For this oral history I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Gonzalez from Detainee Allies, an organization that is engaging Detained asylum seekers in Otay Mesa and other detention facilities through writing letters and sending small gifts of money and art to keep Detainee’s spirits up. Jennifer is an immigration attorney and activist, coming originally from Utah before working through law school at Stanford to engaging in program development at the Department of Justice and working for an immigration defense non profit before arriving in San Diego. Almost immediately after moving here, Jennifer and others took the lead in helping to found Detainee Allies.
During the interview, we discussed everything from the raw organizing work that it took to get Detainee Allies established, to some of the legal processes and problems with case by case immigration litigation, to navigating the Department of Justice. One of the things that stands out is Jennifer’s realization through her life of the importance of voice as a form of power to win the needed changes, and this helps frame and define her work at Detainee Allies.
We met through my group’s work with Detainee Allies writing letters to Detainees and reviewing their letters. This interview was conducted at SDSU, in the central administrative building.
Personally I was always inspired by the work of organizers in the San Diego immigrant rights community, the difficulty of uplifting and empowering voices that are marginalized, and wanted to learn more. As a student at UCSD and an organizer in the labor and youth movements in the San Diego region, this idea of how we as allies of our immigrant brothers and sisters can realize and activate their power is incredibly important as their fight overlaps with our fight for justice. What was very special about conducting this interview was this idea that as the work is developed, Detainees will be able to advocate for themselves to win the changes to conditions that are so desperately needed.