Below is an op-ed from the #Not1More Campaign’s lead organizer, Marisa Franco.
I woke up yesterday with an organizing hangover.
Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either! And no, it definitely did not come from raucous celebration.
How is it that something that could feel so BIG, yet at the same time feel heartbreakingly NOT ENOUGH. When the litmus test of the President’s decision is whether or not you, a loved one, friend or colleague is included, it is bittersweet to say the least.
I watched the speech in Phoenix at the offices of Puente Movement. The room was packed with members of Puente, the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Dreamers Moms, Mi Familia Vota, Arco Iris Liberation Team and many community activists, leaders and members of the media. There was not a lot of dry eyes in the room, but most of the tears were not happy ones.
In campaigns and in organizing you learn by hook or by crook that there are often times more losses then wins. That victories are scratched out, and often times require so much concession that what started as a solid block can turn into swiss cheese. But it is a whole different thing when its not a section left out of a bill, but a human being who is. People that are our parents, our family, our partners, our friends and those who have been side by side fighting on the front lines. That’s why this feel so difficult and so insufficient.
There will be many waves of discussion and analysis of this decision, details that must be made clear. I think we know by now that however we all score the round, the fight continues. And looking forward, some of our strengths are ever more clear and some of the challenges more sharp.
We are making real the idea that truly, a secure community is an organized one. In a system built to (dis)function with the grey area of having people work, produce and form part of community without rights and recognition, more and more people are showing they are unwilling to live in the shadows. Its been tested, with success, that there is protection in community. Yesterday was not the first time people hear bad news. However this time for many, perhaps, it was not received watching television at home alone. In Arizona, for example, after years of Arpaio, of a succession of anti-immigrant bills people received the news together. There was a space to express the frustration, to cry or to simply react out loud. It was very clear that the job was not done, that we must not leave anyone behind.
It is undeniable that people who were directly affected were protagonists, voices amplified puncturing the bubble of the Beltway. Over the years several different groups ran campaigns with new strategies and tactics, willing to target those who had been protected as ‘allies.’ We can build from these examples. Across the country, there are people who are committed, experienced and ready. For all of the ways this decision is not enough, still many people feel they were a part of it. And despite the sadness, the frustration mixed in what we all can recognize is an advance – there is a embodied understanding that we can win. Why not keep going and win more?
The White House is in full roll out mode, defending the decision, citing the President’s authority. Let’s be clear, the President does have the authority to do this. And those who were excluded, were not excluded for legal or moral reasons, it was a political decision. Especially problematic was the unveiling of the ‘Felons not Families’ frame. It contradicts a core message from the President was that people deserve an opportunity to make amends. Are we expected to put blinders on to the crisis of policing and mass incarceration in this country right now? Many will say that people with criminal records fall outside of terrain that’s winnable. Or that its correct. But that’s what many said about fighting deportations two years ago. That’s what many said about undocumented people coming out and speaking for themselves. The exclusion of the parents of DACA recipients will be a focus for obvious reasons. I believe that we can’t solely focus there because those that have been designated a priority in name will face hyper-criminalization. We must steer clear of repeating this talking point of felons not families, it should be challenged and rejected because they are talking about people who are part of our community, and part of our family and its clear the criminal justice system needs transformation, and the concept of criminality is biased.
For myself I can say that I held back actually believing the President would act until the very end. I thought perhaps the President is in an epic staring contest with the Republicans and in the final hour he’ll blink. And, he didn’t. Perhaps its a signal he refuses to go out like a lame duck. Let’s hope, let’s hope he moves affirmatively on the many issues we face. It reaffirms our job, and that is to pressure those decision makers to do the right thing. It should make clear, immigrant communities and the grassroots demonstrated we will not be lap dogs for any political party, and moving forward we should most certainly not roll over and play dead.
What we win, we defend. And we keep fighting and pushing to expand and build on our advancements. Poco a poco, inch by inch, the way we got here.