immigrant communities through raids, detentions, and deportations with the occasional politically convenient band aid like DACA and a friendly public discourse. The numbers tell the hard and cold fact that in America, the legacy of racially motivated xenophobia is back with a vengeance in an era proclaimed to be a post-racial and democratic society.
Immigrant and Latino communities are under attack at an unprecedented level by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Border Patrol agents, and local police forces that felt empowered, under a state of exception declared in 2001, to carry out harsh enforcement and detention of people profiled to be “illegal”. Even Mexican Repatriation and Filipino Repatriation during administration of J. Edgar Hoover pale in terms of scale and efficiency. The last time entire families were forced into prisons was during World War II, when the United States government interned people of Japanese Heritage.
As Farmworkers we understand this humanitarian crisis in the context of historical precedents. The Chinese Exclusion Act, Mexican Repatriation, and the Tidings McDuffy Act were all used to break the solidarity and power of workers in the United States during difficult economic times. These expulsions, including the 1907 “Anti-Hindu Riot” in Bellingham, WA, were followed almost immediately by importing indentured labor, including workers from China known as Coolies and later farmworkers from Mexico known as Braceros, still functioning today as the H-2A worker program. We understand clearly that immigrant workers are being exploited in order to maintain low wages and poor working conditions not just for those who are being expelled, but for those American citizens who remain. To join together understanding this truth, and to struggle together is the greatest act of Solidarity. The majority of us are immigrants and the fight for Immigrant Rights is our Fight for Human Rights. This struggle is about preserving our dignity.
It has been a common belief grounded on faith in the power of the vote, that by voting and getting the right people in elected office we could change the immigration system, and finally create a path to citizenship for millions, but we have been electing leaders into politically impotent positions and that has just prolonged the agony; hundreds of detained immigrant workers are demanding that we act. Out of desperation they have taken on a great sacrifice by organizing hunger strikes inside the prisons.
We join other organizations and groups all across the country that are in solidarity with courageous immigrant workers in Tacoma, WA, Texas, and Alabama. Detained workers have begun to organize hunger strikes demanding respect and a change in the enforcement of immigration laws NOW! Many advocates have blocked the vehicles transporting people who were set to be deported. We are ready to take action with those who have risen up to protect their communities and families and put an end to the mass deportations and profit driven private prison industrial complex. Community to Community calls on every person who has a conscience to do everything they can to stop ALL deportations and to close ALL immigration detention centers by any means necessary.
Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director
203 W. Holly, Suite 317
Bellingham, WA 98225