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Challenging Our Ideas of Home & Belonging: The Importance of DREAM 9 & DREAM 30 Actions

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Co-authored by Lulu Martinez

On Monday, September 30, thirty individuals who were raised in the U.S. but were deported or forced to return to their countries of origin in Latinoamérica, turned themselves in to immigration authorities at the Laredo, Texas port of entry. They are asking for humanitarian parole in an effort to return home to the U.S. and be reunited with their families. They will be transferred to different detention centers in Texas on Tuesday, October 1 until President Obama and/or John Sandweg, director of ICE, allow them to fight their cases from their respective U.S. states or within the detention centers for the next few years.

Humanitarian parole would allow the DREAM 30 to be reunited with their families and continue to grow alongside their communities. However, there are still other borders and barriers that prevent folks like the DREAM 9 and the DREAM 30 from reaching their full potential as valuable individuals with dreams and unique transnational identities and wisdom. Despite these facts, actions like the DREAM 9 and DREAM 30 are awakening and encouraging conversations about the multiplicity within our communities and identities. Coming out as undocumented and as queer forces the country and our distinct immigrant communities to reconsider what it means to belong.

Although these transnational young people, like the U.S. dreamers, still face material barriers like accessing higher education and finding employment that recognizes their skills and wisdom, these actions are:

1. Challenging what it means to be young, undocumented, and queer. The DREAM 9 and DREAM 30 actions have surfaced the many isms left unchallenged within our own progressive spaces. As young people and activists, we are condemned for our choices and actions, without affirmation or recognition of our self-determination and collective agency. We are often described as careless, reckless, oblivious, and immature. However, we consistently and explicitly speak about our undocumented status to engage in conversations about citizenship and the fight for material access, because we recognize the very real needs of our families and communities. Simultaneously, our actions challenge the contradictions that exist within politicians' and nonprofits' "good immigrant"/"good DREAMer" narrative by including aged-out, under-aged, queer, and undocumented folks with misdemeanors. We recognize the limitations existent within citizenship because we continue to exist in the margins.

In the wake of both structural and interpersonal violence, our movement is one of love for ourselves and each other. As young people, we are coming together, realizing and challenging our society's structural ills, organizing across our lines of difference, and being intentional about our strategies to cross borders, both physical and others less tangible. Our rallies, marches, and other events are ultimately an honest and caring way of telling each other, and the many others like us, that we exist. We are undocumented, unafraid, and we exist. Our very lives, our actions, and our collective truths are contradicting the dominant ideas of who we are as young people, as undocumented, as queers.

Likewise, our identities as queers are understood by people to mean immoral, sexual deviancy and we are seen with a singular, hyper-sexualized, and racialized lens. However, in the same way that our sexualities and genders are fluid, our queer identity is a linguistic way of explicitly pointing out the constellation of experiences, dreams, and values that we represent. As a general trend, we are family-oriented people, and individuals like Marcela Espinoza, her mother and siblings, continue to point this out for us. In 2005, Marcela, a Chicagoan dreamer who is part of the DREAM 30, returned to Mexico to care for her ill grandmother. Like Marcela's family, we see our mothers, tias, abuelas coming home after performing strenuous labor that pays them little. Still, day after day, they manage to support our immediate and extended families often with little support and recognition from others. Our fathers are racially profiled and arrested under the pretext of not carrying a driver's license. The U.S. has historically excluded, silenced, and removed people of color from our social fabric, and our fathers continue to be perceived as violent and aggressive as a way to silence and erase their existence. The stress of assimilating into American culture becomes more burdensome, even illusory. We find our cousins, siblings, friends, and ourselves competing for the few scholarships available to undocumented students instead of collectively building around our skills and knowledges. We work meaningless, taxing jobs, and hold fundraisers to barely meet a semester's tuition. Ultimately, our lack of access, including the violent criminalization of all people of color and immigrants, is felt very deeply and personally. It is for these very reasons that we are able to submit ourselves to other explicitly emotional, physical, and psychological challenges when we organize around deportation cases or when we enter detention centers. We are willing to stay in detention centers indefinitely, submit ourselves to solitary confinement, like the six out of the nine dreamers of the DREAM 9 action, and starve for days on hunger strikes. Our families and communities are worth it. We are worth it.

2. Showing that love knows no boundaries. Undocumented youth who have come out of the shadows and the closet sleep little and strategize and organize a lot because we see our and our families' well-being as one and the same. We face this fight with the love and support of our same-sex partners and with the strength and tools that past social justice movements have granted us. Out of a sense of responsibility to our families and future generations, we cross any border. We risk everything to be home, where our families are.

Although our families and communities pride themselves in our leadership of this undocumented student movement, they refuse to expose our homosexuality, abiding by religious dogma. Yet, as undocumented, we know that the same courage it took to voice our status, the same courage it took to stage the first sit-in at Senator McCain's office, and get arrested at a multitude of other actions, is the same courage and resilience it takes to challenge our families' and communities' ideas of what it means to belong as daughters or sons, or to our ethnic communities as fellow members. Queer means being a human being just like undocumented means being a human being.

Because we draw strength from relationships that cross borders, we fight this fight as openly queer.

3. Redefining our ideas of "home." Bringing dreamers "home" also means welcoming us in our totality: as queers, our physical bodies, our decisions, and our vision of the type of world we long for. "Bring Them Home" is a layered concept: our physical home, neighborhood, the smells, sounds, and tastes of what is familiar. At the same time, we acknowledge that the definition of home also refers to our chosen families, their love, the childhood stories of our parents, and accents in our English or Spanglish from other Latinos. Home also means our own physical bodies, and the multiple spaces we share and create with others.

4. Allowing us to realize the basic building blocks of change. Building our movements requires the ability to make ourselves vulnerable as it entails sharing our truths, struggles, and ultimately our lives and their complexities. As we continue to organize, and build, and create collectively, we realize that we can transcend borders when we disengage from oppressive structures and institutions and support each other and our individual and collective trajectories. We realize that in recognizing our wisdom and truths, we can change our lives and the course of history.

More generally, the DREAM 30 remind us that borders of all kinds are socially constructed, and that we can transcend them collectively-- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We have nothing to lose and only our liberation and humanity to gain.

Lulú Martínez is a queer Chicana from Tlalnepantla, Mexico. She immigrated to the U.S. with her parents and brother at the age of three and began organizing after one of her peers was put into deportation proceedings. She helped co-found the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), a Chicago-based undocumented youth-led organization and has come out in several spaces as undocumented and queer. Lulú spent two years organizing in the Southeast with the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA) and Southerners On New Ground (SONG), from whom she learned to apply a feminist theoretical lens into her work and vision. Her shared identities and experiences continue to encourage her to move towards a path of truth-seeking, deep spiritual and political thought and organizing efforts that recognize multiplicities in the spaces she shares. More recently, she participated in the DREAM 9 action and self-deported to Mexico as a way of overcoming physical and imagined borders through community love and sisterhood. Lulú also loves gardening, singing, dancing and you'll often hear her talking about the complex personalities of her two cats: Pandora and Bo.