One of the buzz phrases I have heard in many social justice circles regarding the issue of immigration reform is “Comprehensive and Just Immigration Reform”. But I have taken a slight twist on that idea and have used it to advocate for our Native American communities by pointing out that “immigration reform will be neither comprehensive nor just unless it includes the voices and perspectives of the Native American peoples.
Right now I am not even advocating for any specific policy or stance. Instead I am merely observing that the voices of Native American are largely absent from this conversation. And so I am trying to speak to 2 separate audiences.
To our Native American communities I want to communicate that this is an important and historic dialogue for our country and our land and that we, as indigenous peoples, can offer a unique and invaluable perspective. We are the original inhabitants of this land and for the first time in centuries we have an opportunity to shape the dialogue regarding who should and should not be allowed to be here. So I want to encourage our people to step up and take our place in this conversation.
And to non-Native communities I am trying to point out the irony of trying to reform a policy on immigration without the indigenous inhabitants of the land participating in the conversation. I have witnessed and am convicted that merely our presence at the table where immigration reform is being discussed fundamentally effects and alters the conversation. This is because our Native American community is a visual reminder of our country’s unjust history regarding immigration policy, and that is even before we begin speaking and offering our distinct perspectives on the land and our relationship to it. And so I want our country and our leaders to pause, and notice that the Native American community is not actively a part of this conversation and then to intentionally invite us to the table.
I do not believe that either community can resolve this issue alone. And even together we are not going to get it perfect. But both voices are necessary if we want this reform to be more comprehensive and more just than our current policy is now.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements:
September 3 – Present a public forum/lecture at the Christian Indian Center in Denver CO titled “Immigration Reform: Perspectives from Native America”. -
September 7-11 – I will be speaking at the annual conference for the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association). I am scheduled to speak at 2 events specifically regarding immigration and also participate in a plenary session panel that will most likely include the topic of immigration. I am also presenting a seminar on my virtual Native American state proposal. Here are some links for these events.
• Immigration Seminar – Native American Perspectives on Comprehensive and Just Immigration Reform - (http://www.ccda.org/workshops#A11
• Movie Screening and lead discussion regarding Native American perspectives on immigration from the film ‘Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action’ - http://www.ccda.org/film-festival
• Plenary Session: Panel on Friday Sept 9: Re-Imagine A Panel of young CCDA leaders - http://www.ccda.org/schedule
I am trying to create some meaningful space where our Native American communities can begin to hone and articulate our thoughts and opinions on immigration reform so I started a Facebook Group regarding this topic. So far I have 55 group members but the conversation is beginning slowly. Hopefully it will pick up in the coming weeks and months.
Mark Charles (Navajo)
Fort Defiance AZ