“Undocuqueers often speak of “coming out of the shadows.” This trope imagines that immigrants have been living unseen and can only emerge from the dark into light. But such an imagined move from darkness to light ignores the fact that those designated illegal are not invisible, but that the system they survive in operates to render them such even though it cannot function without their labour. In other words, they are in fact completely visible but ignored when convenient. To erase this economic reality is to erase the possibility of thinking more deeply about how immigration in fact needs to be illegal if this country’s economy is to continue the way it does. To erase this economic reality is to erase the possiblity that we might consider that immigration is an economic crisis. Furthermore, terms like “the shadows” erase the fact that the illegal do in fact have informal networks of economic, cultural, and political support – the parents of the undocumented live within and are sustained by these networks. Their children, the undocumented activists, have also lived in and been sustained by them for years. I am hardly calling these ways of living perfect or even desirable; I am simply pointing to the ways that undocumented activists misrepresent and erase the complex realities of the worlds they occupy.
Coming out forgets that the process is meaningless for many because they have always been out, willingly or not. Just as, for many queers, coming out has never been an issue because they have always been recognised as queers – because of their gender-non-conformity, their gestures, the very movements of their bodies – most immigrants of colour are assumed to be illegal. As the case of Rigo Padilla shows, one is always already out as illegal because the system instantly defines people as such based on skin colour, accent, and other factors. The onus is upon the immigrant to prove that he or she is not illegal; “illegal” is the default position.
In October 2012, San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo sported a t-shirt with the words, “I just look illegal,” earning praise from fans and commentators. But what if he had instead worn a t-shirt with the words, “I AM illegal”? Consider the discomfort, the questioning, and the far more difficult work of solidarity this might effect. Consider the discursive shifts alone when people have to ask and answer the question of what it means to be illegal.
The truth, of course, is that t-shirts only go so far. When immigration becomes a matter of a declarative identity, we stop seeing and dismantling the systems we have to fight. When we think only in terms of rhetorical changes and in the highly personalised terms of immigration as a series of personal crises and the quest for a better life, we stop asking about the conditions which made other lives so unbearable: We allow the brutality of the system that creates illegals to become naturalized and understood as neutral. We begin to think that with a few tweaks, individuals – the good undocumented and not the bad illegals – might pass through freely. In representing only the good immigrants, undocumented activists are literally and metaphorically the dream activists of neoliberalism, emphasising individualised narratives about freedom over systemic critique.”
From Yasmin Nair of Against Equality:
“I know this will seem obvious to what is, after all, the Facebook page for Against Equality. But sometimes, the obvious needs to be stated, especially in the face of an overwhelming tide of forgetfulness and a disregard for the larger context in which gay marriage operates.
Gay marriage is not simply about “love” and “commitment” between sweet and adoring couples who “just” want to get married. It is a multi-million dollar campaign waged and controlled by some of the most powerful non-profits and richest gay neoliberals, and it is about a systemic disregard for those who want no part of an institution that continues to oppress women, children, and anyone who does not fit the norm. Dan Savage and others who celebrate this recent Obama declaration might want to pay heed to how much the Prez has damned and shamed anyone who is NOT in a “normal” marriage: Three-ways, begone! No more rights for you if you dare have an open relationship! But much more importantly: Gay marriage is one more spoke in the wheel of the neoliberal state; it persuades us to forget that, in a world driving relentlessly towards the privatisation of what should be the most basic benefits like health care, water, electricity, the air we breathe, “rights” discourse has become the most effective way to prioritise the wants of the very, very few against the greater good and the often desperate needs of the many.
When gays and straights celebrate Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage, they are admittedly celebrating what might look like a common-sense matter: the end of a discriminatory practice that willfully excludes some from an institution. BUT, and here is the very large “but” to which I wish they would pay heed: gay marriage, particularly in the United States, is an argument not for inclusion but for denying benefits to those who choose not to get married, gay or straight. In states like MA and CT, you HAVE to get married to get health care for your spouse, or face the consequences - watch your partner die without insurance. If gay marriage were simply about “leveling the playing field,” its advocates would have first refused to compromise the health of the unmarried and taken the more ethical stance that health care needed to be de-linked from marriage and that marriage ought simply to be a civil/private/religious matter. But they didn’t, so they’re perfectly aware of and support the discrimination that is written into marriage and the state. Just as importantly: Obama’s statement allows gay marriage supporters, gay and straight to forget the harsher truths of his administration: He has deported more people than both Bush II administrations combined, continues to wage war on nations, accepted the fucking Nobel PEACE Prize with a statement about the necessity of war, thinks indefinite detention without trial is just fine and dandy, is in bed with multi-billionaires (including several gay ones, natch) and will compromise your abortion rights if he thinks it will get him more votes. The man plays to win: He made this statement based on advisors telling him how popular it would with be a rich and powerful gay lobby. The only thing this statement proves is that gays now constitute one of the most powerful political lobbies in this country, not the rightness of this cause or the worth of relationships which have never needed state legitimacy to survive. And here’s why gay marriage will never do a damn thing for most of you. Your tits will rot in hell, but they will look so divine in those tuxes and gowns. Evolve Already. See this for what it is.”