The Tucson winter sun mixed with a cool breeze hit my face as I rode my bike to work on Sunday February 17th. Suddenly I come across three Tucson Police Department vehicles used to pull over a family. Arizona’s police state had René Meza Huerta in handcuffs. His wife did not know what to do; their six children were scared and crying for their father. Border Patrol was then called by local police enforcing SB 1070. Once they approached the scene to take René into custody, I spontaneously ran up to the Border Patrol vehicle and crawled beneath it to prevent his detention.
I did this to protest racial-profiling and to impede a family separation from taking place due to unjust state and immigration laws.
Today I reflect on how there are hundreds of thousands of Renés out there, and with the current national anti-migrant agenda and proposals on immigration reform, millions will remain in the shadows despite legalization promises.
A humane immigration reform is impossible when 1.5 million fathers like René, mothers, youth, day laborers, domestic workers, janitors, gardeners, cooks, farmworkers, have been deported since 2009. Immigration reform, without a moratorium on deportations, means millions still live in fear of being ripped from their families and being disappeared from their communities.
I, along with the grassroots community, strive for the immediate end to all deportations. An immigration reform must include all 11 million undocumented migrants: workers, day laborers, domestic workers, part-time workers, same-sex partners, and those with previous deportations and “criminal” records. This government has created the term “criminal” to exclude and exploit people; they have criminalized people that seek a better life. We live in a world where people deal with structural oppression and inequality in many ways. We want full and immediate amnesty for all.
A humane immigration reform is impossible when the US-Mexico border, first established through warfare and the theft of indigenous lands, is continuously militarized. There is an invisible genocide taking place where 2,466 women, men, and children have died crossing the Arizona-Sonora desert since 2000 as a direct consequence of immigration border policies.
There must be an end to the funnel effect that forces migration through the Arizona-Sonora desert lands and an end to the militarization of the US-Mexico border. If money, products and corporations can travel freely across borders, so should human beings.
A humane immigration reform is impossible when 33,000 detainees (political prisoners) are held in in a hodgepodge of over 250 facilities on any given day throughout the country, and prison corporations like CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and Geo Group profit billions of dollars annually from these incarcerations.“There’s always going to be a demand for beds [despite an immigration reform],” said CCA’s Damon Hininger during an investor call. “Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s [ICE’s] profile of detainees in those beds may change over time to where they focus more on what they call ‘criminal aliens’ versus ‘non-criminal aliens.’” Also, abuse and sexual violence is rampant particularly towards women and gay, lesbian, transgender prisoners.
ICE must reduce detention bed space to zero, ban contracts with for-profit prison companies, release all migrant and refugee detainee political prisoners, and close all immigration detention centers nationwide immediately. Migration is not a crime.
A humane immigration reform is impossible so long as we have programs like Secure Communities, 287(g), and Operation Streamline and anti-migrant laws like SB 1070 that criminalize migration and require collaboration between local police and Border Patrol and Immigration Customs Enforcement. These programs and laws are inhumane; they racially target people of color, tear apart families, and destroy communities.
The federal government must immediately terminate Secure Communities, 287(g), and Operation Streamline. Stop terrorizing our communities. We demand that SB 1070, and all copycat laws be revoked immediately.
Finally, a humane immigration reform is impossible so long as the 1% exploit the 99%. U.S. corporations and economic trade agreements destroy our Mother Earth and exploit the resources and labor of people from Latin America, Asia and Africa. The root cause of migration is economic inequality and unemployment.
The US, if serious about ending migration, must stop exploiting the world’s resources. We need an end to economic agreements like NAFTA that make the rich richer and the poor poorer. We demand an end to military strikes and occupation abroad because US economic and military interventions cause displacement and migration to the US.
For all the above atrocities, we condemn both the Republican and Democrat parties and their corporate puppet masters.
The movement for migrant and refugee liberation is about humanity. It is a global, international, and universal struggle. It is a struggle that does not recognize borders. They can incarcerate, deport, or persecute our bodies, but never our spirit or will to live free.
We must have community unity, dignity, respect, solidarity, healthy neighborhoods, and a society free of social, political, and economic oppression.
Oppressed people are organizing and mobilizing everywhere. There is movement coming from below; on a quiet Arizona sunrise, you can see it shine.
From the southwestern border, I and many others declare: No more family separations and deportations like that of René Meza Huerta. We are all René!
Born in Jalisco, México, 29 year-old Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa is a community and day labor organizer in Tucson, Arizona.