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March 4

Disrupting La Migra and the Farce of “Know Your Rights

Fear of immigration raids and deportations are hitting hard since the arrival of Trump. But truthfully, most of what we are seeing was already taking place far before Trump, under the reign of “beloved” Obama, although it was largely ignored by the masses. The raids now will continue and will become worse, but thanks to Trump, the many are now outraged.

The question then becomes, HOW can we respond to these raids? One possible strategy that has been put forward by those within the non-profit industrial complex, is the growth of “Know Your Rights” (KYR) workshops, which are being organized in every corner of the country.

But these workshops often mislead people into believing that “these rights” are their only mechanisms of defense, or make them think that the police or the State will abide by these laws. Those who have been documenting the actions of la migra throughout the current period, which includes especially the non-profits and bureaucrats, know full well that these strategies will do very little to defend anyone.

During immigration raids – regardless of whether people open the door themselves, anyone at the site is likely to be cornered, coerced, or threatened (such as using children to call their parents and turn them in or telling them they be put into a foster home). Migra have been known to point guns at one detained person in order to coerce them to “turn in” their other loved ones perhaps hiding in the house or at work. Migra have even been known to use false identities when approaching people saying even they are “the water company,” or all sorts of lies.

With these abuses in mind, knowing your “legal rights” can only take you so far. YES, to start off with, it is correct to encourage people NOT to open the door, but don’t tell them “Only answer IF they have a warrant.” People should be empowered to NOT OPEN THE DOOR regardless of what orders they do or do not have. But then that leads to the next reality, la migra will likely coerce their way in regardless of whether you open the door and will find their way in with or without a warrant, break down doors, etc.

Also, as documented raids of the past demonstrate, people will be detained regardless of giving la migra “just cause.” Documented raids in the past have also shown instances where anyone “brown” will be taken, their hands cuffed behind their backs FIRST before any investigation, and THEN their ID checked.

And this “illusion” that “if it’s illegal, someone will be able to save you” is also a farce. What this does is put your freedom in the hands of well intentioned savior orgs to prove your case AFTER you have been deported, which may take years to prove. There may be (literally) one in every several hundred thousand cases where this occurs, but the rest is just false hope.

Among the most relevant “legal” precautions people can take are to prepare legal documents to assign custody of your kids to another person so children don’t get thrown into foster homes if they are deported.

But outside of that, the rest of the “defense” will come about when people have the guts to defy the law and realize that families are under literal threat of kidnapping and theft, which requires defending yourselves accordingly. This is a reality. All of these “KYR” workshops take away from the autonomous ability of each individual family or community to decide for themselves with foresight as to what options they may have.

To start, people may want to “kill the cop inside your own head” before preaching to others about their supposed self-defense that relies on a system that is designed to disempower and rob them of their every ounce of freedom.

It calls to memory a story that Mumia Abu-Jamal shared about being beat by a mob when he was 15. During the attack, he turned to the police, “Just as [he] was trained to do,” only to be kicked in the head by a police officer’s boot. Mumia later said in an interview, “That police officer kicked me straight into the black panthers.” People are so convinced the law, the State, the police are in some way still going to protect us. How many “kicks in the head” will it take before standing up for one’s’ own safety even WITHOUT the permission of the State?

There is an open plan to remove 15 million people from their homes and families via immigration police with the help of local law enforcement and any unknown quantity of other agencies. Aside from the daily war that is waged on human life, animals, and the planet daily from capitalism, imperialism, and the like, this is a straightforward war openly declared on millions of people, that by connection of their deportation will in turn affect several other millions of people. Perhaps it is time to step outside of what the “cop in your head” tells you to do.

And, times and tactics are changing. 

Blocking of an ICE vehicle happened in Arizona in early February. Police did not show up to contain the protest until close to an hour later. During that time, additional methods could have been used. Instead total “civility” was practiced. The “civil disobedience” was even done civilly. Fuck civil discourse when there is no regard giving to the people’s lives being destroyed, why follow such a stance of obedience and respect to them?

Nevertheless, still give a “hell yeah” to those who blocked that van in Arizona, because they acted in the moment in what was necessary and right for them, and it was a courageous and brilliant step forward outside of the box. But that should prompt a starting point to expand from, not an isolated incident or end point.

Recently, an alternative to KYR workshop was reported where a community group began training people on how to “block” ICE vehicles. This is a step in a better direction. But there is no need to stop there. Thinking OUTSIDE the law, people can identify other methods that could be used if ever confronted with a live ICE raid. Each person(s) should decide for themselves what they are willing to put at stake, but all these patronizing orgs lying to masses of people telling them essentially trust the system, accept defeat, and/or trust that their orgs will save you–this is not freedom, nor is it self defense.

The final obstacle to acknowledge here is the difficulty in organizing neighborhoods to be able to actually respond WHILE THE MIGRA IS STILL THERE so that direct action techniques can be put into play. Fucking shit up AFTER loved ones are deported although may release some frustration, but this is not a direct action to the problem. Be leery of the many apps and message boards supposedly advising people of “where the migra is.” These are largely unreliable and cause tremendous alarm to people. Responding to migra attacks are NOT the same as responding to police. They operate differently, swiftly, “in the shadows” literally or metaphorically, and they have to be tracked differently. Local neighborhoods empowered to respond will be the most reliable way to address this. 

The focus in direct action is, how to arrive BEFORE ICE or border patrol takes people away, and then to explore, HOW CAN THEY AND THEIR RAID BE DISRUPTED? Can local neighborhoods or networks of people be empowered to organize these defense responses on their own, without reliance on the orgs? And don’t patronize undocumented people into not having any voice of deciding how they may or may not choose to defense themselves. These “networks” should include the affected people themselves, not just be their heroes. Create spaces that encourage planned and organized local responses to DISRUPT MIGRA RAIDS, throw your local KYR in the trash.


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