A [Tough] Love Letter to DREAMers
I'm not an American*, and I'm not sure why citizenship seems to be the goal for a lot of the undocumented students I meet. It's as if folks have forgotten who made the countries we were born in the destitute soil we had to flee. How it was Americans who crafted laws like NAFTA, which destabilized our economies; how American soldiers stood at our neighborhood corners with guns pointed at our parents in the name of democracy; or that it was American-interest which made our parts of the world uninhabitable.
It seems to escape these "undocumented Americans" that the core of our movement should be humanity. Boundless humanity, which sees no nationality as its own, and asks for the ability for folks to exist in the physical movement necessary for their survival.
The threat of losing our precious DACA alone has reminded us we're still undocumented. Still exploitable, still disposable to this country. We got so busy working our 9–5s and interning for Democrats who were too busy deporting our families to push for immigration reform, and so we helped them create a tear in our community. We became part of the very institution we should have been trying to dismantle.
Don't get me wrong, your reality as an undocumented student is still valid. Your existence in academia is still resistance because those places were not made for people like you and I to survive in. You still lived through an intense amount of emotional trauma trying to legitimize your seat in the classroom, and this should be commended. What's upsetting is that you didn't realize not even playing by their game were you considered worth any humanity and respect. You did not realize feigning citizenship did not lead to the liberation of our people here or abroad. In your paperless life, all your efforts were spent trying to get the one paper you were told would legitimized your thoughts in America. Everything else did not matter, so what you learned in your sociology classes were mere theories to your mind and not the practical tools used to keep our communities from what is rightfully theirs.
What was the purpose of aiming for said paper if it not for the liberation of our people, both inside this country and outside?
And in Trump's America, that liberation will only be harder to accomplish. We have the last ten years on our side, however. We've built national networks, convinced generations of undocumented folks that we are unafraid of laws, and established processes by which to convince politicians to hear us out even though we cannot vote.
Do not let the lessons of the last ten years go to waste. Not even those which made you uncomfortable. As we move forward, we must be sure to uplift the narratives of our Black siblings, who are at a higher risk of deportation than any other community. Let us check our masculinity at the door, because the emotional labor of this movement can no longer solely fall upon undocumented womxn and/or our trans/queer siblings. Above all else: keep your graduation cap and gown away from the fucking streets, and fight for all undocumented immigrants.
Now that you are ready to chain yourself to buildings and shut down streets again, remember that respectability politics will not get us to where we need. Do not police your own community, our anger and frustration in this nation is more valid now than ever before because white supremacy and xenophobic nationalism has been legitimized by American voters.
Additionally, there have been organizations who did not internalize the DREAMer narrative, and have been organizing against ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcements — for those of you who forgot) and deportations while you were busy studying abroad. So do not try to step on the work those folks know how to do better than you. Simply join in on their mobilizing efforts, and learn from them what the classroom was never able to teach you.
I say all of this harshly because I'm also addressing myself. I need to ground myself and strategize how it is that I can use the platforms that my privilege of being a student in a marginalized community have granted me to uplift the narratives whose backs I've been standing on. I need to relearn what liberation is, and that it is incomplete if it does include everyone around me. In order to do this, I have to be a bit harsh on myself and all the work I've been doing thus far. That's not to say I should discredit it, because it was needed and kept some of us safe. But much more than what we were giving is needed now.
We have a lot of healing to do; we've hurt each other for too long, and it might be because we were replicating the oppressions we were brought up in. We built hierarchies of hi-pros, mid-pros, low-pros, and no-pros to reflect the classist nature of this country. We allowed the sting of anti-blackness to infect our spaces, and we now have to actively cure ourselves from it. We created exclusive spaces which made everyone believe all undocumented immigrants came from South of the border and spoke Spanish. We let them convince us that we were not boundless.
But we are.
Especially when we're organized, intersectional, and disruptive. So wake up, castaway your dreams, let go of your pride, and cease being American.
*"American" hereby referring to folks born/naturalized in the United States. I realize that America (and therefore, Americans) stretch from the frosty tips of Canada to the tropics of Southern Chile, but this is besides the point of this Love Letter.