Beyond the Borders of Party Politicians: a solidarity statement with NIYA

obama_and_gutierrez2On November 4th, 2013, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who has built his political career on pushing immigration reform legislation, released a statement denouncing the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and its leaders. The statement claims NIYA, an organization comprised and led by majority undocumented young people, has been manipulating undocumented youth and their families. The press release also links to a dossier that Gutierrez’ office created on one of NIYA’s leaders, Mohammad Abdollahi, with statements he has made on Facebook and Twitter that are critical of immigration reform and are “racist” to white people.

We, members of the Who You Callin’ Illegal collective, are emboldened and inspired by the direct actions NIYA members have engaged in to stop deportations. The unprecedented number of deportations over the past five years by President Obama are predicted to reach over two million people by 2014.

Who You Callin’ Illegal is a migrant justice, anti-deportation collective that is based in Seattle, Washington. Our values revolve around resisting criminalization, incarceration and struggles toward decolonization. We believe in the right to live, love and work unrestricted by state borders. We acknowledge that we live on stolen native lands in Coast Salish territories and we work toward building strong relationships between migrants and First Nations people. The US government, in the form of Homeland Security and ICE, has no legitimacy in determining our expulsion from these lands, especially because they have played a role in preserving the dictatorships in and destructions of our home countries.

We consist of people with varying reasons and histories for our migration here. We are each subject to the arbitrary labelling and documentation by the state. We encourage healthy debate within our group and in the broader movement toward a goal of justice and liberation, understanding that we can all have something to bring to the table toward these shared goals. This form of discussion, dialogue and debate is different from ones that are aimed at marginalizing radical voices and preserving the status quo. We insist on this distinction because we do not wish to allow our enemies to take away what is most precious to us — our ability to think critically, to learn from the past with humility and confidence, and our desire to collaborate across our experience to articulate common visions of justice and liberation.

The infiltration of detention centers to organize with incarcerated immigrants, and the #BringThemHome actions place deportation in the center of the immigration debate. These actions rightly ask, how can an administration that has deported more than 1 million people in a year, have anything constructive or decent to say about immigration reform? claudia_aura_fbHow can a proposal that invests in the expansion of Border Patrol through the placement of up to 40, 000 agents at the border, that proposes to further the racial profiling of youth of color, and the barring of undocumented people from Obamacare be seen as a “reform?” A collective refusal to be bamboozled by Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and insistence on taking action in support of the immediate struggles of migrants for freedom, from ICE, from unjust landlords and from employers, is exactly where our movement should be headed. Legislators and their peons who want to contain our struggles into a long drawn out charade between the Democrat and Republican are rightly disappointed and concerned.

NIYA has boldly resisted the false division of immigrants into good immigrant versus bad immigrant. The good immigrant is the deserving, innocent, worker bee immigrant who merits sympathy. The bad immigrant is one who does not deserve to stay because they have a criminal record. The horrors of migration, racism, poverty, sexism that brings out the worst in us are blamed on the individual person. Faced with deportation and incarceration, those who have criminal records are denied the space to heal and rehabilitate with love and support. This false division between good/bad immigrant also reinforces the idea that our presence in this country is a charity bestowed upon us by the powers that be, rather than a by product of colonization, capitalism and violence.  In our daily lives, it also causes shame and isolation around deportation, rather than unity and collective struggle for our families and loved ones..

NIYA has also served as an important resource for us in our fights against deportation. Their efforts to share their knowledge and experiences of struggle is a breath of fresh air. Supporting undocumented people and people facing deportation to fight their own fight, helps to build strong communities that have powerful possibilities beyond that of narrow reforms.

Who You Callin’ Illegal is  inviting NIYA organizers out on a tour to the Pacific Northwest. We hope everyone will be able to come and meet in person. The location dates are listed below.


Who You Callin’ Illegal?

If you would like to sign on to this statement, please contact us at


** WEDNESDAY 11/13 – Portland, Lewis & Clark College, Templeton Student Center Council Chamber, 3:30-5:00PM. Event hosted by the Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies.

** THURSDAY 11/14 – Portland, University of Portland, Shiley Room 301, 5:00- 6:30PM. Event hosted by MEChA

** FRIDAY 11/15 – Portland, Rockwood Landing Apartments (19405 SE Yamhill St, Portland 97233), 6-7:30pm.  In Spanish Only. Event hosted by the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, Oregon Dream Activists, and the Hella503 Collective.

** SATURDAY 11/16 – Portland, Reed College, Vollum College Center, 3:00-4:30PM. Event hosted by the Multicultural Resource Center. []

** SUNDAY 11/17 – Portland, Iglesia de Santa Cruz, Holy Cross Catholic Church (5227 N Bowdoin)  1-2:30pm. In Spanish Only. Event hosted by Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, Oregon Dream Activists, and the Hella503 Collective.


[ English PDF / English B&W PDF / English JPEG / English B&W JPEG / Spanish PDF / Spanish B&W PDF / Spanish JPEG / Spanish B&W JPEG ]

** SUNDAY 11/17 – Tacoma, Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Church (1115 S 56th St, Tac.), 9:30AM & 11:15AM (church service), 1:30-3PM (strategizing event) []

** MONDAY 11/18 – Olympia, Evergreen College (2700 Evergreen Pkwy NW, Oly.), Longhouse 1007A Noon-2PM

** WED. 11/20 – Seattle, Seattle Central Community College (Broadway & Pine) Rm MAC210, Noon – 2PM

** WED. 11/20 – Seattle, UW Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, Unity Room (3931 Brooklyn Ave NE), 630-830PM [ PDF / JPEG ] [ ]

** THURSDAY 11/21 – Seattle, Casa Latina (317 17th Ave S, Sea.), 530-730PM [ PDF / JPEG] []

** FRIDAY 11/22 – Yakima, KDNA Station Building (121 Sunnyside Ave, Granger, WA 98932), 6-8PM


Other Responses to Congressman Luis Gutierrez’s Press Release:

**’s Response to Luis Gutierrez’s Shameful Attack on Undocumented Families (11/5/13):

** Prerna Lal’s Manipulation (11/5/13):

** Rebeldes’ #Dream30 Leaders and Supporters Slam Gutierrez’s Accusations (11/5/13):

** Tony Choi’s My Open Letter To Congressman Luis Gutierrez (11/6/13):


~ by whoyoucallinillegal2012 on November 16, 2013.

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