How Undocumented Immigrants in OC Invited Me to Fight Alongside Them
Photo by Marilynn Montano
By Katelyn Seitz
I showed up to my first Orange County Immigrant Youth United (OCIYU) meeting after emailing the group in November. I'd seen these young activists championing the #Not1More anti-deportation campaign in OC while holding city council members accountable, going on hunger strike, and relentlessly fighting to end immigrant trans detention. Even though I wasn't undocumented, I wanted to resist alongside them.
I expected a room full of people in their SanTana office, but was surprised to find that we all fit around a couple of fold up tables, side-by-side in front of a white board. I came in as an outsider who didn't have to dread the incoming Trump regime separating my family. I shared how my mother’s side of my family immigrated from Guatemala, but how removed we were from the daily fears and realities of undocumented immigrants. But I did have a friend whose worst fear came true when her father got deported. Her story motivated me to fight back.
Not knowing what to expect, I found the activists I looked for in that OCIYU meeting. Since then, my understanding of solidarity is continually reshaping. I'm deeply thankful for the invitation I continually receive from my undocumented peers to fight with them. By their side, I've helped resist by packing city council chambers demanding SanTana declare itself a "Sanctuary City." I've resisted the prison-for-profit business model councilman Jose Solorio sought to preserve and the deportations and detentions of our community members have faced. Together, we've fought for the release of the last trans mujeres held in the Santa Ana Jail. We've stood alongside hijabis in deepening unity between Muslim and Latinx communities.
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These are some of the experiences that taught me how solidarity is often being faithful in the small tasks first while staying ready to play supportive roles for big actions. Sometimes that means taking meeting notes or giving activists rides. Other times it means showing up ready to march or speak at city council meetings. Being inside organizing spaces as an outsider, I can see how movements are co-opted. Putting that in check means being invited to act or asking how to assist.
The immigrant rights movement also taught me solidarity is offering my skill set. Bringing what I have to the table is one of the most obvious ways to serve. As a graphic designer, this means supporting through image making, from political memes to event flyers and Facebook graphics.
That is in how I weaponize my privilege. When fighting for undocumented immigrant rights, I find I'm often the most privileged person in the room. I have unearned advantages to wield against the structures that deny immigrant communities their benefits. When it's all said and done, the undocumented immigrant rights movement teaches just how much there is to do and that being an ally is not a self-proclaimed title.
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