In June 2010, a group of undocumented youth and other organizers came together around a shared desire to open an alternative political space within the immigrant rights movement. We shared a sense that the political horizon of the movement felt constricted, and that liberal organizing models felt unwelcoming and shortsighted. Working together throughout fall and winter, and into the early months of 2011, we saw that our analysis had been limited by always thinking about a system within a system within a system, and proposing Band-Aid solutions that did not address root causes nor offer a broader political vision. We wanted to work in a different way; we wanted to generate a radically different vision of the future that could inspire us. We engaged in an extended experiment in organizing, connecting people around a common idea: immigration is not the problem, and therefore immigration legislation or reform is not the ultimate political horizon of a social justice movement from the undocumented perspective.
What we mean by “undocumented perspective” developed slowly and is still a work in progress. Certainly we mean the perspective, experiences and knowledges of people who are themselves undocumented; but we also mean a political commitment to understanding how the system of global power pushes entire populations “outside” the privileges of citizenship. We consider “undocumented” to express not an identity politics or a special interest-group, by rather a political framework for challenging citizenship as an instrument for criminalizing people and making them exploitable. We reached out to others and tried to form alliances with small, autonomous and grass-roots groups committed to confronting a global economic system that finds profit in the incarceration, displacement, and repression of millions across the globe.
We began our work together in the Mora-torium on Deportations Campaign, which we saw as a meeting place, a space for gathering and dialogue. We went on to organize a series of workshops and speak-outs called the ABC’s of Struggle. We reached out to other organizations and individuals and explored the intersections of various struggles and political issues (such as education, housing, militarization, incarceration, and immigration). We instigated creative expression to inform our political analysis. Within our meetings, we openly discussed questions of privilege and power, the problems with liberal organizing models and the possibilities for collectively building an identity based on politics instead of a politics based on identity. In the spring of 2011 we organized actions for March 10, and then instigated the pubic organizing process for the Chicago Mayday March with other small, grassroots organizations.
On March 10, 2011 we decided to express our analysis of militarization as one of the root causes of the displacement of millions around the world and the illegalization of immigrants here in the US. We wanted to address militarization as a new form of colonization —it is racialized, it is a form of legalized economic exploitation, and it is an ideology that is pervasive in our culture. We gathered in Union Park and declared it a temporary Liberation Square. Next we marched downtown, stopping along the way for an action at the Boeing world headquarters. We staged a people’s trial of Boeing, and by extension of the broader military-industrial complex. Aside from the pre-scripted testimony, the call-and-response nature of the action helped to unleash a collective energy that engaged us all as active participants, not merely an audience for a political rally or speech. Unscripted chants and accusations broke out throughout the action, a sense of collectivity emerging from a shared expression of outrage, urgency and fierceness that was intensely mobilizing. After the trial, the verdicts and calls for restoration, the crowd broke out into a spontaneous street dance party. What follows is the transcript from the people’s trial of Boeing. ◊