An Undocumented Voice: La Lucha Beyond Immigration Reform
by Johanna on June 12, 2013
I am undocumented. I am one of those few immigrants who will more than likely qualify for a path to citizenship. I am one of those immigrants who this government would consider the good immigrant and therefore worthy of citizenship. Because of my class privilege growing up in an upper middle class environment in Colombia, I was able to learn English before migrating to the U.S. I had been in the U.S. for vacation many times before and was somewhat familiar with the U.S. society; I was able to get a visa to get into this country instead of having to cross the border.
Even though I am undocumented, I know very clearly that my experience as an undocumented immigrant in this country has been very different than the experience of a working-class undocumented immigrant in this country. Let’s be honest, ICE is not conducting raids at NGO offices, colleges or universities, but at construction sites, restaurants, corners where day laborers stand, etc.
In this modern immigration battle, so many of us are en la lucha for citizenship. I understand the perceived need for it, especially when so many people are being incarcerated, deported, and treated as less than human (aka. Aliens) for not having citizenship. But citizenship will come with trade-offs that will impact millions of people, not just immigrants.
The Border Security, Economic Security and Immigration Modernization Act, the name of the immigration reform bill that is being discussed in Congress, will give citizenship to some people, but as a trade-off, the border will become more militarized. Much of what is now criminalized (working without papers, driving without a license, crossing the border, etc.) will continue to be criminalized, and millions who will not qualify for a path to citizenship will continue to be a target for incarceration and deportation.
As we become “citizens” of this country, and we are “integrating” into the U.S. society, it will be of the utmost importance that we integrate into existing struggles for liberation in this country. Millions in this country have citizenship, yet are treated as second-class citizens and denied their basic rights and their humanity and dignity. Laws still criminalize millions of citizens mainly for being working-class people of color. This government still incarcerates more citizens, 2.2 million people as of 2011, than any other country in the world.
Citizens who are criminalized and incarcerated lose their right to vote and are denied work, public benefits, even renting or owning a house, and many other basic needs that this government has also denied undocumented immigrants. These things happen to those who are “documented” as well as those who aren’t. The U.S. is systematically attacking and oppressing poor people of color, whether they are citizens or non-citizens.
All this to say that there is a larger lucha, a larger struggle that we must become part of. And the only way to fight to dismantle a system of Capitalism–to fight for liberation of people who are most oppressed in this country–is if we work together in solidarity with each other. The ruling class has done well at dividing us under racism, gender, sexuality, class, etc. This has created hostility and hate among ourselves, and allowed the ruling class to benefit from such divisions. And not only are we divided, but by generating wealth for the ruling class, we are also actively working against our own class interests and our personal wellbeing as well as that of our communities.
Solidarity among all of us who are victims of the US capitalist system is the greatest power that we have, and the ruling class is terrified of us coming together. We have to! We must work together, strategize together, build alternatives together, and do all this across issues. For example, groups working to abolish prisons should combine with groups working to abolish detention centers; people organizing against Monsanto can join with groups organizing against U.S. foreign policies that displace people; groups working for immigration reform unite with groups fighting against racial profiling and criminalization of black people.
As immigrants, if we are going to integrate into the US society, let’s make sure that we do not merge into the white supremacist society and history, but instead join the history and society of la lucha against these systems of oppression. I hope that we integrate not into the mentality and ideology of slave owners, but into the mentality and ideology of those who rose up to abolish slavery, that we integrate into la lucha of those who are still fighting for self-determination of 1st nation peoples, for the liberation of all oppressed people in this country and the world.
The U.S. is the center of empire, so it is our duty to integrate not into the society which occupies other countries, wages wars, and is rapidly stripping the earth of its resources and life, but into a society that is fighting against US militarization and occupation and for the protection of the earth, for alternatives to Capitalism, and for a society where our communities are able to exist at their fullest beauty and humanity.