Akonadi Foundation’s mission is to eliminate structural racism that leads to inequity in the United States. Using an ecosystem grantmaking lens, Akonadi supports and nurtures grassroots organizing, culture shift, and policy changes that build Oakland’s racial justice movement. We are lifting up the work of our grant partners through a monthly spotlight series; for our March installment, we feature Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights coalition (ACUDIR).
Stacy Suh, Senior Organizer with California Immigrant Policy Center joined us to talk about the mission of ACUDIR:
ACUDIR has been organizing to disentangle local law enforcement from painful deportations. As a coalition, we believe that widespread detention and deportation of immigrants are linked to a history of exploitation, marginalization, and discrimination in the United States. People of color have been subject to numerous unjust, unequal and racist policies; immigration policies have been no different.
Although Alameda County is progressive overall, the sheriff’s office has a long history and pattern of racist criminal justice practices: admitting to racially profiling people of color based on “language, luggage, and clothing” to determine their immigration status; colluding with ICE to deport immigrant community members; inviting ICE to the militarization expo Urban Shield last year, leading to further criminalizing communities of color; endorsing the nomination of racist Jeff Sessions as Attorney General; maintaining horrific conditions inside the county jail, including allegations and a pending lawsuit that alleges coerced abortions. The coalition’s struggle for immigrant justice is deeply connected to fighting against criminalization of communities of color.
What draws you to the work on a personal level?
This work is personal to me because I migrated to the US shortly before 9/11. In my first year as a new immigrant, I experienced anti-immigrant xenophobia and witnessed the rise of Islamophobia and attacks against the AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian) community. I am part of ACUDIR because local organizing is key to advancing wins and protections to improve and change the conditions that marginalize our communities. Working as a coalition means that each of us brings different strengths and experiences to the table, whether it’s community organizing, base building, legal and policy analysis, or communications. As an organizer at the California Immigrant Policy Center, a statewide policy organization, I am also excited to connect statewide pro-immigrant policies and campaigns with local work that can strengthen protections for our immigrant community.
How does ACUDIR affirm and celebrate the collective memory, shared histories, social identities, and/or cultures of Oakland’s communities of color?
Immigrants are a part of the heart and soul of Oakland, and Oakland has such a rich history of activism, organizing, and resistance. In May, the Alameda County Sheriff Department’s callous response to community concerns over the arrest of a fruit vendor went viral. In the spirit of creative resistance, ACUDIR hosted a “fruit-in” action in front of the Sheriff’s Department headquarters, where we demanded answers about the Sheriff’s practices and symbolically distributed fruit. We used the fruit-in as a way to expose the long history of racism and criminalization within the department and to connect economic justice to immigrant struggles.
What is the vision that guides your work? What will the world – and specifically Oakland – look like if you are successful?
Our vision of Oakland is one where all communities can thrive and access quality education, jobs, and housing, regardless of immigration status. We strive to build the Oakland where all communities can live free from police violence, criminalization, and deportation. We believe in the right of all families, including extended, kindred, and chosen families and communities, to stay together, without the threat of being detained or deported from their loved ones. An Oakland we fight for would invest in community, including improved job training and educational opportunities for all; all workers would have access to good jobs without the threat of deportation based on their immigration status.
What will you be focused on for the rest of the year?
We are focused on educating directly affected community members about the role of the Sheriff. We recognize that community education and leadership by directly affected community members are key to reimagining safety that does not rely on carceral systems, including deportations. We are also focused on building stronger partnerships with other coalitions across sectors to fight against criminalization of communities of color.
Find out more about the Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights coalition (ACUDIR) here.
Akonadi Foundation strives to eliminate structural racism that lies at the heart of inequity in the United States. We work towards a racially just society by funding organizations and leaders fighting on the ground through grassroots organizing, culture shift, and policy change. Find out more about Akonadi Foundation here.