No Papers No Fear: Immigration Activists
Immigration activists in No Papers No Fear have declared their undocumented status to combat the fear and violence in the federal immigration system.
No Papers No Fear in action
Photo Courtesy No Papers No Fear
“¿Dónde está la dignidad?” demands 21-year-old activist Fernando Lopez Sanchez in a spoken-word rap on the deportations, detentions, and raids that have defined the modern immigrant experience. Where is the dignity? That question is at the heart of a recent upsurge in immigrant rights activism, one that takes aim not just at recent controversial laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, but at a national system of ICE harassment, silent raids, and deportation programs like so-called “secure communities.” Policies like these, says Sanchez, who is himself undocumented, puts families and communities “constantly at risk, no matter where they are.”
But recently, within the immigrant rights movement, the demand for dignity has begun to reach fever pitch. And one of the most vibrant and courageous campaigns has been spearheaded by No Papers No Fear, an organization that aims to confront the pervasive fear and violence that have dominated the experience of immigrants in America for generations. In late July, Sanchez, along with dozens of other undocumented activists climbed aboard No Papers’ UnDocuBus and embarked on an eleven-state journey from Phoenix to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Refusing to remain in the shadows, the activists openly declared their status in places where immigrants are most vulnerable to persecution, like Arizona and Georgia. “I am going to get arrested because I am tired of living in fear,” No Papers No Fear activist Natally Cruz wrote from Phoenix. “We are coming out of our fear.”
In recent years, “coming out” statements like this have become more and more common. One of the most prominent was that of Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist who declared his undocumented status in the summer of 2011, in the pages of the New York Times. Undocumented Dreamer activists have also “come out,” even as they engaged in rallies, hunger strikes, and sit-ins at Democratic Party offices to demand federal action on the DREAM Act, which failed to pass in 2011. President Obama’s executive order earlier this year, which offered temporary legal status to young immigrants meeting certain conditions was welcomed by some, but affected only a small fraction of the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. today. Many activists wanted more.