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What do we do now? Allies and the immigration crisis

July 16, 2019

Ok, so the Light for Liberty events have come and gone. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered all across the country last Friday to draw attention to the immigration crisis and demand that the Trump administration close the camps.

The camps are still operating and the widespread harm that is being done to the immigrant community continues. So, what do we do now? This is not just a rhetorical question, but one that we need to think about with great care and conviction.

Showing up to demonstrations can be a good thing, but it always depends on what the objectives are of demonstrations. Holding a demonstration in a neutral public space has less of an impact, than say, at an ICE office or detention facility. It might make us feel good to hold a sign and listen to a couple of speakers, but lets face it, it doesn’t do a damn thing to end the current harm that is being done to the immigrant community. And this should be the point. What can we do, those of us who are allies and are not a part of the affected community, what is it that we can do that will not contribute to the harm, but will actually begin to reduce the harm being done to the immigrant community.

This should be the strategic goal for the work that needs to be done by allies. The immigrant-led movements across the US are doing what they need to do, without our help, unless they are asking for it. However, when it comes to what can we do, we need to always center what this will mean to the immigrant community. If we are truly to be allies in this struggle, in this movement, then we need to shut up and listen to what it is that the immigrant-led organizers are saying and asking of us.

This ultimately means we follow their lead, it means we listen to them, learn from them and then act in solidarity with them. Good intentions are not enough, and in fact, good intentions often contribute to the harm being done to the immigrant community. We need to center the voices and lived experience of the immigrant community if we are to be allies in the struggle for immigrant justice. This means that we do NOT go off on our own and do what we think is best. People who think they are allies and act on their own more often than not are taking action to make themselves feel better, which is often actions that in no way works to dismantle the systems of power & oppression that are causing the harm. This means they are low-risk actions that are safe and do not either disrupt the harm being done, nor do these kind of actions threaten the comfortability of white people who do not want their lives disrupted. For those who hold all kinds of privilege, in order for them to really contribute to the immigrant justice movement, means they have to be willing to take some kind of risk.

Now, when I say risk, I don’t just mean that people with privilege have to be willing to get arrested. When I say they have to be willing to take risks, I mean that they have to step outside of their comfort zones, take a public position that might create conflict in their lives or even disrupt their privilege at a certain level. Confronting and dismantling systems of power and oppression is not easy work and it will require those of us who are not primarily impacted by these systems to take risks. No social movement in the last 200 years has achieved substantial change without risk, without sacrifice and without commitment.

If people who want to be allies are serious about reducing the harm being done to the immigrant community right now and specifically in West Michigan, then here are some concrete ways to make that happen:

  • If we want to be an ally with the immigrant community, then attend one of the regular ally trainings that Movimiento Cosecha GR hosts, like the one that is happening this Saturday, July 20. An important part of the work that Cosecha is doing now is a Drivers Licenses for All campaign, which will significantly reduce the possibility that immigrants will end up in ICE custody, plus it is a quality of life issue. 
  • Once people have attended an ally training, there are regular ally work meetings, which makes decisions with immigrant-led input on what work allies to be doing. Check the Movimiento Cosecha GR Facebook page for scheduled Ally work meetings meetings.
  • There are also training that GR Rapid Response hosts on a regular basis, either to be part of their work or to be involved in their Abolish ICE campaign. The next training is being held on Monday, July 22, which is a Direct Action training, with details at this link.
  • People can provide direct relief to immigrants by donating to the GR Rapid Response Mutual Aid fund, which is paypal.me/arcarpenter. You can also attend one of the upcoming fundraisers for GR Rapid Response to ICE, such as the one on July 18 and another one on July 27, which is 80’s Against ICE Dance Party at St. George’s Hall – 1513 Quarry Street NW, Grand Rapids from 7 – midnight
  • We also need people to provide transportation for immigrant families, either because they don’t have a car, don’t have a license or because the person who could drive is now in ICE custody.
  • We need people of faith to ask their pastors, their rabbis or their Imam’s to see if the place of worship is willing to be a Sanctuary for the immigrant community that is being targeted.
  • We also need people who want to help us get ICE out of Kent County. We have an Abolish ICE campaign and we need people to be part of that work, which means attempting to disrupt or shut down local ICE facilities, disrupt business as usual at the Kent County Jail, confront local politicians who are complicit with ICE violence or disrupt the businesses that are profiting off of the contracts they have with ICE. Our next Abolish ICE action is Wednesday, July 24
  • In addition, we need people to be part of our Rapid Response on call system, where we can respond immediately to people in the community who are being targeted by ICE. We need people who can speak Spanish to be able to take the calls and we need people who can send out messages to people who have been trained to do either direct intervention against ICE or people who can do Mutual Aid work with individuals and families.
  • We also can use people to distribute both electronically and handout form, the information about how to contact GR Rapid Response to ICE if you see ICE in your community.

These are just some of the more important, strategically sound things that people can do if they want to truly be an ally in the fight for immigrant justice. Movimiento Cosecha GR needs allies to support their offensive work and GR Rapid Response to ICE needs allies to step up and do the defensive work that can reduce the harm being done to immigrants right now.

Editor’s Note: an important read on what it means to be an ally is, Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing The Ally Industrial Complex

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