August 19, 2012
As we began the early morning drive to Alabama from Tennessee, we all felt nervous. This was our first action in Alabama, the only state to have harsher laws than Arizona. Knowing that people with power were inside, we thought that maybe we had a big chance to get arrested. When we do actions in Arizona, we have a lot of community behind us. Here, we thought it would not be the same.
As we crossed the state border into Alabama we saw the photo of Gerardo from the morning action, where he and three other of our fellow riders interrupted Kris Kobach's testimony, and it gave us energy to follow through with our plans. We got off the bus – la luna, which we had converted in to a Department of Homeland Security vehicle and began our skit:
As we watched the “ice agent” abuse Ferando and Gloria, the rest of us waiting in line to be “detained” began to organize. We started yelling, “we’re not going to take this anymore, ya basta! Not one more person is going to be treated this way!” We wanted to show how immigration abuses their power by hitting people, screaming at people and treating us like animals and the importance of organizing together in order to resist.
We went and got Fernando and Gloria from “jail” and then took off our handcuffs, threw them on the floor, and ripped off our jail shirt to show our butterfly shirts underneath while a banner dropped behind us that said “No Papers No Fear Journey For Justice”, turning the bus back once again into a vehicle for justice.
We then freed monarch butterflies to show how they are free and that they have no borders because in the end of the day, that’s what we want – to be free.
That’s when we felt the most energy, everyone chanting with us. But at the same time we felt angry knowing that they were inside making decisions about things that affect our communities every day. They don’t even think about how it’s going to affect us, about those that are actually impacted.
That gave us the strength to keep going, so when Chela started walking to the entrance of the hotel shouting, we all followed her. Security tried to refuse to let us in, but we persisted. They closed the doors in our faces and began to push us out. We sat down on the floor right in the entrance, with the rest of the crowd right behind us. They continued to push us, but we stayed strong. We wanted to make our point that we as undocumented people should be let in to a briefing about laws that will directly affect our communities.
Eventually Commissioner Yaki heard that we were being refused entrance and told security to allow us to enter. By the time we sat down in the briefing room – all of us in our white butterfly shirts – we were the majority of the audience. Yaki asked that all stand who were refused entry. “Si se puede!” he said. We raised our fist in the air and repeated after him. It was really powerful to see all of us in there together.
We won the right to have the final word, giving us the opportunity to tell them that we’re here, we’re not criminals, and that we’re doing this because we don’t have another choice. In fact, we suffered a lot to get here. But all they see is that we’re criminals. They kept calling us "illegal aliens." But we’re not illegal or aliens. We’re human beings.
They have to be in our shoes – they have to realize how these policies affect us every day. How would they feel if their kids had to worry every day if their parents were going to come home every night? Instead of doing meetings they need to be in the community talking to people who are actually affected. People testified and said that they have cases where parents were deported and their kids put in foster care.
But we are the people directly affected, they need to talk to us! It was a good opportunity to show them that while they’re making decisions on our behalf, we have something to say about it. This was one of the first times we’ve seen undocumented people be able to go inside and speak and that was really exciting. It turns out, we did have community in Alabama.
Photos by Margot Seigle.