Yesterday, I was arrested in Washington, D.C. while advocating for a clean Dream Act. A lot of people have questioned me for my decision to take a stand for undocumented and immigrant people. I want to let Black people know, this is our issue, too, and this is the time to be involved.
Even though I understand some of where the frustration comes from, I feel it is sad for Black people not to realize that this immigration issue is our issue, too. History shows us that the wealth and power of this country was built by both immigrants and stolen people forced into slavery.
The Dred Scott case of 1857 stated that Blacks were not considered citizens of the United States, and that was true until the Emancipation Proclamation amended that judgement. Now our African, Haitian, Brazilian and other Black immigrants are facing the same type of injustice of being declared “not American.” After they’ve contributed to the culture, to building the fabric of America, this administration is shipping them away to places they have no established ties to. They are being ripped apart from their families, friends, careers and being forced to restart their lives from scratch!
Our Mexican, El Salvadoran, and Colombian brothers and sisters, particularly those whose skin is of a darker hue, share many of the same struggles as us: forced poverty, lack of opportunity, laboring for pennies to survive. I understand that the concerns my people have raised come from not always seeing Latino people fighting for the issues that affect Black people.
But if you can’t see yourself in this issue, I challenge you to think about how you have been affected by mass incarceration and what you understand about the injustices of that system.
If you’re accused of a crime in the Bronx, and you don’t have the money for bail, you’re trapped in a holding facility for an unreasonable amount of time. New facilities are being built every day to hold and house more immigrants who also have no ability to bail themselves out and challenge their incarceration. If you’ve been incarcerated, you know you could suddenly be transported, without notice, to a prison in Kansas City or Chicago, where your family cannot reach you to visit and your ability to communicate is cut off because phone calls cost so much money. Immigration enforcement (or “ICE”) is also picking up people and quickly making them “disappear” off to places where they are cut off from contact with their families and communities for support. Mass incarceration operates by criminalizing Blacks, and that is why they are working so hard to paint all immigrants as criminals, too.
I’m not an expert on the issue of immigration, but I am an expert on what it feels like to be ripped away from my family and incarcerated for a crime I didn’t commit. I am educating myself because of the work of groups like UndocuBlack, who are making information available on the plight of immigrants being targeted by our unjust system today. And I am beginning to see myself in their struggle.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Until we see the fights of our brothers and sisters—whether they’re Black or brown, whether they speak English or Spanish, whether they were born here or in another country—as our own, we will never be able to achieve real freedom.
Right now is a moment for us to see that the system is targeting all of us to strip away our rights. Regardless of the past, it’s time to make a new commitment to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. I will fight for my Mexican friend who lived next door to me in the Bronx, whose mother treated me like her own child! I fight for the African family living downstairs from my family, who greet me everyday and tell me how much I inspire them. I fight for them because they can’t fight for themselves! #IWorkforthePeople!
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