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by BRISA CRUZ

MAY 16, 2018

AI sat down and read Want to send Dreamers back to Mexico? If you met one, you'd probably change your mind, I was disappointed. As someone who has been placed under that category, I’m mentally exhausted of hearing and seeing the word “Dreamer.” This term is a label created by elected officials long before DACA existed. It has helped those in power move their scapegoating agenda forward and mainstream media continues to profit off of the pain that comes with it.

Central California is a unique area that places sometimes fatal challenges on the lives of immigrants who don’t fall under the “Dreamer” blanket. Law enforcement leaders like Sheriff Mims in Fresno County and Sheriff Youngblood in Kern County have for years carried out an anti-immigrant agenda that recently claimed the lives of two community members who were wrongfully pursued by ICE.

To omit the stories and narratives of the undocumented community in Central California is not only erasing and neglecting an essential element of this region, but it is also enabling the predatory tactics of anti-immigrant law enforcement that leads to literal deaths.

Mims has invited racist bigots like Joe Arpaio to California and has publicly met with Jeff Sessions and endorsed his xenophobic policies. Youngblood has publicly said that killing a person is cheaper than detaining them and therefore death is a more viable option.

To omit the stories and narratives of the undocumented community in Central California is not only erasing and neglecting an essential element of this region, but it is also enabling the predatory tactics of anti-immigrant law enforcement that leads to literal deaths.

Although the narrative that follows the term “Dreamer” attempts to put a face and humanize what it means to be an undocumented immigrant in the US, the angle taken is too narrow to encompass the bigger issues affecting the immigrant community.

The story only associates the current immigration climate with the so called “Dreamers,” a label that I strongly dislike and have never identified with. I am a DACA recipient myself and understand the privilege I have; however, a social security number and an Employment Authorization Card doesn’t mean I have stopped fighting for the human dignity and liberation of my community--the same community that continues to be criminalized and tokenized by those in power.

A perfect example of the Dreamer rhetoric being thrust upon us is the fact that in the aforementioned Fresno Bee article, Cresencio Rodriguez never used the word “Dreamer” to identify himself, but in the story he is referred as such.

If I could speak with Cresencio, his interviewer, or anyone who uses the Dreamer narrative, I would say that while our personal wellbeing is important, we must also prioritize our communities. DACA provides some relief, but it is temporary. We can not allow the years of momentum and strategy that led us to the passage of DACA to fall apart, because it’s certain that we have a long fight ahead. By becoming complacent with the few privileges we obtained through DACA, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable. The Dreamer narrative is a reflection of that vulnerability.

A document doesn’t stop the criminalization of our community. Even with DACA, we’re still criminalized, racially profiled, and we face the same attacks over and over again.

Mainstream media continues to use the rhetoric that is destructive to the community by feeding the narrative of who’s deserving and who isn’t, who looks like a “criminal” and who doesn’t. The idea that there’s a system to follow isn’t a concept I can believe in, because as someone directly impacted, all I’ve seen and continue to encounter are the injustices people in power get away with.

This case is just one of millions of stories that paint the bigger picture of humanizing the real problem. This is my personal attempt in addressing the point that the media spokesperson and its audience have missed for so long.

Despite media’s continuous Dreamer rhetoric and “allied” immigrant rights organizations speaking on our behalf, womxn like me in Central California are leading the organizing work on a day-to-day basis.

Challenges like the lack of validation as an undocumented womxn in spaces where we get overlooked, people trying to speak on our behalf or tokenize us makes our work harder because we have that extra layer to destroy. Too many times, I’ve seen womxn do the work and men take the credit. We fight these injustices on a day to day basis on top of the dehumanization that I’ve outlined above.

Erasing voices and narratives removes the multiple realities that constitute an ongoing struggle for liberation, humanity, and dignity. In silencing the more marginalized voices--those of womxn organizers and those of Central Californians--law enforcement is better able to dehumanize and criminalize us.

For years, directly impacted youth have been challenging the destructive Dreamer narrative that we once unwittingly embraced. Now I challenge media and people speaking for immigrants on platforms to find creative, inclusive alternatives to the Dreamer narrative that involves everyone in our diverse community.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brisa Cruz is the Central California Regional Organizer with CIYJA and is based in Fresno, CA. 

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