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My response to the claim that “it was not the time or place” for Movimiento Cosecha to protest at the debate in Detroit

August 2, 2019

Yesterday, we reported on the various actions taken by Movimiento Cosecha Michigan, in Detroit during the Democratic Presidential candidate debates. 

There has been tremendous support for the actions that Movimiento Cosecha has taken in recent weeks, especially those actions that have confronted Joe Biden for his role in the deportation of 3 million immigrants, while acting as the VP in the Obama administration.

However, some people liberals and Democrats have not been supportive of the actions taken by Movimiento Cosecha. One commenter that was critical of the protests that disrupted the debates on Wednesday night, said:

Not the time or place. The behavior at tonight’s debate was disgraceful and unprecedented. 

This statement is instructive on many levels, so lets spend some time unpacking it.

First, the action during the debate was NOT unprecedented. Dissidents have been interrupting political candidates for decades, which makes this observation false.

Second, why is what was done disgraceful? The two women who took action to disrupt Joe Biden were both immigrants who were speaking for the immigrant community. There is nothing disgraceful about speaking for your own community, even if it means disrupting a candidate debate. Movimiento Cosecha Michigan released a statement about why they disrupted the debate on Wednesday night. Here is part of what that statement said: 

“Nearly every candidate has spoken out against the abuses immigrants are facing under the Trump Administration, but simply undoing the policies enacted by Trump is not enough. For decades, many in the Democratic Party have been complicit in attacks on the immigrant community. While Republicans fanned the flames of white supremacy with their anti-immigrant rhetoric, President Barack Obama campaigned on the promise of immigration reform but ended up deporting almost 3 million people — a record in our country’s history,” said Brenda Valladares, a spokesperson for the Cosecha Movement.

Such a statement is important, because we can’t simply blame the Trump administration for the immigration crisis. Both the Democrats and the Republicans have supported policies for decades that has led to where the US is now in regards to its immigration policy.

It is also important to acknowledge that the militarization of the US/Mexican border and the further criminalization of immigrants gained a tremendous amount of traction during the Clinton administration.

Here is an excerpt from President Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union speech

“All Americans, not only in the States most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.”

The same anti-immigrant rhetoric being used by the Trump administration has its roots in the Clinton administration. More importantly, in 1996, the Clinton administration passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. This law placed restrictions of up to ten years if undocumented immigrants were caught in the country without documents. This meant that if an undocumented immigrant was deported, they could not apply for any legal means to enter the country for at least ten years. In many ways, this immigration policy passed under the Clinton administration, fundamentally laid the groundwork for what the Trump administration is now doing.

This is not the time or place

Third, it is instructive that a member of the Democratic Party would make the statement, “this is not the time or place,” when referring to the Cosecha organized protest during the debate on Wednesday in Detroit. It is instructive for several reasons. The person making the statement has citizenship status and is not at risk of deportation, thus revealing their own privilege.

Another reason why it is an instructive statement is because it reflects the idea that people shouldn’t protest candidates, because it is through voting that we make progress in this country. I would imagine, however, that if people were interrupting President Trump while he was talking about immigration policy or any other Republican for that matter, the person who said “this is not the time or place” would probably not object to the interruption. Therefore, we can amend the previous statement to say that voting for Democrats is how we make progress in this country. This is essentially what it comes down to, in terms of the objection to Cosecha disrupting Joe Biden. What “this is not the time or place” really means is that protesting Democrats only benefits the Republicans and the chance that Trump will get re-elected. Such sentiment is not only false it is deeply displaced.

The appropriate question should be, why aren’t you as equally pissed off about candidates who do not hold their own party accountable for anti-immigration policies? Members of Movimiento Cosecha Michigan and immigrants in general are asking people who are not at risk of deportation, What are you doing to make sure that we don’t get arrested, detained and deported because of the unjust immigration policies in this country?

If you were upset or felt it was inappropriate for people to disrupt the Democratic Presidential candidate debate, I ask you – what have you done to fight, resist and organize to oppose the decades-long oppressive immigration policies of this country? When are you going to take direct action to expose, stop or prevent the arrest, detention and deportation of more immigrants? What are you willing to risk to be in solidarity with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who leave in constant fear of cops and ICE agents?

The action taken by members of Movimiento Cosecha to disrupt the debate on Wednesday was the perfect time and place to expose the complicity of the Democrats and to draw attention to the demands of the undocumented immigrant community, which is fighting for their very lives.

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