Today, BreakOUT! and NOWCRJ’s Congress of Day Laborers released the Vice to ICE Toolkit, a resource on organizing across intersections of identities, including race, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, country of origin, and language.
Developed through a partnership between BreakOUT! and the Congress of Day Laborers, Vice to ICE is the name the organizations use for their work that recognizes the intersections between struggles for liberation, as well as intentional building with those whose lives are at the intersections of these identities – LGBTQ undocumented communities in New Orleans.
The partnership was launched in 2011 as the two New Orleans-based membership organizations noticed rampant profiling within the city – vice officers were targeting Black transgender young women and profiling people as being involved with the sex trade, raiding hotels where many LGBTQ youth of color lived and charging people with Solicitation of Crimes Against Nature. Meanwhile, the police were profiling Spanish-speakers, stopping them on the street and in their cars, and using Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as translators, as well as for translation during domestic violence calls and participating in huge sweeps and raids of Latinx people targeted as being undocumented. The groups, both accustomed to members sharing stories of New Orleans life in intimate settings, quickly identified a common language of justice and a shared purpose to fight for liberation.
Both organizations have had significant wins since then. The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) now has an LGBTQ policy that prohibits profiling on the basis of gender identity, thanks to BreakOUT!’s We Deserve Better Campaign. Furthermore, the NOPD is no longer allowed to collaborate with ICE, thanks to The Congress of Day Laborers’ Right to Remain Campaign. Ultimately, it was through these shared struggles and, finally, victories that we came to recognize that our struggles for LGBTQ liberation, the human right to move freely, and the fight against criminalization are inherently and inextricably linked.
“Now, more than ever, as LGBTQ communities celebrate Pride all over the country against the backdrop of continued mass deportation and incarceration of LGBTQ undocumented youth of color, we need bold strategies for building deep, meaningful relationships across language and across and within all of our communities, focused on winning liberation in the South,” said BreakOUT! Youth Organizer and Congreso member, Arely Westley.
“We have to be willing to think about what safety for all of our communities really means. As we organize against the City of New Orleans’s proposed 40 million dollar security plan that will only serve to lock up and surveil all of our communities, it is more important than ever to link the fight for sanctuary with the fight for safety for all of our communities. And to truly win these battles, it will take all of us pushing together.”
Maria Amaya, a member-leader with the Congress of Day Laborers added, “the victories that we have won are vulnerable, especially now in the age of Trump. Protecting them depends on our communities’ unity and willingness to keep pushing at the local level. This October, New Orleans will hold primaries for Mayor, Sheriff, and 5 out of 6 City Council Seats. Our communities’ struggles for liberation share common threads and it’s essential that we unite during moments like these to ensure that our political voice will be heard.”
The Toolkit, described as “a labor of love,” includes contributions from Southerners on New Ground and the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, while drawing inspiration from years of organizing in New Orleans. It provides conversation starters groups can use to break down language barriers, workshop curriculum for political education that can be used with different immigrant and/or LGBTQ bases, and testimonies from LGBTQ immigrant youth.
About BreakOUT!: BreakOUT! is a membership-based organization that seeks to end the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans through youth organizing, leadership development, and healing justice. Founded in 2011, BreakOUT! builds on the rich cultural tradition of resistance in the South to build the power of LGBTQ youth directly impacted by the criminal justice system to build a safer and more just New Orleans. More information available at www.youthbreakout.org
About The Congress of Day Laborers (el Congreso de Jornaleros): The Congress of Day Laborers, or el Congreso de Jornaleros, is a grassroots organizing project of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. Founded by the day laborers who helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Congreso wages strategic campaigns at the intersection of the criminal-legal and immigration enforcement systems and is a leadership pipeline for hundreds of immigrant workers and families into public life and social movement participation. For more information, visit www.nowcrj.org.