Since Trump’s decision to end the DACA program a week and a half ago, my phone, email, and social media have been blowing up with outpourings of love and support. I can honestly say that I have the best of friends, allies, and fellow undocumented movement leaders. I have had no less than two media interview requests a day since the announcement, from national broadcast media in the Philippines to a worldwide debut on Al-Jazeera English to an AJ+ video that garnered a half a million views, almost 3,000 shares, and over 4,700 Facebook reactions worldwide. Several years ago, I decided to go public with my own struggles as an undocumented immigrant in this country to put a human face on an issue that, oftentimes, is abstract if it does not directly affect you. Now, it makes me incredibly happy to know that the world knows what it’s like to be undocumented.
Now to my actual reason for this post: With all of the love and support, it is inevitable to have a fair share of people who don’t agree with our approach to this issue. I want to take a moment to address the reasoning for my own approach to the issue of Trump and his decision to end DACA. To preface, check out some of these exchanges I had recently with some of these people (their names are redacted to protect their identities).
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’ve struggled with my sense of belonging in the Filipino community. Even though I was born in the Philippines, I’ve never truly felt “Filipino enough,” much like I’ve never felt “American enough.” After years of working in the organizing space within the Asian American community, I can honestly say that I’ve never encountered as much anti-immigrant sentiment and general opposition to the approach of undocumented movement leaders than within my own community. After all, according to a National Asian American Survey conducted during the 2016 Election, as many as 1 out of every 3 Filipino Americans voted for Trump. I walk into the many, many events the Filipino community hosts (and often emcee them), look around, and think to myself, “Wow! A third of these people probably voted for a man who would deport me in a heartbeat.” These are the same people that look at me and say, “Oh, Raymond. Just trust President Trump—he’s not going to deport you. We need more people like you.” I internally roll my eyes when I hear this.
Now, if you voted for Trump, I’m not saying you’re a bad person, but I question the truth and validity of your claims of being an ally to immigrants and refugees (and frankly every single historically marginalized group) in this country. Have people already forgotten his rhetoric on the campaign trail? Have people already forgotten about him mocking a reporter who was handicapped, how he bragged about “grabbing pussy,” and how he called out a whole country for sending rapists and murderers to the United States? Have people already forgotten about his failed attempts to ban Muslims from entering this country? Those who continue to support this man are complicit in his white supremacist agenda and I am often puzzled by how people of color can support him (READ: My fellow Filipino-Americans, HOW CAN YOU CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THIS MAN?)
I am unapologetically undocumented. I am unapologetically a person of color. I will unapologetically lead my community in defending ourselves from Trump and his white supremacist regime. We cannot just sit idly by while Congress decides our fates. If the fact that us rallying in the streets, sharing our stories in the media, and engaging in civil disobedience to draw attention to the issue is “being downright confrontational” as this one gentleman so succinctly described, then so be it. “I don’t think your confrontational voices helped the cause. I think it even alienated lots [of] people,” another person said. Non-violent direct action and organizing (which is what we do) is what brought the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If you’re alienated by us simply sharing our human stories and fighting to be able to stay in the only place we’ve known, then you’re not on our side and you can stop pretending to be.
We will continue to pressure our Members of Congress to act on this issue and to act quickly. We will continue to march and rally in the streets. We will continue to risk arrest in selfless acts of civil disobedience. We have a multi-faceted approach to this issue that affects us most directly. Those who are not directly impacted have no legitimate say in how we formulate strategy. There are almost a million DACA recipients in this country. Beginning March 5th, 2018, over 1,400 of them a day will lose their DACA protections over the next few years. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants that live in this country. What are we going to do for them? These are the questions we must answer.
In summary, if you’re not undocumented or a DACA recipient, pass the mic. You can support and you can be an ally, but approach one of us about what that should look like. Criticizing our strategy and making your support conditional upon us succumbing to respectability politics is not being a good ally and you can go on somewhere with that. I will not respect a man who seeks to tear my community apart.