Immigration in 2018 – Vanessa Alva

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

It’s impossible to not take the current political events personally when they directly impact you and people close to you. Immigration was an issue I was made aware of at a very young age before I fully understood the concept of it – even before Trump. Before Trump’s administration ICE had a track record of abusive behavior. I was personally aware of people close to my family that had been denied asylum months ago, however, it was only now that people were consistently discussing it. I was surrounded by people who were deported without a criminal history; this was my lived experience but it was an issue that was hidden strategically. Immigration has always been a grave issue, however, it’s not until the situation has been extremely severe that people are reacting to it. Interning on the Hill during this time made me realize how disconnected people are from the immigrant communities because people express shock upon hearing what is going on. Although the family separation policy was introduced under the Trump administration, I could not help but not feel shocked about it because we have a history of doing this.

As much as I was surrounded by immigration issues growing up, hearing about the latest developments regarding immigration while interning on the Hill leaves a different bitter taste. While working here, I have felt a mixture of powerlessness and disconnect from the communities impacted by the latest attacks on immigrants. I attended briefings regarding immigration hoping to better understand the family separation at the border. I heard from different advocacy groups working against the zero-tolerance policy and help families that have been separated.  I heard from different organizations such as KIND, Kids in Need of Defense, discuss how children who do not speak English are placed before an immigration judge after being separated from their family and have to defend the reason why they immigrated to this country. They provided statistics on how the majority of children do not have any legal representation.  It was really hard to hear about this because I could not imagine how intimidated those children felt being separated from their family and still have to speak to a judge. It was relieving to hear of organizations like KIND try to provide legal representation for these children, however, there is a higher demand than they can provide.

There are a lot of different advocacy groups focusing on immigration although it might not necessarily be their focus. It’s so important for different organizations, not just those specifically focused on immigration, to fight these policies because the immigrant community is so diverse, and with that comes many intersectionalities. During one of our training days at Victory, we attended the National Coalition for Trans Equality and we heard from VCI alum, Kory Masen, about the work NCTE has done to aid trans people who are detained or undocumented. It’s is so important that does this kind of work with immigrations because the LGBTQ+ can forget about the immigrant community while the immigrant community can also potentially forget about the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve realized that intersectionality has allowed for different advocacy groups to work together without internal discrimination. This experience has allowed me to see the true value of advocacy groups. As a result, I would be interested in also being involved with advocacy groups.

Despite the urge to want to have a more direct impact, I am constantly reminded of the need to have people from immigrant backgrounds on the Hill. I attended a Congressional Hispanic Staff Association panel and the speakers all agreed that this administration’s hateful rhetoric towards immigrants is what pushed them to seek a job on the Hill. They acknowledged how draining it can be working on the Hill during a time like this, but they also used it as a motivation to continue working there. This was a nice conclusion of my two weeks here because I was reassured that it’s necessary to have immigrants working both at a local and national level.