Updated November 2, 2013
The strange subculture of the No Sovereign Borders Movement (Sovereigns), whose adherents hold complex anti-government beliefs, has grown out of the disenfranchised youth of the Dream Movement– undocumented youth who were brought to this country as children. These Dreamers are victims of our broken immigration system, living as typical American children, attending elementary and middle school, and then discovering during high school the oft held family secret rendering them unable to drive, work, or attend college (due to their undocumented status). Many fall prey to depression, frustration and anger.
See: REPEATED FAILURES TO PASS THE DREAM ACT
FRUSTRATION BREEDS ANGER
After having fought for the Dream Act for close to 10 years, in 2010 a radical group of Dreamers split from what they now refer to as the “non-profit industrial complex” and adopted the “out and proud” strategies of the LGBTQ community to out themselves as “undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic.” Rather than continuing to fight for legal status through immigration reform or the Dream Act, they began to self identify as Americans irrespective of their lack of legal status in the U.S.
Sovereigns have recently expanded this view to transnational status, presumptively including both Dreamers and Non-Dreamers who had already been deported from or voluntarily left the U.S.
Thus began the perceived battle against an “unjust international citizenship regime.” They believe theirs is a call for humans to transcend borders. Proponents of this movement have expressed these views in the simplest terms by stating they believe in open borders.
They have also set forth their views as philosophical rhetoric
And in far more complex and sometimes bizarre nihilisms including characterizing Sovereigns as Nietzche’s “Last Men.”
@susanpai we are the last men, there is ice in our breath, that's from Nietzsche, an aphorism.
— Marco Saavedra (@marcobartleby) September 25, 2013
The Sovereigns take issue with any further fortification of the borders of our Nation. As such, a self proclaimed Sovereign leader, Mohammad Abdollahi, has vowed to “kill immigration reform.”
Ironically, even as Sovereigns decry the existence of borders, they recognize the safety it affords them.
THE SOVEREIGN BELIEF SYSTEM
The Sovereigns believe they are transnational or global citizens. Ironically, much of their denigration of what they say is the Western concept of sovereign civilizations and its boundaries is based upon their informal study of non-Western cultures. When asked how a Dreamer who has never left North America might have such intimate comparative knowledge of non-Western civilizations, one early Sovereign convert, Marco Saavedra, replied “The father of Pan-Africanism was born in Western Massachusetts.”
@susanpai father of pan-Africanism was born in western Massachusetts
— Marco Saavedra (@marcobartleby) September 25, 2013
Sovereigns have called for the dismantling of the “military industrial complex,” are anti capitalist, anti Zionist, refer to America as AmeriKKKa, and otherwise denigrate the United States and whites, in particular.
We condemn the attacks on Alaa Mukahhal as nativist, islamophobic and racist. Find something better to do with your time.
— DreamActivist (@DreamAct) September 19, 2013
One of the leaders of the Sovereign movement and Spokesperson for the Dream 9, Prerna Lal, a self identified undocuqueer, stated “America has yet to prove its worth to me.” Ms. Lal characterizes Americans as “coach potato, gas guzzling murderers and funders of unjust wars.”
Sovereigns “use bodies,” both adults and minors, to engage in acts of civil disobedience to publicize they are “undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic,” to infiltrate immigration detention centers in order to gain intelligence as to those being held in detention, and to carry out acts that appear to be designed to overburden existing Department of Homeland Security resources– all under the welcome glare of English and Spanish language media.
You can't detain and deport an idea. How many detention beds you got? We'll occupy them all, organize them out of existence. #bringthemhome
— Prerna Lal-Schubiner (@prernaplal) July 22, 2013
Obama better be ready. The 1.7 million deported are COMING HOME! #BringThemHome
— Elisa (@ElisaEsXingona) September 26, 2013
Mohammad Abdollahi has admitted to using these “actions” to execute personal vendettas against the government.
The weapons of choice for Sovereigns are publicity and taking credit where it may or may not be due. For example, if a Stay of Removal is granted, Sovereign groups will declare they have succeeded where no attorney has. In fact, even as a law student, Ms. Lal declared she could run circles around attorneys and the Department of Homeland Security.
Mr. Saavedra is one of the so called U.S. Dreamers who self deported in the Dream 9 action. Saavedra’s writings underscore the danger of recruiting from a particularly vulnerable population of frustrated and often depressed Dreamers. For example, Saavedra has taken poetic license with a famous Negro Spiritual written by Fenton Johnson in writing “It is better to die than to grow up undocumented.”
In this same writing, “On Mr. Mohammad Abdollahi,” Saavedra speaks of “going to Paradise” with Abdollahi, a troublesome narrative given the celebrated tradition that martyrs from Jihad go immediately to Paradise.
When AB60 passed recently in California allowing the undocumented to obtain drivers licenses, www.DreamActivist.org not only took full credit for its passage, but denigrated the successful efforts of the elder statesmen of the Latino Civil Rights movement, including MALDEF.
— DreamActivist (@DreamAct) September 13, 2013
Indeed, www.DreamActivist.org has declared
“A handful of young people could in two weeks what lawmakers, activists and lawyers have tried to do for two decades.”
"Un puñado de jóvenes lograba en dos semanas lo que congresistas, activistas y abogados han intentado hacer durante dos décadas." #dream9
— DreamActivist (@DreamAct) September 8, 2013
The nonsensical claims to credit seem to be in line with the Sovereigns’ stated goal of “Conquer and Divide” even within the immigrant rights community.
In fact, their modus operandi of proposing infiltrations is not limited to detention centers; it extends to “competing” mainstream Dream or other organizations.
Sovereigns seem to have a kind of special sovereign code language that includes peculiar phraseology such as “Y’all” or “Ya’ll,” extreme and even violent denigration of whites– going so far as to discuss eating white people or wondering about shooting a white man daily.
Sovereigns believe in the right to provocatively express themselves but are unduly reactionary when U.S. Citizens criticize such provocative speech. The irony is not lost on the writer of this article.
Since most Sovereigns favor publicity, when Sovereigns are angry with government officials or anyone who criticizes them, their revenge most often takes the form of highly publicized and repeated “self victimization.” In one peculiar incident, Prerna Lal called upon an anti-Zionist writer to investigate the persecution of her and Mohammad Abdollahi. Ms. Lal was referring to negative press and criticism she and Mohammad had received for their virulent anti-white and anti-American comments.
— Susan Pai (@susanpai) September 26, 2013
The movement is led by two large online groups, www.DreamActivist.org and www.TheNIYA.org (The National Immigrant Youth Alliance or NIYA). www.DreamActivist.org is a for profit business owned by Mohammad Abdollahi, co-founded by Prerna Lal. Mohammad Abdollahi is also a founder of NIYA. NIYA is a direct project of the Alliance for Global Justice (AGJ) an American-based non-profit that advocates social change and economic justice primarily in Latin America. AGJ was founded as The Nicaragua Network in 1979 and was the sponsor organization for Occupy Wall Street.
Critics of AGJ have suggested that AGJ’s work in Latin America supports dictatorships and advances Marxism. According to Discover the Networks, AGJ “promotes opposition to free-market capitalism, particularly in Latin America, under the cover of engaging in ‘education on human, environmental and worker rights.’ AGJ underwrites and publicizes the activities of revolutionary Marxist movements from Nicaragua to Mexico and trains young activists to work toward its distinctly radical conception of ‘economic justice.'” Its Web site says the group sponsors operations in the Gaza Strip, with Hamas, and boasts of an alliance with Anarchists Against the Wall, which contests Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank. The group suggests it has a relationship with Iran, supported the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and expresses solidarity with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez against the United States.”
The co-founders of www.DreamActivist.org and NIYA both appear to have a longstanding relationship with lawyer David Bennion.
Prerna Lal garnered national attention when her views about whites were publicized in the right wing press.
Mohammad Abdollahi has also expressed an intense hatred of whites and America, although he simultaneously seeks refuge in the U.S. as a self proclaimed gay Iranian.
Though a significant number of online followers of www.dreamactivist.org and www.theNIYA.org appear to be Latino, many of them seem to be unaware of the extreme position of the group leaders and indeed mistakenly believe they are no different than mainstream advocacy organizations whose missions are and have been to gain citizenship for Dreamers.
METHODOLOGY & GOALS
The process Sovereigns have devised to challenge U.S. sovereignty is to identify weaknesses in existing immigration laws, application, and enforcement and act upon those weaknesses to overburden the system from border protection, to enforcement, to detention and even court proceedings. In the most recent NIYA action, the lower burden of proof in credible fear interviews and long wait times for asylum trials appear to have been exploited in order to obtain the re-entry to the U.S. of nine Mexican Nationals who were deported or self deported from the US (“Dream 9”). This action was heavily publicized in both English and Spanish language media.
In the action on September 30, 2013, it appears the Sovereigns repeated the actions of the Dream 9. On September 29, 2013 Mohammad Abdollahi and David Bennion presented Humanitarian Parole Requests to the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of 27 adult and 3 minor Mexican Nationals.
Humanitarian Parole is an exceptional request usually reserved for the most egregious cases (e.g., emergency medical treatment).
If Humanitarian Parole is denied, as was the case with the Dream 9 and the same pattern is followed, the 30 Mexican Nationals in this case are expected to present themselves at the Laredo TX Port of Entry claiming asylum thereby triggering their arrest and detention. They would be interviewed to determine if they have credible fear of returning to Mexico such that they should be allowed to proceed with an asylum hearing in Immigration Court. If not, they would be returned to Mexico. If they pass the credible fear interviews, they would be held in detention or released into the U.S. pending an immigration court hearing which could take years to schedule.
It appears the action also serves to underscore the very real and yet unresolved issue of unaccompanied minors presenting at the border. One of NIYA’s modus operandi is “infiltration of detention centers” and in this case it appears their desire is to infiltrate juvenile detention facilities with the attendant goal of publicizing how unaccompanied minors are often held in custody for months or even a year, pending prosecution, for example, of their criminal human smuggler.
Sovereign leaders appear to have presumed the unconscionable risk of escorting at least 3 minors and 27 adults through embattled Narco territory in order to deliver them to ICE custody for subsequent indefinite detention.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW
Likewise, it has been reported that Sovereigns have recruited juveniles in the past to engage in civil disobedience with the goal of arrest in order to gain publicity for the “cause.” Prior to the upcoming action on September 30, 2013, several 16 year olds were recruited for acts of civil disobedience and were arrested. It is unknown whether those arrests impeded the minors’ abilities to later obtain legal status or DACA. Carmen Conejo of Arizona Dream Team www.dreamactaz.org points out scholarships for the undocumented are hard enough to come by even without an arrest record.
Included in the upcoming September 30, 2013 action are a female minor, “Ingrid,” reported to be 13 years old and two additional minors reported to be 16 years old. Ingrid says she is traveling to the U.S. to be with her sister so they can help their parents.
Ironically, the very Bill Sovereign leaders have vowed to kill includes significant protections to unaccompanied minors which, if passed, would ameliorate the dangers at least one of the youths now face as an unaccompanied minor.
It is impossible to know how many sovereigns there are in the U.S. today, in part because there is no central leadership and no single organized group members can join. However, those who are attracted to this subculture typically engage www.dreamactivist.org, www.theniya.org, or similar groups online on the subject and become targeted for recruitment for action by leaders such as Mohammad Abdollahi. All that being said, we can estimate based on a filing made by Active Dreams LLC that their online following is significant… they report 200,000 members increasing by 5,000 every month.
The upcoming action by NIYA is being orchestrated by Mohammad Abdollahi who has named David Bennion of Philadelphia as their counsel, a lawyer who suggested purposefully placing oneself into deportation proceedings by engaging in “minor incidences of civil disobedience” in the presence of DHS officals. Bennion also is a vociferous advocate of undocumented leaders paving the way to No Sovereign Borders. What neither NIYA nor Bennion have mentioned, however, is that Bennion was (and may still be) himself the leader of Dream Activist Pennsylvania.
As Sovereign actions go viral throughout undocumented communities both here and amongst those who have returned or been deported back to their home countries, and particularly among the undocumented who are unemployed, unable to attend college, or even drive, this number is likely to grow.
In 2010, most new recruits to the Sovereign movement identified themselves as “undocuqueer,” a political identity of undocumented LGBTQ individuals. However, the Sovereign movement has become more mainstream, appealing to a particularly vulnerable group of people who have found themselves in a desperate situation due to the lack of progress on the Dream Act in particular or Immigration Reform in general, and who are searching for a quick fix as well as a sense of empowerment. The strength of the No Sovereign Borders Movement is in transmuting depression and frustration to anger and action, albeit dangerous, self sacrificing actions like self deportation, voluntary incarceration, and in reading Marco Saavedra’s writings on the topic, suicide.
Others seem to be intrigued by the notions of being open about their undocumented status and living a lawless life, free from unpleasant consequences. When they experience some small but temporary success such as obtaining release from custody, a stay of removal, or even release while awaiting asylum trial, they’re hooked. For many, it’s also a political issue. They don’t like being undocumented but they are too impatient to try to change what they dislike through traditional, political means.
Once in the movement, it appears to be an immersive and heady experience. In the past three years, the No Sovereign Borders subculture has grown from small groups of like-minded individuals in Internet chat rooms around the nation to large online movements permeating all forms of social media. Sovereigns attend specialized seminars and national conferences, enjoy a large assortment of alternative internet based websites and networks and subscribe to list serves. They even have national awards ceremonies.
While the techniques sold by these pseudo-activists have yet to actually offer a permanent fix to the serious problem of a broken immigration system, most followers are nonetheless content to be fighting the battle, and they blame judges, lawyers, prosecutors, law enforcement and immigration advocates when their leaders’ methods fail. While most have never achieved actual permanent legal status, they take pride in engaging the government in battle, comparing themselves to Civil Rights Leaders like Malcolm X and Rosa Parks and even adopting Negro Spirituals in a clumsy attempt to romanticize death.
NET NEGATIVE EFFECT
In the latest publicized action of the Sovereigns, three apparently DACA
eligible youth residing in the US self-deported to Mexico for “leverage” on behalf of six others who had already been deported or self deported to Mexico, according to Mohammad Abdollahi, orchestrator of the event. “It’s the way civil disobedience works, Abdollahi said. “Sometimes we have to use our bodies to make points.” As Terry Greene Sterling reported, “The group has used a lot of bodies to make a lot of points.”
By self deporting, the three apparently DACA eligible youth, gave up any chance of receiving DACA. All of the so called “Dream 9” made asylum claims and are now awaiting hearings before immigration judges. Unfortunately, asylum is rarely granted to Mexican Nationals. In FY 2010, 5,098 Mexican asylum applications were received and 49 were granted (a less than 1% approval rate).
On the other hand, of the 552,918 DACA applications properly filed, 430,236 have been approved to date (78% approval rate).
Nevertheless, Sovereigns maintain the appropriateness of their actions, believing their acts are sanctioned by penultimate authority.
Woe be to the one who disagrees. This disturbing statement was reported to have been made by Marco Saavedra on Facebook recently.
“She carried a revolver, and was not afraid to use it. Once a slave agreed to join her expedition, there was no turning back; she threatened to shoot anyone who tried to return. Tubman told the tale of one journey with a group of fugitive slaves, when morale sank and one man insisted he was going to go back to the plantation. She pointed the gun at his head and said, “You go on or die.” Several days later, he was with the group as they entered Canada. It is more than likely that Tubman carried the handgun as protection from ever-present slave catchers and their dogs.”
Regardless of why an alien was deported from the United States, Abdollahi vows he will not stop until all 1.7 million deported from the U.S. under the Obama Administration are brought back to America.