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From Allies to Accomplices: Grand Rapids opportunities to practice immigrant justice

April 19, 2017

Too often for those of use who carry lots of privilege – race, class, ability or citizenship status privilege – we fail to act or to stand in solidarity with those who are being targeted by systems of oppression. Or, if we do act, the tendency is to engage in savior politics or make it about us.

Let us be clear, this is not about doing missionary work or even being an ally. Those of us who hold lots of privilege need to begin to think about what role we play in movements for social justice and liberation.

A recent article written by an indigenous activist, entitled, Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex, provides us with an important critique of what too often happens from well intentioned white folks who “want to do some good” or who “want to help.” 

The article states near the beginning:

The risks of an ally who provides support or solidarity (usually on a temporary basis) in a fight are much different than that of an accomplice. When we fight back or forward, together, becoming complicit in a struggle towards liberation, we are accomplices.

Later on in the article, the author writes:

Don’t wait around for anyone to proclaim you to be an accomplice, you certainly cannot proclaim it yourself. You just are or you are not. The lines of oppression are already drawn. Direct action is really the best and may be the only way to learn what it is to be an accomplice. We’re in a fight, so be ready for confrontation and consequence.

Part of being an accomplice is having mutually respectful relationships with oppressed communities. However, as the above comment makes clear, we must engage in direct action to demonstrate that we are an accomplice in the struggle for liberation.

Grand Rapids opportunities for being an accomplice

The undocumented immigrant community has been experiencing a great deal of harm and suffering for a long time. During the Obama administration 8 year tenure, an estimated 2.7 million people were deported.

Under the current administration, they have taken the gloves off and made it painfully clear that they will be targeting the undocumented community. The Executive Orders that have been passed in the first months of the Trump administration have targeted refugees, muslims and undocumented immigrants. The Trump administration has expressed their desire to build a wall along the US/Mexican border, hire more ICE agents and arrest, detain and deport those who are undocumented.

These recent actions by the federal government have sent fear into the immigrant communities, but it has also galvanized those same communities to fight back. In virtually every city across the US, it is the undocumented and immigrant communities who have begun to increased the level of organizing and taken the lead on this critical issue by organizing marches, boycotts, strikes, actions around A Day Without Immigrants, etc.

The question for those of us who hold lots of privilege and will not be impacted by the wave of anti-immigrant and xenophobic response from the government and white supremacists groups is – what will we do to step up and join the fight along side the undocumented community?

Undocumented Resistance in Grand Rapids

There are several actions coming up in Grand Rapids and opportunities to be ready to mobilize against government repression.

First, this Thursday, April 20th, there is an action at noon organized by the Grand Rapids chapter of the Cosecha Movement.  This action is designed to draw attention to the practices and policies of the Immigration, Customs and Enforcement agency known as ICE. The action begins with a gathering at the Calder Plaza and will proceed from there. For more information contact the organizers through the Facebook event

The action on April 20th is a lead up to a much larger action on Monday, May 1st. This action, also organized by the Grand Rapids chapter of the Cosecha Movement, is calling for a boycott, strike and march. Organizers are asking people to not go to work or school, to not shop or spend money, rather to march with them for immigrant justice. The Facebook event for May 1st states: 

On May 1st join us and thousands of immigrants and immigrant allies and lets win together permanent protection, dignity and respect for all people regardless of where you were born, country of origin,what religion you practice or who you are. Our country was founded by immigrants and is fuel by immigrants!

The march begins at noon on May 1st at Garfield Park. For those of us who hold lots of privilege, showing up send an important message that those in the immigrant and and undocumented community are not alone.

A third opportunity for people to be accomplices in the struggle for justice is for participate in the Grand Rapids Immigrant Solidarity Network’s Rapid Response to ICE campaign. The Rapid Response to ICE campaign is where accomplices, after receiving some training, are willing to mobilize quickly to actually prevent ICE agents from arresting undocumented immigrants and/or to provide mutual aid to family members impacted by the trauma of having someone taken from them.

There have already been several trainings for being part of the Rapid Response to ICE campaign and the next one will be held on Thursday, May 11 from 6:30 – 8:30pm at the Kent Ionia Labor Council. For details go to the Facebook event page for this training. 

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