By Tania Unzueta | Jan 20, 2017

Mijente Concept Plan for Resisting and Building in 2017

The 2016 election brought into clear focus a political landscape wrought with live wires of anxiety, fear and polarization in the United States. It proved to us that demographic change is not already here and reminded us that although it is a welcome change for some, it is viewed as a dire threat to others. What we have now is a completely different political moment. And as a result we must strive to be different political actors.

This document outlines initial plans for Mijente and the Not1More Campaign following the results of the 2016 Presidential Election. We will be inviting a robust set of partners into this work with us. Here are some of our guiding assumptions about the political moment and our approach:

  • We woke up to a big, red state after Election Day. The reality is that some of us have already been living in some version of Trump’s America. This is a time to center on the wisdom and well-worn tools and practices of people who have the most experience living and organizing in non-petitionable governments.
  • We need bolder vision for all of us, more than ever. Some will claim that this backlash occurred because social movements demanded too much too soon. We absolutely reject this notion. In fact, the middle of the road, low hanging fruit approach to leadership and policy platforms have generated less enthusiasm, less purpose and less turnout.
  • We need to recommit to base-building. Across sectors resources have been moved away from members and bases and towards ‘air war’ communications strategies. As a result, we have email lists and not membership bases. There are no real substitutes for people power – now is a time to recommit to base-building.
  • The threats we face require collaboration. We can’t fend off the threats we face, much less advance, if we fight alone in our own sectors and silos. It is time for a new era of collaboration across communities. We must now name common enemies and common goals and broaden our organizations and alliances accordingly. Mijente is looking to build a team of the willing. We know that it is not just one community that has a target on their backs. Many people face significant threats because of Trump’s victory. We also know that the time is now to transform the methods we use as we work across race and class.
  • We need innovation at the level of organizations & infrastructure. Many of our organizations felt limited in their resistance to Trump’s rise in the 2016 election because our work was bound to non-profit organizing formation. We have to find ways to organize in different formations, using our creativity to create protection, resistance, security, and alternatives.
  • Sanctuary can be a beacon if it’s redefined. Sanctuary, both as a policy and practice, holds tremendous potential if we set out to re-envision and expand its meaning. In a time where our movements and communities will be attacked, it stands as a potential beacon to protect and assert our self-determination and collective strength.

As the new administration takes power, we will center on:

  • Protection and defense
  • Preparation for rapid response across movement
  • Collaboratively building the alternative to the Trump Agenda

We believe the greatest latitude and potential comes in understanding ourselves as the alternative to the Trump agenda. Framing ourselves narrowly as the opposition or resistance cedes the agenda to the extremists. When we discuss opportunities to “go on the offense” we often limit our imaginations to possible wins. However, establishing an alternative encourages base-building, opens initiatives outside of policy, and distributes responsibility for change to all individuals. It forces us to assess real power and ask how we are meeting the needs and desires of impacted people beyond being the party of “no.”

To accomplish this, we will:

Launch Mijente’s Membership Program & Form Local Committees

The shape of 21st century organizations is changing. To address this, Mijente launched a multi-tier dues paying membership program in the first week of December of 2016, through which it will recruit and engage immigrant and U.S. born Latinx and Chicanx people. Members will be engaged in organizational and member driven initiatives at the national level, as well as locally through local affinity groups or committees. These affinity groups will support in community defense and rapid response. As part of the membership program, we are launching a virtual training program for local coordinators who will help hold local committees.

The membership program will continue and expand the work with existing local base-building organizations–this has traditionally occurred through the #Not1More Deportation campaign. Mijente members will be encouraged to join and/or collaborate with existing organizations. These organizations will be critical hubs for community defense and rapid response.

The membership program will be widely distributed across the country as it is hosted on our digital platform. Local committees will be member driven, however we will prioritize cities where we have an established presence and/or where we anticipate gaps in needs and resources. In particular, we will be focusing on the southwest, southeast and Midwest regions.

Consolidate & Distribute ‘Tried and True’ Defense Programs & Tools

We understand that marginalized and criminalized people have lived knowledge of how to resist and survive repression. We seek to position and amplify grassroots organizations and organizers that have been on the front lines of extremism and fundamentalism and who have tools that are ‘tried and true’.

As various sectors and communities seek assistance or offer support we need to provide accurate information, tools and guidance. Here’s how we will do this:

  1. Partner with local front-line organizations to develop curriculum and tools from deportation defense, Know Your Rights 2.0, to creating police/ICE free zones.
  2. Partner with allies to develop guides and tools to facilitate internal support or solidarity – from labor, faith, teachers, etc.
  3. Curriculum will be tailored and/or adaptable to various types of repression – from immigrant status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, gender and race.
  4. Help form a table of deportation defenders. Confronting the new terrain of enforcement will require our movements’ best minds to come together to innovate, brainstorm, and experiment with new strategies that blend legal, organizing, and communications to prevent unjust This will be a place to convene people who have experience in case-by-case deportation defense campaigns to strategize what this work can look like under a Trump presidency.

Accompaniment, Technical Assistance, Rapid Response

In order to disseminate the trainings and tools that we will develop (and to ensure that local committees succeed) we will need to invest significantly in organizing support and technical assistance. Towards that, we will hire regional organizers to provide hands-on support. This work will include training, mentorship, troubleshooting, and directly supporting the building of the committees themselves. These organizers will directly support local communities and mobilize national support in cases where rapid response is needed. At the national level (noted more explicitly in the movement building section below) we will develop partnerships with sectors and groups who can provide support.

Communications Platforms for Movement Building

Complete communications strategies require engagement of earned media, social networks, selfgenerated content, and validators.

The success of the Trump presidency demonstrates weaknesses in what was previously viewed as common knowledge acceptance of polling and the centrality of pursuing certain media coverage.

Instead, it showed a strength of savvy audience development via social media, niche consolidation of followers, and the use of third-party validators. At the same time, progressive movements have encountered media white-outs of moments of convergence such as Standing Rock and are increasingly relying upon alternative outlets as primary sources.

Mijente will continue to develop its website and social platforms as a unique space for the voices, perspectives, and actions of Latinx changemakers – creating a nexus for activity and analysis that consolidates a niche market for the ideas and strategies from and for the front-lines.

Movement building and collaboration Protection Networks

Because we seek to build a ‘team of the willing’, part of the work now will be forging new formations and partnerships while centering what has been working and who has been advancing innovative strategy. Concretely that will be multi-racial people of color-led formations, immigrant rights coalitions, and efforts to impact the broader Latino community response and leadership in this moment.

We can’t hunker down in our own silos now around single issues. With so many people looking for places to come into this work, we see opportunities in labor, faith, healers and health practitioners, artists, donor networks, and more to be engaged as political actors in unprecedented ways to train, organize, collaborate, and mobilize.

Local Campaigns to Defund Police, Dismantle ICE and Redefine Sanctuary

In recent years, the term “sanctuary” has referred to local policies that limit when and if local law enforcement communicates with or submits to (often unconstitutional) requests from federal immigration agents. But this is a country where over-policing results in 1 in 3 people being arrested at least once by the age of 23. A country where evolving technology places fingerprint scanners in the palm of every law enforcement officers’ hand. And as we anticipate the growth in the number of federal agents active in our cities, sanctuary in practice and as a movement demand has to evolve.

There are more people in need of refuge than the undocumented. There are more agencies that are threats than ICE. In addition to local governments finding real ways to limit the federal reach into immigrant’s homes, and putting real resources into defending and protecting immigrant communities, ‘sanctuary’ under Donald Trump requires cities to dismantle the current policing apparatus that acts as a funnel to incarceration and the deportation machine.

The mainline frame from immigrant rights groups to advocate for a separation between local law enforcement and ICE has been that, in order for all of our communities to be safer, immigrants need to be able to trust the local police. What this messaging has always ignored is that police play the central function of criminalizing communities of color. In fact, a national study of Latino attitudes toward police found that they had nearly the same levels of trust in Sheriff Arpaio’s Maricopa County as they did in a sanctuary city like Chicago.

Recognition that racialized policing is the basis and entry-point for placing someone in deportation proceedings, demonstrates that there is a strategic necessity to include policing practices as a primary point of intervention. Being sought after by ICE is most often the result of interactions with local police departments, including those with long records of civil rights violations, violence, and abuse of power. While ICE and DHS have significant resources, it will be local police and jails that remain the key in identifying, entering into gang databases, and apprehending individuals in order to justify (through criminalization) and carry out mass deportation.

As cited by BYP100 and the Movement for Black Lives policy platform, organizing to defend and protect immigrant communities must include joining or launching in campaigns with demands to defund and dismantle both institutions. Sanctuary as a concept can be redefine to call upon a broad swath of institutions and civil society, but in addition, collective protection and defense should be extended to all communities of color facing criminalization and persecution.

Moving Forward

Those of us who live in the US are not alone in what we face. We must do our part. Our charge now is to use the bedrock of what we know about organizing to build further, work smarter, and dive deeper than we have before. Of course, we are concerned about what is to come. But, those of us who have been living under constant threat in this country do have skills, guts and strength to bring to this moment. We need to combine with those new to our struggles to use what Dr. King called ‘soul force’: the relentless practice of bringing what we have inside to what the moment needs from us.

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