Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Undocumented and Unafraid: Accomplices Needed

By Joel Sati

"And it is so easy to look away, to live with the fruits of our history and to ignore the great evil done in all of our names. But you and I have never truly had that luxury. I think you know.”— Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me .

The aftermath of the election has been particularly difficult time for me and my community. When it became apparent that Trump had many more electoral votes than he should have had, a despair — one I still have — came over me. President-elect Trump has committed to do whatever possible to make life unlivable for undocumented immigrants: he has promised to rescind DACA, he has tapped Kris Kobach , author of the infamous “Show Me Your Papers” law (SB1070) in Arizona, to be part of his immigration team and he has promised to increase ICE collaboration with local law enforcement in the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Muslims, LGBTQ folk and people of color must live with the totalizing fear of the vigilante violence that has received new life — what we foolishly thought was “the past.” There have been verbal assaults, physical assaults, and other acts of blatant, racist intimidation across the country, as well as here in Berkeley. For many marginalized peoples, this has been their reality — even in an Obama administration. With Trump’s election, discrimination and violence is not only pernicious, but completely shameless.

As a black, undocumented immigrant, the double-specter of immigration and police enforcement is a reality I must contend with, even as I pursue an education here at the liberal bubble that is Berkeley. And as much as I would like to think that my current position and geographic location affords me some kind of privilege, it does not. As January 21, 2017, quickly approaches, my fears for the safety of myself and my community, both here in California as well as across the country, continue to mount. Not only am I fearful, but I also feel inadequate. I do not feel like I belong in this country, I do not feel like I am safe in this country, and I do not believe that my work — focused on giving a voice to undocumented immigrants in policy contexts — will be worth a damn. Nevertheless, I push on.

The bleak picture I paint notwithstanding, I am thankful to the faculty, staff, and colleagues who checked in to see if I am okay, especially on the day after the election. Further, I am really thankful that people here at the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program at Boalt have my back. But I want to make sure those who say they have my back know what that means.

To have my back — and the back of other undocumented people — means to take responsibility for the political situation we find ourselves in, and use your position to counter the fear and violence that has now received the imprimatur of the state. Having our back is not just saying those words; it requires concrete action. For the undocumented student who now feels like their first semester at Cal has taken a turn for the worst, we owe it to them to do whatever possible to ensure their safety and that of their families. Undocumented students at Cal don’t need allies; we need accomplices.

I am convinced we have the minds, the resources, and the drive to institute concrete and trailblazing change at the University of California, Berkeley. We cannot hope to change the world unless we resolve to contend with it.