Biking for equality

President Trump’s use of Dreamers as a ‘bargaining chip’ shows need for broader path to citizenship, coalition says

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the August 30, 2018, issue.

A coalition of bicyclists, riding from Seattle to San Diego, stopped in Sacramento last week to advocate for marginalized Americans. As the Trump administration has imposed harsh rhetoric and policies against vulnerable communities, the Journey2Justice riders pushed for a fuller vision of equality.

“Even a great deal like the DREAM Act divides our community because there’s winners and losers,” said Youngwon Han, a staff member for the National Korean Service and Education Consortium, which organized the ride. “The DREAM Act only protects undocumented young folks and it does have a ‘bad immigrant, good immigrant’ narrative. So it doesn’t protect our families. And Congress people always try to use the Dreamers as a ‘bargaining chip.’”

Han said his organization traveled to Washington D.C. last year to try to convince legislators to pass the DREAM Act after President Trump rescinded President Obama’s executive order granting legal status to the children of undocumented immigrants if they met certain criteria.

But the lack of Congressional action convinced Han that they needed to expand their vision. In their mission statement, the J2J riders state they want to create broader paths to citizenship for all non-citizens, including undocumented immigrants, as well as draw attention to communities of color, whose “full rights to citizenship are often denied.”

Riders included an undocumented person and a resident of a Texas border town. Rev. Kevin Ross of Unity of Sacramento spoke about his visit to the border, where he witnessed the grisly reality of the Trump Administration’s family separation policy. He offered some pointed historical context by calling the detention facilities “concentration camps” and comparing the J2J riders to the Freedom Riders, who traveled in mixed racial groups on buses across the deep South to protest local segregation, even in the face of violent attacks.

Along the way, the J2J riders haven’t shied from visiting regions that, on the whole, are more sympathetic to opposing views.

“We’ve had some unpleasant encounters with people, but I mean, we don’t want to be yelling in an echo chamber,” Han said. “We try to be as polite and engaging as possible. Our riders are putting a face to the issues. If you engage with them, you’ll like them more.”

After spending the night of August 22 at the friary of St. Francis Church, the riders spoke to students at the school next door, then started biking again. They had a long way to go.