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Immigrant Rights Movement

by Jaime Alvarado 

Like many people that attended the US Social Forum in Atlanta, I was excited by all that I was witnessing and part of; thousands of activists and believers sharing, debating, learning, teaching, fortifying ourselves for the long but beautiful struggle.  Like so many others, I was also pulled back home, my thoughts with the people in my community, the allies in the immigrant rights movement and all those that were continuing to organize for a just and humane immigration reform.   Our own team at Somos Mayfair in San Jose was in the midst of actions to ensure that our community's voices were part of the debate.  Part of me wanted to be home, to be with our team and our community. 

We were all still at the USSF on the day that the news broke about the collapse of the Senate debate.  Rightly so, many, maybe most, breathed a collective sigh of relief that a bad, dangerous bill had been defeated.  I agreed with this assessment but in spite of my analysis I felt as though we had all been kicked in the stomach.  I thought of the many people at home, in my neighborhood that marched, that dared to publicly admit that they are here without papers, I thought of the families that filled the streets after the marches.  The streets filled with families returning home together, proud and hopeful, a whole community filling the streets until late at night, daring to come out of the shadows, making the streets of San Jose a beautiful display of all that is possible. 

I know the struggle for immigrants' rights moves forward and that no one in the world is more resilient that the millions of immigrants that each day persevere through relentless challenges.  The collapse of the Senate bill will be one more challenge that our community will survive.  Nonetheless, in that moment, I felt we all needed to acknowledge the need for us to collectively mourn, to acknowledge the dashed hopes of literally millions of immigrants who allowed themselves to believe in the collective power of all of us, and to believe in the possibility of legal immigration status for themselves and their families.  Yet in what I saw at the USSF, we didn't take that moment to mourn. 

Since we've returned from the US Social Forum, we have all moved forward.  While I don't think most of us believe fully in the possibility of justice for immigrants within the existing political an economic framework of the United States and international capital, we move forward.  As we move forward, we begin by taking the time to acknowledge our individual and collective anger and disappointment.  We acknowledge the need to press forward with a new approach, one that preserves the beauty and power of the immigrants' rights movement's successes of the past two years while committing to build the missing pieces of a movement that will be durable and unstoppable.  Those missing pieces include all the liberal, progressive and radical critics that found fault and reason to wait on the sidelines.  They include first and second-generation immigrants from places other than Mexico and Central America.  They include the millions of native-born Americans that are sympathetic but largely unmoved to take action.  And most of all, the biggest missing piece is an overarching strategic framework for a progressive movement that dares to expand beyond the predictable pockets of sanctuary in which most of us live.  The biggest promise of the USSF is in the creation of such a framework.  This work remains to be done.

See also:  NNIRR  Migrant Diaries blog on the forum