No One Is Illegal #NoBanNoWall on Stolen Land
In our anger against the overt xenophobia of Trumpism, it is easy to revert to the status quo "immigrant rights" politics as a "lesser of two evils." This status quo “immigrant rights” politics relies on a few things. First, the notion that only those deemed "respectable" are deserving of state-sanctioned or “legal” immigration. The depictions include both college-bound or college educated immigrants on the one hand, and exploited yet hardworking immigrants who await the grace of liberal white society to rescue them from hardship. Despite apparently glorifying immigrants, these notions flatten the complexity of the immigrant experience and exclude the humanity of those who do not live up to these fantasies.
Either of these depictions are dehumanizing and patronizing in that they fulfill white dominant society’s fantasies of “the immigrant.” it does not reflect the complexity of our lives. This push to reclaim the status quo liberal immigrant rights politics, which, when placed next to Trump’s xenophobia, appear almost radical. This undermines the years of work and efforts that countless undocumented and documented activists and organizers, such as members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and authors like Harsha Walia, have put into shifting the rhetoric around this work and their efforts in averting the traps of anti blackness and settler colonialism in pursuing our collective liberation.
In light of the intense and extreme xenophobia of establishment and the right wing, it seems like any liberal notion that supports immigrants are preferable. In fact, the media and the liberal establishment constantly drums the necessity to pick the “lesser of two evils.”
Yet it is precisely the legacy of the Democrats and the failure of liberal politics that have led to the emergence of the Trump phenomenon. White liberal inefficacy lies not only in its selective silence, but in its complete lack of backbone or spine. It presents humanity in a hierarchy of worth -- of which s/he is the sole arbitrator of.
Returning to the status quo is not a viable option for liberation.
We need a dual approach of one the one hand, attacking Trump’s blatant anti immigration rhetoric but on the other, not defaulting to the existing assimilationist immigrant rights discourse.
“We are all immigrants,” or “Immigrants make America” are ways in which these politics are expressed. We need to correct a few things, not because we are politically correct, but because they point to a different paradigm around immigration discourse. This is an important distinction. Calling our work simply “political correctness” is a way to belittle us and our visions.
We can rearticulate immigrant rights work not as an extension of the liberal state, but as a way to resist settler colonialism.
I) Settler Colonialism is not Immigration
European colonizers arrived on Turtle Island* to exploit the resources and colonize the territory. They imposed a relationship to the land that was premised on private property, exploitation and commodification. The land, people, animals are treated as objects where profit can be extracted, with no concern for their intrinsic worth and well being. Indigenous people were threatened with genocide and extermination to fulfill the myth of “Manifest Destiny,” that this was a land without a people awaiting European colonization and exploitation.
This is settler-colonialism, not immigration.
Apologists for this past like to claim that this was history and now we can no longer right those wrongs. Yet, before us, the resistance at Standing Rock unfolds. Indigenous people who are resisting the ongoing colonization of their land, the destruction of the earth and its natural resources, are being forcibly evacuated and attacked. Settler colonialism is not a thing of the past. It is present and alive.
II) Slavery is not immigration
Anti-black racism found its most blatant expression in the form of chattel slavery. African people were kidnapped by traders to be shipped as objects to North America as slaves. This forced labor and warehousing was neither liberating nor voluntary. It is an extension of capitalist ideology and the ultimate objectification of human bodies in part to maximize production in the US South.
This was slavery, not immigration.
Those who claim again that slavery was a thing of the past fail to acknowledge that anti Black racism continues into our present day most obviously in the form of state violence: police terrorism and the prison industrial complex for example. Black lives are criminalized, expendable and objectified under this current system we live in.
III) Displacement drives migration
Many refugees face forced displacement as a result of US foreign policy & imperialism
This is the era of proxy wars, battles between capitalist powers fought on the lands of other nations. We live with the legacy of proxy wars fought in Latin America and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) which drove many refugees into the US, among other places around the world.
It is no surprise that the legacy of US foreign policy and US imperialism worldwide has generated a refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa. Inter imperialist rivalry that involves major capitalist powers vying for resources and land has caused immense suffering in the lives of everyday people. More infuriating, is rather than acknowledging the impact of US intervention in manipulating, exploiting and deepening existing tensions in the region, the US ruling class paints a picture of Islam as a destructive religion, feeding into the age old Clash of Civilizations mythology of Western Good vs. Eastern Evil. This is an old script that is replayed over and over again to justify US militarism. Yet, we know that formations like ISIS and Al Qaeda had their origins in US money and intervention. And that most of the victims of their attacks have primarily been Muslim civilians.
Any discussion of Trump’s current ban on the seven countries (Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, Iran) cannot ignore the legacy of US intervention in these countries and the precedents that had been set by previous regimes, Democrat and Republican alike. The latest of which was Obama’s covert drone bombings. This graphic shows where the record breaking 20 000 bombs were dropped in the last year under the Obama regime.
The Democrats are not a viable option for the liberation of oppressed peoples.
IV) Migration or Settler Colonialism? Decolonize Immigration.
As people who have found home on lands our ancestors were not originally from, we can choose how we want to relate to the First Peoples of Turtle Island and our relationship with the land. We do not have to perpetuate the settler colonial relationship that white colonizers initiated. This is a dynamic that commodifies the land, water, natural resources, animals and the people, making objects out of everything that lives and breathes. We can choose instead to project a different relationship and articulate our self determination, the health of our communities and our well beings as part of our collective liberation.
The US government that has forced the signing of treaties, attempted to decimate indigenous people, and celebrate that conquest yearly through a seemingly innocuous “Thanksgiving.” This government, regardless of Trump or Obama at its head, continues to violate treaty agreements. They have no legitimacy, apart from the brute force and ideological hegemony that they yield, to be the ones who determine who gets to enter these lands or not.
In our zest to resist the xenophobia of Trump, and our commitment to the well beings and safety of immigrants and refugees, we need to resist the trappings of liberal Democrats who will suck us back into a settler colonial framework -- back into respectability politics and the hierarchy of deserving/non deserving, good vs bad immigrant among us -- all the while continuing to perpetuate the forces that drive displacement and human suffering.
One of the ways the liberals will thwart our radical movements is to keep us constantly on the edge of ineffective defensiveness and reaction. It is no surprise that the Democrats will stage faux resistance to the appointments of blatant white supremacist extremists to the Cabinet, staging an appearance of refusal and stringing us along. We are left with the task of imagining other more effective ways to defend what we have, which thanks to our brilliance and persistence we do a much better job at. However, in doing so, we also risk becoming shock troops for the liberals, our bodies are placed on the line for them to eventually slide in and claim the credit. Yet the issue goes beyond simply who claims credit for actual resistance. Our radical movements are impacted beyond that. The cesspool of reacting alongside the liberals leave us unable to address our own questions. We then lack the time for other strategic questions that could make liberatory politics hegemonic and popular, such as grassroots analyses, organizing with regular everyday people, workers and community, strategic confrontations with the state that draw on our strengths, an assessment of our forces. Addressing these issues is not mutually exclusive from the regular everyday defensive struggle, such as preventing deportation, or resisting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but then our defensive struggles are steps toward a different vision, not one defined by the Democratic Party or other aspiring Social Democratic party framework. Furthermore, being in a state of reaction and defensiveness without a vision lead to burnout, and it will be us who will carry the emotional labor and burden of recovery and healing for ourselves and one another.
V) Divide and Conquer makes us less safe. Choose to work through divisions, toward unified visions
This regime thrives on the sense of fear and insecurity that each community feels. We need to come together tactically, and also strategically, but with open eyes. We need not hide the differences that have accumulated between our various racial, ethnic or political communities but rather to seize this moment as a time to work through them The stakes are high and our continual division will only be further manipulated by the liberal and conservative state apparatus to achieve their aims as they continue to diminish us of our resources. On a grassroots level, we can find points of connection to build genuine solidarity and unite around issues of mutual aid. We need to choose resistance against settler colonialism, against anti Blackness, against US and border imperialism, against misogyny of all forms, against a capitalist ideology that reduces us to our productive capacity with no intrinsic value, as engines that drive this perpetual oppression and suffering. Our elders learned these lessons once too and did their share of navigating divisions towards shared revolutionary visions, which were always works in progress with peaks and falls. We need to delve into their stories and learn from their mistakes and successes. It is time for our generation to learn from the past and more importantly, innovate it to reflect our present needs. This is the time to be creative and bold. Our survival requires that. In the words of a revolutionary elder Frantz Fanon:
“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”
The strength, power and brilliance of our ancestors are behind us.
image description: a march at MLK day in seattle with the group called Parisol -- Pacific Rim Solidarity Network
Community generated Chants:
Down down with forced migration, we need our liberation
We won't take abuse no more; shut down all your racist wars
Indigenous rights have been under attack
Black and Brown Unite and Fight
No walls on stolen land
No prisons for stolen people
We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us
JM is a queer child of the chinese diaspora, roots reaching back to fujian province in mainland china via malaysia and now turtle island. home can sometimes feel elusive but they find ground in relationships and interconnectedness. they are passionate about the ongoings of the world and matters of gender, race, class and health. they believe, as many before us did, that the point is not to interpret and philosophize the world, but to act to change it.