Local Tactics For Immigrant Rights

Samantha Magdaleno and José Franco | Photos Leah Duncan 


The mainstream narrative being shoved down our throats is that immigration is a federal issue and the state has no power to help remedy the situation. That is not true.  The states can pass policies to directly undermine the federal policies that are separating our families.


However, since we do not have an immigration champion in office the burden to push these policies falls on the community. Organizations like One Michigan for Immigrant Rights, volunteer-led by directly affected undocumented people for 10 years, are going to need support to push these policies. They are the ones that have the most to lose and will not be tied down by politics to protect our communities. In other words, nonprofits not “led” by those directly affected are more likely to accept watered-down solutions to please foundations that toe the line with keeping corporations happy.


Going forward there are two major statewide policies that should be supported: driver’s licenses for all and sanctuary state. If these policies are pushed the numbers of deportations can be reduced and therefore, the argument to abolish ICE can be numerically justified.


Resources need to be given to the undocumented community to work on a grassroots plan on how to have the undocumented community a part of the plan to push these policies. Now that we are in a Trump administration all the rules for organizing have to be re-examined. The prior popular out-of-the-shadows method used by undocumented youth is no longer the best option. With a presidential administration filled with racists, we have to develop a new strategy to safely make sure the community is fighting for their own liberation.


At the same time, we must reject the paternal voices of many documented “allies,” to speak and act on behalf of the undocumented community without talking directly to them. It is a tough balance but if people are genuine about helping children separated from their parents we need a genuine effort to support grassroots organizations and reject the popular non-profits. Now more than ever we need an underground railroad and the only ones willing to take that risk are the same ones being forced back into the shadows.


Samantha Magdaleno is the Executive Director of One Michigan for the Global Majority. She has been working on equity work for over 10 years and is 3rd generation from Detroit. Samantha specializes in mentoring youth on how to organize for their communities. She has a Masters degree from Wayne State University in communications.


José Franco is the founder of One Michigan for Immigrant Rights. He is undocumented and moved to Detroit at 2 years old. José has been instrumental in the undocumented movement, particularly applying pressure to Obama to implement the DACA program in 2012.


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