Undocubus to Roll From Arizona to DNC Convention. Throughout American history, whether or not those who had the most to lose were involved, it seems like everyone has an opinion on immigration and the consequences of action, or inaction and related legislation.
More recently, since the DREAM Act didn’t pass a Senate vote in late 2010, there hasn’t really been any legislation put forward to change immigration policy in the country. Consequently, two movements have emerged to move the immigration issue forward built around activism and administrative action.
Most notably, the work of DREAM Activists, such as United We DREAM, along with administrative rules put into place by the Obama Administration have received the most attention and made the biggest difference.
So what’s the state of politicized immigration activism now?
Last week the Undocubus began its cross-country tour from Phoenix, Arizona to North Carolina — just in time for the Democratic National Convention on September 3.
The bus is be filled with undocumented activists and travel through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia to “come out” as undocumented and discuss why there is no reason to fear undocumented status any longer. The stated purpose of the campaign is immigration-related reforms though the final destination is a very political event.
Organizers said on background that this action is inspired by the activism of undocumented youth and encompasses three main points. First, the “coming out” of undocumented people as a way to assuage fear in communities across the country. Secondly, to highlight undocumented people as community leaders, and illustrate pointedly that they are not criminals to be deported. And third, to encourage community organizing.
No one from the No Papers, No Fear Ride For Justice campaign (aka Undocubus) would speak on the record about the campaign. There are a variety of organizations involved in the action. They include: National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Puente Arizona, Jobs for Justice, the Immigrant Youth Justice League and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. But the spokespeople for the movement are the immigrants themselves.
María Cruz, 46, is originally from Hidalgo, Mexico, and has been living in Phoenix without papers since 2001. She didn’t really seem to have strong feelings on the tour’s final destination of the DNC, rather, her focus was on what she wanted for her children, her family, her community.
After her children became involved in the ethnic studies protests in Arizona earlier this year, she decided that she, too, should come out in support of issues that she said were important to her community.
“More than anything I want to get on that bus because I want to fight for my family, because I want to fight for myself, because I want to fight for my community,” she said in Spanish. “I want everyone else to listen to us, to know that, united, we can achieve the change we need.”
But, when asked about the political destination of the action, Cruz was nonplussed.
Gerardo Torres, 41, said his involvement with the bus tour was not about politics. After having lived the past 18 years in Phoenix with no papers, the criminal rhetoric associated with immigrants and the passage of SB 1070 spurred him into activism.
“This is my first major involvement in any kind of movement, we need to make people aware of who we really are, what we really want of this country,” he told Politic365.
“We love this country, we want to be here legally — but there is no way we can do it. They have to change the laws, they have to make a major change on that policy,” Torres added.
He went on to say he believes the Undocubus tour is a good way to attain visibility, but ultimately, that politics doesn’t play a role.
“This is about my community [not Republicans or Democrats],” he said. “I want respect. It’s one of our hopes that we can be legal in this country. It’s all about my community. I really don’t care about politics.”
Yet, the Undocubus’ destination of the Democratic National Convention seems to give a different impression of its intentions. If the immigrant “spokespeople” themselves don’t care about politics, but the organizers chose an inherently political event to top off this action, who’s really politicizing immigration?
Immigration is always going to be a political issue — because there are always going to be winners and losers. But not talking about who those winners and losers are, and trying to obfuscate the players behind people caught in between isn’t necessarily the best way to show how immigration supersedes politics. On the contrary, it illustrates how politics play a pivotal role in immigration discourse. Politics drives those willing to talk about immigration — on, or off, the record.