For the majority of 2018, Americans watched in horror as mothers were torn from their children at the border after the Trump administration’s family separation policy gained media attention. We saw heart-wrenching images of parents with young children being separated and put in actual cages. But these portrayals also inadvertently reinforced the bias of which undocumented people do and do not deserve protection from the violence. What about those who aren’t the “perfect immigrant”? Those like me.
I am not married. I have chosen not to have children, my sexuality is fluid, I have been arrested, and I am not a Dreamer. I am also highly vocal about systemic injustice and have spent my entire life in the United States with all of my family, including my naturalized citizen parents. I am a woman with a past, a future and experiences to share that I will continue to be outspoken about. My active support of immigrant rights and reproductive justice actually led to my second time being detained at Eloy Detention Center in 2018. And on December 11, 2018, a day I long feared, I was ordered by an immigration judge in my home state of Arizona to be deported to Mexico – a country I have never lived in.
State and federal governments have waged a war on immigrants. Arizona’s sentencing laws are some of the toughest in country, and for two years former Attorney General Jeff Sessions worked relentlessly to make the process even harder for folks who were seeking asylum and nearly impossible for those of us who don’t fit into the administration’s mold (including human rights defenders and women fleeing domestic violence). Because most of the narrative surrounding deportations has been framed around cruel family separations and children being put in cages, those of us who are single adults, who are queer and trans, who speak out against state violence, or who may have already been through the U.S. criminal justice system, have been left out of the conversation. We become the “bad immigrants” that are constantly vilified by the Trump administration and conservative pundits on Fox News.
Organizations like Mijente and the Advancement Project national office are working with immigrant communities of color to shed light on this disparity, because the current narrative gives the impression that there are groups of immigrants that somehow deserve to be kidnapped, brutalized and detained by the government. This contributes to the systemic criminalization of Black and Brown migrants, which enforces White supremacy and xenophobia. I’ve realized, through my own experiences and in hearing the stories of others, that only certain people are allowed to make mistakes: people who are White, male and cis-gender are often given a slap on the wrist for heinous crimes like rape and assault while, Black and Brown people, such as Cyntoia Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison for defending herself, are routinely over-sentenced and underrepresented.
Separating families is an atrocity that should never happen anywhere, and the value we place on human life should not exclude people like me, who are also being violently targeted and deported. As families and friends start their New Year with a clean slate and fresh resolutions, my family and I have been told I have to leave the only place that I’ve known as home. And I’m not alone. I am one of 45,000 people fighting this fight. We may not be minors. We may not be mothers. We may have even made some mistakes. But our lives are not disposable, and we must challenge injustice on behalf of everyone who is at risk.
Alejandra Pablos is a member of Mijente, social justice organizer, and writer working at the intersection of immigration and reproductive justice. Connect to her work and journey at www.KeepAleFree.org. You can show support and advocate for support and advocating for immigrants like Alejandra through petitions, protests, and pushes for systemic change.