Transcript

Judy Woodruff: Originally from Mexico City herself, Gaby Hernandez understands firsthand the challenges immigrants can face in the U.S.

As the executive director of the Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition in California, she empowers those in her community to push for better resources and protections.

Tonight, Hernandez shares her Brief But Spectacular take on immigrant justice in the U.S.

Gaby Hernandez, Executive Director, Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition: Being undocumented and being vocal about it is just one of my identities. But it’s one of the identities that shapes who I am and what I do.

The immigration system, many people say it’s broken. It’s not broken. It’s exactly working how it was designed to work. And that is to work against poor immigrants of color.

It’s risky to be so vocal about this, right? But, at the end of the day, I know that citizenship is not going to be the savior of everything. I see a lot of Black and brown communities still being impacted by the systems even while they have citizenship. It definitely does provide an avenue of resources for folks, but there’s more that we need to do.

And I think the key is to work towards dismantling the systems that are oppressing us beyond citizenship. I’m from Mexico City.

Little did I know how much I was going to have to face in this country. I didn’t speak any English at all. And I came here when it was seventh grade. I wish I would’ve had support from counselors, from more mentors in the school. That didn’t actually happen. They place you in ESL classes, and then that’s all you take.

The realization that I had was that the system wasn’t set up for me. So I think we need a system that is actually welcoming families in a dignifying way, and that gives people the resources that they need once they get here to thrive.

And, also, I say a lot of times we’re here because you’re there. And that’s the reality of it. We’re in this country because the U.S. has put their hands in our countries for many, many years and many generations in many ways. And that’s through policies. That’s through interventions.

And I think, for me, it’s important to have that context in mind to then work towards abolishing it, because it’s not working for us. We know that. We have seen that. I think it’s in my blood to do organizing, and I think, when I realized that the resources don’t really come to you unless you’re demanding them.

The organization that I serve as an executive director for is the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, led by immigrant women, women of color, undocumented women, immigrant women, first-generation women. And we’re not only fighting for immigrant policies. We’re working with immigrants and fighting for those policies.

For us, safety is somebody having housing, right, not being kicked out of their home, someone not having to fear that police is going to collaborate with ICE, and then end up deporting them, right?

For us, we’re looking at the bigger picture. And I think that’s what makes us unique too as an organization. We are combining immigrant justice work, along with criminal justice, right, because we know that our communities are impacted by both. And, sometimes, there’s that separation that exists.

And, for us, we want to highlight that, no, actually as a person of color, as an immigrant, you’re impacted by many systems in this country. So, there’s more. And it’s intersectional, and our lives are intersectional. And so our hope is that we’re able to help people have the tools to organize in their communities and their own neighborhoods, because that’s really going to get us to the real change.

My name is Gaby Hernandez, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on immigrant justice in the U.S.

Judy Woodruff: And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular episodes at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.