Education Not Deportation

By Joella Roberts

Team UUWL!
Oct 14, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Brandon Wu

[Editor’s Note: On October 1, the DC City Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on the Sanctuary Values Amendment Act. The proposed permanent legislation would prevent DC agencies, including the DC Jail and Metropolitan Police Department, from collaborating with ICE to facilitate the detention and deportation of immigrants. In October 2019, the DC Council approved a temporary version of the bill. The current Sanctuary Values Amendment Act, if passed, would become a permanent law. Portions of the below statement were made during the hearing.]

I want to give glory to God, the author, and perfecter of my faith.

I want to greet Chairperson Allen, Councilmembers, and Staff of the Committee.

My name is Joella Roberts, and I think that it is past due to pass permanent legislation that protects DC residents, regardless of citizenship status, charges, or convictions.

I am one of 47,921 DACA recipients living in the DMV.

I’ve lived in Washington, D.C. ever since my arrival to the United States at the age of four. I am a product of DC’s commitment to great public education: I attended Trusdell Elementary, Meyer Elementary, Howard University Middle, McKinley Technology High and recently graduated from the University of the District of Columbia.

It was at UDC that I founded Migration Matters, which is the first and only organization at an HBCU to center undocumented students. We are committed to building awareness, education, and advocacy on behalf of ALL migrant communities.

As a Black undocumented woman living in an over-policed city, it is by God’s grace that I return home every day, because there is no permanent protection for migrants like myself. It is because of organizations such as UndocuBlack Network and United We Dream that I know my rights to protect myself — generally and against harassment by law enforcement.

I have experienced not feeling safe in my home, having to whisper in our apartment when it comes to conversations regarding our immigration status.

Can you imagine being fearful when seeing police? Knowing the possibility of being racially profiled, arrested, and then turned over to ICE, an agency that will try and deport you? Can you imagine going to school trying to focus on your studies the day after a loved one was detained? This is the nerve-racking reality for much of my community.

I myself am a proud, yet fearful, resident of Washington, D.C. As a DACA recipient, I constantly have check-ins with my mother when I leave home to assure I wasn’t at the wrong place at the wrong time. I worry that the same thing that happened to Ousman Darboe could happen to me.

As a Black undocumented woman living in an over-policed city, it is by God’s grace that I return home every day, because there is no permanent protection for migrants like myself.

Councilmembers, and community, I believe in education, not deportation. I believe in the presumption of innocence, which is a legal principle that considers someone “innocent until proven guilty” not innocent until deported.

I know you are a true ally, Councilmember Allen, because I remember on July 12, 2019 when the ICE Out of DC coalition met with you in a coffee shop and you expressed your commitment to meet with us again. I remember the multiple meetings we had in your office that led us to The Sanctuary Values Emergency Act passed on October 8, 2019, and you’re proving your allyship NOW, affirming the necessity of permanent protection for DC residents.

We need a strong permanent Sanctuary Values Act that leaves no one behind, because as our national government launches daily attacks to criminalize migration and immigrants it is up to our local government to keep us safe.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Joella Roberts is the founder of Migration Matters at the University of District Columbia, a DACA recipient, and a member of the ICE Out of DC Coalition.

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Up, Up with Liberation is a digital collective dedicated to liberation through creative expression. Project of @SanctuaryDMV. submissions@upupwithliberation.com

Up, Up with Liberation

Up, Up with Liberation is a digital collective dedicated to liberation through creative expression. Born out of a community of organizers pursuing justice for immigrants and communities of color in the DMV, we are nurturing a culture of resistance through storytelling.

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