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Interview on United We Dream Congress, hunger strike

Gabriela Genova speaks out
Interview by staff |
March 4, 2014
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Gabriela Genova member of DREAMers Moms Orlando
Gabriela Genova member of DREAMers Moms Orlando (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Hunger strikers' solidarity image
The six hunger strikers joined by supporters in Phoenix, Arizona
The solidarity image supporters across the nation use to show their support for the strikers.
The six hunger strikers joined by supporters in Phoenix, Arizona

Gabriela Genova is a member of DREAMers Moms Orlando, Florida. Genova recently traveled from her home in Orlando to Phoenix, Arizona to join the United We Dream Congress and the hunger strike.

Fight Back!: What is the hunger strike about?

Gabriela Genova: The hunger strike is an action that started on Sunday, Feb.16 and ends March 3, 2014. The strike is happening in Phoenix, Arizona and it is an action called by two organizations: National Day Laborer Organization [NDLON] and Puente Human Rights Campaign [Puente]. Six very brave immigrants, Hermina Gallego, Anselma Lopez, Lourdes Hernandez, Alejandra Sanchez, Jose Valdez and Jovana Renteria began their strike on the Feb. 16. All six strikers have family members who are currently being detained in immigration detention centers.

Fight Back!: What made you travel to Arizona to join the strikers?

Gabriela Genova: I'm an undocumented Argentine mother who has been fighting for the undocumented for many, years. One of the strikers, Alejandra Sanchez, is a long-time friend of mine and I needed to be there to support her and the other five hunger strikers. I needed to be there for them, their families and for all of those who are affected by the simple existence of these detention centers. I've seen first-hand how unfairly we are treated for simply not having a few papers to prove our ‘worth’ to be allowed to stay in the U.S.

Fight Back!: What was it like being in Phoenix, and with the six hunger strikers?

Gabriela Genova: Arizona is sometimes freezing, or windy and cold at night. It was beautiful to see these six hunger strikers not budging despite the weather and despite the wind. There were many supporters constantly, coming and going and joining the strikers every day and every hour. There were doctors always present monitoring the health conditions of the strikers and there was overall great support for all of those involved. I was there the entire day of Saturday, Feb. 22, and fasted with them while I was there.

Fight Back!: You also attended the 5th United We Dream (UWD) 2014 Congress which started on Feb. 21 and ended Feb. 23, while you were in Phoenix. What was that like?

Gabriela Genova: There were so many young people who attended one of the biggest, national immigration congresses that weekend! The UWD Congress had so many workshops that were beneficial to young people in the immigration movement but also, older people like myself. This year, DREAMers Moms USA was invited to attend and because DREAMers Moms Orlando the group that I am with, is a part of that, I was able to attend. There were many presentations and workshops available for all of us to attend and the ones I participated in were, “Can You Hear Me Now? Fundraising is Organizing!” “1:1's: Often Talked About, Rarely Ever Done - Why You Need That QT,” “Tapping Into Legal Networks: How To Build Relationships With Attorneys and Legal Representatives” and a workshop on “Know Your Rights & Defend Your Family.” The workshops were very well organized and I learned so much to bring back to my group.

Fight Back!: What do you think is necessary to stop the deportations? And what thoughts did those who attended the UWD Congress have on stopping the deportations?

Gabriela Genova: DREAMers Moms Orlando as well as so many of those who attended the UWD Congress agree on one thing: we must continue calling out President Barack Obama for not stopping the deportations. I know as well as everyone knows, that President Obama has the power to stop the deportations. I personally think we should keep pressuring Republican Speaker John Boehner to keep having him pinned against the wall. If we keep doing that with all of those in office, we have a lot of power to move things around. What I have noticed is that groups closer to the Mexico-U.S. border center all of their movements and actions on the border and stopping the deportations. Groups and organizations further away like ours in the state of Florida, organize around pushing for broader wins for immigrants, like driver's licenses.

Fight Back!: What did the hunger strikers have to say about the movements for driver's licenses?

Gabriela Genova: The strikers were surprised when I told them that in Florida we are very much persecuted for driving without a driver's license. In Arizona, I traveled in vehicles with many different undocumented immigrants and so many of them seemed to not even remember they did not have a license. When I drive in Florida, I am terrified; always looking back at my mirror and making sure I do not break a single rule of the road. In Florida, I was pulled over three times and only one of the times was it for going five miles over the speed limit. The police in the state of Florida uses technology that flags your license plate for the authorities so that they know where you have your vehicle registered and they know exactly who to look for when you are on the road. There is a recent push to have this system available in the entire country and that is very bad news. We all know that the majority of the reason undocumented people are deported is due to driving without a valid driver's license. Perhaps those driving me around in Arizona wanted me to feel comfortable, because we know it is always a danger to drive without a valid driver's license and to be undocumented.

Fight Back! note: Since Gabriela Genova's return to Florida, there were threats and arrests of the hunger strikers and those joining them. Authorities attempted to take down their canopies and arrest them all. Some of the strikes like Gabriela Genova's friend, Alejandra Sanchez were hospitalized for malnutrition and dehydration. The hunger strike is now over, ending on March 3. One family member, Arturo Martinez, the son of hunger striker Martha Espinoza, was released after 13 months in detention. The movement is celebrating this victory and calling for a stop to deportations.