Podcast and graphic by Karina Espinoza.
In this podcast, Karina Espinoza interviews Gaby Hernandez, executive director of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, about recent immigration law reforms, what the administration of President Joe Biden needs to do to protect the immigrant community, and how residents can get involved in creating change.
Gaby Hernandez: He can only propose and then it’s up to Congress to ensure that that gets passed. So I think it’s just a reminder that we need to be able to push Biden to have communities that are impacted front and center to be able to form policies that are not just band aids because we don’t need band aids anymore.
Karina Espinoza: That was Gaby Hernandez, executive director for the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, And I’m your host Karina Espinoza. Hernandez discusses Biden’s steps to reform the United States immigration system and the work left ahead. Her life experiences as an undocumented woman has fueled have passion and commitment to social justice and immigrant rights. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 was presented the same day we recorded.
A video clip plays. People chant “Shut down Adelanto! Shut down Adelanto!”
Karina Espinoza: That Twitter video was posted by Never Again Action Los Angeles on October 6, who joined LBIRC and other coalitions to protest the transfers and detentions happening at Adelanto. Abolishing ICE and shutting down Adelanto, a private immigration facility, are two important movements for the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition. Does this seem achievable under the Biden administration?
Gaby Hernandez: There’s right now about three community members that we’re working with that are in Adelanto, in the detention center there, and they have not been able to be released. And so this is impacting people. Those are the people that we know of, there’s probably many more throughout the country, many more throughout the city, many more throughout the county, that are still in immigrant prisons and, you know, the Adelanto detention center. One of the misconceptions is that if we have a Democrat in the [White] House, that things will be moving forward. And the hope is that happens. But you know, as we are seeing today, and since Biden took the office, it’s been a challenge. So right now, it’s a lot of the undoing of all the harmful immigration policies that Trump did. But as in as an organization, we realize that that it’s not enough, you know, just reversing what Trump did isn’t going to suffice and it’s not going to solve all the problems that we see today. Biden is a very law and order person. And so abolishing ICE is not something that’s coming out of his mouth. It’s not something that he will push forward. I think community needs to organize and push for that to happen.
Karina Espinoza: Has the separation of families at the border under the Trump administration directly affected immigrants in Long Beach and is creating a task force to reunify families the best response by the administration?
Gaby Hernandez: We really need more bold steps to move forward and unify families, not task forces that just because of the name of it you think that they’re doing something. We need to see action and actually unifying families. Actually making sure that the families that are still in Mexico that are seeking asylum here, that they’re able to fight their claim and be in this country until their claim is reviewed. The separation that is also happening in the States, right? So as people get detained and then put into immigrant prisons that people call detention centers, people are being separated from their families right for that time period, and they are at risk of being separated from their families permanently by deportation. A lot of people that are coming do have families that are here. A lot of them don’t right? But a lot of them do. And that separation had been going on for a long time, way beyond Biden and Trump and Obama.
Karina Espinoza: David Pekoske the acting secretary of Homeland Security, released a memorandum stating that beginning January 22, DHS would pause removals for certain non-citizens ordered to be deported, a small step toward fixing our immigration system. But now [there’s] an obstacle after United States District Court Judge [Drew] Tipton placed a hold on Pekoske’s order. How has the Coalition responded to this? And is this currently affecting immigrants in Long Beach?
Gaby Hernandez: The memorandum, to begin with, had a lot of limitations. It was excluding a lot of people. So that’s one of the policies that like I said, right, it’s another band-aid. It’s just to say, look, look at as we’re progressive, we’re doing this, but in reality, it’s still keeping a lot of people locked up. It’s still not releasing people that have lived through unthinkable things in immigrant prisons. We need to continue to push and push for more. And when people hear this, right, they get hope, right? Like oh, my family member will be released and when they find out actually has limitations and your family member will not be released, it’s the kind of disconnection that occurs, right, that it’s not clear and it’s not plain and simple. It’s not working how people think that it works.
Karina Espinoza: President Biden outlines in his steps to reform the U.S. immigration system, a humane asylum system, what would LBIRC consider a humane asylum?
Gaby Hernandez: No one should be, like, trapped and confined in a space. Like that shouldn’t be the solution to this, like detention centers are not meant to house people. Like, if you know the conditions that people are under in those in those places, it’s unthinkable. Like no one deserves to live that way and simply for trying to seek a better life. People need support. People need access to jobs, right? People need access to housing, to mental health support. Families are again, you know, fleeing their countries, you know, out of survival, and they have lived a lot of trauma that is not being addressed. So I think people need a lot of different resources. Not to be in prison. Not to be in a facility, stuck. It does require a lot of intentionality to ensure that the families that are here, that they get the support to be able to do the transition, and to do the transition smoothly. We need to rethink all of the systems that we have in place that are not working for our communities. So it’s not like I’m advocating for creating something specific, you know, for folks that are coming here. It’s like, let’s build the infrastructure to support all the families, right. All the families are struggling right now, all the families that are folks of color, Black communities, even if they’re not immigrants.
Karina Espinoza: How can the Biden administration restore faith in the U.S. legal immigration system and promote the integration of new Americans?
Gaby Hernandez: There’s too many moving parts, right. And I think we need to address the systemic oppression that exists within the solutions that we have in place, right, the racism that is embedded into those institutions. And get to reevaluating all of the systems that we have that we know are not working. Really, eradicating them. So getting rid of them and starting fresh. I think it’s it’s getting rid of all the harm that has been caused, right. So stop the tension, release everyone from detention centers, and acknowledging that people are suffering,
Karina Espinoza: How can immigrant allies continue to maintain pressure on congressional representatives for immigration reform and provide equal opportunities to everyone regardless of immigration status?
Gaby Hernandez: Listen. Be a good listener and support what’s already being done and uplift those voices that are ready saying, “Hey, this is what we need. This is what we deserve.” Get engaged. Like for us, you know, you can follow LBIRC562. On our Instagram or Facebook, we always put calls to action, right? Even if it’s one simple thing of calling your rep. Right now we have one call to action. So if you want to check it out, today’s February or 18, we have a call to action about this reform, right? That it’s excluding people. So like you can make a simple call to your representative. Even if you don’t live in that district, you can still make a call. Communities that are fighting for the most are the ones that have the least. There is a sense of hope, and I think anyone that does this work, you have to have hope that there will be change.
Karina Espinoza: Music by Dejana.