Failure is Not an Option

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

Crossposted at FDL and Daily Kos

Representative Luis Gutierrez has managed to incense immigrant youth again with his latest attempt to get the Obama Administration to show leadership on immigration issues.

In the New York Times, the Latino congressional member is quoted saying

“This is the moment for him to act. And if we stumble, if somehow we fail, let’s fail together. Let’s fail fighting!”

DreamActivists are less than impressed:

Good luck, Representative Gutierrez, but we’re not interested in failing. Perhaps you have the luxury of speculating as to what happens if nothing changes, but for us, it’s unthinkable. We don’t have an answer to the question, “What happens if we fail?” We don’t even ask the question. It’s not a question anymore.

-Flavia de la Fuente, Editor, DREAMACTIVIST, May 2010

Representative Gutierrez is not the enemy but the Congressional Hispanic Caucus strategy of pushing for comprehensive immigration reform has meant putting the DREAM Act on the backburner even when the votes are there to push the bill out of committee onto the floor.

The DREAM Act is a narrowly tailored, bipartisan measure which would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth who have grown up in the United States, graduated from high school or obtained a GED and gone on to attend college or join the military. The legislation was first introduced in 2001 by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) but despite having majority support, failed to muster enough votes to override cloture in 2007. Currently, the DREAM Act (S. 729 and H.R. 1751) has 39 cosponsors in the Senate and 119 in the House and advocates believe they have the votes to pass the bill.

However, the grassroots popularity of the DREAM Act is also a curse for the legislation. Pro-immigration advocates fear that passing the bill on its own weakens the need for comprehensive immigration reform. They accuse immigrant youth of being selfish and not caring about their parents or the bigger picture. Hence, the DREAM Act has been tied to a bigger bill against the wishes of immigrant youth, the beneficiaries of the legislation.

Of course pro-immigration reform advocates need a reality check based on the reasons listed here. Passing the DREAM Act is long overdue, serves as a litmus test for comparable pieces of legislation and enables undocumented youth to come out of the shadows and fight for more comprehensive solutions.

And that is just a starter list.

Courage requires that advocates for a comprehensive solution to immigration admit the errors in their strategy, which has deferred the dreams of immigrant youth for close to a decade. The least Representative Gutierrez and others in his position can do is support immigrant youth as they lead the fight for the DREAM Act, and eventually, a just and humane immigration reform.

Recently, four brave undocumented students sat down for the DREAM Act in Senator McCain’s office and now face deportation and possibly, torture and death in their countries of origin.

They took this risk because their communities are under attack. They put their lives on the line thinking about friends they have lost in the struggle. For these undocumented youth, living in limbo is more scary than the risk of deportation, and they demand an immediate passage of the DREAM Act as a standalone bill.

The sit-down sparked acts of civil disobedience around the country. From hunger strikes in Michigan calling on Senator Stabenow to co-sponsor the DREAM Act to protests in front of Senator Schumer’s office, calling him to champion the legislation. From Los Angeles youth shutting down Wilshire Boulevard (and making that trend on Twitter) to immigrant youth in Kentucky going on a 65 hour hunger strike, asking Senator Bunning to support the DREAM. These Dream Activists are far from done; in fact, they are just getting started.

If Rep. Gutierrez wants to restore his lost credibility among immigrant youth and show leadership on the issue, he should broker deals and get the necessary votes to restore and pass the DREAM Act as a standalone bill so that immigrant youth and immigrant communities can have a real victory sometime soon.

He can start with actually getting the entire Congressional Hispanic Caucus behind the bill and then pushing Chairwoman of Immigration Subcommittee Zoe Lofgren and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to get the legislation through the House.

Next, Rep. Gutierrez can reach out to Senator Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Durbin (D-IL) and help secure the votes for passage of the DREAM Act in the Senate.

Would a sit-in at his office compel him to adopt a new strategy? I personally doubt it, but it’s time for the Congressional member to stop throwing tantrums at the White House and show some real leadership for his community.

The time is now. And failure isn’t an option.

SB 1070 National Day of Action in Photos

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

Brown is not a Crime by xomiele.

Not at all, unless you are Senator Scott Brown (Cosponsor the DREAM Act already).

Credit: xomiele

Protesting the Arizona Diamondbacks in SF by jonathan mcintosh.?

Demonstration against the Arizona Diamondbacks and SB1070 in Arizona in front of the Giants Stadium in downtown San Francisco on May 29 2010. (jonathan mcintosh)

Arizona by Susana Corleto.

A prevalent caricature of America’s Toughest Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

(Credit: Susana Corletto)

Pull Me Over by lungstruck.

A great act of civil disobedience – Just vandalize (or decorate) your vehicle complete with the following message:

Protester's Car by lungstruck.

Credit: lungstruck

Phoenix Immigration Rally by lungstruck.

Of course, the Arizona DREAM Act coalition paved the way with a no-brainer message: DREAM Act Now. It’s quite simple to understand. Really, I feel like I have had to dumb myself down for years to advocate for this.

(Credit: lungstruck)

Making the same point (Credit: matiasramos)

Large Photo
From undocumented shoes to recycling bottles. Fantastic progress for the multi-million dollar campaign. Maybe this works as a metaphor for “cleaning up your act.” But that’s too optimistic. In this case, recycling means “we’ll do the same thing over and over and expect different results.” (Credit: matiasramos)
Joe Arpaio Terrorist by lungstruck.
No, this isn’t hyperbolic. Why are Muslims the only ones called terrorists?
(Credit: lungstruck)
Protest against immigration laws and a call to remove Fort Snelling by Fibonacci Blue.

In Mendota and at Fort Snelling, there was a protest about the recently passed immigration law in Arizona and against a similar law proposed for Minnesota. Native Americans also protested the presence of Fort Snelling, and called for it to be removed and returned to them.  (Credit: fibonacciblue)

Amnesty! by Frankie Moreno.

Yes, those big bad “illegal alien” skeletons. (Credit: Frankie Moreno)

Immigrant Struggle by Frankie Moreno.

Yes, someone is connecting the dots. To really resolve this mass hysteria against immigration, we need to get to the root of the problem: an unjust economic system with the development of underdevelopment and unfair trade policies that encourage migration to richer more developed countries. (Frankie Moreno)

LGBT are we next? by Frankie Moreno.

Yay for intersectionalities. That’s all. (Credit: Frankie Moreno)

Gringas by Frankie Moreno.

We need more cool white people. (Frankie Moreno)

PhoenixMayMarch204.jpg by willcoley.

Best pictures of the day. Hands down. (Credit: Suzannah MacClay and willcoley)

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A Letter to Tam Tran. RIP

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 1 Comment

Someone told me to write a letter so this is my pathetic attempt at trying to conjure one up.

You are gone and I can’t even launch a campaign to bring you back. I am helping with the cause to get you posthumous citizenship though, which might infuriate you more. I am not quite sure. It just feels right.

You always promised to call back when I left a voicemail. But you didn’t call back this time.

I am angry. I fear my anger more than anything else. There’s this rage inside me threatening to explode every few hours and I am trying desperately to not do anyone any damage. That means I am turning my rage inwards and doing myself a lot of damage and destroying my own life. If you were around, you’d probably say that is very Asian of me and we’d laugh about it.

I am hurt. The people around me simply fail to understand precisely what I need. But maybe it is my fault since I’ve failed to articulate what I need or go looking for it in the wrong places.

I am heart-broken. I’ve never really lost anyone close to me. Even when I was brought here, I knew the people I left behind were still alive. But death is so final. And you were the last people that deserve it. I keep wishing that it was me instead of you that was taken from our beautiful community. Why doesn’t death come to those who don’t want to live?

We are told to remember the good times, the good lessons and let it move us forward. That pretty much involves every moment that I did get to spend with both of you whether it was in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles or Washington DC.

I also regret the fact that I never pushed you harder to actually use your Twitter account! No, you would actually rather live life.

Every moment we got to spend together was special. After all, we had a mutual admiration society. You were fascinated with everything I could do online while I looked up to you like any other starry-eyed kid. I’ll always be thankful for the entire weekend in San Francisco and the one night we got to spend in New York talking till the wee hours of the morning about anything and everything. I looked forward to joining you in academia, making the rounds at all those conferences where we didn’t seem to belong but something inside us propelled us to at least pay attention and hang around long enough to tolerate it.

In fact, I secretly enjoyed the idea of having a whole niche of former DREAM kids in academia, even though my academic interests have little to do with immigration policy. And we were supposed to write a book together, remember? All we have on our name is this one paper: Undocumented and Undaunted.

That would describe you quite aptly, leaving out the reserved part. We had quite a lot in common. People don’t realize how shy and reserved I am as a person–I just end up coming across as arrogant. We were thrust into the limelight as activists and were always reluctant to live up to some expectation of us that others had. But we did our best at trying to represent even as our hearts pulled us in other directions. We also did our best to live life and not let any obstacles affect our choices. I was actually putting my life back together after a decade of not living, complete with a job and girlfriend before this tragedy came out of nowhere blowing the facade away.

I am still struggling with making sense of life these past few years. You loved DreamActivist right down to the name while I’ve never gotten used to the fact that it might be seen as my biggest achievement. After all, it’s ironic and feels like a fluke at times–I don’t even want to live here! Quite often, I run from the movement and everything that is American, telling myself that this is not where I am supposed to be and not what I am supposed to do with my life. I run from the people who love and appreciate me the most, pushing them all away. And it wasn’t till I was getting ready to leave for Canada that I started to live and love again. I realized how deeply I had grown to like and appreciate things around me. It took a moment to sink in and I hated myself for it. At the same time, I realized that no matter how hard I try to erase it, I am an American.

The last thing you said to me was to go to George Washington Law school because between Canada and GW, the latter was closer to you and it meant I would hang around. I had made up my mind to come to DC. Now I don’t know. It happens to be the place where I first and last met you.

All I know at this moment in time is that even though you cannot reply, you will guide me as I continue my search for answers to questions I have long forgotten.

Love, Prerna.

P.S. You have my precious L Word Season 1 DVD set!

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5 Things You Can Do To Stand Up Against SB 1070

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 5 Comments“Papers please?”

“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Racial profiling is officially legal in Arizona. And while it is the slippery slope described above, SB 1070 has gifted us a great opportunity to organize for immigrant rights on a new scale.

1. Sign the email petition to your Congressional representatives, the Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland Security asking them not to cooperate with SB 1070, support any filed injunctions to the law, and furthermore, start taking leadership in pushing for real comprehensive immigration reform.

2. Hold local solidarity actions and add them to this growing list. Take down details of contacts. Connect with local grassroots organizations and student groups that are leading the effort. Be prepared to talk to the media about why you oppose SB 1070 and how this law is not just about Arizona but about what kind of country we want to live in as Americans.

3. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Rep Grijalva has called for an economic boycott of Arizona, which means not traveling to Arizona and avoiding the expenditure of any dollars in Arizona. The American Immigration Lawyers’ Association is already boycotting by canceling it’s annual conference in Scottsdale. Some truckers are boycotting. Others are asking the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to divest from Arizona. More economic sanctions are likely to be announced in the coming week with a list of products and companies to boycott.

4. Civil disobedience. Take a hint from the Capitol Nine who chained themselves to Capitol building doors. Leave your licenses at home. Walk out of schools and walk into local Congressional offices of politicians who have not cosponsored the DREAM Act and refuse to stand up for immigration reform. Conducts sit-ins, hunger strikes and flash mobs. Offer to get yourself detained wearing t-shirts and carrying signs that say “Do I look like an ‘illegal immigrant’ to you?” or “Being Brown is Not a Crime.”

5. Use Online Tools to Organize. Use hashtag #LegalizeAZ on Twitter to connect with more people taking action against SB 1070. Change your Facebook profile picture to the badge above (or something similar) to show solidarity.  Also join the Facebook group 1 million strong against SB 1070 and don’t forget to follow growing immigrant youth taking actions on Twitter and Facebook.

The possibilities are endless. Consider this an open thread and invitation to share your ideas and actions and feel free to cross-post. This is just the beginning.

Photo Credit: No Borders and Binaries

Originally posted at Alternet

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Dear Walmart, Why is Your White Baby Doll Worth Less Than Your Hispanic and Black Dolls?

Posted on by Prerna in Racism | Leave a comment



Top 5 Ways to Commit Suicide

Posted on by Prerna in Desi | 14 Comments

I was roaming around San Francisco last week and looking out at the Golden Gate bridge, which is the most popular spot for committing suicide. I couldn’t figure out why until I researched that the impact of hitting the water at 75 mph can kill someone instantly and even if the person survives, s/he can drown or die of hypothermia. Surely, there has to be better and easier ways to kill yourself?

Here is an easy list:

5. Live like an American. It is the best way to go: Eat like you want to have a heart-attack and never work out.

4. Surround yourself with morons. You will be brain-dead in no time but you’d be too brain-dead to realize that in fact, you are brain-dead!

3. Go to a desi club or party. You’ll see some great looking people and maybe some fantastic music. But the lack of deodorant will kill you.

2. Listen to Justin Bieber. Actually wait, don’t. You might just wake up from the dead.

1. Watch Deepika Padukone here or Jennifer Beals and Laurel Holloman kiss here or Sheetal Sheth and Lisa Ray making out here:

How can you not die and go to heaven?

5 Actions You Can Take To Halt the Deportation of Bita Ghaedi

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Immigration | 3 Comments

Really quick – An asylum seeker in the United Kingdom, Bita Ghaedi conducted a hunger strike for up to a month because she was terrified of being tortured and killed if she is forced to return to Iran. Guess what? She is being forced to go back now by the British government this coming Tuesday!

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Bita sought refuge in the UK with viable grounds for establishing refugee status. In Iran, Ghaedi was bound, tortured, and scarred by pervasive gender-based violence. Her political activities with PMOI/MEK/MKO mark her as an opponent of the present regime, and also one who will face certain execution upon return to Iran. Bita has confirmed that she is “pretty sure it is benevolent, advisable and godly for them to kill me if I won’t be arrested.” There is no reason to deny her asylum claim.

So here is what you need to do:

1. Make the calls: (0191) 456 8910 to David Miliband and (020) 7035 4848 to Alan Johnson. Jam their phone-line and fill up mailboxes.

Sample message: “As a citizen of the United Kingdom, I am concerned about the deportation of Bita Ghaedi back to Iran. She was circumscribed, bound, tortured, and scarred by pervasive gender-based violence in Iran. Her political activities mark her as an opponent of the current regime, and also one who will face certain execution upon return to Iran. Bita has numerous reasons to fear for her life if she is returned. I urge you to intervene and stop her pending deportation to Iran which is this Tuesday.”

2. Email alert to David Miliband and MP Alan Johnson to take action immediately to halt Ghaedi’s deportation. Get as many emails as possible sent to Miliband.

3. Send David Miliband a message on his Facebook account.

4. Tweet Miliband via

5. In the U.K.? Join the DEMO this Monday!

MONDAY 19th April 2010

Assemble Home Office, Marsham Street, London @ 10am

After you are done with these, contact your local and national UK press as well as your favorite bloggers to give this issue attention!

Event: AAPIs and the Urgency for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, LGBTQ | Leave a comment

Hosted by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress (APAP)-Washington, DC Chapter

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Cannon House Office Building Room 121
Washington, DC

Karen Narasaki – Executive Director, Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) – moderator

Prerna Lal – founder, Blogger
Deepa Iyer – Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Hemi Kim – DC Director,  National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
Ben de Guzman – Policy Director, KAYA – Filipino Americans for Progress; Co-Programs Director, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), National Coordinator, National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE)

Congressional speakers
Congressman Mike Honda (confirmed for opening remarks)
Congresswoman Judy Chu

Campus Progress
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
South Asians for Obama (SAFO)
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
Asian American Justice Center (AAJC)
National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)
National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE)
Immigration Equality

Special Thank Yous:
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC)

This is really the only reason that I am in DC besides work.

I have two needs:

1. More organizational sponsorships.

2. Someone to video “shoot” the event.


A Final Note On #LGBTCIR

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 1 Comment

I had a busy week and several mentions in LGBT media after the New York drama that I have put squarely behind me.

Of course, I anticipated differing reactions to what I had to say in The Advocate (Universal Stagnation and Immigration Reform Conundrum) and Ambiente. But some people are uninterested in recognizing the need to work together or don’t see the helping hand extended towards trying to create more inclusive platforms. No, they would rather stick to their guns and start launching attacks.

I fought for same-sex binational couples bill (UAFA) inclusion in CIR and I was told by pro-migrant people to “get my priorities straight” and stop supporting an issue that might kill a bill of much value to immigrant communities. Nevermind, that my actual issues with any potential CIR legislation have nothing to do with LGBT issues.

Then I was told by angry and resentful Uniting American Families Act activists that they don’t see why these “illegal immigrants” deserve a pathway to citizenship before them. Of course it always comes down to them and their families, and not larger macroeconomic forces created by a neo-liberal order, and a broken immigration system that never provided a legal pathway for most people of color immigrants here to begin with.

Would you even understand why people leave their homes, uproot their whole lives, to move thousands of miles to a foreign place, just to start over? That question plagues me daily.

It’s almost utterly useless trying to have these conversations with people who are not both part of the undocumented and queer communities because they tend to see themselves as being “shafted” and immediately fight for the leftover pieces of the pie. They just do not get that we need to take over the bakery and fix it so that everyone can have as much pie as they want. Period.

And if you happen to be queer and whine about how CIR does not include your family but includes those “illegal immigrants,” I no longer mind your exclusion. Why should we bend over backwards to pull you up when you have absolutely no courtesy or knowledge of our unique immigration struggles?

I don’t see why it is so hard to see that the system is broken for everyone— that all our friends, communities need help and support instead of nit-picking who needs it more than someone else.

So ultimately, what’s the point of trying to reach out and build bridges when they end up tearing me in the middle? What possible gain do I have from any of this? Nada. It’s just painful to have people tear one part of me over another. You know what: from now on, you can’t have either, whatever that means. I have more important things to do than having to defend one part of my identity over another.

I won’t give any roadmaps or strategies. Fight your own battles without lashing out at my communities and me just because it is convenient and we are easier targets than a failed system.

Schedule for Next Two Weeks

Posted on by Prerna in Site Updates | Leave a comment

I am pleased to say I think I have officially recovered from pneumonia. Yes, that should be a headline. Now lets hope I don’t get those Spring allergies!

This is the craziest schedule I have ever made but I packed some much-deserved vacation time into it. If people–besides co-workers and friends–are trying to contact and/or meet up with me in the next two weeks, I have to give my sincere apologies: I am unavailable.

March 17: Fly from SFO to IAD

March 20-23: USSA Leg Con.
and AIPAC as press.

March 20: 7-year Anniversary of Iraq War Protest
Evening: Immigration Equality Happy Hour

March 21: Immigrant Rights March
Immigration Equality contingent

March 22: USSA Press Conference

March 24: Panel on Immigration Reform with Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus. Time: TBD

March 25: Washington DC to New York

March 26: Seton Hall Law School Admitted Students Reception, Newark New Jersey

March 27: Morning: Merit Scholar Recipients Champagne Brunch
Afternoon and Night: ACELA Express to Atlantic City to catch Impact 2010.

March 28: Atlantic City to Washington DC
Also, afternoon web-conferencing for E4FC Post-Graduation opportunities.

Need a place to stay near Dulles or I can just crash at the airport the night before for my 7am flight.

March 29: IAD to SFO right back to 16th St. Mission

While I am in DC, I would still work full-time from March 22-26 and look for an apartment for a possible shift. I will also live-blog (maybe Tumblr) most of the events and be active on Twitter as usual.

I come back to the Bay Area for lab tests and physical exams to confirm full health and also settle into my job.

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