At a time when national tension concerning our southern border is at its zenith, those in progressive circles are beginning to ask “what is to be done?” To attempt to answer that, I met up with a group of working class activists from the Mexican immigrant community to ask what they feel about the issue. To ensure their continued safety I have changed their names for this article.
What do you feel is the first goal an immigrant rights activist should be shooting for?
Sarah: We need to keep the conversation going in every community, but especially our own. The American public is very fickle and often times loses interest after a week or two of a major story. We need to make sure that the struggles of immigrant families is always on their minds.
How do you think we can achieve that?
Sarah: Right now we are planning public vigils for people who have been killed at the border and are inviting everyone in St. Louis to come out and learn about what is going on right now and what needs to change.
So what does need to change?
Jack: We need a fairer system of legal entry that does not look down on working class people and no special treatment to the wealthy who pay their way into citizenship. We must also ensure the safety of those people who are trying to immigrate and stop the brutal practices of Border Patrol and ICE. They are nothing more than the modern Gestapo.
That is some massive changes, how can we bring those things about?
Jack: Most people believe that somehow reform will fix all of this and suddenly the politicians will rewrite the law and we should support people like the Democrats. This is wrong and only leads to confusion for people. The Democrats only say these things to get votes and don’t truly care with some candidates like Claire McCaskill here in St. Louis openly against immigration reform and holds an even more reactionary stance on so called border security than some Republicans.
Sarah: The real path to change will not be through voting but will come with revolution. Until then we can only continue to engage people about the issue and point out the problems we currently face while making things better for our community on a day to day level. The goal now is survival.
What are some unique issues that people who are undocumented face on a day to day basis?
Jack: Well, everyday undocumented people get up and go to work. Some have gotten cars however its impossible for someone who is undocumented to get a drivers license or insurance, so if they are pulled over or get into an accident they not only face a severe ticket but possible detention and deportation. When they get paid they still are paying taxes only most of the services taxes pay for are denied them and they can never file a tax return. You can never dream of a future all you can worry about is making it to the next day. Its almost like living underground. You always have a feeling of paranoia anywhere you go because at any moment an ICE Agent can snatch you and you may never see your loved ones again. You can’t cross back into Mexico either which means you can never see your family still there unless they make it across too. Its almost impossible to break the cycle of poverty especially because of the recent crackdown on DACA.
What should people reading this do?
Sarah: Get educated about what is going on at the border and spread the word to as many people as possible. We need a mass movement of people that are not going to give up and let people die just because of an imaginary line in the sand. Immigrant Rights are Human Rights and must be defended by any means necessary. Do not settle for what these politicians allow us to have always fight for more. Fight for real equality.