The National Immigrant Youth Alliance Statement on Wal-Mart Walkouts: You Can’t Deport Workers’ Rights!

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BREAKING: Viridiana Martinez to be Released From Broward Detention Center

August 3, 2012 734.262.9705 BREAKING: Viridiana Martinez to be Released From Broward Detention Center Public move displays hypocrisy of immigration officials BROWARD, Fl.—Viridiana Martinez is being released from Broward Transitional Center right

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Marco Saavedra, NIYA’s Second Implanted Activist, has been Detained in Broward Since July 11

August 1st, 2012 734.262.9705  Marco Saavedra, NIYA’s Second Implanted Activist, has been Detained in Broward Since July 11 Hundreds of stories gathered and hunger strikes under way; infiltrations to continue  MIAMI—Today, the National

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NIYA Infiltrates Florida Detention Center to Prove Fraud of Obama Immigration Policy

July 30, 2012   734.262.9705 NIYA Infiltrates Florida Detention Center to Prove Fraud of Obama Immigration Policy Now demands full review of facility, jail organizing inside to continue  MIAMI—The National Immigrant Youth Alliance will hold a


How To Break An Onguard or Kryptonite U-Lock On Your Bicycle

Posted on by Prerna in Videos | 1 Comment

This morning, Rich and I stole a bicycle in broad daylight from Thomas Jefferson street in Georgetown. Granted, it was my own beloved Diamondback bike. Still, no one seemed to care as Rich sawed away at the U-lock for half an hour.

You fit right in as long as you act like you are doing nothing wrong or out of the ordinary.

(Or maybe no one cared because Rich is white).

The bicycle was locked to the post from Friday afternoon till Tuesday morning. I had originally lost the key, with spare keys in California. By the time I received the keys on Monday, the bicycle had endured 3 days of cold weather and the lock had jammed. None of the 4 spare keys worked.

Anyway, I’m posting this video because I know u-locks such as Onguard and Kryptonite have a tendency to jam with or without proper care. My Onguard Bulldog lock was over 2 years old and had gone through quite a rough time from the trails of California to the streets of D.C.

I know the “hammer” trick with Onguard locks but it did not work. WD40 was an epic fail. A crowbar and hammer could only take away the casing. Rich came up with the idea of freeze-on and a regular saw blade but it got us nowhere. At that point, I’d have been mightly impressed with anyone who could have taken it.

The locksmith wanted $185. Finally, we tried the District Hardware Bike store on 24th street NW who told us that a carbide edge fit on a hacksaw will do the trick. We were both quite skeptical. But it worked, and it only cost a little over $7.00.

Thank you Rich for saving my bike and me!!

This is the end of the bike saga. I’m using my DC Driving Permit from now.

Priyanka Chopra in Saheli-Ana: Why Should Boys Have All the Fun?

Posted on by Prerna in Desi, Videos | 2 Comments

I can turn my brain off for a second and enjoy this video of Priyanka Chopra in a new avatar:

Of course, I don’t understand why the other woman has to appear dressed like a man to denote that kind of ‘Dostana.’ This adoption of gayness for humor is a troubling trend that reveals the deeper homophobic attitude of India. Why on earth is a gay relationship funny and any different than a straight relationship?

So far, only men have been acting gay for humor on the big Bollywood stage (Saif Ali Khan and Shahrukh Khan have entertained us with their gay act for far too many Filmfare Awards), but now Priyanka takes the cake for going a notch further.

A small tidbit from Netroots Nation

Posted on by Prerna in Anti-Capitalism, Immigration, Videos | 1 Comment

Apparently, Sum of Change and most people in the room thought our panel was depressing. Welcome to my life.

They all shared stories about their efforts to fight a struggling battle. They were not very optimistic, they all shared depressing stories and sentiments about numerous immigration inequities, but were hopeful and dedicated to getting comprehensive immigration reform passed. While the immigration reform bill in congress has taken a back seat to other issues, such as healthcare, there are millions of people whose lives and well being are being held hostage by the unjust execution of antiquated laws. While positive news on the national scene is hard to come by, these panelists are working to facilitate as many small scale successes as possible.

The panel was about the ‘social change blogosphere.’ I am not even sure how much works on social change. We are working on integrating immigrant youth into the capitalist wage-slave system by adhering to false American ideals and values that do not exist. How much social change can that really bring forth?

No, I am not being too self-critical. I just got told by one of my old professors that I need to break the dominant (capitalist) paradigm. His central question-statement is:

“How about empowering everyone to not fight for a share of the dwindling pie, but to take over the bakery and make as many pies as we need?”

Now this professor is never really happy with anything I do but he also never gives up on pushing me to follow my ideals. So I can’t argue with that statement. We really need to own the means of production in society to make any meaningful change. All we have been doing is trying to get rid of one marginalized identity to make ourselves more mainstream.

Alright, yes, I suppose when put that way, I can be depressing.

Airport Travel Tips for Undocumented Immigrants

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Videos | 99 Comments

I’m frankly regretting ever putting this post up. Stop being scared of flying. Getting on a Greyhound or Amtrak near the border is more dangerous if you are scared of ICE. At airports, all you need is an unexpired passport. Sometimes, even an expired ID works. TSA has more important things to do than worry about why your foreign passport doesn’t have a visa. I will not entertain any further questions.

Airport Travel – Dos and Don’ts

Dress nicely and smartly. Avoid any fancy metallic-embedded clothing that might set off detectors and subject you to a strip-search.

Ideally, do a web-check in 24 hours ahead of time so you don’t have to stand in line.

There are 3 checkpoints

-A TSA agent that checks your valid government-issued photo ID and flight ticket. TSA is not immigration and not supposed to look for a visa but they have time to waste sometimes. It also makes sense for this reason to fly during heavy traffic hours.

Open up your passport to the valid ID page so the agent doesn’t have to flip through the passport and see any expired visas. They usually do not check for a visa of any sort, even on foreign passports. If you have a state ID, you need not worry about this though REAL ID may now stipulate some additional documentation. DO NOT EVER answer immigration questions that may reveal your status. You have a right to a lawyer if you are detained. If you end up in trouble at any time, call 415-808-4444

(If you are flying with checked-in bagged, that would be your first checkpoint—checking in the baggage. Airlines now charge $15 for this. If you have a short itinerary, skip the checked baggage and simply get two small carry-on items on the airplane like a backpack and a laptop bag).

-The main security checkpoint where you are subjected to a metal detector search

-And finally, handing over your airline ticket to the agent.

Tips for the Main Security Checkpoint

You do not need your ID for this checkpoint but just a boarding pass.

After smiling nicely and speaking politely to the first TSA agent, prepare to take some empty tubs and take off your shoes, watch, belt, cellphone and anything else that may set off metal detectors. Laptops, electronic items such as video games and toiletry bags must be taken out of bags and screened separately in a tub. Toiletries should be in a separate clear ziplock bag with your liquids separated. Water bottles and food items from outside would probably be trashed but you can buy food at the gates (last checkpoint) to take on the plane trip.

After passing through this main security point, you are safe. You MIGHT get subject to a random search or if you somehow set off the metal detectors. Stay calm and let them do a pat-down.

It goes without saying that after passing the second checkpoint, you should gather all belongings and head to camp out in your gate area till your flight starts boarding. You also do not need your ID at this point.

On the plane

You’ll get a complimentary beverage. Snacks are $$.

Nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice nor should you rely on it. If you do, you do it at your own risk.

‘I don’t support the DREAM Act because…’

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Videos | 2 Comments

My response to that is a shrug.

I don’t care.

If I want your support or opinion, I would ask for it.

The facts are out in the open. We have stated our position numerous times. And now it is not a productive use of our time to regurgitate.

If you are not a member of Congress on our target list, I REALLY DON’T CARE.

There is no point in commenting, sending hate mails, insulting and questioning undocumented student advocacy. It does not bother or unfaze us in the least.

Do not call me and not any other undocumented student that works really hard for their right to attend college and get a job to support their family and community.

Take your advocacy and call Congress. Make an anti-DREAM Act site. Make a network of undocumented youth who don’t want the DREAM Act. Go to your city council, school boards and associated students to get resolutions passed opposing the DREAM Act. Get regional representatives in over 25 states. Form an LLC or 501(c)(3). Get donations and grants for your cause. Grow a mailing list of 60,000. Work over 80 hours per week to defeat the cause and the work of other undocumented students.

It really doesn’t bother me.  I have more important things to do.

And besides, we will win this anyway.

New Media – SOS_Slaves – Game for Sands of Silence

Posted on by Prerna in Education, Human Rights, Immigration, Videos | 1 Comment


This week I had the opportunity to give what little insight I had on a gaming project for the documentary Sands of Silence, produced by activist film-maker Chelo Alvarez-Stehle.

It is a first-person role-playing game where the gamer assumes the character of a girl from either Africa, Nepal or Mexico and is taken through the whole experience of trafficking. The point is to engage the gamer beyond just empathy and encourage action from a community—high school and university students—that may otherwise not know much about the issue.

Going into the project, my primary concern was with trivializing the experiences of sexual trafficking victims. There is absolutely no way to ever simulate the lived experiences of these young adolescents so I am quite ambivalent about the prospects of building genuine empathy through ‘gaming.’

There’s Fashion Wars and then there is Fashion the movie. Fashion Wars is all about seeing whose pose has more style, getting the biatches to gain more cash, and expanding a fashion empire. Fashion the movie takes one behind the camera to see the ugliness of glitz and glamour, into a world that demarcates women as cheap objects for show and sale. They were certainly not meant to be complimentary but how can we bridge the gap between the two platforms in a manner that is both sensitive and engaging?

The concern was somewhat alleviated with knowledge that the producer was an activist film-maker and that the stories in the gameplay were based on real life experiences. And then there was the voice in the back of my head saying if I could excuse and actually appreciate BreakThrough for ICED that simulated the experiences of undocumented immigrants in this country, I had no right to place objections over something I had not experienced or undergone.

The next problem I had was with the complete absence of boys from the gameplay. All the major characters were women. For the first time, I was irked by the absence of men and that awareness came from a queer perspective. We cannot ignore that boys are also sexually trafficked and that there is yet another community that we can reach by including that particular narrative. In our efforts to make women’s experiences more mainstream, let us not marginalize a population that is already afraid to speak out about abuse. De-stigmatize. Make relevant to as many people as possible.

My third concern dealt with how to draw attention to this game. Why would a teenager or university student play this game? I was told that inner-city youth in New York could relate to the project and could react with empathy that these horrendous things happened with their peers. Yet, it simply is not enough of a selling point for me as a gamer. We mostly play games to escape reality; not relive our pains and misfortunes. There has to be a ‘oh cool!’ factor to attract youth to this game and I hope whoever is given charge to market it can come up with the right catchphrase.

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Drawing Lines in the Immigration Debate

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Videos | 1 Comment

There comes a point in the U.S. immigration debate when I really question what ‘camp’ can I really fit under. It happens when advocates of undocumented students scoff at the lives and dreams of legal immigrants to the United States and support restrictions rather than critical reforms to the H-1 B program.

Senator Durbin–a great advocate of the necessary DREAM Act for undocumented kids–is nonetheless also the chief sponsor of a bill to curb H-1 B visas. I can’t stand behind Durbin when he sponsors one group of immigrants over another.

The H-1 B system is badly in need of reform–the tethering of the Green Card immigrant to her/his employer oftentimes becomes a decade-long exploitation with no guarantee of permanent residency down the road. And with cutbacks in education spending in the United States,  including little incentive to pursue careers in technology, where do employers go to find workers? It is no wonder that big business supports the DREAM Act, which would give employers a small pool of productive immigrants to hire. Without the act, we are left with businesses outsourcing jobs to countries like India. We are certainly better off with a system that allows for greater skilled labor migration to this country because immigration is no zero sum game. The presence of skilled immigrants has greatly benefited this country and enriched the lives of American-born citizens.

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Speaking Assignment – San Jose City College

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And I just rambled on and on …

Prerna Speaking at SJCC – Life Story from TakePart With Ideas for Change on Vimeo.

I am tired of sharing this ‘life story’ no matter how intriguing it may seem. It’s better when I am given some direction such as ‘talk about the history of your activism and organizing efforts.’ I can draw from my days as a high school policy debater and then coach and judge for the Urban Debate Leagues. That is really how I gained a lot of insight into the injustices that exist in this world and learned about this country. Nothing compared to the feeling of going up against richer and more privileged kids and coming out victorious. Watching empowered inner-city kids debate topicality, rip out critiques of nuclearism and ‘run’ plan-plan counterplans was a complete thrill. It is also at that point that I decided to stray clear from becoming a stereotype and embrace a different path in life, that of a civil rights attorney. I am not there yet and my goals have slightly changed but it is on the agenda. I have lived so many different lives and identities in the past 9-10 years–a policy debater, a student government bureaucrat, a fan-fic writer, a janitor, administrator of 2-3 celebrity fan-sites, a blogger, a tech-geek, an avid cyclist, an immigrant rights organizer, an undocumented student activist, a social-networking guru, and someone who just craves normalcy and boredom. I cannot wait for it to all reconcile.

Gay Muslims

Posted on by Prerna in Desi, LGBTQ, Videos | 13 Comments

“I can be a good Muslim and be gay.”

The LA Times recently ran a story on Aliyah Bacchs, who is a Muslim lesbian that left an arranged marriage and came to her family with two choices: accept her sexuality or lose her forever. Her case is not an isolated incident or limited to Muslims in America as exemplified in the Channel 4 documentary that was shot in Britain.

“I think my mom would rather say that I’ve been hit by a truck than say that I am gay.”


Abdullah says in the documentary that people pick and choose what they want from the Koran. He takes the good parts and does not believe he is doing anything wrong. After all, Allah is forgiving.

While the documentary is restrictive in terms of the fact that many faces are never shown or blurred, it still manages to explore the lives of a group of gay Muslims living in Britain, some closeted and others openly homosexual, but all struggling with some aspect of their sexuality. The double standard of condemning gay men more than lesbians is always worth mentioning : Islam does not have an opinion on lesbians but gay behavior is strongly condemned and punishable to death. That stems from living in a society where the feminine is disparaged and women are merely objects for consumption (and it is true for all countries including the United States).

There were several profound statements in the video. One that particularly struck me had to do with the intersectionality of being an ‘Asian’ and a queer. The gay community wants us to step out and be proud while the pan-Asian community wants us to remain in the closet and constrict ourselves. How does someone deal with that contradiction? Says a queer Muslim in the video, “Are they both competing with each other and we are having to pay for it? Why can’t I live my life?” Why can’t we live our lives?

It’s an un-Islamic notion to be ‘out and proud’ says one member of Imaan — the largest support group for gay Muslims (more support groups can be found here). With colorful hijabs on at Gay pride in Britain, the members of Imaan seem to tow the fine-line between leading their lives as queers who are also respectful of the modesty in Islam. But Abdullah, another gay Muslim, says he wouldn’t have hidden his identity at Pride as it is important for people to see who is speaking, who is telling their story.

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Morons of the Week: Pramod Mutalik and the Shri Ram Sena (‘The Indian Taliban’)

Posted on by Prerna in Desi, Moron of the Week, Videos | 9 Comments

President Obama, please don’t close Gitmo! We may have found the perfect candidates for that place.


Someone find me the Hindu scripture that says women should be molested and assaulted brutally for drinking or visiting a pub. Jayanth Kodkani of Times of India is right on mark with his analysis of the attacks as less to do with religion or a defense of Indian culture and more to do with a lumpenization of politics:

The arguments put forth by the leaders of the Mangalore attack show that the new agenda is lumpenisation — of assaulting urban youth on the pretext of upholding a self-designed code of “Indianism”. That such socially-regressive thought infringes on cultural freedom is not their concern at all. Ironical, indeed too, that the recruits of these “strike forces” are young men in their early twenties.

(Courtesy: Times of India)

These useless ‘Hindu’ zealots are now out on bail without repent and promising to wreck more terror on the women in Mangalore, while everyone with some political stake in the issue is trying to milk it for their cause–The BJP is back-tracking and distancing itself from its Hindu nationalist elements while the Congress party is trying to pin this on the BJP given that Karnataka is a BJP-run state where these fools run rampant. Whatever the outcome, the victims of these deplorable attacks and other acts of terrorism by the hoodlum Shri Ram Sena, must receive justice.

A vast majority of India is secular and obviously outraged by the attacks while students have taken to the streets. Before India takes action and points to terrorists in other countries, maybe it should root out the terrorists living and residing within its borders.