The Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC) will be awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in Washington this week.
DMSC, a group led by roughly eight activists, works to “build radical understanding about migrant detention, border militarization, and mass criminalization” in the El Paso area.
Established 36 years ago, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award has, to date, celebrated the work of 50 activists and organizations from 30 countries. Laureates’s are recognized for “living out Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy” while fighting injustice through nonviolent protest.
The Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee, whose mission statement includes fighting for cross-border communities, comes to the award with a mix of pride and apprehension.
DMSC member Jen Apodaca finds the award meaningless unless the broader community is willing to mobilize and act for detained migrants. “The work isn’t over,” she notes, while also highlighting the importance of the many individuals and organizations who tirelessly work towards justice alongside the DMSC.
In a statement made on the group’s Facebook page in late April, a similar sentiment is shared. “We are incredibly honored and humbled to be awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award,” it begins. “Yet we want to acknowledge that the work of supporting migrants and challenging inhumane systems of detention on the US-Mexico border is made possible by the collective effort of organizations and grassroots activists. We recognize and appreciate everyone who has been part of the movement to abolish systems of detention and incarceration, in any capacity, and we hope this recognition serves to lift the voices of those who are directly affected, who continue to fight for their liberation and the liberation of their detained companerxs.”
To Jen and others at DMSC, it’s the migrants and detainees, both in and out of custody, who shoulder the burden of the work. They accept the award on behalf of the detained migrants they have worked with, and with the hope that media and wider attention focuses not on the volunteers, but on those who have fought for freedom.
The DMSC’s commitment to centering their messaging and mission around those directly impacted by immigration policies is evident within their trip to D.C. With support from a crowd-funding campaign, the group is flying in seven formerly detained migrants to attend the award ceremony. (The volunteers who run the DMSC each purchased their own plane tickets through their own personal funds.)
Among those in attendance include former detainees who participated in a hunger strike while in custody.
While in D.C. the DMSC will meet with various members of legislation to lobby for migrant rights, as well as host a celebration and benefit entitled “Cumbia Contra la Migra.”
The benefit for detainees will raise money for the Fianza Fund, an initiative of DMSC dedicated to paying bonds to release migrants from detention.
Also being honored with a Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award are the Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley and La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), two groups committed to social change and grassroots activism.
The honor will be bestowed on on June 6th, in Washington, D.C.
Author: Jordyn Rozensky – Special to the El Paso Herald Post