Here in Orange County, the immigrant rights movement has shifted and it happened as soon as immigrant youth with no previous legal training and limited resources decided to take it upon themselves to not wait for saviors.
We adopted the saying, “if we don’t defend ourselves, no one will.”
This has resulted in many deportations stopped in Orange County led by those most affected and has created a culture of resistance against Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Last Wednesday June 24th, Rosa Martinez was released from ICE custody under her own recognizance. Out of the thousands of people deported from our community across the country last week, Rosa was not one of them. The difference was that the community across California said enough is enough. And most of all, Rosa herself said, “I will organize inside here if I have too.”
There is no recipe to stop a deportation.
Every case and situation is different. And when Rosa was detained, ICE painted her as the most dangerous criminal this world has ever seen due to 3 theft related felony convictions. However, the groundwork was laid out very quickly to create a safety net for her and ICE knew that if they opposed her release, things were going to escalate. So, they let her go.
If there is one thing we learned from Rosa’s case, which any anti-deportation activist will tell you as well, remaining aggressive in targeting ICE is key and you have to use multiple forms of tactics to do it. They must feel our presence and we absolutely cannot let them breathe. This means direct action inside detention centers, on the streets, inside their offices, outside their homes; everywhere they are we must be there to remind them that we are no longer afraid and we will do whatever it takes to prevent generational state violence and oppression committed against us, our families, and community.
With the culmination of the success of the #Not1More campaign and the escalations of the #BringThemHome rounds, the country was shaken and the immigrant rights movement became more popular and democratic which meant those inside detention centers and the formerly incarcerated/detained helped in organizing their campaigns to stop their own deportation.
Very recently, we had Transgender activist Jennicet Gutiérrez call out Obama in front of the leadership of the LGBTQ national movement. She was not well supported by her “allies” but the community and media response was different. And the ripple effects can still be felt right now. At his home, Obama was reminded that our Transgender community has been left out of his immigration policies. And like Rosa, felons have families and they are in our families.
Like Jennicet, Rosa’s campaign still didn’t get support from some organizations because they were scared to stand up to ICE, the Obama Administration, or pressure a congressional representative to support the case. But like how we have done in the past and will continue to do so, we will act strategic; target anyone including congressional reps, and especially the Obama Administration and ICE directors.
As far as next steps go, if ICE is everywhere in our community doing raids, we must be everywhere raiding them instead.
Alexis Nava Teodoro is Deportation Defense Coordinator at Resistencia, Autonomia, Igualdad, y lideraZgo (RAIZ). RAIZ is an autonomous grassroots migrant led organization with Zapatista indigenous political principles. It is also affiliated with the Immigrant Youth Coalition and the national #Not1More campaign.