- Synopsis: Introduction; the mission of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee RightsKeywords: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; ICIRR; advocacy organizations; activism; legislation; lobbying; institutionsted; DREAMers; immigrationTranscript: LAURA VIVALDO CHOLULA: So today is Tuesday, June 12, 2016. I'm here with Cindy. Cindy, if you just want to tell me what your role is within ICIRR.
CINDY AGUSTIN: Okay, and so, I am currently the assistant to the executive director. This is my third time back at ICIRR. I started at ICIRR back in 2010 as an intern while I was still a student. And then after graduating from college, I started working as a youth organizer.I left for a couple of years and now I'm back, and because of our budget cuts, my position is a little bit of everything right now. But it, you know, because I understand the work that ICIRR does, I really wanted to come back and see what more I can contribute to the large, larger immigration fight that we're in right now.
VIVALDO: What is, what does ICIRR stand for and what is its mission?
AGUSTIN: So ICIRR is the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and we are a large coalition made up of hundreds of member organizations that include community organizations, institutions such as universities, student groups, as well as other institutions who work with immigrants and refugees. We—most of our work focuses on advocacy. Advocating for the rights of the undocumented, of immigrants and refugees as well as a little bit of some of the services. We don't necessarily offer drug services to immigrants, but we work with our member organizations who do. And we take a lead in a lot of the advocacy, advocacy work that's going on around right issues that are affecting immigrant community, immigrant communities in Illinois.
VIVALDO: Can I ask you why you're interested in working with ICIRR?
AGUSTIN: Yeah, I see ICIRR as an organization that has a lot of history, has a lot of resources in terms of the people that they're connected to, connected with, and working with and have worked with for many, many years and I think that's very unique in Illinois. I sometimes see ICIRR as the organization that's trying to bring in different worlds of the Immigrant rights world here in Illinois: bringing in those who are little more conservative when it comes to fighting for immigrant rights and those who are little bit more out there when it comes to immigration, right? And I see ICIRR as one of the organizations that's trying to, tries to bring them all together and fight for the rights of the in documented. I think ICIRR realizes that they have resources that other organizations don't have, and so I feel, like, you know, the work that we do, right, everyone here is very conscious of that and figuring out how do we support organizations that might not have access to the resources that we do. How do we bring them into the meetings with elected officials right, so that they can start building that relationship with them and advocate for themselves.in their District? Or how do we, you know, even as simple as how do we provide space for them to meet or to have, right...how to have these conversations with their—either their leaders or within their own organization by us providing the information, right? Within our organization, we have people who are very, very experienced in this world. Fred, for example, our policy director, is, you know, he's the one that's running all of the legislation, right? He's the one, you know, he's our policy director, so he knows what's going on. He reads the bills when they come out, he reads all of the decisions of the Supreme Court, right, and gives us a sense of what's going on and what's next and sharing this knowledge with others who don't have access to a policy person in the organization or don't have access to someone, or don't have the time, right, to sit down and read an immigration bill for five hours and then give us a, you know, an update on what all of that means, right, and being conscious of this is what we as ICIRR have and it's you know, it's our role to share it with others and make sure that everyone—we're as much as we can, on the same page or at least in the same chapter in the book, right, to move forward with pushing for immigrant rights.
- Synopsis: ICIRR and the Illinois DREAM ActKeywords: Illinois Dream Act; USB 1070; DREAMers; dreamers; undocumented; student organizations; activism; Pat Quinn; advocacy; in-state tuitionTranscript: VIVALDO: I know ICIRR has been involved heavily in legislature such as Illinois. DREAM Act. Also the temporary visitors driver's licenses and, as well as, currently, the ACCESS Bill. What was your involvement with the Illinois DREAM Act?
AGUSTIN: So the Illinois DREAM Act. When we were pushing forward, I was still a student as a senior in college and really the Illinois DREAM Act was a response to the failure of the federal DREAM Act. So all of 2010—in 2010, I think was a very was a big year for for immigration, right, for immigration reform, for just immigration, the topic of immigration, right? We started off the year with very high hopes that immigration reform is going to happen, that that was going to be the year. We had the midterm elections. President had been in office for two years. This was going to be the year. We started off very hopeful. We went to DC in March, right, thousands of people make the way out there. That's how I got involved, organizing a bus to go to DC with the—with the idea that immigration reform was going to come this year. Summer of 2010, right, we have USB 1070 in May of that year, and that's when we started, I think a lot of us started to see that there is a lot of anti-immigrant hate out there and I think, at least for me here in Illinois, it was surprising because Illinois times ten—was more, was a little bit more immigrant friendly than other states. Right, so we had in-state tuition, for example. We had all grades for young, for young children regardless of immigration status, right? So, it was friendlier than other states, especially around us, but I think USB 1070 was very eye opening. "Oh gosh, this is actually happening and it can happen in our state," right, and changing the conversation from that to the federal DREAM Act, right? Seeing that there was a possibility that this could happen. Didn't happen in December. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough votes. And I think Illinois really took it as, "All right, we can't do this at the national level, then what can we do at the local level, right? At the state level?" And that's when we started having conversations around the Illinois DREAM Act. At that time, I remember we were trying to figure out what can we push for as undocumented students, as undocumented people, as undocumented communities, to help our, you know, to help us. To help us. To help other young people who were in the situation of "I can't afford to go to school." One of the big issues at that time was that there was no education on issues related to undocumented students. I remember we used to make our youth justice—we used to beg our teachers to let us come back to our high school to give these presentations because there wasn't an interest. It wasn't on their agenda. The principal didn't—wasn't really thinking about it. Or the counselor wasn't thinking about it. Then we actually had to start from "Let's go to our old high schools and see what we can do," right? But nothing was standard. And so the Illinois DREAM Act—we were trying to think of things that we could win at the state level knowing that it wasn't going to be everything. Knowing that we weren't going to be able to get driver's licenses with the Illinois DREAM Act. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to get state financial aid at that time. Right, but trying to think "Look, what are some things that we can do?" And that's how we came up with the three main things for the Illinois DREAM Act, including you know, that, that includes the Illinois DREAM commission, right, where undocumented young people, young students are able to apply for scholarships, right, so that they can continue their studies; the Illinois DREAM Act training for all of the school districts here in Illinois so that they know about the rights and issues that affect undocumented students and opening up the college savings plans for undocumented families; not requiring the Social Security number so that our parents can start saving up for college while we're in grammar school or high school, right? And so these were, although it's not a huge win, right, we didn't get any—we didn't you know, we didn't get state financial aid, for example—I think it's really moved the conversation of undocumented students forward. And because, since 2011, we've seen more school districts wanting to learn more about "How can I support the undocumented students in my school? Even if it's only for five of them, right?" The Illinois DREAM Act training has been very successful within the Chicago Public Schools, right? One of the largest school districts in the United States. Right, and you know, ICIRR and other key organizations have always been part of the trainings, making sure that teachers, counselors are getting the right information on how to work with undocumented students. With the Illinois DREAM Act, right, it was very—it was very undocumented- student driven, right? We were the ones that were going to Springfield regularly, sharing our stories about how the Illinois DREAM Act would help us. Or, in a lot of cases, help our younger brothers and sisters or other, you know, younger students who were not yet in college, who were in high school, and were sharing that, you know, " My counsellor told me I can't go to college because I'm undocumented, right, and changing their minds. But also changing the minds of—we're not, as Illinois, we're not an anti-immigrant State. We are immigrant friendly, we support our immigrant brothers and sisters. We support our, you know, our immigrant undocumented students and we want to provide them resources, but we have. It took a lot of calling state representatives, calling state senators, making trips to Springfield on a weekly basis on my part, as much as I could. Going to Springfield, doing the phone banks, getting the petitions signed, doing whatever you could do to get the Illinois DREAM Act.
VIVALDO: How long was this process from conversations of an Illinois DREAM Act to the actual bill being signed by the governor?
AGUSTIN: I think the actual conversations may have started shortly after we came back from D.C. I would say, probably midwinter. I know that after the Coming Out of the Shadows in 2011, we did start—we met up here and ICIRR after the event to talk about the Illinois DREAM Act. After, you know, some conversations that some of the staff at that time had had with, I think, the speaker of the house at that time, and, right, and what they thought, what was possible with the Illinois DREAM Act, it was a watered-down version of what we wanted.And I think that's what you learn when you do this kind of work is that you're not always going to get you want. So what can you get that will help your community instead of hurting it. And then we were—all of spring, we were going down to Springfield and it was the last day of session, Memorial Day, that we were all there, and it finally passed. And I think a lot of us work really sure if it would happen, but it was a day off from school, a day off from work, so we went down to Springfield and it happened on that very last day. And then it was finally signed in August at Juárez High School, right, by the governor, Pat Quinn at that time, with undocumented students taking the stage, undocumented students being able to see the governor sign legislation that is supporting them, that is supporting younger generations of undocumented youth.
VIVALDO: What was the negative feedback to the Illinois DREAM Act?
AGUSTIN: Yeah, I think a lot of the conversations—and even from me, for me, right—was this isn't enough and we knew that, “All right, you know, you can talk to my counselor and you can talk to them about the resources available for me, but we, I still can't afford to go to school,” right? And even though we have the Dream Fund, right, which just offers private scholarships, that still requires fundraising from our part because state dollars aren’t being used to fund raise, right, or to fund those scholarships. And so it's a little bit more work and, I mean, it wasn't enough. It wasn't what we wanted, but it is a step in the right direction. And so, I think when you look at it big picture, we're moving forward versus moving back. Because at that time, we were also seeing other universities, Georgia, for example, who was banning undocumented students from attending the public universities, not even allowing them to apply, and we wanted to show that Illinois is not like that. We have in-state tuition and now we're going to show what else we can offer our undocumented students. But it's—a lot of, I think, a lot of the pushback from advocates from those who were directly affected, right, was that it wasn't enough and I think that's really tricky when we talk about policy and legislation. It’s that it's never enough and that's true, sadly. We have to compromise all the time, which is frustrating, as someone who was directly affected by these issues that compromise to someone who's not directly affected and is only doing it for political reasons, it's just a compromise, but for someone who's directly affected, a compromise can change a lot of things.
VIVALDO: When was the Illinois DREAM Act passed again?
AGUSTIN: 2011. May, 2011 is when it passed.
- Synopsis: Coming out as undocumented before Deferred Action for Childhood ArrivalsKeywords: undocumented; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; DACA; coming out of the shadows; telling stories; storytellingTranscript: VIVALDO: How difficult was it to come out openly as undocumented in 2011 when deferred action hadn't passed yet?
AGUSTIN: I think it was very different after 2010, once more undocumented young people started coming out. I think it helped a lot that, I mean, living in Chicago was very different than living in Indiana, for example, right? And maybe even the suburbs outside of Chicago. Of, you know, there was a lot of organizing happening in Chicago with undocumented young people, right, undocumented young people changing the conversation, being open about their undocumented status, creating safe spaces to come out, right? As well as, just the social networks as well. I think within the undocumented young community—I mean, I think just general, generally, right, social media has played a big part to allow you to connect with other undocumented young people across the United States that you wouldn't have met otherwise because, I mean, a lack of mobility. For example, it's very difficult to get on a plane to go to California, but you know people there now because of the organizing, because of the trips you make to D.C. , or because of the, you know, the so-and-so knows whoever and yeah. But in 2010, I think it was—I don't—like, you felt safer in some way, I think, coming out. At least this was my experience because you were there were other people out there who were public. I think it was very different in 2007 and 2008, where it wasn’t, it wasn't a movement yet, or it wasn't mass Coming Out of the Shadows events happening all across the country. I think, at that time, knowing that we were coming out, we knew that there was a risk of people recognizing us, of immigration maybe placing us in deportation, right? I think for me, the main concern was more my parents versus myself, realizing the privilege that I had as a student. I was a student. I was, you know, I was with, you know, if I was ever placed in deportation, I knew that there would be a chance that I would be okay in some ways, right, through the organizing, but understanding that that would not be the case for my parents for whatever reason because that is not the story that people want to hear.
So, that was, I think, my main concern. I think that was a concern for a lot of other young people that I would talk to. I think it’s changed a little more now. You see more parents more adults coming out and being okay with being open about their immigration status. I don't know. I don't exactly know what the difference is between then and now, post-DACA, just because I think it's a little different now. More people are more open about their immigration status. There is a protection of being—of, “Well, whatever happens, I still have my work permit with DACA, still here. But I think it's—I'm very interested to see what age ranges are coming out. If it's the younger high school students, early college who are coming out and saying they’re undocumented or if it's the older, right, undocumented young people who were waiting for DACA to happen or waiting for something to happen to feel more comfortable coming out. I think it's something that has yet to be looked into in more detail, but something that I think needs to happen, just to see how DACA, or just legislation, whether it's— I mean, DACA isn’t legislation, but it's a program that allows undocumented young people to have access to resources and things that they've never had access to—but seeing how that affects them and who, right, is, as undocumented young people—in my case, right, I grew up undocumented, was undocumented throughout high school and college with the idea that something would happen, not having access to jobs, not having access to internships, not having access to travel, not having access to, you know, to a lot of things, because I didn't have a Social Security number. Now, right, it's a very, it's very different. Now, high school students can actually work. High school students can, you know, do have access to a few more scholarships than they before. College students have access to internships, have access to some of the work might, that the university might offer and even access to traveling, right, through Advanced Parole.
So, it's a very different experience. I think pre- from post-DACA at whatever age range you are.
- Synopsis: ICIRR and the Illinois Access BillKeywords: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; ICIRR; undocumented; immigration; Access Bill; advocacy; activism; legislation; state budget cuts; financing education; grants; scholarshipsTranscript: VIVALDO: So, moving forward, now, there's the Access Bill being proposed, and it's been introduced, and what is ICIRR’s involvement with that?
AGUSTIN: Yeah, so ICIRR has not been as involved as they were with the Illinois DREAM Act. The main reason is just capacity. Without the state budget, ICIRR suffered a lot of cuts. Here at ICIRR, we did administer two state programs, and without the budget, we don't have that money. And so we don't, we can't have our staff working on something that you don't have. So that's been very difficult. We are as minimal as we can get at this point, and we're all doing a little bit of everything because that's, that's what we have to do right now. So, we're not as heavily involved as we were with the Illinois Dream Act. For example, the driver's license bills, but we do have our policy director working closely with the Latino Policy Forum in UIC, writing UIC, I think is one of the universities that's really pushing for, really leading, right, the bill. And then offering, you know, however much staff time we can offer from different staff people to participate in the meetings, right? I know that we’ll have a fellow who'll be working very closely with undocumented student leaders and getting them involved, figuring out who to, who to get, you know, who to target, right, in terms of representatives or senators to vote in favor of the of the Access Bill. But I think it's—we're trying as much as we can. Trying to give whatever we can for the Access Bill. VIVALDO: Could you speak a little bit about the strategies that were used for the Illinois DREAM Act and compare them to the strategies that are being used to pass the Access Bill?
AGUSTIN: I think with the Illinois DREAM Act—and I think this is very different, because with the Illinois DREAM Act. people were a little more open about their undocumented status, and I think now, I don't—I mean, a lot of the strategies that were used back then were storytelling, right? Sharing your story. Sharing how this will affect you. Calling your representatives or legislators. Letting them know that, “Hey I am in your district and you need to vote for this because it affects me.” I think with the Access Bill, we’re in a very difficult situation, too, without a state budget. And I know that a lot of the arguments that representatives and senators, right, at the state level have had is, “Why do we want to give money to you, when we can't even pay, right, or we can't even keep our schools open for our U.S. citizen students. And so, I think it's a very different situation that we're in now than we were before. At that time, I know we didn't want to do the state aid because they, the state didn't have the money to do that. Now, we don't have, I mean, we don't have any money, period. We get, you know, whatever we get this last month to cover, you know, for, a budget for six months. Which is nothing. But I think with the Access Bill, I mean, there have been student voices leading the effort and having university officials also come out and support the students, I think that's great. But I think also realizing that we’re—it's a very different climate—I mean, our governor is very different than who we had, a Democrat, versus a Republican, right? And we are nonpartisan, so we're not supporting either Democrats or Republicans, but I think it does show you, right, how things are going right now with this state based on who’s in office, based on our lack of budget and how that—I mean, it's changed, I think, things a lot more than it should have and I think it's unfortunate that the Access Bill is suffering because we're not passing a state budget.
- Synopsis: ICIRR and Temporary Visitor Driver's LicensesKeywords: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; ICIRR; Temporary Visitor Driver's Licenses; TVDL; undocumented immigrantsTranscript: VIVALDO: Could you speak about ICIRR’s involvement with the passing of the temporary visitor’s driver's licenses bill?
AGUSTIN: Yeah, so ICIRR has been working on passing the driver's license bill for many, many, many, many years. For over ten years. It was over a ten-year long fight of trying to get the driver's license passed—at some point, it was going to be driver’s certificates, right? At another point, it was going to be just a regular driver’s license and we ended up with the temporary visitor’s driver’s license.
But, and so, every election cycle they would be looking at, “Okay, who do we have that could potentially support something for undocumented immigrants and getting a driver's license or a driver's permit or driver certificate—whatever it may be”—so there's a very, very long fight, but ICIRR, right, and everyone that worked on it, including, you know, all the member organizations who were going to Springfield, right, I think did an amazing job. It took a long, long time and again, right, we had to compromise a little more. It's not a regular driver’s license. And it does say “Not valid for identification.” It’s a temporary visitor’s driver's license, but, you know, it's something that keeps individuals who can't have a regular driver’s license, right, keeps them safe from police interactions. ICIRR has been working on it for a long, long while, but it really took, I think, the power of the coalition, of the member organizations, of the businesses, of the sheriffs, of university presidents who were coming out and saying, “Yes, I support, right, I support driver's licenses for my community, for my students, for the parents of my students, for, you know, for everyone.”
- Synopsis: The Secure Communities Program and Priority Enforcement ProgramKeywords: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; ICIRR; Secure Communities Program; Priority Enforcement Program; PEP; Illinois Trust Act; Deferred Action for Parents of Americans; DAPA; Cook County; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; ICE; undocumented immigrantsTranscript: VIVALDO: Could you speak a little bit about what used to be the Secure Communities Program and what its renamed or rebrand to the Priority Enforcement Program and ICIRR’s, I guess, dealing with it.
AGUSTIN: Yeah, so a few years back, right, we had—a couple years back, we had the Secure Communities Program that would allow law enforcement to be in contact with immigration authorities and share information of individuals and place a hold on them if needed. So, ICIRR has been involved in meetings regarding this program, right? We're not in support of Secure Communities, we’re not in support of the program at all. And, you know, ICIRR has been crucial to having county ordinances, right, claiming Cook County as a county that will not work with law enforcement or does not condone immigration law enforcement and local law enforcement working together. Being part of the Welcoming City Ordinance as part of Chicago, right? So, working on it at its local level to get away from Secure Communities and the program. In 2000, I think it's 2011 or 2012, when governor Quinn said that he was not going to allow Illinois to follow or to be part of the Secure Communities Program and a lot of that came, you know, from pressure that he felt from immigrant rights organizations and immigrant rights advocates, including ICIRR. And when I talk about ICIRR, I mean the coalition as a whole, right? Not just the few people here in the office, but ICIRR as the member organizations that we have, right, calling the governor, calling their representatives, asking them to not be, to not stand for Secure Communities, right? And ICIRR has, you know, at some point was trying to pass, the Illinois Trust Act, right, which would have made Illinois a state that would not work or that would have local law enforcement not working with immigration officials and sharing information. That hasn't passed, right, but I know that there are, you know, we go by what our community feels, right? What would they have the energy to work towards, right? And, you know, that might be a conversation that we will have in the near future, right, about other ways to respond to the, to the tie with Secure Communities. And with the DAPA case, right, figuring out other ways to… “Okay, we didn’t win DAPA, but what can we do at the state level to protect our communities?” But we are not in support of any of those programs and we're trying to find ways, right, to work with our members to figure out how to, how to combat those, whether it's at a very local level with the city or the county or at the state level.
VIVALDO: So, with the P-E-P program or the PEP program, there's a lot of organizing that occurs in Cook County to prepare undocumented people to know their rights if ICE would ever come to their homes. Because of so much organizing focused in Chicago, do you think ICE has focused their efforts more—it targets suburban counties? And because of lack of knowledge, lack of organizing in those suburbs?
AGUSTIN: I don't know. I think, it's a little bit more about the resources that are available in those, in those communities. And as a state coalition, we understand that there is a need outside of the city, outside of Cook County, to do more organizing out there. At some point, ICIRR had suburban organizers who were working in the different suburbs, right, in areas outside of Chicago, outside of Cook County, building coalitions of organizations, of churches, of local businesses, of universities, of high schools, coming together and figuring out how they can serve their community. We don't have those. We don't have people like that right now at the organization, so we don't have suburban organizers, and we know that there is a need. I think it's a lot—I think it’s on different levels, right? I think immigration—the, the environment is very different when you're out in the middle of, you know, Bloomington, for example. Southern Illinois. Very different environment than if you're in Chicago. And I imagine that the interactions with the police and immigration are very different than they are here and there's probably, I imagine, more freedom to share information, even though they shouldn't
I think that we do need to increase our Know Your Rights presentations outside of the Cook County area. We do have our hotline, our deportation defense hotline, or people can call in if they are in the process of deportation, or they have a family who was in the process of deportation and we provide referrals or other information that may be useful for them. In our Know Your Rights presentations we’re also, right, we try to give as much information as we can without overwhelming them, but at least giving them, right, community members the basic information of, “Don't open the door if you don't know who it is, or if they're asking for someone if it looks like it's immigration or the police. Make sure that they have a warrant,” Right? Just giving them their Know Your Rights information. I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done in the state of Illinois and, I mean, immigrants are moving away from Chicago and settling, you know, moving on to the suburbs and so there—I think there's an opportunity to go to the suburbs and start organizing and organizing is going to be very different than organizing happening at the city level, right? And taking into consideration the different limitations that people might have when it comes to meeting space, right? You can't ride the bus or you can't ride the train to get to the location, right? You have to be conscious of, “They have to drive somewhere” or, you know, the, and the environment is very different. Police are racial profiling. It’s most likely more prevalent out there than it is here in the city. I think it's a little bit of everything. But, I mean, there is there is a need outside of Chicago to do this organizing.
- Synopsis: ICIRR and Deferred Action for Childhood ArrivalsKeywords: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; ICIRR; undocumented immigrants; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; DACA; deporter-in-chief; deporter in chief; activism; sit-ins; advocacyTranscript: VIVALDO. Okay. So, moving on to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which was an executive action done by President Obama, was there any involvement on behalf of ICIRR to push towards this executive action? Or were there other factors?
AGUSTIN: I think it was a culmination of everything. I think we always talk about it, “Was that one specific group that made it happen?” But I think when you look at the larger, right, thing, it was it was everything. I think it's a bit of everything, right? The organizing around the immigration movement has been happening for years, right? It didn't just learn 2010 when undocumented youth came out. It started years ago, right, with the marches and before that, with the fights that were going on in California, right, against anti-immigrant bills. And so it—I think it's been a culmination of all the work that's happened and I think our tactics, and by “our” I mean, like, immigrant rights movement as a collective, right? Our tactics have gotten better.Right, and I think a huge, huge advantage that we have now is that it's no longer the U.S. citizen individual who has absolutely no connection to the immigrant rights, to the immigrant community, right? They’re no longer the ones leading the strategy, no longer the ones leading the conversations, but we also have children of immigrants. We also have immigrants, we also have undocumented immigrants. We have, you know, different players in the game now doing a lot of the pushing. I think, it was a, you know, it was a combination of the sit-ins that were happening in his office. It was a combination of the politics at that time, right? It was an election year. He was running for president. He didn't, you know, I imagine he was probably wondering, “What do I do with the Latino Community? I need the Latino vote.” That's also when a lot of the conversations were happening around him being “the Deporter-in-Chief.” Right, and we gave him that name because he was deporting more people than any other president has ever done in their presidency. And I think he had, you know, the administration had—knew that this was going to be a difficult election or that was going to be a difficult election, and had to do something, right? And undocumented young people knew that this was an opportunity to take—this election was very important for him, and so that's when we had the sit-ins, right? But, I think prior to that, also looking at all of the work that has happened, it wasn't just that sit-in that—I don't think it was just that sit-in that pushed him over the edge. I think it was a culmination of everything. All of the get-out-the-vote work that was happening. Seeing the power in the Latino vote, right? Seeing the stories that were coming out. Seeing, too, you know, the lens that people—“We’re going to get something,” right? In 2010, he promised us immigration reform. That didn't happen. Right, people were walking to D.C., right, from Miami to D.C. and I think that was, you know, I think that was, that’s something that that played into it, right? The thousands of people to D.C. in March. The Coming Out of the Shadows. The, right, the sit-ins everywhere, right? The advocacy happening for the federal DREAM Act. I think if you know, I really think it's a culmination of everything. I don't think it's that one thing that pushed it, but I think, you know, a lot of credit needs to be given to those who have been organizing for a long time. In particular, I think undocumented people because it's very difficult to keep going and going and be disappointed over and over again. But I get, I mean, I think it’s everything.
- Synopsis: Undocumented youth activismKeywords: undocumented youth; undocumented immigrants; student activism; advocacy; protests; deportation; asylum; civil disobedienceTranscript: VIVALDO: You talked a little bit about, I guess, undocumented youth involvement and undocumented student involvement. Prior to 2012, how much of—how involved were undocumented youth and students involved in, I guess, the immigration movement?
AGUSTIN: I mean, it the involvement has always been there. I think it was, you could see it more because more attention was given to it. I think in 2010, 2009, 2010, 2011, right, there was more attention given to the undocumented students, to the undocumented youth than ever before, you know. I know that it's, you know, undocumented young people have been involved in these conversations for years, right? Many young organizers have been doing this work for ten years, right? Or more than ten years and did spend a very long time of them fighting for something, right, whether it's the DREAM Act or immigration reform or a step for deportations, but they've always been active in some way. But I think it really changed in 2010 when people were starting to feel more comfortable about coming out of the shadows, seeing that other people were doing so and they were safe. Or there was community power behind them and if they were placed in deportation proceedings, right, they would be okay. Or, you know, there was a possibility that they would be okay because they have all this community support. But, I mean, student, undocumented student involvement, undocumented youth involvement has been there for a long, long time. I think it's just greater in numbers now. And, I mean, undocumented youth have a very different experience than parents, right? We grew up here in the United States. We grew up with the idea that everything will be fine if I follow all the rules because that was the idea. That's what they told me since I was in elementary school and then you got to the point where, “I did everything I they told me to do and nothing's working out,” right? And it would be, you know, there's more of us, right, we grew up in a political system where it's okay to protest, whereas, you know, I imagine a lot of our parents probably didn't have that background, didn't have that opportunity and a lot of our countries, right, they persecute political, right, political activists, right? Or seeking asylum here in the United States. It's a very different environment for parents and for us, but, I mean, they’ve been involved for a while.
VIVALDO: Do you think it's appropriate to correlate undocumented youth activism along with civil disobedience?
AGUSTIN: What are…?
VIVALDO: Like, are those two things that undocumented youth were needed in order to, kind of—we've seen a rise in civil disobedience. Do you think that's because of the undocumented youth that have revolved?
VIVALDO I think there's less fear now than there was before. I know, I mean, civil disobedience has been going on for a long, long time, right? There’s a history of civil disobedience, direct actions, right, in America's history to fight for rights. I think before undocumented youth, it was always U.S. citizens who were taking the risk of getting arrested and I think, you know, maybe I don't—you know, I imagine a lot of that was because they won't—you're not running the risk of getting deported. And I think in 2010, right, undocumented youth, right, at least the first few and documented young people who took the risk of getting arrested, right, on federal property in some cases, right, was. “I need to take control of this. I need to do this myself,” right, and right, and undocumented young people were one of the first groups that started doing civil disobedience as individuals who are directly affected by the immigration system. And now we are seeing, you know, more, you know, more adults who are undocumented taking the risk, but I think a lot of it did come from undocumented young people and just this realization that, I mean, at the end of the day, they’re were the ones that are going to be affected by whatever happens, whatever legislation that comes through, it'll be us and our family that are, you know, that will suffer the consequences or will, you know, if there's anything positive that will actually benefit from whatever will happen.
VIVALDO: So, prior to the 2010, was the use of civil disobedience as a strategy used by the immigrant rights movement?
AGUSTIN: I don't know, to be honest. I imagine that was, you know, that was something, you know, that was used. But I know that, you know, undocumened people weren't part of much of the civil disobedience until 2010, right, or the direct actions. I mean, I'm sure that this was happening, but I'm also pretty sure there was mainly U.S. citizens who were taking the risk of getting arrested. I've noticed that there's also a difference in how civil disobedience is being done by different groups. So, some of the, you know, more grassroots organizations, for example, will hold a direct action or civil disobedience without alerting the police. More of, “We’re going to stop traffic and no one's going to know,” whereas I know other, larger groups, right, might alert the police ahead of time. “Hey, by the way, we're going to doing this.” And then they get tickets, right? So, it's also the way that it's structured.
VIVALDO Do you think acts of civil disobedience within the immigrant rights movement, especially now, help or hurt ICIRR’s mission?
AGUSTIN: I mean, I think—I mean ICIRR, again, is in the middle, I think. Right, we're not super conservative, but we're also not like super out there as an organization because we are a member organization. Our members need to vote on what we what we do and what we don't do, right, and who the targets are or what the targets are. I mean, I don't think it hurts the mission, right? I don't, I mean, we're here to—ICIRR’s mission is to support the immigrant and refugee community, right? And I don't think there's anything wrong with having, you know, those who are directly affected take action and do what they feel is best for them.
- Synopsis: Illinois Youth Justice League and Coming Out of the ShadowsKeywords: Illinois Youth Justice League; IYJL; Coming Out of the Shadows; storytelling; telling stories; activism; advocacy; protests; undocumented youth; studentsTranscript: VIVALDO: So, you talked a little bit about an organization called IYJL. Could you tell me what stands for and what the organization did?
AGUSTIN: Yeah, so The Immigrant Youth Justice League was one of the first undocumented-youth-led organizations, especially—I mean, it was one of, it was the only undocumented-youth-led organization in Illinois when it first was founded in 2009, right? And most of the members, if not all, were all undocumented or formerly undocumented, right, who were organizing for the rights of undocumented youth. This was in 2010 when they were founded, and most active in 2010 to 2000—founded in 2009 and most active in 2010 until about 2012. And most recently, it's—a lot of the members have started working with another organization focusing on stopping deportations. But it really was a very unique space in that it was not just a safe space for undocumented youth to come and figure out, right, what to do. Not just right, but it was a support system for many of us. I think it was an opportunity to meet other young people in the same situation as we were without having to go through the “I came here when I was this age, this is what I'm experiencing, and this is why it feels terrible,” you know, but having that sense of “you understand what I'm talking about without having to tell you what I'm talking about.” But also an organization that did something. I think, for me, it's always been of “I can feel as bad as I want to about myself and my immigration status, but at the end of the day if I don't do anything then what's the point?” And so, it really turned a lot of—I think, at least for me, it turned my anger and my frustration into something that I was doing something that I was—I was actively making happen, right? And with IYJL, they were, you know, the first organization to start advocating for student rights, the first organization that was going to high schools and talking to undocumented students, talking to teachers and counselors about resources for undocumented students, you know, one of the few organizations that started engaging in civil disobedience. I was doing the Coming out of the Shadows, right, that was, you know, that was pushing organizations at the state—you know, in the state of Illinois to be, to think outside of what they were, you know, of what the national people were thinking about, right? ICIRR has had, you know, a history with IYJL in the sense that, you know, IYJL had to push ICIRR to support the DREAM Act or IYJL had to, you know, push ICIRR to think about other things that they weren’t thinking about because, you know, at that time, most of their staff were probably not directly affected by the issues, right? And I think they were very powerful in changing the conversation at the state level, at the national level, along with other undocumented-youth-led organizations.
VIVALDO: How effective was the strategy of storytelling, you know, the Coming Out of the Shadows?
AGUSTIN: I think it was one of the most effective strategies that’s been out there with the organizing. In various ways, I see it. One, on a personal level, you're talking about your immigration status, something that you've been told to never talk about, to hide. You know, and no one is supposed to know what's going on. It's hush-hush. But I think it's, you know, it's a process that gets you to think about who you are and what's going on with your, with yourself. Not just related to immigration, but just yourself. The opportunity to, right, I think coming out also allowed us to change the narrative that was being shared out there about who undocumented people were, right? Letting others know that, “Hey, undocumented people are, you know, are us. Who are sitting next to you on the bus or who are going to school with your children or who are working with you, you know, at work. And us owning our stories for us. And not necessarily because someone asked us to speak out, right? And they don't really know what we're going through. Changing, right, being more honest about what we’re experiencing, right. Changing the narrative for stakeholders to see that the DREAM Act will actually help us because this is what we've experienced or, right, stopping deportations will help our families, will help me from experiencing all this fear. I think, I mean, storytelling was very, I think, very effective. I mean, and the other thing, too, right? You see more people coming out. You're at home and you realize, “Hey, there are more people out there who are in the same situation as I am and are active, are doing, you know, are organizing, are doing something. And so, I think it's been, and continues to be, really, you know, one of the most powerful tools that we have. The stories of our own people being shared by them, right? And for different reasons, either for them at a personal level to share with others to know that they're not alone to make—using it as a way to change policy.
- Synopsis: DACA's effect on undocumented youth activismKeywords: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; DACA; Advance Parole; undocumented youth; student activism; advocacy; Jorge Mena Robles; Barack ObamaTranscript: VIVALDO: Talking a little bit about IYJL and also DACA and Advance Parole, one of IYGL's members, founders, Jorge Mena Robles, he published an article about undocumented youth in the post-DACA era, or period. He shared his story about his experience exiting the country, coming back in, and the border patrol agent, when he checked his paperwork, saw that he had engaged in civil disobedience and told him to stay out of trouble. Do you think that now that there's DACA, people with DACA are more hesitant to engage in acts of civil disobedience?
AGUSTIN: I don't know, to be honest. I think there's been, at least at the state level, we are in a situation where you don't have spaces like IYJL anymore. We don't have those safe spaces where if you're undocumented, you can go to this meeting and you'll meet other undocumented young people. I think the, right, things have changed since 2010. I don't know if the hesitation from younger people to start organizing or be involved comes from the fact that they have DACA and they’re complacent and they say, “Well, I have DACA. This is good enough. Let's move on with my life.” Or if it's more of “We don't have access to these spaces to get involved and be active.” You know, a lot of the, right, those who are most involved in Illinois, right, have been involved for years. And I haven't, to be honest, I haven't really seen too much new leadership evolve or come out of, you know, a lot of the work. And I don't know, to be honest, if it's because those spaces aren’t out there anymore, or if they're very local, at the school level versus, you know, a city-wide or statewide space to be involved. But, I mean, there is that concern of “What if I engage in civil disobedience, you know, more than the three misdemeanors that I'm allowed to have for DACA purposes and I get rejected or I don't, I'm not able to renew or I'm not let back into the country if I travel with Advanced Parole.” I think that's a concern that a lot of people have. But, I don't know if it's because of DACA that people, you know, if it stops people from participating in civil disobedience or if it's something else.
VIVALDO: Do you think ever, this is just—taking, like, wild guesses, but from your personal opinion, do you think that was part of the strategy of President Obama? To kind of calm youth activism? To give them DACA and, kind of as a divisive tool to give some kind of relief to some people, but not to others?
AGUSTIN: I don't really know. I think it can be seen as that. I think it can be, “Here, I gave you something. So I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing, right? And thinking about, you know, the collateral damage that comes out of DACA or all the many deportations that are happening. Being realistic with the idea that I'm not a priority anymore because I have DACA, but my parents aren’t allowed. So if they think they're not going to get me and deport me, they're going to have to, you know, they need to fill those quotas with someone else. I think a lot of—I mean, I think elections had to do with it, right. “Here’s something. Now be quiet. Let's move on.” And I mean, I think it was something similar what DAPA, right? You keep pressuring me and I keep doing all these terrible, terrible things, right, and changing your image for the Latino community, for the immigrant community, that I'm not the most—I’m not the deporter-in-chief. And I think it is divisive in some ways, right, and I don't know if that was his intention. I think his intention was more of “Here’s something. Let's move on and I'll keep doing what I need to be doing.” But I think, I mean, it does create, you know, those who are DACA, who have DACA completely experience now than those who don't and, you know, our parents and even other younger people who are not eligible for DACA.
- Synopsis: Moving forward after the defeat of Deferred Action for Parents of AmericansKeywords: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; ICIRR; Deferred Action for Parents of Americans; DAPA; U.S. Supreme Court; United States Supreme Court; know your rights; deportations, undocumented immigrants; New American Democracy Project; youth activism; advocacy; protests; Illinois Trust Act; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; ICE; Chicago; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; DACATranscript: VIVALDO: So I think I like your comment you made that DACA kind of made the younger student—or the younger applicants, like, more complacent, completely changed their experience, so kind of quelled, or stopped new leadership from forming in addition to lacking spaces that IYJL provided back when it was active in 2010. So, immigration. This whole issue has been escalating and the system itself has been so dysfunctional. DACA is more like a Band-Aid solution and DAPA was not successful. What do you see—what do you think, your personal opinion, but also ICIRR’s opinion, about what is needed to resolve this problem or what is going to happen in the near future?
AGUSTIN: Yeah, with ICIRR, I think we're still in the process of trying to figure out what that means for our members. I mean, it's been, I think, a difficult last few weeks after the decision, right, and the tie, the news of the tie that we received. I think you can, I mean, you can feel the energy, even here in the office, that it's a little low. And trying to wrap our heads around what just happened and what does this mean for communities? What does this mean for our work? So, we’ll be increasing our efforts in terms of Know Your Rights presentations, in terms of deportation defense, and, as much as we can, and thinking of ways that would, you know, how we can, how can we protect our communities on a different level outside of just a national, if it's not going to happen. I mean, I imagine national groups might turn the conversation to, I mean, obviously pushing for it. But I think right now, it's going to be very difficult because we have the elections. Whoever wins will get to choose a ninth justice. Once we get the ninth justice, they'll be the deciding vote on the DAPA case. And, depending on who our president is, right, it could be someone who's very conservative and does not support immigration or it can be someone that's moderate and may or may not lean towards supporting immigration. There, but that's—that will happen, right, at least right? We'll get our president. January sworn in, person needs to nominate. The person needs to go through the whole process and if they refuse to do so, it just, it could take years for this to happen. I think, on a personal level, I think we need to listen to those who are directly affected and just stay away from what others think needs to happen. Right, I think at the local level a lot of the concerns have been around, right, deportations and the fear that comes from local law enforcement and how they’re treating or targeting undocumented immigrants or people who look a certain way, right, racial profiling happening, and I think connecting it to the larger right to just what’s happening across the country, right, with the police brutality issues and just everything that's going on and how we’re connected to all of that as well. Thinking of just the resources, right, that our community need. In 2013, when we were talking about immigration reform that was going to happen and it struck these Representatives. The idea of deferred action was not something we wanted to talk about for those who hadn’t been protected by DACA, and I think that was, you know, that that was a mistake in some way, because a lot of, you know, I think a lot of people are okay with just having a work permit right now and protection and being able to keep their job, being able to support their family, instead of waiting five, six, seven years for immigration reform. All or nothing, I think that's a big mistake if we go down that route. But, I mean, we need to really focus our efforts at the local level. Think of what we can do at our own, you know, at the city level, at the state level, at the county level, at the state level. Right, the Trust Act, if we have enough support, how do we strengthen that and get people supporting it and stop collaboration between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. How do we help our families create a safety plan, that if they do end up in deportation proceedings, that they’re ready and they’re, you know, they have everything that they need to fight their case. That they have their families taken care of. I think, you know, even the most basic needs. How do we make sure that our communities are still able to work and are employed and are able to take care of their families and aren’t putting themselves at risk for, you know, through e-verify or identity fraud that might come up for whatever reason because they're using something else to work, right? Access to school for their children. Making sure that their kids are being protected. Making sure that they are having access to quality education, right, at all levels. In the city of Chicago, all the school closings that are happening, they’re mostly affecting black and brown families and many of our families. And I think it's trying to figure out how to bring a new player into the game because, I, you know, we can't do it all on, by ourselves. It's been a long last few years and I think a lot of people are, you know, tired and, I mean, with what just happened right now at the Supreme Court, trying to figure out where to get that energy to keep going. And what more do we do? What else can we do that can help us? That can help our communities?
VIVALDO: Was ICIRR optimistic that there was going to be a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court in the beginning or…?
AGUSTIN: ICIRR was prepared for both, right? For if we get a positive decision, we were prepared to start doing, you know, informing the community, getting our workshops ready, working with legal service providers, figuring out how we can best serve the community. With the negative decision, I think, you know, a lot of it, I think, is waiting. Is holding on and it depends on what our members want to do next. Do we want to focus all of our efforts on the election season? We will be doing some electoral work, right, through our New American Democracy Project in getting, you know, young people out there and doing get-out-the-vote work to get immigrants to the polls. We are non-partisan, but we want to show the number, right, and show the numbers, show that immigrants are going out to vote. And that they are a deciding bloc that will decide these elections. And I think everyone is optimistic at some point. I think everyone thought, “Well, this would be wonderful if it happens,” but I think I would say ICIRR was more prepared than anything and just whatever happens, happens, and we will move on, and, you know, processes whatever just happened. But it's our members who are leading us, right? If they wanted—what they want to do is what we do. But, I mean, I think, I think everyone is a little optimistic, but, you know, we were prepared for whichever way we would go.
VIVALDO: Is there anything I should have asked or any question? Or anything you would like to elaborate on?
AGUSTIN: No, I think I’m good.
VIVALDO: Thank you very much for your time.
AGUSTIN: Mm-hmm. Thank you.