Under President Obama’s administration, 2 million people have been deported despite being considered “low-priority” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Many organizations began campaigns called Education Not Deportation in order to stop deportations of students and undocumented youth who would have qualified for the DREAM Act if it had passed in 2010.
The immigrants rights movement then emboldened itself to stop the deportations of parents as well, and the Not1More campaign has been working tirelessly to include as many folks as possible in immigration reform, the end of criminalization of black and brown people, and the inclusion of the LGBT community in its efforts. During the week of November 15-21, the Not1More campaign will focus on calling attention to deportations, detentions and the separation of families caused by the country’s tough immigration laws. The dates for this week of action were chosen because they coincide with Barack Obama’s announcement of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), which has been held up in courts since last year, and the Trans Day of Remembrance—November 20.
In order to gain more perspective on this I spoke to two of the week of action’s organizers, Jennicet Gutierrez and Marisa Franco.
What made the campaign increase trans presence?
Marisa Franco: Literally the culture and the country changed. I don’t that has necessarily gone into the folks in our community who are criminalized. But talking about trans women coming into the country seeking asylum, they fall into what happens to women here, lack of jobs, etc. We’re not going for the lowest hanging fruit. Trans women are going to be the first to be overlooked if any immigration reform is proposed.
What made you want to get involved in #Not1More?
Jennicet Gutierrez: The reason I wanted to get involved is that with me being transgender and undocumented I remember when Obama was elected my family said I hope the LGBT community doesn’t jump on the bandwagon because there may not be a chance for all of us.
What the message of #Not1More for elections season? And what do you think of the activists that have recently joined the ranks of Presidential campaigns?
MF: We’re going to keep fighting for folks who are left out, not just those who qualify [for a potential immigration reform]. Not only did the President not do enough, but we have seen the enforcement. Our position with the elections is that if candidates can promise it the President can do it. With those who have taken positions in presidential campaigns, people confuse access with power. There’s an ecosystem. Some folks are the inside role, some are the outside role. When the inside role tries to be everything we’ve got a problem. It could be good, they could learn something for that experience. We’ll all learn something from that.
JG: It makes me upset when elections are coming around. Both parties know how the Latino vote is really shifting and they make promises around deportations. When Bill Clinton was president there was a tremendous number of deportations. Obama has deported almost 2 million. We have to remain critical. I believe that when these politicians get elected they go the opposite way from what they promised and certain people always get excluded such as those who are undocumented and people of certain gender identities.
A lot of conversations around intersectionality comes from college-educated folks or people in currently in the movement. How is the #Not1More campaign trying to get this message out to those in the working class and how did intersectionality become clear to you?
JG: In immigration reform when the mainstream politicians are trying to work something out, they try to differentiate between good vs. bad immigrants. The #Not1More campaign was appealing to me because we don’t differentiate. Everyone deserves an opportunity. [Not1More] started working on detention because of its effects. We had a gathering in New Orleans and talked about different issues and when intersectionality became clear to me. We’re dealing with deportations from families and we have trans women in detention who are facing abuse and harassment. It’s hard not to have a critical discussion.
What can allies do?
JG: Movements do need allies because this country has been disproportionately unjust with certain people. Some folks want to take up more space than others. It’s important that they come and join, but listen. When allies ask us to share our stories the issue becomes the center of discussion and it’s hard to say no because the issue has been ignored for so long. The distribution of resources is something allies can help with, not just about money but asking if the person sharing their story has a place to stay. Try to make an effort, as if everything is ok. Don’t just tokenize us, especially if we’re undocumented. We’re facing challenges.
MF: What’s happening to immigrant communities isn’t different from what other communities are experiencing: lack of resources and health care, facing law enforcement and immigration enforcement. There’s a dividing line being placed on immigrant communities right now. Some folks are seen as deserving while others are seen as undeserving. Be critical of that language that is trying to divide us. Connect with an organization that is doing this type of work and promote that message.
For more information on the Not1More week of action click here. This interview has been edited for grammar and clarity.