Dreamers protest system creating criminals
LA’s Immigrant Youth Coalition is fighting for ‘our right to be human’
Dragging chains and bed frames into the street, young activists blocked an intersection in front of LA’s Federal Building on Wilshire Blvd. on October 5. According to the LA Daily News, the protesters said they were “fighting for our right to be human … as refugees from all different parts of the world.” Police arrested nine people for filing to disperse.
Kevin Flores was one of those protesters, now known as the “Wilshire 9.” An active undocumented student at Cal State LA, he told the Tribuno Del Pueblo that the protest arose after the Trump administration set October 5 as the deadline to renew DACA permits, which protect some youth from deportation and allow them to work. The administration has threatened to end DACA.
“We chose to draw attention to this injustice,” Flores said, “and also to JusticeLA’s campaign against LA County spending $3 billion to build two more jails.” JusticeLA was formed to reimagine what L.A. County could do with the $3.2 billion, and it is composed of local unions, immigrants-rights groups, Black Lives Matter, LA CAN homeless activists, and church activists.
They weren’t fighting just Republicans like the president, Flores said, because Democrats run LA County and the Democratic Obama administration deported more people than any other. “Our movement started before the 2016 election,” he said, “and during the Obama administration a group of undocumented youth, mostly queer, started rising up.”
Flores participates in the Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC), which began in the San Gabriel Valley east of downtown LA, and “is about stopping deportations and criminalization of undocumented and other people of color.
“A lot of non-profit organizations supported Dreamers, but not those who dropped out of college, or who had convictions on their records, or those, like our parents, who aren’t students,” he explained.
Flores said that the IYC and others saw that the legal and immigration systems were actually creating undocumented “criminals” by deporting people for such violations as driving without a license or having false papers, even though those cases were years old.
“It’s better to rehabilitate than incarcerate – better for that person and for society,” Flores said. “Eighty percent of incarcerated people are there for non-violent crimes like drug possession.”
Fighting these injustices led to activists blocking a major intersection on October 5. “Some haters tried to drive at us — and one hit our camera guy, but police ignored that,” he said. But the police ticketed the Wilshire 9, charging them a $281 fine. “We’re fighting the charges,” Flores said, “but also raising money to pay the fines, just in case.”
“If charges get dropped we’ll use the money raised to fight deportations of people,” he said, explaining that he’s been using the fundraising to organize and raise awareness.
Learn more on the Immigrant Youth Coalition at http://theiyc.org/.