Dreams and Nightmares

Editor’s Note: We would like to acknowledge that the content of this piece may be difficult for some readers. Content note: depictions of ICE raids, depictions of death.

I don’t dream about dragons or fantastic beasts. I don’t have nightmares about vampires or werewolves or ghosts. I taught myself not to.

Last night he came to me in a dream. His once round face was pale and gaunt. His skin was yellowed and covered in thick, red lesions. He was thinner than he was when I met him at 18. His once lustrous golden curls were brittle and broken.

He warned me not to touch him; so afraid he was of his own blood.

I held him and caressed him. I poured every ounce of love I had into the body that had so failed him.

As a child, I used to have vivid, detailed nightmares about all manner of terrifying creatures—murderous monsters that would chase me through castles and strange, alien worlds. I spent nights crying myself back to sleep on the floor of my mother’s bedroom.

I learned to shut these things out, to force my rational mind to recognize that I was dreaming and to wake myself up. Since then, I’ve never had fantastic or unrealistic dreams. I still wake up at the first hint that something unreal might occur.

Last week I awoke to a deafening pounding on my front door. They can’t know that she’s here, I thought. As I scrambled out of bed, she met me in the hallway wearing a visceral fear that I will never know on her face. I’ve never even seen her worried.

“I’ll handle them, just go hide,” I whispered. “They don’t know that you’re here.”

She nodded, her wild curls falling over her brown shoulders, her dark eyes glistening with tears. I crept to the window to see three ICE officers crowding my front porch.

I faked a vibrato I did not feel, “Who’s there?”

“ICE. Open up!” A booming voice returned.

I leaned against the wall to keep my shaking legs from collapsing. “Do you have a warrant?”

No response except the continuous pounding of his fist against the door.

“Do you have a warrant!?” I yelled louder.

“Yes. Let us in!” Called a second voice.

“Slide it under the door.”

“No, just open up.”

“Slide the warrant under the door!” I commanded again. Then, “I’m calling my lawyer!”

The scrape of metal against wood jarred me to my core as they rammed the door open with the butt of a rifle.

I woke up, tears streaming down my face. I was empty, gutted by sheer terror and violation. And my inability to protect my best friend.

The consequence of my younger anti-nightmare training is that my dreams are boring and predictable with realistic timelines and dull, quotidian activities.

But my nightmares are likewise appallingly realistic.

I wake up tangled in sweat-drenched sheets after watching car accidents or murders I am powerless to prevent. In my dreams I attend funerals that are so accurately detailed that when I wake, I believe they truly happened. I cry, mourning the loved ones I lost during the night, and am flooded with relief when I finally realize I was only dreaming.

Thankfully, these nightmares are few and far between. Or, at least, they used to be.

I saw your body on the cold cement. Your blood slowly pooling into the gutter. Your dress was a little ripped, scuffed in a way you would never permit.

You, a pillar of strength and dignity, were killed for the crime of your own existence.

Your makeup was flawless, as always. Your teal eyeshadow and luxurious lashes were perfectly applied. The highlighter on your cheeks glimmered in the light of the street lamps above.

It looked like you were resting—exhausted from a day of catcalls and harassment as you went about your grocery shopping, your errands, your life—as though you just decided to lie down on the sidewalk and take a nap. You could have been sleeping if it weren’t for the blood.

I’m not a superstitious person. I’ve never put much stock into interpreting my dreams. I know that they are just my brain’s way of organizing my subconscious thoughts.

Yet the fact that I am having these dreams, these nightmares, all the time says something astounding about the current state of affairs.

Each night, my queer brothers are dying, once again, from AIDS, unable to access the preventative and ongoing healthcare they need for preexisting conditions.

Each day, my undocumented sisters are making safety plans, continually having “the talk” with their children and younger siblings who are citizens, who will be left behind and alone if they are deported.

And my trans siblings continue to be mercilessly murdered.

Since childhood, my dreams have never once been far-fetched. Everything about each of these dreams is possible, is probable, is happening daily.

These nightmares do not wake me, and try as I might, I cannot awaken from the nightmare in which we are currently living.

E.L. Axford is an angry, Roller Derby DykeTM who would prefer to keep her identity a mystery before her online persona gets her real-world persona into more trouble than she can handle. When she’s not angry (which is rarely) she enjoys drinking loose-leaf tea.


How to Help Families in Detention (Alt-Title: How to Deal with the Unmitigated Shitstorm at the Border)

Are you feeling angry, lost, frustrated, and/or helpless about the situation at the border? Do you want to support and empower the children who are being unceremoniously locked in cages but feel powerless to do so?

We’re mad as hell. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of suggested actions, (and we’re looking for more, so please drop good ideas in the comments). In the meantime, here are a few ideas about how to help stop this atrocity.

Kindly note: We’ve kept our list on the legal side of the spectrum, but  insurgency is looking increasingly tempting with every passing day.

Report and Share ICE Raids

Find your local hotline for reporting ICE raids. If you are aware of any raids at workplaces, schools, churches, neighborhoods, or on public transit, report it to the hotline immediately.

Sign up for email or text alerts regarding local ICE raids. When you get a notification of a local ICE raid, notify those around you immediately and disseminate the information to your networks.

Know Your Rights (and Help Others Learn Theirs)

If you don’t know immigration rights, learn them. Read this document from Immigrant Defense Project and Center for Constitutional Rights about Defending Against ICE Raids and Community Arrests.

You can also check out these Know Your Rights fliers from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. They also have safety plans in English, Spanish, and Somali.

Network Up

If you haven’t already, expand your social media networks. Follow all of the local organizations that are working to end detention and to advocate for immigrant rights.

To make sure you see posts on Facebook, click the “following” drop down menu and select “See first” so that important alerts are not lost in the algorithms.


[Image description: screenshot of Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network Facebook page. There is a button in the lower lefthand corner of the header image that says “Following.” From this button a drop down menu appears. The option “See first” is highlighted.]


You may be surprised by the types of organizations that are doing immigration work. Search not only for immigration networks, but also for other types of organizations with a stake in immigrant rights. In our area, these include: legal advocacy organizations, religious (often Muslim or Sikh) organizations, cultural solidarity networks (often Latinx, Somali, and Syrian), prison/detention abolitionist networks, etc.


Consider volunteering for many of the above types of organizations or networks. If you are multilingual or have a legal background, your services will be particularly useful. If you do not have either, you may be useful in organizing protests or direct actions, filing paperwork or transcribing for a legal advocacy org, performing intakes, creating care packages, leafleting, gathering signatures for petitions, holding or organizing a fundraiser, etc. Call or email your local organizations, tell them about your skillset, and ask if they have a volunteer position for you. Be realistic about whether you can accept on ongoing position or can only volunteer for a weekend. (It takes a lot of time and energy for orgs to train you, so don’t take an ongoing position if you can’t meaningfully commit the time.)

Register to Vote, If You’re Able

Are you registered to vote? Find out here. If you are legally able to vote, get registered. Get your documents together so that you can register, and come November vote in all local, state, and federal elections. Already registered? Talk to friends and family to make sure they are registered.


Call Your Reps

Call your local representatives. Here’s how to find them.

If your local reps are already supportive of detention abolition, call the DOJ hotline. Feel free to use this script or come up with your own.

[Image description: Screenshot reading Call the DOJ main comment line: 202-353-1555 Here is a sample script to help you make your call: My name is [NAME] and I live in [CITY/STATE]. I am calling to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions that I do not support his decision in the Matter of A-B. With this order, the Trump administration has turned its back on some of the most vulnerable people in the world. I demand the attorney general stop his anti-immigrant agenda. I, and many other citizens, stand against hate and xenophobia — and demand that the Department of Justice do the same. ]

Credit to: Southern Poverty Law Center

Dispel the Myths

Are your friends and families and casual acquaintances and coworkers aware of what is happening? Are they sharing fake news? Do they know how to help? Share this list with them. Share real news with them. Engage in conversations so that you can dispel falsehoods, stay up to date on correct information, learn about local actions, and share tips about how to help.

Follow reliable news sources so that you are up to date on the latest accurate information about immigration detention. And learn how to spot fake news.

[Image description: How to spot fake news. Consider the source: Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and it’s contact info. Read beyond: Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story? Check the author. Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real? Supporting sources. Click on those links. Determine if the info given actually supports the story. Check the date. Reposting old news stories doesn’t mean they’re relevant to current events. Is it a joke? If it is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure. Check your biases. Consider if your own beliefs could affect your judgment. Ask the experts. Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site. From: International federation of library associations and institutions.]
Attribution: By IFLA (http://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174) [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Donate, If You’re Able

We know that many in our communities are barely scraping by and don’t have extra economic capital to donate. But if you can, please do.

There are so many worthy places to donate.

Sometimes, though, when organizations get an unexpected windfall, they aren’t skilled at managing that great amount of money. (We’re thinking about some of the issues with ALS orgs a few years back.) Feel free to donate to these orgs, but consider donating to local advocacy groups as well, who may not be getting the same windfalls. Consider donating sustainably, and in an ongoing manner, if you are able.


If you’re near DC, there will be a June 30th protest at Lafeyette Square.

If you are anywhere else, use this map to find a protest near you.

Whatever You Do

Stay ready. Stay hydrated. Stay woke.

Love you, fam.


Want to join our volunteer team? Send us an email explaining your qualifications. Resume or writing samples appreciated, but not required. We’re looking for editors, writers who would like to regularly submit, and social media gurus. We do not currently have any paid positions and consist solely of volunteer staffers. In your email, please include creative suggestions on how you’d like to be compensated for your time. ​


On Politics – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

Where will the children play
Their names, carved in the keel
of the vessel in which they traveled.

Their margins, our boundaries pushed
to the side in view of what really matters

in our fallible, sensitive lives, seek
a response from the unknown.

Position yourselves next to the mystery
of their music. Is child play the glimmer

that does not bond to anything,
a mirror of water: the closed curtain

in the school of human affections?
Gunshot signals the rescue,

yet you deny them entry.
A growing weakness reminds me

that there is no beginning or end in the life
of your phosphoric limbo, Mr. President.

Nobility of Blood
Dear Lord, this congressional recess
the President’s cabinet promises
to thank you for AIDS, though
it has not made them transcend
into the 21st century. They are
still caught up in superficial things
like fake news, taxes, bans, the wall.

We thank you for these tent evangelists,
brothers and sisters alike,
breeders of hate crimes,
that reject the perfect beauty
of homemade remedies
and blood transfusions.

Lord, forgive their arrogance
toward the medical community
and appoint faith healers
to Obama Care, or whatever the hell
Mr. Trump decides to call it.

Thank you for allowing me to live
on the periphery of society,
where nobody asks yet everybody
tells. Thank you for the innocent
illusion of my open exhibitions
of affection toward Omar. Thank you

for not letting in immigrants
from Muslim Africa, where water, food,
and medical supplies have always
been scarce and costly, where rape
and violence towards women
is beyond control, where children
have no choice but to fight
for brutal warlords, where life
and death no longer belongs to You.

Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Libya, Sudan,
have you learned to die?

Sergio A. Ortiz is a queer Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

Like Any Relationship, Really

I knew if I ended up with America, I ran the risk of losing my friends who remained on the fence. But they respected that I wanted that intensity, and teased me whenever we saw him at the bar.

“Trista, look, there’s America,” and I’d look over to his smooth jaw line and dark bourbon drink, “Do you want to go over?”

“No, I think I’ll give him some space, the financial crisis just happened and he’s probably not looking for any company. Maybe in a few months.”

And that’s what I did. A few months later I went up to him and ordered the same but neat. As I suspected we were more alike than different. I thought about his request for a relationship over sorbet and I felt he was being genuine. He whispered how “he’s seen people succeed beyond their wildest dreams with my strengths and ambition” and that’s when I leaned in for a kiss and a possible nest egg.

“America had his friends who wanted to work with me, offering a bank account, a lease and a high-interest loan. I passed on the loan, but I knew I could ask for anything: I was with America.”

The first year together was bright eyed and festive; there wasn’t a bad memory to recall.  It felt like only sunny days and warm nights, a welcomed change from the Northern cold. America had his friends who wanted to work with me, offering a bank account, a lease and a high-interest loan. I passed on the loan, but I knew I could ask for anything: I was with America.

A couple years later he asked me to move in as we had a drawer at each other’s place and I started to anticipate that he wanted to spend the night. So we agreed and had a key made, I put it on my ring and stapled in the visa. That night we went shopping for new sheets. When I saw America reaching for the auburn and beige paisley set I knew this was love. I realized in that aisle that this stability is what I had needed this whole time.

For hours we would hold each other, and for nights make dinner with fresh ingredients. He would tell me his problems and we’d work on a solution on ways to get out of some fiscal issues and politically lead on others. Some topics might not get the reaction he desired, but it needed to be said: this is the time to expose. I promised him I would stay by his side and he confessed how he needed us, that he couldn’t go through these huge leaps alone.

“I wanted to scream from the rooftops – America is mine, all mine and we’ll be together forever. So when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry with a green card in a princess cut, I smiled.”

When he spoke, the world listened. I wanted to scream from the rooftops – America is mine, all mine and we’ll be together forever. So when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry with a green card in a princess cut, I smiled. I didn’t show my disappointment in his choice as I’m an oval type and simply nodded ‘yes.’

This felt right and it was a good time in my life. I loved him and he loved me. I’ve never experienced so much emotional growth in such a short period of time, so why would I doubt this won’t last forever? And then I felt his phone ring in his jacket pocket and I read the caller ID, it was his ex.

It was not the reasonable one who I can see calling him to wish him well on the engagement and to ensure their colleagues were still connected. This was the unreasonable one, the one I never understood why they lasted so long. The one who stalked us online at the beginning  and created fake profiles to ‘like’ my public photos. He said that for months at the end of their relationship she couldn’t cope with the idea that they were over. In her mind she thought they were still a couple, so would show up at his place. And I know America; I know he invited her inside.

I always felt he preferred girls like her, the ones who adorn themselves in his presence and hang off his every word. I refused to see how he enjoyed those kinds of games and her call showed to me how blind I was. When I told him that I was breaking up with him, America thought I was being unreasonable, that I should give him a chance to create a healthy boundary.

But I know better.

I heard she moved in a few weeks later. She likely threw out the sheets and immediately replaced the towels with ones that are monogrammed. Our lamps, curtains and utensils are still around, being judged and kept as a reminder of the time he had that mutual stability.

“To this day I know America and I could have been something real, with a low-interest mortgage.”

To this day I know America and I could have been something real, with a low-interest mortgage. I was desperate for the hope of change and always knew under the surface there were signs that were louder than America’s desire to enact that change. I opened my heart and it was broken with no regrets – just lessons and an escape plan.

Trista Hurley-Waxali is an immigrant from Toronto, who finally listened to her parents advice and moved South. She has performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore and internationally at O’bheal Poetry Series in Cork, Ireland and a TransLate Night show from Helsinki Poetry Connection. She is writes weird short stories and is working on her novel, At This Juncture.

Immigration Raids: Know Your Rights

Some of our editors have been attending trainings from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Given the current climate, we wanted to post a few useful takeaways from these sessions.

*Disclaimer: This is not legal advice*

ICE raids are more and more likely. Know what to do in the following places.

At Home

If agents come to your home, they must have a warrant. If someone comes to your door, do not let them in. Instead, tell them to slip the warrant under the door. If they don’t have a warrant, they will likely leave. If they do, read over it before you open the door. They will often only have a warrant for one person, but once they are in your home they can question anyone there. Do not tell any agent your immigration status or where you were born. You have the right to remain silent. More information in English / Spanish.

At Work
Agents are again supposed to have a warrant, as well as permission from your employer to enter. Running away may be seen as an admission of guilt. Do not tell any agent your immigration status or where you were born. You have the right to remain silent. More information in English / Spanish.
On Public Transit

We’re hearing reports of ICE raids on public transit systems, primarily in metropolitan areas. *These are not confirmed. If anyone can confirm, please contact us.* People are reporting on social media that transit authorities are checking to make sure people have a valid ticket; those who don’t are removed from public transit and met by ICE agents. Have a valid ticket on all public transit. Do not tell any agent your immigration status or where you were born. You have the right to remain silent.

If You Are Detained
You can print and carry this card.
From CASA of Maryland, Detention Watch Network, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer’s Guild.
ICE agents may try to pressure you into signing documents by stating that it will make proceedings go faster. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING. Ask to speak to a lawyer.
You can ask for a bond hearing to be released on bond instead of staying in detention.
How to Prepare
  • If you can, save as much money as possible. You may need it for legal fees, paying bond, or taking care of your family if you are deported.
  • Find and carry the information of an immigration lawyer on you at all times.
  • Develop a safety plan. Who can pick up your children from school if you are detained? What will happen to your possessions if you are deported? Who will care for your children or pets? You can use this family safety planning worksheet, or this child/youth safety planning worksheet.
  • Collect all immigration documents (passport, visas, etc.) as well as documents showing how long you have been in the country, such as utility bills or leases. Keep these in a place where a friend or neighbor can find them and bring them to you should you be detained.
  • Talk to coworkers, employers, or your union to discuss what will happen if your workplace is raided.


Rights of Trans People in Detention
You have the right to gender-appropriate clothing, transition-related care, and HIV medications. You also have the right to choose the gender of any officer conducting a strip-search. You have the right to be safe from sexual assault or harassment and to not be placed in isolation. These rules are not always enforced. Lambda Legal has more information on trans immigrant rights.

For LGBTQI People & People Who Are HIV+
There may be free legal help available from Immigration Equality – English, Spanish, French, Russian.

You can find more detailed information on protecting yourself from immigration raids in English or in Spanish.

Be safe. Be strong.

In Solidarity,