no one is illegal

let’s try that blog revival business one more time…

The current weather in New York City: sunny, not a cloud in the sky that I can see, 57 degrees.
Sounds like good weather for a protest. Soon as I am able, I’m leaving work and heading down towards City Hall for what will certainly be a massive demonstration of support for immigrants’ rights and condemndation of the racist, xenophobic, perhaps less obviously but still certainly homophobic, and just generally fucked up attitudes towards immigrants and immigration that pervade the US government.

It’s inspiring and exciting to see such a massive mobilization occuring in cities and towns across the country. I know that many years and countless hours of work have made such a mobilization possible. But in some ways it has this magical feel of coming out of nowhere, a popular uprising of people who may not share all of the same politics, philosophies, histories or ideologies but who are suddenly banding together to speak out against the disgusting legislation and its weak derivatives currently being considered and debated by the US Congress. (Well, not quite currently, as they’re in recess right now, but, you know.)

One thing that I’ve found unsettling, though, in listening to coverage about the protests thusfar, is this “good immigrant/bad immigrant” rhetoric that’s present in what some people are saying, protesters and organizers alike. This morning, while listening to NPR, I heard one woman speak about how Latino immigrants aren’t doing anything to harm this country, that they “love America” and just want to become good, hard-working Americans. Then I heard one organizer, speaking at one of the rallies, say something like this: “Nineteen people hijacked planes and participated in the 9/11 attacks, and not one of them were named Gonzales, Rodriguez, or Santiago. But you can bet that many of the people dying serving their country in Iraq are named Gonzales, Rodriguez, and Santiago…” so on and so forth.

I understand that much of this is in response to the whole immigration debate getting wrapped up in worries about “national security” – how the specter of terrorism seems to make allowances for all manner of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and how countless immigrants are nonsensically made to suffer because of it. However, it definitely seems like a very bad, very problematic move to buy into this sort of dichotomy that pits “good” immigrants or “good” brown folks (here, Latinos) against “bad” ones (apparently people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent – because, you know, the actions of individuals become the responsibility, the fault, the burden of their entire race and religion.) Latinos, like all other immigrants to the United States, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and are entitled to certain rights and protections because they are human beings, not because they’re good, flag-waving*, American-loving immigrants. No one is illegal, no matter whether your name is Juan or Mohammed, Gonzales or Atta.

* And speaking of flag-waving, apparently you’d better be waving the right flag at these protests, because waving a Mexican or El Salvadorean or other foreign flag might be perceived as “a slap in Americans’ faces.” Apparently, some people were actually insulted to see flags of Latino countries being carried in the protests. It’s gotten to the point where some of the groups organizing these protests are actually asking people to bring American flags instead of their own countries’ flags, which is ridiculous to me. Why should immigrants – or any Latinos or other people of color in this country, frankly – have to kiss the collective ass of a country that’s been doing its best to treat them like total shit for centuries on end in order to “earn” their human and civil rights? It’s beyond me.

Also, the picture of the Mexican flag flying over the upside-down American flag that has Michelle Malkin and all the other conservatives frothing at the mouth – well, I’ve got to say, it warms the cockles of my little anti-American heart. Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest political tactic, but I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment in the least.

9 Responses to “no one is illegal”


  1. 1 brownfemipower

    “Latinos, like all other immigrants to the United States, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and are entitled to certain rights and protections because they are human beings, not because they’re good, flag-waving*, American-loving immigrants. No one is illegal, no matter whether your name is Juan or Mohammed, Gonzales or Atta.”

    EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!! it’s been driving me bananas all this ‘we’re americans just like you’ shit. like you, i realize where everybody is coming from, but come on!!! can’t we be just a *tad* more critical of ourselves and the government we want so desperatly to join than that???
    ps. that was a *mighty* long awakening from a slumber my friend!!! :-) for reals!!

  2. 2 chris

    What do you mean by “no one is illegal?”

  3. 3 Jack

    “No one is illegal” is a common slogan in the immigrant rights movement. When I say or write it, what I mean is that people, themselves, cannot be illegal. Lots of anti-immigrant rhetoric is really dehumanizing, reducing undocumented immigrants to “illegals,” no longer really acknowledged as human beings with human rights, but things, entities to be dealt with coldly and often cruelly. This is particularly evident in the HR 4437 that the House passed, which would actually make it a crime for people, organizations, churches, anyone to simply help an undocumented immigrant. Giving food to someone at a soup kitchen, giving someone a ride to work, taking care of someone’s kid while they try to scrape out a living – these could all count as crimes under those laws. It’s making the people themselves illegal, and I believe that no one is or should be made out to be illegal, in and of themselves, just because they came to this country, often out of desperation, and didn’t follow all of the often oppressive and unfair rules of immigration.

    I also found a pretty decent explanation on the No One Is Illegal UK website (didn’t read the rest of the stuff there, so I don’t know how much of the rest of it I’m down with; also, it’s a UK group, obviously making things a little different.)

    “Immigration controls should be abolished. People should not be deemed ‘illegal’ because they have fallen foul of an increasingly brutal and repressive system of controls. Why is immigration law different from all other law? Under all other laws it is the act that is illegal, but under immigration law it is the person who is illegal. Those subject to immigration control are dehumanized, are reduced to non-persons, are nobodies. They are the modern outlaw. Like their medieval counterpart they exist outside of the law and outside of the law’s protection. Opposition to immigration controls requires defending all immigration outlaws.”

  4. 4 Jack

    Yeah. I mean, I know that lots of immigrants really do love America (often because they see in it a potential that Western powers, America foremost among them, have completely obliterated in their own countries.) But it’s still a weird thing to see. And the “we’re good immigrants, those other brown people are the bad ones” really is unacceptable.

    And, heh, yeah, I know I was gone for a bit too long. I think I’m at a place where I can be around again, finally!

  5. 5 chris

    Thanks…it’s hard to keep on top of the news while taking care of the baby, but I am finding the whole immigration debate fascinating. It’s such a complex issue, and I’m amazed at the number of people who have mobilized over it. Even abortion rallies do not pull these kinds of numbers, and I wouldn’t really expect that.

  6. 6 belledame222

    …okay, being “insulted” because someone wanted to carry the flag of their country of origin is just fucked up. In that context I get the resistance to the wave-the-U.S. flag thing. Ew.

  7. 7 Jack

    Yeah. One would hate to think that some of those people who were waving American flags were doing so instead of waving their own country’s flag because of this kind of fucked up political objection and criticism.

  8. 8 Ed

    I’m curious. Have any of you visited countries outside of America? Mexico included? I can tell you that most countries do not have the lax immigration policies that America has. Japan and Australia come to mind. I haven’t heard any compelling, concrete arguments from the pro-illegal immigrant side of the fence. All of their arguments are based on ethnic pride and blind emotional reaction rather than truth, logic and reason. When getting confronted by the possibility of paying for their trespassing, tax-avoiding crime, they bring up the usual excuse: “We just want to work and have a better life for our families!”, “We are America!”, “Were the Pilgrims legal?”. Sorry, but Americans are not Pilgrims and Mexicans are not Indians.

  9. 9 victoria

    most immigrants are jus looking for a better life is it really that bad to do that for you or your family because i know i would anything for my family

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