I am a sovereign migrant
Dreamers Adrift > Undocublog
By ille the gal
Being born here does not make you an American. I am not an American, you are not an American. You are one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of America…You are not an American, you are the victim of America!
I had been reflecting on terms/words that had been developed by radical people of color to reflect their politics. For instance, instead of “African American,” some may consider themselves “New Afrikan,” and rather than “Mexican American,” some may consider themselves “Chicana/o.” I’ve been hoping to develop a term that similarly defines “Asian Americans” as I’ve always had an issue with this term.
As for my lifelong personal conflict with the term “Asian American”, I’m not legally an American, and the term “Asian immigrant” has felt alienated from my experiences of growing up in the U.S. and from the collective “Asian American” struggle. Now, politically, I understand that to consider oneself “Asian American” is to assert a collective struggle and presence of those with Asian ancestry to be within the fabric of U.S. history. However, this is where my political rejection of the term “Asian American” comes in: To assert Asians as “American” is to also want to demand validation from an imperialist nation-state that has been built with the oppression of these same “Asian Americans” and other people of color. And so, if I put aside my long-developed insecurities of being “undocumented” and never being allowed to be an “American,” I question why I would wish to associate as “American” in the first place. I’m slowly mulling my thoughts over on possible terms.
James Yaki Sayles on On Transforming the Colonial and “Criminal” Mentality:
Aponte’s previous violations of the colonialist state’s law were violations of an individual, for personal gain. But more important, they were seen even by him at that stage as true “violations of law” because the “law” and the state that it upheld were still recognized by Aponte as being legitimate. He was a “criminal” because he still saw himself as a “criminal” within the definition and the practice of colonialist oppression. This is an aspect of the “criminal” and the colonial mentality: continued recognition and acceptance of legitimacy of colonial rule; to continue to feel that the colonial state has a right to rule over the colonized.
To reflect on what Sayles had written, I can’t say that I’ve ever considered myself to be a criminal. However, that was only because I had never committed a crime as I entered the U.S. with a visa and overstayed it; a civil violation at best. But what is the “justification” for other “undocumented” people who entered the U.S. without a visa, and thus, committed a “crime”? This had always bothered me as it was fuel for people who were against immigration reform, and all I could tell them was that the laws were unjust. But for me, now, to truly be “undocumented” and unafraid is not to try to justify my presence by asking for validation from this heteropatriarchal capitalistic imperialist state that exists as an international force of oppression.
To turn my thought process over to the label of my immigration status, I don’t feel that I can personalize myself to be an “undocumented immigrant” any longer. I can accept it as a label that has been issued to me as part of my identity, however, I no longer wish to internalize that label as I believe doing so is oppressive. The words “illegal,” “unauthorized,” and “undocumented” (regardless how one is received over the other) all imply that there are then those with legality, authorization, documents; they are ill-defining words that have been imposed upon us in order to put us in a position of invalidation and a place without power. And the word “immigrant” is but a kinder word for the term “settler,” as in settler colonialism.
As most are aware, the U.S. was developed by settler colonialists; Europeans decided to build over already existing communities of people whom they ascribed as “primitive” in order to justify mass genocide and expansion over land. To simplify, the U.S. is technically an illegitimate existence that forcefully built over indigenous people’s societies, which had been in existence for thousands of years and have resisted extinction for the past five hundred years. Thus, the “documented” are but less-recent immigrants who are also “illegal” as their presence is unwanted, “unauthorized.” If we are to acknowledge that the U.S. has “illegally” settled on indigenous lands, then on who’s terms am I “illegal”? If I choose to reject the U.S.’s classification of my existence, then I am technically an autonomous being living on indigenous land. I wish to be the sole sovereign of myself in search of self-determination.
Based on these current reflections, I would like to consider myself a “sovereign migrant” rather than an “undocumented immigrant” in order to take back my power.
I am merely one of millions of travelers and migrants in the course of human history who have ventured to a land outside of their place of origin; indeed, this is how a multiplicity of ethnicities were able to develop in the first place, as human beings originated from Africa, then migrated and adapted/mutated. When the idea of “immigration” is viewed under a larger context of the different systems and societies human beings have lived with during our 500,000 year history, then the idea of enforcing exclusionary and oppressive borders begin to be able to be seen for what it is: an unjust social construct that can and should be deconstructed and dismantled.
Thus, the reasons I now fight for “immigration reform,” or migrant self-determination, is to assist migrants in having more control in self-determining their lives as it is unjust for the U.S. to assert borders for land they have no legitimacy to, and it is unjust to deny human rights. It is acknowledged that having a radical analysis in the rationalizations for supporting “U.S. immigration reform” doesn’t justify the oppressive and futile nature of demanding integration into U.S. society. Thus, I believe that giving support to the indigenous people’s struggle for decolonization and liberation should be addressed in practice along with migrant self-determination. Though, there is no doubt that I would support decolonization regardless of being a sovereign migrant as I am a victim of U.S. imperialism, as all oppressed nations/nationalities are, and support all fronts that exist against the struggle.
ille the gal is a radical undocumented writer and blogger. You can check out her tumblr here.