“Undocumented”: How an Identity Ended a Movement

by Yasmin Nair on December 11, 2013

Note: This is the piece that Jacobin would not publish. For the backstory behind Jacobin’s censorship see here

It is by now a gripping and familiar sight, one of the first images that comes to mind when imagining the frontlines of the immigration battle.

A group of students, distinctively marked as such by their colorful graduation robes and tassels, takes over a building or stages a protest, with signs that read, “Undocumented and Unafraid.” Someone calls the police, and the youth are handcuffed and led away.

Theirs are the faces of those who agitate for passage of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, and whose proud declaration of being out of legal status in the U.S has made them, for some, new civil rights heroes.

The DREAM Act was first introduced in August 2001, to benefit the children of immigrants who had brought them into the country without legal papers. The Act would allow, by various estimates, nearly a million of the country’s estimated 12 million illegal residents to begin to claim a path to citizenship (if that sounds nebulous and tentative, so is the promised pathway to citizenship as promised in the act, which is filled with caveats and conditions). It has been controversial from the start, though few on the left will criticize it openly.

One problem with the Act is the provision that eligible youth must either enter college or agree to a stint in the military (because immigration reform packages undergo extensive changes during the course of debates, various parts of the bill tend to appear and disappear). But there are also the blatant ways in which it separates out the good immigrants from the bad, and casts out millions more as undeserving. In calling for the DREAM Act, DREAM activists are sometimes split on how they articulate support for it, but all the leading organizations make claims on behalf of people based on their exemplary characters.

In the years since the introduction of the Act, the word “illegal” as applied to a certain class of non-citizen has mostly been phased out, at least in left/progressive/liberal circles, in favor of “undocumented,” following intense activism to replace one phrase with the other. “Illegal” connotes, well, illegality, and undocumented activists prefer a term that does not, according to them, imply illegal or criminal behavior. No one is illegal, they insist.

Undocumented activism, made popular by the actions of DREAM youth, has by now taken on an amorphous shape, a kind of Rorschach test which allows observers to make of it what they will.

To the Right, it symbolizes the immigrants and “anchor babies” it loves to detest, unless in the form of educated doctors and lawyers, preferably from Europe. To the Left, the extreme affect and symbolism of beautiful youth being dragged away in handcuffs stirs hearts and make their actions seem part of a civil rights struggle. For both sides, the figure of the Undocumented represents a new form of immigration activism. In actual fact, the recent emphasis on the undocumented has only meant the creation of a new category of immigrant activist and, paradoxically, the end of any meaningful activism around immigration.

Forgotten in all the talk about “coming out” (terminology astutely borrowed from the gay rights movement) is the fact that coming out as undocumented is still a privilege for the few, mostly the very young and/or the highly qualified with unblemished records (a simple marijuana possession or a DUI becomes, for an undocumented immigrant, grounds for permanent expulsion) and that the substitution of “undocumented” for “illegal” does nothing to erase the structures of illegality which still frame immigration and citizenship. A truly left/radical framework around immigration would instead claim the term “illegal” as a way to resist the frameworks and to foreground the notion of legality. It would expose legality as a construct, not as a dictate to which we adhere.

Also left unthought, unquestioned, and untheorized in all the undocumented actions, including those which involve groups of youth voluntarily crossing the border and then demanding the right to return, is: What is the ultimate end goal, other than to gain restitution and a path to citizenship for those who engage in specific of acts of supposed civil disobedience?

In August, the so-called DREAM 9, a group of undocumented youth, crossed the border and then demanded asylum. In September, an even larger group, the DREAM 30, did the same thing. In August, the Obama administration felt sufficiently embarrassed that it allowed all of of the nine to move forward on their bids for asylum (a process that could take years but, in the meantime, all 9 can stay in the U.S). The DREAM 30 may have stretched the patience of the administration—as this goes to print, matters look far more rocky as a few of them have been denied their claims for asylum and as the groups organizing them, National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and DREAMactivist.org have had a major falling out with Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez.

The DREAM 9 earned much adulation and support, inciting letters demanding their return signed by several House members, activist groups, and academics (the last came from UIC, where Lulu Martinez, one of the 9, is currently a student).

The letter from UIC in particular suggests greater struggles at hand, pointing out that the DREAM 9 are engaged in a “struggle on behalf of human rights and citizenship rights for immigrants.”

I used to work as an adjunct at UIC—if asked, I would probably have signed on to the letter, reluctantly, simply because it would mean a way to bring back a student to whom an institution owes a degree of loyalty, and because it would provide a way to be publicly critical of laws that are indeed “wrong and unjust,” as the letter describes them.

But I suspect that even many of those who signed had to have asked what, exactly, is this struggle, when no one but the 9 benefited from it and, in the case of the 30, no one is advocating for more than the right of all them to similarly gain restitution? It would make sense to describe their actions in such terms if the undocumented went on a hunger strike against all deportations, period, or insisted on staying outside the country and then invoked mass amounts of support from networks demanding not simply their return but the end to all deportations or, at the least, a moratorium until a sustainable change in immigration policies was passed.

Instead, these activists are just demanding asylum for themselves rather than demanding an end to deportations. The 9 spoke about their prison conditions, in a half-hearted attempt to make their action seem like it was about more than them seeking clemency for themselves, although in the end their aim was just that. But even their claimed broader objective, a moratorium on deportations, is both too limiting and not entirely honest, ignoring the economic forces that drive bodies back and forth across borders.

Yet, astoundingly, the actions of a few on behalf of nothing other than their own interests were quickly portrayed in the media as a massive civil disobedience act. The figure of the Undocumented has accrued so much symbolic resonance that its mere presence now signals a revolutionary moment in the making, despite the lack of evidence to that effect.

How did the Undocumented achieve this status, to the point where struggles on behalf of a few are now positioned in a larger civil rights history? How did the Undocumented become an identity category that erases the real crises around immigration in favor of a seemingly unrelenting series of acts of street theatre?

Origins of A Movement

In 2006, Chicago’s immigrant community, largely undocumented and comprised mostly of low-wage workers, shocked and surprised the world by turning out in what was then the single largest immigration march, over a 100,000 in a single day.  The initial energy derived from that moment has long since dissipated into talk about families and personalized narratives about individuals, with a constant drumroll of pleas to save them from deportation. To date, Obama has deported nearly two million people, far more than Bush in both his terms, and the labor conditions for immigrant workers look even less promising under new immigration reform proposals.

Most sectors of immigration organizing are preoccupied with “family reunification,” long considered a bedrock of American immigration policy, whether in relation to Latino/a and Asian families or LGBT binational couples (the last group has now subsided in silence following the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act). Ending deportations has become the rallying cause for the immigration rights movement, and every immigration issue, whether the rights of day laborers or of those detained in prisons indefinitely, has become subsumed by the cry of “no more deportations.” This has been coupled with a surge in the undocumented “coming out.”

The driving forces behind the massive numbers of people surging into the US without papers or overstaying their visas has to do mostly with migrants being squeezed out of worsening conditions that are a direct effect of NAFTA and/or the destabilization of political frameworks that increase the need for asylum and forms of escape. Cheap labour is still assumed as a given, and immigrants must constantly seek validation through an endless system of verification and surveillance mechanisms.

In this context, all other struggles for immigration rights, including the rights of day laborers, have now been recast in terms of the rights of the undocumented. But that emphasis on the undocumented as an identity has meant that the central tenets of labor organising are often left on the floor.

So, for instance, José Antonio Vargas came out spectacularly as a queer, undocumented immigrant journalist, receiving several accolades and speaking engagements along the way, most of which focused on arguing for replacing the word “illegal” with “undocumented.” But in September 2012, Vargas, who has mined his claimed history as the child of immigrant workers, crossed a picket line to make a speech to the Online News Association at the San Francisco Hyatt Regency. It’s a sign of the times, that immigration is no longer even considered a labor issue: Vargas’s identity as an out, queer, undocumented man trumps any outrage that he is in fact a scab.

Perhaps most problematically, the actions and rhetoric of the Undocumented erase and distort the history of civil disobedience acts in this country. Every now and then, an Undocumented spokesperson will dutifully, as a matter of course, in a form of lip service, reference the struggles of African Americans in this country. But those previous struggles refused to engage the prison industrial complex: they demanded nothing less than an end to the prisons and the release of all Black prisoners. What the Undocumented and DREAMers are insisting upon is a reification of the very conditions that land millions of their own and African Americans in prison in the first place.

This may seem needlessly churlish—after all, activists often have to work in hopeless conditions as best as they can, and in the case of millions of immigrants, citizenship and/or asylum is the best possible route.

The point is not that the Undocumented have served no purpose or that no one should ever seek asylum or restitution or a way to gain “legal” entry, however problematic the state might be. The point is simply that the demand to “End All Deportations” combines with the figure of the Undocumented to constitute an end point: together, these two elements have effectively made it impossible for any but the best and most pure amongst them to gain access to even the rudimentary pathways to citizenship.

The proof lies in DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the weakest form of the DREAM Act conceived by the Obama administration, meant to benefit qualifying youth in similar ways. Toothless from the start, DACA has no legislative punch and is merely a memorandum which could be easily erased by the next administration – or even by Obama himself.

There are, doubtless, elements that are useful – for many, DACA means the ability to finally obtain a Social Security Number and a driving license – both of which can make immeasurable differences to a person’s standard of living and peace of mind, even if temporarily. But DACA also means that thousands are required to come out of the shadows and submit all their identifying information to authorities, to be marked for removal at the discretion of ICE. As the group Moratorium on Deportations (MDC) puts it, “Homeland Security documents clearly state: even people who meet all the criteria may be rejected and turned over to I.C.E. There is no guarantee they will be granted any kind of relief, and the government will be able to initiate deportation proceedings against them, or their families, at any time.”

What “Undocumented” Could Really Mean

What if, as Rozalinda Borcilă, also a member of MDC, puts it, “‘Undocumented’ came to refer not to an identity, but to a set of practices, to the production of social relations that could be resistant to … capitalist relations”? What if we thought about the undocumented as those who resist and question the very structures upon which the massively flawed immigration system is built?

In her analysis of Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs), Borcilă writes about a group of about 30 immigrants, some with papers and some without, who biked through FTZ #22 in and around the Chicago area. All of them had in some form or another refused the logic of the DREAM Act and were searching for an alternative to the mainstream immigrant rights movement.

An FTZ is a geographical area within the United States that is demarcated as outside the commerce of the US. This benefits companies that are physically inside the country but which can skirt labor laws, for instance, in favor of enormous profits. FTZ #22 is also, not by coincidence, home to a large migrant population as well as detention processing centers and county jails specifically meant for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) purposes.

FTZs exemplify the reification of poli-migra—a newly-coined Spanish word for the peculiar amalgamation that comes about when local law enforcement is given powers of authority hitherto only granted to immigration officials, creating environments of fear, dread, and constant surveillance. In an FTZ, poli-migra becomes part and parcel of the paranoid state apparatus in place to protect the commercial interests of rapacious corporations for whom the bodies and migrant labor are merely to be used, abused, and deported at will. Outside and inside the supposedly “civilized” confines of “sanctuary cities” like Chicago, FTZs operate to exert the brutal logic of capitalism in its most pared-down form, as a set of inexorable and mobile forces that can, like space aliens in a particularly scary movie, reconstitute themselves according to the shifts in trade policies.

The riders made their way through a region within a region, their bodies, lack of papers, and, in many cases, ankle bracelets (some were already put on a path to deportation, or in proceedings) in full view.

In Chicago, where I live, thousands of undocumented immigrants have long since disappeared, their deportations made easier and simpler by fast-track procedures which deny them what the law would define as due process. The deportations are perfectly legal, the result of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, a response to demands by legislators and the public for a tightening of the borders. Thousands more across the country are picked up every day at various points, including Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses, interrogated for papers and quietly and quickly removed, cut off from friends and families. Most are never heard from again. Thousands more continue to try to return, despite the risks they face.

In narratives about the immigration crisis, media and activists have continued to emphasize family reunification; even the most leftist outlets will frame departures and returns in terms of filial separation, as if immigrants are homing pigeons, their desire to be with loved ones like a code implanted in their DNA. All this ignores the fact that immigrants are compelled to return, facing economic hardship in areas devastated by neoliberal economic policies.

In this context, the identity category of the Undocumented serves as a place marker for the ghostly remains of the bodies of those whose forced removal will never be mourned.

In all of this, neither the sheer and overwhelming complexity of draconian immigration laws nor the material consequences of deportation on the disappeared are effectively communicated to the general public. In fact, immigration laws are so mind-bogglingly convoluted and so quick to change that most lawyers are constantly playing catch-up in terms of learning about changes, and many will not take on the cases considered “difficult,” particularly those that might involve criminal acts.

Actions like those of the DREAM 9 or the DREAM 30 turn deportations into a form of street theatre, and the only demands they crystallize are that the state should grant particular individuals the right to return “home.” But, simultaneously, tens of thousands of youth and adults who will never fit the requirements of DACA-like legislation are quietly shipped out and away. Paradoxically, actual deportations—continued without the President or Congress interceding on anyone’s behalf—become abstract while the media-driven spectacles of DREAMers “self-deporting” are cast as the reality of immigration.

As the cyclists travelled through the zone, they were made aware of the materiality of the zoning. Every time they stopped outside a large warehouse, for instance, security guards emerged to let them know that the property was under the surveillance of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In contrast, capital and capitalism flow unimpeded through the body of the “Undocumented and Unafraid” immigrant figure, whose only purpose is to solidify the presence of a benevolent neoliberal state through a litany of affective narratives. Even when groups of protesters gather to block buses full of deportees, it is with the understanding that they are standing for the best amongst the undocumented and to extend the problematic conditions of DACA to everyone.

In their travels, the cyclists stopped at rural and suburban enclaves and participated in teach-ins about poli-migra and the effects of Free Trade Zones. They met with groups like Warehouse Workers for Justice, and discussed the implications of “English Only” laws, and the connections between the vast cornfields whose produce would be dumped in Mexico and free trade legislation. They protested outside a courthouse in Wheaton County, a site where several of the undocumented were held for deportation.

Against the backdrop of protests that involve stopping buses or “self-deportations,” such actions are, paradoxically, considered more abstract, too theoretical. The vulnerability of the bodies which move through locations unaided by press and organizational attention is erased, rendered invisible by a media machine which loves the spectacle of “real” arrests performed for its pleasure.

All concerned, and the media reporting on them, forget, however, that theory in fact is located within the practice put forth here. In other words, the actions of stopping buses or self-deportations are not spontaneously brought about but, as any activists will tell you, the products of weeks if not months of planning and reflect a theoretical idea in practice. Which is to say, the abstract idea fully realized here is to capitalize on the sympathy of a public which can be depended upon to side with the sloganeering against “criminality” and to enact demands that depend entirely on the clemency of the state. Once the dust settles, nothing is changed: the processes which create the conditions that make immigration a forced reality for millions remain untouched and unquestioned.

While left media have painted theirs as grand statements, few have bothered to ask basic questions: Who, ultimately, benefits from actions that amount to little more than begging for clemency from a neoliberal state? How do these acts really question the categories of legal and illegal, and how do they hold the rest of us accountable for a rethinking the fundamental paradigms upon which immigration reform depend?

The Undocumented forestalls the possibility of looking beyond the needs of the individual. What matters now in immigration rights is the immediate demand: “STOP DEPORTATIONS!”, taken up by the most mainstream corners of the media, as well as a call to reunify individuals with families and communities.

Yet, surely, what really matters at this point in time is not to simply focus on the end point of immigration, deportation, but to understand what the points of entry are—how and why do bodies enter in the first place, and how and why are they accorded fewer benefits than the “zones” of trade that can not only exist but slowly and imperceptibly shift to affect the very lives upon which they hold sway? There are real consequences to focusing so much on the Undocumented and on simply ending the deportations of the “good immigrants: Vital resources are being funnelled towards street theatre, immigrants with impure records are constantly turned away by lawyers who simply cannot afford to take on their increasingly difficult cases because the force of the law bears down on them even harder, and an entire movement has had to shift the focus (however weak to begin with) from interrogating an exploitative system to making that exploitative system work more efficiently.

In the call for the Undocumented to break their shackles and live free in the light, we forget to interrogate the very construct and concept of illegality. But if we were to think of how actual bodies clash with and crash into the very material even if occasionally invisible fences and borders of trade that make life unendurable for so many, we might in fact decide upon a different rallying cry. This cry might be quite different from “Undocumented and Unafraid” and be, instead, “Illegal and Afraid,” to signal that things are not going to change simply because a few receive the benefits of mandated exposure. More critically, we might begin to think about immigration not as a process by which bodies are simply divided according to affect and privatized systems of courage or the lack thereof, but as a consequence of the atomization and brutality of capitalism itself.

(For the backstory behind this piece see: Jacobinned: The Story Behind the Story Jacobin Refused to Publish.)

Yasmin Nair is the co-founder, with Ryan Conrad, of Against Equality, and the Volunteer Policy Director of Gender JUST. She wishes to thank Rozalinda Borcilă, Richard Hoffman Reinhardt, Karma Chavez, Mariame Kaba, and Zé for many invaluable conversations and insights. Any misreadings are entirely her own.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

albatross December 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I can see why The Jacobin rejected this piece. It’s not really that the piece challenges conventional notions of immigration activism, but that the piece is very unclear and quite flimsy. In its attempt at sophistication, the piece fails to cohere, lapses into meaningless jargon, and doesn’t really successfully argue for a different kind of movement from that of DREAM.

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Grand Quartet December 11, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Hmm. This is just not a very good piece. The editing is quite poor, its thesis is unclear, and there seems to be multiple errors of fact in it. Agreed about The Jacobin’s rejection, though obviously that doesn’t excuse how flimsy so much of their content is. “UP NEW TODAY, A REVIEW OF GRAVITY.”

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albatross December 11, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I can see why The Jacobin rejected this piece. It’s not really that the
piece challenges conventional notions of immigration activism, but that
the piece is very unclear and quite flimsy. In its attempt at
sophistication, the piece fails to cohere, lapses into meaningless
jargon, and doesn’t really successfully argue for a different kind of
movement from that of the Undocumented

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Aaron Aarons December 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm

While I think I agree with most of what the author is trying to say, it’s really hard to know. The article reads as if the writer were being paid by the word.

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ryne from uptown December 12, 2013 at 12:13 am

This is awful and poorly written

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mb December 12, 2013 at 3:21 am

Looks like the commenters have pulled back the curtain on Jacobin’s REAL reasons for pulling the piece

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Wayne Collins December 12, 2013 at 5:28 am

Maybe its just my age, but the piece seems incoherent. It talks about FTZ zones without explaining what they are or how they operate. It talks about immigration law technicalities without any clarity of what they mean or what the do. It wanders off into academic/Hegelian/sociological jargon.
In short, the article reveals two serious drawbacks:

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Ryne From Uptown December 14, 2013 at 2:43 am

I’m 22, its not your age. Everyone finds this to be a horrible piece. Jacobin had every right to reject it

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tommy December 18, 2013 at 1:16 am

she hyper links to the wiki for FTZ and describes them as “An FTZ is a geographical area within the United States that is demarcated as outside the commerce of the US. This benefits companies that are physically inside the country but which can skirt labor laws, for instance, in favor of enormous profits.” perhaps the problem is your ability to read and not her ability to write. or did you just skim the article because you were too lazy to read indepth analysis? hmmmm…

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Wayne Collins December 18, 2013 at 4:09 am

OK, Tommy. I read the hyper link on FTZ and the article which that, in turn, cited. Maybe its just my age but neither the wiki link nor other article articulated a shred of how an FTZ in fact operates in enhance deportations. It may well do so. But bald assertions of police powers being granted to an Economic Zone do not explain a mechanism to anyone. So having read all the material I stand on my original comment – with the addition that the hyper linked material is equally incoherent. Maybe its just your age.

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svourvoulias December 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Ummm. Sorry to burst your bubble but your editor didn’t do his job, and this is simply a badly written, badly structured piece that doesn’t inspire confidence in terms of basic research or fact checking. I wouldn’t have published it either.

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Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano December 13, 2013 at 3:01 am

It saddens me that those who are documented are not allowed to engage in critical dialogue around immigration and undocumented rights in the U.S. Certainly, the privilege of being documented or holding U.S. citizenship (some by birth, others through naturalization) must be taken into account when we speak and engage, but disallowing or banning people from our own communities from speaking in a manner that might be critical, is a nebulous, dangerous, and inconsistent approach(what happens when an undocumented person becomes documented?).

I have limited my engagement to that of supporting the Undocumented Movement’s strategies, sometimes despite political and/or ethical concerns around language and/or tactic (e.g. military pathways, painting children as victims and thus parents as villains), but I wonder if this is the best strategy or if it is even sustainable. I wonder, too, if my wondering is an act of defiance and overstepping of the boundaries my privileges confine me to.

There is a lot in this article that I must sit with. I am not in a position to endorse or critique it without a few more reads and better diligence of my own. But it is not something that I can ignore. It is a long read, which makes me wonder if people are actually reading it since the main critiques are that the article has no clear thesis or that it is poorly written, and not critiques of its actual content. I think it’s important that as a people we be weary of creating martyrs and sacred imperatives that are above question and dialogue. It’s one thing to disagree with one another, but to create a culture that censors civil discourse, is a terrifying prospect.

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eh December 16, 2013 at 1:05 am

i like this piece, even though i agree with many of the other comments about style and jargon. jargon is not a problem per se, but i think it’s indicative of one of the problems with putting these ideas in this format. namely, your web of connections between undocumented/illegal, identity/practice, and the neoliberal state are necessary and important, but need to be more carefully laid out and demonstrated. i myself am wary of the term neoliberal when left undefined, but that may just be a personal thing. still, i wanted to thank you for your strong opinion, because from my perspective (white, middle-class, heterosexual though it may be), there is a risk in the discourse on immigration of either having tactics become pure spectacle (i.e. being an end in and of themselves) OR marking a clear telos after which immigration will be “solved.” you mention the idea of acceptable/unacceptable or however you phrased it immigrants and i think this is particularly important, but this is not just in the hands of the neoliberal state, rather it seems to me to be much more pervasive and insidious. anyway, i wanted to say thank you again for your thoughts here, and you are right that it is especially hard to criticize or at least think critically about the undocumented campaign without be labelled a reactionary.

saludos, and thanks to jdb for sending me here

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Kate Raphael December 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm

You make some excellent points about the problems with “rights”-based movements, but I am uncomfortable with the use of a “good protester-bad protester” dynamic, even in this reversal of the usual trope where the good protesters are the less radical ones. I feel like all social movements that are militant in form need to be encouraged in this very regressive time. I don’t think it’s accurate that all African American “struggles refused to engage the prison industrial complex: they demanded nothing less than an end to the prisons and the release of all Black prisoners”. I’m not old enough to remember the civil rights movement but I believe that at times people called for the release of King and others as “prisoners of conscience” without calling for an end to the prison system as a whole.

There are in every movement revolutionary and reformist tendencies, and I always prefer the revolutionary approaches, but I don’t think it’s useful to cast the less radical as more reformist than they are. I thought the work of the DREAM 9 in publicizing the conditions in the prison was pretty impressive. When they went on air from inside, they talked about that, and not their own demand for amnesty. It remains to be seen whether the movement for NO DEPORTATIONS will draw people into a movement for global worker justice, but I think it could, especially if we work with it respectfully.

That said, I think the piece has a lot of merit and thought I know nothing much about THE JACOBIN, it seems like if they thought it needed editing, they could have provided that.

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noname July 28, 2016 at 12:44 pm

I have a friend and a co-worker who works in the non-profit sector who is undocumented and is a champion for immigrant rights. About the fact that he is a DACA recipient, that he graduated top of his class despite coming from a very poor family that worked multiple, service-sector jobs, that he regularly speaks and acts in activist circles where he participates in non-violent civil disobedience in spite of the danger it poses to him as a DACA recipient, he tells his grounding story:

that his father, for some reason, could have become a citizen but never did, thus denying him the basic civil liberties that most of his friends enjoy

that his mother, because of this, was forced to work three jobs to support their family, which meant that she would be exhausted and rarely home when he was growing up

that he grew up in rural Georgia where he face constant discrimination not only for being a PoC but also because he was one of Them, one of those feared and hated job stealers from the lower-class

that all of this eventually drove him to attempt suicide when he was just a teenager because it had sucked all the hope in his life away that things could ever get better

and how that failed attempt eventually gave him the courage to be open about his undocumented status and to pursue work that would help not only the depressed kids like him out there who feel like they have no hope but also to push, incrementally, step-by-step, at local and state levels to get PoC representation which means more immigrant representation which means more councilpersons and legislators who would stop passing anti-immigration bills

about how this carried him through the vicious state legislative sessions where he was bullied and rejected, once again, by white men in power in spite of that hard, stressful time he had spent putting together briefs and policy suggestions and, in spite of working long hours at his lowly paid job that he gets through by smoking packs of cigarettes

and how he yet still remains a cheerful, helpful, humane, inspiring individual, I think I have to ask you, the author, and this website’s editor, where the fuck do you find the gall to publish such trash?

to claim that that my friend is a ‘privileged Undocumented’ from your position, to argue that because the mainstream perception of the optics and semantics of the work being done to improve the basic human rights of immigrants is poor that it is these people who are the issue?

you can’t call this pragmatism. pragmatism has an ethical code whereby the lives and stories of individuals aren’t obfuscated by pretentious ivory tower overintellectualizing. whatever mental gymnastics routine you’ve constructed for yourself where the product is the crass dehumanization of individuals into just receptacles of cultural capital, do me and the whole rest of the world a favor and abandon it

thanks

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