Neidi, Jonathan, Jorge, and Nancy Respond to Sally Kohn

Response to ” Dream Act Students Causing a Nightmare” (Piece written by Sally Kohn)
By:Jonathan Perez, Jorge Gutierrez, Nancy Meza, Neidi Y. Dominguez Zamorano

We, Nancy, Neidi, Jonathan and Jorge, would like to offer a response to this opinion piece with hopes of clarifying our personal opinions, recognizing these mediums of communication as spaces of dialogue and expression, and ultimately that our response lies as an open invitation for us all to challenge ourselves to imagine and create true spaces of solidarity work with respect and with a wider vision of justice for immigrants in the United States.

First off, we would like to make it clear that our piece published in Truthout, titled “Dream Movement: Challenges with the Social Justice Elite’s Military Option Arguments and the Immigration Reform “Leaders”, was an opinion piece that reflected the opinions and feelings of four undocumented and unafraid activists, not all Dreamers across the nation that have been doing incredible work for many years to pass the Dream Act. Many of us have at moments joined hands with the mainstream immigrant rights organizations in the fight for immigrant rights in this country. One of the key points of our piece is to recognize the diverse voices and people in the immigrant rights movement, including us, and not deciding for everyone as an aggregate whole, what the right strategy to win change should be.

Secondly, our Truthout piece only happened to be published on the day of the failed DOD cloture vote, it was not intentional nor did we care for it to be published that day or not. For us, publishing it at all was a moment of self-liberation, where we not only decided to write the piece together but then we decided for it to be published. We had been working on this piece for more than a month at that point, as a means of letting go of our frustrations in some way. What really triggered our desire to document our emotions and thoughts in this matter was the town hall that we, along with many other Dreamers and allies, helped organize in our home town in Los Angeles. By then many of us undocumented youth activists had been engaging in very draining and complex conversations with other progressive, far-left activists and colleagues about their anti-military absolutism position of not supporting the Dream Act because of the military option. We had also been dealing with strong criticism from the large immigration reform organizations, both locally and nationally, after our actions in Arizona in May.  We were being called selfish, reactionary, and so on… For us this piece became a venue in which we could actually process many of our feelings in a moment where all of us were maintaining ourselves as sane as possible in the middle of high tension situations and dangerous, life-changing actions. Then, yes, we decided to pursue publishing it because we felt strongly about creating our own narrative and rather than having other people writing about us and our actions we wanted to write about them ourselves and contribute to the external narrative.

Thirdly, although we have very strong critiques of the non-profit industrial complex, many of us have strong ties to grass-roots organizations here locally in CA that are 501c3s and do amazing work.  We would go so far as to say necessary and life-preserving work. It is precisely because we have those close relationships to those organizations and understand the way they work from the inside, that we know first hand that the direct action work and activities we were organizing were never going to be funded by a foundation. Nor did we want any of our actions to be dictated by an organization that was beholden to a foundation and their rules. Locally, we knew of youth being held back by organizations that were providing them with support and resources to engage in direct actions for immigration reform.  We wanted to have complete autonomy to organize and decide what we wanted and felt was strategic. In our article the section about our critiques of immigration reform leaders and our analysis of its connection to concept of the non-profit industrial complex was at most a paragraph long and it was definitely not the core of our piece. We never called out any names, and if we really wanted to point fingers we would have done it with names and last names at hand in other spaces. Also, if we wanted to follow in the “tradition of circling the wagons and shooting ourselves”, instead of focusing on passing a pro-immigrant bill in congress, we would have been conducting sit-ins and pickets in front of those mainstream immigration reform organizations and not in Arizona inside Senator McCain’s office, or inside the DC offices of Senators.

In addition we disagree with the following statement made by Sally:

“Personally, I’ll go on record believing that the entire immigrant rights movement (CIR supporters and DREAMers alike) should not have tried for legislative victory at all this year.  The backlash from 2006 and 2007 was too strong and, though perhaps less severe than under the reign of the Minutemen, more widespread thanks to the visibility of the Tea Party and increased audience of Fox News.  Somehow, even though over 67% of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform, the anti-immigrant climate was too strong to be overcome.”

We would like to once again make the point that those most affected by the issue should be the ones to decide what the solutions, strategies, etc… should be. We have heard before from some of our mentors that people act mostly out of two key feelings, desperation and hope. In our efforts to pass the Dream Act this year, we were acting out of both feelings, because we cannot afford to wait and put our lives on hold until we have the “right” political climate to pass something pro-immigrant in congress.

Lastly, we do agree with Sally, we also “do not believe unanimity in movements is a good thing.  Healthy and vibrant debate, and even dissent, is essential — not only in creating a spectrum of ideological perspectives and thus appealing entry points for all different sorts of people to join the movement, but also because debate and dissent keeps a movement accountable”.

Therefore we feel that we need to practice what we believe in and it was truly out of a strong commitment to create dialogue that we decided to make our piece public at a time when we were being silenced and attacked.

Ultimately we know that regardless of whether we pass the DREAM Act, we will fight to the very end.  We, as undocumented youth in this country, have a role in the immigrant rights movement. We know that we need to create more solidarity and unity amongst our networks and the immigrant rights movement as a whole, but we are invested in doing so, transparently, with mutual respect and dignity. Like any relationship we need to always be aware of how compromising is part of the deal- but we are done with always having to be the party to compromise. We need to be able to ask ourselves, when are we compromising too much of who we are as individuals and as organizations that we lose ourselves and our convictions?

Always In Solidarity,

Jonathan Perez
Jorge Gutierrez
Nancy Meza
Neidi Y. Dominguez Zamorano

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