How should the progressive or the immigrant rights movement respond to the Democratic Party’s policies and actions on immigration?
Jennicet Gutiérrez has shown how.
On June 24, Gutiérrez, a Mexican transgender woman, boldly and courageously took center stage at the White House when she called out her concerns on migrant detentions so that President Barack Obama could hear her.
Gutiérrez was attending a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Pride event hosted by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House. The people in attendance were LGBTQ advocates and activists, many of whom surely stood in front of the Supreme Court two days later to celebrate the victory of same-sex marriage rights.
As Obama began to deliver his speech, Gutiérrez interrupted him.
She declared: “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention. … I am tired of the violence we’re facing.”
What ensued from the audience was unfortunate. Gutiérrez was booed and heckled by LGBTQ people who yelled out to Obama that they loved him and agreed with the President in having her taken out by security. Obama responded to her that she should be quiet because she was in his house.
But Jennicet Gutiérrez did the right thing.
Many mainstream LGBTQ groups subsequently derided Gutiérrez for her disruption. But groups invited to the White House are by nature going to be adverse to such a disruption as they are social-democratic groups thoroughly tied to the Democratic Party. Most mainstream LGBTQ groups, unfortunately, remain loyal to the Democrats.
But the Democratic Party should be exposed for its complicity on immigration. It should also be taken to task for stalling for decades for even such a basic civil right as same-sex marriage.
Detention is big business
Despite some modest efforts, even by Obama himself and many Latino/a and African-American Democrats, their efforts on immigrant rights have been far from enough.
In fact, Obama has deported more people under his administration than any other U.S. president. Furthermore, because of their ties to the capitalist system, the Democrats are incapable of addressing the crisis of migration in a real way.
Not a single policy on immigration, for example, has dealt with the root causes of migration. These include pro-U.S. corporate economic policies, state-sponsored repression in countries like Mexico, Honduras and Haiti, and Pentagon intervention abroad. As long as these policies hold, workers will be forced to migrate to the U.S.
In the U.S., the detention of immigrant workers continues unabated and is part of a cruel and unusual punishment.
“The detention of immigrants has become big business and a source of profit,” said Silky Shah, co-director of Detention Watch Network, in a newly issued report. “Local quotas with private contractors and the infrastructure of detention itself have driven this market: all at a huge expense to families detained arbitrarily and to taxpayers footing the bill.”
In fact, detaining entire migrant families has become an increasingly alarming practice. More and more families, including babies and children, are being held with their parents in detention centers.
For trans immigrants, detention can easily become a horror, as Gutiérrez pointed out.
During an interview with Fox Latino after her heroic White House action, Gutiérrez was asked to talk about the abuse she is fighting against. “I spoke to a trans woman from Guatemala who was detained for seven months in a Santa Ana [Calif.] ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention center and she was in so much pain [from] … the inhumane treatment that she was receiving … and this is the kind of consciousness I wanted to bring out to the President. These stories are not uncommon, yet we hardly hear of them in the media.”
Gutiérrez, who is undocumented, is a founding member of “Familia: TQLM” [Trans Queer Liberation Movement], an immigrant rights organization.