Telling Feinstein that it’s all of us or none of us

October 9, 2017

Elizabeth Terzakis reports from Los Angeles on a protest that stressed opposition to supporting the "good immigrants" while stepping up the targeting of "bad immigrants."

ACTIVISTS CONVERGED outside of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office in Santa Monica, California, on October 5 to demand human rights and legal protections for all 11 million of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Though timed to coincide with Donald Trump's deadline for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to renew their work permits, the action was about more than supporting DREAMers, as the undocumented who came to the U.S. as children with their parents are known.

Called by the Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) and the undocumented community of Los Angeles, the protest was geared toward raising awareness about the ways in which the DACA program has been used to further marginalize other groups of undocumented immigrants.

The IYC was joined by many local activist groups, including the progressive Filipino organization BAYAN-USA, the Central American immigrant rights group CARACEN, Democratic Socialists of America-LA, the Guardian Angels (who accompany individuals to immigration court) and the International Socialist Organization.

You know it's an immigrant rights protest when the bunk-bed frames arrive
You know it's an immigrant rights protest when the bunk-bed frames arrive (Immigrant Youth Coalition)

IYC member and undocumented immigrant Ilse reminded the crowd that DREAMers are not the only members of the immigrant community under attack. "Part of our community is behind bars in detention centers," she said. "We have to speak for them, too!"

Gloria, an undocumented immigrant from Peru, also stressed the need for solidarity with all of the undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., noting that DACA has fed into a "good immigrant vs. bad immigrant" narrative that has had a negative impact on the entire immigrant community. "DACA has allowed the government to further criminalize many other groups, including our parents," said Gloria.

Jonathan Perez, co-founder of the IYC, pointed to the larger context, noting that the fight to make Los Angeles a sanctuary city has been ongoing since 2009. LA is still "far from being a sanctuary," said Jonathan. "This is because politicians--Democrats like Dianne Feinstein, who claim to be our saviors--voted to continue cooperation with ICE. This is not what saviors do--saviors don't abuse you."

Echoing Gloria's point that it's not just the DREAMers who are suffering, but their undocumented parents, green-card holders and anyone who "looks like" an immigrant, Jonathan pointed to the root causes of the current crisis:

While the U.S. government is criminalizing immigrants in this country, it is making it impossible to live in many immigrants' home countries--because of the "war on terror" and the "war on drugs"--all these wars that are waged against us, the people who have been displaced by war, foreign policy and corporations."

The group's message--that those fighting for justice are strongest when and only when they stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable--came through loud and clear. After a brief rally, a crowd of more than 50 activists marched to the Federal Building, carrying banners reading, "All of us or none of us: defend the criminalized!" and "Visionaries--not dreamers!"

And they chanted: "Undocumented, unafraid! Queer, unashamed!" and "Up, up with liberation, down, down with deportation!"

The demonstration ended with an act of civil disobedience during which protesters blocked Wilshire Avenue, a major thoroughfare, with chains and bunk-bed frames. Nine people were arrested after failing to respond to an order to disperse.

Just before being arrested, Perez told KTLA news channel: "I'm feeling powerful because the community is here, and because we are here unafraid, fighting for our right to be human." The protesters were cited and then released.

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