This is a call for an ongoing campaign of resistance and disruption until there is a moratorium on deportations and just and humane immigration reform is enacted!
For the past 4 years our movement, propelled by the love and desperation of millions of immigrants, has sought to address the failings of U.S. immigration policy through legislative channels. Growing respect of immigrant, particularly Latino/a immigrant, voting power has kept the idea of reform (barely) on the table. Yet the cruel calculus of U.S. elections means that in most states there is little net gain as anti-immigrant white votes are measured by the gains of rising immigrant voters. In the Southwest, links between historic Chicano/Mexicano and new immigrant voters has created a powerful bloc that, for one region of the country, has changed this dynamic.
Unfortunately, our collective narrow-minded focus on legislative reform has led us into a dead end where we are turned on and off like a water faucet, where our hopes are raised and then cynically turned into votes for Democratic congresspeople who are disrespected and ignored by their own party. Most recently, on March 21st the major legislatively-oriented, DC-centered institutions and their institutional and funder allies—all closely aligned with the reform-oriented minority of the Democratic Party—staged a march that cost over $5 million dollars and mobilized over 200,000 people. Now that there is little left in the tank, we are told that if nothing happens by early summer we will have no choice but to plow our resources, hopes and dreams into November’s elections.
Yet things have changed over the last 4 years. Our movement has matured. No longer can we allow the lives of 12 million people to be played like chess pieces on the congressional board game.
Eighteen months ago a new president was elected. He promised change. He promised immigration reform. We listened with anticipation as he conference called to us to promise that we could count on him. Yet, in many ways, he has continued the war of anti-immigrant attrition begun by his predecessor. In the last year alone over 34,000 immigrants were deported.
As a mature movement it is time for us to move beyond one-shot mobilizations and day long lobbyfests in Washington. It is time to plan and launch an ongoing and sustained effort that targets the executive branch, corporate America and legislative enemies and continues to ratchet up and increase pressure until a just and human reform is passed and signed into law.
As organizers we know that escalating, disruptive power—electoral, social and economic—builds and energizes our base, attracts allies and can win. Let’s design a program to win and launch this program on May 1. The following begins to outline a strategic approach:
Executive Branch, Washington DC
Target – The executive branch has the ability to declare a moratorium on most deportations. We must end the climate of fear, intimidation and threats and the war of anti-immigrant attrition by having President Obama declare a moratorium until legislation is approved. As we pressure this target (the President) we can be sure that intense pressure from the White House will push congress to move to resolve the crisis.
Tactic – Starting on May 1 movement organizations collectively demand an immediate moratorium on deportations. This is done at the White House. This demand is made on the executive branch – it is short, clear and within the power of the President. It is easily understood and widely and deeply agreed to by our base. Similar to the Free South Africa Movement from the 1980’s we announce that we will be back (daily perhaps, or weekly?) to be arrested. We will not stop until there is a moratorium or just and humane immigration laws. We start with notables and we delegate responsibility to organizations for different days’ arrests—churches, unions, community based organizations, congressional representatives, etc. Our point is to make a clear link between the ongoing aggression of Obama and his unique ability to stop the war on immigrants. At the very least, we will force him to take a clear and unequivocal stand for or against us. At our most we will create political space and will where there has been none and we will, indeed win what our community requires.
Legislative tactic: Vote NO = NO vote
We will ask candidates for congress and the senate to take a public YES or NO stand on Gutierrez’s bill. If they waffle or oppose then we run election boycotts against those candidates. This one bill becomes our litmus test for candidates for federal office. This work is carried on in 435 districts throughout the country. In November we must be able to deliver by punishing our enemies. We may ‘lose’ some seats (that were never ours) but will demonstrate and gain power like we never have.
Economic boycott on corporate America: which side are you on?
Recently, and accidently, a short-lived and rumor-generated boycott of Wal-Mart demonstrated the potential for massive economic disruption by informed and educated consumers. Corporations welcome cheap immigrant labor and fights for immigrants consumer dollars, yet they sit idly by as tens of thousands are deported and millions more live in constant fear, terror and uncertainty. We should negotiate support – money, lobbyist and beyond from the US Chamber of commerce and other business organizations. Similarly, almost 50 years ago, US corporations kept separate lunch counters until they were targeted and forced to stop propping up the racist status quo.
Let a thousand tactics flow
In addition to our three principle targets—the White House, congressional candidates and corporate America—we need to encourage the creativity and spontaneity of our base. If tens of thousands of people wish to ‘come out’ and get arrested, if thousands more wish to be arrested in solidarity, great. If others target and boycott municipalities with 287 G agreements, great. This neither can nor will be controlled. Its volatility and unpredictable nature add to its disruptive impact.
This is the beginning of an ambitious plan. It sharpens our demands and our targets. If it is sustained, massive, disruptive and creative it just might win what 12,000,000 of our families, friends and neighbors demand: just and humane immigration reform.Download this piece as a PDF